The amazing convertible piece of jewelry

I made it back to the bead store for the first time this year. (Do beaders refer to their local bead store as an LBS the way knitters and crocheters call their local yarn store an LYS?) I left with only one kit, not so much because I was practicing self-restraint as because they’ve only created a few new kits since I decimated their stock last year and only one of the new batch was one I was interested in. This kit, Santa Fe, makes a necklace that can also be worn as a bracelet (or perhaps it’s a bracelet that can also work as a necklace). It’s not my normal style of jewelry, but I liked the colorway (Spring; they also sell a reddish-golden colorway called Autumn) and there was just something about the scatteredness of it that appealed to me.

SantaFe (single strand)
Santa Fe necklace, single strand

Assembling this kit was a different challenge for me than I usually find with beading projects. Technically, it wasn’t difficult: thread the included beads onto the beading wire, making sure that the charms fall at certain points so that they’ll hang in the proper places when it’s worn as a necklace, then attach the lobster clasp and jump ring. Where I was challenged was in the very scatteredness that had attracted me to it in the first place. The designers figure you’ll use the photo of their sample just to give yourself ideas on how to mix the beads and that your creativity will spill out as you play with it.

Santa Fe, double strand
Santa Fe necklace, double strand. Note how now the charms are centered relative to the clasp.

I’m quite willing to believe that other people are blessed with inspiration when given suggestions like that. Me, I have an addiction to symmetry. Left up to my own devices, this necklace was going to be mostly symmetrical, only not quite, because the beads weren’t going to come out right, and the whole effect was going to disappoint me. So I ended up following the sample photo slavishly. I’d say there’s about 99% similarity between them. I am inordinately proud of the one bead I put in on impulse. But overall, I’m happy with the results, which leaves me wondering which is “better,” to basically copy the original and enjoy the necklace, or go off on my own and end up beating myself up for not being naturally random.

Santa Fe (bracelet)
Santa Fe necklace as bracelet (5 wraps)

Oh, and after all that fuss, I’ll probably end up wearing as a necklace more than a bracelet, even though when I bought the kit, I thought it would be the other way around. With actual wear, some loops become loose, others tighten up, and I’m worried that I’ll snag it on something and break it. But I do have ideas for a future one . . . that is, one that I come up with on my own, and have to be all asymmetrical and randomish with by myself!

Santa Fe (on wrist)
Santa Fe bracelet in action

The last kit of summer

As the year winds down, I’m finishing off the beading projects. This is the last of the beading kits I bought this summer, the Rock Fall Necklace. It was pretty simple to assemble, making it a great project for filling in a bit of the time before Thanksgiving really got going.

Rock Fall necklace

As usual, the instructions didn’t name the stones involved, so I got to play Guess the Crystal again. I think the white, flat bead on the left is mother-of-pearl and I’m certain the teardrop-shaped one in the center is rose quartz. That leaves the round bead on the right, and I have no clue as to what it might be. I get why the instructions never list the stones, since the same instructions are used for a variety of colorways which use different stones, but it’s still a mite frustrating.

Anyway, assembling the necklace was quick, especially as this time I had all the parts promised. After working my way through the Palisades Necklace, I’ve had plenty of practice twisting eyepins into loops, and that went much better this time—the loops were round when I finished, not strangely flattened ovals! Use jump rings to connect the beads to the bigger ring, string a leather cord through the ring, slide a bead down to decorate the knot and add fasteners to the cord. Now I just need to let the necklace hang for a bit to get the kinks out of the leather cord (the beads and all are so light that their weight alone isn’t instantly pulling the leather straight).

Okay, the bead store now has an entire winter to come up with new bead kits that I’d like to make. [drums fingers] You’re working on this, people, right? Right?

Thoroughly distracted

Today was the first day after Daylight Savings Time ended for the year, and having the sun set an hour earlier cut into my beading time just as I suspected it would. I figured I’d better press ahead with another beading kit while there was still some light to work by. This time around, I chose to work on the Palisades Necklace. It looks fairly simple, but it ended up taking longer than I expected to complete.

Palisades necklace

The construction of the necklace is fairly straightforward: thread an eyepin through each bead and cut and bend it to form a second loop. Then use bits of chain to link the beads together. However, it takes time to bend nineteen eyepins. And those links of chain came as a single strand that had to be cut apart oh so carefully, lest you clip the wrong link and ruin a section. I dropped one section and nearly didn’t find it again—eek! This project did end up using all the beading tools I’d bought, so now I feel justified in having bought them! The one drawback to the project was that before I knew it, most of the (now shorter) afternoon had passed. So much for getting anything else done today.

I believe the beads are fluorite, although again, there’s nothing in the kit to identify them. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge to find a sweater that can set off all those shades, from almost white to deepest purple.

Overcoming tiny challenges

Overall, I’m really having fun putting these bead kits together. I almost never knit or crochet from kits, but it’s different for beading somehow (probably has something to do with the fact that compared to my knitting/crocheting experience, I’m a beading novice). But there’s this one little problem with the bead kits: more often than not, a bead is missing or deformed or something. I understand that the bead store employees are probably putting these together by hand and I’m sure they blur after a while, but I seem to have an uncanny talent for buying the one kit out of several available in which all is not as it should be. And being a beading novice, it throws me, whereas when something goes wrong in knitting, I have enough experience to work my way past it.

Well, I worked my way past this kit’s problem, although it was less my growing experience and more my growing stash of leftover findings that saved me. The Charmed Life necklace kit is supposed to include two small jump rings, one medium jump ring, and one large jump ring, among other things. My particular kit had one small ring, two medium rings, and no large ring whatsoever. I was able to substitute a medium ring for the missing small ring—since all the charms pile on top of each other, that change won’t be noticeable. And thanks to now having done several projects, I actually have some jump rings in my supplies, one of which I was able to substitute in (barely, because it was almost too big) for the large ring.

And so I present the Charmed Life necklace. It comes in several colorways (do beaders say “colorways”?), but I fell for the purple one. I think the large teardrop bead and the round bead are both amethysts. I know nothing more about the little sparkly crystal than that it’s a little sparkly crystal. And as for what the kit calls a “bezel set crystal,” I can’t tell if it’s also a semi-precious stone, or just a bit of dark purple glass. I think the silver feather makes a nice contrast to all these beads and I hope it doesn’t end up hidden by the teardrop bead all the time. The teardrop worries me a bit. The silver bail you top it with had tiny teeth and I hope they’re strong enough to hold it through normal wear and tear. I mean, you pinch the bail onto the bead with your fingers: that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. But right now it’s intact and I’m waiting for the kind of weather where I wear plain sweaters, so that I can try this necklace for real.

Charmed Life necklace

Another weekend, another beading project

As we head towards winter, I feel an urge to get the beading projects wrapped up. Winter just feels like more of a knitting season. Pragmatically, there’s a lighting issue to consider: I need more light to bead than to knit, and with it getting darker sooner, my beading time is shrinking. And winter is the season I wear sweaters that can set necklaces off nicely, so I may as well have the necklaces ready to go when the temperature drops. So while I waited for the rice cooker to cook some quinoa (yes, I’m experimenting with the kitchen technology again), I tackled the River Rock Necklace.

River Rock necklace

The bottom half of the necklace was familiar territory. While the beads were larger than what I’ve been dealing with, the whole bit about stringing beads onto beading wire and finishing off the ends with crimp beads and some sort of endpiece has been integral to every bit of beading I’ve done this summer. The biggest challenge here was trying to decide what order to string the beads in. I wish the bead store had listed the gemstones involved, although since each kit is a random assortment of beads, this would’ve been prohibitive. I’m guessing that the clear white one is quartz and the clear purplish ones are amethyst. After that, it’s all a mystery.

Using leather in jewelry was completely new to me. For this necklace, you bring a strips of rawhide through the metal loops, tie them close to the loop with pieces of thin suede and then cover the ends with cord ends. That was something of a struggle, since the two leather ends are basically plumper than the cord end. You’re supposed to twist the cord end onto the leather, sort of like twisting a cap onto a bottle. I’m pretty sure the loop end is fine, but the hook end might not be all that secure. Maybe that’s why you tie the rawhide with the suede, so that if an end does slip free, the suede tie will keep the rawhide from pulling out through the ring.

Starry night

I don’t do a lot of beading. It takes long enough to make a sweater that I can knit steadily, project after project, without swamping my wardrobe. Beading is more of an instant-gratification craft: once you have the materials in hand, you can put a bit of jewelry together quickly. (More quickly, if you don’t obsess over using the perfect bead, as I tend to do.) But occasionally a project calls, and the latest to do so was the Beadstrology necklace by Corrine Kenner. As the name suggests, you take your astrological chart and reproduce it in beads. Ms. Kenner offers workshops, but the most recent didn’t fit into my schedule, nor did I need the astrological tutoring that was included. Luckily, instructions for assembling the necklace were sold separately.

Beading seems to be like weaving: tons of prep work, followed by relatively quick execution of the project itself. Prep work, in this case, involved trekking through three stores trying to find 8mm beads that at least vaguely resembled the planets. It hadn’t occurred to me that finding smooth round beads—not faceted, not oval, not flattened, not 6mm—would be such a challenge. (Experienced beaders probably knew this already.) Also, we have a lot of yellowish-brown planets in our solar system. I was sorely tempted to use rose quartz or amethyst for Venus, just for a change of color.

I confess to tweaking the design a bit. Ms. Kenner centers the necklace on the Sun bead, orienting the rest of the chart/necklace from there. This will work nicely for many people, but in my case, I have planets opposite my Sun. To put a necklace together centered on my Sun, two planet beads end up by the clasp, hidden behind my neck, while a string of empty houses trails prominently down one side. Eek! I did not hunt through an entire bead store for an 8mm white Swarovski pearl for my Moon just to have it be visible only to someone standing behind me in line. So I rotated the necklace to center the clasp in the empty houses, which puts the front center of the necklace at my eleventh house cusp…which isn’t all that significant in my chart. In beading, aesthetics trumps astrology.

Beadstrology necklace

Oh, and the stones, in case anyone is curious (counter-clockwise from upper left):
Moon: Swarovski pearl
Jupiter: zebra jade (this particular bead even has a Great Red Brown Spot)
Pluto: zebra jade
Uranus: amazonite
Mars: fire agate
Neptune: howlite
Mercury: goldstone
Sun: fire agate
Ascendant/Earth: unnamed green stone (jade?)
Venus: honey jade
Saturn: tiger’s eye (it has a bright ring around the center!)