beadwork, craft, creativity, design, fashion design

Switching modes…is difficult.

As is making even not-so-difficult decisions about whether to accept an interview (for a temporary position) offered by HR. The HR that let me go, after 10 years of service. That HR.

Then there is my Vocational program assuming that I’ll either be in college or working…when right now I’m re-evaluating my life and what I want to do with it (a.k.a. finding reasons to stay alive — which is important)…which doesn’t quite involve them.

And then there is University, which I’m only in to get an inroad into a job I may actually be able to tolerate long-term, where we’ve entered the end phase of tons of group work and have stopped communicating. I want to ask when we will get started…

Then there is my personal life, which is beginning to turn over into creative work: particularly, sewing and beadwork. I’ve gotten enough together that I could make a good return beading…though I wonder, at this point, if I would be willing to sell patterns as well as (or instead of) finished objects.

The major issue with either is that many beadwork patterns are easy to deconstruct, if you know what you’re doing…and I’d venture to say that all can be replicated, with the right skill set. But I have bought some self-published books that are as good as, or better than, books coming from the major publishers…which would be Kalmbach, Interweave, and Lark Crafts, for beadwork.

There are some decent books from other publishers, too, but as we move from craft domain to domain — the publishers change. The people who publish books on silversmithing might not be into bead knitting, for example. So far as I can see, those are totally different market segments, with different motivations, different investments, and different levels of familiarity with different technologies. But both of them can make a bracelet.

Beadwork (often) entails a love of color, while hot metalwork entails a love of form and fire (and is relatively starved of color work, in my experience — with the exception of enameling, and working with brass and copper [which also technically fall under “silversmithing”, as non-ferrous metalworking which is not goldsmithing]).

I would only expect the love of color and texture to be magnified in bead knitting, which is kind of a hybrid between straight-out beadwork and the tactile and meditative pleasures of knitting…but I haven’t yet tried it. I do have a set of Size 1 knitting needles now, though. I also know a couple of places where I can get (heavyweight) spooled silk beading thread.

The thing is, to do this, you have to have interest and skill in knitting, which is an area I touch on tangentially, not fully. Lacemaking is another area I’m touching on, specifically with tatting — because I could see its application in craft jewelry.

A while back, I taught myself shuttle tatting, though that’s harder to do in a jewelry context than needle tatting. I started working with the latter just recently to see what I could do, without having to wind a shuttle to the middle of the work. Right now, I know I can make button loops with C-Lon Standard (TEX 210) and the heavyweight C-Lon TEX 400. This is with Sizes #5 and #3 tatting needles, respectively.

The resulting buttonholes are large, round, and relatively stiff…not that much of an improvement over making my own toggles out of glass seed beads (which I’m always afraid will crush or chip [after having heard the squeal of Mother-of-Pearl against glass]), but definitely more finished-appearing than a braided loop.

Using anything finer than TEX 210 and 400 basically requires using a shuttle…the needles I’ve been using (Handy Hands) just aren’t the right diameter. In shuttle tatting, you’re wrapping the thread around another loop of thread; in needle tatting, you’re wrapping it around the needle, which may not be the same diameter as the thread. With something like C-Lon, which doesn’t have a lot of stretch, that means it’s hard, with finer diameters, to slide the knots off of the needle and onto the thread itself.

It makes sense now, intuitively, as to why the heavier diameters would be easier to use: you get a lot more wiggle room in relation to the size of the cord. The cord is also harder to flex to create the double knots, which gives extra space next to the needle.

C-Lon Micro (TEX 70), for example…doesn’t work well with any of the needles I have, as it catches at the eye of the most appropriate-sized tatting needle. It will, however, work with a shuttle. C-Lon Fine (TEX 135) also doesn’t work with any of my needles. Either the needle is too wide (causing a “scrunchie effect” once completed), or I can’t fit the thread through the needle’s eye.

I have also tried working with Milliner’s needles, prior to having broken down and bought the Tatting needles: it works, but I question if they’re long enough. (Milliner’s needles are also much sharper, so you have to be careful not to scratch or stab yourself when forming the hitches.)

If I hadn’t tried this, I’d still be thinking of the possibility, but not the reality, of using tatting to form buttonholes for clasps. I still can do it, but the possibility is now limited, in my mind. Either use TEX 210 and 400 with tatting needles, or try TEX 135 or 70 with a shuttle…and keep in mind that you may get a stiff and very round buttonhole.

The other route is to find a set of tatting needles which will work with finer threads, meaning that the eyes have to be especially fine. Given how firm all forms of C-Lon cord I’ve used are, I’m not betting that I’ll be able to fit something like that through (or over) those needles. Tatting (to make lace) is generally done with softer threads — which beads may damage.

On the other hand, I’ve just finished a necklace which has been years in the making. Using the C-Lon Micro for it seems to have been a very good choice: it feels tough, and was thick enough to hold knots at the terminations. As I’ve been using clamshell bead tips to finish the work, I was glad when the knots were large enough not to slip through the holes.

Finding out possibilities and what they actually look and feel like in action, is extremely important. At least so, from a design + construction perspective. Thinking up dreams of, “what could be,” is something I did for years; it doesn’t necessarily get anything done. It takes experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I should say, it takes the risk of failure, to find out what works, and what doesn’t.

The forgiving thing about beadwork is that if your design doesn’t work out, you can clip your piece apart and try again.

It feels difficult to get myself out of Academic Mode and into Creative Mode. It’s even harder to let go of Creative Mode, once I’m in it, and slide back into Academic Mode: I want to stay where I am. I get involved with my projects. This happens even knowing I have to get back into Academics at some time, which tends to fill me with dread and anxiety. It’s hard to get out of Academic Mode in the first place, because I have a level of guilt for not spending my time studying.

I’m thinking that’s not a good way to enjoy living. Especially if what you’re studying, in order to earn a livable salary, doesn’t fit your core drives (or relieve your core banes: like uncleanliness, and random social interaction with strangers). It’s just something you do so you aren’t homeless or dependent. It’s not like you actually want to do it, or in a perfect world, would choose to do it. At least not after you’ve encountered the reality of the job and environment.

And it’s like, how many more years, how much more of my resources, am I going to commit to this? For the sake of a salary?

There are other things I can do, if cash is my only motivator. I may not be able to afford to live in the San Francisco Bay Area while I’m doing it…but to be honest, most of the world can’t afford to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re dealing with an inflated economy and gentrification, with high-wage earners moving in from outside, displacing the people who made the place what it was: the people who made this a nice place to live. What I can see is that someday — when technology shifts again, or when the climate shifts more completely — this area risks becoming another ghost region.

Early morning, on November 2nd — I began writing a post after having had a conversation with relatives. Its details should likely go into another, separate post, but I realized that through my clothing and jewelry, I could develop my own identity expression. I could also help others define theirs, or at least give them more options.

I’ve had a consistent problem with being able to present myself as I wish, with ready-to-wear clothing. The problem is that the clothes which fit my body usually also code me as a woman, socially — which is not something I’m set on. I began thinking on how to alter that. It’s not like it isn’t possible. It just requires creative thought, and the ability to realize those thoughts in reality.

That is, it’s possible to create clothes cut for and which will fit female bodies, without also making them to code as, “feminine.” It’s not like there isn’t a market for this: or there wouldn’t be so many people who are assumed to be, “women”, wearing men’s clothes. The problem is, after one reaches a certain point in their maturity, men’s clothes don’t quite fit correctly. At least, that’s been my experience. The body type I had in my early 20’s is not the body type I have in my late 30’s.

The point is that there is cultural space and coding made for cisgender men and cisgender women which signify their gender to people on sight. If you’re a gender minority, however: that isn’t necessarily the case. Not only are there no words to describe who you are, but there are no special signifiers that positively match your identity. And if there were, I’m not sure it would be safe…but, progress is being made.

I’d hope that in 40-50 years, there will be vocabulary and a safe place for people who are gender-nonbinary or third-gender, or otherwise currently not provided with correctly-coded tools with which to present. I would also hope that the erasure of gender minorities in the English language and cultural sphere, finds a way to cease in a respectful manner.

The night before last, I realized that I could and should get back to work on the “blouse” I’ve been trying to make for 10 years. I got about halfway through construction (having cut and marked the pieces previously), though I still have some alterations to make. This is Folkwear #111, “Nepali Blouse,” which I’m altering to have a much longer hem, and side inserts. I appreciated the toile, but it was much too short and revealing, for me.

The pattern itself is for something worn as an undergarment in Nepal, which makes sense if you live there, and it’s cold! Instead of the traditional fabric choices, though, I’m going for a dark cotton batik. After this is done, I can work on some outer layers.

And no, I don’t know the gender status of those who would be wearing this, normally. The pattern and styling is just something I like.

At this time, though, I find myself required to get back to my graded work…which I don’t want to do. Of course. Writing this, is kind of edging me back into thinking in words…which I need.

Wow, though. I mean, wow.

I am wondering when the last time was that I was so reticent about getting back into schoolwork…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, design, jewelry design, seed beads, work

Yesterday

So I want to write, and the thing I want most to write about, is a beadwork design that came to me a few nights ago (I should have dated my design sketch). I am not entirely sure why I want to write about this…kind of like I’m not sure why I want to get off of the computer and stitch, instead of trying to think of essay topics. (It’s pretty clear why I don’t want to do homework: for one thing, I’m too bombed-out from work.)

The lack of understanding of my own urges is something I’ll need to work on. I feel like if I understood what was going on, I could adjust…I guess I’m still not great at giving myself space. For that matter, there’s a lot of psychology that I just don’t understand…

To get it out of the way and off my chest, I did work earlier, though nearly all of that time was spent shelving, cleaning up the library space, and retrieving the book drop. There were two people scheduled to help with the same job besides myself, both of whom were out sick (but I was out sick earlier in the week, too — maybe I should take my nausea more seriously).

Because I’ve been taking care of myself physically (relatively speaking), my healing overuse injury hasn’t been bothering me too much. Thus, I volunteered to spend all of my time chipping away at the backlog of un-shelved items. Yes, I know, stupid. But essentially…I was the only person there in my job title, thus the only person who was there expressly to shelve. I — basically — specialize in it. That, check-in, and sorting.

If I assume that I was shelving at least two carts an hour, and I subtract 45 minutes for the time spent getting the book drop, picking up abandoned items, and going on break, that means that I shelved at least 10-11 carts. I would expect this as a minimum, given that I can shelve a cart in as little as 12-20 minutes, depending on a number of factors.

I also gave up my one hour on Circulation (which would have been less work) to work further on the backlogged shelving. The situation at the end of the day wasn’t too bad, considering I was the only person doing the job, and that when I came in there were — if I’m remembering correctly — seven carts ready to go, with additional carts needing to be sorted. I let backroom staff handle the sorting, and most of check-in, today…which was likely a good decision. As it was, there is still work from today that will need to be handled tomorrow. It’s just nowhere near as bad as it might have been.

So now I’ve talked about that, and we can move on. :) I have been reading in the third edition of Conducting the Reference Interview, which I should probably get back to; though tomorrow, I’ll need to deal with my coursework. Homework…YAAA.

Okay. Maybe I can get to the beadwork stuff without guilt, now? ;) I’ve come up with a variation of Tri Stitch which is basically interlaced. It reminds me of what happens when one makes a fabric out of Right-Angle Weave, instead of a simple chain…though with Tri Stitch you basically get hexagons (or diamonds, now that I look at it: my trial had color accents on the tips of the weaving, so it looked more like a honeycomb).

I wanted to make a woven band (I’ll have to use K.O./Miyuki thread for this; C-Lon Micro is much too thick and stiff for multiple thread passes) with 3mm fire-polished beads (or 6/0 seed beads) going down the center, and embellishments on both edges, like the photo I showed earlier on this blog. Here, I’ve just retrieved it again so you don’t have to hop to the original entry:

The picot edging (lower edge) is what I hope to reproduce in this new design. I used two 11/0 Czech beads and four 15/0 Toho rocailles, here. I might be able to reduce the bulk by using all 15/0s.

I haven’t worked it out in reality yet, though; so I’m not even sure what size bead I’ll need to put in the middle of this in order to avoid scrunching up or distorting the work — I have a feeling I may need to use Japanese 6/0s. Everything I’ve got says that it’s going to be an irregular size, because of the angles in use and the dimensions of the 8/0 beads.

But there’s no real way to tell if I’m right, without actually constructing a model.

I’ve found that social media addiction creeping back up on me, again…which is the reason I stopped using it in the first place. (I can’t live my entire life on the Web!) If I can limit my use of it successfully, maybe I won’t have to worry about it keeping me up at night or away from productive uses of my time.

Then there is the issue of becoming known on social media, for instance around beadwork. ;) Do I want that? Am I happy being an anonymous blogger on WordPress? I’m not sure, but I’d say that I probably am happier on WordPress, for now…

Of course, then we start talking about Pinterest and everything and whether I have a need to join so I can help other people use it, blargh.

I don’t even know what Instagram does…though I just looked it up. Huh.

It’s easier than I had anticipated to make design drawings for this; however…it really (I mean seriously) helps to use bullet-tip markers to draw bead representations, rather than using fineliners. The thing about design drawings is that they don’t translate exactly to whatever you’re designing, due to the precision needed in the dimensions and shapes of the beads. They’re good as notations that will help you figure out where you’re going…but not something one should bet on being able to exactly reproduce IRL.

It also helps me to draw a bead as a straight line, perpendicular to its stringing direction, sometimes.

Anyhow. It’s now 45 minutes after midnight — I should sleep.

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, creativity, design, seed beads

Design work: Embellished Tri Stitch

It’s actually fairly amazing, the things that come from just playing around with beads. I was able to get back to my design work, today. In the process, I was able to test out some S-Lon beading thread that I got a while back from General Bead, and to cut into one of my half-hanks of size 8/0 Czech seed beads.

The thing about beadwork is that it’s not always feasible to start out with a drawing, and assume that the drawing will work out into a real-world prototype which will mirror the drawing exactly. The dimensions and shapes of beads are just too precise, or sometimes idiosyncratic. I’ve found that even with beads which I assume are from the same manufacturer (for example, 3mm Miyuki-brand magatama drop beads), the shapes and sizes are not exactly the same. The exception to this could be if my supplier has at least two different sources for beads which are sold under the same name. Until I visited General Bead, though, the only types of teardrop-style seed beads I knew of were Czech fringe beads, and Miyuki 3mm Magatamas.

Embellished tri-chain swatch.

Tonight I was working with Tri Stitch, which I tried to reteach to myself before I finally realized I was beginning the chain wrong (I was looping through all three beads to begin, instead of just two), and had to resort to looking at instructions to begin. My source: Seed bead stitching: Creative variations on traditional techniques, by Beth Stone, © 2007.

The reason that the photo here doesn’t look like much is that this sample is tiny — about three inches long — and not only did I have to deal with troublesome light sources (it’s night) and difficulty focusing (the colors here are washed out, and none of my photos came out crisp, probably because I was too close), but the beads I used were mostly from a set of beads that I’ve set aside because they are either 1) the most inexpensive beads I had in a certain shape and size, 2) the beads have gotten dusty from sitting out too long and thus I’m disinclined to use them in jewelry someone will wear (without washing), or 3) the beads are likely to fade because of the method of their coloring.

The larger turquoise beads are my least-expensive and easiest-to-replace Czech 8/0s, while the drop beads at the top are color-lined, meaning they have, in this case, a bronzish paint on the inside of their hole which may change color or fade. The beads at the bottom? The amber ones are Czech 11/0s left over from some forgotten project, while the picots (loops) are size 15/0 Medium Topaz Toho beads which I used as a test to see whether the silver lining would come out.

I have another set of 15/0s (unknown brand, old) which are slightly lighter, but their silver linings shed on my fingertips– I was trying to see if it was due to age or the abrasion of the Big-Eye Needle I used. I think it was the needle. Big-Eyes have two spring-steel wires soldered together and sharpened; they’re easy to thread and use, but they aren’t as smooth to the inside of a bead’s piercing(s) as regular beading needles. They also tend to shred one’s thread into its constituent fibers, and jam up. This is magnified when using a bead as small as 15/0. It also isn’t (as much of) an issue with a regular beading needle.

I went through three swatches before I got the above (the trials were fairly…well, learning experiences). I found out relatively early that I would have to use Czech beads for some aspects of this pattern, because the Japanese 8/0 beads I first tried were far too cylindrical to nestle into each other properly. I keep saying that Czech beads are more donut-shaped…this causes them to be friendlier to stitches like Tri Stitch and Right-Angle Weave, because the edges of the beads have more rounded transitions between the walls and the tops and bottoms.

I also didn’t expect at all to have a place to use size 15/0 beads, but for little delicate embellishments like picots, they’re perfect. These are Tohos, which are a Japanese brand, which doesn’t matter all that much, in context. I do have some Czech size 13/0, but the Czech beads can get so tiny (down to the size where they look like sand) that it’s really either amazing or discouraging. :) Maybe both. I have Czech 13/0s that look just as small as Japanese 15/0s.

Yeah, I don’t know, either.

It was good to get back to this, today. I find it slightly strange that work done in design is unpredictable at the point of beginning. That is, I may have an idea of what I want in mind, but the plan has to evolve for anything to get done, especially when dealing with beads (which are pre-made, and thus have their dimensions already determined; the skill and fun comes in where one figures out how to fit them together in some way that looks nice, is durable, and isn’t a mess).

As for the S-Lon beading thread…I like it enough to consider buying C-Lon beading thread, which I’ve heard is basically the same thing. It still shreds if abused, but not as easily as Nymo (which used to be industry-standard). I know where to find both brands (different sources)…I’m just not sure which, or how many, colors to get. Having too many color choices can be as bad as having too few. In any case, I was using an olive tone of thread tonight, and it doesn’t look bad, really. I mean, it’s not black or white or red, which are the colors which would stand out most. I think that because the beads I used were greenish, and the thread was greenish and muted, it dropped back nicely.

I did just get a bunch of C-Lon Micro Cord, which I’ve wanted to use for micromacrame, but haven’t gotten the chance to play with it yet, what with job applications, and graduation, and reading, and my own continuing study. Maybe I should make it a priority to have days where I work with my beads, or paints, or on my writing…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, glass beads, seed beads

Colors.

Last night — or yesterday, rather — M and I made a run to the quilt store. We went there instead of the big box fabric store, as (given an easy choice) I would rather give my money to support local small business, than to grow a large corporation. There’s that, and the quality of the fabrics at the quilt store is really nice (even if they mostly have cottons and silks). It may just be me being a color nut, but also; just looking at all the different shades of fabric is awesome.

It can, however, be a bit intimidating when you’re choosing just what color scheme to use in a project! I was able to help M out with color selection, and pick up a nice batik to use in the side slits in the Nepali Blouse. The way it’s turning out, I may have a minor skirt at the bottom of this blouse! (If, that is, it becomes necessary to raise the side slits back to their original position, and insert a panel to cover my skin.)

Because I would only be going to a certain convention this time around to pick up C-Lon cording, we decided against it. I was able to find a different supplier, which is a good thing!

The other thing interesting, yesterday, was breaking back into my beadwork. There’s a friend who gave me a couple of bracelets to mend, although I said at the outset that I doubted I could fix them.

A while ago (2011), I tried fixing one, requiring some disassembly, and realized the thing had been made with a double-needle netting technique (which I still don’t know, though I could probably figure it out). That in itself was only part of the problem; the larger part is that the beads are so faded and tiny that I can’t tell which color is which, unless they’re pre-grouped.

M suggested that I return this attempt and make this friend a new bracelet (basically an apology bracelet, like the apology earrings I’ve now realized I have no record of on WordPress, as versus in my archives). The below is the swatch I produced by toying around with stuff last night. I brought together a set of colors which is obviously intended both to be beautiful, creative, and relatively gender-neutral.

blue and topaz beadweaving sample.

To the left, here, is a photo of that trial swatch. I basically knew I wanted to try something with SuperDuos…and I had these cream SuperDuos and blue MiniDuos. I really didn’t know if they would work together, but it was worth a shot; and it seems they do!

SuperDuos — or maybe I should say, beads that I’ve seen sold as SuperDuos — can vary in shape, from bean-looking things, to almost DiamonDuo or GemDuo shape (that is, rhombuses). SuperDuos are a bit more curvy in their edges, than either DiamonDuos or GemDuos, though; at least if I’m correct. Of course, though, I have SuperDuos from the early days, meaning I may have some very old-model beads!

I’m going to have to remove the “root beer” bead in between the two amber 3mm Magatama drops, in order for this to turn out flat. Right now, the fringes are overlapping a bit, as the three-bead fringe (two 3mm Magatamas and one matte Fringe bead, possibly Czech in origin) is slightly wider than one full-size SuperDuo. If I repeated the three-bead blue fringe every time I could, the overlap would be noticeable.

Tonight, D and I went out to an Asian discount store which is closing its doors; I found two “Quilting Totebags” for about $2.50 each, and brought home three smaller chirimen bags which are still big enough to contain tubes of beads, and projects. I’ve been wanting to take this stuff to work, and this seems like a good way in which to do so.

One thing I’ve learned over the course of years is that the method of storage affects the use of what is stored: if two things are stored far apart or segregated by size or shape, for example, it is less likely they’ll find it into combination, unless measures are taken to counter this.

I also realized that right now, with my design, I have a tendency to start with color and color combinations, and combine everything I can find into a desired color scheme, then take what shapes I have in those colors, and attempt to assemble them into a form. (It’s kind of a creative exercise.)

In the future, I may attempt to get all the shapes I can in some neutral shade, and work at the form first, before choosing the colors.

I feel the need to note some things about design, for myself in the future:

  • Beadweaving is kind of like using Legos. Structurally (aside from cabochons and bead embroidery, the latter of which can range into sewing), you generally have two main design elements: piercings, and lines.
  • Any line must go through or around a bead, which has one or more piercings through which a line may pass.
  • That line must then either wrap around another line (as with Brick Stitch), or pass through a piercing.
  • In bead weaving, we generally attempt to cover exposed threads with beads, in order to avoid damage to those threads.
  • In beaded micromacramé, not all cords must be covered, as the cords themselves are a visual as well as structural design element (with the possibility of becoming a dominant design element). These cords are also generally strong enough to withstand exposure.

Right now, I absolutely know I need a shower before tomorrow, so I’m going to end this, here. I will note, however, that I have a lot of new reading material from the bookstore…it would be nice to get around to it!