Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Copper toggles, almost done... (it's only taken a year!)

I have been working on this project for a year. No kidding - not a continuous year, but a year nonetheless, from the time I first got the notion to see if I could do this.

copper toggles, soldered and ready for enameling

 I have a passion for making my clasps look like an integral part of my work, rather than an add-on afterthought. Which is why I frequently stitch toggles for my beadwork:

hand-beaded toggle and bar by Sweet Freedom Designs

It's not always a matchy-match thing, although I have a big case of the matchy-matchies (regardless of what they say on Project Runway ... sorry, Tim. I try to live by Tim's rules, but I will always be matchy-matchy!)

But I DO like for my clasps and connectors to look like they belong to my designs, so I end up making a lot of my own clasps.

For situations where beadwork toggles just don't seem appropriate, and copper and silver don't always work, I was often left scratching my head. So I started thinking ... I have hundreds of colors of enamels ... why can't I make some enameled clasps that will work?

I've seen enameled toggles and S-hooks out there, but the toggles and bars I'd seen didn't have soldered attachment rings; they had sawed or punched holes for attachments.

I dabble with soldering, and knew that the heat of the torch or kiln would melt my soldered joins: can't solder first, because the enameling process will melt the joins; can't enamel first, because, lordy! What a mess the enamel will make when you try to solder! I kept mulling the idea around, for months, and finally called my friend Barbara Lewis, who is known to dabble with enamels (LOL), and Barbara suggested I try soldering the attachments with Eutectic solder, which was created for enameling. She made no promises, but thought it would be worth trying.

Within a week I had ordered the Eutectic Solder from Thompson, but it was out of stock, and it was about 3 months before I actually received the solder. In the interim, I spent a couple of days getting out all my metalworking supplies, setting it all up, and then cutting and prepping the copper pieces which I would eventually solder, once I finally received my Eutectic solder.

Once I received the solder, I put it in a safe place until I would have time for the actual soldering ... I was wrapped up in a beadweaving frenzy! So, several more months passed ... and then, I was finally ready last week to try the Eutectic solder.

First problem: Remember how I had put the solder in a safe place? Y'all know what that means ... I had to spend 2 days looking for it! I finally found it, the second day, in the very first place I had looked - it was the safest place, and the place where it belonged, but my memory had told me I had left it in the package from Thompson, so I had been looking for a manila envelope, when actually, I had opened it, painstakingly labelled its Ziploc back "EUTECTIC SOLDER FOR ENAMELING" in giant Sharpie letters, and placed it with my other solders. If it had been a snake, it would have bitten me, but I wasn't looking for snakes ... I was looking for manila envelopes!

Fortunately, when I had prepped the copper pieces, I had made all the join surfaces nice and flush, and didn't have to spend hours sanding and filing to get a good flush connection.

I put away all my beadweaving stuff, then set up the torch, fire brick, and all the other tools and toys I needed for soldering, pulled out the Eutectic solder, which was in wire form, and proceeded to try to cut off a couple of tiny pieces of solder. Good grief! The Eutectic solder is impervious to cutting with my usual wire cutters! It is hard as a rock! I got stronger cutters, and managed to get a few pieces cut, although they were larger than I needed. But I didn't have a cutter strong enough that could cut the pieces smaller, so I was stuck with big pieces of Eutectic solder.

The instructions I had gotten verbally from Thompson when I placed the order (I had asked whether the Eutectic solder contained flux -- at the time I placed the order, I didn't know what form it came in) were to apply flux liberally, so I fluxed the heck out of everything. I let the flux dry, made sure my little copper wire attachments were lined up where I wanted them, placed the solder, and tried to fire up the torch. This is when I discovered I was running low on acetylene, but I finally got the torch lit, and the soldering went pretty quickly and smoothly. One of the rings moved a tiny bit, but I can live with it.

silver Eutectic solder mess on my copper toggles and bars

The Eutectic solder is silver, but that doesn't bother me, because I plan to enamel these babies. There's obviously way too much solder, but I don't know how I could have cut the Eutectic solder any smaller; again, the excess doesn't really worry me, because it should get covered by the enamel. *Hopefully*.  I smoothed the solder seams, then tumbled these pieces because they had been annealed by the flame when I soldered, but mainly to give them a good smoothing, since I won't be able to get rid of any lingering rough edges after I enamel them.

So, this is my progress after a year. Now these pieces have been put in a safe place (note to self: They are with your enameling mandrels), waiting until I have the time, energy, and inclination to haul out all my enameling stuff and get it set up.

Things would be so much better if I had a studio with dedicated space for everything, so I never had to deal with putting away one medium so I could set up another space- and tool-intensive one!

I'll let you know if I ever get these suckers enameled! Fingers crossed! Hoping the solder will hold!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wavy Soldered Bangles

I ended this week by making these sterling silver and copper bangles:

soldered wavy bangles

My friend Deborah (we think we are twin daughters from different Mothers, because of the many similarities we keep discovering we share) is to blame for these; a few months ago, she mentioned the new bangle presses available from Wubbers, and next thing you know, I had purchased yet another toy!

I let the presses age for a few months, as one does, and then I decided to give them a whirl. My first project was a pair of "Ruffled Hoop" earrings that Wubbers has a free tutorial for on their website (registration is required, but is also free); these earrings were an unmitigated disaster: the wire gauge proved to be too small to withstand the pressure from the press. Multiple attempts were made. So I gave up on the earrings, and a couple of weeks later, had time to try the bangles.

The bangles are also from a free tutorial at Wubbersu.com. As with most of my soldering, the hardest part was trying to get the 2 edges of the join flush prior to soldering. But after several hours, I finally did. (Which is why I rarely solder - it just takes to long for me to get the 2 sides flush. Wish I knew why ... everyone in all the videos makes it look so easy. Aarrgggghhhhh!).

But anyway ... I did the copper ones first, not wanting to waste sterling in case I was as unsuccessful with the bangles as I was with the earrings!

large wave (top) and small wave (bottom) copper bangles

The top bangle was made with the large wave press, and the bottom one with the small wave press. I like the way they turned out, but all the effort I put into texturing the 2 bangles pre-pressing, just as described in the tutorial, was wasted, as the press smooshed all my hammering and texturing into what you see above. They look fine, but you can't see the beautiful textures I beat into each one!

Then I moved on to sterling, and I decided to try something different. After soldering the 2 bangles, I put them on my steel bracelet mandrel (separately), and hammered a beautiful texture into each one. (the tutorial called for hammering the wire flat/texturing it prior to soldering, which causes the flattening of the bangle to be oriented in a different plane than if you flatten the soldered bangle on the mandrel (trust me on this).

So, then I put the sterling bangles into the presses, one into the large wave press, and one into the small wave press.

When I started to hammer the small wave press, after about 3 or 4 good pounds, my bangle sproinged open at the join. Oops. I will have to doctor on that one later.

The bangle in the large wave press fared better, but interestingly, the press turned my hammered/flattened/textured surface 90 degrees perpendicular to the way it HAD been oriented, which I wasn't expecting. It's an interesting look, but, or course, the texturing only shows on one side.
So this idea has to go back to the drawing board, too, and I'm already mulling over some ideas on how to make this work the way I envision it.

large wave sterling bangle

But, in the course of soldering these bangles, I used up the last of the acetylene in my torch, so I can't make any more bangles until I get a new cylinder of acetylene!

wavy bangles

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chevron Bracelet with Picasso-Finish Seed Beads

I just finished the wide chevron bracelet that I was working on in my last post.

Blue, Green, and Brown Picasso Chevron Bracelet by Sweet Freedom Designs

I'm crazy about how this one turned out!

If you remember the first chevron bracelet I made, it was very narrow, with a 3-bead base:

 Skinny chevron bracelet, top

Skinny chevron bracelet, bottom

The skinny chevron stitched up incredibly fast, largely because the 3 beads in each row of the square stitch base are added all at once, row by row, so each row is stitched to the row below it.

For the wider version, I made the base 11 beads wide, and each bead had to be added individually to make the base strong enough to support the embellishment I would add later. One bead at a time, square stitch, = hours of stitching to create the base. Boring, too.

Once the base was done, I started adding the alternating rows of gorgeous brown, green, and blue Miyuki Picasso seed beads. These beads are SO pretty! The resulting bracelet has a wonderful weight, feeling nice and substantial on the wrist. It also has the most delightful texture and movement; not only visually, but literal texture and movement, as you run your fingers through the layers and rows of embellishing seed beads.

Chevron bracelet with Picasso seed beads, detail

Chevron bracelet with base visible
Chevron bracelet with antique bronze toggle

And, this beauty is now available in my Etsy shop!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lots of Bracelets were woven last week!

As I said in my last post, in addition to the double spiral bracelet I stitched with peanut beads, I also made quite a few other bracelets last week:

Last week was a productive week for beadweaving! (absent from photo: the peanut double spiral)

From top to bottom, in no particular order (more details below!):
1) Chevron Stitch bracelet, from BeadandButton.com, 2010  (Link to this pattern is no longer available - sorry!)
2) Flutter Bracelet, from AroundtheBeadingTable.com
3) Octopus Bracelet, which I found here as a free downloadable .pdf (it's in French, but all you need are the pics - I swear!)
4) Superduo and Peanut Bracelet ("Button Bridges") from Bead and Button Online.
5) Brick and Peanut Bracelet (Cherry Blossom Lattice) from FusionBeads.com.
6) Peanut Bracelet (Seurat") from Beadwork, June/July, 2014, pp. 74-75.
7) Pinch Bead and Freshwater Pearl bracelet from BeadandButton.com, 2006.
8) Superduo and Cube Bracelet (Skinny Twin Cube Band) from AroundTheBeadingTable.com (Abort! Abort!)

Double spiral with pink and purple peanut beads

I already talked about the double spiral in my last post, so let's look at some of the other bracelets - and be prepared; as usual, I'm gonna tell it like it is - at least, for me. Your mileage may vary....

1) The chevron stitch bracelet - this was a brand new stitch for me, and the pattern was super simple and fast ..... however:

1) This bracelet makes up much, much narrower than I expected it to be from looking at the picture on the pattern, partially because:
2) The materials list (in a box, at the top of the pattern, on page 53) calls for 5g of size 8/0 seed beads. So, I grabbed some 8/0s in my color scheme, and stitched away. The base makes up in a flash! Then, I proceeded through the rest of the pattern, and when I was completely done, clasp and all, I read the caption that accompanies the picture of the finished bracelet, at the very bottom of the page, where it says "The base of this bracelet is made with 8/0 Japanese cylinder [emphasis is MINE] beads." Um....seems like THAT piece of information should have been included in the materials list, because there's a difference between 8/0 seed beads and 8/0 cylinder beads. Jus' sayin'.

 Chevron Stitch bracelet, top

 Chevron stitch bracelet, underside

Nonetheless, it was a fun bracelet, and I am currently working on a much wider version. 'Cause that's the way I roll...

2) The Flutter Bracelet (top bracelet in picture below)- I am always looking for fun superduo patterns, and this one certainly was fun, and I think it's very pretty:

 3 superduo bracelets: Flutter, Octopus, and Skinny Twin

 I chose neon blue Superduos, capri blue 3mm Firepolish, Vitrail 4mm Firepolish, and galvanized silver 11/0s. The bracelet works up very quickly.

3) The Octopus (the middle bracelet in the pic above):
This pattern is free, and in French. I went to the trouble to run all the written instructions through Google Translate, but I urge you not to bother: half the important words get lost in translation anyway, and you honestly don't need them, because the illustrations are fantastic. Just know that this is a 2-needle pattern (my first! Ta-da!)

This one also works up very quickly. I love the gentle ruffling! I chose bright yellow superduos for the center motifs, because they look like flowers to me, so I made the surrounding 11/0s green (for the leaves!), and the outer and middle 11/0s purple, to look like more blooms.

8) The Skinny Twin Cube Band (the bottom bracelet in the pic above) (Yeah, I'm going out of order ... sue me!):

OK - the pattern calls for Twins, and I substituted Superduos. No problem.
The pattern calls for 2 colors of Twins, and I just used one color. No big deal.
The pattern calls for 3mm cubes. Check.
The pattern calls for 11/0 seed beads. Check.

I knew there was a problem when I finished stitching the second unit of Superduos, but I went ahead and added two more (thinking it would get better as it got longer...maybe?) before I finally bailed on this pattern. The bracelet's too narrow, but that's not the problem. The problem? It is so stiff it is almost inflexible. Part of this could be my tension, because I'm kinda known for my ultratight tension. But I lay the blame on the cubes. Round beads will all roll beside each other when you try to wrap the stitching around your wrist. Cube beads? Not big on rolling! You can actually hear the cube beads rubbing on each other as you try to bend the bracelet! I could see that this was going to be an uncomfortable bracelet to wear, so I quit, leaving just a sample for any interested customers to play with/inspect.

4) The Button Bridges Bracelet (superduo and peanuts):

In addition to always looking for fun Superduo patterns, I'm also on the lookout for fun peanut and/or brick patterns!

This pattern almost didn't get made ... it calls for something called "Crystaletts," and: I don't have any, and besides that, I think they look cheap and gaudy (there, I said it) in the pictures featured with the pattern. But it uses Peanuts and Superduos ... so I tried to look past the Crystalletts. It called for 3mm Crystaletts, and I am a big substituter, so I worked up the bracelet with 3mm Firepolish, which worked perfectly.

 Superduo and Peanut Bracelet, top

Superduo and Peanut bracelet, underside

The base of the bracelet is stitched first, with Superduos in herringbone. This takes awhile, and you have to really pull your tension tight after every stitch in order to get the beads to line up without your Fireline showing.

I really like this pattern, but again, it's a little too narrow for me. I love the netted and picot peanut embellishing on the sides, though! Peanuts are fun!

5) The Cherry Blossom Lattice (brick and peanut bracelet):

First, the pattern calls for a double row of RAW,

Cherry Blossom Lattice, picture courtesy FusionBeads.com

and that was a little too much for me, so I stopped with a single row.(I know, hard to believe, right? After all my talk about liking wider bracelets? But my issue here wasn't the width, it was the busy-ness of the pattern. Too many colors and shapes, and it just looked to fussy for ME. Again, YMMV.

Second, the pattern called for 3mm Swarovski pearls, so naturally, I substituted 3mm Firepolish. Worked great!

Brick and Peanut Right Angle Weave

Another fast project!

6) The all peanut bracelet (Seurat): Easily my favorite of all of these!

Nothin' but Peanuts ... Netted Peanuts

I fell in love with this bracelet the minute I saw it in Beadwork - I love the colors, and I love matte beads, so I knew I was going to try to duplicate the colors in the magazine as closely as I could.

The pattern calls for 11 different matte colors of peanut beads; I didn't have that many, so that was a minor speed bump. I ended up using 7 different colors (2 for the 1st row, 2 for the second row, and 3 for the 3rd row, although 2 of these are so close in hue that they might as well be the same color!). I unfortunately didn't have a matte purple (or matte anything else that would work) for the 2nd row, and had to substitute a shiny one - I can live with it, but just barely....

One word of caution about this pattern: I strongly urge you to at least use (at least) 2 colors for each row, and to alternate them in your pick-ups, as I did. Otherwise, you will lose your dang mind trying to count peanuts when you go to add the next row, trying to find the middle peanut of each net! If you are alternating colors, you can train your eye to aim for the color that the middle peanut is, and not have to worry that your count is off, because it won't be (unless you screwed up your bead order).

This is a really fun pattern (if you like netting), and very fast.

7) The pinch bead and FWP bracelet:

pinch bead and FWP bracelet, top

Pinch bead and FWP bracelet, underside

I had to really dig into the archives for this one, but I love the result - those irregular freshwater pearls (in my favorite color: Peacock!) look fantastic in this bracelet.

I had a good reason for digging this one up: In my zeal to add peanuts, bricks, 2-hole lentils, and 2-hole tiles to the bead shop's inventory, something had to go .... and that something was pinch beads. Pinch beads have been a regular item in my shop forever, and I frequently use them in spirals, Russian spirals, and more - but their popularity has fallen off among my customers, so they were the obvious choice to discontinue. My whole stock of pinch beads is now in the sale bin, and I wanted to work up a sample of something quick, easy, and pretty that used the pinch beads. Hence, this particular bracelet: Perfect!

So, that covers last week. Almost. I also started on some soldered bangle bracelets on Saturday, and will be working on them more today once I get this post finished. I'm also putting the finishing touches on the wider chevron stitch bracelet I mentioned above.... more details later!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Peanuts! Get Your Peanut (Beads) Here!

I've been playing around with Peanut Beads, and just finished this double spiral bracelet:

Purple and Pink Double Spiral Bracelet by Sweet Freedom Designs

 detail, Purple and Pink Double Spiral Bracelet by Sweet Freedom Designs

I capped the rope with some of my own enameled beads, in matching purple, then added a sterling silver toggle.

This is actually the 3rd bracelet I've made using Peanuts this week (and the 7th bracelet I've woven this week - very productive week!), but the other bracelets I made were patterns from bead mags, so this is the first one I've made without following someone else's directions. [In addition to Peanut beads, I have a LOT of new shaped beads in the shop, and have been madly working up various patterns to show customers how to use these fun beads. If you guys want to see what I've been stitching, let me know in the comments, and I'll take some photos and get a post up!]

I'm really loving this double spiral bracelet, for a couple of reasons.
1) It's gorgeous! I love the colors, and I love the textures the peanuts impart. Lots of fun!
2) This marks my first successful double spiral! Way back in 2012, I made a quite a few stabs at getting the double spiral into my repertoire - and 2 blog posts: Here, and here. Now that I have dared to try it again, I realize that all my problems and anguish 2 years ago were NOT the fault of the directions I was trying to follow -- the problem was that I was trying to work too many sizes and colors of beads into my double spiral.

I have made hundred of single spirals, and always use different sizes, shapes, and colors in the pattern. I love to mix up the colors and textures, and often end up with very chunky spiral ropes, which I love. Here are just a few (I swear!):

So, enough about my sordid past with spirals - back to the double spiral. Obviously (at least, NOW it is obvious to me), the secret to a successful double spiral is to limit your colors to TWO, and keep your bead sizes fairly similar. Too much business in either color or texture makes the double-ness and the spiral pattern disappear.

Can't wait to explore more variations, different bead types, etc.! I may even try a triple spiral!

And the purple and pink double spiral bracelet is available in my Etsy shop!

Monday, June 9, 2014

New Necklace and Earrings

As the owner of a bead shop, I make a lot of projects featured in various beading magazines, so that customers can see the designs worked up (they often look so different than they do in the mags!) and get ideas about colors, etc. My latest necklace and earring set all started when I was working on one of these bracelets...

This particular bracelet, a right angle weave (RAW) design, was featured in the October - November, 2013 issue of Beadwork (yes, I'm a little behind on my to-do list!):

RAW bracelet featured in Oct-Nov 2013 Beadwork

 RAW bracelet featured in Oct-Nov 2013 Beadwork

I chose some very luxe-looking, opaque, turquoise and bronze 8mm Czech firepolish beads, and paired them with metallic bronze 3mm Czech firepolish beads, and just love the result. It's so rich-looking, and everyone who sees it just drools over it!

As I was working it up, I was intrigued by the zigzagging shape, and once I completed the 3rd RAW unit, I had a little V-shaped beaded unit in my hand that started my brain thinking about other design possibilities. By the time I had added the 4th and 5th units, I knew that I would be making a necklace from these units.

After completing the bracelet, I started stitching up 3-unit segments with this pattern, using the same beads. I finished by stitching one 5-unit segment.

I tried many different ways to connect these RAW units before hitting upon the one I finally went with: lustrous 12mm bronzite rounds. I then placed genuine turquoise rondelles at the back to complete the design, and chose a Vintaj Natural Brass S-hook and chain for the closure:

Turquoise and brown handwoven necklace by Sweet Freedom Designs

detail, Turquoise and brown handwoven necklace by Sweet Freedom Designs

closure, Turquoise and brown handwoven necklace by Sweet Freedom Designs

Then I stitched up a couple of one-unit segments for the earrings, adding the netting embellishment to both sides, so there's no "back" as the earrings sway and move:

Turquoise and bronze handwoven earrings by Sweet Freedom Designs

The necklace and earrings are available separately in my Etsy shop!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Well Traveled: A Beadweaving Tutorial for Superduos and Czech 2-hole Tiles

Drumroll, please.....

While I was without a camera for 3 months, I busied myself with my Superduos, and managed to create an original design using the Superduos and Czech 2-hole tiles. After stitching a number of the bracelets, then teaching it to a couple of willing students, I holed myself up with my computer, and set about to create a .pdf tutorial ... which I am quite pleased with!

Well Traveled, a tutorial by Sweet Freedom Designs

In addition to the 10-page, full color tutorial, full of diagrams, photos, and step-by-step instructions, I also have put together kits for 8 different colorways. The kits contain BEADS ONLY - no needles, Fireline, or clasp, although if you contact me through my Etsy shop (where the kits are available) I will be happy to choose a clasp for you for a small additional charge.

The tutorial is available in my Etsy shop, as are the kits. I hope you'll take a look!