NEEDLE THE THREAD (don’t thread the needle)

One of the reasons I don’t work much with seed beads is that I HATE to thread a needle!  Whenever possible, I use the wonderful “Big Eye” needle, which, if you have never seen one, has an “eye” running the entire length of the needle.  The only problem with the Big Eye is that it is not thin enough to use with your smaller seed beads.

So…I set out to find all the best tips and tricks to threading a needle, and here they are!

1.         Good light…and dollar store glasses!  These are my most important tools when I thread a needle.   I use my portable, rechargeable Ott Light, and the strongest over-the-counter reading glasses I can get, usually from the dollar store.  They work for simple magnification.

2.         Wax the thread with bee’s wax or Thread Heaven.  Cut at an angle.

3.         Check which side of the needle’s eye is larger.  Because needles are stamped, one side of the eye is larger than the other side.  If you’re having problems with one side, turn it over and try the other.

4.         “Needle the thread,” instead of threading the needle:   Hold the thread in your non-dominant hand between your thumb and forefinger and pull it down until just the very tip of the thread shows.  Take the needle in your dominant hand and slide it down between your thumb & forefinger onto the tip, then pull that tip up and further through.

5.         If the eye of your needle gets clogged with wax, dip it in rubbing alcohol.

6.         If all else fails, use a “Super-fine Needle Threader” available at in my eBay store, along with regular needle threaders, needles, wax, Big Eye needles and more.

7.         In a pinch, you can make your own needle, which means you don’t even have to thread it!  Use 34 gauge wire.  Fold about 4-5 inches of wire over the center of your thread and twist the wire tightly.  Trim the ends to get a nice point.  This will not work for bead weaving, but is fine for simple stringing.




October 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

Antiqueing or Coloring Bone Beads

Make your bone beads go from bland and boring to colorful.  Bone beads are lightweight and can add a lot to your design without adding weight, but they are usually a plain white color.

Bone beads or pendants can be antiqued in hot tea or coffee, or sauteed in oil Sauteeing produces a rich, golden color, but the smell of the oil will be retained in beads. The tea or coffee method can produce gray areas where the bone is not entirely white.

You can use Rit dyes for adding color to bone beads: Use a teacup and boiling water, add grains of dye until the desired strength has been reached. Leave your bone beads in there until they are the color you wish, then rinse well.


September 27, 2009 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Designs on You

The  Style section of the Washington Post had an article called, “Designs on You: Local Fashion Pros Talk about Making It Big Right Here at Home.” Here are designers’ stories from that article I thought you might be interested in.

Mojee Shokri, 28, McLean:

What: Mojee Designs turns out fancy (but not fussy) necklaces, bracelets and earrings fashioned from bold 18-karat gold and semi-precious stones.

Inspiration: Each piece is one of a kind, and many of them are designed for a particular client, which means Shokri has a different muse for each. “I try to feel the style and fashion inside my client, and make something just for her.”

How She Did It: The native of Iran hit on jewelry design more than seven years ago through a designer friend. It combined her artistic streak with a desire to run her own business. She goes on buying trips to Iran every few months for stones and gold, and does most of the fabrication in her basement studio.

Advice: A designer just starting out has to knock on doors – literally, Shokri says. When she began, she honed in on a gallery in Georgetown, known for it’s collection of high-end but unstuffy jewelry, as a perfect venue for her pieces. “I loved the store, so one day I just showed up with my things,” she says. Now, the gallery regularly sells out of her work.

Signature Style: Shokri’s statement-y tassel necklace features moonstones, faceted citrines and mixed-metal accents. $1,980.

Look at her designs at:

Danielle Insetta, 31, Bethesda:

What: Sixties fashion icon Penelope Tree would look perfectly at home in the candy-colored necklace, bracelets and earrings Insetta crafts for her label, Circasixtythree.

Inspiration: The colors and shapes of vintage Lucite dictate her designs, says Insetta, who will become smitten with a particular specimen from her trove of nearly 1,000 pounds of beads, then tinker around with combinations to highlight it. “I like sticking to the aesthetic of the era,” she says of her 1960s materials. “And I really like crazy color combinations.”

How She Did It: When Insetta came across a box of vintage plastic beads at a Parisian flea market, she decided to trade a career in finance for one in design. She took a few jewelry design classes and launched her label. Now she’s turning out about 50 pieces a week and selling to local boutiques as well as French and Japanese department stores.

Advice: Insetta relies on networking through the Internet and through friends to team up with other creative types: She met the graphic artist who designed her sales materials on MySpace and recruited the barista at her neighborhood coffee shop to model her work. “Working with people who are just starting out, too, is great,” she says. “They’re often less expensive, and they’re really ambitious.”

Signature Style: A navel-grazing necklace of vintage Lucite hoops and brassy gold plate typifies Insetta’s aesthetic: vibrant hues, chunky lines and a mod sensibility. $98.


September 27, 2009 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment

Gem Lore: Black Onyx

Black Onyx

Onyx is a type of opaque chalcedony that comes in various colors.   Black onyx is one of the most popular stones in bead designing. Although it does occur naturally in black, it is generally dyed to achieve a more uniform color.

As to the lore of black onyx, among those who assign special powers to gemstones, it is believed that black onyx defends against negativity, boosts confidence, and sharpens your senses.

Black Onyx and Cinnabar Knotted Necklace

Black Onyx and Cinnabar Knotted Necklace

August 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

Removing that Chalky Bead Release, Part II

So this is actually pretty funny.  I wrote a post a while back about using denture tablets to remove bead release.

Recently I received a shipment of beautiful Indian lampworked glass beads, all FULL of that nasty chalk.  But…no denture tablets arounds.  On a scheduled trip to the dentist, I asked for a sample, but they no longer provide them.  So…what to do?  GOOGLE IT, of course!

To my surprise, the very first thing that came up was my own blog!  That didn’t help me one bit – I already knew the denture tablet trick.  I couldn’t find another thing about it!

I gave it a little thought and decided to try a little trick I use to clean my sinks (thank you, Heloise.)  I put the beads in a plastic dishpan, put in some baking soda, and then covered the beads with vinegar!  The combination causes a lot of fierce bubbling.  I let the beads soak for a while, and when I drained off the vinegar solution, the bottom of the pan was thick with bead release.

So there you go…a cheap, eco-friendly way to clean beads.

baking soda

July 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Are you a “Monochromatic Mary?”

When I began beading, I was a little afraid of color.  I tended to choose beads that were monochromatic.   I still see this with my students, even though I’ve moved on to embrace color combinations that would have made me go running when I first began!

How was I able to branch out to combining coral with purple and smoky topaz with aqua?  The first thing is just experience – the more you work with beads and see the marvelous combinations, the more daring you will become.  The other thing was a concious effort on my part to look at how color combinations worked.  For instance, take a look at fabric.

You might see fabric that combines red, yellow and green.   It’s obvious that they “work” together – but why?  Here is a great resource that explains color theory in a concise way:

The main thing, in my opinion, is the “value” of the hues is compatible – that is, the colors are compatible either in the saturation or intensity of the hue (bright green with bright red, for instance, not bright red with olive green) or the colors are analogous, or in the same color range (pale yellow, yellow-green, green.)  The analogous colors can be monochromatic, but not necessarily so.

Observe your world.  Take a look at how colors combine around you – in nature, in a painting, on a piece of fabric.  You will be surprised to see how beautifully some combinations work – amethyst and citrine for example, turquoise and coral.  Have a little fun!

donnaThis necklace was designed by Donna Ryan-Kocun, who teaches color theory.  (And is a close personal friend of mine:))

June 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Vera Wang Says:

“Jewelry allows women to express themselves in a way that clothing sometimes simply cannot.”

Vera Wang Sequin Bead Necklace

Vera Wang Sequin Bead Necklace

March 15, 2009 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

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