One woman's adventures in the land of hand made jewellery

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Take a pile of basically old tat: 

Arrange it and measure out some chain:

Combine with some jump rings and a catch and hey presto! something retro to wear:

Another bit of recycled bling, this time in "gold": 

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Gift Wrap Ideas?

Yesterday morning one of my girlfirends here in Bahrain introduced me to a veritable Aladdins Cave of a store just a few minutes drive from my apartment. The Al Anwar Discount Store in Tubli claims to sell everything for the home and it does, incredibly cheaply. Two floors of vases, artificial flowers, glass pebbles, tacky furniture in the heavily ornate style so popular here, candles, stationery, craft items, toys and an incredible array of gift wrapping supplies.

The Bahraini's and the Indians love to give small gifts to their guests and to throw large parties so the shelves were stacked with the twee, the tacky and the possibly suitable for a more staid European taste. Hundreds of 18 inch-wide rolls of tactile wrapping materials including net in all sorts of glamorous colours, a green leaf print paper-fabric, crepe-type materials in pretty pink or blue prints on white and more. All around 3.5BD (approx £5) for 5 metres or so.

There were thick packets of patterend and plain organza doilies in every shade, huge hanks of coloured twine, stacks of ribbon on reels, large organza bags, tiny blue gingham lined baskets, tiny feather covered white doves, net butterflies in sugary colours. Everything had one thing in common it was very cheap, just a few pence for most items. Packaging heaven!

I avoided the very twee royal blue velour ring boxes in the shape of a top hat but came away some butterflies and lots of ideas for presenting my jewellery makes. What about enfolding a bracelet or some earrings in a couple of layers of gold or blue organza doily gathered up with a couple of contrasting ribbons?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

From Texas Oaks... Earrings Grow

Capitol Gardens, Austin TX
Texas is not flat grassland as I found out soon after the plane landed back in mid-August. Austin is in Hill Country - rolling limestone hills covered in ancient oak trees and very pretty. The trees and some earrings worn by a young lady serving at Bead It have inspired me to attempt some 3D beading for the first time.

The Bead It lady had on a fantastic punk-style collar about 10 - 15 cm wide in wire and mainly black seed beads rather like a spiders web in construction. The outer edge had a spiky fringe and her earrings matched this. I liked the 3D effect of the earrings so was inspired to have a go at making something similar but more twig-like to represent the oak trees dotted all over the city of Austin.

Once I'd worked out that in order to get the "branches" hanging downwards, construction had to start from the top it was comparatively easy to make my first "twig" and took about 90 minutes. The second was much quicker, simply following the pattern of the first.  Here's approximately how I did it:
1. Using a long length of fine fishing line (about 65cm/26ins long) I threaded on one silver crimp tube (simpy for decoration and to provide a cover for the final knot), twenty five brown seeds and one green one (all approx size 11). Then by-passing the green bead rethread back through all 25 browns and the crimp tube to the top of the "main branch". Slide everything so that the non-working end is about 8 cm long and add a locking bead to this end to prevent the it being pulled through. Pull tight but not too taut, as you'll need to be able to create a little space between the beads for the thread to exit from at intervals down the work.
2. Add a silver jump ring, preferrably soldered to prevent the fine tread slipping off when worn. and thread the line back through the top 4 beads, add 4 brown seeds plus one green. Skip the green and thread back to the main part. Lay the work down and pull up your first "twig" to the main work.
3. Pass the thread down through the next bead in the main part. Try to exit on the opposite side from the previous "twig". Add 6 browns and one green. Bypass the green and thread back through 4 browns then the two remaining brown seeds back to the main branch. Pull the thread to ease the twig up agaisnt the main branch.
4. Thread the line down another 5 beads in the main part and again exiting on the opposite side to the previous "twig" construct another multi-branched twig as in step 3.
5. Go down one more main bead, exit on the opposite side of the work to step 4 and construct a simple twig as in step 2.
6. Thread down through 5 more beads on the main, exit on the other side and repeat step 3.
7. Thread down through 4 beads on the main part, exit and add 3 brown seeds plus one green. Bypass the green and thread the line up trough the entire main branch to the top. Its easiest to do this in stages, gently pulling everything together as you go.
8. Remove the locking bead and thread both ends, through the jump ring and down through the crimp bead. gently ease the crimp and topmost bead to create a small space. Wrap one end of the line around the exposed threads and tie a surgeons knot using both line ends. Add a dab of nail varnish or glue to the knot and once dry thread the line ends into the work and trim. (I forgot to pack any clear nail varnish or glue in my travelling jewellery kit or make-up bag so will finish off the ends once I get home!)
9. Make another to match and add a silver earring hook to each ensuring if possible that they lie in opposite directions - don't worry if they don't, nature isn't always symmetrical!

Looking at the completed twigs I wonder if made in white with pastel ends they could be coral or would green with red ends look good for Christmas?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Travelling Addict

Stage Coach Inn, Salado, TX
Yup that's me I love to travel and I love my beads and wire.

Over the summer I spent a few weeks in the UK sailing in a regatta and then sailing on my own boat for our summer holidays. Before I left Bahrain I knew I'd love to have something to do during the weeks in between and in the evenings or if stormy weather kept us harbour bound so I came up with a plan....

First I explored the web I was looking for some sort of holdall that would be small yet contain plenty of beads. I found a Craft Mates solution - a slightly padded canvas tote bag that takes six to eight of their handy "ezy-locking" trays. They cost a tad over £50 from UK suppliers but as I was also looking to increase my beadstash dramatically my plan was to find one on eBay. Eventually after bidiing on several,  thirty odd pounds plus carriage snagged me a fully stocked one. Inside were loads of seed and larger beads plus findings in various metals. I am grateful that some people decide to sell-up!

A bit more shopping and I managed to acquire a wallet containing some dinky tools whilst shopping in Kingston upon Thames too, it has everything you'd need. I just added a pair of crimp pliers and a memory wire cutter as they were missing from my kit back in Bahrain. I was ready to go.

There was one problem though. having bought one bead stash on eBay I couldn't resist a few more. One lot of old stock from bead resellers procured me a life times supply of silver head pins, chain and a miscellany of other objects. Another lot from a former bead addict provided me with a large selection of big, and I mean big glass beads in every colour. And finally I acquired a couple of vintage lots. One was a few hundred pendants and I can't wait to be reunited with them as I have lots of ideas for bracelets, necklaces and earrings to recycle these into new bling! Another was for me a heart shaped jewellery box in purple leather complete with the previous owners contents.

I sorted out my purchases to ensure I had an assortment of stringing materials, earring wires, catches and crimps to go with the beads. Mostly the caddy compartment size defined the maximum size of any bead or component but I put in a couple of small plastic boxes to hold memory wire coils and some larger red beads. I also added a bead mat from Beads Unlimited - it folds in four and tucks into the tote. My plan was to purchase focal beads locally.

I packed my toolkit in the suitcase as it had sharps like thread and wire cutters but took the tote as hand luggage (Continental allow you one "personal item" like a computer bag in addition to your carry-on baggage, but do check with your airline before you travel).  At Heathrow after x-raying it I was asked to unpack quite a lot for re-X-raying as it was so dense! But the staff have seen it all before and weren't phased by my array of beads and findings. In Houston when we changed planes it went through without a hitch.

And how have I got on? Well the dinky tools are a little small, I wouldn't want to be doing lots of fiddly wire twisting but for the occasional loop they're fine. The tiny cutters are actually wonderful as you can get really close to the work but you do need to put in some omph to get them to cut even reasonably thin gauge wire. The kit had a thread cutter and a bead scoop both new to me and now I couldn't be without them. There were two things I forgot - head pins and a supply of silver wire but they were easy to acquire here.

And I have made lots of necklaces over the past few weeks, see my previous post. So now I feel prepared to travel anywhere with my beadkit but I'd love to hear of any travel tips you might have.

Necklace Mania Strikes!

Over the past few weeks whilst I've been in Texas I have not just been buying beads, I have created several necklaces too. All are completely different from each other and none really inspired by Austin or the Texan culture although some have included beads I've bought whilst I've been here. Perhaps I'll try and remedy that befoer I leave!

Here are some pictures sorry about the photography, finding suitable light and backgrounds in a hotel room was a challenge..
Making the catches a focal point. The coloured haematite ring was bought in Swanage, UK.
Inspired by a project in a magazine bought in Austin TX: Creative Jewellery 2010

Cherry Red - an assortment of red glass beads I had with
some huge spacers I found here in Austin
First attempt at a Floating Necklace - green glass lentils.

Pastel seeds with some focal silver rings bought in Texas,
again inspired by a project in Creative Jewellery 2010
These brown "Tiger Eyes" look lovely with the sea green and gold seeds

Austin Tuesday

I may as well start off by admitting that yesterday I bought some more beads to add to my stash and a few lovely brass charms by Vintaj including a large and beautifully dainty dragonfly and some tiny fairies. I found two more bead shops, why did they not come up in my earlier web searches?

Nomadic Notions has a huge array of unusual mostly Asian findings and focal beads and is located close to Sea of Beads which I discovered a week or so ago on W Anderson Road to the north of the city. The other I found was the tiny Lapis Lane - friendly but a very small selection of items, mainly due to much of the space being given over to workshops for teaching beading & mosaics. NN is probably my second favourite shop in Austin after Bead It on S Lamar. The latter stocks mostly recycled vintage beads from all era's - 50's & 60's plastic fun, 70's and 80's bling plus loads and loads more, its probably a good job I don't live close to this one! Its where I spent a happy afternoon during my first week in Austin learning how to make rings and I can't wait to get home to put my new skills into action (I couldn't bring my entire toolbox on the plane!).

Legendary Beads just up the road from Bead It doesn't really live up to its name - the place is large and the inventory is huge but nothing special. My aim has been to concentrate on sourcing unusual items not foundor expensive in the UK such as the dragonfly and faires. These together with some lovely hammered toggle clasps I found in a sale at Hobby Lobby which is a cross between Hobby Craft and The Range in the UK.

As a result of my travels I now have a great assortment of arty toggle clasps, much more interesting that the plain hoops or hearts I already had and cheaper than they are at home too. I've also succumbed to a few strands of beads that caught my eye on the way. Today therefore I've spent a few hours happily sorting through the bead trays in my portable beading kit so I could stow my purchases! Perhaps tomorrow I'll spend some time being creative with the dragonfly.