A regular spot from team member Lynn Davy, a self-confessed bead addict whose unusual designs often feature lampwork beads. In this series she shares some of her secrets and shows you how to use FHFteam’s handmade beads and components in your own creations!
Love is in the Air
It’s that time of year again – Christmas has faded into distant memory, the sun is shining (occasionally), the birds are singing, the odd spring flower is daring to blossom… and we’re coming over all romantic and thinking about Valentine’s Day.
When a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of… buying handmade jewellery for his beloved, we hope!
No shortage of prettiness in FHFteam shops, as a quick Etsy search for ‘FHFteam flower’ will show you. And I had plenty of suitably romantic items in my bead box when I came to write this post…
Pretty, romantic, flowery beads by FHFteam members Helen Chalmers, Hazel Ward, Julia Hay, Helen Gorick, Ilona Ruttle and Jolene Wolfe
Earrings are always popular and it’s very easy to turn an ‘earring pair’ of lovely handmade beads into a unique and covetable gift.
Sometimes the beads speak for themselves and need only the minimum of interference. I had three gorgeous red rosebuds in my bead stash – what could be more romantic? So I teamed them with ‘fire opal’ crystals, to bring out the sharpness of the red and its hint of orange where the light comes through, made simple dangles and put them on handmade hoop earwires.
Red, red rosebuds by Sabine Little; sterling hoop earwires by Diane Cook
The third rosebud could have been a simple little pendant on a sterling chain, but the rich, acid colours went so well with a whole range of crystal shades that I gave it the opulent treatment and made it the focal point of a sparkling necklace with plenty of silver.
Rosebud by Sabine Little
The crystal colours are slightly randomised: a symmetrical arrangement looked too formal alongside the organic shape of the flower.
I think the finished necklace has a rather Indian feel about it – lively and vibrant
Sometimes you might want to add a bit more detailing or movement to earrings. These little polymer squares have been strung onto eyepins (which have a little loop or eye at the bottom, as distinct from headpins, which have, well, a head) so that I could add a cluster of charms underneath.
Polymer clay beads by Hazel Ward
The flower and leaf charms are made in just the same way as the earring dangle, but smaller, then linked together with a jump ring that goes through the eye of the eyepin underneath the clay bead. And although none of them is the exact colour of the polymer clay, they are similar tones – so the overall effect looks matching, even though it isn’t. (See, I cheat all the time!)
Make sure you hang the earrings so the charm clusters are mirror images of each other: one leaf on the left, the other on the right. Little touches like this make your work look professional.
And now, seeing as I have a huge pile of pink and green beads still sitting on my desk left over from my latest beading project, I think I’ll turn them into a charm bracelet. Somehow that seems easier than sorting them all out and putting them away again. And charm bracelets are gorgeously romantic and lovely for spring, when those big woolly jumpers go back in the wardrobe and you get to see your wrists again…
Tutorial: Charm Bracelet
You will need:
· A charm bracelet base (or a length of chain and a clasp to make your own)
· Jump rings or split rings
· A selection of accent beads*, 6-10 mm seems to work best: small lampies, pressed glass shapes, pearls, stones, whatever you like really
· A selection of smaller accent beads, 2-4mm
· A spoonful of seed beads in sizes 8 and 11 - leftover ‘bead soup’ is ideal
· A largish charm or metal bead to go beside the clasp – I used a pewter heart
· 5-6 charms or metal beads
· A few beadcaps or metal spacers and/or 2-3mm metal beads
· Round-nosed, flat-nosed and (if possible) crimping pliers; wire cutters
*The exact numbers of components are up to you. I like to use 4 charms per link of chain and my bracelet base has 17 links, so that’s a total of around 70.
1. To keep the colour balance roughly even along the length of the bracelet, divide the beads into four groups and lay them out in rows. Otherwise you tend to find you’ve picked out some beads preferentially and run out of them by the time you get half-way. I work on one bracelet link at a time to avoid losing my place.
Materials and tools for making your bracelet. Note how the beads are laid out in rows
2. This is an important point and often overlooked – if your bracelet has a toggle clasp, you need to make sure the toggle can pull through the loop to fasten it. If you add charms right up to the bottom of the toggle, you’ll find it’s very difficult to put your bracelet on. So leave a blank link (or two if they are small).
Leave room for the toggle to fasten
3. Most of the charm dangles are made on headpins with wrapped loops – just as for the earrings we made back in my October 2011 blog post. But since the loop is to be wrapped onto the bracelet chain, the finishing is a bit different. Start in the same way, but make the loop fairly large and don’t do the wrapping part yet – just slip the loop over the chain link.
Adding a wrapped loop to a chain
4. Now put the tip of your pliers into the loop to hold it while you do the wrapping. Trim the surplus wire and use crimping pliers (if you have them) to neaten the coil. Check that there are no scratchy ends – file them if necessary. Bracelets need a lot of care as they will be worn next to a sensitive area of skin. Add four dangles to each link before moving on to the next.
Wrap the loop and tidy the ends
5. Charms are much easier to deal with – they already have a loop for hanging. You can use a jump ring or a split ring (more secure) to connect the loop to the bracelet chain. If the charm’s very small and gets lost among the beads, add more rings or use a bigger one.
Charms are simple to attach
6. And what about those teardrops or leaves that are ‘top-drilled’, i.e. with the hole across the top, rather than running up and down? You can’t string them on a headpin. And unless the hole is large, jump rings won’t work either, because they’re curved. What you need is a triangle bail. You can buy these, or just make your own from surplus wire. (Cheapskate? Moi?) Make a triangle shape with the ends meeting in the middle of one side. Then just pull the ends apart, put the chain link through the gap, and put one end into each side of your top-drilled bead. Use pliers to squash the sides together until secure.
Making a triangle bail. Bend half a side, then two full sides, then the remaining half, and trim the wire. Then pull gently apart with pliers to link to the chain and attach your bead
7. Something else to consider is how to unify your design when you’re using a wide variety of beads. Restricting the colour palette is the most obvious; so is using more than one of each kind of bead, or the same shape but in different colours. You can also be subtle and use the same seed beads – or just slightly different ones – every time you make a dangle with a particular type of bead.
Try using the same colour of seed bead, or a small metal bead, at the bottom and/or top of each dangle. Or use beadcaps or spacers with one particular shape of accent bead.
All of these will help to make your bracelet look carefully considered rather than just thrown together. Even if it was just thrown together.
Keeping a bit of consistency helps to pull it all together and satisfy the eye
8. Carry on adding four things to each link until you’ve filled the last one. Then take your heart bead or charm and attach it to the end of the bracelet, right next to the clasp loop. This is a good place to attach a maker’s tag if you have one, or perhaps a photo frame charm with a picture, or a custom tag with the new owner’s name… the possibilities are endless.
Add a nice big heart charm to the clasp
And there you are, done!
There are as many styles of charm bracelet as there are beaders. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about mine. Now grab your bead stash and go and discover yours!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Members’ shops mentioned in this article
Helen Chalmers http://www.etsy.com/shop/helenjewellery
Diane Cook http://www.etsy.com/shop/dilunah for beads and http://www.dilunah.com/index.htm for findings
Helen Gorick http://www.etsy.com/shop/helengbeads
Julia Hay http://www.etsy.com/shop/Pandanimal
Sabine Little http://www.etsy.com/shop/littlecastledesigns
Ilona Ruttle http://www.etsy.com/shop/Fluidglassartbeads
Hazel Ward http://www.etsy.com/shop/ContinuumDesigns
Jolene Wolfe http://www.etsy.com/shop/KitzbitzArtBeads