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·· This n that
·· Gem Faire review
·· Latest projects
·· Freshwater pearl earrings
·· Drools o' the day
·· This n that (odd ramblings)
·· Michaels diving, carnelian and bronze pearl bracelet
·· Carnelian necklace with bronze pearls
·· Blue Japanese bead necklace and bracelet
·· Braided bracelet
·· This n that
·· Finally got to do some beading...
·· Reflecting on some finished pieces

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Beading Blog - October 2006

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One woman's adventures in the wide, wonderful world of beading.
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This n that
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 29, 2006 at 5:20 PM (Pacific)

Couldn't make it out to another day of Gem Faire. Had I gone, I would likely have bought a string of those quartz crystals. They really are extraordinary looking. And I would have gotten some pearls. Oh time.

I'd like to start knotting. Not that I'm going to do a lot of knotting, I just think it's a good skill. I've done some preliminary looking around on the Net, looks like what you'd need would be Griffin brand silk size 4...a couple of bead tips...and practice.

Another thing I'd like to make would be dreamcatcher earrings. Not the kind with a feather bead on the bottom, just the round piece with the web in these:

Dream Catcher in Gold

The frames look a bit tricky to make (being double stranded) but the design is gorgeous. Bet these pack a lot of punch.

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Gem Faire review
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 28, 2006 at 6:05 PM (Pacific)

Well I finally made it out to one of these things! I missed the one they had in San Rafael. This one was in Pleasanton (it's still on tomorrow).

It's definitely worth it to go. Anyhow here are my thoughts...

It was smaller than I'd thought it would be. For some reason I'd pictured this ginormous field of merchants, like a big ol' flea market size, but it was indoors. I'd say they had about four or five rows of booths.

There seemed to be as many booths selling readymade jewelry, as there were bead merchants. A bit of a surprise. The jewelry was probably good but I wasn't there to buy jewelry. A lot of Chinese sellers...Chinese-style jewelry (which is one of my favorite styles).

The beads...good price on freshwater pearls. Lots and lots of crystals. They had mainly Chinese sellers, some Indians (the Chinese were selling Chinese products, the Indians, Indian products so it would depend on what you were looking for).

Someone had some lampwork beads on sale but I was disappointed in the price. They had some really nice pieces but the prices were the same as in a regular store.

Some things missing: didn't see any jade beads. Hardly any loose beads (to be fair, I was expecting most of the stuff to be sold by the strand). Not much cloisonne or sterling silver beads. Some things I would have bought, had they had them, were sterling silver Bali/Thai style spacer beads and gold-filled spacer beads.

I ended up buying from only one merchant because her stuff was different (there is a lot of repetition in the bead world). And she had American turquoise, which is exactly what I was looking for. Then she had some strands for a very good price so I stocked up on some of these. She had some "fancy cut" peridot and labradorite so I got some of those (the cut really makes the stones pop!).

Now I'm slightly kicking myself for a couple of things I didn't buy...she had what I think is quartz crystal, but it's faceted so many times it looks like diamonds. The price here was a bit high and the shape was a little unusual...I was pondering exactly what I would do with it. If I'm still thinking about this sort of thing in a month or so, I'll get it next time I see it (there are a lot of bead/gem shows in California it turns out).

Another thing I was dithering about was ametrine. She had some nice ametrine. For that matter she had some nice amethyst. I don't usually wear purple stones so I passed on these.

Anyhoo...I'm already a convert. I don't think you would need to go to every bead/gem show around, but it would be worth it to plan on attending some of them every year. I truly dislike buying beads online unless they're standardized, like Swarovski crystals. You need to see and touch the beads.

I was a bit startled that I seemed to be the only buyer who was wearing handmade jewelry. Not sure what to make of that. I tried out the citrine/gold-filled chain earrings along with the citrine, yellow opal and agate necklace that I finally finished today. The earrings worked well...I check the weight, whether or not you need to fuss over them and rearrange them, whether they stick in your hair...these were fine.

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Latest projects
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 27, 2006 at 11:51 AM (Pacific)

I got my Fire Mountain Gems order today. That was fast. I opened it up...everything was to spec.

The only thing I need now are earring wires and I plan on ordering those today from a different company (I'm picky about those).

On a sour note...I was packing some stuff to take to someone else. I had bought two feet of chain from Baubles and Beads in Berkeley...let me say I've been there several times and bought quite a lot of stuff before.

Since I was packing it for someone else, I had to measure and cut some other chain that I'd bought from another store. Just out of curiosity, I measured the chain that I'd bought from Baubles and Beads, and found it short by a quarter-inch.

This was supposed to be a one-foot length. The other one-foot piece, I hadn't even bothered measuring before using some of it, so I don't know if that one was short as well.

I'm not going to get in my car, drive to Berkeley, and haggle over a quarter-inch of chain. But I'm not shopping there anymore.

Anyhow here's what I'm up to.

Clockwise from upper left: citrine bangle with citrine clasp. Citrine earrings on gold-filled chain. Freshwater pearl bracelet with faceted onyx clasp. Freshwater pearl and gold-filled chain earrings.

I'm going to make a matching necklace for the pearl bracelet. In fact I got the clasp for it today in my FMG's an onyx cabochon. They didn't have a faceted onyx and I figured the cabochon would look nice with a necklace (going to be a single strand of the same pearls).

I got the inspiration for these earrings from Target! They're made on a jig obviously. The top loop isn't closed (good design, thanks Target) and the other end is simply wrapped.

Hi! I dismantled the rose quartz and garnet necklace here:

It was a nice enough design but I ended up never wearing it. Kept three of the four-leaf-clover pieces from in front and two in back (I seldom discard any design 100%, usually I keep something from the original).

Now it looks nice with the earrings, which I'd been considering dismantling earlier. Complex earrings go best with simple necklaces, and vice versa. I know, I know...

Over the next few days I'll be finishing up some pieces, thanks to my FMG order. Lessee...

I'll need to redo most, if not all, of my blue lace agate necklace. I love the design (it's spare but that only makes the blue stones pop more), but my wrapping on that piece is not so great. (It's the same one in the pic above.)

Going to match a matching bracelet for it; I have enough stones left from the strand.

Going to redo the carnelian bracelet pictured earlier. I think something simpler would be nicer (say, just carnelian and gold).

Of course there is the pearl's already strung, just needs that onyx clasp.

Need to add a clasp to the citrine, yellow opal and agate necklace you can see some in the first two pics. Still debating whether I like the design or not.

Then there are the odd "this and that"'s...adding crimp covers here and there, switching out clasps, yadda yadda...

When I get my earring wires, my life will be complete. :)

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Freshwater pearl earrings
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 18, 2006 at 10:05 AM (Pacific)

Believe or not, the first time I've worked with chain. This is a copy of a pair of fine earrings I got as a gift, only with creamy white pearls rather than black pearls.

These were pretty straightforward to make, but be forewarned, the components are very small.

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Drools o' the day
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 15, 2006 at 8:09 PM (Pacific)

Got some beads to go with the tube of raspberry Japanese beads...decided on some bronze Japanese sead beads. They're not "delicas" just regular size 11 beads. While I was there I noticed a whole bunch of the original Japanese beads in different colors. Drools! I got some in deeper wine colors. Each tube has more than enough beads for the double-strand necklace and triple-strand bangle pictured earlier, and the price is very fair.

I also got some pearls...sighs That's going to conclude my bead-buying for a while but these are really nice pearls. Not sure if I'm going to string them straight or do something else with them.

Wore my jade necklace and earrings today (the diamond-shaped frames ones). The necklace is nice but not outstanding, but it's killer with the earrings because I haven't seen anyone yet with those frames. What I need is a jade bracelet so I'm probably going to fiddle around with that next.

Always wire is a good thing. :D You can almost always "fix" your piece perfectly by just gently bending it to look exactly the way you want it to.

Happy beading!

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This n that (odd ramblings)
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 14, 2006 at 9:39 PM (Pacific)

It's funny, I was just thinking which tools I ended up using and which I didn't.

I have one of those bead boards...I never use it. It's cute and nice to have, but I've found that I don't plan my designs with it; I'm glad I didn't invest in a good one (I have one of those inexpensive fuzzy ones).

That has to be at least in part because I design for myself. I don't care if something looks great "on display" since I'm not selling it. It has to work "on." So I tend to start stringing or making links, then try on the piece, fiddle around with it...

Conversely, a bead board would be essential imo if you were making jewelry to sell. Just as a house has "curb appeal," so should jewelry have "display appeal." How it looks "flat" would be as important as how it looks on, since the object is to get someone to try it on in the first place.

I seldom use my split-ring pliers. These are essential if you ever have to use a split ring (these destroy your fingernails otherwise). But I never use split rings. I make my own jump rings (which are much sturdier than the ones you find at most bead shops, although I have seen good sturdy ones for sale online). If I want more strength, I'll use soldered jump rings.

Conversely...I live and die by my chain-nose pliers. I have two pairs of these and I highly recommend doing that. Mine are good, they cost me good money but every time I use them, I'm glad I got them.

If you use crimps at all (and I have found Softflex to be surprisingly, ah, flexible for various designs), definitely get the crimping pliers. Then you can use crimp covers! It's an inexpensive touch to make your pieces look nicer.

Of course you need round-nosed pliers. These don't have to cost much but they should have narrow cones.

I'm glad I got a jig. I don't use it often, but my favorite earring design of all time is the diamond-shaped frame one mentioned earlier.

Some things I've thought about buying...step pliers. I'm dithering on that one. It's tempting because then all of your loops will be exactly the same size. The dithering part is more, do I want all of my loops to be exactly the same size? When I look at handmade jewelry, what I cherish most is the individuality of the piece. It should be ever so slightly imperfect. Well-made, certainly; durable, for sure, but not perfect.

I've pondered getting a burr cup. Looked around on the Net some...a girl somewhere said you could use an emery board. I tried's not bad. I have flushcutters of course, but an emery board can be used to knock off any burrs.

I'd like to solder. I don't solder. Terrible eh? It doesn't bother me to solder (I did some stained glass projects some decades ago), it's just that there are so many designs you can do without soldering, that I haven't gotten around to doing it. But that is something I'd like to do.

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Michaels diving, carnelian and bronze pearl bracelet
posted by Colleen Shirazi, at 6:54 PM (Pacific)

I can admit I hardly ever to go Michaels for beading materials. The problem is, we have so many good bead stores get spoiled.

Michaels does however have some deals...I got a biggish bag of size 10 seed beads there for three dollars something, and they're very nice Taiwanese beads.

Tried going back there today since I was out at the mall. I still need some tiny beads to use with the other tube of Japanese beads I got. Michaels didn't have anything like the Taiwanese beads in another color...the closest they had were silver-lined pink beads, nice enough but not what I was looking for.

The reason I'm mentioning this: they did have a new display of beading stuff. It's not in the regular aisle; it's a sort of square island parked at the end of the aisle. I didn't see it until I was leaving in fact.

It's worth a mention because some of the stuff wasn't bad. They had some semi-precious strings (red jasper, rose quartz, smoky quartz chips, the like), some millefiori beads (albeit not the best), lil bit of dichroic glass fact they had some downright classy dichroic glass beads for around six bucks.

On the regular aisle, they had some lampwork beads that I almost bought. Again, not the best price or the most selection, but really not half bad.

Oh...what should I make? Today I added a third strand to this bracelet:

It started out as two strands and looked fine, but I figured I had nothing to lose by trying out a third strand. As usual, three is the magic number. The third strand makes the piece "show" more and feel more substantial.

What I need (or "need" depending on your perspective :D ), is a green bracelet. I have a couple I made long ago--my daughter designed a turquoise and freshwater pearl one, and I have a moss agate and freshwater pearl one. I'd like a jade one. I'll have to see what jade I already have...

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Carnelian necklace with bronze pearls
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 12, 2006 at 7:23 PM (Pacific)

While I'm at it (rediscovered an old digicam, but this one works better than the one I was using!), here is the same carnelian necklace here:

...but with the center links changed to bronze freshwater pearls:

Thus The Three Piece Rule is proven yet again. There it's a reference to composing an outfit, but I've found it can also apply to jewelry design. i.e., so often, three discrete elements make a better piece.

The first time around, I considered the gold fill (since there is a lot of wire in this piece) to be one of the three elements, yet it is not the same as having three kinds of beads--two sizes of carnelian beads and then the pearls.

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Blue Japanese bead necklace and bracelet
posted by Colleen Shirazi, at 7:00 PM (Pacific)

As you can see, I used a blend of different Asian products! The beautiful deep blue seed beads are Japanese. I fell in love with these beads and then had to figure out what to do with them. :)

The bracelet has one of those Bali/Thai style clasps. It features three strands of the blue beads, sort of twisted.

For the necklace, I had three lampwork beads (I think they're Chinese) that almost exactly matched the deep blue with the raspberry pink lining. I actually had four beads but thought three would be luckier and look more harmonious.

This marks my return to glass...I did semi-precious stones almost exclusively for a while (having acquired enough confidence in my work to use more expensive materials), but glass does give you much more flexibility, since you are not limited in color. You can make literally any color jewelry in glass. So I had the notion of making a blue set. It's "costume-y" in the sense but there are times when you want jewelry to match a particular outfit or outfits.

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Braided bracelet
posted by Colleen Shirazi, at 6:51 PM (Pacific)

It's more of a "bangle," I suppose.

It wasn't that hard to make. The tricky aspect is the gauge of wire that you use. WigJig wasn't kidding when they said their braided bangle was 26 gauge wire. You've got six wire ends to finish on each side, and they have to go nicely into the loop of the clasp.

Hence, this was the smallest clasp I could use for this piece (24 gauge wire). The violet-stone one in the next post was what I tried to use at first: too small.

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This n that
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 9, 2006 at 9:45 PM (Pacific)

Drat! My favorite bead shop is still closed. It's funny, it's a small shop, but they always seemed to have the best materials. Oh well...grumbles...

I had to do a spot of bead shopping for a friend; I ended up going to two shops to find what I highly suspect I could have gotten from my favorite store had it been open. But I did find it, and I like bead shopping (it's "a beading thing"). Each shop is different. I've never been to a bead store that didn't have something that you wanted inside it, and, as often as not, it's not something you wanted before you saw it. Does that make sense? Once you see the beads, you start spinning a dream of what you want to make.

I usually don't go with a pattern. The exceptions would be the "Sundance catalog" earrings, the braided wire bracelet and the diamond-shaped earring frames I got from the WigJig site (all mentioned previously).

That's why I've tried to boil down what I make to several "templates." Once you have your own set of templates, it's easy to know what to buy and how many of each.

That said, I have yet to finish all this boiling down. Today I saw these beautiful Japanese glass beads...I will say the Japanese beads are exquisite...those tiny glass beads in a tube. These were deep blue with this little lining of pink. Wow! And then there was a similar tube with mixed pinks and raspberry colors. I got these tubes not knowing exactly what to do with them. But when I got home, I saw a sterling clasp with a violet stone that I already had, and I pictured making three strands of these deep blue beads and attaching them to the clasp to make a bracelet.

This came about after I did some experimentation...I'd seen these very simple bracelets at Cost Plus that were made in India. For these, it was basically a single piece of wire strung with seed beads. The ends of the wire were each a simple loop and they'd just linked the two loops together (not a memory wire bracelet, just a single loop of wire). I started out with this premise and it wasn't bad, but the three-strand-and-clasp idea was better (not dissimilar to the braided bangle, but with the three strands lightly twisted rather than braided).

I'd like to do a necklace to match this bracelet (there are plenty of beads left in the tube).

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Finally got to do some beading...
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 6, 2006 at 3:40 PM (Pacific)

I finished my carnelian necklace. That was easy! I'd been thinking about what to do in the center of the triangle...the six center beads. Decided on some bronze freshwater pearls...these are the only stones I have that are the right size and shape, plus they have a gold finish to them (if I'd had some gold-filled or gold beads, these would have done as well). The pearls came out nicely though; not sure gold beads would have looked prettier.

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Reflecting on some finished pieces
posted by Colleen Shirazi, October 1, 2006 at 9:18 PM (Pacific)

I haven't had time to make anything new fact I have half-finished pieces lying around (one should be quite nice, it's citrine with some yellow opal and golden-orange agate). No time.

Some best necklace to date is my jade one. It's gotten compliments pretty much every time I've worn it.

My carnelian necklace...the new one...I've decided it needs some "punch." The structure is nice but it needs some depth. I've decided to replace the inner links with links of some other stone rather than carnelian. In theory, it should make the center look like a flower design. Haven't decided what other stone to use...I don't have anything handy in my stash. Citrine would look beautiful but the citrine I have is in oval bead form, too big for the carnelian piece. best earrings are the jade ones with the gold-filled diamond-shaped frames. Ugh! I've long run out of ear wires. I really need to buy some. I have an old pair of earrings I'd like to put on new ear's the moss agate, freshwater pearl and cloisonne pair I made long ago, which I also regard as one of my best designs.

I feel now that I'm at the point where I can pretty much make anything I want. Pretty much right on schedule; I thought it would take one year, and it did.

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