beading, craft, design, fiber arts, jewelry design, macrame

Woo! An all-nighter!

Last night was the first night in a long time that I got no sleep. Like, absolutely zero sleep. Don’t drink a Coke at dinnertime when you only got up a minute ago.

As is often the case, however: while I was unable to sleep, my mind was working. I puzzled out a new earring design (or designs), or the beginning of some. By dawn, I had pretty much had it with lying around in bed trying in vain to pass out, so I got up, sorted through the fabric laid out over the chair contemplatively (I haven’t made any masks since I burned myself with steam from the iron about three days ago), and then set to trying to make the earring I had designed.

As I had only essentially learned how to tie vertical and horizontal clove hitches (a.k.a. double half-hitches) a couple of days ago, it was kind of wondrous that I was able to transfer that to a chevron pattern. There are instructions for tying chevrons, Cavandoli-style, in Micro-Macramé Jewelry, but I did kind of have to puzzle out some things in construction. I’m pretty sure I won’t be following project instructions exactly, going forward. After all…they’re guides, and many more possibilities exist than are apparent from instructions.

An unfinished earring featuring a purple and orange panel of Cavandoli knotting, suspended from brass wire and terminated in beads.

Right now, the earring design still isn’t really complete. I’m trying to figure out what to do as a termination, given that M was in love with the piece with all the threads still attached to it.

On top of that, I’m not too happy about the color scheme, but considering this was a trial, I used colors that I normally would not use, in order to save the good stuff for the time at which I know what I’m doing. :) Unfortunately, then, this earring turned out almost looking like the wearer is a Lakers fan…and that’s about all I know about the Lakers. :)

However! For something I designed in the middle of the night and made on the fly in early morning, it turned out pretty well! At this point, I’ve knotted off the 4mm Fire-Polished bead at the bottom; all it’s waiting for, now, is cement, trimming, and possibly switching out that round earwire (inferred by the shadow at the top of the image).

I…could get into how I designed this, but…I’m not sure I have the energy to explain it, right now. I have set aside a notebook for jewelry design, which I should copy my drawings into; there were just so many design phases for this, however (incorporating macramé and wirework)…that the idea of the task is daunting.

This is a prototype, though, using C-Lon standard gauge. I’m hoping to make more of these, in more attractive colors. :)

beading, beadwork, color, craft, design, macrame, seed beads

Swatching C-Lon gauges

From left to right: C-Lon TEX 400 with a 6/0 seed bead, C-Lon (standard) with 8/0 (blue) and 11/0 seed beads, and C-Lon Micro with 11/0 (purple) and 15/0 (opaque blue) seed beads.

Recently, I invested some time in knotting macramé, with the idea of posting images of it this morning, when I can photograph what I did in sunlight. I created some square knot sinnets with C-Lon TEX 400 (heavy weight), C-Lon (standard weight), and C-Lon Micro. I’ve posted them here so you can see some of the difference in scale between the different cord/thread weights.

Pretty obviously, the TEX 400 is way more substantial than Standard C-Lon. If I work at it, I can fit two strands of this through a size 6° seed bead (dark brown, left). I can fit two strands of Standard C-Lon (blue, center) through a size 8° bead. (Remember, the higher the number, the smaller the bead.) With the Micro, I can fit two strands (possibly more) through a size 11° seed bead, while it is also thin enough to fit one strand through a size 15° seed bead (light brown, right). I don’t have any samples of the Fine weight, so I can’t comment on that; but it is apparently somewhere between Standard and Micro.

I’ve put these square knot sinnets — two cords tied in square knots over two “carrier” cords of the same material — next to an American dime (the Web says this is about 18mm wide) for size reference.

I do realize now that I left out Miyuki Delicas in addition to Toho Treasures or Aikos (these are all Japanese cylinder beads which have larger holes relative to their size than comparable Japanese seed beads. I’m not immediately aware of the difference between Treasures and Aikos; they’re both made by Toho). I believe, however, that I only have Delicas…and possibly one vial of Treasures.

I can see possibilities for using the cords and beads right now…but I don’t know yet exactly how to get to the place that will fulfill that (or have a solid idea of my endpoint…which will likely evolve). I’ll have to puzzle it out in different iterations. What I can see now as a goal is probably just something I’ll have to keep in mind as motivation, and be open to re-visioning. I might also have to take notes on what I’m doing. There is a system of charting I know (as demonstrated in Macramé Pattern Book by Märchen Art Studio (2011), for example…though I have my homegrown version), but I’ve never used it for anything complicated.

The biggest hurdle, I think, is dealing with standard parts. That’s not as much of an issue now with fancy multiple-hole Czech glass beads on the market, but in designing jewelry, there is a “form” component as well as a “structure” component. By “form,” I mean the physical shape of the piece made, as though everything were made with the same color bead in a neutral color (different sizes and shapes allowed). By “structure,” I roughly mean thread path, connecting points, wirework, knotwork, thread terminations, and other functional architecture.

When you’re dealing with form and structure, things get more complex as one gains more different sizes and shapes of bead, and number and position of drill holes. If you have a collection of glass seed beads which goes back over the last 25 years, though…you probably have a lot of beads of the same style which are mostly just different in color, finish, and lining; but similar in physical form. Note I said, “similar,” not “identical.” (I might go out on a limb here and say no beads are truly identical…though Delicas, at least, come close.)

Alternating square-knot sinnet with 8/0 beads (left) and without (right).

That leads to…a somewhat limited number of outcomes for beadweaving or macramé, unless you get creative. Which is the point, right? It is possible to get really creative; but that means that patterns that teach you how to weave or knot are just where you begin. They teach you how the beads, thread, and knots work. Once you’ve got that, the rest is up to you.

Up until recently, though, form had been relatively…elusive for me, as a concept. I had focused much more on color and color interactions; probably because I started with loomwork and flat peyote stitch, as a child. It is the case that haphazard choice of color scheme can detract from a design…but attention to form and structure is also important. The thing is, it’s difficult to deal with the latter two without incorporating some color which alters perception of the piece: no bead is truly neutral.

In contrast, Silversmithing has been almost entirely about form and structure, for me. The main ways I can think of to incorporate color are through using 1) brass, copper or patina, the colors of all of which are naturally in flux; 2) heavy use of colored stones; or 3) enamel. It’s for this reason (among others) that I realized I had found a distinct strength in beadwork, which complemented my interest in color. (This may also be why I’m attracted to quilting.)

Last night, I also did an alternating square-knot sinnet sample with incorporated beads (right). It’s nothing complicated, but I wanted to record it. I’ve seen similar but different methods online…not that I’ve done them, but I can see different thread paths, and I know that means variation in construction.

Ah, I remember what I wanted to say! No one’s compensating me in any way, for writing this post.

craft, fabric, sewing

Sewing problems 01: fabric grain

Last night, I found something very interesting: the consequences of cutting and sewing strips across the lengthwise fabric grain, instead of with the lengthwise grain. I now have to scrap eight face-mask ties (or use tear-away stabilizer; even then, I’ve basically ruined one tie because holes are all punched in it) because they weren’t aligned correctly with the grain when I cut them. Because of that, the ties stretch and don’t sew correctly, getting pushed into the hole below the sewing needle, by the needle, itself.

M helped me troubleshoot last night, and this is what we discovered. I had thought I was sewing over a selvage (the edge of the weave) or something, and that this was why I was initially having such difficulty with the needle going through the fabric (the motor was stalling)…but I was also having difficulties with the feed and the flow of thread. The answer turned out to be the orientation of the grain of the fabric (which I didn’t know to watch out for, when I cut the pieces).

I did learn something from this.

It’s extremely similar to what happened with the good batik I tried to sew, causing me to wonder whether the problem was actually the fabric itself, or because I might have cut the ties cross-grain (across the bolt), instead of along the length of material. The symptoms are a noise the sewing machine makes (“pok pok pok” every time the needle drops), a tie that stretches and curves along its length, possible loops of thread above the sewing line, and the fabric puckering next to the needle (under the presser foot) every time the needle drops.

The trouble goes away (quiet, smooth sewing) when sewing other fabrics in other orientations, so we know it’s not the bobbin. (I earlier had to troubleshoot a bobbin: it was wound too loosely because I didn’t feed the thread in correctly, which resulted in weird noises and giant loops of thread on the back of the fabric. Reminisces of childhood. Solution: get another bobbin, use the poorly-wound one as a spool, and re-wind the new bobbin at the correct tension.)

It’s possible the effects aren’t so magnified when sewing garments, but these are ties, which are 3/4″ wide, at the most. (I’ve been eyeballing a width of about 6-7mm when I’ve turned in the edges…so they’re 1″ wide minus about 6mm to 7mm [a bit over 1/4″].)

If I’m correct, the grain of the fabric runs lengthwise down the bolt. Cutting across the grain is cutting across the shorter side of the fabric: the side which is scissored off of the bolt. Because I was using Fat Quarters especially, sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the selvage is…though I’ll be watching for it, now. At least one side should have a different edge, and that will be the selvage, and parallel to the lengthwise grain.

I should also be able to tell what grain to cut along by testing the fabric for stretch. M showed me the difference in stretchiness between the crosswise and lengthwise grain…lengthwise, the fabric doesn’t stretch. Widthwise (that is, crosswise: across the bolt), it does. Along the bias (at a 45° angle to both grains), stretch is maximum. When making ties, I want to cut and sew in the direction in which the fabric doesn’t stretch.

That might solve all of this. I’m not sure.

Knowing this, however, means that when I’m cutting ties out of the fabric I just obtained — which are not Fat Quarters, they’re 0.5 yard to 1.5 yard segments — I’ll likely need to cut the ties along the selvage, that is, along the length of the bolt. That should prevent these problems, but it also means that I may not be able to make 45″ long ties out of one length of fabric. That’s okay, so long as I don’t waste it…

I had been questioning, as well, whether the fabric folds more easily in one direction, than the other. I guess there’s no better way to answer that directly, than just trying it…

color, craft, fabric, fiber arts, sewing

Fabrics!!!

Remember how I mentioned that thing about having too many choices? I was partially referring to this:

A bunch of quilting cottons divided by color, into blue-greens, pinks, and purples.

And this:

Orange quilting cottons on the right, and a couple of cottons I don't like, on the left...

I obtained these after decimating my Fat Quarter stash for COVID-19 face masks. Of course, these will also be going (first) to COVID-19 face masks.

I’m still not certain whether to launder these before I begin cutting and sewing. It is tempting to wash everything, though that also means pressing everything. I don’t mind it, but it’s a lot of work, and this is a lot of fabric! The textures of the fabrics also change, and there may be differential shrinkage.

I’m almost scared to start, because I know that if I cut and construct one mask out of these, it may not last through the wash…though I have been encouraged to try making at least one mask and laundering it, to see what will happen. If it comes out poorly, then I wash everything else before cutting. If it comes out fine, then I don’t have to worry. I’m planning to tack on an extra 0.5″ to 0.75″, to account for shrinkage (the mask face should be approximately 6″x9″)…the thing is, the shrinkage via warp (length) versus via weft (width)…may not be the same. And it probably won’t be the same among all the fabrics.

I have extra yardage in the pink materials, so my first trial should come out of those…I had been planning to use the two fabrics on the left in the second photo, just because I like them least (with apologies to the designers). However, I have less of each blue and green Kona cotton (first photo, top left, plain fabrics), in exchange for more shades of those colors.

Six sets of mask cottons, ready to sew.

Ahh, decisions…

(I probably should be saying, “Ahh, inexperience…”)

I have nearly run out of the Fat Quarters I used for my initial masks. I basically slaughtered my initial stash, because I needed to. They were willing sacrifices of quilting cotton.

The cuts on the left are what I have had matched up, though I only have a few of these left to sew, and I’ve rearranged some of the pairings. Because they are all from 1/4-yard cuts, I wasn’t able to make two long ties as versus four short ones.

However…that could be rectified in what I’m about to get into.

I haven’t sewn in about two days. I think I’m still getting over the shock of the new fabrics. If I’m correct, all in all I’ve made about 16 masks, so far. What I don’t use on masks is going into quilts; I already have an interesting idea laid out, though I can’t right now find the image file of the quilt block I designed. It’s basically based on paper-folding…I can’t find the relevant post right now, though.

I really need to start an “origami” tag…and/or a “quilting” tag…

Oh hey, look. ;)