Friday, December 17, 2010

Pieces for Nieces

You would think, as someone who runs a bead website, that I would be giving the gift of jewelry to everyone I know this holiday season.  Ironically, we're so busy here bringing beautiful beading supplies to other people, that I don't have much time to make jewelry anymore.  Things have changed since the days I worked full time making jewelry to sell at swap meets.  It was so easy to pick out finished pieces from my stock, or make a variation of something I had already designed, to give to people.  

My creative thrills come more vicariously now, through our customers and our design department.  I supervise video, photography, website and graphic design, and, of course our two wonderful jewelry designers, Andrea and Kathleen.  To them, I flatter myself, I am a gently exhortative muse, the Tim Gunn to their creative process.  "Great color palette, but I want more strands!"  "Step back and look at the necklace from 10 feet away before you decide...."   And of course, "Can somebody please make some more bracelets?"   If our designers have a different view of my assistance, they have never said a word to me....

This year, trying to break my 5-year streak of Amazon e-gift certificate giving, I thought of a way to at least give my two young nieces some jewelry, complete with modern interactive features.   

I think almost everyone has now become aware of the Pandora jewelry phenomenon.   This is a hugely popular jewelry line that uses as its basis the concept of large-hole 'charm' beads made of precious materials, that can be chosen and switched out by the owner, to customize their bracelet, necklace or earrings.

Genuine Pandora beads can cost hundreds of dollars each, putting them out of the reach of most of us.   So it is no wonder that dozens of competing brands of interchangeable beads have sprung up.   It is now quite easy to find attractive and original large-hole beads that cost under three dollars each. 

I decided to take advantage of our large-hole bead inventory to make some 'Pandora-style' bracelets for my young nieces.   I browsed our website, channeling my inner little girl.   Shopping for those beads was FUN!  Themes of pink, flowers, bling, butterflies, hearts, peace signs and smiley faces seemed right to me.  Fat beads, spacer beads, dangling charms, they all had to be there.    It was a little too easy to get a big selection in my cart, and I had to do a little editing before I was done.

Once my order was in my hands, I put together my own pandora-style charms by attaching cute silver-plated charms to charm-hanger beads with the included jump rings.    Each niece is getting a charm with her initial on it, so their bracelets will be even more personal.   Each girl is also getting some extra beads - so the younger girl will have fun choosing her favorites and the older girl can choose beads to match her outfits.  I chose high-quality black rubber bracelets over solid Sterling for the practicality and price point.   The clasp assembly is Sterling, and if the screw-off end should get lost, well, we have extras in stock.

I think these are fun gifts for young girls.   While I wouldn't give something like this to anyone younger than six, I can tell you that a lot of grown-ups in the offices loved these bracelets too.   For the more elegant among us, there are many beads and bracelets available that are more sophisticated.


PS:  To my sisters-in-law--please do not show this blog to your daughters if the packages haven't arrived yet!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let's Wrap

I was just perusing the January 2011 issue of BeadStyle Magazine, when I came across something that made me exclaim out loud (which did not faze any of my coworkers in the slightest---apparently they are used to my sudden outbursts).  There, on pages 54 and 55, was a favorite type of design that I had been obsessing over for the past six or so months: the leather wrap bracelet.

I first became aware of this particular design through my daily Etsy browsing.  Many different people have many different takes on the bracelet.  Some feature gemstones and silver, others pair crystals and brass.  They may wrap around the wrist one time, a few times, or many.   Eventually, I noticed one of these lovely pieces adorning the wrist of a very stylish friend of mine.  I naively asked her if she got it on Etsy.  She replied, "No... It's a Chan Luu!"  For those in the know, Chan Luu is credited as the originator of this now-ubiquitous design.  Her gorgeous wrap bracelets have been coveted by celebs and fashionistas for some time now, and run upwards of $300.... Sadly, I was not "in the know".

Whether it is a pricey Chan Luu original, or a slightly more affordable Etsy version, the consistent material used in all is leather cord.  When I thought about that, the proverbial light bulb went on above my head.  Why not use high quality, waxed cotton cord or P'leather instead?  The resulting design is cruelty-free and considerably less expensive!  You can get instructions for my first version of the wrap bracelet (above) on our free bracelet projects page.

Above is another, longer version which uses approximately five feet of waxed cotton cord.  The finished length of the bracelet is just over twenty eight inches.  It wraps around the wrist four times.

Listed below are the products I used to create this piece.  Please note that this version is not strictly Vegan, as it uses silk thread.  You can substitute polyester beading thread or doubled-up nylon thread, such as K.O. brand, for the silk thread.

Beadaholique Item Numbers & Quantities:
BCP-3434, 1 lot
BCP-34146, 1 lot
BCP-34156, 1 lot
BCP-34150, 1 lot
XCR-4152, 1 lot
PND-1054, 1 lot
XCR-9217, 2 lots

TIP: Use different colors and types of thick cord for the sides (2mm hemp, perhaps?). Try other beads -- just make sure the beads that you choose have holes that are at least 1mm in diameter.  Try using Czech glass, Swarovski crystal, or incorporating mixed metal beads.  Be creative!  As always, we encourage you to send us pictures of your creations!

Bead on, Andrea
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