It seems the most absorbing projects

…are the ones I design, myself. (To me, at least.)

I wasn’t going to go public with another little earring design I’d made until I had finalized it (it’s not totally worked out yet), but right now I can see the potential benefit of going live within a short period of time, even just to show my work. And even just to record this so that I can see it, in the future.

Eight trials for a Fan earring model.
Eight earring design trials.

I recall writing at one time, on a blog which hasn’t been on the ‘net for a while now, that, “there are only so many ways beads can fit together.” What I meant is that it’s very possible for two (or more) different designers to spontaneously design things that are similar in concept, through no fault to anyone involved.

Just quickly, I have seen that there are two examples of jewelry on Pinterest and one example on Instagram, that use similar or almost identical concepts to what I came up with. These three are from different sources, however. They don’t all use the same method of construction, and none of them exactly mirror what I’ve been doing.

The earrings with the triangular transition between the fan portion of the drop and the connector are the ones I made and then did not in any way record how I made them…then went back to them some months later and could not recall how I made them. I mentioned these a while back; drawing out instructions to myself is not my favorite thing to do, but some form of recording is necessary.

Going back now and puzzling out how I did them, may not be as difficult a task as I’ve feared, however. As I’ve mentioned here, there are only a few moves that are possible and rational to make at each juncture, and my preferences are somewhat predictable. The thing is, the earrings have a strong tendency to warp, as I first made them; they come out three-dimensional, not flat. I’m thinking that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was unexpected.

Pinterest and Instagram, however, are showing me that this commonality between designs — which to some extent is to be expected, given similar skill sets and similar materials — looks like it’s true more often, the simpler the design is. The base of this earring is Daisy Chain, which is often one of the first stitches anyone learns when starting off with beadwork; or, at least it was, in my case. Concomitantly…when starting out designing, it’s easier to start with something you know relatively well; something you figured out, early on.

Anyway, before anyone else posts something online that looks like my stuff, I might as well do it, myself. 🙂

There has been a lot of stuff going on for me within the last week…though I very much doubt I would remember it all, without help. I’ve altered my Bullet Journal to reflect both what I intended to do, and what I actually did: in addition to, or instead of, those things. I’m pretty sure that this will keep me feeling better about my productivity. Most of what I’ve been doing relates to domestic stuff: learning to cook, and maintaining spaces, and hygiene and exercise. All of that is necessary. I’ve also started to get back into reading…for information, yeah, but it’s something.

The latter part of today was taken up with technology issues which I in no way wanted to deal with, though on the bright side, it makes the photography prettier.

I’ve also been trying to get back into making face coverings, in addition to my beading, though I think I’ve been away from actually working with the beads for so long, that I’ve lost momentum. Not all of it — but a sizable amount. This actually coincides with some self-doubt (although I’ve been working, I haven’t made a great many salable items. I’ve been focusing on design and learning — and I’m coming off of a sensitive time [I know what I’m talking about, here, but it is not of use to disclose]), and realizing that when I do go back to work as a day job, if I want a salary or even a contract, I’m going to want to pivot to a different field.

I’m thinking, Writing — and writing about beadwork, at that. There’s also the possibility of writing about social issues, particularly where it comes to minority perspective/insight; it’s just that, for one thing, having a business and disclosing opinions on social realities kind of seem not to go together (?) but I have the skills for both. If I wanted a less-controversial and possibly more stable and well-paying job, I could try Cataloging Librarianship.

Of course, all of this requires cobbling together different income streams. I’ve realized recently that I don’t necessarily need advanced math skills like Calculus, or to get into Computer Science…I need to be exercising just basic, fundamental math skills with an end goal in sight.

Essentially — with the beadwork — I have an idea of what kind of expenditures are going out on a monthly basis, thanks to my spreadsheets. So I have an idea of what I’d need to take in, even though I expect to operate at a loss, for a while. (The thing is, when you’re using 12 tiny seed beads of one color for every earring, the cost-per-bead is kind of hard to calculate…though measuring by weight is my friend, here.) I need to work backwards from my expenditures to find how many pieces of jewelry I’d need to sell at what price over what time period to break even (again, over what time period); and then, how much time to allot daily to making those pieces of jewelry I’d need to sell, to do so. That should give me a minimum timeframe of how much I’d need to be working specifically on pieces to sell, assuming I sell them all (without profit or self-payment worked in, or time spent in design).

I feel like I’m missing something, but the previous paragraph was a big enough jump. This should give me the bare-bones, absolute minimum amount of work I need to be doing to break even — not to make a profit, not to pay for living expenses (yet). Just to pay for itself in the short-term.

After I do that, I can compare what I’m doing to that pricing formula: (materials + time) x 2.2 = wholesale price. (That price) x 2.2 = retail price. This should give me the variable for the value of the jewelry, which in turn should show me how many pieces I’ll need to sell at bare minimum, which (along with timing myself) will show me the minimum time I need to be working (subject to how much I’m paying myself). That should allow me to build in structure to my days, with time at which I can say I’m on the clock. That should help me get to bed at a time which works, and wake knowing I need to do things. I can ease myself into selling with that — even if it’s just a dry run — and see if I can keep up with it.

So I’m working on stuff like this, right now. I’m sure M would be angry that I didn’t just keep my head down and keep blindly making stuff and stop overthinking and reading the Small Business books. But I think ahead. I plan. I see issues. It’s what I do.

And that stuff just above is (mostly) me trying to figure this stuff out for myself. With the exception of the pricing formula, which I’ve seen elsewhere, but with a 2x multiplier instead of 2.2x.

Aside from that…the government here is hoping to open up the economy in about two months (we’ll see), and people are still going to need facial coverings…moreso than jewelry. I’ve been working on the sewing, just to do anything and try and unfreeze myself: face coverings are pretty straightforward. And they’re needed. They require precision and focus, but they’re quick and easy to turn out, once you know what you’re doing.

At the same time, I don’t want to stall my work with the beads, because then I forget what I’m learning. It becomes harder to build off of daily small gains in experience, and easier to get intimidated at the thought of going back to the work. I find that I’m spending a lot of time in front of screens…which is not what I want to be doing, but it is what all those years of schooling conditioned me to do.

Moving on: macrame lessons and new stitches

It’s been a few days. In the interim, I’ve had a couple of tries at doing micro-macramé; once, without reviewing or following directions; the second time, paying close attention to my cord orientation and the instructions for double half-hitches given in Joan Babcock’s book, Micro-Macramé Jewelry: Tips and Techniques for Knotting with Beads (2nd Edition). I still had to figure some stuff out for myself, but overall, my success rate was much higher when I decided to allow myself to learn.

This is a point at which I strongly differ from certain people (one person in this case, actually) who claim to be professionals and discourage any competition from younger creators by telling them that in effect, they should have completed learning before they start making money off their craft. That’s unrealistic, and also a guarantee of failure before beginning. Learning is a lifelong journey, not something a person completes in four years (for a grade, at that — which discourages experimentation and failure; failure may lead to more growth than outright success) and then never has to do again. One of my Graphic Arts instructors — as an excerpt from his communication with other Digital Artists — mentioned always pushing one’s own boundaries, so one was always doing something that challenged them. For some reason, I carried that along with me.

Of course, the first person I mentioned may have learned as an Apprentice, not a Student…but I also find the term “Master” to be a bit…vainglorious as a goal.

I did discover, last night, that what I’m doing is in essence, entering manufacturing as versus service…which I didn’t expect to find, in my life — ever. (Kind of like I never expected to realistically be this close to being in business for myself.) But if I’m looking at Jeweling as a craft (i.e. silversmithing or goldsmithing), beadwork is not different in kind. It’s different in process — very different — but the things one makes, the products, are not so much. Of course, there is a large difference in aesthetic…beadwork inherently allows much more colorwork than silversmithing, at least unless one is heavily using colored stones, enamel, patina, or reactive metals. (I almost forgot to mention: works made in brass, bronze, and copper, also fall under the heading of “silversmithing”; these are also a way out of black, grey and white.)

There are different drives and underlying aesthetics between the paths. Silver, as a precious metal, is more monetarily valuable in itself than most glass beads. (Note: most. I’ve seen some awesome lampwork glass online which I’m pretty sure commands a fair price.) Silversmithing forces one to focus much more on form, structure, and process…not to say that these are absent in beadwork — they are wholly there — but at least with beads, one can let the materials guide one, to an extent.

In my experience, metalwork requires more energy put into design, and into thinking ahead through the process so that you don’t, for example, create a bezel before functional joins, and that bezel decides to suddenly liquefy because its melting point is below the temperature needed to melt the grade of solder you’re using to construct the bare bones of the piece. In the thinking-ahead department, I’m relatively well-equipped. Maybe I was so well-equipped that I decided the class was too hazardous, at the time. This was mostly due to the other students (reminding me of Chemistry class in High School), but some (most) of the danger was inherent, and only magnified by irresponsible behavior.

As a contrast, when attempting to remember how to re-create a recent pattern I made (which I neither wrote down nor drew out — haa, fun) I did discover that in assembling the drop, there weren’t a lot of, “side alleys.” I could probably make those diversions if I wanted to: but the pattern was straightforward, clean, rational. If I tried to reduce the number of steps down further…it would take a lot more work to derive what might become a more elegant solution.

There is also substantial overlap between beadwork and silversmithing, if one chooses to allow oneself to span boundaries in one’s work. Making another earring mockup, I did surprise myself by noting how quickly I had to shift from beadweaving over to wirework. It requires a completely different set of tools; it is a medium which behaves differently than beads and thread. But still: the component was done, and it was assembly time.

Of course…I ended up altering this workflow, at least in theory: instead of tackling assembly at the end, tackling it at the beginning, before any weaving happens. I still have to test-run that process. The difficult thing about this for me is taking those slow, deliberate steps forward that I know I need to take.

I suppose I can keep that in mind for the future, say, if I ever make this more than a microbusiness.

It does take a different set of skills to work with metal than to work with needle and thread. Of course, right here we’re talking about wirework, not forging or other methods of complex fabrication (like the hinges I decided I was OK with not knowing how to produce)…and I was only in smithing courses for two semesters (I could have done five without being a Teacher’s Assistant, tops), so I’m not really an authority.

Anyhow…last night I did a review of horizontal half-hitches, vertical half-hitches, and diagonal half-hitches. The last of these is actually much easier to work than it seems; as I was doing it, it was just a tilted horizontal half-hitch, meaning there’s a more-or-less horizontal anchor cord which the vertical cords tie themselves over. And I could see that trying to do it without instructions was seriously, doing it the hard way.

I seem to have reached, more or less, an organic stopping-point with Flat Spiral stitch. There is more I could think of to try — particularly, using 6mm or larger beads for my core, and 4mm beads as the outer embellishment, just scaling the whole thing up — but I think I’m done, for now. At this point, I’ve begun looking at color placements rather than form (the overall outer volume of the piece) or structure (the way the beads and components are physically joined together). This tells me that I probably need to move on to find other ways to join beads together, so that I have more options to choose from where it comes to color placement.

What I seem to be organically moving into is St. Petersburg Chain, which I was also working on prior to deciding to go back to known techniques.

Okay. I know I intended to move from easiest to hardest in terms of my tour of techniques.

St. Petersburg Chain isn’t anywhere near being a beginner’s stitch. It’s overtly hard to grasp, as there’s a lot of turning back on oneself and roundabouts. I had to consult three different sources to get straight on what was actually happening (one of which was a YouTube video, the other two were books). I am thinking of trying this one, however, particularly because 1) it’s challenging, and 2) I have the outline of a design that I just may be able to produce if I use a specialized component: in this case, a chaton with a four-way opening. I’ve also just found one of my earlier posts where I have recorded myself wanting to use it.

I can also see an easy modification I might want to try.

Given that the evidence shows that I’ve wanted to attempt this for at least a year and a half, I’m more inclined to give myself a chance at it, this time. Especially if I’m feeling confident enough to do so; and there’s nothing like trying the easiest thing you can find, to give you enough confidence to attempt something difficult.

Paired with the St. Petersburg Chain, I’d hope to use a stone I was attempting to bezel in beadweaving a while ago. I have half a mind to cut the bezel away on this piece and try again (I should photograph it, before I do); the only reason not to, is if I did not record the trip-ups I encountered the first time (note to self: journal this stuff)…or if I were totally satisfied with what I did the first time (which I’m not). I do have a couple of duplicates of the stone I was bezeling (it’s a pink Swarovski pear-shaped embellishment from the time at which I was concerned Swarovski was going to shut down their supply to the craft community; at this point, the shutdown looks more like a reorganization)…but realistically, even if I did scratch the foil backing on the first one, it would be better to practice on a practice stone. A stone that I won’t be concerned about if I screw it up. Basically, that one is a sacrifice to the beading goddesses at this point.

This does make me think of another apparently cheaper crystal I also have access to, in the same pear shape but shallower depth…but I’ll give the Swarovski a second try, before going there. After all, I’m already familiar with it, and it’s probably already scratched.

Working with wire: cup-bur escapades

Just very recently, I’ve gotten back to my earring designs (there are two of them, now, though the second probably won’t go live for a little while) — and that in itself has necessitated my getting back into wirework. What I can say about wirework is that what it takes to work with metal was something that had slipped my mind, until I had to do it again. A couple of days ago (I missed yesterday because of pushing myself too hard the day before) I was filing, sanding, and using a rotary tool with a cup bur attachment, which is all too familiar to me.

Working with metal allows me more elasticity with my findings (metal parts). They’re customizable. I don’t have to deal with the limitations of what is being sold, or with workarounds I have to take because of those limitations. What I found out was relatively…well, I wouldn’t quite call it “enlightening,” but it reminded me why I wouldn’t necessarily want to make patterns, because materials aren’t always interchangeable.

Out of curiosity, I used a digital caliper to measure the diameter of two different pieces of wire I was looking at for earwire models. One was supposedly 22 gauge red brass; the other was supposedly 22 gauge gold fill. This was an attempt at modeling a 22g French Hook; I’ve done it before, just not recently.

I’m not claiming that my measurements were totally accurate, here (in particular, I could have twisted a wire without knowing it), but I measured the gold-fill wire as a full 1/10 of a millimeter finer than the brass (0.5mm in diameter, as versus 0.6mm). In turn, these were both finer than what we found as the intended gauge diameter online…where 0.5mm runs closer to 24 gauge.

This explains why there was not an option to purchase 24 gauge wire as jump rings (in addition to the fact that 24-gauge wire is likely not all that sturdy without hard soldering, and I’ve been taught not to solder wire with coatings [e.g. colored craft store wire], at all, due to toxic vapors: gold-fill and silver-fill I consider to fall into that category, but I could be wrong). The only reason I caught this is that I was attempting to thread a size 8/0 seed bead onto a 22-gauge loop I’d made in a brass-wire model of my intended product, and it had a hard time moving — to the point that I predicted the bead would break rather than shift position. (Note to self: test this before making a bunch of earwires, next time!) I then tried threading it onto a 22-gauge jump ring made of sterling wire, and: guess what, it could move.

As full disclosure, I should mention that any slight deviation from circular would also cause that phenomenon of the bead sticking, as well — and I caught this happening to one of my earwires (I accidentally pinched it with my pliers), though I can’t tell which very easily, at this time. I restored it roughly to a round shape, but beads don’t care about “roughly;” they care about “perfect,” in this case. So one earwire might have a microscopically different diameter than the other, or might be out of shape just a little, which could both throw off the bead’s ability to move.

On looking at the two wires, I could tell that the sterling was finer; probably also stronger…though I haven’t tried work-hardening the brass (which just takes a quick squeeze between nylon-jaw pliers, or alternately, minor smithing on an anvil with a soft mallet such as nylon or rawhide. I’m not responsible for where that ring ends up, though [or for your fingers]. You might want to cover your anvil before going at it). Other than curiosity, I don’t really have any reason to even try to work-harden the brass, at this point. Now, where it comes to gold-filled wire, that’s a different story, as it’s being used as a final product…

And yes, note that I did make a trial version out of cheap wire, before jumping to the expensive stuff, this time! Although, it does turn up some differences that are possibly irrelevant to the finished pieces (but good to know). The main thing: a thicker wire will take up more space inside a seed bead than a thinner one, even with the same diameter loop. This affects how many thread passes (and what size needle, I presume) you’ll be able to put in there, without that bead (and/or needle) breaking.

Which reminds me: I made a note to reserve size #13 beading needles, specifically for finishing: that is, to expressly not use them when I don’t have to. That gives me some extra space when my bead holes are filling up, and I’ve been using a size #11 or #12 needle. I also then know that the number of moves I have left, is limited. (I’ve been using Nymo B for earrings, as I know they aren’t heavy-wear pieces. Nymo shreds after years under heavy use [for example, bracelets that are worn all the time], but works well with non-sharp beads [e.g. seed beads] which don’t get a lot of wear and tear…and Nymo B is functionally smaller than, for example, K.O. thread — the latter of which, I can recall using…unfortunately, I don’t recall for what!!)

I’ve also found that I may need — in the case of the Bee earrings — to thread in my metal components before assembling the woven portion, to avoid having to try and force a wire into that little space between two beads and out the other side. That probably doesn’t make sense in English: I’m sorry. What I mean is that due to the frustration of inserting a jump ring or a head pin into an 8/0 bead that I’m using as a link — not just a bead — after the construction of the component is finished, it might well be worth it to thread those metal parts in before weaving in those 8/0 beads, and just try and not catch the metal with the needle, when finally weaving everything together.

I haven’t tried it yet, though. Maybe I should try, tomorrow?

I also am aware that I have an ongoing problem with using tension that’s too high when beadweaving, which causes the gaps between beads to close up, and close firmly.

Of course, we do have to take into account the fact that seed beads themselves are not necessarily all that, well, interchangeable. Even within a size (say, 8/0 or 11/0 in particular), there are beads which are wider (from hole to hole) and those which are thinner. This is more pronounced in Czech seed beads than in Japanese seed beads, in my experience, but the phenomenon is still present in both. It’s to the point where I’m thinking that bead sizes are more of a nice ideal than a reality. For example, I’ve recently purchased a hank of orange seed beads (Czech) which were supposedly 6/0, and had to wonder if they were really 7/0, and just mislabeled (they were noticeably smaller than my other 6/0s, but I can’t tell if that’s a visual error due to color. I haven’t yet tried the calipers on them: I don’t know that there is a standard size for 6/0 beads, after all…which I just realized, I can look up. Go, me).

Then there are the beads which are sold as 2mm, which vary between 2.5mm and below 2mm (I don’t have the energy to get up and measure these at the moment, apologies…though maybe I should put this into some sort of reference).

I’ve also found some of my bead suppliers to give descriptive information which I’m certain is inaccurate (i.e. claiming a bead to be a Miyuki 6/0 when it is a different size and shape from the rest of my Miyuki 6/0 beads, and the color comes off with short-term daily wear even as the rest of my Miyuki 6/0s [even the dyed ones] don’t wear). That’s on top of the fact that trade names for certain beads seem to be unregulated…so you can get beads which look similar online which are sold under different names, and upon arrival you find that they seem to be, in fact, the same bead (e.g. “Crystal Orange Rainbow” as vs. “Two-Tone Clear AB and Apricot Medium”). Are they? Can we ever be sure? (They certainly look very similar next to each other…)

Speaking of Miyuki, they’re the company that I find comes closest to really regimented bead size — but I wouldn’t have caught onto this without their Tila series (full Tila, 1/2 Tila, 1/4 Tila), which seem precisely machined to fit together; granted that I haven’t used them yet (they’re very Art Deco). Toho is approaching this with their Treasure and Aiko lines (both cylinder beads), which are meant to rival Miyuki Delicas (also cylinder beads). Aikos are apparently supposed to be even more regular than Treasures, particularly where it comes to the angle of the cut edge; but I wouldn’t really know, having never purchased them. I’m not really a big cylinder-bead person, except when it comes to needing to bezel something, or having a weaving path that necessitates a lot of passes — or having to finish something off and needing something small that won’t de-value my piece.

Of course, there’s also the fact that Delicas (along with other Miyuki beads) come in a mind-boggling array of colors, which — along with their uniformity — is likely their largest draw. Miyukis can also be very expensive, however. Generally, when I’m working, I’m using rocailles, which is an industry term for basic “round”, uncut seed beads. I use air quotes because the beads aren’t actually round; they range from cylindrical with softened edges, to donut-shaped, depending on country and company of manufacture. Czech beads, being donut-shaped, also tend to run smaller and have smaller bead holes relative to their size, than Japanese beads. But they’re rounder where beads may meet at an angle (as in Right-Angle Weave, among other stitches), which makes them more useful for a more organic feel.

Toho beads also have a significant and beautiful array of bead colors and finishes. The thing is, because of the large variety of these…and the fact that names may be irrelevant, sometimes the best way to find an exact color and finish match is the color code…which you’ll only find on some web sites selling beads. Some, because once you know the color code, you can efficiently search for the exact same bead type and brand from a number of different vendors — some of which may have better quantities and prices for your needs (say, if they’re being sold in lots of 7 grams each and you need more like 30 grams at a time).

Of course, you’ll also want to take into account what other things the vendors are selling, so as to minimize shipping charges. Sometimes the more expensive outlets also have a more sophisticated selection than your basic wholesale stores. As always, though, with the Internet and digital photography, what you get may differ from what you thought you would get. It might be best to get a small quantity first to see what the material actually looks like, before buying a mass quantity. I found this out the hard way, recently…

Anyhow, though, I meant to get back — at least briefly — to the experience of working with this metal: red brass/Jeweler’s Brass, and gold-filled wire. I had purchased a Beadalon bead reamer a while back, which has a small rotary motor. I hoped to be able to use it in order to help round off the ends of my earwires, using one of their cup-bur attachments. Cup burs basically are meant to round off wire tips: for earwires, for prong settings, etc. Basically, for any application where a wire end may snag, tear, or catch on things like clothing or skin. (For clarity, with the Beadalon motor, I’ve only seen additional bead reamer and additional cup-bur attachments [in three sizes] for sale; I’m hoping they’re going to expand their range.)

I should qualify this by saying that I have never been able to get a wire properly rounded, just by using a cup-bur attachment. Neither this time, nor when I had the opportunity to work with a pendant motor in my metalwork class.

This was a Foredom motor with a rotary handpiece, which is — in effect — an awesomely powerful, quiet, just beautiful tool (not without its hazards); it happens, however, to need to dangle, which (aside from price) is its biggest drawback for the new jeweler. It assumes either the presence of an available bench to mount a hanger onto (and Jeweler’s benches are not cheap), or an improvised stand. The motor hangs at about head level, maybe slightly lower (to the best of my recollection), while the seated user holds the handpiece that is connected to the motor by a sheathed cable. The motor torques the cable which torques the handpiece — which has a collet that can take the shanks of different rotary tools, cup burs included.

The most evident competitor to this in the United States is the Dremel, which — if I’m remembering correctly — is relatively loud. I haven’t had much inclination to use it before now (I think I might have access to one, but I’m not clear on where it is or if it still works), but there is a model which is able to work on top of a surface, as versus being handheld like a drill (which, due to size, is relatively unwieldy for jewelry work).

I tried a number of different cup burs, back when I had access to a Foredom — and to a real-life community of jewelers. What I learned then and recently remembered is that cup burs are often…ineffective in rounding off the end of a wire, alone.

To do this and have a relatively quick result, it’s best to first cut the wire, then file off the corners of the wire (using a small needle file meant for jewelers — a flat, relatively fine one worked for me just recently): remember, these files cut on the push stroke, not on the pull. Then sand them down further with at least three different grits of sandpaper (I used 300-, 400-, and 600-grit wet/dry silicon carbide paper) to go over the area until it feels smooth, and then go in with the cup bur, to smooth everything further.

The problem is that if you go on too straight with the bur, it can just flatten off the end of the wire again. The bur needs to be rotated around the end of the wire so that the remaining burs can be removed. In addition, this needs to be done either with a lubricant such as Bur-Life, or with the tip of the bur wet, or your metal and your bur will get very hot — likely, too hot to hold onto. I would assume for safety that high temperatures would cause the bur to dull more quickly, but I can’t be sure about that.

Then, there is the problem of overrotation, which I’ve experienced all the times I’ve done this recently — where the edge of the cup bur itself bites into the length of the wire, causing indentations in the side of the post. There is also the problem of other remaining sharp points on the tip of the wire, where maybe something wasn’t sanded down properly. The easiest way I’ve found to take care of this — after feeling for any sharp bits and then looking more closely at it with magnification — is a few swipes on 600-grit carbide paper targeting the area, then moving back to the cup bur to polish down that new area. (And maybe, “polishing” is the right term for what a cup bur really does best.)

What you’re looking for is anything which feels sharp, which catches, which is not round. If it feels sharp to a fingertip, it will probably also feel sharp to a piercing. I have been able to get the tips of wires very smooth — the problem is the nicks generated on the stem of the earwire, from over-rotating the bur. I have not been able yet to deal with how to take down these nicks (which do not irritate my piercings, but I still see them as not-great) on a gold-filled wire. My gut tells me that if I try to do so, I’ll expose the core of the wire, which kind of negates the reason for using gold-fill in the first place.

I also don’t know if I can put a high polish on most metal I might file or sand down. With wire ends, I have the cup burs; with round wire, I’d need buffs, more than one type of polishing compound, and a rotary tool, like a Dremel — but it would be best if that tool were much smaller. If I could focus in on the area I’m fixing, which in this case would be a zone less than 2mm cubed…it would be different. Because of this, I can see the use of the Beadalon tool (which runs on two AA batteries) for light duty. The problem is that it seems to be that we go from very inexpensive tools for beadwork, to somewhat expensive but not-quite-made-for-this, to capital expenditure.

I did just now, get the insight to cover the stem of the wire with Painter’s Tape before trying to file or sand or round off anything, and that is an easy fix.

Engagement, experimentation, and happy accidents

These three routes seem to be key to unlocking variation in design possibilities.

Around the time I started this site (that is, very recently), there was a very big question in my mind: how do people come up with original designs? How do you graduate from being someone who follows patterns other people write, to being someone who can write their own patterns? I’m still learning the answer(s) to this question, but at the very least, I do feel like I’m making meaningful progress. At this point, I’ve begun to work with popularly-known techniques to see what I can bring out of them, as a way to ground my vision in technique prior to attempting to launch into freeform beadwork.

If you would like to skip ahead to what I’m actually doing, look for the separator bar down below, and start reading there. This earlier section is actually more about joining what really feels like a beadwork community; also, my own breakthrough with not wanting to infringe on the intellectual property of others — and where other peoples’ patterns and my own learned techniques fall into that.

Last night I was reading in Marcia Decoster Presents: Interviews with 30 Beaders on Inspiration and Technique (2014, Lark). I didn’t have great expectations that this book would help me understand what goes through the mind of a designer, as so much of it is taken up with representative photos of each artist’s work…but having the photos actually helps illustrate the way people think and use their skills to create. I haven’t gotten too deeply into the book yet, but I’m hoping that it will help in discerning what possibilities I might be able to achieve with my specific aesthetic and skill set. It’s actually really comforting to find that a lot of these people also have experimented (at least!) with various other forms of creative output.

Just a last note on that, before I move on for now: most of the text of the book is in the margins of the pages. It’s not a text-heavy book, but what Marcia has chosen to reprint from her interviews of the featured artists, is targeted and effective. I was also struck by the fact that I’ve been beading for a longer time than a lot of the people I read about (I started doing this when I was about 12)…which means that maybe I shouldn’t underestimate my experience or skill level. Of course, I haven’t been beading full-time for all those years, but the launch I’ve been provided in giving myself permission to do so, has been both unexpected and welcome.

There seem to be a couple of poles where it comes to the utilization of patterns. The negative approach, which I was stuck in for years, was thinking that in order to create unique things, I needed to work creative problems out on my own; that I couldn’t use help from others’ designs. The positive approach, which I seem to be moving into, is curiosity about how other people have achieved the effects they have, and more openness toward learning and inspiration. Community, in effect. I don’t, that is, have to keep my head down and ignore the rest of the beading world and isolate so that I don’t infringe on others’ intellectual property. (I believe this is called, “reinventing the wheel.”)

That, in turn, really makes things a lot richer for me. I feel that there’s possibility and support, and like I’m a part of something; not just a craftsperson working things out on my own (though I am that, too).

In this, I think of a pattern I saw for sale at a beading convention — I don’t even know how many years ago — where someone had created a beaded cuff that was reminiscent of lace. I picked up the sample and started looking at it, trying to figure out how this person had done this work. It was extremely intricate. However she had done it, I really think that there were layers and layers of work and thought that went into this design.

I…was likely in my early twenties, at that point. I didn’t want to rip her off, and I was afraid I would “copy” unwittingly, should she show me the answer to this puzzle — so I left the pattern behind. At this point in my maturity, I’m thinking that if this were to happen again, I would buy the pattern just so I could see the thinking that led up to its creation. Buying the pattern would basically have been paying for a lesson.

The point in this is that it’s okay, sometimes, to let someone show you (who is offering to show you) how they solved one or more problems. I guess I should remember as well, that when people teach you how to do something, they don’t expect you not to learn. I mean, the latter basically goes against the entire reason for teaching. Maybe the big thing is to really be creative, with what you do learn.

Another thing I’ve been learning is that…there’s a lot to be gained from just playing with stitches and knots, to see what works and what doesn’t (instead of assuming what works and what doesn’t: because reality will surprise you). For the past two weeks, I’ve been focused on learning and playing with Flat Spiral stitch. From my last posts, I can see that it’s probable that most people don’t know what I mean by “Flat Spiral.” Flat Spiral stitch is a variation of regular Spiral Rope stitch — itself a very simple beadweaving technique — in which one pushes the spiral embellishments (loops) to either side of a core in two-stitch sets, instead of letting them spiral around the core individually. It’s also possible to form a double spiral (like a caduceus), though that’s a little out of scope, for this writing.

Of course, neither can I assume that my readership knows what Spiral Rope stitch looks like. This is where photographs come in handy:

A sample of Spiral Rope stitch in purple, red, and pink.
Left and center portions are woven in Spiral Rope stitch.

The left and center portions of the above image are all done in traditional Spiral Rope stitch; the segments of four 11/0 seed beads (dark red) and one 8/0 seed bead (light pink) spiral around a core of 8/0 seed beads in a contrasting color (dark purple). As I mention below, my camera didn’t pick up the rainbow coating on the dark red beads (this happened with some dark blue beads as well). The portion on the right is what happened when I messed up in trying to create a Flat Spiral with four size 8/0 core beads, and forgot that I needed to make one looping element on each side before moving up a half-step…but that itself was the source of a new design idea I haven’t tried out, yet.

Note: keep a journal on hand to draw out design ideas! Even if it’s scrawled in the middle of the night, and no one but you can decipher what you meant. It’s much less work than trying to make things without having figured them out, yet, though drawing isn’t a replacement for working. In particular: there are certain designs which are easier to think through in drawing them out first — particularly via thread path — than trying to think them out in-process. Chevron Stitch is one of these examples which seems inherently counterintuitive — you kind of have to know what you’re going for, from the first stitch. But again, that’s beyond my scope for this entry: I should touch on it in the near future. (I’m working roughly from easier stitches, towards more difficult ones…though I’m making the easy ones difficult for myself, I’m sure you can see.)

I was also using size 8/0 beads (the light pink ones) to emphasize the middle of each stitch, which really doesn’t look great with Flat Spiral stitch, although it’s workable with traditional Spiral Rope. In the below, I learned that it’s OK or even good to use higher-quality beads both for the core and to draw the eye to the embellishments.

A sample of Flat Spiral stitch in blues, with some copper-lined beads introduced toward the end.
Trial samples of Flat Spiral stitch.

The above segment is something I was playing around with, recently, changing up the colors of the smaller (11/0 Czech) seed beads. (In the seed beads I usually use [Czech and Japanese], larger numbers mean smaller beads…this is only true to a point, however: there are some super-large beads with numbers in the 30’s.) Flat Spiral stitch needs more beads per outer loop than does Spiral Rope; I’m not entirely sure why, yet. Each unit in the blue sample above traverses two core beads (4mm Fire-Polished rounds), making each stitch 8mm long. That in itself would be a reason why the embellishment needs to be longer; typically, one takes shorter steps in traditional Spiral Rope. (Each “half-step” up for this version of Flat Spiral is one bead, or 4mm…though I’m not sure anyone uses the term, “half-step” but me — and I know it’s not used in Spiral Rope directions, as you’re generally using more than two smaller core beads, there.)

The two attempts on the left are embellished with one 3mm Fire-Polished round at the center of each loop (the dark Cobalt Blue faceted beads), while the one on the right has one 2mm Fire-Polished round (the tiny silvertone things: they’re still glass), in the same place. This is what I was talking about in my last entry as so sparkly that everything blends together… At this point, I’ve slept on the design, and have decided to go with the center color layout utilizing the turquoise-colored beads, for now. The stitch definition is just much more visible.

As I’m uploading photos, I realize that I did in fact make a completed bracelet…before I realized that the 3mm beads for edgings, worked just fine (or better)…the finished work reminds me of a snake in the way it curves, though mostly you see that when it’s on a table. I have thought of making the 11/0s different on the front and back of the work, so it would really look like a snake, and be reversible, to boot: but I haven’t gotten around to it, yet.

A finished Flat-Spiral bracelet in blue and purple, as it is being worn.
A finished bracelet made in Flat Spiral stitch.

Unfortunately, daylight plus my digital camera has a tendency not to pick up rainbow or Aurora Borealis (AB) coatings on glass beads. The small blue beads above (size 11/0) are opaque Cobalt Blue with an AB finish, making them look a little multicolor and violet with a dark blue background (in life); but the AB is essentially invisible, here. I should put in some time to see if I can get my lighting to work with me.

Anyhow, those small reddish-purple beads on the sides are the elusive 2mm faceted Fire-Polished rounds (it’s hard to find these in nice colors, let alone transparent ones — the above are “pearl-coated”, and, as I discovered when I accidentally split a bead trying to end this thing, whitish and relatively opaque on the inside), while the center shiny beads are 4mm opaque Purple Iris druks, or round pressed-glass beads with an iridescent coating and purple overtone. Again, my camera isn’t picking up the iridescence so well. I suppose I could try and deal with using my phone as a camera, but then I’d have to watch security issues…

My original clasp design, utilizing bullion/French Wire/gimp.

And, of course, the most difficult part of any of this, is ending the thing. As I was finishing the first version of the above completed bracelet, my work decided it had had enough, and severed my 6-lb. FireLine (6-lb! it’s not even like it was lightweight!). I learned at that time that I needed to keep my thread tension lower, so that I wouldn’t put stress like that against the edge of a bead with a thread (it was almost undoubtedly a druk that cut it, and I haven’t observed any cut-glass edges in this batch of druks). I believe this has happened to me twice in the last two weeks…tension is one of the things that will make FireLine vulnerable, as I’ve observed when trying to cut it with scissors (it will cut most easily, if held taut across the blade).

I was able to obtain a Xuron model #441 thread cutter recently, which…makes cutting FireLine, much less of a hassle. It even makes it pleasant for me when I need to cut my work apart to reuse beads…which would be a headache to try and do with regular cutters. Especially when going through multiple passes of FireLine. I would not risk my good wire cutters on this; they cut wire too well, and I don’t want to replace them. As for where to find the Xuron #441 cutters, Micro-Tools is a vendor I’m familiar with through the local bead circuit; they also sell on Amazon. They have some really…nice, and niche, stuff there.

The image just above is my original termination design, which…looks rich, right? However…it’s way more practical to use size 15/0 seed beads where I have those little wire coils. Those coils are referred to variously as gimp, bullion, or French Wire (not to be confused with French Hooks, which are the sleek findings you put into your piercings). You can get it in precious metal, but that tends to be prohibitively expensive (at least in goldtone). I’ve found sterling, but it’s probably still more than anyone wants to pay.

Bullion, in a beadwork sense, is basically superfine wire that has been coiled up like a spring. You cut off however long a piece you need, then thread your cord or thread (it’s traditionally used with silk, for terminating strands of knotted pearls) through it, reinforce it (if you’re using it for beadweaving), and weave back in. The point is to protect your thread from friction and breakage at the point where you attach a metal clasp. Without this, the termination of your line is a physically weak point in the design (as I can attest to from having lines of seed beads explode on me as a youth…though that could have been a knotting problem, to boot).

Unfortunately, there are two caveats. One is that it’s difficult to weave back through this after you’ve gone through it, once: the coil tends to split, and then you’ve got a problem. (You can see the effect of this on the lower coil, in the above image.) The second is that it may be vulnerable to tarnish (say if it’s silverplate or goldplate over brass or copper), and my gut tells me that I don’t want to try and clean tarnish off of a fine coil of wire.

Of course, I may be wrong. Reality is variable from expectation. But I’ve had even sterling chains turn coppery on me after long periods of wear. I’m not sure how this happens with some sterling alloys and not others — I also have chains with no problem with oxidation, after years of use — but it’s something to take into account.

My final clasp design, utilizing size 15/0 seed beads in place of the bullion.

The tried-and-true method of termination for a beadwoven piece like this is essentially to use tiny seed beads to protect the thread from abrasion. As much as I didn’t want to do it, I ended up doing it, and it ended up working pretty well.

To the left, or just above if you’re using a mobile device, you should be able to see how I was able to use three seed beads in place of that bullion. This was much friendlier to my needle (which adores moving in straight lines), and allowed me more passes through those ending beads to reinforce the piece, than I could get with the bullion.

It doesn’t look as pretty, but it does the job.

Two other things I’ve realized, through this: I need to pay attention to established thread paths when weaving back through the work to tie off the threads, and to be aware of where my thread already is. The former is to prevent unprotected lines of thread popping up at the very end of construction!!! The latter is to prevent splitting beads — again, at the very end of construction. Do you know how disheartening it is to work for hours on a piece and then go to finish it off, and a thread decides to pop, or a bead decides to break, or you find exposed thread where you don’t expect it, which makes the piece then not-reversible? Right.

But the secret does seem to be just to learn from those mistakes, and to change something, next time. That’s how you learn, right?

What at first appears as a hurdle

I am still experimenting with Flat Spiral stitch. I’m learning a lot I didn’t expect to learn, which is why I haven’t yet moved on to a more difficult technique. I’ve wished to go on a tour of learning (and experimenting with) all the beadworking stitches I know of or have heard about (Cubic Right-Angle Weave being a possible exception, but that’s just an intimidation and, “why,” factor: which possibly means I can learn a lot from it and should do it), in order to learn the mechanics of the stitches, and try to derive how they work. This is with the eventual goal of being able to understand the stitches and learn how and when to break free from them.

Alongside this…I have discovered that I have at least four or so design projects in motion — at the same time, in different stages — and I’m having difficulty prioritizing work on one, over another. I only expect this issue to get worse as time goes on and I gain a wider repertoire of designs, unless I can do something about managing priorities. I do love to multitask, but seriously, I’m telling myself that I need to just pick one thing and work on it, as I have a tendency to be scattered. Especially, recently.

My space is limited, and I still have a hard time finding things when I need them…when I’ve just put them down, they’re within arm’s reach, and I should know where they are. I mean seriously, the area I’m in is a mess when it’s being used…but I think I’ll do better once I figure out where I tend to habitually put things. Right now, my placement of things seems to be organized by function, project, and staging areas.

What I used to do at work was create a hierarchy of tasks to manage a plurality of priorities (it was a fast-paced environment with a lot to do)…but right now, for me, there really isn’t one thing that has to be done, before another. I do, however, expect that to change, depending on what sells, and how many custom requests I get.

Another thing that I think I’m discovering is that I may be more into Design than Manufacturing, so once I have a design decently figured out, I tend to hop to the next design that isn’t figured out, rather than exploit the one that’s polished. It would seem that I like the problem-solving and experimentation part of this, that is…though maybe I can keep my own interest by tinkering with the designs even past the point where they’re fine?

On top of this, even as much as I really don’t like to chronicle my work, or record how I came to a certain design, I’ve recently discovered that I need to do this if I want to be able to recall how I achieved a particular result. (I can draw; the issue is that my Art classes conditioned me against it. At this time, drawing [or at least, anticipating drawing] is stress-inducing for me. I tend to draw tightly, and have had to deal with people telling me to “loosen up,” for years…not like that helps in the present, though. Blueprints kind of require exactness.) I also recognize that I could keep my camera nearby and just take in-process shots every few moments to show how I did what I did. I don’t lose anything by doing so; I just expect it to be a tedious process.

And…drawing is a much more compact way of recording this information, than writing.

But yeah, that’s…I guess, that’s design. And I am getting an inkling of how recorded design instructions (all the work I go through to communicate what happens and how, either to someone else, or to myself after my memory has failed) can be copyrighted, but that this is separate of the physical method of construction.

Note that the next four paragraphs are my trying to think aloud about just what is protected by copyright. It’s been edited — a lot. Sometimes I can come to a deeper understanding, by trying to think in type; but in no way should my puzzling aloud, be taken as legal advice. I especially don’t want to mislead anyone new to all this who may think that I know what I’m talking about. If I do, I don’t know enough to know I do.

I’m thinking that just making something similar to something someone else made, without relying on that person, or their work, or their brand, may not be anything that infringes on anyone else’s intellectual property. Is the instruction — the physical, drawn-up plan of an item — the intellectual property, not the method of construction of the item?

There’s also the line between widely-known beadwork stitches or knotting techniques or wirework techniques, and specific brainchildren of specific living people…which one probably isn’t experienced enough to clearly distinguish, early on. It’s just after you’ve been in the beading community for years that you get used to seeing specific techniques popping up over and over again, and you start to recognize when examples in books aren’t using highly unique variants of stitches.

Like, maybe if I made a certain model of earrings and someone else saw them and made some like them, or inspired by them, there might not be much one could or really should do (unless it’s a pattern of behavior). That’s kind of…culture at work. But if someone took the work I did in explaining how to make those earrings, and distributed my explanations and schematics for their personal financial gain without notifying me, that would be a deeper grey — because they’re essentially selling my labor for their gain.

The copyrightable work is the literal explanation?

Not to assert or infer any qualifications to give legal advice, again…I’m still just untangling the differences between technique and design, because for so long I hadn’t designed. I’m feeling my way through this instead of researching, because I know things become clearer, the more I design for myself. I also have a feeling that some of these terms — technique, design, construction, pattern — are technical and difficult to understand from an outside perspective (or possibly, without training). Maybe I should actually write to the legal team at Lark or Kalmbach or Interweave, and ask for clarification? I can say I’m doing it for an article. 😀 And then I can actually write an article.

Or, I could just join a reputable forum, and ask. Not that I know where those are, heh…though I do remember one place, from a while ago. (I haven’t been lurking on Social Media for long, so, well, I have a lot of people to meet.)

I have recorded my own designs, before. Just…doing it for beadweaving, can get really hard to decipher; particularly with seed beads, as they’re so small, and the work is intricate. This is where multicolored fineliner pens and markers, come in. But even with pens, you’re dealing with trying not to make a mistake unless you’re using erasable ink, and I have seen my Pilot Frixion marks disappearing over a period of months just from sunlight, not even from rubbing.

The informational loss on this last project I didn’t record isn’t monumental: I was planning on trying to improve my design the next time I worked on it. However…it’s hard to start from the place at which you left off, if you can’t remember how you originally got to that point.

I told myself when I stopped working on this some months ago, that I would come back to it soon enough that I would remember what I did, and wouldn’t need to record it. I revisited this yesterday. Not months ago. It is possible for me to figure out what I did by systematically destroying my work in a reverse fashion, at least unless I reinforced things to the point where I can’t pull the beads apart (which I may have done)…but I don’t think it’s worth it, this time.

What I can remember of what I did, gets me to the point where I have a really nice little drop for an earring — I think I remember it because I tried a method that I had seen in a book, where I’m utilizing fringe and then connecting the turning beads. It’s really pretty neat.

One of the things Flat Spiral stitch has taught me is that what may at first seem to be a hurdle, may not be one, on further inquiry. Last night I was toying with using 4mm Fire-Polished round beads instead of 4mm Druks (plain pressed-glass rounds) as the core beads in my Flat Spiral work. These — actually, work great. I also tried using some smallish 2mm Fire-Polished beads as accents on the embellishments…which were not much different from using size 8/0 seed beads (I still have a messed-up sample from that work). I took a chance and tried fitting a 3mm Fire-Polished bead in that space. So much better. Really. I couldn’t even imagine how much better it would be.

This matters because 3mm beads are much, much easier to come by, and come in more variety, than 2mm beads. Something else that I might forget is that it’s OK to use plain opaque beads for contrast. I’m using what I think are 4mm Capri Blue Fire-Polished beads for my core, which…well, Capri Blue is a very intense blue-green, and these are transparent faceted beads (most, if not all, Fire-Polished beads are faceted), so they’re also really sparkly. I had tried “all sparkly” originally (silver 2mm Fire-Polished beads, with silverlined size 11/0 beads), which was pretty overwhelming — and it was hard to tell one bead apart from another.

I switched to a seed bead which reminds me of plain Sleeping Beauty Turquoise (blue-green, opaque), and — I think I’m actually using transparent Cobalt Blue 3mm Fire-Polished beads, which are way darker in value than what I originally had there (contrast! a positive!), as well as different in temperature from either the Capri Blue or the Turquoise, which both lean green. (Cobalt Blue, in glass, is an intense, dark, rich blue-violet.)

I am still hanging around the analogous color schemes, but I’m doing it as a way to ease myself back into color work. Over time, I can see myself developing in my security with color — I’ve come a long way from the grey and black of my youth. 😉

I believe I covered what I intended to…if not, I’ll return to it at another time. I would go and take some photos (the sun is up, now), but I have a feeling there’s going to be a collage at the end of this. I’ve also been awake all night. Why? I don’t know. Maybe there’s going to be an earthquake or something. No idea.

But I’ll try and get some rest.

Career musings

To be honest, the last week or so has been mildly challenging. Mildly. I’m actually being able to comprehend that lockdown may be over in a wider swath of relevant futures, and this has gotten me to think about what I want to do, again, as a career. I also look at the business I have hoped to start up (this will likely start full-time after I’m vaccinated), and I wonder about what to do as regards the balance of these two things. Am I willing to deal with a relatively “boring” technical day job to pay the bills, and then have free time to play around with beads — but not dealing with the beads full-time and then having to cope with the financial instability? You know?

Last night I began to read again in a book titled Essential Classification, which I had purchased last year, but had not gotten around to reading. I was in the middle of …well, the fires, my classes, the holidays, and trying to figure out what plans to lay out towards the future: plus, the obvious. I kind of didn’t have the mental resources to deal with this book on top of everything else. Now that I’ve gotten back to it, I find it kind of comforting — in that I know the subject matter pretty well.

But again, I deal with a disconnect — or fainter-than-usual connection — between an idealistic world (internal), and the world as it is (external). That’s a good thing (or alternately, a terrible thing) if I’m a fiction writer (terrible: writing psychological thrillers that freak me out), but a lack of grounding in reality could be an issue, if I become a Cataloger.

Another issue is the fact that Cataloging…well, seems to be undergoing a sea change where it comes to the underlying structure of the information systems in use. (In particular, we seem to be moving from Relational databases to Graph databases.) I can’t say that for sure (especially as my own knowledge of this is not altogether solid), but I had hoped to work with Metadata — which seems to be the next step up from Cataloging, technologically speaking — and there is a lot of new (and challenging) material there.

Particularly, this has to do with XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Last time, I got hung up on XPath (used to navigate XML documents) and never really got into XSLT (eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformations, which for example, can be used to convert XML data [like catalog records] into HTML for display). The problem I see with the systems near me is that at least the one I last worked in, outsourced most of this labor: so I would have to seek a job either in Publishing or with a Vendor or Aggregator, in order to use my skills…and where are we taught about this in Library School? I certainly wasn’t.

I might just take XML at a University, rather than trying to work with the sites I’ve tried: at least, for now. I’m also thinking about re-taking Beginning Cataloging, just to get discounted temporary access to WebDewey and ClassWeb — two Cataloging tools I didn’t see the vast privilege in being granted access to, in grad school. But yes, these cost money.

I’ve found that people who are good at programming are not necessarily good at explaining programming, to newcomers. There’s just a syntax thing on top of a diction thing…sometimes, people write their lectures as though their lectures are an extension of the code they’re trying to explain, and it’s really tough to understand when you don’t know the code syntax (or haven’t memorized the definitions of their words) in the first place. And, you know, they’re just writing like, “of course you understand.”

And looking back on this…I’m reminded again of the Microeconomic principle of opportunity loss, or what one loses in order to do one thing, instead of another. The opportunity loss to focus on my own beadwork and accessories enterprise instead of being employed as a Cataloging Librarian, is significant. Then again, the two life paths can’t even be compared, qualitatively speaking. It’s just that the latter is much more stable than the former (qualified by societal stability) and that’s…if I can find an inroad, which may require moving cross-country and away from family. And therein lies the rub: quality-of-life issues. I may have money, but not be able to stand the cultural isolation.

Trust me: cultural isolation, matters. It’s really tough to be somewhere you don’t know, and the culture isn’t your culture, and there is no real representation of your culture, other than you.

I’m thinking that a lot of this may hinge on where I end up living in the near-future. There’s the possibility of moving deeper into the Pacific region (which I would welcome, if I could bet on having a job where I was respected — that is questionable), and in that case…rather than take a service job, I might well take on a manufacturing job and create artisan jewelry. That is a viable route, though not a very profitable one: at least, not in the short-term, and not unless I use high-quality materials and workmanship which justify a fee which provides a living wage. But it would validate my current efforts, both at creating a small business in the first place, and of learning the language I happen to be learning. (The latter would help in ordering materials.)

If I continue on with the Cataloging Librarianship study, there are only a limited number of those jobs in that field and geographic area, and as we can see from the current pandemic…Library jobs are subject to things like widespread budget shortfalls. Of course, so is jewelry manufacture, especially when it’s focused toward tourism — which can easily be shut down in circumstances like the ones we find ourselves in, now.

Which is another reason I had been trying to get away from depending on it. It’s really interesting that I could know so much about so much, and yet still struggle to figure out where and in what mode, I can apply it. The upshot to starting my own business is that I can do it wherever I go, provided I can obtain the appropriate licenses. I’m not, then, dependent on others to accept me, that is.

But, you know, there are a lot of people that I know have this exact same nervousness around working for another employer. Which really should give me a bit of hope, because it means that there are other employers out there who have been in my position; business doesn’t have to be unduly restrictive or conservative. That’s…actually, a good insight.

Trial and revision

On the fourth of March (or around that time), I started experimenting with Flat Spiral stitch. This was to break me back into the use of instructions/techniques that originated with people other than myself, in a relatively unintimidating way. Through this, what I’ve gone through with the Bee earrings, and what I’ve gone through with the bracelet/closure pattern I’ve designed, I’ve found a number of patterns in my own expectations, as versus reality.

To be clear: the following isn’t really so much about Flat Spiral stitch, as it is about what I’ve observed in my working process — which I realized while working Flat Spiral. Flat Spiral will be set aside for a later post.

Based on my patterns of expectation, my responses are, well, somewhat predictable. But reality seems not to follow the patterns which my brain wants to categorize and organize reality into; and on top of that, my brain seems to want to prefer the safety of its own faulty thinking (and guesses at what will or should work) to thorough real-world testing. The result: I have a number of automatic, not-reality-tested responses which I follow through on, too quickly. That can get expensive, in this field. I seem not to be giving myself enough time to really know what I’m doing (and which materials I need to do it), before I launch into doing it wholeheartedly. That does show eagerness, which is a good thing; it also shows naivete, on my part.

Since beginning to openly experiment with my own patterns, and also with modifying techniques I’ve learned from other places — I’ve learned, for one thing, that the process of pattern development is not a one-shot deal. It’s not even a six-shot deal. It’s incremental. It takes time to learn what works and why, and what doesn’t work (and why). And it doesn’t happen without experimentation: doing things differently because it’s possible. And that possibility hasn’t yet been examined in the real world, for its virtues and drawbacks.

In the course of developing a sophisticated pattern, there are many versions which are what I would call, “the best I can do, for now.” And those best-at-the-time versions do exist, they do show where I was at, at a certain point in time…but they quickly become outpaced by later versions, as I learn and retain more knowledge about what I’m doing: specifically as a result of dissatisfaction with the earlier versions. As a result, my work becomes cleaner, more beautiful; and then I have these old versions which are good for showing me where I could do better, and where I came to do better, in later models.

What do I do with the design models, then? Good question. And what do I do where it comes to knowing when, exactly, I have a salable model? I guess it’s apparent that I do know when I have a model I’m willing to put out into the world, under my own name, because I can see that it’s clean. But also, with these macrame models especially…it has taken a while for me to get to that point. Both bracelet models I originated and have worked on, have spent years in development — not constant development, but at this time, they are not wholly new to me.

I know that this length of time likely relates to the fact that they were some of the first models I’ve designed from scratch. I didn’t really have a lot to work with where it came to knowing what tools to use, at first, or what techniques; but I learned…and was helped out by some people in my field. To be honest, a lot of this work couldn’t happen without overlapping communities and relationships, including primarily economic ones. Then there are others like Bead Societies, online forums, and many who, as Austin Kleon has encouraged everyone (including myself) to, “give away their secrets.”

With Flat Spiral Stitch, it’s obvious that this stitch seemed very easy, and also not all that awesome at first. This was due to the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing (having never tried it before), and because I started out having altered the technique I had been shown online.

I didn’t know, for example, that there’s a substantial difference between using four size 8/0 seed beads as the core unit of Flat Spiral stitch, as versus using two 4mm round beads as the core unit. I tried this a couple of different ways…I’m not certain exactly why it works with druks, and not so much without them, except that druks force the embellishing loops out horizontally — this doesn’t happen with multiples of smaller beads.

Commitment prior to full knowledge…

Now that I look at these statements in re-reading my post (posting is another of those things I’ve found I can’t fully do justice to in a single session — so far I’ve worked on this post for three days), they also shed light on what I was doing where it came to my career and Master’s degree. I wanted to love it, and moved forward as though I knew the realities of the job(s) I was training for. As though I knew the full spectrum of the jobs I could train for.

I wanted to love it so much that I avoided moving up in rank until after I had completed my MLIS. Had I done so before, I would have known absolutely not to aim for working with the public; possibly not to invest in this field at all. In my home system, basic “Librarian” titles in Public Libraries are seriously about Public Service. While I have worked with a regional Historical Society, I had mostly expected to work in Public Libraries after graduation. That, in turn, was largely because I had been relatively sheltered from the realities of working as even a paraprofessional employee, in that milieux.

The system I was in basically assigned increasing responsibility and increasing public contact, up until one reached middle management. That means that mostly everyone I worked with had daily contact with the public. I never really liked that work. I could organize things, and do it well. I could work with the database. I could troubleshoot. What I didn’t want to do was work Circulation. I didn’t realize that the public-contact part of that job would just intensify if I became either a Clerk or a Library Assistant, and that I wouldn’t be able to avoid it as a basic Librarian.

But I wanted to retain the view that this was something I could do and be happy at doing, even in lack of self-knowledge (or perhaps more precisely, lack of knowledge of what surrounded me and how I was different; how the person I was, did not fit the position — and should not need to), so I avoided gaining experience which could prove I was a poor fit. I felt I had to. I didn’t know what I would do if I gained alternate knowledge. I would have had the need and then obligation to myself, to try a different approach. I would also have had to go back to my Vocational program and negotiate a different plan. It would have meant I made a mistake. And for a kid who had thrived on educator-enabled learning, making mistakes was something I was conditioned against.

Of course, in the real world: mistakes are what you learn from.

This is when I dreaded the possibility of hearing the words that I was ill-equipped for a position because of my race, or my sex, or my disability, or my gender, or my sexual orientation, or anything else about myself that I had no choice about and couldn’t change. (Although maybe I actually would have liked gaining skills to become an electrician: I just expected to fight an uphill battle for the rest of my life, in that field.)

Not bringing this up, was another expensive…”mistake”. Of course…I would likely not have made that mistake, without being with a counselor who also most likely did not know me — or have any grounded knowledge about what it meant to be a Librarian. Especially not, what it meant to work with the public in a Public Library as a Public Librarian.

It means that there is room for things to get better, because we refine ourselves by trying and failing. Repeatedly. It just took me a long time to realize that I didn’t want to do what I had to do to succeed in Public Services, with that employer.

So I suppose it wasn’t really a waste of time, money, and energy, but a learning experience. I don’t want to cut my ties to the field, but all of my job experience in working with the public has told me that I’m not a person suited for working with the public — not temperamentally, and not in regard to trauma. I know that people are not always humane. I am not particularly surprised by what I see going on around me in this country, at this point. I am just a bit disappointed to have my perspective confirmed.

Which is why I know now, and have known, since I have been able to decompress from my last job — that…I should not put myself into a position like that, again. Not if I can help it.

In turn, if I want to get back to full…functionality, where it comes to jobs, I’ll want to refresh my math skills. Especially if I want to have the ability to go into technology — or engineering — as a field in general. Math is something I was initially very skilled at, and which I initially thought was fun (I still find some of it very enlightening and fun, particularly where it comes to what I understand and can apply). I caught hell for that in high school, because I wasn’t supposed to be as smart as I was. Why? Because I was female? Because my skin was dark and hair curly? My best guess leads me to an investigation of intersectionality as it applied to myself in ninth grade, after which I decided not to continue within the Honors Math track.

But that’s depressing, you know. I have half a mind to study this, but I also know that Ethnic Studies professors, and those involved in Womens’ Studies and feminisms, have a tendency to die early from stress leading to cancer, heart disease, and/or suicide.

I just find myself also wanting to love beading, so much so that I can avoid giving myself the chance to prove (or disprove) the hypothesis. I work on my writing, or I work online, when what I need to be doing is working with my materials. Not trying to set myself up with more materials; but working with what I have, now — to the point that I know what I’m doing and what I may need — once I reach a stable level of development, and have worked out the imperfections. That’s the pattern I’ve seen appearing when it has come to attempting to do beadwork on a regular schedule, as a route of self-employment, and not so much as a method of play.

Anyhow…it’s a fairly profound experience to gain, from looking at one’s own self-management, what one’s sticking points are, and why. The better thing about it is that when you realize it is fear of either success or failure…you can see that the fear is essentially…irrelevant. If it’s going to be there no matter what I do, and it’s especially going to stay there if I do nothing, the best thing I can do is disregard it. The only chance to get beyond it may be to work through it.

And at this juncture, I begin thinking about faith as versus science; which is relevant in my life currently, but maybe doesn’t have to be, in the future. Of course, the stakes for that, where it comes to mental health, are a bit higher. But there’s just something about faith that can’t be empirically proven…maybe in the way I think about the world, in general, which I…just need to investigate, maybe. There are things like those, “heart truths,” that I know I probably shouldn’t touch, at least for now. I find there may be core knowledge that exists to help us survive. It’s useful to tune into this, sometimes.

The thing is, even with the spiritual work I’ve been doing, I’ve been getting messages not to commit without knowing what I’m getting into.

I would write more about Flat Spiral (and regular Spiral) stitch, and the results of my experimentation so far; but I know that material is not ready yet. I have found some…interesting results, from doing things in a way that was unintended…


It seems…more obviously than not, that I’ve been gravitating away from blogging, to work on my own, private, records. In some cases that is very much a good thing — the world doesn’t really need to know all of my personal business, let’s say — and in other cases, it impedes me. It doesn’t seem that long ago, speaking in terms of…memory (ha), that it was difficult for me to let time pass in which I saw no updated proof of my existence, online. One of the things my online presence afforded me, was continuity: a sense of where I had been and what I had been about. This served as a guide when I lost my mooring, so to speak, and had to regain a sense of direction.

With this internet presence — I’m speaking in terms of SpectralBeads — I had been hoping to keep my personal life somewhat in the background, at least. The thing is, I feel like a lot of where I’m at in my emotional growth as it relates to my business (or potential business) is relevant. And, could help other people. I mean, sometimes the biggest thing that’s going on, relates to personal development and challenges I’m facing. Like, for example, getting motivated on my work, or getting organized — or finding out what my work style is, so I can best accommodate it and not mis-manage it.

With that out of the way, I’ve been basically absent from blogging for a few days because I screwed up my sleep schedule not so long ago. I’m fine today (as I write this it is still Wednesday, March 3rd — happy Hinamatsuri!), but the past two days have mostly been full of sleep. Today I worked on my March Bullet Journal layout and filled in my record gaps, so I have something of an idea of what happened.

On Sunday night/Monday morning (2/28 – 3/1), I got to bed super-late (around 4:30 AM) because I was absorbed with something I was doing online. Then I was basically wiped out for most of the day on Monday, and again on Tuesday — even with a full 12 hours of nighttime rest (though I shouldn’t assume I actually slept for all of that time). It’s really not good to take a four-hour block of time in the middle of the day and fall asleep, but that’s what was happening.

Of course, this isn’t my natural sleeping pattern. I’m still on a medication which was used to induce sleep, from when I was a teenager and getting a maximum of 4-6 hours of sleep, a night (which I obviously missed, that night). That, in turn, historically messed with my stress levels (constant anxiety), which induced depression. I don’t deal with the latter so much, anymore, but even having a history of depression means that you’re vulnerable to what they call, “relapse.”

I…personally, would be more on the lookout for signs of mania, at this point. It’s obvious enough to me that increased energy and motivation, contrasting with periods of lethargy, is something that I deal with — and that’s something that I’ll have to take into account in self-management. Whether it’s to a clinical level, I’m not sure; and I won’t be sure until after I get vaccinated and can see my doctor again.

But I mean…now that I think about it? I did just realize that bipolar symptoms are part of a disorder that I absolutely know I deal with. I mean, I don’t need a separate diagnosis or confirmation. It might be of use to get on top of that…though whether I want to use a mood stabilizer in place of an antidepressant, I’m not sure. A lot of the decision would hinge on the side effects…which in my experience, are relatively frequent companions.

To compound this, I had also stretched and exercised on Sunday, most likely for the first time in months (well, maybe not months) — and apparently I have something orthopedic going on. Since Monday, I’ve been in shoes most of the time I’ve been awake…because otherwise, my feet and legs hurt so much that it discourages movement. I basically wasn’t able to do any lower-body exercises until — possibly — today, but I still haven’t. Pain is just one of those things. I don’t want a repeat of Monday morning.

We’re pretty sure this is related to lockdown, and having been out of shoes for such an extended period. It also probably relates to stretching too hard, though I don’t think my body has ever had that response, before. There are two things that could be at fault. One, age. Two, medication-induced weight gain, which is directly related to the sleep-inducing medication being too effective, requiring either modification (a waking stimulus of a different drug, which happens to frequently cause weight gain and can cause diabetes) or decrease. Decreasing it meant more anxiety.

This is the happy happy world of psychiatric pharmacology. I’m hoping to be able to actually kick this medication this time around (it happens not to like it when you try to stop; last time, I got paranoia which could have gotten me fired, and which was not helped by my work environment. At least lockdown is somewhat controlled, and the people I’m with understand what I’m going through. Withdrawal symptoms don’t last forever).

As I’m technically not currently working for an employer other than myself, I don’t have the stress of having to deal with random people as much as I did: which was most of my stress. I understand that, now. Now that I’m actually able to put a name to what was bothering me, and I can name why simple interactions, day after day, stressed me so much. And a lot of it…a lot hinges on mental health, and a lot of that mental health, hinges on being seen as myself, as versus what I stereotypically look like (which rarely ever happens).

Looking back on it, I’m not entirely certain why I stayed in that position so long, except that I felt I had to adapt, and that I could adapt (as versus find a job without public contact). I mean…it certainly was a development phase for me, but was it necessary? I’m not sure.

I probably would have been happier in a different setting, I realize now; but I was still into the whole “public good” angle of working for someone I could ethically support (without realizing that businesses — even for-profit businesses — also existed which I could ethically support…and bureaucracy wasn’t necessarily ethical). Then there is the fact that ADA compliance is necessary, in Public Service.

The thing is, do I really want to work in Public Service?

Is that really something I’m suited to? I know people who know me very well, who would say, “no.” For a long time, however, I just didn’t know that anything better existed. Or, for that matter, that there is a certain type of person who can flourish in that environment, and that I’m not that type of person. I have too much anger, I hold onto routine microaggressions based on apparent gender and apparent race for too long, I try to figure out why things are **** instead of just accepting that the world is…not necessarily a nice place to be. Especially if you’re different.

Why am I writing about this? I want to make a life I want to live. I mean, actually want to live, not, “suffer through so I can earn a salary and not be homeless,” which has been the contrast here, especially where things have come to job placement. Elsewhere, I’ve spoken specifically about why it is I have trouble dealing with the general public…I’d rather not get into it right here and now at 1:30 AM, but…well, it relates to the entire underpinning of this site. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got into it, eventually.

Especially if I keep pouring my heart out.

And yeah, I was a Creative Writing major…they teach you how to do this stuff, there.

I suppose pattern books may help?

EDIT: 2-28-21, 12:33 AM: By the way, yes, I do know not to use other peoples’ patterns for profit without permission. I just now realized that I hadn’t included this information. The line between technique and pattern is still somewhat blurry for me, but I’m sure I’ll understand it more, the more I work on my own designs.

It’s been…an interesting few days since I posted. In the meantime, I’ve made another bracelet with the same construction method as last time, which looks very different because of the color scheme I used (bluish red through blue-violet, analogous). When working from a known pattern (in this case, my own), most of the things I learn — aside from color interactions — relate to quality and efficiency. And, perhaps, that I can use beads I never thought I’d use. I am getting better at doing this; still, I know I need to factor in time for original design work, so that I’m not doing the same patterns, just in different colors, all the time.

One of the goals I set for myself in starting this website was to try and write about learning how to design on my own. What I was thinking while at work recently, was that a lot of techniques, I initially learned through following other peoples’ patterns. It isn’t that I have the pattern memorized; it’s that I know the technique and why and how it works.

Something as simple as embellished right-angle weave (RAW) is something that’s stuck in my mind, because I learned how to do it at a young age (though back then, I’m not sure I knew it was RAW: the method of construction also obscured its origins as something that at least could have been easily reproduced with RAW and a simple edging technique). Then there is crossweave technique (another method of embellishing RAW)…which I didn’t realize was probably in practicality akin to being open-source, because it’s so unoriginal and commonly used, regardless of where I picked it up. (I’ve been learning about intellectual property law.)

Because of this, I’ve begun to consider following some of the many patterns I have collected over the years. I’ve been trending away from patterns, recently; but if they can introduce me to some new techniques and new ways of thinking about structure, that is welcome! I also have read enough to know that each designer has a different way of approaching beadwork…a different preferred set of mental tools, if you will. I can see this in my own work. Sampling multiple different designers would then introduce me to different methods of approach to the problem of how to make personal adornments — and I might pick up some additional approaches to add to my repertoire.

Then there are also those designers whose work tangentially touches on beadwork, or touches on a craft which can easily be integrated into beadwork. I’ve found this with bead embroidery, knitting, crochet, and tatting — in addition to wirework, kumihimo, and micro-macramé, of course. Then there’s leatherwork and lampwork glass, but now I’m kind of getting out into the weeds (I’ve played with molten glass, but that was in high school Chemistry, with Pyrex/borosilicate — it was fun, but requires a lot of caution — and likely, a studio space)…then there are things that I really have never tried, like soutache. Of course, there is integrating metalwork into beaded pieces (most obviously by making metal beads). And also Korean knotwork, which I’ve tried, but which requires a specific type or feel/firmness of cord (kind of like soutache, which requires a figure-8 cord. Korean knotwork, in my experience, requires a firm round cord with a solid core) — and also a lot of patience.

I’m trying to think of which of these side specialties I like best and at which I am most confident. I am a relative newcomer to micro-macramé, but I do enjoy it. I’m also a relative newcomer to tatting (a specific type of knotted lace, whose latent influence on beadwork I can sense, but haven’t yet been able to work out; nor have I ever seen it taken to what I sense may be its highest potential).

I’ve tried kumihimo (a Japanese braiding method) and found it required more patience than I had at the time; though if I could get the weaving to work with beads…basically just requiring a lot more practice…it could be something in my hands. The major issue with kumihimo lies in the terminations, which may call into use my metalworking skills. Maybe. If I ever get into it. Most terminations right now depend upon adhesive and possibly a physical connection (wire loop or metal teeth). I was taught in silversmithing class never to depend upon adhesive for stone mounting; I would extend that to terminations which have to be relied upon.

Prior to macrame and tatting, I specialized in beadweaving, and I have solid basic wireworking skills. I am not by any stretch of the imagination all that into wirework — although I have considered filigree and cloisonné. Mostly, from having seen other people do it excellently. I know that’s not a great reason, but there was a little bit of inspiration there.

The original reason I got into beadweaving, in turn: I realized that if I wanted to make a living out of this, I should know how to do more than just stringing. That was when I was in my early teen years. There are…for those of you not into beadweaving, there are numerous different ways of attaching beads to each other (by this I mean thread paths) using thread or cord. That’s basically what I’m focusing on, right now.

I know that to reach my fullest potential, it would help to achieve mastery of all the beadweaving stitches I know of (or at least, the ones I care about: I question whether I really need to know Cubic Right-Angle Weave). Once I’ve mastered the stitches, I can break away from other peoples’ patterns.

The fact is that in beadweaving, at least: structurally speaking, things boil down to only two ways to anchor a thread: through a bead (as in Peyote Stitch), or around another thread (as in African Helix). These can be combined in the same piece. An easy example is Brick Stitch, which incorporates both: one goes through a new bead, then hooks the thread below it, then comes back out that same bead. When the thread is tightened, the bead locks into place.

In practicality, however, this is normally just considered, “around another thread.”

When you get into micro-macrame, knots are also a way to anchor — and move — a cord, whereas knots can’t always be relied upon in beadweaving (FireLine in particular is known for being difficult to knot; for this material, we have to rely on tail friction to stop unravelling). Knots are rarely a design element in beadweaving; whereas they can even be a dominant element in beaded micro-macramé. There are also a number of different basic knots to use in macramé…and I’m not certain if I’ll need the more obscure ones. Right now, I’m looking at the possibilities of using Double Half Hitches extensively…because they just look, clean.

I began this post with a clear idea: that I would want to allocate time to the design phase — specifically to the design phase — though I suppose I’ve been unconsciously there more often than not, for most of the time I’ve been working (especially on the Bee earrings). I am also thinking about assigning projects — by other designers — to myself on a regular basis, and recording what I learn from them. This would give me seed material to actually know something about the usefulness of the books I’m hoping to review on this site in the future.

I kind of feel like what I’m doing — trying to design without using patterns at all — is akin to trying to write, without reading. Without knowing the full alphabet, even.

It should also make it easier to start work in the morning, knowing that I don’t have to figure everything out myself. Then maybe, the latter hours of the day can be used in working on and refining my original creations. The new type of bracelet I’m making, only takes a few hours of dedicated work; and it’s getting shorter — and easier — with every repeated attempt.

I should say, though: I am trying to get this work organized. I’m at the very beginning stages of it right now, and haven’t yet worked out a good routine. I know that making the transition from, “just rolled out of bed,” to, “full-fledged designer,” is difficult for me. But I need to do it, if I want to do this as a business. It took me hours to wake up, not so long ago, but I can’t remember if that was yesterday, or the day before.

What I know is that it’s well within my comfort zone, to write. Not so much, to bead…though I know that’s kind of a useless thing to be gauging myself on. Unless I’m trying to ease myself into doing something that matters, and I’m afraid to do something that matters, for whatever reason. Makes it too real, maybe?

Getting back into micromacrame

I had forgotten that when I initially dreamed about starting this up, I had intended to work primarily in beaded micro-macramé. Last night I made my first bracelet since…well, since I made one for a new friend, over Christmas. There’s just something about building up the toughness and resilience in my hands that I like…in addition to the relatively free-form work which I sense is possible, when working with knots and cords. When beadweaving, it feels different: more like assembling a whole from different parts that have to fit together in a certain way, or the finished object doesn’t quite cohere. This is why there are so many spacer beads within beadweaving — often, they just serve to cover up an otherwise exposed thread path.

So last night, I took a break from beadweaving (I could have easily gone back to the earring project, but my base-metal wires were still quarantining: I had realized that I should not be using expensive materials on trials. I had also realized the fact that I was doing trials) and went back into knotting. I only have two successful bracelet patterns to my name, at the moment (if you don’t count the pattern of the collar currently on the home page), but they were relatively easy to come up with. What wasn’t quite as straightforward was the development of what I call the, “clasp complex,” or the closure which loops everything around and ties it together. I have, that is, been working on my own version of a slide closure.

It’s working surprisingly well, at the moment. I can see myself getting better, which is another reason I really like beadwork. I really love those infinitesimal, but occasionally glaringly obvious, steps towards mastery. Micro-macramé is, however…it’s very niche. At least, currently; and at least so, in the United States.

A photo of a blue, yellow, and purple beaded micromacrame bracelet
Created February 23, 2021; no color alterations, but the smaller beads are relatively more violet IRL.

I actually first got the idea to do what I’m doing, from someone who was selling gemstone and cord bracelets at a street fair. I was intrigued at the knotting process. I feel confident enough that I’ve got a different angle on things (I use glass seed and fire-polished beads, instead of gemstones; my work is also much less chunky) that I can say that my own work was kick-started by someone else (who probably, in turn, didn’t pull it out of thin air). It’s also undeniable that there is a certain aesthetic that goes along with knotted jewelry, but it — particularly the level of fineness of it — differs between makers.

Right now, I’ve got enough to start off with (I’m particularly a fan of Joan Babcock, although I haven’t really done many of her projects: I just find her instructions very useful), but I know that there are processes and construction tricks that I haven’t yet encountered. Right now, what I’m working off of are a macrame version of what looks like Daisy Chain (which is a very basic technique I am particularly reminded of in the work of Annika deGroot), and the fact that knots consolidate cords, in turn creating space which allow larger beads to be inserted. When a bead snaps into place like it’s supposed to be there, you know you’ve got something. It took me, probably, months to figure out what I was doing, and why it worked sometimes, and not others. However, I was very new to this, then.

Even with a known pattern, I am still dealing with fatigue, particularly where it comes to remembering where to put what knot (last night I was up until 2 AM taking notes on the work of the day), but I am getting better. What especially helps, is knowing what something should look — and feel — like, and when that differs from what is, I’m aware that I need to troubleshoot. That is dependent on experience, though. Most of the time, the problem is either in tying a knot where there should not be one; or in tying a knot with the wrong cords. A sharp awl with a fine (and undamaged!) point really helps untangle these. Flexible plastic tubing of the type used for air lines in aquariums, is good to protect the points of things like awls and reamer tips, in storage.

Close-up of clasp-complex area
Golden Horn beads bordering a Cobalt Blue glass rondelle

I remember not so long ago, reading a number of complaints — somewhere — online that stated that the electric bead reamer I used to enlarge the holes in horn beads, last night, had a tendency to wobble and break off the tips of the reaming bits. I can’t find that record now. Given that my mind is occasionally unreliable, I’m led to conclude that either the complaints were taken down, or I literally dreamed the situation and mistook it for waking reality. However: when using a Beadalon battery-operated bead reamer, there are some tricks to keep you from being injured. And no, you don’t need a bead vise.

One: DO NOT attempt to force the reamer tip into the bead hole. This will lead to jamming and either the reamer will stop spinning, or you will get friction burns on your fingertips from the bead, when the motor kicks in. (This happened.)

Two: LUBRICATE the reamer tip with water (if not a regular tool lubricant) before putting it into the bead hole. This keeps the bit sharper, longer; and prevents overheating. I used water on horn, which I was initially wary of; but the horn doesn’t look worse for wear. I was more concerned about never being able to get Bur-Life out of the thread hole.

Three: Place your bead onto the reamer, then back it off of the place where it sticks. This is the area in which you will want to start wearing away the material from inside the bead hole. Again, DO NOT FORCE the bead onto an area of the reamer which could stick and jam it up. You don’t have to have all areas of the bit touching the inside of the bead at all times, for the reamer to do its job.

Four: Make sure to keep your finger(s) and thumb clear of the reamer while the reamer is operating.

Five: Go light on the motor. Don’t go whole-hog and hold the button down, unless you’re fairly confident in what you’re doing.

Six: If your reamer tip is wobbling after insertion, before you do anything, remove the collet and seat the reamer shank and rubber padding ALL THE WAY DOWN into the collet, before reinserting the collet into the motor. In my experience, this completely eliminated wobbling.

That’s not a complete overview of the process, but it should help. I think the bad reviews were due to people not knowing how to finesse the reamer to get it to work. Beadalon basically doesn’t provide much instruction on how to use their tool, in the packaging (other than to lubricate with water).

I know I almost threw out the motor on reading the reviews (I too had experienced my bit wobbling), but reaming a hole by hand to a size of 1.5 mm or larger, is a very time-consuming — and dull — task when done manually. There was reason for me, therefore, to give it another shot. Even when using the Beadalon electric reamer, it took some patience (and frequent rinsing of the bit — and bead — under dripping water. After a while, you get a kind of slurry going with the removed material and water mixing, which is probably safer for the bit. It’s just kind of gross).

Note that I’m not responsible for anything you do with these tips. I’m just trying to help. And, right: it should be obvious, but don’t get any part of an electric reamer wet, except for the tip.

Close-up of one side of the clasp
Narrowing down the active cords

There is a lot more that I’ve learned over the past 24 hours. Most of it is in my working notes. Some of it is straightforward, like the direction to use slipknots over a doubled waste cord in anchoring the center of the work, instead of overhand knots on top of a pin. I’ve also begun to use Fray Check or another hardening glue or cement on the ends of all cords, in order to avoid accidentally separating the plies of the cord when threading on beads.

I had two issues last night with the plies of my C-Lon separating, which led me to abandon a half-finished bracelet length and restart. The first issue just had to do with one of the plies not going through a bead, while the other two did. This resulted in a compact coil of that ply bunching up towards the work, when I attempted to slide the bead up to the work. If I had used Fray Check on that instance, the plies would not have been able to separate.

The second issue? I had tied overhand knots on a T-Pin in order to anchor the center of the work. Then the T-Pin fell out. Then I had to try and unpick the overhand knots. I didn’t get past the first one. I don’t know what happened, but it looked similar to the first significant error I made that night: it basically ruined the cord. Even using head-mounted magnification and double sets of tweezers, I couldn’t tell what was going on. At that point, I knew it wasn’t salvageable, and restarted.

I also have begun to use double half-hitches in my arsenal. They’re visible in the last photo, above: this is how I narrowed my work down to the slide clasp. I really like the small circles they make as they’re tied off.

One of the things I forgot to note last night: when making the square-knot slides, I need to be counting how many knots I make, on each side. Another thing to note is that I might want to go through my fire-polished beads, especially if they’re from a questionable lot, like the Blue Iris ones I used last night; and cull any beads which don’t look quite right.

I did get these directly from Czechia, but they were very inexpensive; and as a result, I have had to cull (remove/discard) numerous beads from this lot (though apparently, from none of the others?). The ones I’ve already removed were obviously flawed. However, I didn’t realize that some beads could be, you know, halfway messed-up. I don’t think it will really show to anyone who isn’t super-critical. It might even be a benefit if you like a grunge aesthetic. But last night, I was just focused on getting anything done, even if it would be a trial bracelet.

I guess I succeeded in that!