Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wire weaving: "checkerboard" weave

Checkerboard Weave! This is my favorite weave. It is a simple weave that helps build skill and control with the wire. It can be used may ways in design and handles curves well, since there are spaces between the wrapped sections.
* Step 1: Select wires of two different gauges. One heavier gauge wire, which will be for your two base wires, and a thinner gauge wire to do the weave with. Here, I have used 21 gauge square copper wire for the two base wires, and 24 gauge black enameled copper wire to weave with.
* Step 2: Begin by wrapping your the wire you are weaving with around the base wire four times. You will notice I started with the left base wire and wrapped the weave wire in a clockwise fashion. Sometimes it is easiest to set aside the second wire while you do this very first wrap. Then when your are ready to start the first wrap on the second wire, you can add that wire between your fingers. As I mentioned in the previous post, you may choose to hold the wires together with a little piece of painter's tape here at the beginning to stabilize the wires so they don't move around in your hand.
*Step 3: You are ready to add the second base wire. Run your weave wire through the middle, and the back around the outside.
* Step 4: Every fourth wrap will be like a figure 8 between the wires. You will do three complete wraps on each side, and on the fourth wrap, you will cross to the other side. As you are doing this, make sure each time you cross to the other wire, that the distance between the wires remains parallel. Sometimes it is necessary to run the unwoven portion of your base wires through a pair of soft jaw pliers to straighten them again.  If your groupings if four don't seem quite even, gently squeeze them together using your half round pliers (or your fingernails, if you are lucky enough to have them).
*Step 5: Weave to your heart's content. There are many variations that can be done with this weave. Beads can be added in the open spaces as you go. Or, you may choose to do a different amount of wraps on each of the base wires. Just play and have fun!
  If you have any questions about this weave, please feel free to ask. And let me know if  I need to be more clear in my explanations. Thanks!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wire weaving 101

Because so many have asked.

*For your very first weaving, I suggest you use a very large gauge wire that will be stiff and easy to handle for your two base wires. Here I have used 10 gauge aluminum. I have chosen 24 gauge  aqua color enamel coated copper wire so you can easily see the process.

* The direction of the wire when weaving on two wires will be, from the outside, over the top, through the middle, under the back, coming back to the outside, then around the outside and over the top, through the inside and ACROSS to the back of the 2nd wire, around the outside, over the top of wire 2, through the middle, around the outside of wire 2 again, through the middle and ACROSS the back of wire 1, and so on....

* You may want to use a piece of blue painters tape to hold the two main wires in place when you first start the weaving. I always do this if I am starting a piece of weaving where the wires aren't already attached to the piece I am working on.  Once you get the weaving started, you can remove the tape.

* Starting the weaving near the ends of the wire gives you more control from the very beginning. Once you get going, you can gently pull each wire through to get the actual weaving positioned where you want it on the two main wires.

* To keep the weaving even and tidy, push each wrap down so that it is nested right next to the previous wrap. If a wrap looks kinked, crooked, or generally bad, unwrap it and straighten the wire to your best ability. Then wrap again, pushing the wire into place each time. Dealing with a mistake right when it happens is necessary, as it is nearly impossible to go back and fix it later without messing up the wires around it.

*Before I make each wrap, I pull the wire through my fingers to make a nice stiff, straight line before I cross to the other wire. This adds to the tidiness of the overall weave. If you are working in sterling. Try not to overdo it, sterling work hardens very quickly, and trying to weave with hard wire is difficult, to say the least.

* I do all my weaving exclusively with my fingers, not tools. Tools will leave marks, and marks are unattractive.

*When you go to do weaving in a piece of wire jewelry, a common combination is to use 20 gauge wire for your design, and 24 or 26 gauge wire for your binding and weaving. Or, if you are working on something fairly small, you might choose to work with 22 with 26 or 28 gauge, or 24 with 28 or 30 gauge. I would suggest using magnification for your eyes if you are working with 22 gauge or smaller for your main design wire. Particularly, if you are not using contrasting colors of wire.

I buy most of my wire locally now. But, when she is out of what I need, I purchase most of my wire from Fusion Beads. I have tested many different companies wires, and I find that the quality of theirs is outstanding. Here's the link.
Rio Grande is another great source. And if you are interested in metals of special alloys, I suggest United Precious Metals.

*** If you have any questions at all about this basic weave, please feel free to email me at

Monday, July 25, 2011

"I can't come up with a good design!" how to methodically come up with unique designs when you are stuck.

How many times have you sat in your design space feeling like you just can't come up with anything good? You have all your materials in front of you, but the ideas just aren't coming. I am going to show you a way to come up with something great and original, completely without the aid of looking at other peoples designs. You will need a couple sheets of paper, a pen or pencil, scissors, and a book or magazine with pictures.
 Step 1. Trace around your cab or focal bead onto a plain piece of paper.  Step 2. cut out the shape from the inside of the shape leaving a hole in the paper the size and shape of the stone you intend to use. This will become your view-finder and help you find your inspiration.
3. find a book or magazine and open to a page with a picture on it. It really can be any random picture. 4. Move the viewfinder around the page until you see lines and shapes that inspire you. When you have decided on a spot you really like, use painter's tape to lightly hold the view-finder in place.
5. The next thing you want to do is sketch the design and plan it. Use your cab to trace the stone shape for you sketch. Use the lines in the view-finder to inform your sketch. plan how many wires you are going to use, where you are going to bind the wires, and how you are going to keep the stone in place from the back side as well. I chose to draw them in lightly. Write any notes that will be a helpful guide in your design process. This sketch is just that...a sketch. You can modify your plan in your final piece if you like. There are no rules. The point of going through this process was to come up with something original and get you out of the creative block you were in. I modified my design in that I didn't have a rectangle Czech glass bead, so I used a round metal one. I also decided that a woven bail would be too busy for this design, so I made a normal bail. Then I added my signature, the spirals. This is a no-fail process. I never would have made this piece if I hadn't intended to write this blog article. Now I have a new design that I can expand on in other pieces. You can do this too. I would encourage everyone to try it. Happy creating!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pan Glue 101 (This falls under the category of "Eclectica")

This all began as a discussion about making Christmas wreaths. I've been a floral designer for 21 years now and thought I'd give a little primer on this product, a staple to the floral industry, pan glue. This glue comes as dry chips, as seen here and is melted in a skillet for quick and easy use when designing with silk and dried product. What makes this so superior is its holding power. Many glues, including traditional hot glue (glue gun) will become brittle and pop off in changing weather. Pan glue (in particular this Oasis brand product) can withstand a torrential downpour, snow and ice, and extreme heat, making it perfect for wreaths and other outdoor floral decorations. Having the glue melted in a skillet makes for easy use as well. Pinecones can be dipped in the glue and shoved right into a wreath. It bonds in a couple seconds, no waiting for it to be safe to let go. Stems can be cut, dipped in the glue and inserted securely and easily into grapevine or into floral foam without worry. However, of a mistake is made, you have to think fast before it has permanently bonded.. It is also wonderful to be able to take a dowel or an old unused floral stem and use like a paint brush to paint glue on the back of small blossoms or pieces of ribbon to tuck into arrangements, wreaths and garlands. I cannot imagine designing anything silk or dried without the aid of this wonderful product.

So, here is my skillet of pan glue. I bought this skillet over 20 years ago at Goodwill and have used it exclusively for my pan glue the entire time. I have only scraped the hot glue out of the skillet one time. It was necessary because I had dropped a whole sheet of moss in the skillet and the dirt from the underside of the moss degraded the glue. I have about a third of the amount of glue in my skillet that I really should have. But, you'll get the gist of it. This is what the glue looks like in the skillet after it has been melted and solidified many times, or in my case, hundreds of times. It is an opaque golden color. The color of mine is a bit darker because it is really old and really full of pollutants.
Once the glue starts to melt, you can mix around the glue with a dowel rod or an old floral stem. Don't use a spoon or a knife. The metal will conduct the heat and you will burn the hell out of your hand when you try to pick it up and use it.. You can see here that the glue is melting, but not quite ready yet. The corners are still semi hard.
Another way to tell the glue isn't hot enough is that you will create lots of "strings" or "webs" with the glue between dipping the stem in the glue and inserting in your arrangement. The glue should be about the consistency of room temperature honey, and should be completely melted. If you start to see bubbles or the glue just runs right off your stem or stir stick, you have the heat turned up too high. Turn it down and wait until the glue is the right consistency to use it. This product isn't generally harmful, unless the skillet is boiling the glue and you hold your head over the glue steam and breath in...heehee..
NEVER leave the room with the glue pot turned on. If you have to leave the room, unplug it. It's not going to cool off that fast, so you can plug it back in when you return. Once you have established a consistency you like, leave the temperature dial there and just unplug it and plug it in every time to heat it up perfectly.
Once the glue is just right, you are ready to design. Dip the bottom of your floral foam right into the glue and insert into your container. I didn't actually glue my foam in, because I use this container for fresh flowers usually. Then cut your stems with very heavy duty pliers. The stronger and sharper the pliers, the better. Keep in mind that if you are cutting through a silk stem like the ones I am using in this example, you may be cutting through six to eight 24-16 gauge steel wires all at one time. It may look like one stem, because it has been wrapped with green floral tape, or is encased in plastic. But believe me some of these stems truly take brute strength to cut through. For this one I squeezed as hard as I could while leveraging the tool against my leg. The better the cutters, the more efficient and ergonomic the situation.
Next, dip the end of the stem in the glue and use the edge of pan to scrape off any excess if it gobs on.
Insert the stem about halfway down. If you force it all the way to the bottom, and there are many more stems going into the foam, creating a hole that deep will reduce the integrity of the foam, If very many of the stems will be large and heavy, using a thicker depth of foam and reinforcing it with a cage of chicken wire will provide better structural integrity to your arrangement. I used a healthy amount of glue on these stems because they are quite large and heavy. I also inserted them a little deeper knowing that the other stem insertions going into this arrangement will be small and few. In theory, this would have been turned into a contemporary plant garden. Hence, the parallel stems... But, since I only did this to demonstrate the glue. It really isn't going to be made into anything at the moment. Happy gluing everyone! P.S. this does not work for jewelry!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to make a bead cluster pendant or earrings!

STEP 1: Gather supplies! You will need a selection of beads in multiple sizes with one (optional) larger bead, two 6mm jump rings, head pins, and chain nose pliers. You will need French hooks if you are making earrings.
STEP 2: OPTIONAL. Choose a larger bead to be an anchor in your bead cluster.
STEP 3: Decide whether you'd like to do a wrapped loop at the top of each bead, or a simple closed loop. This is really your preference. However a wrapped loop will always be more secure.
STEP 4: Stack the individual beads on headpins that you'd like to use in your bead cluster, and finish each with a loop at the top. If you are making earrings, consider the weight of the beads you are using. In the case of the pendant I am making, I used some pearls and resin beads in with the glass to make it lighter weight.
STEP 5: Stack your wrapped beads on one of the jump rings. 5-7 beads will do. See that your anchor bead is in the middle. Sometimes it is helpful to lay your beads out, since you will be loading your jump ring from one side. I hold the jump ring with my pliers while I load. It is far easier than holding between my fingers.
OPTIONAL STEP:  You may decide you'd like your cluster more free and elongated. If so, close your jump ring and add another jump ring to the main one. You will stack your remaining beads on this second jump ring, and then close.
STEP 6: If you have chosen to create a tight bead cluster, all of your beads will go on one jump ring. Keep adding beads until you can't add anymore. Be sure to add different beads next to each other adding the smallest beads last. You may want to lay out all of your beads before loading the jump ring, in order to assure that each side of the larger bead is balanced. Once you can add no more, close the jump ring.
STEP 7: While you still have your jump ring full of bead in your pliers, add a second jump ring at the top, which will serve as a bail. If you are making earrings, you do not have to add an extra jump ring before adding your French hook. The choice is yours.
STEP 8: Thread chain or a cord through your jump ring bail, and finish with a clasp!

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's been 8 months...

I know... I have been away for a long time. But now I am back! So, I thought it would be fun to do a quick recap of the last eight months so that I can feel sorta caught up! In October I made my first multi-stone piece. I also joined the local Gem and Mineral Society. In November I started learning how to cut cabochons.
And, I went on my first fossil dig.
In December, I worked feverishly to get all the custom orders done, including this giant prong-set yellow CZ. In January, I joined and Flicker group called "Ring A Week", or RAW. I figured I would force myself to learn how to make rings once a week for 52 weeks.
Throughout the winter I worked on many commissions, one of which was a group of pieces done in druzy.
I made my second multi-stone piece in February.
And also made a bunch of button necklaces with Great Grandma's old buttons. Also in February, I renovated my studio, and began making plans for a separate metals studio in my basement. In March, I acquired two jewelers benches, which are still parked in my kitchen (way too heavy! ).             In late March, I was invited to join Color Combo Challenge on Facebook, and I am having a wonderful time with the ladies in that group.
In April, I began planning which weaves I would teach at a workshop in LasVegas in June. Throughout April, I experimented with square wire which I had purchased with rings in mind, but used for pendants because I ran out of round. So hear we are in May. My fellow jewelry artists have been gently urging me to post more earrings, so here's a pair of earrings!