Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Needles - The seed beaders tool

As a seed beader, Needles and Thread are the foundation of my work. I use the needles to weave the thread through the beads to form an intricate fabric of glass and thread. So for me, my needles and thread are my main tools for my beadwork, and I like to use the best quality tools and I like to find them for a good price.

When I first started beading, I chose a variety of needles to try out...John James, Lance, Beadsmith, Pony and even some Big Eye needles all in various sizes and lengths.

After working with all of them, my favorites are Pony Beading Needles in size 12. They come in a pack of 25 for less than $2...which is by far the best value out of those I sampled.

I found that the Pony needles are easier to thread than the others, they bend at about the same rate as the others, and I have never broken one whereas the Lance needles broke on me several times. So they work slightly better than John James, but for less than half the price and they are much better than Lance which are about the same price.

I stock up on them whenever I find a good sale, so I have quite a stash of size 12 Pony needles as well as a few packs of size 10, 11, 13 and 15 plus some Sharps in size 12.

I have found that size 12 needles are ideal for working with size 11/0 and 15/0 seed beads, which is what I use for almost the occasional size 8/0.

However, as with all the size 12 needles that I tried, because they are thin enough to fit through a size 15/0 seed bead numerous times, they do get bent out of shape with light use. So I tend to use several needles to finish one project...and if it's a big project, this could easily be close to 10 needles!

I always like to start a new project with a perfectly new, straight needle. But I do keep an empty seed bead tube full of used and bent needles, but I have no idea how many I have gone through since I began beading! And because of this, I have no idea whether this great price is really cost effective or not.

Below is a photo of a few tubes of needles...then two size 12 Pony needles after using them for one project...then two size 11 Tulip needles after using them for many projects over the last few months.

I had been hearing so much hype about the Japanese Tulip Beading Needles and I wanted to try them out, but at nearly $5 for 4 needles I just couldn't bring myself to buy them...even knowing how many Pony needles I have used up and tossed out!

Then a few months ago I won a gift certificate to the Hole Bead Shoppe, a wonderful Bead Store (both Brick & Mortar and Online) that specializes in Lucite beads, but they also stock quite a variety of Seed Beads, Glass, Swarovski Crystal and Basic Beading Supplies. So I decided to try out a package of the Tulip Beading Needles in size 11 since you can't really find a better price than free!

Of course I was very skeptical at could anyone create a needle that would hold it's shape no matter how many times I used it? And I remained skeptical even after using the very same needle for an entire month of serious beading!

I don't know what I was waiting for before I could admit that this was an excellent tool for my needle, for an entire month of beading every day! And that needle is still straight!

I have finally admitted that I love the Tulip Beading Needles...they have some great qualities:

-they really are flexible and strong enough to get into tight spots
-they bend and curve where most needles would just break
-they go right back to being straight, where most needles stay bent
-it's like using a new needle throughout an entire project
-they are very easy to thread
-the point is rounded to avoid splitting the thread as you stitch
-the length is perfect, right around 2 inches
-they are comfortable to hold and lessen hand fatigue while beading

A few not so great qualities:

-the gold plating wears off...not really a big deal in my opinion
-the metal plating (nickel?) starts to feel a little rough after heavy usage
-they don't come in size 12

This last point is really the only major complaint that I have...they need to make these needles in size 12. They do offer them in a size 13, but they cost $14 for 2 needles! While I understand why they cost that much (they have to hand drill and gold plate the eyes of every single size 13 needle rather than have the automated machine do it), I just can't do it...yet!

Besides, in my opinion, the size 11 is a just little too thick and the size 13 is a little too thin...I want a size 12 Tulip beading needle, the perfect size for my beadwork! So while I have since purchased another package of the size 11 Tulip needles (I love to have a back up supply of everything!), I look forward to the day that they realize there is a serious demand for a size 12 Tulip needle...that doesn't cost a fortune!

Here are a few places that carry the Tulip Beading Needles:

Fusion Beads

Kandra's Beads

The Hole Bead Shoppe

Bello Modo

Whim Beads

Beyond Beadery

That's all for now...later I plan to discuss my favorite and least favorite Threads!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pretty Lacy Beadwork

I have spent the week working on a few more pieces that were inspired by the OTTBS March Color Challenge...this is really quite fun and I have finally been using up so many beads that I have in abundance! And that really is the goal of Tackling that Bead Stash isn't it?!

Here is a lacy bracelet called Frankfurter. Design by Sabine Lippert and Beaded by me. Metallic Gunmetal & Matte Metallic Gunmetal seed beads with Swarovski Cyclamen Opal Bicones and Czech Gunmetal Druks for the beaded loop clasp.

And here is another lacy bracelet that I started last week and finished in time for this week's reveal. This one is called Edwardian Splendor. Design by Cynthia Newcomer Daniel and Beaded by me. Metallic Antique Silver and Matte Metallic Pewter seed beads with Purple Luster Czech Fire Polish beads.

The second photo shows this one with the clasp. I used a design by Mikki Ferrugiaro for a Beaded Medallion with a little metal snap sewn on the bottom...I am still working on the other half of this snap clasp!

I also received my eBay package of craft mirrors so I finally finished the Urchin Wings Peacock Pendant. The bezel around the mirror was the easy part! Attaching this to the back side of the Urchin Wings Pendant was a little tricky, but definitely not impossible!

Here is a photo of the mirror side...taken so you can see the reflection of my other hand on the camera:

For anyone else working on this, I have one little bit of advice that worked wonders for me. When you get to the point where you can no longer bend the "Wings" away from the Mirror and easily maneuver in those spaces, it becomes almost impossible to get your needle into the right beads in the Mirror you might be tempted to just go through a different bead in the bezel.

I tried this and it just didn't sit you could almost see the thread (well, I could see the thread) and it didn't feel as secure. So, I un-threaded my needle, then with the eye end of a short Sharp needle, I went backwards through that bead (the one in the RAW part of the bezel) and then threaded the needle again and pulled the thread through! Works like a charm!

I do this often...basically any time where I am working with a really short thread, or in any area where needle movement is know, those spaces where you can't even work with an old, bent-to-an S shaped needle! And using the shorter, Sharp needle is especially helpful in tight spots because they tend to be more rigid than my usual size 12 Pony beading needles!

I finally used up my latest gift certificate from Mikki Ferrugiaro and I think I used it well! I purchased 4 new Tutorials including her latest, Pineapple Lace and I got a set of the Rubberized Beads to use with different Beaded Bezel techniques.

All of the Tutorials are extremely versatile, as always! I am currently using one of the Medallions from the Bracelet Tutorial as a clasp, as seen above.

And the Pineapple's absolutely gorgeous! I am working on a Choker in Bronze...but I am not at a point where I am taking photos those will come later!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Urchin Wings & a Work in Progress

I have finished attaching all the components for my Urchin Wings Peacock Pendant except for the mirror! I ordered a pack of 2 inch craft mirrors on eBay so when that arrives all I have to do is bead a bezel around one and attach it to the back of this pendant!

Of course the colors I used are very hard to photograph...or maybe I just don't have the greatest photography skills yet! I really only studied Black and White Photography in High School, which was over 20 years ago.

I did build myself a little Light Box for photographing my beadwork but the only light I have that I can use for this is my Ott light...or natural daylight, which I always seem to miss! One of these days I think I will try to find some better lights for my Photo Box!

Here is my almost complete Urchin Wings Peacock Pendant. Designed by Mikki Ferrugiaro, Beaded by me.

The photos are almost identical but they each have different lighting tones...just trying to get the colors to come through while playing around with my lighting and photography!

I am also working on a few other little pieces in the Purple & Grey color theme for the March Color Challenge at Operation Tackle That Bead Stash.

One piece I am working on today is a dainty little bracelet designed by Cynthia Newcomer Daniel called Edwardian Splendor. I am also using softer tones of both colors: Metallic Antique Silver seed beads, Matte Metallic Pewter seed beads and Purple Luster 3mm Fire Polish beads. Here is a WIP photo:

That's all for now...I am trying to get this piece done so I can post my photos for the challenge in time for the Monday blog post...and they are in the UK so Monday morning comes a little earlier over there!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Purple & Grey

This week I have been working on an Urchin Wings Peacock Mirror Compact by Mikki Ferrugiaro. I am using Dark Purple, Amethyst and Gunmetal as my color palette in hopes of entering this piece in the Operation Tackle that Bead Stash March Challenge.

The March Challenge colors are Purple and Grey, which is a longtime favorite of mine but one that I have not used in my beading until now! And of course I have 3 sizes of seed beads plus Triangles and Cubes in both of these colors so this project is very appropriate for Operation Tackle that Bead Stash!

I am using round seed beads in Toho #90 Metallic Dark Purple, Toho #611 Matte Metallic Gunmetal, Miyuki #451 Metallic Gunmetal, Miyuki size 11/0 Delicas in #306 Matte Metallic Gunmetal, 3mm Gunmetal Fire Polish rounds, 3.4mm Gunmetal Fringe beads and Amethyst Rivolis.

It's a very dark and slightly subtle color palette but it works great together. And I really love that Toho's a beautiful dark metallic purple (that does not photograph well at all)

So far I stitched all of the components and have just started attaching the wings to the center Rivoli. It's going very smoothly but I am sure there will be some tricky needle maneuvers when I have to attach that last wing...

Here is a photo of my WIP (photo was taken with my iPhone for quick results, but with quick results, you often sacrifice photo quality...)

I am hoping to finish this piece today as I have several other projects in progress on my bead trays that I look forward to working on and of course many more that I can't wait to start...It seems that the more projects I have in progress, the more I am inspired to start even more projects!

And that always leads to more bead shopping...and I am really trying to use beads from my stash rather than buy more at this point. Being unemployed and in the process of moving 650 miles away is not really a great time to be bead shopping! Luckily I have quite a stash to work from but the temptation to buy beads is always there...

So even though I am down on my luck with fiances, I have been experiencing some luck in winning blog hops lately. It all started when I won a $25 Gift Certificate from The Hole Bead Shoppe's Facebook & Blog hop contest...then I won a Dream Vessel Ring tutorial from Marcia DeCoster's 'Share the Love' blog hop, then a $25 GC followed by a $50 Gift Certificate from Mikki Ferrugiaro's The Beaded Carpet blog giveaway!

So while I am unemployed, at least I can keep myself busy (and distracted from depression) with all the awesome tutorials I have been able to purchase with these winnings! I am looking forward to Mikki's release of her newest Pineapple Lace tutorial...I really love the idea of Beaded Lace and her designs are truly inspired!

And maybe my luck will hold and I could win the awesome stash of Seed Beads being offered by RB Beads in the UK as the prize for the OTTBS March Challenge! Crossing my fingers and toes for this one!

And becaue these earrings fit into the Purple and Grey color palette, here is a pair of earrings (ok, just one of the earrings) that I made for an earring swap on Beading Daily. The pattern is "Deco Lotus Earrings" by Gwen Fisher from Beadwork Magazine issue Oct/Nov 2009.

I used Antique Silver seed beads, Crystal Silver Night Bicones and Amethyst CZ Teardrops. I am really loving the Antique Silver color lately...both Miyuki (#464A) & Toho (#711) have this color and it really does look like tarnished Sterling Silver. They are not metal beads though...regular glass seed beads with a metallic nickel silver finish.

I think I just might continue playing with this palette...I have several other variations of the Purple & Grey palette that woud be excellent together...and the more pieces I make, the more chances I have to win that awesome prize, right? Oooh, I just need more beads...Haha!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Beading Babes Project #3 Reveal

Well, I have been looking forward to this reveal for awhile now...I am excited to see everyone's projects, especially all the wonderful color ways everyone has chosen! It has certainly been a great experience working with so many beaders from across the globe...helping each other through some obstacles and deciphering the instructions and finding all the little things that may not have been addressed in the magazine tutorials.

I worked on both projects this month, but in the end, I really didn't like the Runway of Pearls so I took it apart to salvage my embellishment beads. I still have the RAW base of matte black size 11/0 triangle beads...maybe I will do something else with that in the future, but for now it sits in a plastic baggie in my box of samples!

But here are a few photos of my Ravishing Rosettes necklace. This is a design by Smadar Grossman beaded by me. I used 8mm Black Czech Druks, size 8/0 & 11/0 seed beads in Matte Black and Gunmetal, and Black 3mm Czech Fire Polish rounds.

Black is a hard color to photograph and my photos are either too bright or too dark, but the Matte Black beads in there help to show some of the variation in color tones so at least you can see it! I really love this necklace, much more than I thought I would...I may even do a few more in other color ways!

I look forward to the full Beading Babes reveal on the Releases by Rufydoof blog sometime later today....she is in Australia so I have no idea what time it is there or even what day it could already be Monday for all I know! And I hope I am doing this correctly Karyn!