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Sunday 29 April 2012

Lynn's Lampies - May 2012, Bead Soup Bracelet

Lynn’s Lampies

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!

May 2012

Cheapskate Cheating

How to make the maximum impact with a minimum of materials is a subject very close to my heart – as you will know if you’ve been following this series of articles.

So here are a few tips on how to be a beady cheapskate. Not that I don’t spend serious money on top-of-the-range materials like handmade glass focals or those perfect, laser-cut Japanese cylinder beads. I do. But there are ways of saving pennies so as to be able to afford the fabulousness when you really need it.

Such as…

Bead stitches with big holes in (like netting, or the right angle weave chain in this month’s tutorial), save time. And time is money, right? You can always make your bracelet or necklace base ‘grow’ faster by using a larger size of seed bead, too.

This bracelet wins on several fronts: it’s made with big beads and a ‘holey’ weave and uses a beautiful vintage button as the clasp.

In addition, a ‘holey’ construction can cover a larger area with fewer beads, and has the added advantage of saving weight. (Less engineering, less risk of breakage, greater comfort for the wearer. Everyone wins!)

Try out affordable alternatives to expensive components, giving you more money for lampies – copper, for example, instead of sterling silver, or a leather charm bracelet for your charm bead collection.

And of course you can make seed beads into spacer beads instead of using lampwork or metal spacers; check out the tutorial I posted here in January.

Most important rule of cheapskatery: never throw anything away! This bracelet is made from beady leftovers and a selection of vintage buttons from granny’s button box. It was a commission and the customer loved it even though the materials were all recycled.

Failed projects, samples, experiments, broken jewellery… all go into the recycling tub (itself recycled, please note!) to be broken up and re-used.

After a while you’ll find you can pull out leftovers on a particular colour theme. It takes a bit of time to deconstruct them (beadwork is tougher than it looks!) but it’s good to give your unloved beads a new lease of life.

Mix up your leftover beads into ‘bead soup’. (If you don’t generate that many leftovers, some bead shops sell ‘sweepings’ or mixed ‘project beads’ at a discount price.)  This little bracelet is entirely made from leftovers. It has a peyote-stitched base in size 8 beads (a larger size, so it grows faster) and is randomly covered with mixed accent beads and shell chips.

Freeform or right angle weave are good beadweaving stitches for dealing with a mixture of beads… this amulet bag is made in right angle weave and has an intriguing ‘tweedy’ sort of texture.

Here’s a sample of my ‘bead soup’ (note the Nutella lid, these make ideal little beading trays!) and below is a short tutorial on how to make a simple right angle weave chain and decorate it with all those little leftover accent beads from your recycling tub.

Cheap seed beads can be a false economy. Indian or Chinese ones are never going to be as evenly sized and shaped as the more expensive Czech or Japanese seeds. So they’re no good for precise geometric work or bead looming. However, they are superb if what you want is texture. And usually, I do. These are about the worst quality seed beads I have ever possessed, but they are such a pretty colour… I’ve used them liberally in the tutorial below. Just make sure the holes aren’t too tight.

There are other ways to save money on beads and components. Charity shops, jumble sales, end-of-season sales at fashion shops, all can yield inexpensive but fabulous materials for the cost-conscious beader. Many beading magazines and websites have giveaways each month. Enter the odd competition; many of them have cool beady prizes and it boosts your reputation and sales too.

Join a forum (there are many, many advantages to this and they go WAY beyond just the beads!) and make friends, take part in swaps and keep an eye out for ‘destash’ posts – also watch out for orphan beads, seconds, discount codes and sales happening in the team’s Etsy shops!

Tutorial: Bead Soup Bracelet

You will need: a couple of teaspoons of ‘bead soup’ with seed beads in mostly smaller sizes (11 and 8 are ideal but this is a forgiving stitch and you can get away with more or less anything!), needle, thread, scissors, about 100 slightly larger ‘accent’ beads about 4-6mm in diameter, one lampwork bead for the clasp. (Mine is a beautiful ‘orphan’ bead from Kathryn Greer.)

1. Thread your needle with a comfortable length of thread and tie on a ‘stop’ bead by going through it a couple of times (you will remove this bead at the end). The ‘stop’ bead in my photos is orange. Pick up 12 seed beads and go through the first 9 of them again. This makes the first ‘unit’ of your right angle weave chain, with 3 beads along each side.

2. Pick up 9 more seed beads and go through the last 3 of your previous unit.

3. Without adding any more beads, go through the first 6 beads of the current unit again.

4. Now pick up 9 more seed beads and continue as before. Notice that the thread makes an alternating ‘figure of 8’ path; you never turn back on yourself, you always follow the thread in the same direction.

5. Go through the first 6 beads of the current unit again. (It helps not to think about it too much.)

6. Carry on like this until you have a chain of about 30 units – or a generous fit around your wrist (it will shorten a little bit when you add the embellishments).

7. Now start to embellish the chain. Pick up a small seed bead, an accent bead, and another seed bead. Stitch through the next vertical file of beads in your chain.

8. Pick up another three beads (seed, accent, seed) and stitch through the next vertical file of beads in the chain, in the same direction.

9. Continue adding diagonal embellishments all the way back to the start of the chain.

You might choose to leave your bracelet like this, or make it wider by adding fringing up either side.

10. To add fringe, pick up three beads (seed, accent, seed), miss out the last seed and stitch back through the other two beads. Continue on through the vertical file of beads in the base chain and come out on the opposite edge.

11. Add another fringe and stitch through the same vertical file of beads. Weave through two sides of the next unit and repeat to add fringe all along both sides of the bracelet.

Design tip: if you use the same type of seed bead at the tip of your fringe each time, it helps to pull the mixture of beads together and give the piece some coherence.

12. To finish, add a lampwork bead to one end and a loop to the other. The lampie first: pick up two small seed beads, two larger ones, a crystal (or some sort of accent bead that’ll fit into the hole of the lampie to stop it wobbling), the lampwork bead, and a small teardrop or ‘fringe drop’ bead (if you don’t have one, just use an accent bead and a seed bead, as for the fringes).

Miss out the teardrop and go back through the lampie, the crystal and the two larger seed beads.

13. Pick up two smaller seed beads and stitch into the opposite end of the last row of beads in your base chain.

14. Pull everything tight and stitch round through the whole clasp assembly again a couple of times to reinforce it. Weave the thread into the beadwork, tie a couple of knots around one of the existing threads, weave through a few more beads and trim the end.

15. Take the stop bead off the other end of the thread and put your needle on it. Pick up 15-20 seed beads, or enough to loop round the lampwork bead.

16. Stitch into the opposite end of the first row of beads of your chain, to make a loop. Check that it fits over the lampie and adjust the number of beads if necessary. Weave the thread through the loop several times to reinforce, then tie and trim the end.

And there you have it! Have fun with your leftovers, and do leave a comment to let us know how you got on.

Happy beading,

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Member Interrogations - Pricilla McGirr

 Say hello today to Priscilla of Dancing with Glass, who gives us a peek into her glassy world..

1 - Your name: Priscilla McGirr (aka Princess Peggy)

2 - Your shop name and address: Dancing with Glass http://www.etsy.com/shop/PrincessPeggy

3 - Describe your artistic style in three words: Big, bold and colourful.

4 - When did you first start working with glass and how did you get started?

I had a one-day lesson with Beverley Hicklin in October 2009, and bought my kit the following January.

5 - What do you love most about your craft?

The fact that I never know what I will create when I sit down to the torch.

6 - If you could take a class with any artist (in your field or otherwise) who would you choose and why?

Anouk Jasperse, because I love her spontaneity and her use of colour.

7 - Do you have a favourite piece of your work that you can share with us?

Yes, it’s this pendant which I made at the time of the protests in Tahrir Square and named ‘Egypt’

8 - Where do you find your inspiration?

Looking at other people’s lovely work on the internet gives me so many ideas ….sometimes I daydream in the shower and visualise the beads I am going to make, but then they turn into something completely different when I try to make them. I’m constantly surprised at what comes out of my kiln!

9 - What’s your favourite technique within your medium?

Definitely working with silver glass. I use it in nearly every single bead I make.

10 - Where do you create your work?

In my nice warm workshop/office/music room at home….no cold shedio for me!

11 - Do you have a favourite colour scheme or range when you’re creating pieces?

At the moment everything I make seems to be pinky-red or bluey-green.

12 - Can you give us a quotation/lyric/piece of advice that sums up your approach to life and your craft?

Gosh…what about.. ’Tomorrow is another day’? I’m an optimist, can’t you tell?

13 - The most serious question of all: if you could meet any fictional character, from TV film or literature, who would it be and why?

Absolutely no-one comes to mind! I think I prefer real people. I would have liked to have met Bernard Leach.

14 - Finally, what are your plans or hopes for your work in the future?

To go on developing my own style, and to have people love my beads as much as I love making them.


A big thanks to Priscilla for taking part!

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Monthly Giveaway - April

Announcing the prize for this month's lucky blog followers, who give us joy by posting their comments. April's giveaway is sponsored by A&R Jewellery:

Here's what up for grabs

...a delicious 'ring topper' specially made in the winner's colours, as well as a handmade sterling silver ring or pendant bail. Isn't that a fabulous prize? 

So don't forget to comment, and you could be choosing your colours for your new artisan ring!

The prize will be drawn on the 7th of May. Good luck!

Saturday 7 April 2012

March Giveaway Winner!

Time again to draw the name of the lucky winner of our March Giveaway. The prize this month was sponsored by

and she is giving away a gorgeous pair of lampwork earrings:

The random number generator reached in amongst our blog commenters from this month, and picked out: SueBeads! Congratulations, Jo will be in touch with you about your earrings.

Come back soon for the next giveaway, and in the meantime, keep posting all your thoughts - the winners of the giveaways are picked from everyone who comments from the 1st of April until the next draw date!

Thursday 5 April 2012

Lynn's Lampies - April 2012

Lynn’s Lampies

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!

April 2012

Cabochons; or, What do I do with this, it hasn’t got a hole in it!

The beautiful glass made by our talented lampworkers comes in all colours, shapes and sizes. Mostly it’s in the form of beads. But sometimes glassworkers branch out into sculpture, vessels, clasps, buttons… or cabochons.

A cabochon or ‘cab’ is usually flat or domed and presents a real challenge to a seed beader because – shock, horror – it has no holes.

Sometimes cabochons are made from polymer clay, or shell, or semiprecious stone; in fact, all sorts of flattish things with a convex shape can be viewed as cabochons. Not just torched or fused glass but coins, pebbles, buttons, crystal ‘rivolis’…

But what each of these has in common is that in order to incorporate it into a piece of beadwork, you have to fix beads to it in some way. And just as a metalworker would make a bezel, a beadweaver can do the equivalent thing with beads.

This is a selection of materials I bezelled at workshops with Laura McCabe, who is a beadin’ genius and my absolute creative heroine. (The rest of the class had sparkly rivolis; I went for old buttons and cork washers. I’m a cheapskate. Deal with it.)

The locket is made with the ‘H’ and ‘C’ tops of some old bathtaps. It can be reversed according to the wearer’s mood.

This ‘Jurassic Coast’ necklace is made with flat pebbles from the beach at Exmouth, where the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site starts. Once each pebble is surrounded with beads, they can be connected together.

You can also treat a bead as though it were a cabochon; it may seem a bit perverse to be ignoring the hole (although actually you can use it to help secure the beadwork in place) but it gives you all sorts of interesting possibilities as you can then build up extra layers round the outside.

This lampwork lentil just seemed to be asking to be turned into a sea anemone…

And of course buttons are perfect for beaded bezels because they’re generally flat and circular (bezelling other shapes can be a bit tricky). I used a bezelled button as a clasp here.

This Gaudi-inspired bracelet is decorated with bezelled buttons, but I didn’t stop at just making a rim, I covered the entire button with beadwork to change the texture.

Once the bezel is stitched, you can use it to attach embellishments. This chunk of paua shell ended up encrusted with pearls and ‘seaweed’ and even a starfish…

And the weirdest thing I’ve ever bezelled? Hmmm… well, the bathtap locket was pretty strange, but the winner is probably a set of old Xmas light bulbs, part of one of my Ugly Necklace Contest entries (which also required me to deal with other hole-less components including a plastic lion and the leg off an Action Man). I like a challenge!

And by now you’re probably going ‘that’s all very well, but how do you do it?’ so here’s a short tutorial on just one of the ways of constructing a beaded bezel.

Bezelling a Button with Peyote Stitch

The principle of a beaded bezel is simple. You can think of it as a very short, wide tube into which you put your cab, then you narrow each end of the tube in turn so as to hold the cab in place. So it doesn’t matter what beadweaving stitch you choose, although some are easier than others; and you can narrow the tube by decreasing, by changing the stitch, or by making the beads smaller.

We’re going to use peyote stitch, and we’re going to do the narrowing by simply using smaller and smaller sizes of bead. And we’re going to use a button because the circle is the easiest shape to bezel. No point running before we can walk.

So you will need: a button (choose a decent size, 15-20mm, or it’ll all get very small and fiddly); seed beads in three sizes, 8, 11 and 15 (8 is the largest, 15 the smallest); beading thread (I recommend KO but it doesn’t really matter for starters); beading needle, scissors, and something to put your beads in.

1. Thread the needle with a metre or so of thread and string enough size 8’s (your biggest size) to fit loosely around the circumference of your button. Make sure you have an even number of beads in your circle. Tie the two ends of the thread together in a double knot; don’t pull the circle tight though, leave a couple of millimetres of ‘wiggle room’ or you’ll be in trouble later.

2. Go through the first bead of the circle again. Pick up a size 8, miss out the next circle bead and go through the third one. Keep doing this (pick up one, miss one, go through next one) all the way round the circle.

3. This is important. And I know it’s not the best photo in the world, but have a good look until you can see what I mean. After adding the last bead, you need to go through TWO beads: the last bead in the circle, which you’d have been going through anyway, AND the first ‘new’ bead you added in step 2. This is called ‘stepping up’ and makes sure your thread is coming out in the right place to start the next round of beadwork.

4. Stitch the next round in exactly the same way, only using size 11 beads (your middle size). It should be easier to see which beads you need to go through this time, as they’ll be sticking out.

5. Pull the thread quite firmly as you stitch, and you’ll see that already the smaller beads are making the circle smaller.

6. Again, when you get all the way round, remember you need to go through TWO beads at the end of the round, so your thread is coming out of the first size 11 you added in step 4.

7. Now add a second round of size 11 beads, and remember to step up through TWO… You didn’t need me to remind you this time, did you?

8. Now add a final round with your teeny tiny size 15 beads.

9. This time, you don’t need to step up at the end of the round, you need to weave diagonally through all the previous rounds until you come out of a size 8 right on the outside. Check that your beadwork is still roughly the same size as your button. You should be able to see the ‘sticking out’ size 8’s projecting beyond the edge. If it’s way too small, either find a smaller button or abandon this version and start again with a couple more beads in the initial circle.

10. Holding the beadwork over the button (helps to keep it in shape), repeat step 4 to add a round of size 11 beads.

11. You can see the bottom of the bezel is already starting to pull in. And you don’t need me to remind you about the stepping-up thing, but I’m going to anyway, in case you forgot in the excitement…

12. Now add a second round of size 11’s. Make sure to pull the thread evenly and firmly.


13. You may not need this step if your button is thin, but I decided to add a third round of size 11’s to give my bezel a better grip on the back.

14. Finally, add a round of size 15’s to pull the bezel in tight and hold the button securely in place. (You can add more rounds and/or decrease some stitches on the back if it still seems a bit slippery. Bezelling isn’t an exact science.) Now you can add a loop for a hanging bail, or go mad with embellishments, before knotting your threads in your beadwork and trimming the ends.

Have fun!