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!


Bee beadwoven earrings in green and gold
Figure 1. Originally photographed in October 2015.

Today has shown me that experimentation may be the only way to figure out if a certain design will work, or not. I’ve been working again on a certain earring design that I refer to as “Bee” earrings, due to the charm I used as a dangle on the originals (which date back to 2015).

At this time, I’m uncertain that the charms are being produced anymore, so I’m using Fire-Polished drop beads and Fire-Polished rounds (Figure 2), instead of what appear to be lightweight brass/gold-plated stampings (Figure 1).

You’ll probably also notice that I’ve traded the jump-ring connections of the original for wrapped wire components or head pins. Particularly, the most recent two versions (only one of which is viable, see “5”) use head pins for the dangles, instead of weaving them in outright. I was having problems with kinking (see 2a, and “3”).

Updated trial versions of the Bee earrings
Figure 2. Originally noted on January 26, 2021 (in hard copy)

This pattern works out best with a base of either a smallish 5mm bead (on Figure 2, see “1,” “2” and 2a, and “4”), or a 4mm bead bordered by two 15/0 seed beads (see “3” and “5”, ibid.). Originally, I used a 3mm x 5mm rondelle bordered with tiny faux pearls (2mm — see Figure 1)…the thing is, manufacturers don’t necessarily produce beads in consistent sizes over several years. I had purchased more 3mm x 5mm rondelles to try and duplicate the pattern, to find that my new two-hole lentil beads were of different relevant dimensions than the ones I had used for the 2015 version.

Yeah. So I had to figure out how to work the pattern again — if I could work it again — using the newer beads. It looks like I’ve hit upon a solution. At least one, that is. And no, I didn’t expect it to take me this long. On the eighth of February 2021, I just decided to toy with the central bead length until I actually knew what would work best. Of course, that doesn’t help all too much when the different bead colors themselves are different sizes…

But who wants life uniform, right?

The thing is, the more I work on and experiment with the designs, the better the designs get. Then that makes me not want to use the earlier versions.

Or, perhaps, keep them for myself? Cut them apart to reuse them? Keep them as evidence of work? Gah.

I should note that the space between the piercings in the two-hole lentils is best filled with 3 size 11/0 beads if I’m using Miyuki, and 2 size 11/0 beads if I’m using Toho. Of course, they don’t have to be that large: but it makes things easier. I’ve had to use a fine needle to get through these, but I can’t tell if it’s a size 12 or 13, or 15, without reference.

What I’m also figuring out is that I need to have wire available to work with just to figure out models of jewelry, not necessarily to use for finished jewelry. And I have…like, none of that, in silvertone (though enough, in red brass and copper). This is mostly for the reason that silver-plated wire tends to blacken and ruin beads (the oxidation rubs off on their insides — a fairly horrible fate for transparent beads, though they can be cleaned), and I’m allergic to nickel silver.

Because of this whole allergy thing, I’ve been reluctant to use base-metal earwires, with the exception of pure copper, or niobium — both of which are free of nickel. (I’ll also wear surgical steel, but those earrings usually only come in gauged sizes: the smallest I’ve used were probably 18g.)

The thing is, to produce these in quantity, it’s best to actually make gold-filled earwires. Pre-fabricated, they aren’t cheap, and it’s easy enough to make them. It’s just so darn convenient…but not cost-effective, and definitely not as customizable, to buy them.

Unless, that is, it takes one forever to make them. I just happen to find it not-difficult. Some of the jewelers in my Metalsmithing class were jealous, though…I mean, seriously. I think someone told me they hated me. 😉 No. Really.

As a note, the earwires in the above photos were bought ready-made. I didn’t get the appropriate wire to work on fabrication, until today.

Man. I’ve been awake since 6 AM this morning. I believe I was writing in my journals between 6 and 9, when I ran out of things to write about. Sometime around 9:30 AM, I finished breakfast and got to work. I stopped work at around 2 PM for lunch. Before 3 PM, I began this entry. I’ve spent the time between 3 PM and 4:30 PM taking and optimizing pictures. At the time I began to write this, it was because I didn’t feel like taking pictures…but then I realized how incredibly lucky I was to have sunlight at all, and this resulted.

Right now, it’s about 5 PM. I’ve been having fairly consistent trouble with waking in the very early morning. Like, around 4:30 in the morning. I’m not entirely sure why, or if I should go to bed early again, tonight. But what qualifies as, “early,” these days? 10 PM? 9? 7?

I should probably plan for another early morning tomorrow, eh? I can take the time to work on some of those earwires…

And, it’s 5:30 PM. Time for dinner.

Who am I?

Not to get all meta on you, but you’re probably wondering who I am.

For the past ten years, I’ve run a blog over at Hidden Jewels. That blog started out as a private affair and only later made its way onto the search engines. Although I know it — well, exists — it seems very much time to change up my tone and my mission. I’ve developed quite a bit over the last ten years.

I mean…I’ve been running off of the blueprint of ten years ago, and have found the format of what I had been doing, constricting. It’s OK to grow.

Getting lost.

Hidden Jewels started out as a blog I could link to Ravelry as an extension to my membership — which was, in turn, a way to keep in contact with college friends. Ravelry is a site made for knitters, crocheters, and other fiber artists. It’s still going, if you’re curious.

Honestly, that website is awesome for free (and paid) knit and crochet patterns, along with a community of those who would use them; the thing is, that isn’t where I’m focused at this point in my life, and it hasn’t been, for years. After I realized this, I was kind of floating in the water for a while, without much of a direction or guide as to what Hidden Jewels was actually about. It kind of became whatever my life was about, at the moment — which wasn’t always interesting. Particularly when I was going through grad school.

At this point, I think I have enough idea of what I want to do with a site, to commit to it. Or to at least, try to commit to it.

It’s worth a shot, right?

Craft Jewelry

Right now, I’m focused on weaving and knotting little glass beads into wearable art, a.k.a. beadwork, a.k.a. craft jewelry. Yeah. I know. The term, “Craft Jewelry” sounds horrible, at least until you’ve reclaimed the term, “Craft (I feel better after watching A Craftsman’s Legacy),” but it pretty much encompasses where I am, at the moment. This is Craft Jewelry, as versus Fine Jewelry, Fashion Jewelry, and Art Jewelry.

I should make a post or page expressly on the distinctions (or find where I originally mentioned them: AHA), although this references one or another magazine article on beadwork from the early 2000’s…which I’d be lucky to find again without an indexed and searchable archive. Bead&Button (which has stopped publishing as of October 2020) and Beadwork are the two magazines I would target if I were to look for this article.

I am one of the only people I know who has ever mentioned and frequently used the term, “Craft Jewelry,” so it may be an idiosyncratic distinction: but I’ve personally been able to distinguish a delineation (relatively recently) between what is Art and what is Craft. Long story short, my work ranges into what I consider, “Art,” or, “Art Jewelry,” despite usually heavily factoring in beads. As I see it currently, the medium used doesn’t necessarily determine whether something is Art or Craft…the thinking behind its creation, does.

If you’re like me and you have a jewelry design which is presently unmade but makes you think, conceptually and visually, of your version of the 7 of Cups in the Thoth tarot deck (Debauch), and you’re aiming to express it in reality…that’s ranging into Art territory. It’s then, wearable art — which is the clearest definition I can find for what I do. Moreso than trying to decorate a person’s form, or trying to enhance attractiveness, I’m looking for feelings behind colors and shapes; reasons a person might wear my pieces, even if they express something normally seen as uncomfortable.

This is why I work. It’s what keeps me coming back. It isn’t all about being, “pretty,” though I can see a wider market for, “pretty.” Many of my pieces may pass for the latter, though attractiveness may not be my top priority. I do know that when I wear jewelry, I often don’t want the extra attention I get — meaning I have another motive for wearing it.

But that’s another conversation.

Taken generally, though: my practice does not require that a deep philosophical background be an integral part of its existence. Hence its fall-back state as Craft, and it’s sometimes-enhanced state as (also) Art. Not to mention Design, which seems simply a question of whether something works as intended (or works, period). I’ve gone into this before, on Hidden Jewels.

I hope that the time you spend here can help you gain an appreciation for craft, if you don’t feel it already; or can help you gain a more nuanced and expanded idea of what can be done with craft, if you’re a crafter.

Note here that I have not yet intensively studied the Arts & Crafts Movement, though I know about it, and a little about why it may factor into my present understanding of myself. I am not sure, however, how well I would fit in there if the movement were going on, today. My work heavily relies on precision-made beads, and the Arts & Crafts Movement was, firstly, a reaction to industrialization and mass production. This can cut both ways, in that I’m using mass-produced components to create jewelry in a potential cottage-industry setting.

Life is complicated.

Why do this?

It’s a serious question. I do have hard-copy journals: at last count, I have four presently current (if you don’t count quick notations). I’m doing this work because 1) I love writing, 2) I love beadwork, 3) I need to be accountable to myself, 4) I feel like the world would be healthier with more people able to be self-sufficient, in things like how they want to present themselves to the world. I can combine all these items, here.

My hope — distant though it may be (I’m not really a social type, which is why I’m an online writer) — is to create a place where beaders can come together on the Internet. Right now, WordPress doesn’t have a huge beading community, but I hope to at least put down some roots so that others have a more pleasant time finding other beaders. If this site also serves an educational purpose, I’m glad.

My blog on this site is likely to become a repository of records of my daily work, and ways in which I’m developing and can develop. Wendi at Door 44 Studios posted about the need to log one’s work, if one is going to be able to defend oneself from others infringing on their own personal intellectual property. This is what I needed to hear: I had always wanted to post about what I was doing with beads online, but — hey — I know myself, and by extension, I know how easy it sometimes can be to reverse-engineer someone’s work, just from looking at it. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And after you see it, are you not supposed to use it? I get it.

I also know how easy it is to spontaneously come up with the same design as someone else, because there are only so many ways beads fit together! If I recall correctly, this actually happened between Sam at Wescott Jewelry, and myself, years ago. Thankfully, we both understood how it could happen — the pattern was very simple. (Unfortunately, I can’t remember the date I saw Sam’s version, though my upload date was July 5, 2018 — to a blog that is no longer live.) However, I would hope that creating designs using beads would be an exercise in exploration, not an exercise in avoiding liability.

Over the years, I did find “Knowledge Curation,” an academic paper written by Michael Madison, addressing the fact that Intellectual Property law is built for new knowledge, and is not built to address old or handed-down knowledge. To the best of my recollection, I also don’t think Intellectual Property law covers technique, except for patent — which has to be novel and also difficult to come across on one’s own. (“Technique,” is different from, “pattern;” just specifically how [in the realm of beadwork], I’m not entirely sure of, yet. If anyone can enlighten me, I’m listening.)

The book, Zulu Inspired Beadwork, by Diane Fitzgerald, falls directly into this gap. It’s problematic to me for a number of reasons. If I recall correctly, Fitzgerald demonstrates how beadwoven items can be picked apart and their methods of construction decoded by those who have the skills, then those methods can be redistributed with no direct credit to the original makers (there is also the question of whether the original makers were ever compensated beyond the cost of their jewelry; it didn’t read like that to me, but I read this book a very long time ago, and could have forgotten something).

However…if we’re holding our techniques that sacred, we may never give our work to anyone at all (let alone sell it), and that is a waste of skill (on par with my being hesitant to cut a “perfect” strand of beads apart because I need to actually use them for their intended purpose).

For beaders, the risk of being “copied” just comes along with making our knowledge public, at all; and our knowledge is contained in our techniques. At least, some of it is. (Other parts, like color and finish interactions, texture, etc., can’t be as easily decoded.)

So what can you do? Log your work.

Explore With Me: How to Design

I seem to have gotten a bit off-track, though that’s normal for me. This is (numerically, at least) my first post, right?

I also plan on creating another section of this site on approaches to generating original jewelry designs. I’m not sure yet how it will turn out, but I’ve got a huge outline done, already. 🙂 I’m not even entirely sure yet of how the process of design works, myself; so I’ll be exploring with the reader, as I’m writing this section. This is the book I want to read that I can’t find, however. Everything in me tells me I have a shot at making it.

Should be fun.