Friday, December 2, 2011

Quick holiday ear-blings for parties & gifts

Now that we're officially in the month of December, it's a great time to panic about what you're wearing to the flurry of holiday parties, and what your gift options are. Here's a pair of earrings made using right angle weave (RAW), which is quick, sturdy and open to endless variations. Make some for yourself. Make some for your loved ones. This is a multi-purpose recipe.

First I'm giving the directions for the basic pair (the gold crystal earrings on the left hand side of the picture), then I'll describe some of the variations I've tried.

You'll need:
  • 8 8mm crystal bicones or rounds
  • 6 6mm crystal bicones or rounds
  • 6 4mm crystal bicones or rounds
  • a few size 11/0 or 15/0 seed beads/Delicas in a complementary color
  • beading needle and 6lb Fireline

Thread about one and a half wingspans of Fireline onto your needle, and position the needle in the center of the thread (you don't need to knot it). Throughout your weaving, try to maintain firm tension on the thread -- this helps support the structure of the earring - but be careful about it. The crystals have sharp edges and if you just haul on the line you'll break your thread, which is a real pain when you're beadweaving with a doubled thread.

String (1 8mm crystal, 1 seed bead) 4 times for a total of 8 beads on your thread. Move them down to about 3 inches from the ends of the thread, and tie a knot so the beads form a circle. Pass the needle all the way around all 8 beads again to reinforce the weaving, and finish this section by pulling the needle and all the thread through one of the bicones. DO NOT pass through a seed bead as you finish.

Now string (1 seed bead, 1 6mm crystal) three times, and add an extra seed bead at the end, for a total of 7 new beads. This picture shows the needle pointing at the spot you'll weave through.

Weave through the "top" 8mm bead and all 7 beads you've just added, and then bring your needle through enough of the new beads that it ends up at the top of the earring.

If your earring feels a little loose, you can go back around the "circle" formed by t he 3 6mm beads and the top 8mm bead.

Repeat the last step using your 4mm crystals in place of the 6mm ones.

Finally, add a loop for your earwire. String 7 or so seed beads onto your thread, and then pass back through the top 4mm bead. Weave around the loop one or two more times to strengthen the loop. Then weave back down, knot your Fireline and trim the ends.

Add the ear wire of your choice. Make another earring and you're finished. After you've made a pair or two, you'll be able to finish them in about a half hour barring interruptions.

  • Mix round and bicone crystals for a slightly different look.
  • Add extra "tiers" to the earrings to up the bling content. The pair of earrings on the right hand side of the top picture starts with 8mm black diamond tin cut crystals, then goes through 6mm and 4mm tiers, then into 8/0 and 11/0 seed beads for more taper at the top. If you're going for this look, don't use the same size of beads twice in a row - it disrupts the proportions of the earring.
  • Turn it upside down - add your loop for the earwire to the largest beads on your earring so the beads get smaller as they go.
  • Use different types of beads. Nearly anything will work for this basic design, as long as the beads are about the same size length and width. Unfortunately, that doesn't include those dazzling Chinese rondelles. Fire polished smooth or faceted rounds, gemstone beads, metal, anything is fair game.

I hope this gives you lots of inspiration - happy holidays - Tina

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The wonderful world of crimp beads

If you're working with Beadalon (or other beading wire) then crimp beads are an important part of your jewelry making adventure. Crimp beads are small, cylindrical beads whose purpose in life is to get squished between the two jaws of a pair of pliers, in order to hold the ends of your Beadalon -- which is supporting your fabulous design -- around the clasp you've picked out. [They have a few less obvious uses we'll explore in later blog posts.] Nomadic Notions carries base metal crimps, as shown in this photo, in 4 finishes: black, brass, silver-tone and gold-tone.

We also carry sterling silver and gold-plated (vermeil) crimps, shown here.

How do you decide which to use?

Money is the obvious difference - base metal crimps are $5 per gram (I don't have the exact number but one gram is a lot of crimp beads!); sterling and vermeil crimps cost $0.25 for two, unless you buy them in bulk packages. With the price of precious metals on what seems like an endless climb, base metal is more cost-effective, especially if you're just starting out. Over time, the layer of color on the base metal crimps will wear off, and they may break more easily than the more expensive types.

If you're making jewelry for gifts, or to sell, you'll probably want to go for the more expensive precious metal crimp beads; they look better and will maintain their strength and looks longer than base metal.

Once you've made that decision, the next question is invariably "Will that little thing really go around two pieces of my beading wire?" Our base metal crimp beads are 2mmx1mm on the outside -- that's 2mm across the "hole", and 1mm "long." Our precious metal crimps are 2mmx2mm on the outside.

But it's the inner diameter -- the amount of room inside the little tube -- that determines whether or not the bead will work with your Beadalon. All of our crimp beads, base or precious metal, have an inner diameter of 1.3mm. So the maximum diameter of beading wire that will fit through our crimp beads twice is 0.65mm, and you probably want to stay below that to avoid the crimp bead damaging the wire when you put it on.

Beading wire comes in a wide variety of gauges, but they're all labelled with the diameter in inches, which is how we refer to them: 0.015", 0.018", and 0.024" (or "15", "18" and "24" if we're talking and not writing). In the metric system, that's 0.38mm, 0.46mm and 0.61mm.

So the light and medium Beadalon is definitely safe. If I am doing a project with 0.024" Beadalon, I'll test the crimp beads before I start putting things together to see if I'm comfortable with the fit.

What if I don't know the weight of the beading wire I'm using? I'll usually compare what I've got (wherever it came from, usually a repair) to the open spools of Beadalon in my stash at home, or behind the counter at work. When you're at Nomadic Notions, we'll help you make the comparison to be sure you've got beading wire and crimp beads that will play happily together.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Halloween Inspiration: Skeleton Earrings!

With Halloween less than two weeks away, here's a little inspiration for you: skeleton earrings! We've got oodles of various skull beads at the store, and for these little guys, I used a pair of white bone skull beads, along with an assortment of other bone beads for the body parts. The rest was just wire and simple loops. Here's a quick breakdown of the supplies:

  • 2 bone skull beads
  • 8 cylindrical bone beads
  • 2 textured bone beads (ribcage)
  • 8 flat disc bone beads (on either side of head & ribcage)
  • 20G wire
  • pair of ear-wires

And that's it! They're sure to be eye-catching adornments for Halloween parties, or just wear 'em to the office if you don't plan to dress up. Of course, dressing up is a lot more FUN! And remember, if you come to the store in costume on Halloween Day (Monday, October 31), we'll give you a 20% discount off your purchase!

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Class Schedule!

In case you haven't heard it via e-mail or Facebook yet, our new class schedule for the months of November, December, and January is now online! You can check it out on our website: Class sign-ups begin on Saturday, October 15, so be sure to either drop by the store, or give us a call at 512-454-0001. Our teachers have been hard at work, and have lots of new goodies in store for you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beady Spiders!

I don't know about anyone else, but Halloween is one of my favorite holidays -- maybe because it lets me feel like a kid again. After all, you get to dress up, carve a pumpkin, eat lots of candy, huddle under the covers watching your favorite scary movie... what's not to love? So, in honor of the upcoming holiday (which isn't all that far away!) here's a quick little craft project: beady spiders!

You will need:

  • 20G craft wire (we still have plenty of the ColourCraft wire, on sale at 30% off!)
  • 2 beads, 1 large, 1 smaller (these can be round, rondelle, even teardrop, though they should be center-drilled) I tried to stay in the 6-12mm range
  • round-nose pliers
  • needle-nose pliers
  • cutters
  • ruler

You will also need to know how to make a basic loop and a bound loop. Many of our classes teach this technique, such as "Let's Make Earrings," "Beginning Jewelry Assembly," "Intro to Wire-Wrapping," "Link to Link," and plenty more! Check out our class schedule online:

Finally, click here to view and/or download the one-page tutorial on how to make your own Beady Spiders! You will need to have Adobe Reader.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Flowers Cluster Earrings

Here's a little inspiration for September. Maybe if we all start thinking of autumn enough, and making earrings to commemorate the season, the weather will take note and cool down! It's worth a shot, right?

Well, these earrings are super easy, and great little accessories for fall. I used little burgundy-colored flower drop beads, as well as some gorgeous amber-hued glass leaves, then wire-wrapped them on tarnish-resistant copper craft wire and attached them to a short length of chain. Pop some ear-wires on, and voila -- you're good to go!

We've got a range of these glass flower-and-leaf beads -- they're all on the glass wall toward the back of the store. Check 'em out next time you're in, and make your own "Fall Flowers Cluster Earrings!"


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creating Patinas

Hey wire workers! Oxidizing silver and gold is a great way to give your pieces a vintage look. But if you want to try out a new look, you can create a beautiful blue patina on brass and copper using regular household items!

Supplies needed
  • Cheap, non-clumping kitty litter. The kind that is just little chunks of clay.
  • Ammonia
  • Table salt
  • Sacrificial plastic food container with lid (trust me, you'll never want to eat from it again)

To start, put a layer of kitty litter in the food container. Carefully pour the ammonia over the litter. You want it to be wet, but not soaked. I poured it into the cap of the ammonia bottle, and then poured it over the litter to give me control.

Once you have the base layer of litter, figure out where you want to place your copper and brass pieces. Sprinkle a bit of salt in that spot, and place your piece face down. Then sprinkle a bit more salt on the side that is facing up. Be careful with the salt, though. Using too much will pit the metal!

Next, spread another layer of kitty litter over your pieces. Just enough to cover them. Repeat the step with the ammonia on the dry kitty litter. Seal the container, and leave it in a cool, dry place for about 2 days. Make sure that it is in a place where it won't get knocked around!

The litter/ammonia process might take several tries to get the desired level of patina on your piece. Just keep checking every couple of days, and replace the litter and ammonia each time. You can also scrub them with steel wool if you want to remove some of the patina after it forms.

Once you achieve the desired level of patina, you need to seal it. I used microcrystalline wax, specifically Renaissance Wax. You can also use car wax, since it's intended for metal. Be aware that the wax may darken your patina, so use it sparingly! You may also need to reapply the wax over time.

Copper and brass are wonderful, inexpensive options to gold and silver. Nomadic Notions sells copper and brass forms (pictured above) that work beautifully with this technique. We also carry copper and brass wire which can be used to create your own original shapes! Here are some examples that I've done.

Friday, August 19, 2011

$10 Earring Class!

Just to make sure we're covering all the bases, I'll post here as well: Nomadic Notions has partnered with Groupon to offer our popular "Let's Make Earrings" class at half the regular price: only $10 for a $20 class!

Here's the specific link for the deal, which will only last 48 hours:

Don't miss out on this chance to start your new beading addiction!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Precious Pinwheel Tutorial

Here's a quick little project if you're looking for something simple. You'll need to know how to make a basic loop, and how to open jump rings -- that's it! You will also need the following materials:
  • 1 large base-metal ring (34mm, or 1.5” in diameter -- we sell them at the store)
  • 9 6mm bicone beads (preferably Swarovski crystals)
  • 2 6mm 18G jump rings
  • 9 4mm 18G jump rings
  • 2 pairs of bent-nose OR needle-nose pliers (flat on the inside) (Bent-nose are preferable for gripping jump rings)
  • 1 pair of cutters
  • 1 round-nose plier (cone-shaped arms)
  • Ear-wire, chain, bail, etc – depending on whether you're making earrings or a pendant (double the quantities if you're making earrings)
Using these materials, and following the step-by-step instructions in the 4-page handout (available to read/download by clicking here), you can make this:

Have fun!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekly Inspiration: Lapis & Copper Pyramid Earrings

I've seen this project in various wire books, and it's pretty simple to do -- the addition of the little semi-precious chips was my own idea. You'll need to know how to make a basic loop with wire to do this project, and it helps if you've used a jig before. You will need:

20 gauge copper wire (we're having a sale of the ColourCraft wire at the store: 30% off!)
Semi-precious chip beads (I used lapis lazuli for these)
22 gauge copper wire (for the chips)
Round-nose pliers (for making loops)
Needle-nose pliers (for everything else)
Cutters (for cutting wire)
Jig (optional)

You can do the wire loop-de-loos freehand, which is a little more challenging, or with a jig (we sell them for $20 -- 20% off with a class discount!). With the jig, you'll just line up a series of pegs in a row and loop your 20G wire around them. How many is up to you: on this example, the bottom row had 7 loops, and they ended up being about 3.75" long (real shoulder-dusters!).

I then prepared a bunch of little lapis chips, using 22G wire this time (slightly thinner to fit through the holes on the chips). I just made basic loops so it was easy to attach them to the loop-de-loos.

Once you've got your 2 sets of loop-de-loos, complete with dangling lapis chips, you'll just make little figure-8s (again, with the 20G wire) to connect them. Mine got a little bigger toward the bottom of the pyramid, to accommodate the lapis chips (see the side-view, below).

Then just attach ear-wires to the top, and voila! You have exotic, dangly, pyramid-style earrings, fit for an Egyptian queen!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let's Make Clasps!

Here's a new blog of the week: how to make clasps! That's right, using 20G wire (or thicker) you can make your own shepherd's hook clasp, and save money on store-bought findings! I've included a link to a .PDF at the end which you can print out -- it will show you 2 more clasp-patterns.

First, you want to start with some 20G (or thicker) wire -- cut about 6 inches. It's best to work-harden it first -- you do this by beating on the wire with a rawhide mallet. This will help stiffen the wire so it's less likely to bend out of shape. The rawhide mallet is soft enough, however, that it won't bend the wire out of shape (although it may leave occasional scuff-marks on craft wire, which is copper wire with a color coating -- the softest of wires). Sterling silver and gold-filled wire, however, should be tough enough to withstand any scuffing.

Once your wire is work-hardened, you'll want to grasp the very tip with your round-nose pliers -- so much so that you should not be able to feel the wire if you run your thumb across the arms of the pliers.

Gripping your pliers firmly, make a small loop at the end of the wire by rolling your pliers over, until the tip of the wire touches the stem of the wire. The end result is a small loop -- as small as you can make it, like the image below:

Once you have your teeny-tiny loop, you'll want to use the round-nose pliers to grip the wire below that loop (just barely -- too far below and your clasp won't be very effective), with the loop facing the opposite direction of where you're going to make this second bend.

Gripping firmly, again, roll your pliers over, but not all the way -- you're just putting another curve in your wire, to create a shepherd's hook. When you remove your round-nose pliers, the end result should look something like this:

Cut off the excess wire (as shown in the image above -- remember to always have the "flat" side of your cutters facing your work, to result in a nice, flush, even cut), though you'll want to leave enough room to make another loop.

Then, once again, you're going to grip the bottom end of the clasp, a the very very tip of the wire, just like you did at the beginning. You'll want this loop to face the opposite direction of the hook; in other words, if the hook is facing right, you want this little loop at the bottom to face left.

Gripping firmly with your pliers, again, roll them over, holding tightly to the tip of the wire, until the wires touch. You have just created your final loop, and the end result should look something like the image below:

You can squeeze the opening of the hook together to make the clasp more secure, and then all you have to do is pop it on the end of your piece of jewelry; you can use a large jump ring for the other end, or create a figure-8 (the "eye" for your hook-and-eye clasp) -- directions are included in the .PDF we've linked to. The handout also includes 2 other styles of clasps. Just download and print out the tutorial and you can become a clasp-making wizard!

Click here for the .PDF tutorial (you'll need Adobe Reader to view it). Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Make Jump Rings

We've been doing a number of chain mail classes lately (with a new one coming up this Wednesday, July 27, called Mermaid's Tail Earrings), so we figured we'd add a quickie tutorial on how to make jump rings.

First, you'll want to select your coiling tool, which could be a knitting needle, screwdriver, pen, etc. You can get an idea of how big your jump rings will be by measuring the diameter of your coiling tool with a caliper. I'm opting for a knitting needle about 6mm in diameter, which will result in jump rings about that size (the inner diameter will be about 6mm, while the outer will be slightly bigger).

Select a decent gauge of wire (20G or thicker) and start by coiling your wire around your tool. Try to keep your coils nice and tight. Keep coiling until you have about an inch or so of coiled wire. When you're done, just slide your coil off of your tool (a metal tool works best – the coil slides off more easily than on wood, where it can stick if you've coiled too tightly).

Next, you'll use a pair of flush-cutters to begin snipping your jump rings. You always want to keep the flat side of the flush-cutters facing your work, so you'll need to keep flipping the flush-cutters over as you cut, and snipping off the very tip of your wire from the previous cut.

Notice how the cutters are flipped in the next image? Each time you cut, you'll want to flip your cutters so the flat side is facing the jump ring. This is to make sure the cut ends of the jump ring are as even as possible.

However, you may want to file the ends of your jump rings, as this helps to make sure they're as flush as possible – ideally, you want the ends to fit snugly together. But you've just made your first batch of jump rings!

You can find a full tutorial of this process by downloading this .PDF -- it also includes the sawing technique for cutting jump rings. Enjoy!