The year…2011. I had no idea when I took a weekend class with Brenda Schweder, I would get so hooked on working with steel wire. We used basic tools and got resourceful with everyday items to form shapes with the humble wire of steel. I loved how you could just play and not worry about wasting expensive wire. Steel wire is readily available, economical and easy to work with (that is, after you get past the cleaning it up part).
Fast forward a couple of years, Brenda creates the Now That’s a Jig (NTaJ) with threaded parts so everything stays put on the grid. It can handle steel wire and works really well for non-ferrous (silver, copper, brass) wires. After the investment of the jig starter kit, you can add all kinds of pegs and shapes to create endless configurations of wire. I’ve had my NTaj for a while and never realized all the potential it had. Now with the help of Brenda’s live Facebook videos, I’m getting the jig out of the box and experimenting with shapes.
Inspiration for my latest project came from a studio visit Brenda did with Maike van Wijk. Maike works with steel wire and attaches pretty papers with hot wax. A long forgotten bottle of Diamond Glaze seemed like a neat way to get a resin-like finish and was a good alternative to using hot wax to attach paper to steel wire. Diamond Glaze also works as an adhesive and can be watered down to make a thin glaze applied with a brush to protect the pretty papers. Why have I not been using this stuff more? It didn’t take more than a couple of tries to get a good result. This is super simple and worth a try for anyone, even a beginner. The worst thing that can happen is if it doesn’t work out you lose a little paper and glaze.
Making paper choices might just be the hardest part. You can use almost anything. Beware of thin paper, it will get wavy when you add the water-based glaze over it. Small shapes work best with thin, older papers. Scrapbooking papers are nice because they are on heavier stock and can handle the glaze in bigger shapes.
I add a little glaze to the outline of the shape as an adhesive. Attach it to the paper of choice and fill it in with more glaze. A little tip, when you squeeze the bottle do it over a gluing mat or some other surface you don’t care about. You’ll notice a little bubble comes out first and you don’t want that floating around on top of your piece. If you get a bubble, use a toothpick or straight pin to move it off the surface. Use just enough glaze to cover the surface; easier to add glaze than to try and remove it.
Ok, maybe THIS is the hardest part. Let it dry. Don’t touch it unless your finger print is an integral part of the design. It’s going to be ready in a few hours. Best to walk away and start another project, walk the dog, do the dishes or catch up on some daytime tv.
Cut the excess paper away from the shape. I like using a small appliqué scissors to cut the paper away from the wire shape. Depending on how you’re going to use your little piece, you can add even more fancy paper to the back to finish it off. Maybe the back of your paper looks good enough, it’s all up to you. After everything is totally dry, add loops to the top for hanging.
I’m fond of making earrings lately so I need to give a shout out to Judy Menting and her inspiration and Facebook live videos for helping me add to my ear wire skills. Her Dancing Tea Cup Alphabet is pretty neat too. She has live videos on Facebook daily if you want to get creative with swirly bits of wire.
Your turn to go be a handufacturer! Try something new, make a mess and have fun. I leave you with the links to my wire wrangling friends that have been so generous with their time and talents…
I’ve been waiting for one of those aha moments to create an incredibly clever blog post that will amaze and entertain. I’ll lower those standards a bit and just pass along some great information on working with shibori silk.
When I teach, I like to bring along some of my pieces to help inspire and provide some great visuals of alternate techniques. One of the most popular pieces is the shibori cuff. You can’t beat the array of color on each piece silk and the slightly intimidating options it presents when it comes to picking bead colors. To help answer a few questions and hopefully get you fellow beaders started, I’ll pass along a few tips for working with shibori silk.
Start your shibori project with a piece of non-woven material. Lacy’s Stiff Stuff or Pellon 70 (stitchable interfacing) are the usual choices for this. Either option can be dyed or colored to tone down the bright white color of the material. Check out my blog on dying non-woven material (https://toogoodtobeadtrue.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/im-dyeing-to-try-this/).
Silk is incredibly versatile. You can twist, tie, and bunch it up to add interest. When working with it, take care not to snag it. Once you decide how you want the silk to lay, tack it down with small stitches along the edges of the silk. Even though the stitches will eventually get covered with beads, it still helps to keep them small.
You can easily add a focal piece on top of the silk and create a beaded bezel. Instead of using glue to secure the focal piece, I use a strong double-sided tape to hold it in place as I stitch around it. You can also skip the focal and simply add rows of beads along the edges of shibori and in the creases.
Finish off your embroidered piece as you would another other, add ultra-suede to the back, stitch the beaded edge and add a clasp. Skip on over to my Quick Tips page for a little help with the edging stitch.The most intriguing thing about shibori is the color; it can vary from piece to piece and can present lots of options when it comes to picking complimentary beads. Let the fabric do the talking, maybe stick with one color and vary the bead finishes, sizes and tones. If you’re feeling adventurous, add that second surprise color and see what happens.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take a class to learn this technique. Check out your local bead shops and maybe a bead show to see what kind of class offerings there are. In the meantime, start experimenting and see what happens.
Do something everyday that can’t be undone.
– The Mother’s Almanac
It’s done! The epic Genie’s New Hangout handbag is complete. If anyone is wondering, I stopped counting the hours of beading after I hit 100. There is also more than 400 yards of thread or Fireline in this project and I can’t imagine the number of beads. For my non-beading friends that have been following this project, the beads are all sewn on two or three at a time. Occasionally, I use a little glue or double-sided tape to hold something in position while I bead around it.
In case any of my beading friends want to give this project a try, the partial and complete Genie’s New Hangout kits are available at Artfire.com in Ann Benson’s shop.
I don’t do too many kit projects anymore but it’s hard to resist when something this detailed comes along and I get the opportunity to learn something new. I learned plenty with this one and thankfully, I’m comfortable enough with my skills to have made little changes along the way.
The part that presented the most challenges was the lid; working with the materials I had on hand required some adjustments. I confirmed that I really dislike thread, ok…I really hate it! Fireline might be overkill in a project this size but I find it easier to work with. The “knot gremlins” had a great time when I had to use thread; it got all twisty and shredded even after it was waxed. Try 4 lb. Smoke Fireline and get yourself about 400-500 yards of the stuff.
Since I relied on my collection of beads, I ended up using a color-lined size 15 seed beads on the raised part of the lid. Yuck! They are going to the back of the drawer. I moved on to a size 12 Tulip needle and still broke a fair amount of the little glass beads because the holes weren’t consistent. I ended up starting the raised part of the lid over with different beads. I was happier and there was peace in the world again.
Now life moves on. I have a pile of other projects to finish but I’m still working out plans for another bag. I’ll do something small first that doesn’t take two months of my time.
The purse project continues. I finished the front/back and side panels of the Genie’s Hideout Handbag. I’m kind of sad they’re done because I seriously enjoyed stitching away and seeing how far I can get in a day. Now I’m moving on to the last piece at the top called the lid or what is to be the handle and snap closure.
The lid parts are presenting a few beading challenges. I’m not very good at following written instructions; I am truly a visual learner and need lots of pictures. There are some tricky bead moves around a 12 mm glass pearl…decreases! Ugh! Plain and simple, I stink at decreases of this magnitude. The first attempt went wrong, the second looks good. The instructions call for Toho brand beads but they worked up big and clunky. I switched to the Miyuki brand beads, added a couple of extra rows and got a nice finished product. Lesson learned…while instructions are great, let experience be your guide and make changes if you don’t get the result you’re looking for. In this case, the switch isn’t going to have an impact on any other part of the project.
I mentioned when I started this project, I want to make another purse. My trip to the Bead & Button Show this year was a shopping success. I was able to put together a nice collection of focal pieces and seed beads.
It’s pretty clear by the picture, I probably won’t be making just another purse. My favorite find? The large vintage crystal cabochons from a favorite vendor, Sandy Schor from Fort Worth, Texas. I spent quite awhile sorting through boxes of nicely organized pouches of cabochons once produced for costume jewelry. It’s fun to imagine what original pieces of jewelry held these lovely crystals. Cocktail party anyone, a night at the opera or just a classy trip to the grocery store?
Do it right the first time…
This project is full of detail. I’m really enjoying it and I still want to make another one. I’ll share my recent “finds” for the next bag in a future blog. I’ve had to change a few things to accommodate the pieces that I had on hand, but I don’t want it to look exactly like the original.
When it comes to working on larger projects like this, there are a couple of tips that will come in handy for your next embroidery project.
- Start at the center or around a large focal piece and work your way outward. Add your other focals as you go. This will help you avoid awkward little spaces.
- Don’t crowd your beads. They should lay flat so the rows are smooth.
- Rows of matte beads next to shiny beads look great and keep a piece from becoming too over-the-top blingy.
Now go get that kit you bought years ago and get busy. Don’t forget to do a good job the first time, sit up straight, and call your mother.