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.

creativity, design, fiber arts, jewelry design, self care

Difficulties in creative process (expected and not)

Last night, I had the opportunity to think out loud about what’s stopping me from moving forward with creating. I was aware that I am very good at divergent thinking — that is, developing and imagining many options that I could do, and preparing to do them. When it comes to narrowing down those many options to focus on an end product, I’m not as great.

This is probably the biggest main challenge I have to deal with where it comes to making, and it has to do with process. It’s easy for me to envision an initial end point (or multiple possible end points); where it comes to favoring one and then also being willing to relinquish it by actually starting and moving through the different stages of construction (which rarely ever reach that same end point), I have some issues.

I know that if I start, that is, I’ll have to give up the “perfect” idea that I had at the beginning, in favor of something I haven’t yet imagined. I find it likely not different from a young bird launching itself into flight; on a branch, there’s something to grasp, or hold onto — this being the dream, or the original idea. When you’re in the air, you have to keep beating your wings to keep flying, you’re not anchored, and you’re constantly having to respond to new challenges arising. You may reach the place you originally intended to go, or you may decide that there’s a better place to stop, on the way.

Part of trying to deal with anxiety around this is lowering the stakes, such as by opting first to try mounting a stone with fiber instead of with precious metal. Today I started trying to work a macrame mounting for my Amazonite cabochon (I will try and get some images in before long). There are a number of things that I learned while doing that.

First off, I’ll want to use my heavier weight C-Lon (0.5 mm diameter) in order to avoid tons of tiny and barely visible knots with the C-Lon Micro. Also, again, I find that I need to work on my tension. The people working the knots in the videos I saw were actually keeping their tension much looser than I was. They were also spacing the knots out, more…and, I find, I’m not putting the cross-bar of the lark’s head hitch into the same spot all the time. That means that some knots are way looser than others, and also that the knots are misaligned.

That may be helped by trying to soften the C-Lon up a bit before trying to knot with it. I’m thinking of running it along the side of an awl to try and break up the stiffness. I’m not sure it will work; I just don’t want to do it with the back of a scissors because I’m concerned about curling or damaging the fibers rather than just breaking up any bonding between the fibers. I know this stuff can get softer, because it’s really soft after I’ve picked a knot out of it. So it can be soft. If I can get it there, maybe it will flow better.

I also found that I’ll need to make the bezel wider than previously expected, though that may not be an issue. Too loose, and the stone may slip out (maybe), but too narrow and it’s an unusable ribbon. As well, as the knotting progresses, it’s extremely easy to unintentionally narrow the bezel, by using tension that’s just too tight. Once that’s done, it’s easy to unintentionally continue to use tension that’s just too tight.

To an extent, minor unevenness in tension (like among a couple of strands) may work itself out when tying on and tightening the bezel at the endpoint…but I haven’t gotten that far, yet. I can also tweak the tension and recover my width by pulling on my anchor cords, but that snugs all the knots together (which is not what I want, as it hides the stone).

The other major thing that I have to deal with which puts me back from starting, is my tendency to perfectionism (which you can see in the fact that I actually noticed the detail of the cross-bar of my lark’s head hitches not all being in line). I know that perfectionism can stop someone from beginning. I heard yesterday that the quickest path to perfection is not to aim for perfection. Because working is the only way of getting better: if you never begin to work, you never get better. Your skill level never increases, which is intangible; but matters as a benefit, in this case. It’s growth and production, versus stagnation and lack of production.

My issue, I think, is that perfection is not possible, so aiming for perfection is to aim for the impossible, and instead of attempting to attain the impossible and be met with inevitable failure, sometimes we just tend not to try. The latter is what I’m combating, though maybe I just need to lower my standards to something attainable.

There’s also the fact that I could just be unsure as to whether my flight feathers have grown in yet.

Perhaps, I could recognize that these will be my first two macrame bezels ever, so it’s unlikely that they’ll come out as though machined. On that point, it’s not even desirable to aim to have a final product that seems machined, so I’m questioning right now what exactly it is that I’m desiring.

On that point, I’m not even sure of the exact design of what is going to flow out of the pendant — and I won’t be able to tell until I can figure out what connection options I have. I can’t tell those, until I’ve constructed a preliminary bezel. Which is why I started trying to do so, tonight.

What’s happening right now, is research. I probably should be gentle with myself and not expect perfection. But at the same time, I should push myself to at least try to do something.

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, glass beads, jewelry design, seed beads

Hyperfocus.

I wanted to write this last night, but by the time I was willing to call it quits, it was 2:30 AM. Also, as I have an unofficial policy of not taking photos of my work after sundown…sleep was preferable to staying up further into the early morning. I’ve had severe problems with sleep dysregulation before, and I have responsibilities, so taking care of myself has to come in sometime (even if I’m hyper-focused!).

Last night, I learned a number of things…the largest of which, relates to my preferred color schemes…the second largest of which, encompassed two rules:

  1. Don’t tie off a macramé pattern directly to a clasp, or you get the disadvantage of built-in stiffness on the connection. Tying off to a metal ring, then attaching the ring to another ring, alleviates the stress on that join.
  2. Don’t cut the excess cord off of knots before sealing those knots, first. Otherwise, your knots will unravel and your work will start to fall apart (at the very end!).

Today, I’ve basically been working all day at making jewelry. My folks call it a, “hobby,” moreso than a, “side hustle.” Is a hobby this serious? I don’t know.

About the color combinations…I’ve found that I want to stay away from monochromatic color schemes. This was surprising. In the past — as a youth, I had been much more hesitant about using color, so it would be more likely for me to stick with blues and greys. Hematite (an iron ore) was a particular favorite material, as it easily integrates with silver, has a nice weight and heft, plus a gunmetal metallic luster, and has been relatively inexpensive (for a natural stone).

It was relatively amazing that I was able to figure out the optimal pattern for this bracelet and write it down and then follow it. When I look at the knotting pattern on the sample I was working out initially, I can see it was trial-and-error; all over the place. I had to unravel a good amount of the work I did when I first started yesterday. This is because reversing the three-knot pattern (which reverses between every bead) essentially messes up the spacing of the beads.

Although I’ve made it to the point where I use some colors more enthusiastically than others, I also have certain hues that I am more attracted to, than others. Looking at my little bead palette things, which I’ve posted about before on this blog (scroll down), I see a lot of warm blues, greens, and violets, ranging into violet-pink…not so many yellows or oranges — or the browns that I intensely want to use. I already know that I’m not even trying to use reds, because reds are generally so intense that they overpower everything else. Pinks are also difficult to use, because of the fact that they are often either dyed (thus possibly not lightfast), or because they tend to be extremely pale.

The first trial version of this bracelet style, I made in a color palette extremely similar to the one above, but I used Capri Blue and Capri Blue Silverlined (S/L) for two of the three 6/0 bead colors that I used. The second trial bracelet (above) used Transparent Emerald (a blue-leaning green) in place of the Capri Blue S/L, and because of the lack of silver lining in the bead hole, the green falls back much more and becomes very subtle.

I’m planning to remake the first trial. I basically ruined it by cutting the threads before sealing the knots, which caused the piece to begin to unravel. I also tied it directly to the clasp, which I shouldn’t have done. I have three options:

  1. Wear the bracelet until it randomly falls apart and then remake it
  2. Cut the bracelet apart and re-knot it properly
  3. Buy another string of 4mm green iris fire-polished Czech rounds, give up the extra gold-luster 8/0s, and make a duplicate.

Although S/L beads are eye-catching in the store, they can overpower a piece if used indiscriminately. When I was a youth, I would use a lot of these, and so maybe it’s this that causes me to look at some bead combinations and think that they look like something I would have made at 16 years old.

I’ve also found that I have a tendency to like luster beads, especially Gold Luster; that opaque beads are much more useful than I would expect, advancing in compositions; that matte beads are welcome contrasts to metallic and glossy beads; that iris beads can be the foundation of a piece; and that transparent beads often fall back in a piece, while S/Ls advance.

Cobalt Blue is also extremely difficult for me to use, on par with red, because of its intensity and nearness to violet.

On top of all this, I find myself hesitant to use dyed and color-lined beads, because I’m pretty sure they’re categorically susceptible to fading (even though many colors cannot be made without these options).

I need to keep a journal on this information, including information about knotting patterns. Right now, my design notes are on temporary papers. I need to do something better.

There’s more I have to say — in regard to using SuperDuos and MiniDuos — but it will have to wait for another night. I’ve worked out two more swatches of a pattern than my initial two so far, using a double-needle technique which is much easier than I predicted (with the main issues being accidental loops, and going through the right piercings in the right directions). The third and fourth iterations (using Magatamas, Fringe beads, and Demi Round and O-beads) are very interesting, but I don’t have photos, right now.

What I can say is that for some reason, beadweaving is less stressful for me than micro-macramé, likely because I’m abrading my hands less (even though I did give myself a pretty nasty scratch by storing a needle in the fabric of my pants)…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, glass beads, organization, seed beads

Reminders of the pleasures of life – 01

I have photos of my new storage system today, as I wanted to do something which wasn’t…academic, anymore. I have also been looking around at retailers, online.

I know certain things I need for at least one project, but right now I’m trying to figure out from whom to get them. Factoring into that is the selection the retailer carries, and what extra things they carry that I won’t be able to source elsewhere.

Also, a detractor is the fact that some bead retailers do not say which company manufactures a specific color or finish of bead. Fortunately or not, at least one of these companies has the widest selection of rocaille (round) seed beads I have ever seen. That’s great in terms of selection, not so great in terms of design.

I’ve also bought from this vendor, before, and there is the question of whether the manufacturer even matters, if I was okay prior without knowing the manufacturer (when buying from a local bead store), and if I’m okay with swapping out bead colors just because of those beads’ dimensions.

IMG_4100w
The size 6/0 rocailles that I’m most likely to use (Czech and Japanese)

Above is a photo of what I’m most likely to use in size 6° (also alternately notated, 6/0, which you may start seeing me use if I get tired of the “°” special character. I should probably just memorize the ASCII code). Most of them should be sourced from the Czech Republic, but some of the newer ones are Miyuki brand — which, I’ve noticed, don’t quite appeal as well to me, aesthetically speaking. They’re just more rectangular and less oval, in profile.

I’m thinking that it’s not as great for RAW (Right-Angle Weave), where the beads need to nest together. I question how they would look in Herringbone stitch, as well…but the most practical way to find out, is to try.

I also have two vials which I know are Toho 6°s, which are the light pink silverlined (upper right corner of the above photo), and Silver Galvanized (that isn’t in these photos). They appear closer to Miyukis than to the Czech 6°s (a characteristic example of which are those apple-green rounds, bottom row, third from the left).

For scale, each of these little containers is about 1″ in diameter.

IMG_4103w
Size 8/0 seed beads. Same size containers.

The photo right above, here, shows size 8° seed beads, slightly smaller than the size 6°. As the caption reads, the little containers are the same size. I’ve got to say that I’m happier with the color range I have in this size, even though you can see that I didn’t quite know how to organize them.

Both the size 8° and size 6° seed beads will easily fit onto the cord I use for micromacramé — I’ve heard that the brands of C-Lon and S-Lon are relatively interchangeable, though I just recently bought my first spool of S-Lon. (One of them — I won’t say which, just in case I’m wrong — is an off-brand of the other.)

IMG_4105w
Size 11/0 seed beads, same size container. (Japanese)

Most size 11° seed beads will also fit onto the regular size C-Lon cord, but it requires more work than using the size 8° or 6°. What I’ve done is paint the end of the cord with clear nail polish, then after it is dry, cut the tip at an angle to produce a self-needle stiff enough to pass through the bead holes.

Without doing this, you’re vulnerable to the end of the cord fraying, which will prevent it from being able to pass through this diameter bead hole (noting that the diameter of a bead hole, likely varies between brands). Of course, it’s possible just to cut a new tip…and let it fray again (I’ve been known to do this), but it’s kind of a lot of trouble.

It should go without saying that Czech bead sizing is different than Japanese bead sizing…but maybe that’s just because I’ve been doing this so long.

I’ve found places selling size 10° Czech beads, which — if my memory is right, should match up better to size 11° Japanese beads, than size 11° Czech seed beads (which are slightly smaller, and thus can’t be substituted one-for-one in a pattern utilizing Japanese seed beads). But I can’t really guarantee that. Most of my hanks of Czech seed beads haven’t been labeled as to size — I’ve just had to work out how to fit the different bead sizes together, on the fly. But looking at my collection now, it’s apparent that the shapes are different.

I have some beads which I believe are Czech silverlined light topaz 10°s — basically, transparent pale gold with foil on the inside of the bead hole. At the time I got them, I was still a high school student, and knew nothing about bead sizing — let alone that I should ask the vendor what size they were! This was also at a bead convention, and I don’t know at all, the company I would have bought them from.

Czech seed beads are more donut-shaped and flatter in profile than Japanese seed beads (which are more cylindrical), and they’re generally sold in a different form — that is, stranded and often in hanks (12 strands) or half-hanks (6 strands). Japanese seed beads, in contrast, are most often sold loose in vials, bags, or other plastic containers.

The reasoning behind selling beads in hanks is that it’s much easier to see uniformity in bead size and shape when the beads are stranded and you can compare them to each other.

I’ve just realized that I didn’t even make an effort to photograph my Czech hanks…I’ll have to get around to that, another day. What I can say, though, is that they’re no less beautiful than the Japanese seed beads…and they’re also a reason for me to have gotten the storage I have, so that I can store them loose (and thus, eventually, use them).

I should also note that sometimes size 6° and larger Czech seed beads are sold loose, like Japanese seed beads. I think this is more for convenience and consistency in packaging, than anything. It can discourage use to keep beads on hanks, as well…I know I’m tempted to avoid using them just because they’re so pretty on the hanks, but making something out of them, necessitates cutting them apart.

The below image is of Czech fire-polished round beads. These, in addition to “druks” (round solid glass beads), are essential if you’re going to be doing small-scale bead weaving. I’m pretty sure that the lower row is all 3mm beads; the rest are between 3mm and 6mm (the latter of which, I didn’t even realize I put in here).

IMG_4107w
Fire-polished rounds, from 3mm to 6mm.

Like I’ve mentioned somewhere (…?) else, 5mm fire-polished rounds are somewhat rare, but they do exist. More common are the 6mm fire-polished rounds, a couple of which are in the very top of this photo (the transparent green and transparent “amethyst”, fourth and fifth from the left). The deep blue between the two greens in the top row (third from the left) is a 5mm size.

Sizes commonly go up through 8, 10, and 12mm…but I’ve found the very large sizes much more useful for stringing and other stand-alone applications (e.g. earrings), than for beadweaving.

I mentioned “druks” earlier. It would be normal that most readers here won’t know what I mean by that, so I’ve taken another photo and cropped it to those druks…which are spherical glass beads.

IMG_4109w

The very small beads at the bottom of the above photo are 2mm glass “pearls” — I’m not sure if they are technically categorized as druks. They’re very useful for filling tiny spaces where the thread would otherwise be exposed and vulnerable to cuts and abrasions (which are generally the death of well-loved beadwork). The drawback is that all of them I’ve found are vulnerable to the coating on the outside, peeling.

An alternative is using the very small 2 or 3mm Swarovski crystals, which I’ve used before when playing with patterns from bead magazines. I’ve found that these beads only come in a limited number of colors. The edges of their holes are also sharper, so using these necessitates using a tough thread like FireLine, lest the thread be cut while you’re still weaving the thing!

I haven’t yet looked into Chinese crystal for alternatives, though it’s good to know that Swarovski isn’t the only option available.

To the left of the 2mm glass pearls, are “3mm” druks, actually closer to 2.5mm, on measurement. Above them are 3mm druks; the green and purple iris [iridescent] beads on the upper right, are also 3mm, when they were sold as 4mm. The sky blue matte beads in the center, along with the green glass “pearls”, are actually 4mm.

Anyhow, spherical glass beads which are drilled down the center are called “druks”, and they’re again essential if you’re doing tiny bead-weaving which requires technical precision. The fire-polished rounds (so-called because they’re cut and then allowed to melt again slightly, producing their glossy appearance, if memory serves) are also really nice for texture and contrast.

I’ve been able to use fire-polished rounds down to 3mm with C-Lon standard cord for micromacramé, as well.

I know this blog doesn’t have a lot of followers, so for now I’m just putting this here to remind myself that I don’t have to be on the computer writing and studying, all the time. It’s good to weave in some offline content. It’s also been good to do some image-editing…and step out of academic thought, for a while.