Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Book review - Spellbound Floral Beaded Jewellery by Julie Ashford

All small bead enthusiasts will have been eagerly awaiting the latest book from expert designer, Julie Ashford. 
‘Floral Beaded Jewellery’, published by Spellbound Bead Co, is 112 pages of beautiful, nature-inspired jewellery designs for beginner beaders through to experienced beadworkers.

Open the front cover and the first thing you will find is a very useful loose page that lists all the available bead packs to accompany the projects in the book. Each pack is priced and the different colour options are referenced to pages in the book which is a really helpful detail.

Turn the page and you’ll see that the book is divided up into two sections, the first covering basic information and techniques (including a double page spread on the supplies you will use) and the second (divided into chapters) presenting the projects themselves.

Getting started

Stitches, thread tips and basic motifs
The introduction explains the difficulty levels assigned to the projects — two rosebuds indicates a design where you will get to practise a technique with a repeating motif, whilst a four rosebud project will involve several stages building to a finished piece. There is a good balance of easier and more difficult projects in the book.

The tips and techniques chapter covers basic stitches and has some good ideas for making following the instructions easier. Creating a bookmark as a quick reference for beads and their codes is definitely a simple idea that I will be using! And if you want to practise on something small before diving into one of the projects, you can create a finished item in relatively quick time using the instructions in the simple motifs section.

'Inspiration' designs based on the main project

The projects

A good project to begin with is the two rosebud rated ‘Carmen’ which teaches you a star-shaped flower motif that is then repeated to create a necklace or bracelet. The main project is shown in the olive/purple colourway but the other available colourways are also pictured in the project pages. In addition to the main project, there are more designs inspired by the original design including one which adds texture and depth to the flower motif you learnt for Carmen.
Two-rosebud project - Eloise

There are two more two-rosebud level projects (Daffodil and Eloise). You’ll learn to create foliage as well as flowers and add some sparkle with faceted beads. The inspiration projects will have you adding beaded tassels.

Stepping up a level, you’ll find some brightly coloured project choices in the ‘Papillon’ and ‘Sunflower’ chapters. I particularly like the sweet honey bee earrings included in the sunflower collection and the additional projects in the butterfly themed chapter could actually be a great place to start if you want to create a finished piece quickly.

A beehive box!
Also in the three rosebud category are the ‘Bluebell’ and ‘Honeycomb’ collection of designs.  The white variation on the bluebell necklace would make a stunning bridal piece whilst the honeycomb chapter even includes a unique beaded beehive box!  (I have the Honeycomb bracelet bead pack and will let you know how I get on with it in a later blog post!).

Serene Senensis
There are two four-rosebud rated projects to have a go at. If you are a confident beadstitcher already I am sure you could jump straight into the rather delicate and beautiful ‘Kyoto’ necklace. This design is one of the pieces on the front cover and includes herringbone rope sections as well as the buds and blossoms. The other cover star is the ‘Sinensis’ necklace and this project is another example where simply changing the colours of the beads used could transform the motif from flower to catkin! (Don’t be afraid to play with the colours in any of Julie’s designs to get equally beautiful results!).

The verdict

If you loved the previous titles from Julie Ashford (Spellbinding Bead Jewellery, Beaded Tassels, Festive Beading 1 and 2), you will certainly not be disappointed with this latest book.  If you are new to Julie’s designs then you will find her instructions clear and easy to follow with plenty of diagrams and helpful hints to ensure you get great results. The book is full of photographs of the finished pieces in virtually every colourway and with ready-made bead packs available for many of the designs, it couldn’t be easier to get started.

‘Spellbound Floral Beaded Jewellery’ is £14.95 and can be ordered via the Spellbound Bead Co website.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Display Inspiration Series:4: Marvellous miniatures

In the fourth in our series of posts on creating unique jewellery displays, I'll show you how an eclectic mix of frames can be transformed into a beautiful collection of earring stands.

I have been collecting miniature frames in charity shops and junk shops for a while now. Some are quality vintage frames in brass with intricate casting (with and without glass). Others are contemporary frames in shiny silver, machine moulded with just perspex rather than glass. This collection ranges in size from a couple of inches high to around 4 inches.

At this time of year, I am already starting to think about my jewellery ranges for Christmas and the party season. My designs are glamorous and classic and I wanted a display to suit the style.The contemporary frames looked cheap and nasty to be quite honest so I decided to give them a vintage makeover.

I've used Gilders Paste for various projects in the past as it is so versatile. You can apply to wood, resin, metal amongst other materials which makes it extremely useful in jewellery making. The paste is a little like boot polish and can become cracked and powdery over time but can easily be rejuvenated it by adding a few drops of White Spirit and mixing in. The paste comes in a huge variety of colours to give every kind of finish you can think of. For this project I used Black and German Silver. The paste works best on a matte surface so my first task was to spray all the shiny silver frames with a matte varnish.

Once dry, I used a soft cloth to apply the first layer of German Silver paste to the silver frames. It's a soft gold colour and quickly tones down the horrid modern silver colour. Leave the first layer of paste to dry a little then you can gently buff ready for the next layer.

Black Gilders paste is great for adding age to metal components and for bringing out the detail in any relief work. Applied with a soft cloth, it brought out the flower design on my little frames. The frames still looked silver though to I applied another layer of German Silver and another of Black. I left them to dry then buffed to a soft shine.

While I was using the German Silver paste, I also applied a light rub to the two vintage brass frames. It really brought the casting to life and helped to bring the whole frame collection together.

With the frames done, I turned to the mounts. I used some fabric textured wallpaper (a sample from a local DIY store) to create a background for each frame. A bead reamer was the perfect tool to make a couple of holes through the frame backs and then I used 0.8mm brass wire to make the hanging loops. Cut 10cm of wire, turn a wrapped loop at one end and trim.Pass the wire through the hole you made in the backing and turn another loop of the back of the frame to secure.

Loaded with glamorous earrings and displayed with my collection of larger frames, I love the luxurious and expensive look I've achieved. Who would think that most of the frames cost as little as 50p each and none was more than £1?!

Why not check out the range of Gilders Paste at Metal Clay Ltd. I think I might pick up a tin of Antique Gold and add a touch of metallic gold to my frames. What do you think?

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Kit review - Jessie necklace from Spellbound Bead Co

We tried out this kit to make a flowery bead-stitched necklace perfect for an Indian summer.

The Jessie necklace kit has a difficulty rating of 6 out of 10 so it's a great project for a beginner to intermediate beader. The pack contains all the beads required including some bright and colourful small dagger beads and some interesting 'Candy' beads from Preciosa which are domed on one side and flatter on the other.

Also included are clearly stepped instructions and diagrams to keep your beading on track as well as a needle and beading thread. Just add a bead mat, some clear nail polish/glue and a pair of sharp scissors and you are good to go.

The flowers in the necklace are constructed separately to the beaded strands so it's a nice easy progression into the more complicated parts of the project. I love the colours in this kit but I am already thinking that I'd like to try this design again using traditional daisy colours. Spellbound stock the white dagger beads I'd need as well as the yellow candy beads. I probably still have enough of the green seed beads left from this project!

Once the flowers are complete, you link them up in a double chain of green seed beads. I have to admit that I got myself into quite a tangle to start with (the petals are quite spiky and seem to catch the thread very easily). I found the best approach was to keep the bracelet flat on the mat and to keep checking the path of my thread to ensure it didn't get caught. This becomes even more important when you do the second row of linking chain!

Here's the finished necklace with an easy bead tag clasp. It's really delicate and pretty. I just hope we get some late season sun so I can get to wear it and show it off!

The Jessie necklace kit is £11.50 and available from the Spellbound website.