beading, color, glass beads, macrame, seed beads

Hue and identity

I was up early this morning (I mean, really early), and took a look back through my beads. I was trying to figure out which color families I used most in the jewelry I’ve made. The answers are fairly evident: pink, violet, blue, green, yellow, and brown. Very little red (red is an incredibly difficult color to use), or orange…though a little yellow and orange, or burgundy, really do make the other colors “pop” and look more evident, through contrast.

A swatch of beaded micro-macrame made with C-Lon Fine cord.
Just practice: I didn’t think out the carrier cord color (the brown one) which shows in Vertical Double Half Hitches.

So…I have an idea of the aesthetic direction I have had, and that I want to move in. For a little bit, I’ve been trying to break out of…well, my own style, and identity. That’s probably because I didn’t know what it was, or that it was significant. And desirable.

Hmm. At my current age, I’m learning to appreciate myself, my identity, and my own aesthetics, more. I wonder if I’m discovering who I am.

I’ve found a lot of soft colors to have hit my palette recently, though they weren’t as prominent when I was a youth. I probably wasn’t secure enough to use them, then…though what my favorite colors were as I was growing up…ah, I remember. Teal and purple.

Those are still pretty much, mainstays, though I have a bit of an overpopulation of blue-greens. :) It just gives me a base from which to expand into other colors.

I probably wouldn’t have even thought of doing this, except for having purchased a lot of quilting cottons recently. Lots of blues, ranging from blue-violet to blue-green, aqua, a tiny bit of green. Violet, and magenta…and a touch of orange and yellow.

It probably is an identity thing. Or a taste, and identity, thing. I have known people who never dressed in any color, except black. It could be a superficially similar thing. A while ago, I was on a bronze and green kick, as I tried to avoid especially gendered colors.

What I found, though, is that I do have a gender; it’s just generally misunderstood. That misunderstanding does keep me safe within society to an extent, but I’ve decided, at this point, not to let distress at others’ viewpoints not matching mine, dictate what I wear. Or what I do. Or who I am, or express myself to be. There is no requirement that I cause my aesthetics to align with society’s for the sake of readability. Who says I owe society readability?

So yes, I…am using pink, again. I find it interesting as, at this moment, I’m recognizing that my color range is from magenta through violet, blue, and green; it kind of peters out and stops at yellow and gold…which sounds like a color scheme. Hmm. I do have a color wheel.

As I look at one of the tools in a book called, Beaded Colorways: Creating Freeform Beadweaving Projects and Palettes, by Beverly Ash Gilbert (2009), I recognize this as an Expanded Complementary palette. Beaded Colorways, at least when I got it new, comes with a set of color wheels in the back of the book…which are really interesting, if you’re into color. The drawback is that the book only comes with two basic underlays: a Saturated Palette, and a Pastel Palette. As I look at them, the Pastel Palette ranges toward white in the center, while the Saturated palette trends towards black, in the center. I’m thinking this may be a Munsell Color Scale…? Yes. Now that I look it up, that looks accurate.

I am not entirely certain what inks these wheels were printed with (as I’ve said before, CMYK printing [as most home color (computer) printers rely on] cannot replicate all colors we can see). The major drawback to the Munsell system, in my eyes, is that it kind of de-prioritizes complex neutrals: which would be gained by layering or mixing two or more of the fairly pure represented colors. It’s possible in online models, but to print this would be…extremely expensive.

The really complex glass bead colors (like a blue transmitted color [looking through the glass] with a gold luster finish [nearly metallic shine which may or may not be colored] and red reflection [off the surface of the bead]: leading to a purple-appearing bead with a shiny finish)…these wheels can only hint at. They help, they do. A lot. I wouldn’t have known what I was thinking of, without going and finding these, to put words to my thoughts. The bare fact is, though, that printed paper books and glass beads cannot have a one-to-one representative correspondence. There are too many other factors to take into consideration.

And, like I said: there are complex colors…things that can’t be transmitted via LCD screen.

A swatch of Cavandoli knotting in orange, red, and blue-green.
I know it doesn’t match. I do. :)

I did realize, however, why it was that I just chose not to use certain colors in my jewelry. They just aren’t…me.

As to why that is, what that means, I don’t know. Not at this point. But I’ve found color to have definite psychological impact.

There’s also the fact that both my practice of macramé and of beadweaving…and, I suspect, quilting…heavily rely on color interactions. And…no, I don’t know why color draws me so much. I just know it does.

Yesterday, I was practicing knotting with horizontal and vertical half-hitches. The samples I’ve made (so far) are the two photos in this entry. I’ve found that it is, certainly, OK to use colors that stand out and draw attention to themselves, if I’m working on jewelry or face coverings. It’s really OK. :)

I had to stop working on these last night, and for most of today, because I’m pretty sure my skin can’t take it yet, with the way I’m knotting. I also, apparently, only got six hours of sleep, last night…so that’s not a lot of time to regenerate. My fingers still hurt.

I’ll be OK. For now, though…maybe, sewing?

beading, craft, fiber arts, macrame, seed beads, self care

Recovery

Today has been a good day in light of the fact that I felt terrible, last night, and apparently got terrible sleep. I’ve been dealing with mood issues; last night it was irritability and anger. I recognized my thoughts being warped. I hijacked the train of thought with ice cream, which stopped the rumination (brain freeze may do that), and went back to bed, then woke around 5:30 AM. I stayed up several hours, then went back to sleep, to wake in the early afternoon…or, approximately around the time the mail came.

Unexpectedly, I got a delivery of beads…which was nice! It’s amazing how happy little colored bits of glass can make me. :) So I spent some time going through that order and putting things away…I realize that I probably need to make some kind of official system so that I know (or can predict) where things are. I bought a bunch of beading needles specifically because I had stashed away all of my unused fine needles in a single place I couldn’t recall (!).

Of course, I found them later. :) After the order had gone in. Right now, the new ones are stashed with them (in a now labeled compartment on top of my toolbox) in an empty medicine bottle. It’s a good way to keep them from being damaged. This time, I got a bunch of twisted wire needles (they’re great for what I’m doing, where the size of the thread may prohibit using a standard needle), and some size #11 and #12 solid beading needles. To note: apparently, the grading of solid-metal (standard?) beading needles and twisted-wire beading needles is not the same. Below, I’m just talking about the solid ones.

Typically, for what I’ve historically done: size #10 is the biggest I would want to go to when doing something like beadweaving, where you’re dealing with multiple thread passes through the same hole, and you’re dealing with size 11° seed beads or larger. (Remember, bead sizes have higher numbers, the smaller they are; so an 8° is larger than an 11° but smaller than a 6°.)

Needle size #11 is a bit more versatile, being slightly thinner, and size #12 is for fine applications. Higher than that — up to size #13 or #15, and the needles’ eyes get very small (meaning they need finer thread: 4-lb. FireLine comes to mind, but I haven’t tried it with a #13 in a very long time [if at all]), and the needles themselves can be a bit more fragile (though the last time I had a needle break on me was years ago [they get brittle when repeatedly drawn through tight openings: the phenomenon is known by the term, “work-hardening,” and happens in metalwork as well] — usually it’s the bead breaking, instead).

I’ve only rarely had to use a #13 or #15. Maybe never, a #15. :) I know of applications where I might need a #15, but I haven’t had to face that yet, thankfully! Of course, I do know that for other beaders, more delicate may be their style…I wouldn’t work all in tiny beads for no reason, though. That’s because tiny, tiny seed beads (smaller than size 15° — I have some, but haven’t used them [I’m thinking they may be great for lace]) can be hard to see, and my vision isn’t fantastic at the outset. I’ve started to actually need my glasses, just to avoid eye strain on the daily.

Of course, twisted wire needles are a different animal; these are just lengths of fine wire — usually brass or steel — that have been folded in half and twisted together. The benefit of these is that they’re flexible, their eyes are huge compared to standard beading needles (they compress when drawn through a bead), and, being blunt, they make it nearly impossible to harm oneself. As I mentioned above, though: their size grading is distinct from that of standard beading needles. I don’t know much about their sizing system currently, which is why I’m holding back, here.

If I were teaching — I’m not, but if I were — I would teach with twisted wire needles, or with self-needles (stiffened thread ends; the stiffener can be nail polish, Fray Check, probably even a glue that dries clean and hard. Just make sure it’s dry before you snip the end off the thread). When working with sharp needles and pins…drawing blood is an inevitability. Eliminating sharp objects is one of the best ways not to get stuck, or not to have to deal with blood…which can get dangerous in a group situation. I try to assume biohazard from the start.

Anyhow…I have nice needles, now. :)

I’m also feeling a bit better about work, which tells me that my freaking out about it is probably related to mental health issues (germ phobia, paranoia, feeling unsafe in public), much more than anything objectively existent. It’s nice to be aware about these things. I know that people often don’t like to talk about this stuff, but it makes me feel better to know that there is a reason (or are reasons) why my thinking can become distorted, as versus no explanation. I think mass panic would try even a healthy person, and it’s been made fairly clear to me that my having to deal with one or more mental disorders, is not my fault. So I’m feeling safer, today. Well: tonight. :)

My family and I have done a lot of work around this.

Hmm. So…I’m pretty sure that it was right after I put everything away, that I started practicing micro-macramé again. I know that I need to practice with this stuff if I want to know what I can do with it. I also need to practice, in order to discern what it is I’ll actually use. And if I don’t want to practice with it, it isn’t worth buying more of it.

So…today, I was working on a sample with C-Lon Fine. I actually put some beads onto the cord and practiced knotting below those, too…which came out surprisingly well. I’m getting more skill with the cords, and with my tension. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to pull everything absolutely tight for the knots to hold, and that sometimes it’s better that I don’t.

I also started a sample using Standard C-Lon, with the same pattern and same number of starting cords as the Fine sample, trying to see the difference in scale…I only got so far, though, before my hands started to hurt too much to do more. (In turn, I worked with this today because I knew I’d lose my callouses if I avoided knotting for much longer.)

I’m doing this in part to see the difference between Fine and Standard gauge…the thicker the cords get, the more colors they come in. The thing is…the Fine can really easily accommodate size 11° seed beads…which I love. They’re what I started out with, and what I have the largest collection of. They’re also really tiny and delicate. Way tiny, to an adult sensibility! I can also fit two strands of the Fine through a 4mm Fire-Polished bead…if the one I used, is a 4mm, and not a 3mm. I’d have to get my calipers out, to be sure…the one I used for the sample was purchased years ago, possibly decades ago.

I just didn’t want to use anything that I’d use in a real piece of jewelry…those things can become precious because of scarcity. This is also why I’m using some pretty questionable color combinations in my knotting: there are some colors that are so high-risk that it’s hard to think about what they would actually look like, in jewelry! Though…I do think some people love high-risk color combinations. :)

The Standard sample…I haven’t tried yet, with beads. But I don’t think the Standard cords will accommodate beads smaller than 11°, though I know for a fact that they accommodate 8°s and 6°s, very, very well. What I didn’t expect: I think the Standard sample is taking up cord much faster than the Fine sample, did…

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, color, craft, jewelry design, macrame, seed beads

Cooling down…this stuff calms me.

Tonight, but technically, yesterday…I put in some more time with learning macramé. I had noticed that I was getting a bit greedy about supplies, and realized that this was likely because I wasn’t using what I had, I was just dreaming about it. I also didn’t know what I needed if I were going to buy something, because I hadn’t used what I had.

So, today, in lieu of buying more, I worked at knotting and color adventures. Also — the day before, which I didn’t record yet here — I worked on a model of a new pearl necklace. I’m now iffy about selling it, although I think I could get a good price. I just got kind of attached to it, as it features the first half-drilled pearl I’ll ever have used (I designed the necklace around that pearl, which I selected undrilled and in-person from a lonely Aloha Pearls vendor who had come all the way from Hawaii).

That pearl cost me $21 itself, if I count the fee for half-drilling it (which I think was around $8). The reason it cost so much? It’s 9mm in diameter, natural mauve, off-round; with excellent liquid sheen. Though it is slightly irregular by Fine Jewelry standards (which is why it was only $21), I’m not a Fine Jeweler, and it’s round enough for me.

In contrast, I got what I think was 18″ of small (5-6mm long) pink rice pearls (beautiful sheen and color, skilled drilling) from a different vendor, for $8, and I’ve used maybe 1/4 of the strand in this necklace. The lesson for me here is to buy quality pearls that have been handled lovingly, and are selling at good prices, in-person…because finding them is rare, and mixing colors and sizes can turn out beautiful. Most places which I’ve seen specialize in pearls, are going for huge, gaudy, perfectly-round pearls…which isn’t my aesthetic. It’s okay to have a beautiful central pearl and set it off with variety.

At the Aloha Pearls booth, I was also looking for something special about the energetic “feel” of the pearl I chose (which I consider special due to the sacrifice of the oyster), but I don’t really expect others to understand that.

The necklace in-process reminds me a lot of the tropics, and is one of the first times for me to recently have utilized controlled chaos in design: in sections, I used end-drilled pearls which stand off of the chest and whose orientation can’t be predicted. I still don’t know if I’m going to knot the strand to protect the pearls themselves from loss or abrasion…it would interfere with that randomness, unless I left the strand unknotted (and subject to movement, which could lead to damage) in the areas where I’m wanting the complexity.

Tonight — a few hours ago on Wednesday the 13th, that is — I was practicing Cavandoli (tapestry) knotting, and playing with color combinations in the alternating-square-knot technique I photographed, last post. I’m getting a better sense of when and how to use the C-Lon TEX 400 (this is the version that is nearly 1mm wide)…as I used it tonight for my Cavandoli practice, and found it so robust that it didn’t want to take a mounting knot. It didn’t want, that is, to bend. I’ve experienced the same with other C-Lon thread (the heavier it is, the more it happens), but due to the gigantic gauge of the TEX 400, the effect is magnified.

I was using Joan R. Babcock’s first book (now in its Second Edition), Micro-Macramé Jewelry: Tips and Techniques for Knotting With Beads. It’s a very good book, apparently self-published, but that doesn’t matter at all in craft books when the author can teach, and teach well; and the reader most of all wants to be taught, and taught well. In that case, word-of-mouth (like this) can generate goodwill and interest, regardless of whether a big Publishing House takes up the project, or not.

I haven’t yet made any of the projects (which I’m taking as classroom assignments, at this point), and am only practicing right now, as Babcock suggests in her book. She teaches some fundamental skills in the beginning which aren’t covered as comprehensively in most other macramé books (specifically, beaded micro-macramé books) I’ve seen.

I’m not certain if this is because they are not straight rope-and-hemp macramé books, but most straight macramé books (like the ones that will teach you to make hanging planters) I’ve seen hearken back to the 1970’s…which is relatively recent, and not precisely what I want to be doing. I have a feeling that there’s knowledge and technique from before the 1970’s that is being, or has been, lost.

This is why when I found Macramé Pattern Book: Includes Over 70 Knots and Small Repeat Patterns Plus Projects, by Märchen Art Studio in the craft section of a Japanese-language bookstore, I was sure to sweep it up: a view from outside the English-speaking world might have a relatively unique perspective. (The book was published first in Japanese language, then translated into English two years later.) Also, I know there are some interesting and/or novel techniques in Japanese-language beadwork books that I’ve found, which are not covered in any English-language books I’ve seen.

Babcock’s explanations and illustrations (and tips!) are very clear, even though I wished at various points to highlight passages I kept having to refer back to (particularly in reference to cord orientation, and whether a half-hitch loops above or below the carrier cord [it matters]). According to the Web, she’s an experienced teacher, and it shows.

Obviously, my first try at this in years isn’t the prettiest thing (which is why I’m writing this at what is now 1:15 in the morning without images), but I learned a lot from it. That’s probably an understatement: the learning part, I mean.

I found that the different gauges of thread or cord matter in regard to what you’re using them for. I experienced what it’s like to see a color harmony and magnification when pairing Chartreuse with a green-leaning yellow cord (“Antique Gold”) — which I doubt will come out accurately in a photograph (it didn’t come out on my monitor when I saw it online). I learned just how different the same gauge cord looks, when slightly brighter, and with slightly less green. I found that pairing a thread with a bead which is approximately the same color, doesn’t necessarily look monotone. I found that more rectangular-profile Japanese 6°s, like Miyuki rocailles, can actually work better for a sinnet application than Czech 6°s, which are rounder. I learned that the thread will tell me when I’m doing something different, when I don’t intend to: strange cord positions are obvious with a thread as stiff as TEX 400. I learned how to add an additional length of carrier cord. I also found that I probably shouldn’t always shy away from color-lined beads (although they’re known to be vulnerable to fading or other color change, over time).

And now I want to deal with this a different way. To know what I need, I need to work. To be satisfied, I need to work. And I have the time to do it, now. I will make time to do it, now.

I was not compensated in any way for writing this.

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.

beadwork, color, craft, creativity, macrame, self care

Beads and cords: returning

I guess that leaving my beads in my line of sight, finally paid off. They’ve been there for months; for some reason, I was intimidated to go back to them…which may possibly have been the “too many choices” dilemma.

I may be misremembering the paper, but in Library School, I read something about how people were less satisfied with a choice overall, if they were given a chance to second-guess it (in a study). I really can’t remember even which class I read that in, and I don’t have access to school databases anymore; so I can’t give you a citation.

Although it’s a different situation, I’ve realized that this happens when I invest in too many different colors (in beads, fabrics, threads, cords), which drastically magnify my creative options. For some reason, it’s easier when there is some scarcity that pushes me to make creative decisions I normally wouldn’t make…or when I’m using something just because it’s plentiful, and I don’t mind losing it to a swatch. I’m pushed to find (or just do find) unusual color combinations, that way.

I know that I have a tendency towards analogous color schemes, in sewing and in beadwork, because they feel “safer” than branching out and experimenting. I guess it’s like when I was a kid and I preferred to use majority black or grey color schemes. (I did grow out of it.) What I did today was mix up the color placements in a sample bracelet strap, to break up relatively monochromatic schemes. The good news was, I liked it better…and I suppose every time that happens, there’s a little victory, and encouragement to try it again next time.

Right now, I have my seed beads separated out by size and color in transparent vials. It’s possible to pick a set of them out and switch them around so that I can see colors and finishes next to each other, but even that doesn’t really compare to placing them together in swatches. The way masses of these beads look next to each other, isn’t the same as the effect when you’re using one or two at a time (next to other colors, which impact how we see them, says my Color Dynamics training)…and especially not when you’re dealing with more than two colors, in which the color of the thread or cord (or hardware/findings) you’re using also impacts the design.

I’m not even getting into color ratios and placement, bead linings or surface finishes…but those also affect design dynamics. Maybe eventually I’ll make a series of Pages about stuff like this…

Today I found both of my macramé boards, having put them away, likely, months ago; so that they wouldn’t gather dust. (They’re basically some kind of foam, so they aren’t the easiest things to clean.) One of them was hidden under some pads of paper I never use, on top of my art archives. I knew the approximate area it should have been in; I’m just glad I was tenacious enough to continue to dig when I couldn’t immediately find it.

Speaking of lost things: as for where the giant cutting mat went (which could be useful)…we still don’t know. I mean, no one knows. The most I can think of right now is that maybe it’s in storage with my portfolios, in the garage, or in a closet somewhere — possibly in the room no one uses, except to store things.

Anyhow: I mentioned C-Lon TEX in my last post. I should have said, C-Lon TEX 400. A lot of things are called TEX, apparently! This is a cord which is just under 1mm wide. I only have one spool of it, in a color I wouldn’t normally use (brown). I don’t even remember why I got it, except that it may have been a mistake.

Today I was just experimenting with the TEX 400, making a basic square-knot sinnet (two cords knotted over two cords), and an alternating-square-knot sinnet (two cords knotted over one cord on the left, then the same on the right, etc). I haven’t yet gotten to the point of being comfortable with solid panels of macramé (using vertical and horizontal double half-hitches). I think I may be describing Cavandoli knotting, but the technique exists even in fairly basic micromacramé jewelry patterns (which I don’t yet know how to do). It will be exciting to develop my skills in that area. I would recommend the instructional books and materials by Joan R. Babcock, if you’re interested.

In any case…this C-Lon is about the width of the hemp I started out with when I first began knotting. It is, however, much stronger and cleaner, being a type of industrial upholstery thread. I’m attracted to the “strength” part of that, because I’ve repeatedly had issues with breaking cords due to pulling on them too hard. This has happened with waxed cotton, hemp, leather… I think this is related to the quality of the cord; the ones I’ve gotten from chain craft stores are the most likely to do this.

In contrast, I have some Fluturi hemp “yarn” I purchased from a local yarn store…which is a comparable width. As compared with basic craft store hemp twine, the staple is longer, it frays less, is softer, and it’s a bit stronger. The Fluturi is being discontinued, and replaced with linen. Yes, it’s probably notable that I had to go and find my stash to see whether the Fluturi was actually hemp or linen, in the first place…

In any case, the C-Lon 400 has no issues with stray threads, or breakage. On top of that, it has enough body to hold its shape well, and it’s glossy. There is a comparable product on the market known as S-Lon; in my limited experience, however…the S-Lon (I have one spool, I liked the color) has frayed a bit more, right off of the spool. Also, word is that one of these is an off-brand of the other (though I am not sure enough about it to claim a position, myself).

Up until recently, I have only used Standard C-Lon (TEX 210) and C-Lon Micro (TEX 70); in comparison, TEX 400 is very hefty. I’ve found that I can fit 4mm Fire-Polished glass beads onto it, but not 3mm — at least, not easily. Also, not all size 8° seed beads will fit, but I’m not sure if that is because I have some unlabeled Czech size 8°s in my vials (which tend to have smaller holes).

I haven’t tried making a self-needle with the strands yet (stiffening the cord with Fray Check or nail polish, waiting until this cures, then cutting the tip off at an angle and using that to help thread beads onto the cord). Actually, I was looking for the Fray Check today, and I also don’t recall where I put it (though I’d check with the sewing materials, next).

Well, at least I know where I put my thread burner…hopefully. I think I know where I put my thread burner, is more accurate. ;)

Just, doing little things with my hands…it takes up my attention, which means I don’t have the free mental space to worry. The biggest things I have to watch out for, here, are carelessness: dropped beads (which can lead to broken glass); and working so hard and long that I get blisters on the sides of my fingers before I can develop callouses. At least, those are the hazards of which I know.

I’m hoping to take another look at a book I have, tomorrow, called Macramé Pattern Book, by Märchen Art Studio (2011). It’s not a micromacrame book, or one on beadwork, but it is…really interesting, if you’re just looking at the structure of panels and sennits.

I’ll leave speaking about the ethics, limits, extent, and classes of intellectual property law for another day (if ever)…but I’ve found that it is okay (in my own case) to learn from books. Especially as there’s a transformation involved, where the primary value is not the technique. The latter can’t be copyrighted (at least, within the U.S.). They can only be patented — and that’s if they’re novel, unique, and unlikely to be stumbled across by anyone else.

I can’t really give legal advice (not as a blogger and not as an Information Professional), so don’t take that to heart; I’ve just been around a lot.

I also am not being compensated in any way for what I’ve written, here.

beading, craft, creativity, macrame, metalsmithing, self care, sewing

Handwork: keeping myself together

(NOTE: This entry was largely composed, technically, yesterday: May 8, 2020.)

I think I’ve reached the point where I’ve realized I can’t be concerned about everything happening in the world, at once. The other night, I hit the point of recognizing that I might not make it through the next 60 years…which M recognized as a red flag for depression, and sent me to bed. So right now I’m on alert, and just trying to care for myself.

I’ve also been having some weirdness when I’ve tried to sleep. I keep going to bed, then waking in the very early morning, and napping through mid-morning and early afternoon (though sometimes, as today, that “nap” is actually the majority of my rest).

What I can say…about coping… I’m not doing as well as I want to. Sewing is basically keeping me grounded, though on days like today, when it’s over 85° F outside in the afternoon (and we have no air conditioning), I haven’t been in the mood to press fabrics. I’m learning from experience when to keep my hands away from the ironing board, after having hit myself with steam maybe eight times over the past few days. It’s okay to give my fingertips time to recover!

I’m still working on masks. I haven’t yet gotten back to the blouse…which is okay. I haven’t bet on having a COVID-19 souvenir — at the beginning of this, I was saying that I wouldn’t want to have gone through quarantine and had nothing to speak of at the end of it other than a new blouse. I feel like I’ve done what I could, though; and now, it’s time for me to take care of myself.

That’s more important than further studying. I mean, obviously.

So…what can I say. Life is fragile on an individual basis, but has endured thus far, overall. At this point…I’ve gotta say I’m disconcerted, but I’m not the only person in this. We’ll make it through together, or we won’t, is the feeling I get. But then, I’m fighting off depression; and depression affects cognition.

So far as anything having changed, goes? There have been some developments…particularly where it comes to materials, though I’m not quite ready to get into it, yet.

I’ve basically stopped my language study, having realized that so much of my own purpose for existence is derived from making things…not as much, reading things. Not to mention, the dismay at the effort required for basic communication, as versus my level of facility in English (which allows me to read at a much higher level, where I’m able to spend time deciphering and analyzing arguments; as versus trying to figure out a basic gist of what was intended).

Am I disconcerted in not knowing Japanese? Yes, but right now it isn’t looking like I’d move to Japan if I had a choice, and the necessity of understanding written Japanese just hasn’t been as pressing on me since I’ve had to stay indoors.

I also did have a dream about becoming someone who writes closed-captioning for Public Broadcasting. (I’ve seen a lot of bad closed-captioning.) That was new…but I could do it. I can type very quickly. :)

Since I decided to get back to making things…I’ve been busy, particularly where it comes to design. I was up for four hours early this morning, attempting to puzzle out a hand-fabricated closure for my masks that would work with 3/4″ wide ties, and not tangle in hair. I still don’t have it down. Is that the fun part? ;)

“Fabrication” is a term used in Silversmithing which is often used to designate making something out of metal sheet and wire (or casting, etc.). So far as I know, the term isn’t used as much in beadwork or micro-macramé. Usually when Jewelers use the term, they’re talking about…well, Silversmithing (which includes working with Brass and Copper) or Goldsmithing. Which are the big two categories I know of, that routinely fall under the title, “Jeweler” (with a capital “J”)…so that’s kind of a tautology, I guess.

There are also the Reactive Metals (Titanium, Niobium, etc., which change color with treatment like anodization), but they require different working techniques, and are kind of a specialty. (I’m not sure where bronzework [mostly casting, as bronze is brittle] or pewter-smithing falls in there, but now I’m just splitting hairs…)

I’m actually thinking of getting back into making jewelry (little “j”), again, after having realized I had two choices of pearl earrings today (both of which, I made)…which just have some really nice pearls. I had intended to make a series out of one design, though I haven’t gotten around to it. I already have the parts. I was just a bit disappointed in the fine gold-filled wire I got, though; it doesn’t look very — well — gold. My trial version was brass, and cheap (hardware-store) brass at that, so it leans to a green point. However, it still hasn’t tarnished.

I’ve learned over the years to buy my pearls in-person, as getting them online is the luck of the draw, at best. At worst, your supplier knows enough to know that you don’t know what you’re getting (probably because you’re buying it from them *cough*), and takes advantage of that to send material that wouldn’t sell if you could see it before you bought it.

In particular…be careful to know what you’re buying. A lot of places sell glass and crystal pearls, and while these can even be better for some applications than real ones (because of size consistency — which is important in beadweaving — for instance), you don’t want to be buying faux pearls, thinking they’re real. Or be caught not knowing what a real pearl looks like. For that matter, it’s nice to know what is a natural color and what is dyed…but that gets into some sticky territory. Dyes can migrate to clothes or skin. Natural colors won’t, so far as I know…but the colors are limited (cream, peach, mauve, black, for example).

Of course, these days, the benefit of not gathering in groups likely is more important than getting quality pearls…in which case, you’d want to know your seller, and buy from quality sellers. What I’ve done with some success is to either go to a good bead store, or go to a bead convention (I’d also expect to see them at Gem & Jewelry Expos — I would write some of my contacts [like Aloha Pearls] to ask if they attend); but realistically right now, the danger of being together isn’t worth it.

It’s nice to find good-quality pearls at really inexpensive price points, at conventions. (I found a strand of pretty pink rice pearls for $8, last time.) But right now…the hazard is still there, and we need to have patience. Additionally: if you have a regional Bead Society, I’d think some of the members would know good pearl sources. I forgot to mention how I got into the convention circuit, in the first place! And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on Social Media.

I’ve been playing around with some C-Lon TEX tonight (it’s very heavy upholstery thread)…which has also got me thinking about getting back into micro-macramé. I have enough books and materials. I can teach myself a good amount.

Now, whether I’d have to fill my little torch (no, not a Smith Little Torch) and solder some seams in rings as macramé foundations…which would additionally require firebrick, flux, pickle, and a way to polish them…that could happen if I ran out of closed metal rings and didn’t want to pay to buy more finished ones. But I’m not at that point, yet. The major problem is what to do if I’m polishing a lot of small parts, like this; it can be hazardous to do them one-by-one, but investing in a tumbler would save a lot of frustration. (So far, M has been against this because of the noise factor; but we do have a garage, right now.)

I hadn’t been wearing earrings to work for hygienic reasons, but it may be worth it to make jewelry that I (or others) can wear on my off-hours. And not, you know, denigrate my off-hours as the days on which I don’t dress up.

I’m also considering helping out a small local business…not that I’ve gone to them with that, yet. I just kind of feel for them and their community (which I happen to be a part of).

So yeah, I’ve…apparently, been thinking about a lot. More than I had realized.

I’m also seeing that maybe this is where my heart is. In making things, I mean. I could just be a craftsperson at heart. It would explain why I can’t even really bear the thought of spending the rest of my isolation, reading and studying. It could also explain why “Art” is so difficult, at this point. Comparatively speaking, crafts have inbuilt limitations, which give them foundation and structure. I haven’t seen so much of that in Art, though I do wonder about the possibility of 3-D paintings and such. I’ve seen things approaching it in string sculptures, but Augmented Reality could also be interesting.

As regards choice of media: I did talk with my sibling, who has just told me to be aware of the drawbacks of each medium, but (basically) not to allow that to decide which I work within, as they all have drawbacks (this is my interpretation — or more likely, synthesis).

Of course, we were talking about watercolors (not wanting to discharge toxins into the environment) as versus digital media (cleaner, but like constantly using a pencil)…and I just can’t see giving up the former.

What I can see being impacted by my current inhibitions (wanting to create while also desiring ethical sourcing) is my use of gold…which is sparing, but still. I really don’t even know what happens when people make colored glass beads, and that’s been troubling me. It’s possibly also been the reason I stopped using them. But maybe I don’t have to care about everything, all the time?

I’ve thought up the possibility of — while we’re still closed — creating some designs for a number of the cabochons I’ve collected, over the years. That way, when we open up (we still don’t have a membership at the Art Center, which is good because the membership will go farther now), I can get right on making them.

color, craft, design, glass beads, macrame, occupational hazards, seed beads, spirituality

Beaded micromacrame yearnings

It’s early Sunday morning for me, now, and I’m coming off of a day of food shopping and eating, mostly. I feel like I should get back to the binder of training materials, but I haven’t wanted to spoil the day by filling an extended session of free time with work concerns which have taken up the majority of the week.

So…I just haven’t. I’ve actually been forcing myself away from dealing with it. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do.

I’ve wanted to get back to my beadwork/macramé, but there are a couple of things I know I need to address: 1) the fact that I might need to set up my easel to work (my macramé ergonomics are not great: I’ve been propping the board on my thigh), and 2) I feel like it would be time wasted. Though I guess I’ve earned the privilege of wasting some time.

I think there’s also a third level of something here, which is either trepidation or fear, and I can’t immediately tell why it’s there (except for the fact that I used to spiritualize the majority of my creativity, and just worked through it while freaking myself out).

I did spend some time, though, looking up what the colorants are in glass. Apparently, if I try looking for such online in regard to beads, I can’t immediately find much that’s useful, but once I start looking up stained glass, I start to get hits. It actually mirrors what I’ve been seeing in regard to crystal colorations.

It’s interesting. It also makes me wonder whether I actually have been working with serious “art supplies” all this time: metal salts, oxides, and sulfides are apparently widely used. I found some stuff on transition elements and rare earth metals. But I couldn’t get a good hit on this as it refers to beads. Seed beads are what I’m particularly after: most of these materials are intended for people 14 years of age and older…which obviously begs the question, “why?” (I think it may be linked to developmental concerns, which is why I didn’t make a bracelet for a small relative when she asked.)

However, apparently this information is hard to find because the glass formulations and treatments and coatings are trade secrets. So…yes. I can use the materials, it’s just maybe I’ll want to not eat while using the materials, and to wash my hands before eating, afterward. Even though the risk seems minimal. After all, the compounds are likely mostly locked in the glass, and I am usually not grinding the glass or inhaling it or swallowing it. If I did, I’d have more immediate concerns than poisoning.

I had been hoping that working with colored glass beads was in some way better for the environment than mining for stones, but at this point in time, I’m not sure that’s the case. Not least, because the components of glass have to be gathered and refined. It’s basically chemistry.

And I really, really so bad want to use the little Toho beads I got a really long time ago. I’m just having trouble in breaking out of the safety of an analogous color scheme.

It’s easy enough just to try. Why I’m afraid to, I’m not sure; especially when I can cut the work apart and recover the beads. The only thing I lose, then, is time and cord. And organization, I guess.

But, one step at a time. I need to get back to my handwork first, before I start criticizing myself about not taking enough risks. Over time, I’ve gradually taken more risks with color. My color sense should develop further as I work, though. When I first started out, I was really into hematite — grey and silver — which is not at all where I’m at, now. I do feel a little stuck, but I also need to start where I am.

beading, color, craft, creativity, fiber arts, jewelry design, macrame, tatting

That’s it.

I’m doing a macramé bezel for those two cabochons I mentioned last post. Do you know how freakin’ easy a macramé bezel would be, in comparison with either bead embroidery or wire wrapping? And WHY was it that I got the C-Lon Micro, if not for stuff like this?

I actually have two colors which are perfect for this: Turquoise, and White (so I didn’t waste money getting minorly different shades of green!). I’ll use the Turquoise on the Moonstone, and the White on the Amazonite. (I never thought I’d end up using that white C-Lon, either…)

The best part is that this fits my current skill set. I won’t have to deal with anxiety over wasting expensive wire. I am not yet too skilled at wire wrapping (beyond wrapped loops and drops), but I won’t have to worry about that, here. There is no danger of eventual oxidation. Neither will I have to use adhesive, or worry about sourcing leather or Ultrasuede. I can rework things easily, if they don’t turn out. Plus, I think that this will show off the cabochons better (the edges of which, are beautiful).

I thought of doing a macramé bezel last night while I was in bed, and then realized that I could also make a wire-wrapped setting. Earlier tonight I was thinking about a tabbed Fine Silver bezel, though that requires at least two seams, unless I’m doing cold connections: one to a backing, and one to close the bezel itself.

I’ve just been searching for macramé bezel instructions, however, and have been sitting here for over an hour watching videos on how to do it. I’ve found two pretty simple versions.

On top of this…I now have the ability to incorporate lacework into a necklace, on top of macramé techniques. The C-Lon allows for that (as does my recent study of tatting).

If I know I’m going for something organic, that infers that I could drop the idea of using bugle beads. Unless…I want contrast. I was just looking at these and envisioning using them in a chevron pattern (where they are set off by patterned seed beads), or in a peyote stitch (though the latter sounds as though it will cut the thread).

But yeah…instead of…instead of making multiple strands coming off of the pendant, I could just work lace, there. (I had the idea to do it before, attaching the strands by picots, and just didn’t entertain actually doing it.) I might need to vacate a couple of shuttles, but I can do that — especially as I now have larger bobbins.

Do I still put beads around the back side??? Do I, that is, transition from lace to bead stringing? (For some reason, I don’t like bead stringing as much as I used to.)

I’m starting to move out of the generative phase of creativity into the selective one. I have most of the stuff I need in a little project box, now, after having eliminated most of my greens and golds, and the blues which were too violet. The palette is various shades of blue-green with pale amber and white.

Right now, I’ve got to think of whether I want to use buttons to transition (and close) the necklace: this means going out to match my materials. It may not happen until the middle of the week. That gives me time to practice making bezels for cabochons (which I can do in any color, as I’ll be using the throwaway googly-eye ovals).

That also means that it isn’t a waste of time to practice the tatting: particularly, thread joins. I know more than I used to, but I’m still on a steep learning curve.

I should also start drawing out what I want the lace to look like. A little intimidating, though I hate to say it. This is also going to be fun, though! :) It’s one of those things where you don’t know exactly what’s going to turn out at the end; though you know you’re off to a good start (and that even failure isn’t terrible: just cut it apart and try a different route).

beading, beadwork, fiber arts, glass beads, jewelry design, macrame, seed beads, tatting

Adventures in neckpiece design

I was kick-started back into beading recently by someone asking me to make them a blue necklace of a certain length.  :)  This got me thinking on design — my tentative instinct is to go with Oglala (Butterfly) Stitch, a basic form of which I can see between the two versions I’ve seen in books.  Butterfly Stitch is just basically working one or more ruffles off of a center chain.  I’ll have to add at least 3/4″-1″ in length to account for the girth of the thing, but I’m still working on pattern ideas (particularly color placement).

I do have a more interesting project (to me, right now, anyway) where I’m basically using two needles to make a netted collar — I’m not sure if it is even possible to make it with one needle.  Because I’m not working off of a pattern, other than a concept drawing of my own (which didn’t work out the way I’d planned), I’m thinking this is the way I’d design something to sell.  (And then make over and over and over?  ;P)  I mean, I didn’t even start out knowing that the piece would be netted, as versus using chevron stitch, for example.  It just kind of evolved that way.

In fact, I didn’t have much at all in the way of expectations when I started this project.  To me, it was play and a chance to get back into my seed beads.  What’s come of it is a pink/peach/red-violet netted thing with tiny daggers I got somewhere between two and five years ago (a specialty buy — they’re made of a mix of peach and cream glass) and never used.  I also ended up with peanut beads in the “base” row (if you can call it that — it’s woven widthwise, not lengthwise) for texture.  Amazingly, they all tend to orient in one direction.  Plus, the curve caused by the shortness of the “base” row is about right for a collar.  I think I’ve finally got the color scheme down now, unless I want to switch out cranberry for baby pink in the “base” row.

The reason for using the peach beads?  I thought it was a color I’d never use.  And then I started to use them, and realized that what I was making looked a lot like lace.  (See recent blog entries on wanting to make lace.)  At almost the same time I recognized one of my practice pieces from an online pattern (“Picot Delight”) to look like tatted lace (I think this is the time when I’d checked out nearly all of my library’s tatting books, so I had plenty of photos to get an idea of how these things typically looked).

And I mean, originally I started out with a lot of colors which just vaguely and probably coincidentally worked together — the focal point used to be a row of ruby AB teardrop beads (“ruby”-colored glass, not actual ruby).  Then I went through a number of reds, only to come out on the other side with a relatively desaturated red/violet as the focus (4mm Czech “fuchsia” fire-polished rounds), as versus ruby.

Well, let me say that they’re desaturated for this season’s color profile.  In others they would simply be a bit muted — but we have a lot of super-saturated and neon tones out this year.

Anyhow, I basically now have a few swatches — those that haven’t been recycled — which show different points in the design process.  I haven’t been sure how to record the different stages in the design process — through notes?  Photographs?  Drawings? Memory?  I have cut apart and reused the beads in at least 3 samples.  I’ve needed to — I have finite amounts of these beads, a lot of which I can’t depend on finding replacements for, should I run out.  Plus, it takes a lot of pressure off of me when I’m experimenting, to know that if I don’t like it I can just cut it apart, and the only loss will be a short length of thread (and some time — but it’s not time wasted if I learned something).

It’s very clear that my initial concept design isn’t identical to the piece as it will be made.  I could probably go on experimenting with color combinations forever, but the way it looked in the second-to-last trial appears good enough to make.

Speaking of thread, though…I got the idea last night of attaching the clasp with fiber instead of with a beaded loop.  Usually, there’s a loop at the end to catch a toggle or button, and it most often is covered in seed beads to protect a number of different lines of thread.

I was thinking about how to do this better.  I’ve never really liked putting clasps on things, because they take a while to figure out, not to mention that most toggles are beaded beads made of peyote or herringbone stitch.  (Yes! I did find a herringbone beaded-bead pattern, not that I can remember it now, though.)  This is almost always a headache for me, because I don’t like weaving in ends — or odd-count peyote.  And if I use something like one of the very common, very fine, super-strong polythylene threads — it’s known for not holding knots well.  So I have felt obligated to weave in over and over to hold the bead together through friction on the line.

I hate this.

Not only have I broken seed beads within larger beaded beads doing this (causing the entire beaded bead to be a wash), but also a beaded bead’s weave can be distorted depending on the path one takes with one’s needle while one is weaving in.  This is why I recently have taken to collecting buttons with which to finish off necklaces and bracelets.  The plastic ones are probably the ones to get — they’re inexpensive and they aren’t going to scratch the beadwork.  Not to say that I haven’t collected some nice shell and metal buttons.  But sometimes you don’t want metal; and shell can abrade glass.  Or glass can abrade shell.  I know something’s going on; I can hear it scraping.  ;)

But!  Guess what I realized last night?

I can use my skills with knotting to slide a C-Lon cord through a larger bead hole or set of bead holes, then use macrame to secure the ends of the cord.  This way, the beadwoven piece can stand on its own.  There will be two loops of macrame holding on the button and the buttonhole, but if they stretch or break, just cut them off and make new loops; don’t worry about remaking the entire bracelet or necklace.

I actually got the idea from having used wire connections through seed bead holes to finish the ends of ropes before.  If you can put thread through it, you might be able to put cord or wire through it.  The hole just has to be big enough and the bead wall strong and smooth enough to take the pressure.  Also, the thread connecting that bead to the rest of the beads has to be strong enough, so it will probably need reinforcing.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems very promising.  Just don’t do it poorly and make the rest of us look bad!  ;D  *laughs*  (Oh my, I’m not going to go there, am I?  [I’m being cynical.  If you knew me and my posture on elitism, you’d know why.])

I did get a digital camera a while ago, so I might be eventually able to post a tutorial on here or something.  I figure the more of us who do it and do it well, maybe the better buttons will be made.  :D  And that would be totally awesome!