Sunday, November 24, 2013

Making Beads With Cotton Fabric

Using fabric beads brings a whole new dimension to jewelry making. Depending on the type of fabric used, fabric beads can take on many personas: casual, elegant, textural, smooth, homespun or chic. A bead made of denim with frayed edges will look very different from one made of silk. This is the fun of working with fabric beads: you can create any look you want simply through your choice of fabric.

The fabric beads' autumn colors were the inspiration for this necklace and earring set's design. The fabric used to make the beads was 100% permanent press cotton.

Some fabrics are easier to work with than others. For example, silk is very sophisticated-looking but it's quite slippery. Knits, being stretchy, can pose quite a challenge because they tend to "grow" during the rolling process. Another consideration to keep in mind is whether the fabric is soft and loosely woven, or tightly woven with a bit of body to it. It's certainly possible to make beads from loosely woven fabric, but it's much easier to roll beads using fabrics that are tightly woven without much "give."

I've found some of the easiest fabrics to work with are tightly woven cottons. Not only do they roll neatly with little fuss, they take surface treatments like paint and dyes very nicely. Fraying is usually minimal. A few snips with a scissors eliminates the occasional stray thread, and the tight weave lets you maintain steady, consistent tension as you roll the bead.

However, some fabrics can fool you. Not all cottons are alike! Recently I happened upon a beautiful cotton fabric whose colors just grabbed me. In my enthusiasm, all I could think of was how great it would look made up into beads. It didn't feel quite as crisp as most of the cottons I've worked with but it seemed woven tightly enough plus it was on sale so I bought it.

Once I started cutting it, I realized this fabric was going to be more difficult to work with than I thought. The first thing I noticed was that it produced tiny fiber "dust bunnies." Uh-oh. I also noticed that it tended to stretch a bit with handling, so it was harder to keep it in a straight line as I rolled it. The edges frayed readily too, so I found myself snipping off lots of pesky threads. (Some folks like loose threads on their beads but I'm not one of them.)

These beads, also made of cotton, were harder to make than those used in the necklace and earring set above. Their colors were quite similar but they were a looser weave and frayed easily.

Despite these small annoyances the beads turned out okay. After painting the ends and edges with metallic gold acrylic paint, I applied a couple of coats of ModPodge to smooth and seal the surface, followed by an acrylic varnish. The ModPodge darkened some of the colors, of course, but not so much as to negatively affect the appearance. If anything, it made the colors look a little bit richer. I'm looking forward to designing a necklace with these using gold, dark olivine and ruby red beads to compliment them. What's your preference for making fabric beads? What fabrics do you like to use? And what kinds of fabric would you not recommend using?

Text and images ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Friday, November 15, 2013

Choosing Papers for Paper Beads

It's time to come clean and admit it. I'm hopelessly addicted to bead- and jewelry-making. Oh, it started innocently enough. While my studio was under construction earlier this year, I needed something I could do to keep my creativity alive while being without a space for making art  (poring over paint chips just wasn't enough). So I started making paper beads. It was great fun, and I found it was possible to roll beads on a surface as small as a TV tray as I sat in the living room at night.

 At first the beads were made from found images taken from old magazines. This upcycling resulted in many beads with fascinating patterns on them. Such as a series of beads created from a full page photo in an architectural magazine that showed lots of angles. You'd never know what the original subject was by looking at the beads, but the angles produced very graphic-looking beads with lots of zigzag patterning.

Next I tried using some of my own hand painted papers originally intended for collage. Some of these papers were textured; beads made with these papers exhibited a wonderful tactile quality. Collage papers made from deli paper painted with acrylics also yielded excellent results. The deli paper (bought several years ago at Sam's Club) was super easy to roll and took the adhesive and varnish very nicely. Another source that worked well for making beads was a museum calendar printed on heavyweight, glossy paper. Its smooth, lustrous surface made the beads look as if they were glazed ceramic, even before high gloss varnish was applied.

Now I'm experimenting with beads that combine solid color, text, and images, all on different kinds of paper used together on a single bead. These beads are more labor intensive to make, but worth the extra effort. I'm combining them with glass beads, fabric beads and semi-precious stones to create necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Photos of these latest creations will be posted here next week. Be sure to check back then for a sneak peek!

 ©2013 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Glorious Santa Fe Part 3 -- The Plaza

The Plaza is the very heart and soul of Santa Fe. Around it are fascinating galleries and boutiques, restaurants, the Palace of the Governors and of course, the famous Portal where Native Americans spread blankets on the ground to display their exquisite handmade turquoise jewelry.

My first glimpse of the Plaza caused me to do a doubletake. It looks remarkably like Marietta's beloved Historic Square here in Georgia! The Plaza is about the same size and has beautiful mature trees just like the Marietta Square does, as well as benches where people sit in dappled shade and watch other people. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I had not expected this iconic New Mexico landmark to feel so very much like home.

Santa Fe's Plaza. The trees were just starting to change to their autumn colors during our visit.
Of course, the Square's signature structure is its Victorian bandstand, something that's absent in the Plaza. Nevertheless, it was "deja vu all over again" as we strolled around the Plaza. The surrounding architecture in Santa Fe is quite different of course (adobes prevail) but this lovely patch of green space in the City Different was a place hubby and I resonated with in every way!