Wednesday, June 27, 2012

little ones

It's been forever since I've blogged again. I've been making lots of jewelry.  I finally tried one of the most basic jewelry-making techniques--I'm actually kind of embarrassed to admit I'd never even done it before: crimping and beading wire.

Do you ever get should-be-fleeting notions that just cement themselves in your head and become roadblocks? It can be frustrating because you might intellectually know they're irrational and even unjust but there's something powerful enough within the cement that keeps the barriers up.  I was like that with crimp pliers/tubes and beading wire.

My first experiences with jewelry making were at school in a fully decked out studio and around the same time, on my own using very non-traditional materials and tools. So my introduction to it was from two extremes and there was no craft store in sight.

A little over a decade ago a neighbor of mine abruptly moved to India and gave me many of her art supplies.  She had returned from Ghana not long before I knew her, and there were a ton of fabulous African beads in the stash I got from her.  I was mostly into paper-based art at the time, but those beads really made me want to get back into jewelry.  I had no supplies at all, so I went to a craft store to get some basics.

I couldn't find anything I wanted, although I wasn't really sure what I was looking for.  The wire I used all those years ago had been something I found in my grandfather's basement--there was definitely nothing like that in the craft store.  Everything looked like it was either made for pre-teens or super fussy and high maintenance. Some of the fussy stuff I inspected was the crimping stuff.  So this is really how you put necklaces and bracelets together?  It seemed so....flimsy and just not what I wanted to use.  I left without buying any tools and pretty much scrapping the jewelry making idea.

When I started making jewelry again a few years ago, I didn't even consider getting any tools or supplies other than beads and hemp at the craft stores and wire at the hardware store.  It sounds limiting to me now, but I'm glad I went that route because I taught myself macrame and did all kinds of experimenting with making my own findings, clasps, etc.  But now it seems time to explore things I've unjustly shunned.

Turns out crimping isn't flimsy.  And you can cover up all traces of crimpiness.  I know there are crimp bead covers and stuff, but I've just been using larger holed beads.  One issue I had my first couple rounds with it is getting the tube tight up against the last bead so there's no exposed wire.

I was able to get that down, but then I found that if I tie some hemp or waxed leather cord around the wire before the last bead, that takes up any space perfectly and it can be controlled as needed by wrapping to keep the beaded wire tight.  And then I just do macrame knots around the beading wire loops to cover it up.  So why not just use the cord itself?

I will never stop using regular cord when I can, but the beading wire allows the teeniest, tiniest beads to be strung.  Everyone already is aware of this, I'm sure.  But it's been quite the revelation to me.  And the beading goes so much faster.  I haven't quite figured out why yet.

Something really weird happened the first time I used my crimping stuff.  Look at this sweet little guy.
I was sitting at my table working and I sensed something and turned around.  On the floor about 3 feet away from me was the teeniest, tiniest dark little critter.  I thought it was a centipede because we unfortunately get those sometimes.  They're pretty much the only bug I don't like--I love bugs.  But I realized it was a baby mouse.  Coming toward me like he wants me to be his mommy.  Stupidly, I instinctively put my hand down and I'll be damned if he didn't crawl into my hand!

I wasn't even thinking 'house mice' or 'pest'--this was a little domesticated mouse!   Probably not, but I have never seen a wild creature so tame.  I wish I could have taken a picture of him in my hand because no exaggeration, he was just slightly over an inch long.  His head was bigger than his body--you can kind of tell in the picture.

We have pet rats, so I just got some of their bedding and food and made a little nest for him in a container.  He was shaking and wobbling around like crazy.  In a few hours, we had another one.  I suppose mama mousie didn't make it back to them--I can't imagine they would leave her.  It was pretty clear they needed a mouse mommy still--they could eat food, but their nursing instinct was strong.  I just tried to keep them comfy for as long as I could.  I will never forget the perfection of their impossibly tiny teeth, perhaps the loveliest thing I have ever seen in my life and it will be with me forever.  Goodnight, sweet princes.

And then the next day, we got to see this darling hours-old lamb at our friends' farm.


  1. I've been wanting so desperately to string gobs of gorgeous beads together that I've piled on my've inspired me to just jump on in! I love the way you've artfully covered the crimps and such!
    baby mice are adorable. so sweet...I have a soft spot in my heart for mice...we've had them for pets years ago, and I even had them in highschool...took them to school with me in a little carrying container and they stayed in my locker while I was in class. My english teacher would let me bring them to class...and I was able to mildly impress Travis Fuller, whom I had the HUGEST crush on. : ) Oh, I have mice stories....

  2. No it's not old news to me- I have the crimp and wire roadblock too! I've done it maybe twice and it freaks me out. When I first started getting into jewelry I looked at the wire and crimp and was all 'really, that's it?! And you can see the crimp and people don't care? Ok... and then I tried it, and just as I put the last bead on and crimped it, the whole thing broke and beads went everywhere and lo, there was much swearing. So then all the beads went in a drawer for 6 months, and I tried again with the same results. So now I just don't trust it. Maybe it's time to try it again....I do have A LOT of tiny hole beads!

  3. Oh, you must try it now! As I was doing the first few times, I completely understood every single dynamic of every single complaint or problem I'd ever heard about involving breakage, wires crossing, etc.; that is, I understood exactly how, why, and when the problems occur, but all the millions of hours spent dealing with teensy similar issues allowed me to nicely bypass actual issues with it. One thing my friend at the bead shop here told me is that you MUST use the tube style crimping beads vs. the round ones.

    if you have doubts still because of your first experiences with it, just practice crimping on some bogus thread or something until you get the hang of it. I think you will be pleased at how it allow you to string any bead no matter how small. It's also pretty fun--I actually like the crimping part! never thought i'd say that.

    jennifer--a mouse at school! That is so sweet; the whole story it's got a movie in it waiting to be filmed. Seriously, I envisioned the whole thing as I was reading it in movie form, complete with 80s soundtrack. Do you have old photos of your mice?

  4. I have an almost phobia about using beading wire/crimps - convinced it will break and could never get around hiding the exposed bit etc etc. Judging by the comments I am definitely not alone in this. You've given me the inspiration to have another crack.

  5. I am so glad that you posted this because I too am scared of using crimping beads and wire, but would like to try again! I experienced what Sparrow did in the past, and it just seemed so flimsy and not stable. Problem with my crimping seems to be that when bearing down on the crimp tubes there would such large gaps in between the wires and the spaces.. (hoping I am making sense here) so that the wire would inevitably just slip through with any pressure or weight from the piece. Perhaps my beading wired is too thin of a gauge... I don't know but you inspire me to give it another go. Baby mouse is adorable! I will be telling my daughter this story and showing her your blog post.

  6. Kim, what you're describing makes perfect sense (the wire slipping out of the crimp tube) and the explanation can only be that either the crimp tubes/crimp beads are too large or the wire gauge is too small.

    The stuff I'm using is a perfect fit and even before taking the second step of smashing the thing over once the wires are separated, they are super super hooked in there and completely snug and tight.

    I purchased my crimp tool at the bead shop in my town--my friend (who is also a Kim) who runs it gave me a lot of tips after I told her all of my issues about it. I asked her if I should just get a cheap crimper and stuff at walmart to try it all out and she said don't even bother because it's a completely different experience using good tools and stuff. I know this girl and she would totally tell me if there was no discernable difference between products; I mean she wasn't out to sell me a more expensive tool.

    The crimper I bought is beadalon brand. She also gave me a couple tube crimps so I could try it out immediately.

    I tried it that night using regular brass 32 gauge and 28 gauge steel wire (the 32 gauge broke very easily,) just to practice and also tried it using some various string I had to see if it would work nicely on something that wasn't as structured as the wire.

    It worked so well that I was confident buying the regular beading cord--I planned on doing that the next time I was in Utica or back in the bead shop. I happened to find myself at Wal-Mart in Herkimer (I know, I know. But I live in a super tiny town and my morals are on pause for certain things...) and I actually have come to know their craft section pretty well, and I'm fairly confident in some of their brands. So I bought a spool of black beading wire for $2 and also more crimp tubes for $2. I really only thought it would be to get a hang of using it all; I assumed I would have to purchase the FAR more expensive beadalon or known brands of tubes and beading wire to get good enough quality for selling pieces.

    However, the Wal-Mart wire is OUTSTANDING. To the point I feel an allegiance to it and can't imagine using anything else. It is extremely strong and sturdy and no there is no possibility of it breaking or snapping. The crimp beads are good too--in every way just as good as the ones at the bead store. They oxidize well too.

    The exact wire I am using is the wal-mart store brand, produced by 'Cousin.' It says .45 on it--not sure if that is a gauge or what, Also says '7 strands' and I have no idea what that means because it is one piece on a spool like every other kind of wire and there is a lot more than 7-strands-worth of wire on there. (anyone know what it all means?)

    oops, post too long, continued below....

  7. It comes in not only black but a nice rich brass color and a medium darkish silver. I've since purchased all the colors they have. I use it in a way that the cord can't really be seen, but I know from working with different colored hemp and such that there is sometimes a dynamic on the more transparent beads where you can see through a bit--I just like having the choice of colors.

    So, if you or others do want to try it all out, I would recommend the beadalon brand crimper, and tube style crimp beads and .45 beading wire from Walmart. I can't believe I just recommended Walmart. But at least you've got some products that you know will be the proper sizes and strengths and whatnot at good prices to start practicing. So much of the time, it's all in the supplies.

    And if you have any knotwork, macrame, sewing, or similar beading experience, draw on that energy of focus when you're doing the crimping. It seems to be in that realm far moreso than wire-wrapping or assemblage type work. that might sound pretty abstract, but it all became clearer and easier for me once I shifted from thinking 'wire.'

    I hope your daughter is as charmed by the mouse as we were! There are also some pictures of our rats as babies she might like--you'll have to scroll waaaay down. The mice are sleeping beauties now but the rats are thriving and huge, so if she asks about their fate you have a happy distraction there...

  8. Richelle,

    Thank you so much for writing such a complete and detailed response to my questions about crimping... you know what? I am going to go get some supplies tomorrow LOL... I love the continuous look of strung beads and I am willing to give it another go. Can't express enough how much I do appreciate you giving details and facts and gauges... I really love what you did with the waxed hemp/cord weaving at the ends as well... really nice... gives the connections a whole different feel as opposed to just seeing the beading wire. And thanks for the heads up about the other photos of your rats as babies, yes my little one will need the happy distraction but will be so enamoured by your photos and story. <3

  9. Same story here... An explosion of garnet beads all over the dance floor... So why would I try it again. I asked Fanci in one of her posts what she was doing cause how was she stringing all those tiny beads? Crimps and wire? Ech! But I too have so many dang tiny holded beads that I want to use. Thanks for your clear exposé on what to do.. I've got the tool and wire but it's languishing on the bottom of my piles... Time to bring it out...

    your new work is wonderful. You have taken giant strides forward... Thanks so much for all your help and advice... Happy safe forth Amiga !