A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My First Components

Well just this moment I listed 15 new items in my Etsy shop, all copper components. Here's a sampling:
Leaf Clasp
Giant flower pendant

Flower toggle clasp
British coin charm with rosettes
Heart focal with British coin texture

I also made this pendant with a pair of my small lily cones, a large lily cone, and a small ribbon bail. It was also my maiden voyage with recycled sari ribbon from Mudhound Studio! The piece includes some lovely aquamarine stones from my Bead Swap partner, Alice Peterson! I hope to have more photos tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Gale White shared a link with me for another tutorial on coil ends, from Boo Jewels. (And, see, it's from 2009--people have been doing this forever! I should have Googled "DIY cord ends." Can't believe I didn't, I'm such a googlehead.)

Ms. Boo's cord ends are so tidy and professional! They have that double loop like I saw on Lesley Watts' pieces, and they look super easy to make! TWO techniques in the toolbox now! Her jewelry is also to die for, it's exquisite--I've been enjoying looking at it on Flickr for a while now!

Look at this super cool gorgeousness!
Antiqued Copper Necklace from Boo's Jewels
Isn't that stunning? Her earrings are wonderful too. Check it all out!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Using Coil Crimp Ends

Today is Part II of my post on making and using your own coil crimp ends for cording, such as leather, ribbon, and silk strings. Today we're going to talk about how to actually put the things on there and tighten them up.

As I explained in my last post, I just eyeball the cording I'm using and guess at what the inner diameter of my coil should be. I try to get it as close as possible because squeezing down an oversized coil is a huge pain.
You'll probably want to practice this with inexpensive, softer wire like copper, and leather or ribbon scraps and get the hang of it before you try it on a real live project--there is definitely a motor skill learning curve! (Trust me. There are miles of mangled wire in my wake.) You may want to practice with a thinner gauge wire, such as 18 or 20, until you get a feel for how the coil behaves when you start squeezing it tight. You may even find you like the finer wires for this project anyway, depending on your preferred style (like if you tend to make more delicate, airy pieces with finer cording). I've never actually annealed the coils (the idea just occurred to me as I was writing the last post, I should write these more often), but it seems like theoretically that could be helpful. If anyone decides to do that, let me know if it made it harder or easier to fasten them onto your cording. If you anneal, I think you definitely should hammer the loop because it might be kind of soft. And if you're using a finer gauge wire, like 18 or 20, a little gentle tapping with your chasing hammer will make that loop sturdier.

First, we'll start with a piece of leather. This is 4mm round leather cord from LeatherCordUSA. I dab some glue (PlioBond on this case, because I'm out of GS Hypo Cement--Hypo Cement is probably a better option because it's clear but the tubes seem to dry out really fast, faster than I can use them so I never have any) on the end, eyeballing it so that the gluey section is the same length as the coil, because I don't want a bunch of gluey leather protruding from the coil. (Although you can kind of scrape the PlioBond off with your fingernail, it's sort of silicone-y).
I slide the leather into the coil, all the way to the end, so I can just see the end of the leather peeking out the end--I want to make sure the leather is all the way in there, so that I have as much grabbing surface gripping the leather as possible.
I let it sit so the glue can dry a little and adhere. If you start working with it too soon, when the glue is still kind of slippery, it wont stay put while you're trying to tighten it and you'll be frustrated. So off you go to fool around on Facebook or whatever or buy some beads you don't need and come back later...

Okay, so 20 minutes or so have passed and you're now the proud owner of three more Jade Scott charms and it's time to tighten the coil on your leather. You can gently test the coil to see if your glue is dry enough. (I don't actually know if the glue helps, but I'm paranoid, so I use it because it makes me feel better.) You're going to squeeze the whole coil tight (not just the end), one course of wire at a time.

WARNING: this is just plain ol' tedious, muddle-through, poke/prod/mash/manipulate kind of crap. If anybody has a more systematic way of doing this that involves less kluging (geek speak, meaning: "A clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem."), I would love to know! I am totally making this shit up. (Lesley Watt of THEAJewellery is using these too, and they look so perfectly executed! I love the double loop she has at the end. DO SHARE, Lesley!!!). I squeeze the whole thing because I'm paranoid, like I said. (A couple of my early pieces came apart, so I'm extra aggressive now with the squeezing, and I added glue.)

I usually start squeezing at the bottom, but you could probably start anywhere. (Seriously, there is probably a neater way to do this. I mean, I walk through the puddle and then dry off my shoes, instead of going around the puddle. I instinctively choose the most inefficient, labor intensive method for virtually anything I do which I why I will always be poor.)

So let's squeeze the bottom-most course of wire first. I like bent nose pliers best for this. And then squeeze the next one up, and then the next one.
See how it's starting to turn your coil into the leaning Tower of Pisa? You're going to have to correct this as you squeeze. (This is where the "tedious crap" part of this technique comes in.) Just take your bent nose pliers, place them as pictured, and just squeeze the coils back into alignment.

Rinse and repeat. Ad nauseam. Until you've squeezed and straightened it all.

You might have to squeeze it together the other way at some point.

That very last coil at the bottom is the most important. That one in particular needs to grip the tightest. I like to try to get the very tip of that last coil to bite into the cording.

You might have to squeeze a little at the top where your loop is, to round up that last coil. Adjust the alignment of the loop as necessary with your pliers.

When I'm done squeezing, I pull enthusiastically on it, like an overexcited toddler, to make sure it's really in there tight. If you tug and tug and it's not going anywhere, it's probably good.

Don't be alarmed if your first try is messy. This is totally a motor skill thing, like throwing pots. Which I've never done. Which is why you want to practice with cheap wire and throw-away cording if you can. Practice on anything you want. Rope. Electrical cord (but not while it's plugged in). Red Vines.

When using silk ribbons or strings, it's very similar. I almost always use multiple strands of ribbon with this technique (if I'm only going to use one, it's easier to just loop it around a ring and secure with a coil, because bulk isn't a problem--I use the coil end mostly when bulk is going to be an issue.) Because I'm using multiple strands, it's hard to know for sure if I've got all the strands up in the coil, so to make sure every single strand is gripped tightly, after I stuff them in there, I pull them up through the coil and count the ends (four in the picture below) to make sure they're all through. (That probably makes no sense at all.) Then I back them out just a tad and it's ready for SQUEEZING. (I've never used this word so many times in one conversation.)

I can trim them off later with tiny scissors or even buzz cut them with my electric bead reamer (yes, more kluging.) Let's jump to the end of this one, all tightened up, and look at that:

I haven't used glue with the ribbons, because it's too hard to get it applied where it needs to be, but you could if you wanted to. (Erin Prais-Hintz suggested putting the little GS Hypo Cement needle right up in there, inside the cluster of ribbon--That sounds perfect!)

And then lastly, again, enthusiastic tugging (I like to try each strand individually, to make sure they're all tightly gripped in there:)

All good.

I am particularly fond of little nail scissors for trimming things like this. They're surprisingly effective. You can get them in the manicure section at Target or Walgreens or wherever. These are ancient but they're still sharp.

With all the manipulation, my coils end up with a lot of tool marks on them (you can see that in the very first photo at the top). I prefer to think of them as "textured." If you wanted to, you could even add some more "tool marks" with a texturing hammer and make them really special.

Happy squeezing!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Make Your Own Coil Crimp Ends

"Woodland Realm" Silk String Bundle from Marsha Neal Studio 
Ribbon and leather cording is all the rage, and many of you are probably contemplating adding it to your jewelry repertoire. Finishing off the ends can be a bit of a head-scratcher when you first start out though, especially if you haven't had time to explore all the products and techniques available for attaching your cording sections to the rest of your piece.

The first piece I ever sold on Etsy had 2mm Greek leather on it, and I faked up some coil ends on it--I had bought some simple, cheapie ones at the craft store and was trying to copy them. The only think I could think to do was wrap the wire around the ends of the leather and make a loop at the end, but it was really frustrating because the leather was kind of floppy.
Ca. March 2005
It was so frustrating in fact, that I didn't use leather in my designs again for a couple years.

Later I discovered commercial crimp ends for sale, and used those on a few pieces.
From Cool Tools PMC supply
They look really nice, and come in different finishes, but in my experience they have a tendency to break. The center section on some styles actually breaks away from the end sections when it's crimped, and this can give way under too much wear, like with a bracelet that gets tugged and twisted a lot when you're trying to put it on or take it off. (I actually had to repair a bracelet where the crimp end broke--I redid it with a different technique.) Could be I squeezed it too much; it's hard to tell how tightly to crimp it. I don't think there are the same issues using these findings with a necklace though, because they don't get the same wear and tear, and I've used them with necklaces without any reported problems so far.

With silver plated pewter crimp ends from Fusion Beads
I still really wanted to use leather in my bracelets, without having to fold it over a ring or something (because that can be kind of bulky, especially with Greek leather), but I needed something sturdy. It eventually occurred to me (probably in the shower) that I should make the coil and loop BEFORE attaching it to the cording, and THEN slide it onto the leather and tighten it, instead of trying to wrap the wire around the cording. (I have no doubt thousands of jewelry makers have been doing this forever, and I could have learned this from one of them, but perversely self-sufficient freak that I am, I had to take two years to figure it out myself.) So I gave it a shot and it worked fine. This is how I eventually ended up making them--these are in a few different sizes:

They look like this when they're attached and tightened up:

I like to use 16 gauge wire, as I prefer a chunky, substantial look (and I'm a little paranoid about things coming apart--I also add some adhesive, like GS Hypo Cement or PlioBond--Hypo Cement is clear so probably a little easier to use, PlioBond is more amber colored), and this gauge seems to work for most of what I do. The 16 gauge is not so heavy that it's hard to work with, and I can get the coils down to about 4mm inner diameter, which is the lower limit for most of what I do. If you wanted to do something with just, say, one strand of 2mm Greek leather, you could go down to 18 gauge and get a smaller coil that would still be sturdy enough. (You can always anneal too, if your hands are worn out and need a little extra help--some days the elbow grease just isn't there!)

For a 5mm (inner diameter) coil, I use the base of my round nose pliers.

Leaving the wire on the spool (you won't cut it until you're totally done), make a coil with three or four courses around. When you actually tighten it up around your cording the whole thing is going to get skinnier and longer and you'll end up with a couple extra courses around. (The longer the finished coil is, the greater the surface area you will have grabbing onto your cording and the more secure it will be.)

When you've got your coil completed, you'll need to bend the free end of the wire up to create the loop. I pull up on the free end a bit to create some space for me to slip my bent nose pliers in there:

Then I slide the tip of my bent nose pliers under there, and bend it straight up.

You can use the pliers as necessary to sharpen the bend a bit. (Again, anneal if you need to--the process of tightening it later will work harden it plenty so it won't open up on you.) Squeeze it together a bit again.

After you have your 90 degree angle, it's time to make your loop. I just pop my round nose pliers under there again, near the base, and just bend the wire right over the top.

Nip it off with your flush cutters just about even with the top rim.

Tuck the end just inside the edge of the coil, and hammer it a bit to strengthen it and give it a finished look. (Hammering is optional, I just like to hammer things.)

You might have to trim your loop a bit after hammering it, because that tends to make it a little longer. Once you have a feel for that you can trim it a little shorter right off the bat, so that hammering it will make it just the right length.

Make sure the loop goes straight over the top, transecting the coil right across the middle. Adjust as necessary with your pliers.

Of course, you can make these any size you like. I just eyeball the cording I'm using and guesstimate what inner diameter I need. It's totally fudge-able because you're going to squeeze it down tight anyway. That said, it's nice to get it as close to the right diameter as possible, because squeezing an oversized coil down is a pain in the butt. You can do it, but it's a lot more work, and of course the more you squeeze it, the tougher the wire gets and once your cording is in there you can't re-anneal.

Next time, we'll talk about actually putting it on your cording.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Experiments in Copper

Some things have been on my mind recently. Some copper things.

I've been admiring Kristi Bowman-Gruel's copper cone ends, and thinking I really needed to devise a cone end to use with ribbons. I was also intermittently remembering a tutorial I bought a long time ago on making a lily shaped earring from metal sheet, and thinking I should try that sometime. And then it was like chocolate and peanut butter coming together---KAPOW!!! And there was fusion. Why not make a lily-shaped cone end? So I made a bunch. Some are for earrings (the ones that have the little pointy thing on the end), the big one will be for a pendant, and the other small ones will be for finishing off multistrand necklaces, or necklaces with ribbon. I like hiding the nasty business end of things. Which is why I wear pants.

I recently ordered a whole bunch of sari silk ribbon, which I have never used before. The "deconstructed" look of it has been appealing to me lately. Mudhound Studio on Etsy had, in my opinion, the right prices and the color selection I was looking for so I went hog wild.

(This is just a small selection from my haul--I loved the subtle, vintage-y colors, like they had been washed a million times and hung in the sun...Or stolen from a beggar. So picturesque, in a Dickensian, City of Joy kind of way.)

Contemplating the arrival of these ribbons, and thinking of what I might do with them, made me realize I needed to start thinking about bails. I wanted to use my large lily above with the ribbons, and there just had to be a fabulous bail to go with it. So I put on my thinking cap. I thought and thought. Finally this morning it all congealed so I whipped out my cardboard scraps from the remains of my Mary's Gone Crackers box and made some patterns with my circle template. I was just thinking some ovals. With rivets. And rosettes. And funky foreign coin patterns.

I made three big ones, and three little ones. It's just a folded over oval, tacked shut at the bottom with a rivet and some rosettes. The rivet also holds the loop for a pendant. I think they would be especially nice with a mess of ribbons. (The ribbons above are hand-dyed rayon in "rhubarb" from JodyPoesy on Etsy.) You could also use these with heavy gauge wire through it with wrapped loops on the ends, and attach it to the rest of your necklace that way.

Here's the back:

And the side view--you can see it's basically a tube bail:

I also finished up a couple double-sided charms, one of which features the heart with the rosettes from a previous post:

I am thinking I will do a piece that will include a bail, the large lily, a pair of cones, maybe some cocoon beads, and maybe even a charm too! It will be loaded with handcrafted copper stuff.

And as a postscript, as I was looking for a link to Kristi's cone ends, I saw she has a foldover bail in her shop too! Great minds think alike.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Lady of Shalott

Or at least one of her go-to necklaces. Before she goes all moony over Lancelot and dies in a rowboat. Drama queen.
Neckwear for Tiresome Medieval Drama Queens
I bought this fossil coral pendant at a local beadshop years ago. I loved the colors and patterns, and how it was weathered and chewed up, like an eons-worn fossil in an old specimen cabinet. I've taken it out several times, intending to do something with it, but couldn't decide how to hang it. I didn't want to just string it, or just put hanging loops on it--I wanted it to have some presence. Yesterday I had a little idea, and enjoyed trying it out.

I wanted just a band of copper around the top of the pendant. I made a pattern with some cardboard from a Mary's Gone Crackers box--just cut a strip that looked like about the width I wanted, laid it across the top of the pendant where the holes were, folded it around, marked the ends against the pendant edges with a pencil, trimmed it up, and then felt for and marked the holes with a big sewing needle.

I used this to cut out my copper strip and punch the holes. (Of course, I forgot it would get bigger when I textured it with my coin and hammer, but that all worked out anyway.)

I annealed, textured, and annealed again (and there was some pickling and antiquing and polishing, etc.). It was nice and soft when I folded it around the pendant. I threaded some 18-gauge wire through the holes and created wrapped loops on either side.

I burnished down the edges with my burnisher. It reached around the back a little too (it got longer when I hammered it), so I smoothed that down with my burnisher.

It was looking kind of medieval/Renaissance-y to me, so I decided to stay with that. I found two matching (hey! cool!) textured rings in my stash, and created some textured bars with hammered ball ends. (I am loving liver of sulfur gel so much, by the way, I would almost marry it, but it's not legal in my state to marry a bottle of toxic gel.) I added a couple little rhodonite rounds, and finished it off with lots of chain.

It's about 28.5" long--I pictured it with a long medieval-style tunic. Like with maybe leggings and suede thigh boots. Like if Lisbeth Salander went to a Ren Faire.

Somebody should have given Ms. Shalott a bunch of beads and some string and wire and stuff. She'd have been like, "Lancelot who?"