Thursday, 13 July 2017

Book review - Mastering Wirework Jewelry by Rachel Norris

If you love to work with wire in your jewellery creations, you will almost certainly be familiar with the author of this latest wireworking book, Rachel Norris. A long-standing guest designer on Jewellery Maker TV, author of several DVDs and a regular contributor to the much missed Beads & Beyond magazine as well as other jewellery making publications, Rachel has brought together a collection of 15 beautiful projects for this, her first book.

This weighty volume of over 300 pages combines gorgeous gemstones and cabochons, wonderful wire and crystals to create stunning jewellery pieces. The focus is on statement necklaces and intricate brooches and you cannot fail to notice a flora and fauna theme throughout the tutorials. You could take a dip in the ocean with the Leaping dolphins necklace, Seahorse or Little fish pendant.  

Or why not take a nocturnal stroll through the woods with the resting moth brooch (featured on the cover), Golden-eyed owl necklace or Tumbling leaves necklace? Perhaps travel somewhere exotic with projects featuring an elephant, lion or gecko. Whichever tutorial you choose to start your journey, you will find clear main photographs, detailed step-by-step instructions and all the images you need to follow the process to create a visually stunning piece. Rachel is careful to provide lots of tips and notes to help you on your way and there is a comprehensive section at the beginning of the book covering all the techniques that you will need across many of the projects.

I must say that this book is not for the faint-hearted and probably not for newcomers to wirework. Some of the designs have over 100 steps so you certainly shouldn’t expect to finish something quickly. However, that being said, if you take your time and perfect the techniques first, then you will get great results. 
I know from editing Rachel’s projects for Beads & Beyond magazine over the years, that her clever approach in creating separate components in stages before joining them together is what makes her designs achievable and yet so visually complex. This Gecko brooch for example is made up of around 12 different components, allowing the main frame, cabochon settings and the beautiful gemstone details to be built up in layers.
Rachel provides all the tools, instruction and even templates to enable you to replicate her designs.

Now, it is customary for me to test out a design from the books I review but I have to admit to being a bit of a wire-phobic. So, on this occasion, I think I will hand over the challenge to our readers and members!

I have a copy of Rachel’s book to give away to one lucky wireworker. Just leave a comment on this post and tell me about your travels with wire and I will pick a winner at random on Monday 31st July after midday. 
Look out for a bonus opportunity for another entry on our Facebook page!

We’d love to share our winner’s first make from Rachel’s book so come on, don’t be shy!

Mastering Wirework Jewelry by Rachel Norris is priced at £19.99 and is available from GMC Publications

ISBN 978-1-78494-331-8

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Book review - Jewelry Made With Wire & Fiber by Nealay Patel

Nealay Patel's latest book is the perfect inspiration for the coming season. Packed full of unique and striking designs using both flat and tubular fibre cord, you will find lots of ideas for bracelets, necklaces and earrings in its pages.

Nealay was always a popular designer with Beads & Beyond magazine. His clever use of beading wire and knitted wire were the focus of his first two books (Jewerly for the New Romantic and Jewelry Designs with Knitted Wire). This time, Nealay has come up with 15 different projects using a variety of colourful cords, wire, and a wonderful selection of beads in various shapes and sizes.

The book begins with a helpful section on tools. Pleasingly, most of these tools are probably already in your jewellery making kit aside from the wire jig which, if you don't already own one, is definitely something you should think about investing in – you will find it useful for all sorts of tasks with wire from simple earwires to more complicated wire motifs. There is also a useful section on materials. I always like to be able to see what supplies I will need to complete the projects in the book in case there is anything unusual that I don't already have in my stash. You will be pleased to know that most of the resources needed are common items that you probably already have in your bead room. And then there is always the pleasure of discovering beads you've not seen before – check out the cage beads!

Once you've found all the tools and supplies you need, you are almost ready to get started. Nealay provides a techniques section to cover all the skills required by the projects in the book. Everything from simple coils and loops to attaching end caps is covered.

When you turn the page to the projects, you'll be struck by the photography. Nealay always provides a main image of the finished item in its entirety that is a great reference point for the design. Also included is a detailed materials list for the piece and then step by step instructions, each with a close-up photograph as well as text.

Flicking through the range of designs in the book, you'll notice that there is a mixture of pieces using different techniques to incorporate other components with the cord. However, unlike previous books from Nealay, you will not be using a beading needle to sew beads into your piece. Instead, you will discover ways to use wire to 'sew' your beads to the cord.

I think the book has a great summer vibe. There is a tribal feel to some pieces and others are definitely festival ready, especially with the layering of strands. Of the designs included, I particularly like the Artemis necklace which uses flat cord at different lengths to great effect. 

I was also pleased to see the Serpent design which makes use of SilverSilk knitted wire (a Nealay staple!) alongside fibre cord to make a pair of statement earrings.

If you like to work with wire, why not try the Tribal necklace and push your wirework skills further? This design changes the orientation of the cord for yet another stunning effect.

So, whether you are already a fan of Nealay's books or are new to his designs, you are sure to be inspired by the projects in this latest book.

Jewelry Made With Wire & Fiber is available from Amazon,
priced at £17.63
ISBN 978-1542371827

Monday, 3 April 2017

Festive Beading Three by Julie Ashford

It's here! For all those bauble beaders and collectors, the greatly anticipated third instalment in the Festive Beading series has arrived!

My copy landed on the doormat just a day after it arrived at Spellbound HQ and provided the perfect reading material for my overdue visit to the hair salon. Bev, my hairdresser, was a little bemused by the fact I was reading a 'Christmas book' in March but as I explained to her, if you want to make a few of the designs in time for the festive season, you really do need to make a start now!
That's not to say that many of the designs in this latest book can't be displayed and enjoyed at any time of the year but given the complexity of some of the more intricate baubles, it really does make senses to get going now, especially now the clocks have sprung forward and we are enjoying lighter evenings!

Those of you familiar with the previous festive beading books will know what to expect from this edition. If you haven't discovered Julie's projects up 'til now then there is no reason why you shouldn't dive straight into this book (you are sure to be ordering books 1 and 2 this year!) and be beading beautiful baubles in no time.

As is usual with Julie's books, all the projects are given a grading of difficulty from one star through to four. For beginners, it's a good idea to start with one of the two easiest projects but intermediate beaders might want to jump straight into the two or three star designs. It is nice that the largest junk of the tutorials in this book are graded three stars which makes them achievable for most of us. There are 13 main projects plus an additional four earring designs contained in this book.

As in previous titles, there are stunning main projects to master plus smaller projects - Inspiration Mini Projects - that will allow you develop a motif further. There is nothing to stop you having a go at one of the mini projects before you start on the main event either. Many have standalone instructions whilst others use clear sections from the main project. The Celestial Bauble is a good example where you might like to begin with the Snowflake Strand. It gives you a faster finished item and gets you up to speed with the technique before you attempt the bauble.

I have to say that I am really tempted by the beautiful Holly Wreath project but can't see myself managing to complete the whole piece in time for next Christmas let alone this year! Having looked at the instructions though, I am pretty confident that I could devise my own brooch using the holly and berry motifs included in the main project. Because the stages are so clearly summarised at the start, it's easy to see which steps you need to complete the component(s) you want.

It's always a good idea with any complex beading project, to read through the instructions before you start. Julie provides lots of useful hints and tips in the form of 'Extra Info' boxes for all the projects and mini inspiration projects. You'll find lots of help with techniques (in addition to the comprehensive chapter at the beginning of the book) as well as details of common pitfalls.

As I mentioned previously, there are projects that could easily be made for other times of the year beyond Christmas. Perhaps try the present earrings in non-festive colours for a special birthday or make a cute Owl bauble or Prague bauble that is perfect for any season?
Even the Wenceslas Bauble would be a gorgeous decoration with jewel colours that remind you of an Indian Summer.

I always like to try a project from the book I am reviewing and so it's really useful to find a comprehensive list of all the bead packs available to buy to complement the designs in the book. You'll find a sheet with all the pack details and prices (with handy page references) tucked into the front cover of your copy. You'll even find a separate section on the Spellbound website containing all the packs to go with the book.

I decided to try the Seraphim angel and completed it in around an hour. You'll find enough beads in the pack to make at least three angels so at £6.95 is really is good value. It's also available in silver. You'll need to provide your own coordinating thread but a needle is included in the pack. 

GIVEAWAY!Like our Facebook page and like and share our giveaway post to win a copy of this book and a Snowflake Strands bead pack too!

Festive Beading Three is available from the Spellbound Bead Co website, priced at £14.95

ISBN 978-0956503084

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Book review - Creative Leather Jewelry by Christina Anton

Discover the secrets to working with leather to create "stylish projects that make a statement" with this latest book from Lark Jewelery.

Last time I visited my local scrap store, I picked up a big bag of leather scraps in all sorts of colours. When I received this book by Christina Anton, I knew it would have lots of ideas for using up these small pieces to make some striking designs.

If you've thought about leather jewellery before, you've probably imagined the traditional leathercraft that uses stamps and punches to create cuffs and key rings and maybe even bags. This book challenges the traditional approach to leather, using bright colours, bold shapes and contemporary motifs in projects that are achievable with minimal skills, materials or tools.

Starting with a chapter on the basics, you will learn all about the tools and techniques required to complete all 21 projects in the book. Then, each project is clearly photographed with an easy list of materials and tools. Christina takes you through, step by step and using images where required, to a finished piece. All the templates you need are in a section at the back of the book.

I have to say that if you aren't a fan of bold, statement pieces then the designs in this book are probably not for you. However, there are still lots of useful tips and techniques that you could easily apply to your own projects that are on a smaller scale or in less striking colours. This being said, I have some neon leather scraps in my stash that I am definitely going to turn into tassels for key rings.

As you all know, I always like to test drive a project from each book I review. This time, I chose a layered fringe earring project but adapted it to be a pendant. I picked some toning brown leathers and added a little owl bead on a headpin but the basic design is the same.

If you fancy having a go at your own leather project, we have a copy of Christina's book to give away to one lucky follower. Just leave a comment on this post and we will pick a winner on Friday 10th March after midday.

Creative Leather Jewelry by Christina Anton is available from GMC Publications priced at £24.99
ISBN: 978-1-4547-0950-3

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Book review: Bead pendants and necklaces by Susan Beal

Happy New Year!

We took a well-deserved break from the beads over Christmas at The Beading Library and I have to admit that I struggled this new year to find my creativity. I think focusing on decorating the house and other craft projects in the lead up to Christmas gave my beading mojo a bit of a knock. 

If you sometimes find it hard to get started on something new, it's often a good idea to turn to your beading book library. Look for a nice simple project where you have all the beads and findings you need and that will give you a quick finished piece. The process of making will kickstart your creativity but without the stress of having to come up with a design yourself.

This pamphlet (rather than book) from Susan Beal is a new publication of selected designs from her previous book 'Bead Simple: Essential Techniques for Making Jewelry Just the Way You Want it'. It includes 20 quick and easy projects from Susan and a few other designers, all for necklaces and pendants. Whilst accomplished jewellery makers will find the tutorials rather straightforward, those new to the hobby will appreciate the simplicity and clarity of the projects. Materials are all easily sourced or substituted for something similar and the main photographs of the pieces are beautifully clear (you could almost make most pieces from the image alone!).

Aside from the wide variety of styles in the projects, there is also a comprehensive section at the back with all the techniques and skills you will need to complete the pieces. These are all clearly written with nice illustrated steps. 

As you know, I always like to try out a project from the books I review. This time, I was pleased to be able to pick something really easy and quick to make. It felt good to finish my first piece of the year! I chose the 'Smooth and Jagged Necklace' but gave the design a colour boost with some Sea Bamboo and Magnesite to complement the neutral Jasper.

I was tickled to also spot that the colours were a good match to the Pantone Colors of Flame, Island Sky and Hazlenut!

Bead Pendants and Necklaces 20 Beautiful Jewelry Designs is available from GMC Publications, priced £5.99

We have a copy to give away. Leave a comment on this blog post to be in the draw. Winner will be picked at random after midday (GMT) 31st January 2017.