I like to combine a great variety of (art) beads and components. And when I get the chance some beads of one of my favorite countries, Nepal, will find their way into my designs.
This bracelet is a lovely mix of my most favorite beads. It started with a gorgeous bead made by my friend Julie Wong Sontag (UgliBeads), a very talented bead maker. As it happens I had a beautiful polymer clay rose from Leah Curtis (Beady Eyed Bunny) in almost the exact same color as the blue in the lampwork bead. With this combination, the rest of the bracelet practically designed itself. I used old Bodhi mala, prayer beads (Nepal), old bone mala, prayer bead with inlay (Nepal), old “silver” Maya bead (Guatemala), a large kyanite nugget, some vintage lucite beads, Czech seed beads and for closure a metal button with multi color flower design.
Making earwires has been a mystery to me for years. I have been making earrings for quite some time using the commercial earwires that you find in all the bead stores. Making my own earwires never occurred to me until I became a member of the Creative Bead Chat group on facebook and started seeing all the gorgeous earrings using handmade earwires posted. Making your own earwires can really take your earring designs up a notch!
I’ve admired all the folks that made their own earwires but felt that it just wasn’t something that I could do. Well after asking a lot of questions, which is something that I can definitely do, and a lot of online research, which again is something that I do fairly well, I came to the conclusion that making my own earwires was something that I could do. There have been several great discussions online within the CBC group and I thought I might attempt to pass along some of these great tips, tricks and mysteries to you.
First you need to start with wire, sterling silver, argentium silver and copper are all good choices. Craft wire however is not recommended due to all the allergies that people have and the fact that there might be something in this wire that could irritate. Size of wire to use varies but most people recommended 20 gauge or 22 gauge for smaller ear holes. Once you have your desired wire you need to gather your tools. You will need a pair of round nose pliers, a pair of medium size bail making pliers or double looping pliers or as in my case sometimes I use an ink pen that has a rather large diameter. There are various items that you might have around your house to use to form the loop. You also need something to smooth the portion of the earwire that goes into your ear. A nail file or burr cup tool can be used for this purpose.
There are many great tutorials online for making earwires. Here’s just a few that I have found:
Michelle Buettner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7btLQIlK00;
Easy Fancy Earwires by Rena Klingenberg http://jewelrymakingjournal.com/easy-fancy-earwires-tutorial/
Deryn Mentock http://somethingsublime.typepad.com/something_sublime_from_th/2007/05/tutorial_du_jou.html
There are tons more available online, just google and plenty will show up.
I’m going to give you my easy earwires for dummies tutorial here.
Tools and Supplies:
- 20 or 22 gauge Wire (copper, sterling silver, Argentium silver
- Liver of Sulfur (optional – only if you want to patina your earwires)
- Sealant such as Clear Guard or Renaissance Wax (this is only needed if you decide to patina your earwires)
- Round Nose Pliers
- Bail making pliers, multistep pliers, or any medium size round object that you can wrap your wire around
- Wire Cutters
- Nail file or burr cup tool
- Chasing Hammer
- Rubber mallet or rawhide mallet (if not using tumbler)
- Bench Block
- Tumbler (optional)
- Cut 2 ½” – 3” of desired wire, flush cut both ends of your wire.
- Form the loop for hanging your earring charm, bobble etc. using your round nose pliers. This loop can be a simple round loop or you can get fancy and do a spiral a backward loop, a wrapped loop. The possibilities here are endless.
- Switch to your looping pliers, ink pen, or other round object. Hold your first loop just above the looping pliers with the loop facing towards you and make a second larger loop (this will be the loop that actually goes into your ear). Use a hammer to flatten the top portion of your loop. Not necessary but it gives a nice look to your earwire.
- File the sharp edge smooth by using a nail file or a burr cup tool. If you are using a nail file just file the edges a few time all sides to make sure that there are no sharp edges. Run your finger over the end to check for any roughness. If you are using the burr cup tool place the end of your wire inside the cup and rotate clockwise a few times and then you can also do a few turns counter clockwise. You could also use 0000 steel wool to smooth the ends after using your burr cup tool.
- Bend the end slightly on the part of the earwire that goes into your ear using a pair of flat nose pliers. This isn’t totally necessary but it gives the earwires a nice look.
At this point you can throw your earwires into a tumbler to harden them or if you are like me and don’t have a tumbler yet, you can use a rubber mallet or rawhide mallet and a bench block to harden your earwire. Just take your rubber mallet or rawhide hammer and whack your earwires several times to harden. Harden the earwires by gently but firmly hammering. Hammering will stiffen up your ear wires so they don’t bend out of shape. Hammer up and down the ear wire, being careful to avoid the little loop end.
There you have it, a simple ear wire. You need to repeat these steps for the second earwire and check to make sure that all loops and edges are equal.
You can stop here at this point, however if you would like your earwires to have a patina or a finish other than the shiny one, you can dunk the finished earwires into a LOS bath and shine them a bit with a polishing pad (or throw them in the tumbler) and then seal them with something like Clearguard or some folks use Renaissance Wax to seal the patina.
Need inspiration for making your own earwires?
Check out some of these pinterest boards for some great designs and links to other tutorials.
Follow Melinda Orr’s board Earwire Inspired on Pinterest.
Follow Linda Younkman’s board Earwires – Inspiration for Making Your Own on Pinterest.
Finishing off a piece of jewelry can sometimes be the most challenging part of a design. Struggling to find just the right ending can often delay the completion of many projects. Often times executing the idea is a challenge as well. I’m sure that this is not as uncommon a problem as you might think. Clasps don’t always have to be the traditional commercial clasps that are quite popular in a lot of designs. My challenge begins when I stray away from these typical lobster or toggle clasp, but some of your most unique or spectacular pieces are when you use something non-traditional for the clasp.
Do you struggle to get “Closure”?
Recently I have been working on more bead weaving projects, and trying to find that extra special way to finish off my piece has become not only a challenge but a bit of fun.
Lindy’s Designs: Leather snap clasp goes great a peyote wave bracelet design
The normal beaded endings or button and loops are always an option but I’m going for a more unique look, something out of the norm.
Metal, leather, buttons are just a few of the endings that I have used on my bead weaving pieces lately.
Lindy’s Designs: Pyramid Bracelet with hammered copper square washer & hook
Fellow beader, Cynthia Machata of Antiquity Travelers, has been known to use drilled rocks and drapery cord and leather for some of her pieces.
Melinda Orr of Bandana Girl does fantastic endings with leather, metal and wire.
What are some of the most unique endings that you have come up with? What materials have you used that weren’t originally made specifically for clasps?
With this in mind we are introducing our first Design Challenge! << Click this link
Getting Serious About our Beading!
Recently a few of us have been discussing the idea of a Bead Circle for our CBC community. Ideas are flowing and we are still in the planning stages but recently we had a mini Bead Circle event at the Bead Fest in Philadelphia.
Marlene Quigley of markazoart.com has been sharing some of her wonderful knit herringbone bracelets on our CBC facebook page. A mixed media artist located in Eastern Pennsylvania, Marlene creates one-of-a-kind pieces taking her inspiration from her garden and nature. She does awesome beadwork as well as metal work and often combines the two in her pieces. When asked about her thoughts on this process, here is her reply “as an artist I feel it is an obligation of sorts to share what I know and do with other eager learners of the craft, for by sharing the art form will never be lost. It is great to sell my pieces, yet better gratification teaching and seeing the “lightbulb” go on in somebody else’s brain that they accomplished their very own masterpiece. ”
Here is the tutorial base for this bracelet from Potomac Bead Company.
Marlene has made some interesting changes to this pattern by substituting O beads for some of the size 11 beads in the pattern. Some of our group wanted a closer look at the bracelet and she graciously agreed to share her technique with us at Bead Fest. Saturday morning a small group of us met in one of the hotel conference rooms and gathered around the table for a mini demonstration. She is a great teacher, very thorough in her explanation and very calming in her way of teaching.
Bead friends joining in the fun!
With a little hands on stitching and some scribbled notes, I went home with a small sample and instructions on how to make the changes. As most often happens to me, I didn’t have the color of O beads or Super Duos I needed to start my bracelet immediately and being too impatient for my order to arrive, I headed to the local bead store to pick up some supplies. Back home with several new colors of Super Duos and a coordinating O bead I began my bracelet. Now I don’t know about you, but my memory needed jogging after the weekend, so I turned on the You Tube video to refresh my memory. After starting, stopping, and ripping out my piece numerous times, I finally got the hang of it and got my rhythm going.
This is my first attempt at the knit herringbone stitch but certainly not my last. I love how it turned out. Thanks so much to Marlene for her wonderful instructions and so graciously sharing.
Knit Herringbone with O Beads