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The Lipstick Page Forums Fashion Blog: September 2005

Jewelry making #7
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Wednesday, September 28, 2005 7:09 PM (Eastern)

A few more observations...

One is this. If you wear a choker made from the Stretch Magic, which is stretchy but not overly stretchy, if that makes's rigid enough to support medium weights of's much more comfortable than wearing a choker made of a non-stretchy material.

I never liked chokers before for that reason. I liked the look but always felt slightly strangled in the process.

Two is that if I make a design for my daughter, she likes it, but won't wear it. If I make something for myself, then she wants to wear it. So, making something choker-length on me, or else slightly longer, means we can both wear it.

Unfortunately this doesn't apply to bracelets, since what fits her is too small on me.

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Jewelry making #6
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Monday, September 26, 2005 8:31 PM (Eastern)

Bwahahahaha...why didn't I think of making my own jewelry sooner??? I am now wearing my first bracelet that I made for myself (I've made several for my daughter of course).

It's a blend of Asian taste (curiously, Caucasian Asian Americans tend to produce more Asian looking designs, where Asian Asian Americans imo tend to produce more Western-looking pieces...jmho)...and something slightly reminiscent of a vintage store. i.e. it's comprised of red vintage glass beads, two porcelain Chinese beads, and a drop...which is Chinese also, it's clear glass with an inner design of a pink flower.

Now I understand why handmade jewelry should be expensive. It's not the materials. It's the time. I've redone this same piece at least six times if not more. It has to be perfect, not in the sense of lying there and looking good, but in the sense of, you put it on. You wear it. How does it hang? Does it look awkward, do the red beads stick out, or does it flow smoothly around your wrist? What about spacer beads? I tried out at least four kinds. I ended up with tiny cracked glass round beads and plain glass seed beads. If you use only the seed beads, the piece will look cheap. Yet the cracked glass beads are too expensive to use only those.

Then, what about the drop? How many drops to use? I have four of them, I ended up using only the one. Does the drop knock against the table when you have it on?

Once you put the piece on, does the "good side" gravitate toward the top of your wrist? Or does it gravitate at all?

I made this piece specifically to match a bangle I already own. How cool is that????? The bangle is carved sterling silver with an oval garnet cabochon in it. I'll guess it was made in Thailand, possibly India.

The vintage store part...that is personal to me. I once owned a necklace that I got from a vintage store (only they called them thrift stores back then, lol) had these milky glass irregularly-shaped beads in it. These red beads I have, posess that slight irregularity too. Each one is subtly different.

I'm just inordinately pleased with the darn thing.

Yes, I am still planning on making jewelry to sell. I've gone out of the materials and technique phase. Now I'm in the design phase, which is more fun but just as lengthy.

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Jewelry making #5
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Saturday, September 24, 2005 3:58 AM (Eastern)

Hmmm...I think I am reaching the end of my experimentation here...not really, perhaps just the end of the first phase.

I haven't even gotten into semi-precious beads yet. I can see the logic though. Even a simple turquoise stretch bracelet costs a bum, and, it's never the way you want it to be. Why not just buy the turquoise beads you like? I've already gotten the pre-stretching and knotting part down.

I've gotten better at wrapping too. It is tricky. The hardest part is figuring out exactly how much wire to expose in the first place. The wrapping itself is relatively easy, all you're doing is holding the loop with a pair of pliers...any pliers will do, including the same round-nosed ones you just used to make the loop. And you are grabbing the other end with a regular pair of pliers such as you already own.

Make sure the loose end doesn't start to point down, as you want a tight twist of wire.

It took me a few times to figure out when to cut the loose end of the wire (sometimes it doesn't need cutting of course, depending on the size of the bead you're wrapping). If you hold the whole thing close to a flat surface and cut it, it's a lot safer that way since the cut end of the wire tends to just land on the surface rather than flying off.

Hum. I have I think maybe three or four designs done that I'm happy with. And I have to be happy with it, otherwise why bother? If you have to redo a design on stretch cord, you have only the cost of the cord to consider in redoing the design (and if it's a necklace, you don't even have that since you can turn the same cord into a bracelet).

One consists of small clear pink seed beads, lined with silver. There is a tiny glass Hello Kitty at the end. Then a pair of fuchsia glass beads. Yes, they make fuchsia glass beads! Intense, pure fuchsia, the kind of thing daughters covet. Then, I forget, I put a few more pairs of different beads in it. The concept is to use a "base" of the seed beads, with the selected beads as accents.

The second set consists of clear, unlined seed beads. Here my daughter found a pink glass bead shaped like a cat's head, complete with little glass eyes, mouth, etc. Bonus: it has a face on either side (okay that's actually a bit creepy if you think about it, but from a jewelry point of view it's good).

I wrapped this cat's head bead to use as a pendant. Again the same concept...the necklace is mostly small clear beads, with pairs of beads my daughter selected added at regular intervals.

Then...I discovered these tiny tubular glass beads. What you do is combine them with the seed beads. I still intend to make some pieces with larger beads, but my personal preference is with the small ones.

Stretch Magic 0.7 mm cord is thin enough to use with the tubular beads btw. It was hard to tell until I tried it.

You have to be careful when wrapping...I tried using a tubular bead at the top of the wrap. That was a mistake! One slip of the pliers and the tubular bead broke. Unless you are very dexterous, it's not worth having broken glass around.

I'm working on a design of simple green glass leaf beads and clear silver-lined seed beads. The effect is's like real green leaves and dewdrops. Oh you know, how you used to try making jewelry out of flowers when you were a kid.

I'll have some pics up soon.

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Jewelry making #4
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Tuesday, September 20, 2005 1:34 PM (Eastern)

I'm putting this separately because it's more of a ramble than a tutorial.

I've rather enjoyed making jewelry. It started out as an impulse. I mean I've bought and worn jewelry my whole life, but I never made jewelry before. I always felt that you needed to take classes and invest in materials and that it was hard to do or that your finished pieces wouldn't look that good or be that strong, et cetera.

I think how the knots work is that the second knot closes the ends of the cord, so that the first knot can't get loose enough to go anywhere. When you put pressure on the first knot, there's never enough pressure on the outside of it to move the second knot.

I've tried three places for beads: Jo-Ann fabrics, Michael's, and a local bead shop. By far, the local bead shop has superior materials. Michael's has a lot of stuff but a place where you can choose beads individually tends to be cheaper and better.

I've liked using a lot of seed beads. These make the piece lighter and also less expensive. Another useful size, but hard to find, are beads slightly larger than the seed beads. I finally found some...round clear glass beads that had been "crackled" on the inside. I would have preferred plain ones but the size was right.

It's interesting to take children into the bead shop with you. Of course this works only if the children understand they can't touch stuff in the shop or spill the beads. Children have a remarkably keen eye for color and form. They can comb through hundreds of beads and find the ones shaped like cat heads with faces on them, or tiny fruit, or intense green leaves, or beautiful red fluted balls or tiny blue butterflies.

Making designs is good exercise for children. Less and less so, do we make anything from scratch anymore. With jewelry, you start from absolutely nothing and produce a finished product. You have to understand symmetry, you have to count out beads, you have to use design skills, shopping skills, you have to have patience, plus you have to use fine motor skills (tell me about it; as I'm getting older, my hands are getting stiff, so I wanted to do something that would make my hands bend a lot).

I was impressed that my son went from producing, well, horrible designs, to making something quite good.

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Jewelry making #3
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, 12:48 PM (Eastern)

So...I decided on 0.7 mm Stretch Magic elastic cord. The next thing to do was figure out the knots, since crimp beads don't work with this weight of cord.

I had to practice to get the knots right. Here's a tip: practice on necklaces first. That way, if you dork up a piece, the cord is still long enough to make a bracelet with. :D

It take some practice too to figure out how long to make the cord in the first place. I've been using a full 12" for bracelets and 18" for necklaces. If your fingers are more flexible than mine, you can probably reduce this initial length.

Conclusions: one knot of any kind doesn't work. (Mind you, I am no knot expert.) Two knots work. Three knots also. Technically, you don't need three knots, it just feels more secure that way.

The Stretch Magic cord stretches out the first time you wear the piece. So if you tie a nice knot the way you think it should be, then try on the piece, you get more slack than you want and no way to get rid of it.

So here is my technique: I go ahead and finish stringing the beads. I then tie the first part of a square knot. Do not complete the knot; just do the first part of it.

Holding the loose ends of the cord behind the first part of the square knot very tightly (keeping in mind the knot is not complete!), try on the piece, stretching the piece generously as you put it on.

Now take it off, all the while holding those ends tightly! You will likely notice that the cord has stretched out some. Re-tighten your first part of the square knot and repeat the process of trying on the piece.

After 2 or 3 times, you will have stretched out the cord about as much as it's going to stretch. You'll note that you don't need to re-tighten your first-part-of-square-knot that much anymore.

Now, go ahead and complete the square knot. Take your time. Lay the piece down; it's easier that way.

Hint: finishing your piece with 2 beads that are larger than seed-bead size, can make the piece easier to tie off. i.e., if you are trying to tie off a piece between seed beads, it can be a bit more difficult.

Tighten the square knot as much as you can. Now you will need to tie a knot after the square knot. The square knot by itself will not hold.

Here I like to use the "overhand knot." This is illustrated on the back of the Stretch Magic package.

Lay the piece down again and use both hands. Scoot the overhand knot up until it abuts the square knot, then tighten it as much as you can.

You can tie another overhand knot behind that knot if you want. Again, lay the piece down and scoot the knot up before tightening. Clip off the excess cord.

I haven't tried out, say, using two square knots. The square knot + overhand knot + overhand knot works so well I haven't bothered. But if you're after a truly invisible knot, you might want to play around with it some. Just keep in mind that one knot by itself slides out no matter what you do.

I've also picked up something called "wrapping." This consists of taking a bead and a headpin or eyepin. For this you need a fairly long headpin/eyepin, made out of metal that is soft enough to bend fairly easily.

You put the headpin/eyepin through the bead, and bend the top into a loop using round-nosed pliers. You start the loop a bit higher than you normally would.

You then hold the loop with one pair of pliers. You use another pair of pliers to grab the loose end of the headpin/eyepin. You wrap the loose end around and around the bottom of the loop. In short, you are covering the place between the loop and the bead, with a tight spiral of wire.

When you're about done wrapping, you can cut the excess wire with a pair of wire cutters (be very careful with this as the piece of wire can fly in any direction including into your eye). Using the second pair of pliers to mush the remaining wire around the loop so that it lies smoothly.

You can make charms this way. Just add a "split ring." I prefer these to regular jump rings. The split ring is like a tiny keychain ring, so you can add it on after you've finished the wrapping part.

Well that's about it for now. I've already made several pieces for my daughter and I've been impressed that it's still much cheaper...even going to a bead shop and choosing individual beads...than buying ready-made jewelry.

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Jewelry making #2
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Wednesday, September 14, 2005 7:13 PM (Eastern)

Hold the phone dog!!!!! the 0.7 mm Stretch Magic cord is not supposed to be used with crimp beads. You are supposed to use an Overhand Knot or Double Overhand Knot. (Per the back of the Stretch Magic package--you can use crimp beads with the larger sizes.)

I tested it out today to see what they were talking about. First I took a length of Stretch Magic and literally stretched it out over my hand. It did hurt some but it did snap before damaging my skin. (It left a red mark but did not cut the skin.)

Side note and Disclaimer: I am NOT being paid to do these tests. I am an ordinary person who wants to make some jewelry. If you want a definitive test, go find someone who gets paid to make definitive tests.

Then, I did a dummy with two crimp beads on the same length of Stretch Magic. I tried pulling it. The place with the crimp beads snapped right away.

Then, I tried the Overhand Knot pictured on the back of the Stretch Magic package. This was kind of for crap. Pulling the cord made the knot slide out.

I then tried the Double Overhand Knot. Now this seemed to work. The double knots stayed put when I pulled the cord--but broke when I kept on pulling it--exactly what I was looking for. least for now, I'm settled with using the 0.7 mm Stretch Magic cord using the Double Overhand Knot. I'm going to try it out and see how much extra cord you need to use in order to make the knots and how hard it is to make them.

As far as the bead-stringing wire...I may try out a finer gauge of it--for adults.

I'm obviously not advocating making pieces that break easily, I just don't like the idea of the piece getting caught on something and not breaking and causing an injury.

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Making jewelry #1
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, 1:32 PM (Eastern)

Okay, so say you wanted to use the Stretch Magic.

While I was at it, I tried out bead-stringing wire, the 7-strand one by Beadalon. This is actually easier to's fine, steel wire coated with clear nylon. Supposedly if you kink it, you have to throw out the piece, but I think it depends...if you're making something with stations, then yeah, you can't kink it. But if you're making a string of beads, the kink doesn't seem to matter as long as it's not that bad a kink.

The wire can be cut with plain old scissors (don't use ones that you care about; use an old pair) and works well with crimping beads or tubes (also by Beadalon).

While we're at it, I'm still squashing my crimp tubes with a plain old pair of pliers. According to the Beadalon folks, that's ugly. It works but it's ugly; you get a plain flat square shape. You are to use the Beadalon special crimping pliers, to produce a more pleasing, round shape.

I dunno? Is it that different? I'm planning on pricing the crimping pliers anyway. I will post here how much they are. If it's reasonable, I might go for it.

I decided against the wire for my children's pieces though. It's probably more durable than the elastic cord, but that itself could be a problem. i.e., if a children's piece gets stuck on something, you want to be able to break the piece. You want it to snap, or to be able to make it snap.

So I tested out a piece of the Stretch Magic. Pulling it with my bare hands, it didn't break. But putting the cord around something and pulling it, you could make it snap.

I'm still in the process of fiddling with this actually. I firmly believe that the materials stage is the most difficult and time-consuming...figuring out exactly what works, what you want to use, how to use it. Again I will stress that I'm not looking to spend tons of money. I don't believe that the most expensive option is necessarily the best one.

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Making jewelry
Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Tuesday, September 13, 2005 3:25 PM (Eastern)

I wasn't sure where to post this, exactly. We don't have a "crafts" blog...I've debated about making one, but jewelry making (as well as, say, knitting or sewing) to me, falls more under fashion than under general crafts, if only because you produce fashion items rather than, for example, home decorations.

I've just gotten into this. My primary reason of course is that I have a daughter. Daughters need jewelry; jewelry is expensive. Plus, it is difficult to find nice jewelry for children. A lot of it, for lack of a better term, is overpriced plastic crap. For example--Target. Target used to have a respectable jewelry section with $7 beaded necklaces made in Greece. No more! It's been replaced by a section with $15 plastic necklaces made in China. The quality is mediocre at best.

The first phase of jewelry making is deciding which materials you want to use. If you're going to go whole hog and you want to make fine jewelry, well, this post is not for you. I have not wanted to invest nor make elaborate jewelry. I have wanted to produce nice jewelry for young ladies, to start out with.

So far I have decided on Stretch Magic elastic cord. I experimented some with "jelly cord" that is made in Japan--it's good, but too expensive to produce more than a few pieces. Stretch Magic is made in the U.S. by Pepperell Braiding Company.

The 0.7 mm size is pretty all around. It'll do small glass beads (probably not the tiny ones, I haven't tried it yet) and it's strong enough for medium sized beads. You could go down to 0.5 mm for the tiny beads and there are also 1.0 mm, 1.5 mm, and 1.8 mm sizes.

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