Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leather Wrap Bracelet

Good morning, bloggy friends! I'm back!

I can't believe it has been 5 weeks since my last post - it's certainly not because I haven't been doing anything ... but various forces and factors have just collided to prevent blogging. Sorry!

This is my newest - I just finished it yesterday, after about 5 days of decidedly non-continuous stitching:

Leather wrap bracelet with size 5 and 6 faceted seed beads

These leather wrap bracelets are nothing new; they've been around for years, and it seems like everybody has their own version of tutorials for them - I've seen at least 3 different ones on Pinterest, and I know Fusion beads has one, and seems like at least 5 customers a week come into the bead shop with various tutorials, wanting to purchase materials to make one (or more).

But these bracelets have never really floated my (jewelry) boat - They just aren't really my style. I don't really like leather!

But a customer came into the shop about 3 weeks ago, wearing one very similar to the one in this picture - she had made it with faceted size 5 and 6 seed beads that I sell, and I really liked it - probably because seed beads were involved! She came back in one day last week and showed me how to do it (much faster than having to sit down with a tutorial and suss it out myself) - but then I started stitching, and grew tired of it, fast. The Nymo thread gets wrapped around itself, around the free leather ends, and just generally the whole thing was a pain! I would stitch for 30 minutes or so, and get so frustrated I'd take a loooooooong break before stitching in a few more beads - but I ultimately finished, and I DO like it, but won't be making any more!

We've had some snow days this year, and then the big debacle that was the ice storm, which I'll be back to blog about later in the week ... and otherwise, I have just been doing some "obligation stitching" - I try to stitch a least one project from each beading magazine as the mags hit the shelves, to show my customers how to use the beads I sell. These projects are usually not anything I would have chosen for myself, and they often end up looking very different from those in the magazines (probably because of a combination of factors, including the fact that I usually choose very different color combos than the magazine, plus jewelry photography is just plain hard!)

So I thought, why not show a few of those projects here, even though they are certainly not my designs, and maybe give little mini-reviews of the projects while I'm at it?

In no particular order:

Hogarth Crystal Curve

This project is featured as a necklace in the April 2012 Bead & Button, and had been on my list of projects to make for the shop for awhile, obviously, but I finally got around to it. It is netting, and in addition to making a bracelet instead of the necklace, I substituted Czech Firepolish beads for the Swarovski crystals to make the project more affordable. It is a quick and easy bracelet, and a well-written pattern.

Hogarth Crystal Curve, detail

Tilt-a-Whirl Bracelet

This netted bracelet is featured in the October/November 2013 Beadwork. I substituted Tilas for the Czechmate tiles used in the magazine, so my critique is offered with a grain of salt, but this pattern is a little bit difficult, in my opinion, because the Tilas have to be held in position very tightly, requiring a fair bit of coordination with your non-dominant hand, in order to stitch the outer round which secures them and makes them all stay lying in one direction. But the resulting design is interesting - full of texture, and fun to play with.

Tilt-a-Whirl Bracelet, detail

Meandering Garden Path Bracelet

This bracelet was featured in a fairly recent Bead & Button - I wish I could tell you which issue, but I've torn the pattern out of the magazine, and the date/issue information is not on any of the 3 pages: Sorry!

This pattern (another netting pattern) also called for Czechmate tiles, and, again, I substituted Tilas. I also added a few beads to one of the final rounds, because the bracelet, if stitched as called for in the pattern, had a 3-dimensional effect very similar to the Tilt-a-Whirl bracelet above, with the tiles sitting up a bit and layering over each other, and I decided I didn't want to make 2 such similar designs. Another well written, easy pattern.

Meandering Garden Path Bracelet, detail

All 3 of these (the Hogarth Crystal Curve, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Meandering Garden Path) are constructed as individual netted units, which, upon completion of all of them, are then stitched together to create the bracelet. This is not how I prefer to stitch, personally - it reminds me of my days crocheting afghans - I preferred the patterns that added row upon row until the final length was achieved, rather than "Granny Square" type patterns, where you stitch a whole bunch of squares, then sew them all together. I know this is a personal thing - some people love making all those units and stitching them together!

Learning Curve

This is an older pattern( Bead & Button August, 2010) that I had torn out and put in my wish book years ago, and when I was looking for something to do back around Christmas Holidays, I pulled it AND the beads to take home and play with during my long stretch of days away from the bead shop.

This is a really fun pattern,  but represents hours and hours of stitching. The base is peyote, using 3mm cubes, which you then go back and embellish in several passes. It is supposed to curve a LOT more than it does, according to the pictures in Bead & Button, but mine just has a barely perceptible curve, and all I can speculate is that my tension is too tight. Otherwise, I have no clue.

Learning Curve, detail

Super Spiral (Superduo bangle)

These Superduo bangles are featured in the February 2014 Bead and Button, and have been my latest obsession - I just keep making them! I love Superduos, and my customers love them, and this pattern has been a huge hit. I have put together more 3-color combos of superduos than I can remember, and every time I do, I want to stitch up the new combination. It's a really fun pattern, and takes me about 2 days to finish.

I know I said these were in no particular order, but I actually saved my problem child for last:
Breezeway Bangle

This is the Breezeway Bangle, from the October/November 2013 Beadwork. This pattern really caught my eye when the magazine came out, and I don't carry ALL the bead types called for in the pattern at my Bead Shop, so I decided to just order the kit, which the pattern explained was available through Interweave (the publisher of Beadwork). I placed my order the same day I received the magazine, and counted the days, waiting for my kit - I was really excited about this pattern.

The pattern arrived, and I was a little surprised to see that it didn't include tubes of beads, or strands of beads, but rather had the 4 bead types counted out into individual Ziploc bags. That hasn't been my experience with kits, but I hadn't ordered kits in awhile, so I figured, "times have changed," and I started stitching.

Except that, in my personal opinion, the size 11/0 rounds that were used in the kit colorway did not really complement the other beads, so I substituted some purple iris 11/0s from my shop.

The pattern is a bit difficult to work with, and I struggled with stitch 3 of Step 1 - I know I stitched this stitch at least 20 times; following the pattern word for word, stitching it, realizing what I had stitched was just plain wrong, and taking it out, before I gave up and decided to see if I could figure it out on my own. I finally did, and when I went back to see what the issue was, I discovered that the pattern uses the terms "following" and "next" to mean 2 different things, whereas to me, they are interchangeable when teaching beading: as in "pass through the right hole of the following bead" vs. "pass through the right hole of the next bead" - To me, these mean the same thing, but I figured out that in this particular pattern, "next" means next, but "following" means the bead after the next bead. OK - I can deal with language differences - just wish I had known that when I started out!

So I stitched, and stitched, and then I ran out of beads. All at the same time - except for the 11/0s, which were from my own personal supply. Literally, the beads had been counted out so precisely that there were exactly enough to complete X number of units (good thing I didn't drop one on the floor!). I held the un-joined bangle up to my wrist, and could easily see it would never fit me, but I stitched it together anyway. 

It was small. Very small. Size 7, according to my "EZ bracelet sizer", but it is not a size 7. As a bangle, it has to fit over the widest part of the hand, and over the next few weeks I had every customer that entered the shop try it on, and so far, only 3 have been able to get it on AT ALL, and 2 of them had to work it over their hands. The one who slipped it on with ease wears a size 6 bracelet!

I contacted Interweave customer service, but was ignored, until I pulled a string to get my foot in the door. When I finally spoke with Interweave's customer service, they told me that the kit wasn't their kit, but was available through an arrangement with a 3rd party vendor, whom they would try to contact on my behalf. (This was after they offered me my money back if I returned the kit - but I explained that that wasn't what I wanted, I just wanted enough beads to finish my bracelet and have it fit!)

The 3rd party vendor (Starman, Inc) sent me some additional beads a few weeks later. However, the pattern called for Czechmate Tiles, rulla beads, and 2-hole lentils, and they only sent me Tiles and lentils. No rullas - so I still can't add any additional units to the bangle. I tried to contact the Interweave customer service rep who had helped me get this far, but he has not answered any of the multiple e-mails I have sent. 

I realize I could take the bangle apart and add a toggle, and it would fit - but that's not the issue: the kit was for a bangle; I want a bangle.

I realize I could have returned the whole thing for a full refund, but again, this was not the issue.

So, I am 100% unsatisfied with the pattern, with Interweave, and with Starman - I needed a handful of beads, people. I'll never order from Interweave again.