The Bead Crochet Jig

9 03 2011

A Bead Crochet Rope Bracelet

When I learned to make bead crochet ropes a few years ago, I found it to be beyond frustrating! In my class, the instructor (Stephanie Riger – a wonderful jewelry designer and friend), made it look so easy… but I was totally unable to create the starting base rows. I was not the only one – Stephanie is a great teacher, but she had to create the first few rows for many of us. Once started, it took a while to learn the technique, but I didn’t find it too difficult to learn the basics, and now I can zip thru it! But the first few rows continued to be difficult – alot of rework, much frustration, and ripping out the first few rows. When I was asked to teach classes in bead crochet, I knew there had to be a better way to make the first few rows, so that it was easier and faster to get to the fun part!! So I did a lot of experimenting and prototyping, and finally came up with the Starter Jig.

So why is it so frustrating to start bead crochet ropes??

Close Up: Bead Crochet Starter Rows

Just look at it… to start, you crochet a ring of beads, and then add stitches thru the ring. This is 2 rows of bead crochet rope (5 beads around), done in size 6 beads. It can be difficult to tell where you would put the crochet hook, and where the next stitch should be, especially for someone learning. Although I tried to straighten it out for the photo, this is a real mess of thread and beads. So how does the jig help…?

Using the Starter Jig creates a stable base

Creating bead crochet ropes is the same technique, whether you use the Starter Jig or manually create a starter ring. It’s the first few rows that are so frustrating, because there is no structure. Using the Starter Jig, you are able to easily stabilize the first few rows, so that you can position the crochet hook, and add stitches in the correct orientation. Once you have about 2 inches of beads, you remove the jig, and continue crocheting and finishing off your project.

Comparing the Starter Jig

In this photo, you can compare what 2 rows looks like when on the Starter Jig, or when done in a manual bead ring. For reference, I also show the same pattern of beads after about 2 inches – if this was a “real” project, the rope would be ready to be removed from the jig.

When I go to shows and events, I am able to demo the jig, showing customers the benefits: it’s easy to use, the starting rows are stable, and when you remove the jig, the starting rows are clean and neat (no more ripping out starter rows!). But I can’t always be there, so I created a mini display with a few pieces in process.

Demo Display

You can see the 3 comparison items shown above, and also a few sample pieces showing the ropes using varying size beads. Personally, I think people are a little crazy to use the tiny size 11’s (shown on the jig at the right), but alot of people asked if it could be done, so I had to try it out, and it works just fine…

One of my favorites!

I make most of my bracelets in size 6 beads, but I also like using size 8’s which are a bit smaller. This bracelet has been a favorite of mine, even though I no longer have it… the beads are vibrant, and the center focals and silver endcaps accent the pattern beautifully.

If you’re interested in buying a jig (it comes with an emailed 20+ page pdf tutorial, with over 50 photos), please CLICK HERE to visit my Etsy store (or you can click on my Etsy menu, in the right side), and check out the section on tools.

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Stitches: A Fiber Show

22 02 2011

I think of my jewelry as falling into the “metal arts” category – silver, copper, hammers, and torches – yep, that’s metal arts! I sometimes use beads and gemstones, but most of the time, they are the accents, not the focus.

I have 2 major exceptions to this, which I call my “soft” side – my bead crochet, which uses seed beads, and my kumihimo, which uses colored cords and fibers. And this past weekend, I indulged a bit in my soft side, and I attended Stitches.

Stitches is a convention of all things fiber: spinning, knitting, weaving, crocheting – it is a huge meeting of the soft and fluffy yarns, the new wool blends, the natural fibers, and the hand-dyed… it is the opposite of a bead show, where all the materials are stone and glass and gems.

Aisles at Stitches (click photo for close-up)

Look at all the vivid colors – what you can’t see is the textures and the different yarns – the silks, the wools, the cashmeres, the soys, the cottons – absolutely wonderful to take in. I really love the weaving – it looks like something I could get into in the future, although I don’t know what I’d do with the fabric once woven! There were also gorgeous sweaters, jackets, socks, and blankets – available in patterns and kits… if only I was fiber-friendly!

Marion Jewels in Fiber Booth (click photo for close-up)

I spent one day roaming the floor, and checking out the goods… I bought some great ribbon style yarn, which I’m using for some kumihimo projects (I’ll do that in a later post), and I spent a day doing demo’s at a friends booth – Marion Jewels in Fiber. Marion has a great online store, where she carries an extraodinary selection of silk threads, as well as the full line of C-Lon cording. Also, she sells kumihimo kits, micro-macrame materials, tools, and my StudioDax Bead Crochet Jig.

My StudioDax Bead Crochet Jig - Demo Kit

After doing demos for a year or so now, I’ve pretty much got it down – my demo kit includes a couple of projects in different stages: the multi-purple bracelet is almost done (see the cords threaded thru the endcaps and focal bead), the solid green size 8 beads, and the 3 color spiral size 6 beads (peach, white, and bronze) are bracelets in progress, and the solid black teardrop beads that are still on the jig. The other pieces show how to remove the jig from the crochet rope (the multi-color stripes on the jig), as well as some examples of using the jig to make ropes with smaller delicas and size 11 beads. And I always have a sample of what it looks like to start a bead rope without the jig – you can see it on the right in the photo, below the awl – it looks a little like a knot of beads!

I appreciate all my customers that buy from my StudioDax shop , and I love when they leave me feedback letting me know how much they enjoy using the jig, but it’s great fun doing demos to show how easy it is to use, and having people buy the jig on the spot… instant gratification!!





Twisted, Wrapped, Coiled, and Woven…

13 07 2010

… just some ways to have fun with wire! I love how wire can be manipulated, and adapted for so many different looks. Basic wire skills are so important – knowing how wire bends and acts are key techniques that every jewelry designer should know. But wire work is so much more than wrapping a bead or making an earwire! Wire can be a key design element in your pieces – not just an accessory to beads. Luckily, some of of the best wire designers in the country are also some of the best teachers! For those of us looking to broaden our wire skills, Hooked on Wire (Sept 9-12, 2010) is a great venue to meet up and learn from the masters!

Fiore Selvatico with Barb Switzer

Isn’t this just a gorgeous necklace!? Barb is such an artist with wire… I love how the focal rivoli crystal and the antiqued wire are used – it reminds me of flowing vines and flowering English gardens.

Circles Bracelet with Dallas Lovett

Dallas does such great things with wire… his designs are so inspired! This intriguing design combines seed beads and wire weaving to create a bit of art deco for your arms…

Victorian Scroll Bracelet with Lisa Niven Kelly

The inspiration for Lisa’s fabulous bracelet is old style iron gates… in this detailed close-up, you can see how the scrollwork inspired a new art form as it wraps around your wrist!

These workshops teach you so much more than just the projects… they teach you the the techniques. This is the 7th year that Hooked on Wire has brought such talent together, and it’s a great opportunity to meet up with others that share your passion. If you’ve never attended a retreat like this, think of it as both a vacation, and an education… your creativity will thank you for the kick!!

And I’d love to meet you too – I’ll be there, teaching “FAN-tastic Pendent,” one one of the optional night classes, so make sure you check out the entire Hooked on Wire site to see how much fun you can pack in just 3 days!





DIY at Maker Faire

23 05 2010

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at Maker Faire (see my post last week), a DIY event, focusing on the “build it yourself” mind set, with an eco-friendly emphasis. I was a volunteer at the Metal Art Association of Silicon Valley (MAASV) table – we were there to let folks know what the MAASV was about, and to offer up a simple “make and take” project.

Make & Take Project

Our project was an easy charm/pendant – we provided copper discs and some simple tools, and showed folks how to add texture to metal. It was best a fun kids project, but quite a few adults took the time to make one up too.

Being a “crafty maker” I was interested in all the crafty DIY and vendors – there were informal demos on felting, sewing, knitting, paper crafts, glass bead making, etc. Here’s a few of the crafty vendors I liked:

Sugar Skulls Rock!

Isn’t this adorable? Cute kids and “Day of the Dead” – what a great combo! My favorite items though from the Frogs & Chicks table… the “iPee” caps and “iPoo” onsies!

Knit Geek Pets!

I also liked the “knit geekery” – these knit pets by MisterFunky are perfect for folks who can’t remember to feed or walk the real thing!

Not Your Kids Scooter!

The techno geekery was really amazing – handmade vehicles, rockets, steampunk, musical instruments, electronics projects with lights and sound, and a lot more – something for all, no matter how big (or small) a geek

There were alot of demos and activities for both adults and kids that really give you some different ways of looking at things… if a Maker Fair comes to your neighborhood, I suggest you go and enjoy the day!





I’m Hooked on Wire…

20 05 2010

…And you can be too! Hooked on Wire (aka: HOW) is an annual wire retreat held in the San Fransisco Bay Area – imagine what you can learn by spending three days (Sept 10-12), with some of the top wirework artists in the country!! This year, Lisa Niven Kelly, Dallas Lovett, and Barb Switzer are the fabulous workshop instructors, and I’m thrilled to be joining HOW this year as one of the evening instructors! My project will be a little bit of a break from all the wire working done during the day – you’ll get a chance to play with some metal and create a fun “FAN-tastic” pendant :

What a "FAN-tastic" Pendant!!!

Hooked on Wire is a wonderful opportunity¬† to expand your skills, meet great people, and have a whole lotta fun! So check out the website for more info on projects and tickets, and plan a mini vacation – you deserve a few days for yourself! This is the 7th year for HOW, and it just gets better and better…!!