Monday, March 7, 2016

Beading Needles

A few days ago my friend, Gale, asked me a question about beading needles:  

"What size and style of needles do I need to buy for beading?  I have some that are extremely flexible and they're driving me crazy.  They've got little staying power.  After two pairs of simple earrings, they're junk.  I can't remember where I bought them.  They're a size 13.  Why is size 10 sticking in my head?  I have some 12's, but they look pretty flimsy too."

The following is what I told her:


The easiest size beading needle to use is #10, because it’s the biggest.  However, #10s won’t work with some projects because of the number of times you have to run the thread through the same bead.  If you’re not working with seed beads, #10s are good, nice and sturdy, and easy to thread.

I sometimes use #12s when working with the smaller seed beads.  #12 beading needles are smaller than #10s so that they can make several passes through most seed beads.  In spite of that, they’re not too flimsy.

#13s are quite fine, which is why they’re so flexible or flimsy.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen #13s.  I think they must be for very delicate work.

If you can find #11s, they’re a great compromise, and the size that I probably use most often.

You should be able to buy #10s, #11s, and #12s in Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, or your local bead shop.  I bought a package with a mix of #10s, #11s, and #12s in Wal-Mart for about $2—great deal.  Be careful, though.  Sometimes beading needles are not marked with a size, especially in non-bead stores.

I also recommend getting a “big-eye” needle, which is really good to use with larger beads or seed beads that don’t get too many passes through.  It appears to be like a regular needle until you look closely—there’s no eye on one end.  Instead, you see that there are actually two pieces of metal that are fused together on the ends and separated in the center.  Just pull the two pieces away from each other and it almost looks like a bow without the arrow.  Needless to say, it’s a snap to thread these needles.  Just open the "bow" and slide the thread in.  When you let it go, the thread stays trapped.  You can use either end as your tip.  The downside is that the tips of these needles are a bit blunted, so they won't be as sharp as regular beading needles.  That's not always an issue.

The big-eye needle I have only came with one in a package with no size specified on the package--I'm guessing that it's a #10.  You can find them online in various sizes as well as multiples per package.  Big-eye needles are pretty hardy and  last through many projects.  I've had mine for years.  I always put it back on its cardboard and keep it in a Ziploc snack bag in a box with my Fireline threads.  You need to get big-eye needles online or in your local bead or craft store.  I’m guessing they’re about $3 for a package of one--and they're more economical for multi-packs.  

When you're in the mood to splurge, buy a package of Tulip needles.  They’re very flexible, but they always go back to their original, straight shape, and I’m told they last a long time.  The pros rave about them.  I bought a three-pack of #11s for $5.50 a couple of years ago.  I tried them and liked them, but when I’m seed beading, I often like my needle to maintain a curved shape.  I think that it's easier to use a curved needle when trying to bury the ends of a thread.  Anyway, I’m hoarding these lovely, expensive Tulip needles.


Make Stitch Markers for Your Knitting from Jewelry Supplies

A couple of weeks ago one of my knitting friends, Lois, was showing off her beautiful polymer clay beads.  Another friend, Carol, said she would like to make stitch markers from polymer clay beads.  I know that many people like to make stitch markers using wrapped loops from wire.  They’re really pretty, but it can be hard to keep the cut ends of the wire from catching the yarn.  The stitch markers that Carol showed me used flexible beading wire, which made a lot more sense to me.  So I put together some instructions to share here. 
     
If you don’t work with polymer clay, you can substitute a purchased bead as your focal bead.  Almost any kind of bead will work, but be sure to purchase a size bead that won’t get in your way while you’re knitting.
      
These are two stitch markers that I made.  There are a couple of minor differences between them.  The obvious one is that the loops are different sizes.  The left marker has two decorative spacer beads at the top, which I didn't like, so I only used one large spacer bead at the top of the right marker.  I also made a mistake while finishing off the marker on the right, so I had to get creative when I attached the crimp cover.  I'll talk more about these things later.


The stitch marker on the left was made with a 3-inch piece of flexible beading wire, which works with knitting needles up to US #10.  The marker on the right was made with a 4-inch piece of flexible beading wire, which works with needles up to US #15.


These are the supplies needed for each stitch marker:
  • Wire cutters
  • Chain nose pliers (good) or Crimping pliers (better)
  • 3-inch or 4-inch flexible beading wire (depending on desired loop size)
  • 2 decorative spacers
  • 1 polymer clay focal bead 
  • 2 crimp tubes (much better than a crimp bead, which is not as strong)
  • 2 round crimp covers

Here is an excellent video for using the crimping pliers.  If you’ve never used them, you will need to watch this video.  It’s much more clear than the instructions on the package.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IMWxtiAynA

You can also attach a crimp tube with chain nose pliers.  I could only find an old video because most beaders today use the crimping pliers.  Also, I’m telling you right now, AVOID tiger tail beading wire.  It’s stiff and will get kinks and creases in it, making your markers hang funny on your knitting. Again, just ignore the part where they string the clasp. 


In the photo above are all the supplies for making a stitch marker.  On the top row are wire cutters (left) and crimping pliers (right).  Below that is a finished stitch marker.  The row below shows the beads which will be used.  I will list them from right to left because that is the order in which I string them:
  •       Crimp cover
  •       Crimp tube
  •       Large spacer
  •       Focal bead
  •       Daisy spacer
  •       Crimp tube
  •       Crimp cover

At the bottom is a length of cut wire.  It would be either 3 or 4 inches in length.


Soft Flex is my favorite flexible beading wire because of its high quality.  This wire is .019 inches (.48mm) in diameter, labeled as Medium, which is the perfect size for the small crimp tubes that I used--2X2mm crimp tubes are recommended.  Note that there are 49 strands of stainless steel wire encased in nylon coating, which I believe is the most number of strands available.  The more strands of inner wire there are, the more flexible the wire as a whole will be, and the higher quality.


INSTRUCTIONS:
1.    Cut a piece of wire with the wire cutters. 
·      You need enough length to:
-     make a loop large enough for the size of knitting needles you will use it with.
-     go through all the beads.
-     leave a tail to hold onto while you work.
·      I found that 3 inches is good for needles US size 10 and smaller, 4 inches will work for needles up to US size 15.

2.    Fold the wire in half, but don't squeeze it. You don't want a bend or a kink in it.

3.    Run both ends of the wire through the crimp tube.
·      It’s a good idea to use a knitting needle to measure the loop, leaving some wiggle room.

The wire has been strung through the crimp tube, making a loop at one end.  The wire has crossed in the tube, making an X.  This must be fixed before the next step can be taken.


4.    Slide the crimp tube up to where it needs to be.
·      Make sure that the cut ends of the wire below the crimp tube are not crossed.
·      If using chain nose pliers, squeeze the crimp closed and skip steps 5 through 7.

WILL BE ADDING A PHOTO HERE TO SHOW STEP 4.

5.    Place the crimp in the opening closer to the tip of the crimping tool.
·      Gently squeeze the crimping tool so that the tube changes from circular to oval.
·      Hold the end wires so that they are touching the opposite sides of the oval.  Be sure that those wires are not crossed.

6.    Now move the crimp tube into the tool opening that is closer to the hinge.
·      It’s easiest if you rest the crimp on the smooth opening and leave the opening with the bump in the middle on top.
·      Keeping the end wires separated and uncrossed, gently squeeze the tool.
·      Your tube should now be changed to two smaller tubes, like a figure eight. 
-     There should be a wire coming through each of the smaller tubes.

7.    Finally, you will move the doubled crimp back into the opening closest to the tip.
·      You have to turn the crimp onto its side and squeeze the tool gently. 
-     If you have placed the crimp into the tool properly, the crimp will fold in half and become a neat, narrow tube.
-     If you don’t place it properly, nothing will change when you squeeze.

This photo is a little fuzzy.  I'll replace it as soon as I can.  In the meantime, you can see the crimp tube has been separated into two smaller, connected tubes.  Then those tubes were folded and the entire thing rounded off.

8.    The next step is to cover the crimp tube with the round crimp cover.
·      You don’t need to use a crimp cover here, but it will look nicer if you do.
·      Place the crimp cover over the tube.
·      Now put it into the opening of the crimp tool closest to the tip.
·      Squeeze the tool in short, gentle motions, turning the tool slightly with each squeeze, until the cover is closed and rounded around the crimp.
-     If you squeeze too hard, you’ll crush the cover and it will never be round.
-     Sometimes the edges of the cover do not meet perfectly.  I don’t worry about this.  You'll get better at it the more you do it.

The folded crimp tube is nestled inside the crimp cover.

The crimp cover has been gently closed, little by little, with the section of the crimping pliers that is closest to the tip.  This is a much more attractive look than the crimp tube.

9.    Place the end wires through the components in this order:
·      The decorative spacer
·      The focal bead
·      Another decorative spacer
·      Another crimp tube

I photographed this from right to left because I'm right handed.  I'm using my left hand to hold onto the tails of the wire because I'm going to be using my right hand to work the crimping pliers.  WARNING:  This crimp tube is too close to the daisy spacer above it.  The little balls around the daisy will get in the way of the crimping tube.  Even more importantly, there must be a gap between the daisy spacer and the folded crimp tube or the crimp cover cannot fit.
10.     The end wires will be sticking out of the bottom crimp tube.  Don’t cut them yet, because you will need to hold onto them.

11.     You need to be careful not to push the crimp against the other beads.  I know this because, out of habit, that’s what I did.  The problem was that I wasn’t able to fit the crimp cover over it because the spacer above the crimp tube got in the way.  So, be sure to leave a little bit of wiggle room for the crimp cover.

12.     Repeat steps 4 through 7.

13.     Using your wire cutters, trim the excess wire as close to the bottom of the crimp as possible.

14.     The final step is to cover the crimp tube with the round crimp cover.
·      You definitely DO need to use a crimp cover here because of the scratchiness of the cut ends of the wire.
·      Place the crimp cover over the tube and any of the wire that might be sticking out.
·      Now put it into the opening of the crimp tool closest to the tip.
·      Squeeze the tool in short, gentle motions, turning the tool slightly with each squeeze, until the cover is closed and rounded around the crimp.
-     If you squeeze too hard, you’ll crush the cover and it will never be round.
-     Sometimes the edges of the cover do not meet perfectly.  I don’t worry about this.  



When I made my second stitch marker, I pushed the ending crimp tube against the daisy spacer above it.  I was able to use the crimping tool, but with difficulty.  When I tried to put the crimp cover over it, there was no room between the crimp and the daisy spacer. To make things worse, the outer edges of the daisy spacer overlapped the crimp tube.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the crimp cover over the crimp tube.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  I turned my crimp tube sideways and place it over the crimp bead with the opening against the spacer above.  It wouldn't close totally, but it did make a strong closure.  The result is that if you look at it sideways, it looks like a donut!

Now go make a bunch of these and knit something beautiful!




Sunday, March 6, 2016

Where Have I Been??!!

I'll bet some people thought that I had abandoned my blog.  I'm a little shocked to see how long it's been since I posted.  I thought it was last summer.  Nope.  It was August of 2014.

I'm not one to post for the sake of posting.   I like to have something worthwhile to share, so I often go for long periods without blogging.  There are some things that I've been meaning to post, and I hope to get to them before long.

In December of 2014 I was hit by a car.  It was a very gentle collision.  The car began to back up as I was walking behind it and I was knocked down.  Unfortunately, I twisted my back and spent about six months going to the chiropractor and sitting around.  I wasn't able to ski or play tennis.  You'd think that I would have caught up on my blogging. Maybe I should have.

Instead, I started knitting "seriously."  I've been knitting off and on since I was a kid. About every ten years I'd start up again.  Because I had nobody to help me, I'd get frustrated and give up within a month or two.  This time, I have a friend who loves to knit and she has become my mentor.  I joined a knitting group and a knitting forum. Whenever I run into a problem, I just go online and watch videos.  I am amazed at how it's all come together for me!

So that's where I've been all this time.  But stay tuned because I'm writing a new tutorial. This one is for making knitting stitch markers with jewelry supplies.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Killington Bear

Yesterday I was playing tennis at a place called The Summit Lodge in Killington, Vermont.  There are two St. Bernards that actually live at the Lodge and a French Bulldog that goes to work there with his owner.  I heard a commotion and saw the three dogs running at full-speed across the road and behind the maintenance building, with the Bulldog’s owner in pursuit, trying to get them to go back where they belong.  I was surprised at how fast the St. Bernards could move, but didn’t pay any attention beyond that.
    
A couple of minutes later I heard a racket in the bushes behind the maintenance building and the tennis courts.  I thought that the dogs were probably chasing a chipmunk and hoped it got away.  The next thing I knew, one of the St. Bernards was barking and looking up a tree, and one of the tennis players yelled, “There’s a bear in the tree!”
    
Sure enough, just 10 feet from the tennis courts was a tree with a medium-sized bear in it.  The one St. Bernard kept barking from the bottom of the tree, while the other two dogs kept their distance.  The bear had to readjust his perch a few times when branches broke under his weight, but he settled on a strong, thick one and hung on for dear life.  The poor bear looked terrified. 
   
Photo by Carol Moriarity
 
A few of the Lodge’s guests came down to look and take pictures.  They didn’t seem to realize that there was nothing between them and the bear. 
      
 
Photo by Diane Rosenblum.  You can see the top of someone's cap at the bottom-right of the photo.  
   
Those of us who were playing tennis stayed behind the wire fence, which probably wouldn’t have protected us for long.  Not to mention that the fence doesn’t even go all the way around the tennis courts.  Good thing that black bears are almost never aggressive!
    
The dogs and the gawkers finally went away.  The rest of us thought that the bear had been through enough stress and we went back to playing tennis.  We assumed that if we moved away from the fence, the bear would come down from the tree and leave.  After about ten minutes we heard what sounded like tree branches breaking, but it was actually the sound of the bear’s claws on the bark as he climbed down.  We all stood quietly where we were so that we wouldn't spook him.  When he got to the ground, he stood there looking at us for a few seconds.  Then he took a few steps toward the Lodge, changed his mind, and went back into the bushes and down the hill.
    
We found out later that the bear had been on the lawn in front of the Lodge and the dogs had chased it from there.
    
I’ve heard that there are several hundred bears living in Killington, especially on Bear Mountain.  We’ve even had them go through our yard, but this is the closest I’ve ever been to a wild bear.  It was VERY exciting!
    

Monday, June 9, 2014

STARTING OUT WITH KUMIHIMO--PART I

THE BASICS

I've been having discussions with some online friends about learning Kumihimo.  Now, I’m no expert, but I do believe that I've got the basics down pretty well—and the basics are what a beginner needs to know.  There is an incredible amount to be learned about Kumihimo and there are so many variations on this technique.  You can probably spend a lifetime learning new ways to work with it.  

These are the first three Kumihimo braids that I made.  They are all round and made from ribbon because that was the only type of cord that I had.  The top braid was made with four different colors of smooth satin ribbon in no particular pattern.  The middle braid was made with two colors of satin ribbon with picots in a spiral pattern.  The bottom braid was made with one color of satin ribbon with picots.

Personally, I love beaded Kumihimo, but I’m not going to talk about that here.  If you’re just learning, you want to start by creating simple, round, Kumihimo braids, like the ones above.  Once you’re comfortable with those, it will be easier to learn how to add beads.  Start with what’s simple, practice until you’re comfortable with it, and then learn the more complex techniques.

First, what is Kumihimo?  It’s the ancient Japanese art of combining fiber cords to create a braid.  Depending on the source, Kumihimo translates as “gathered threads,” “come together,” or “braided cord.”  The braids were used by ancient warriors on their armor and swords.  Later the braids were used as belts on Japanese kimonos.

Traditional Kumihimo is created on a wooden stand called a marudai, which is rather expensive and too large to carry around with you.  What we’re going to be talking about here is braiding Kumihimo on a foam disk loom.  The disk costs only a few dollars and is small and lightweight, which makes it very portable.  Many people like to take their Kumihimo projects with them to work on while riding the bus or while waiting for an appointment.  

Kumihimo braids can be round or flat.  Colored Kumihimo cords can be combined into hundreds of beautiful patterns depending upon how many cords are used and how the colors are loaded onto the disk.  I have read that braiding can be done with as few as 4 cords and as many as 100 cords!   

This blog series will be about creating a basic, round braid, which is made with 8 cords.  That round braid can be made into bracelets, necklaces, key chains, purse handles, and dog leashes.  I’m sure there are many other possibilities.


This is a 6-inch disk that is 3/8 inch thick from www.sallybeadjewelry.com.  The quality is top-notch.  It is very firm, which helps with the tension of your braiding.  Above the disk you see two bobbins.  The one on the left is closed and the one on the right is open and waiting to have a cord wrapped onto it.



TERMINOLOGY

Kumihimo disk loom:  The round disk can be about 4¼ to 6 inches in diameter.  The thickness can vary from ¼ inch to 3/8 inch.  Thicker disks promote better tension.  There are 32 slots around the edge of the disk, which are used to secure the cords.  Thicker cords will stretch out the slots, so it's good to have two disks.  Use one for thicker cords and the other for finer cords.

Cord:  This can be any strand of fiber used for Kumihimo braiding.

Warp:  This is another name for a cord.  The term is adapted from weaving.

Bobbin:  This is typically a plastic spool that folds onto itself to hold a long cord, thus keeping it from getting tangled with the other cords.  The weight of the bobbins also helps with the braiding tension.

Braid:  A braid is the product of Kumihimo weaving.  If it’s round, it is sometimes called a rope.

Weight:  Hangs from the start of the braid to help keep the tension even.

Tension:  A weight is attached to the start of your braid.  This weight works with the weight of the bobbins and cords to keep tension on the braid.  That makes the braid snug and even.

Here are two similar cords.  The green is is Petite Satin Cord from www.whataknit.com.  It is about 1mm or 1/16 inch in diameter and is known as bugtail.  It has a wonderful feel to it!  The blue cord comes from Hobby Lobby and is 1/8 inch, about 2mm in diameter, and is known as mousetail.  Rattail is slightly thicker.

SUPPLIES
    
This is a list of supplies that you will want for creating a basic, round, 8-cord braid.

·      Round Kumihimo Disk
·      8 Kumihimo Bobbins
·      A Kumihimo Weight for the start of the braid.  You can make your own.  I've used a few keys that were attached to a clip as well as some fishing weights on a clip.  I've heard of others who use a small bag of pennies tied to the start of the braid.  I plan to buy a real Kumihimo weight from www.glitznkitz.com
·      Cords—see below.
·      Fray Check—to seal the braid ends before cutting.
·      E6000 glue—to attach the end caps.
·      Very sharp scissors for cutting the ends of the braid.
·      End caps—either glue the braid end to the end cap or attach wire to the braid end and make a wrapped loop through the end cap.
·      Clasps—when the clasp and end cap are one unit you must use glue.  This is also true when the end cap has an open end and a totally closed end with a built-in loop.
·      Thread—you can wrap the braid ends with thread before cutting the ends.
·      Tape—you can tape the braid ends before cutting the ends.
·      26 or 28-gauge wire—you can wrap the braid ends with wire before cutting the ends.
·      20-gauge wire—for making wire-wrapped loops.  This can be done with cones or end caps that are open on both ends.
·      Round-nose pliers for wrapping loops.

     These are the ribbons I used in the braids at the top.  They are the 50 cent spools from Michaels and they work very nicely.  The ribbon with the picots is a little wider and the braids from this ribbon are larger than the braids from the plain ribbon. 

There are many types of cords that you might use for your braid:
·      Rat tail, mouse tail, bug tail—here’s a great description:  http://www.satincord.com/a_1_cord_satin_rattail.html
·      Ribbon—try the 50 cent spools of narrow, satin ribbon from the craft stores.
·      Yarn—especially the fancy specialty yarns.
·      Embroidery floss—don’t separate the threads.  When braiding without beads, you might want to double up, putting 2 strands in each slot, because floss strands are finer than bugtail.  Metallic embroidery floss is wonderful when working with beads that are somewhat transparent.
·      C-Lon and S-Lon—these cords are the same but from different manufacturers.  They come in multiple sizes (buy cord, not thread) and are for use with beads.  As a rule, I don’t recommend them when braiding without beads, unless you’re trying for a special effect.



That's it for now.  

Part II will deal with setting up the disk and making the braid.
Part III will address several techniques for finishing the braid.


                    © Copyright 2014 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.





Friday, January 10, 2014

Hello, Heart Surgery, and Kumihimo

Oh, my goodness.  I haven't posted anything here since last July--six months ago.  How did that happen??!!  It wasn't for any one reason.  I guess I just got too busy being retired.
      
My husband finally retired in October after putting it off for several months.  For years he'd been traveling a few days a week to New Jersey for work and had continued to see his doctors there.  When his retirement was official, he decided to find new doctors here in Vermont.  He started with a new cardiologist, who put him through a bunch of tests and declared that he was ready for an aortic valve replacement, and while they're at it, they're going to bypass that old stent that blocked up years ago.  That was unexpected.  His surgery is January 23 and all prayers are welcome.
     
In the meantime, I've been learning how to do Kumihimo, a form of Japanese braiding with lovely cords and sometimes with beads.  It's sort of a cross between braiding and looming.  I had a class in beaded Kumihimo a couple of years ago, but I didn't have the correct supplies (my fault) and my bracelet was a major failure.  After learning a bit more about it, I decided to try again.  This time the proper way. 
     
I started out by learning how to do a "simple" 8-warp braid with thin ribbons and it was fun. I made a few more ribbon braids and decided it was time to tackle a beaded braid.  
     
I took a photo of my pathetic attempt to make a braid with the wrong thread.  It was supposed to be a round rope, but it turned out "squishy" and kept morphing into weird shapes.  Yes, squishy might be a real Kumihimo term.  I learned it from my Kumihimo friends.
FAILED KUMIHIMO:  Instead of looking like a rope, this braid was flat in places and looked like there were beads missing in other places.  They weren't really missing; they'd just moved out of place.
          
          
I cut the failed braid apart and started from scratch.  This time I used the proper size thread for the bead holes and I used a weight to control the tension and bobbins to keep the warps from getting tangled.  I'm very pleased with the outcome.
Much better!  This is a round rope.  These beads are not uniform in size, so the edges are a bit bumpy.  Personally, I like this texture and I love the multiple shades.  And there's no squishiness!
       
       
Once I had completed the first bracelet successfully, I decided to make another bracelet. This time, the beads are very uniform in size, but I used two different colors.  I also chose a pattern that made a spiral of the colors.  The spiral is a little difficult to see because there isn't a lot of contrast between the two colors.  The darker color is very close to the new Pantene Color of the Year for 2014, Radiant Orchid.  It's yummy.
In the center-left are three of the lighter, very transparent beads.  You almost can't see them.  Just to the right of them are three of the darker beads.   The thread I used was a metallic, light purple, which really lit up those transparent beads from the inside.  I tried several different clasps before I settled on a magnetic clasp with a safety chain because I gave the bracelet to a friend who's in her 80's.  I didn't want it to be hard for her to fasten.
       
       
I really enjoy this beading technique, which has many variations, some of which are quite complex.  This should keep me busy for a long while!
     
     


© Copyright 2014 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.











Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday America

Happy Birthday, America.  May all your citizens understand and value the Declaration of Independence, signed by our founders many years ago on this day and the freedoms that those founders won for us.

May we also understand and value our Constitution and its Bill of Rights--and never give up those Rights for any reason.

May God Bless the troops who have fought for our freedom over these many generations, especially those who are currently deployed.

One more thing--please pray for and help the families of those 19 Arizona firefighters who gave their their lives to protect the lives and property of their neighbors.  Please read the blog of my friend, Bonnie, who lives in Arizona, near the fire, which is still raging:   http://bleekreations.blogspot.com/2013/07/happy-birthday-america.html