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.

Advertisements




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!!





Learning Something New

28 06 2010

For the past few years, I’ve been playing with bead crochet – I am surprised at how much I really enjoy this technique, considering that most of my jewelry work is with metal. I love teaching classes in it, making/selling my Starter Jig (which is now patent pending!!), and I have found creating bead crochet ropes to be very satisfying.

A Favorite of Mine

So it was really very cool, and unexpected, for me to find something new that I just didn’t expect in bead crochet ropes – working with wire. Now I know people create wonderful jewelry by crocheting wire – I think the open and airy weave is wonderful… but making crochet beaded ropes has been really difficult, because it’s almost impossible to get the first few rows started. But I’ve been talking with the great folks at Beadalon (who now own Artistic Wire) about carrying my Starter Jig in their product line, and they wanted to know how it worked with wire.

Slinky and Cool Necklace

So of course I gave it a try…. and what a surprise! My previous attempts (without the Starter Jig) failed miserably, so I didn’t think it would work, but I was thrilled to find that not only was I able to use the Jig with wire, I also got a different look. Using thread in bead crochet ensures that you have a nice tight stitch in your rope, but when using wire, it’s better to create rows that are much looser. The wire becomes a real design element that shows through the stitches, not just the means to hold the beads in place.

Closeup - Bead Crochet Rope w/Wire

Isn’t this just such a cool look… I love it! I am looking forward to playing with different colored wire to create some interesting contrasts. And I love that I can now show my students that using wire is a great additional option when I teach classes.

For reference – I made my bracelet with size 6 seed beads and C-Lon Beading Cord, and the necklace with size 8 beads and 32g Artistic Wire.





How the Bead Breaks

6 06 2010

I have always admired the folks who work with seed beads making beautiful intricate patterns – they make the beads come to life. But my brain and fingers just don’t work that way… the beads get the best of me! But after taking a class in Bead Crochet Ropes a few years ago, I have found a way to satisfy my occasional seed bead craving!!

One of my favorites bangles - I love the colors

There are re are many options and variations in the bangles – I can create spiral patterns by changing up the bead colors, textured spirals by varying the bead size, and mosaic looking patterns by randomizing the beads. But no matter how I string on the pattern, invariably there will always be a bead or two that is not right, and needs to be broken off the thread.

A Rope in Progress

You can do this the wrong way – by whacking the bead with a hammer, or squeezing it in pliers (you might cut the thread), or you can do it the right way, by breaking the bead from the inside.

A Beady Boo-Boo...

In this example, I am showing that the pattern is incorrectly strung with 2 black beads together. I need to break the bead to keep the 5 color spiral pattern, and I want to do it without cutting the thread.

Step 1: there's an awl in my bead...

The first thing you need to do is put the tip if an awl into the bead you want to break. Make sure that the awl does not slide all the way into the bead – most beading awls are very fine, and may be too thin to break the bead.

Step 2: put the bead on the block

The next thing you need to do is put the bead on a block of wood , with the awl positioned in the hole (make sure the point of the awl does not split the thread). You can use a stack of cardboard instead of wood – you just need a surface that is firm, but will give under the point of the awl.

Step 3: push, push... and crack!

Now just push the awl firmly thru the bead. The pressure of pushing on the awl will crack the bead, leaving the thread intact. Keep your hand around the bead as you crack it, so that the glass doesn’t shoot out. In this example, I show breaking one bead, but if you’re stringing a 5 color pattern, and you leave out a bead, you’ll need to break several beads until the pattern is correct

I love creating these bangles, and have created a tool for making it easy to get started. If you’ve ever wanted to make them, or have tried, and found it frustrating, please check out the tool/tutorial I have in my Etsy shop.