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.