There comes a time…

…when you realize you have enough beads. It’s like, seriously, self: you have enough design possibilities to explore as it is. Alternately: how much magpie do you have in you? Or: how little imagination do you have to have that you can’t make nice stuff with what you’ve already got? It’s not a very nice thing for me to say to myself, but it’s direct. Self-challenges aren’t always presented in a palatable form. I know I’m not the only crafter who stashes materials, but at a certain point it does become obvious and annoying (for me).

I’m trying to figure out…how to note color schemes I’ve arranged throughout my collection which may work well in finished pieces, without having to associate them one-to-one (or alternately, splitting my stock of a certain color and then risking not being able to find the other pieces of it). This is essentially an organizational problem…but solving it could increase productivity by enabling me to more freely associate the sizes, shapes and colors I have access to. The issue is having to devise a coding scheme with enough individual values…then having to label everything…then having to associate those codes with strands containing the actual beads.

Yeah…I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Especially as I don’t really want to design another database…

I was initially going to write about the last project I’ve completed, though I’m not entirely satisfied with the outcome. That may be reason enough to write about it…but details may actually be best reserved for my own offline logs.

To give a quick overview: I essentially made a Spiral Rope chain for a pre-fabricated pendant. I wish I would have done more trials before beginning the work (to include designs I didn’t think would work) — and consulted a chart to see where the chain would fall, depending on its length (it’s almost exactly 24″). Also, the sheer mass of Spiral Rope meant that the piece opened out to the sides instead of creating a “V” as I had hoped. Using mostly opaque and matte beads gave the piece a plain appearance.

In any case, it was a learning experience. I’m also surprised that it only took me two nights to complete — at least, if I’m remembering things properly. That doesn’t seem fast, but it was a very quick turnaround from concept to completion, for me: two evenings. Of course, it helps that I already am well-acquainted with Spiral Rope technique, and already had the materials.

I am planning a redux of this when I’m able to get beads in the right sizes and colors: as I used size 8/0 beads, I couldn’t create a Double Spiral as I wished. The girth of the beads was just so wide that I couldn’t fit in as many repeats as I needed to, before the spirals filled the space allotted to them. The alternatives are to either space out the beads further, use larger core beads, or use smaller loop beads.

As regards the color: we did specifically try to match the pendant, and I found a color scheme that will work. (Whether it’s ideal or not, is a different question.) The issue is that I have the colors, but not in the right sizes. I’ll be able to give it another go sometime soon, I’m sure.

Somewhat reassuringly, I found there is a very close sizing between Preciosa 8/0s (standard good-quality Czech seed beads) and Miyuki 8/0s (high-quality Japanese seed beads), which was unexpected. What I think has happened for me, however, is that I’ve bought some beads which may be off-brand, which are sized irregularly. This has given me the impression that standard seed bead sizes are more of a nice ideal than a reality.

I know this happened, particularly, with beads I bought while still a teen, from bead stores and conventions which were local and not online; and before I knew any better. This means I have some stranded beads with unusually thick walls, unusually flat profiles, and weird sizing (I suspect these come from the same manufacturer), as well as other beads with inferior coloring (this is 25 years down the line; they were likely dyed, and maybe should just be discarded, at this point).

I have already separated out some hanks I know of which have irregular sizing between beads, which makes them pretty near worthless, except for stringing. (Of course, when I got them, I was very young; so stringing was something I would have been looking forward to.) One set of these has a really lovely light yellow/light gold color, and is silverlined; maybe I can do something with these like a multistrand bracelet or neckpiece. I know I can’t use them for weaving.

The different hanks I have (assumedly Czech; usually Czech beads are sold by the hank, half-hank, occasionally by the bag or strand…while non-vintage Japanese beads are sold by the tube or occasional bag) are just not all of the same quality.

I’ve already weeded out a good number of Japanese seed beads which I believe were produced by the same maker, and sold by a vendor which does not label bead brands or sources…they have brilliant colors, but the sheer dimensions and shapes of the beads (rectangular in cross-section — and they are not cylinder beads) make them unsuited to the work I want to do. They are particularly poorly suited to any stitch where the beads meet at the corners, like Right-Angle Weave or Herringbone Stitch.

As regards the beads on hanks, I…need to go through them to determine sizing, and to attempt to identify Preciosa beads as versus anything else I may have — if I can remember (in particular, almost all beads from another vendor are also sold without overt branding — at least at conventions [their website does sometimes give brands, but I’ve found the descriptions to be at least occasionally inaccurate]), though it feels like busy work. It will be necessary at some point, however, if I am to use these beads. The upshot is that it would show me what I actually have and can use, and what is best reserved for times when I do need an off-size.

There is also the fact that a number of hanks I have from my youth are of unknown aught (“aught” is a measure of size; 8/0 is read “eight-aught,” 11/0 is read, “eleven-aught,” with 8/0 larger than 11/0, etc.). I had assumed they were 11/0, but there is a good chance that some of them are 13/0 or even 15/0. 10/0 beads, which I’ve seen (and used) recently…are very difficult to tell apart from 11/0s, except by feel. 10/0s are just slightly larger, and closer to a Japanese 11/0 (Czech seed beads run small). It’s like having to tell the difference between different needle gauges by feel: I can do it (sometimes), but you only really develop the skill by working with them (and having some baselines to compare them to).

I’m thinking the only way to sort these out is going to be to weave samples out of all of them and compare their sizes. It’s obviously…not the most engaging task, or the most creative (kind of like making earwires). But putting in time now would enable me to know what I have and how it works. A lot of what I’ve been doing recently is trying just to figure out what I have so that I can stop operating on a (false) assumption of scarcity.

Of course, though, that delays actual creative work…which is a long-standing issue with me. Or feels like it, at least. I do a lot of experimentation and trials, as contrasted with finished objects. I also do a…good deal of writing, though I haven’t been keeping up with myself as much as I would like, recently. Aside from this…I’ve been working with African Helix and Right-Angle Weave, recently: mostly because they popped up and I realized I wanted to brush up on my skills in working with them. Those projects have both been positive, but more learning/re-learning/expanding technique, rather than designing anything finished.

I had been up to creating that pink version of the Chevron Stitch bracelet I documented in my last post; I just haven’t done it yet, as I got sidetracked onto the Spiral Rope project (for now, done)…and had also been thinking of modifying the Chevron accent colors. I have both an upcoming Version 2 of the Spiral Rope, and a bracelet and necklace based around vulcanism in the works. I know the pattern for the bracelet; right now I only have one basic sketch for the necklace, and a bunch of materials — but it’s enough to start with.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry…I also am having a bit of a conflict around creating color schemes, as I know I have a number of colors which are close-but-not-quite-the-same. I would not necessarily be able to positively identify the rest of a vial of beads, from a small sample of those beads. Right now, I’ve got everything separated into groups; the thing is, I was mostly looking for analogous color ranges when I made those groups. What I’ve found via that last bracelet is that combining two or more contrasting, harmonizing groups of analogous color ranges, built on color overtones, will look a lot more dynamic.

I kind of wish I had had the guts and foresight to replace those Smurf-blue beads with a violet-tending bead, in my last bracelet. The matte blue beads were more violet than my originals, and they brought in a line where I could have included 8/0s with a taste of violet, instead of straight Capri Blue.

Of course, I can always make it again…the issue is running out of those 1.5mm Toho cubes, which I may not be able to find an exact replacement for (in this day and age). You would think it would be easy; the color is still fairly common…but it will take some work. There is the question as well of what I would use those beads for, if not for this project. Right now I have no other plans for them, so I’m not entirely sure why I’m nervous about using them. Am I afraid I won’t like what they’ll turn out to be? Or that I’ll be wasting money on a near-duplicate, when I could explore further? Should I be more worried about not using them?

I’m…also not entirely sure…even at this point, exactly what I want to do with the jewelry enterprise. I know I don’t have all the information I need, yet…I also know I won’t be able to make a living off of this; but some return is better than nothing. The question is how much more than nothing I am willing to live with, for however long I decide to do this, and how much time I want to sacrifice to it. I’ve reached the point where I can list things, that is…and I have been nervous about actually selling things for a very long time, due to tax and other legal concerns. Right now I’m building up my stock of original patterns and finished pieces, while also exploring the borders of my knowledge.

What I’ve found at this point is that I actually probably don’t love running the math, although it is…rather exciting to allow the computer to do the grunt work for me. Pricing is just not a fun thing to do.

I have written for much too long, here.

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). Currently, they are trying to figure out whether to place their energies more into language and language arts, or producing handcrafted jewelry and face coverings, for the interim...

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