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!
Lampwork beads come in all shapes (as well as sizes) and the terminology can be confusing, so here’s a quick introduction to some of the shapes that are a regular feature in my bead stash. This isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it is a start…
There are two basic ways of shaping a bead: either freehand with the aid of gravity, or in a ‘bead press’, a two-part metal mould that presses the molten glass into shape. Beads made in a press tend to be more evenly sized and shaped.
Round beads do what they say on the tin; they can be large or small, patterned or plain or encased (with a layer of clear glass on the outside), sculptured or bumpy. (A round bead without a hole is a marble.)
a selection of round beads; these are about 15-20mm in diameter
Squash a round bead, and you get that wonderfully useful shape, the lentil. These come in two flavours, both usually made in a press: either two curved faces that meet like two bowls placed rim-to-rim, or the ‘spree’ lentil with two flat round faces and a flat edge. Also sometimes called a round tab, just to be confusing… I love lentils, there’s something so satisfying about the shape and they are very comfortable to wear!
|lentils seen from the front are circular|
|but seen end-on, not all lentils are the same|
Then there are the square or oblong shapes, also usually made with a press. There are lots of these and they go by many names. Generally, a ‘tab’ bead has two flat sides and a ‘pillow’ bead has curved ones.
Tabs are nice for bracelets because they sit flat against the skin. My favourite of all is the ‘crunch tab’ which is squished into a lovely organic shape with softly rounded corners; it hangs beautifully for a pendant, and is the one I’ve picked for the focal in my bracelet tutorial below.
left to right and top to bottom: square tab, oblong tab, oblong pillow, square pillow and crunch tab
Stretched-out beads are good for elegant pendants or the ends of a long, long lariat… they can be simple straight-sided cylinders, or rounded ovals, or a ‘barrel’ shape that’s in between the two.
|left to right: oval, barrel and tube|
At the opposite end of the spectrum there are hand-shaped beads of every shape imaginable: discs, nuggets, flowers, animals, space aliens, hearts…
|a few interesting shapes, some of which are a fascinating challenge to incorporate into beadwork!|
And then of course there are the stars of the show, the individual ‘focal’ beads, perfect miniature works of glass art. Usually sold singly, these are larger beads that can be the starting point for an entire necklace. The term ‘focal’ is more a matter of size than of shape; anything from 20mm upwards is probably big enough to be a focal in its own right. To save weight, they may be hollow, or flattened; a lentil bead takes a lot less glass than a sphere of the same diameter.
focals of various different shapes and constructions: hollow, pressed, hand-shaped
|sculptural focal by Sue Reynolds|
Last but not least, there are the ‘spacers’. These are the bread-and-butter beads, the ones that go in between the fancy beads in your bead set, the ones you turn to for bracelets and necklaces and earrings and tassels… Spacers vary a lot in terms of size, but they are generally quite small and can be very small indeed!
|spacers from large (about 12mm) to small (about 3mm); the ones on string are an ‘earring pair’|
Tutorial: Rosebud Bracelet
|a simple bracelet with lampwork, glass and a little bit of bead stitching|
You will need: one lampwork focal bead (mine is a crunch tab by Sandy Kelly); two lampwork spacer beads; 6 crystal bicones (4mm or 6mm); 6-8 pressed glass accent beads about 8-10mm in diameter (I’ve used two bellflowers and four ‘picasso’ firepolished rounds); seed beads in three sizes (8, 11 and 15); flexible beading wire (AKA ‘cable’ or ‘tigertail’); two sterling silver crimp beads; two sterling silver jump rings; a clasp of your choice; nylon beading thread and a beading needle; sharp scissors, crimping pliers, flat-nosed pliers and wire cutters.
You’ll make two sorts of beaded ‘spacer’ bead: a not-quite-flat disc (think Pringles) and a quick-and-easy round ‘bud’ bead. Two pringles and a bud makes a sort-of rose, if you squint…
1. Thread your needle with a comfortable length of beading thread and pick up five size 11 seed beads. Tie them into a little circle with a double knot, leaving an end of thread about 10cm long.
2. Go through the first bead of the circle again. Pick up a size 15 seed bead and go through the next bead in the circle.
3. Repeat four more times; after adding the last little bead, go through two beads, so your thread is coming out of the bead you added in step 2.
4. Pick up two size 11 beads and go through the next size 15 bead.
5. Repeat four more times; after adding the last pair of beads, go through two beads, so you are coming out between the two beads of the pair you added in step 4.
6. Pick up one size 15 bead and stitch through the second bead of the pair you added in step 4.
7. Pick up two size 15 beads and stitch through the first bead of the next pair of size 11 beads.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all gaps are filled.
9. Note that there isn’t really quite enough room for all those extra beads, so your circle won’t lie flat any more. This is OK. Really. The crinkliness is what makes it interesting.
10. To finish off the end, go under the thread between the bead you’re coming out of and the next bead.
11. Pull gently until you have a little loop of thread.
12. Stitch through this loop and pull the knot tight – gently.
13. Repeat steps 10-12 to tie a second knot in the same place. Weave through a few more beads and trim the spare thread. Do the same with the ‘tail’ thread you left at the beginning (you don’t need to tie more knots in this one). It’s fiddly, but be patient.
14. Make a total of eight disc spacers, in whatever colours you like. They can be all the same, or you can vary the colours and pattern to keep yourself interested.
1. Thread your needle again and pick up a size 8 seed bead followed by a sequence of five: two size 15, one size 11, two more size 15. These five beads will form your first loop.
2. Go through the size 8 bead again. See? A loop.
3. Pick up the same sequence of five beads again, and go through the size 8 bead again (always go through in the same direction).
4. Repeat until you have 6 or 7 loops, however many you need to cover up most of the size 8 bead.
5. Carefully knot the thread, as explained for the disc spacer above, and weave through a couple more beads before trimming. This is even more fiddly (you can always use a bigger bead in the middle, though, and make the loops longer and have more of them; this technique is very adaptable) but be patient, it’ll be worth it. And you only have to make four of these.
Stringing the bracelet
1. Cut a piece of flexible beading wire a good 5cm longer than the circumference of your wrist. String the tab bead, with a crystal either side of it, then string the rest of the beads, keeping the tab bead in the middle. Your sequence can be symmetrical or random, but put size 8 seed beads between the larger beads to give flexibility.
2. String the seed beaded spacers to look vaguely like flowers: two discs and then one round.
3. Continue adding beads until your bracelet is the right length, minus the length of the clasp.
4. String a crimp bead and one more size 8, then a jump ring. Mine are ‘open’ jump rings and that might seem a bit silly, but you should always have some sort of breakpoint in a piece of jewellery that’s strung on wire like this. If it gets caught in something, you want the jump ring to pull apart before the wire cuts your wrist! And you don’t want to lose beads, either. Anyway… put the end of the wire back through the last bead, the crimp, and a couple more beads.
5. Pull everything snug together then squish the crimp with pliers or a crimping tool until it’s secure.
6. Trim the spare end of wire.
7. Repeat at the other end, making sure you pull the beads together so there’s no bare wire, but not so tight the bracelet’s rigid.
8. Attach the clasp to the jump rings.
9. Wear with pride, and enjoy the sunshine!
Members’ beads featured in this article:
Rachel Bishop http://www.etsy.com/shop/Puffafish
Helen Chalmers http://www.etsy.com/shop/helenjewellery
Helen Gorick http://www.etsy.com/shop/helengbeads
Kathryn Greer http://www.etsy.com/shop/MyPrecious
Julia Hay http://www.etsy.com/shop/Pandanimal
Sandy Kelly http://www.etsy.com/shop/flowerjasper1964
Sabine Little http://www.etsy.com/shop/littlecastledesigns
Sue Reynolds http://www.etsy.com/shop/FlamingEck
Heather Webb http://www.etsy.com/shop/BumpyBeads
Jo Wolfe http://www.etsy.com/shop/KitzbitzArtBeads