MATERIALS AND TOOLS
A comprehensive list of the materials and tools that we recommend for the projects in this book and beyond.
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Usually, we encourage you to use the thickest possible thread that the hole in your beads will allow. Following this rule will make your work more flexible and secure. When you use thread that is too thin for your bead size, you will find that your piece will be very stiff and uncomfortable to wear.
Most importantly, don't use cotton or silk! We know that many artists believe in using "pure" materials, and we respect the fundamentals behind this ideal; however, the fact remains that cotton and silk will disintegrate. We hope that our work will outlive us by centuries!
Luckily, there are many options in the nylon and polyester families, and new products are being introduced to the market regularly.
NYLON AND POLYESTER
THE C-LON THREAD FAMILY
C-Lon is an excellent product because it comes in several thicknesses, the small spools make it easy to transport, and the color selection is vast. The materials list for each project will refer to the C-Lon thread you should use, but in this section you will find appropriate substitutes. We encourage you to experiment with the other threads we recommend as well, and use the ones with which you are most comfortable.
C-LON BEAD CORD This is the perfect weight for most bead crochet projects. It comes in 86-yard spools and is currently available in 104 colors (though new colors are being introduced regularly). This thread can be used for most seed beads size 8/0 or larger (we'll get to bead sizes soon).
C-LON BEAD CORD SUBSTITUTES
Beadsmith Nylon #18 (previously known as Mastex): Available in 165-yard spools and 11 colors.
Conso Nylon #18: Available in 165-yard spools and 14 colors.
C-LON FINE WEIGHT BEAD CORD When using seed beads size 8/0 or smaller beads with smaller (more stubborn) holes — such as certain drops and daggers — and some semiprecious stones, you may need to use this thinner thread. It comes in 136-yard spools and is currently available in 16 colors (with new colors being introduced regularly).
C-LON FINE WEIGHT SUBSTITUTES
Tuff-Cord #2: Available in 66-yard spools and 16 colors.
Tuff-Cord #3 (slightly thicker than #2): Available in 49-yard spools and 16 colors.
C-LON MICRO CORD When you are ready to crochet with size 11/0 seed beads (which are tiny), small pearls, semiprecious and even precious stones, use this very fine thread. Because the thread is so thin, we recommend using it only when hole size makes it necessary. It is very strong, but because it does not have very much body it does not behave properly with larger beads that have small holes. C-Lon Micro comes in 320-yard spools and is currently available in 32 colors (and counting).
C-LON MICRO SUBSTITUTES
Tuff-Cord #1: Available in 98-yard spools and 16 colors.
YARN, METALLIC THREAD, LEATHER, AND MORE
Though we almost exclusively use one of the previous threads, we are always looking for new alternatives that will allow us to expand the potential of our beadwork. We encourage you to try new materials as well. There are several factors to keep in mind when trying out alternative threads. First, whatever thread you use must be strong. Try ripping it with your hands; if it comes apart easily, then it's definitely not the right thread to use. If it doesn't rip at first, try wetting it and see if it frays or stretches. Next, remember that you have to string the beads you want to use onto your thread, so the thread must be thin enough for you to do so. For example, you won't be able to string 11/0 seed beads onto a C-Lon Bead Cord–weight thread. Finally, for certain projects, your thread will be touching your skin. Be sure that the texture of the thread will not be uncomfortable against your neck or wrist.
FIRELINE 8 LB. BRAIDED BEAD THREAD
You may need to use FireLine to reinforce your closure when you use focal beads. Although you will never use this thread to crochet, it is an important material for every bead crocheter to have in stock. Available in three colors — Crystal (which is basically white), Smoke (charcoal gray), and Flame Green — it comes in 125-yard, 300-yard, and 1,500-yard spools. We recommend Smoke if you plan on purchasing only one color; it disappears into your work better than Crystal. However, you can use a Sharpie to change the color of Crystal to match your beads, which is a great option.
STEEL CROCHET HOOKS
The steel hooks used for bead crochet are very small and sized by number. As the number of the hook goes up, the hook gets smaller (e.g., a size 8 hook is actually smaller than a size 4 hook). It is important to use the appropriate hook size for your thread. Because everyone's tension is different, we recommend trying several sizes before deciding which one is right for you. If you find that your work is too loose, use a hook one or two sizes smaller than recommended; conversely, if your work is too tight, move to a slightly larger hook. Larger hooks that are used for regular crocheting are sized by letter, with an A being the smallest.
Generally speaking, when using C-Lon Bead Cord (or a comparable thread), use anywhere from a size 3 to 5 hook; most people are comfortable with a size 4. When using C-Lon Fine Weight (or a comparable thread), use a size 7 or 8 hook. When using C-Lon Micro, use a size 10 or 11 hook. When using an alternative thread, try several different hook sizes until the tension of the piece feels right.
In general, the head of your hook needs to be large enough to grab the thread but small enough that your stitches are snug. After you become comfortable with bead crochet, you will instinctively know the right size hook for the thread you are using.
Almost anything you can imagine is available in bead form. Resin? Yes. Paper? Yes. Diamonds? Yes — you can even buy diamond beads! We would love to tell you about all the beads available in the world, but then we would never get to the projects. As always, we encourage you to try as many different shapes and sizes as possible, because there are no rules!
Remember that not all beads are created equal; two beads of the "same size" made by two manufacturers might be very different. Beads that are coated, lined, or dyed may lose color or peel over time and with wear. We recommend against using bicones (like Swarovski crystals), because their edges and holes are sharp and they can cut your thread. Be sure to check the holes and edges of your beads before you begin a project.
We encourage you to combine materials — just because you have chosen to work with pressed-glass beads doesn't mean you can't also use semiprecious stones in the same project. Let color and texture combinations guide you, not conventional ideas of what is "precious" and what is "less valuable." To get you started, here is a brief description of the beads we like best for bead crochet.
Seed beads (tiny glass beads) come in many sizes, but the most commonly used for bead crochet are 6/0, 8/0, and 11/0. As the size of the bead goes up, the number goes down, so a size 6/0 is actually larger than an 8/0. (The system refers to the approximate number of beads per inch when laid flat. In other words, there are approximately six 6/0 seed beads per inch.)
Look at the quality and shape of seed beads before you make a selection; most Japanese seed beads are consistent, while many Czech and Chinese seed beads vary in size — even if they are from the same lot. If you find beads that are misshapen, too small, or too large, discard them. They are the least expensive beads you can use, so it is worth it to cull the rejects to ensure that your finished product is uniform.
Fire-polished crystals are a relatively inexpensive way to make your work spectacular, because their faceted cut catches the light and creates sparkle. They come in hundreds of colors and finishes, including matte, AB, Marea, and Vitral. For bead crochet we usually prefer size 3mm, 4mm, and 6mm, but occasionally we also go smaller (2mm) and larger (8mm and higher).
Pressed-glass round beads are virtually the same as fire-polished crystals, without the facets. They come in the same sizes (3mm, 4mm, etc.) and thus can be used for any project that requires fire-polished crystals, and vice versa. They are less expensive, but they are also less brilliant. Like fire- polished crystals, they come in hundreds of colors and finishes.
Daggers, drops, leaves, lentils, squarelettes, ovaltines, coin beads, pinch beads, and other shapes add texture and interest when used alone or combined with seed beads, crystals or rounds. We like these shapes because they are side-drilled, so when they are crocheted into your piece, most of the bead "sticks out" and is visible. Other interesting shapes can be used as well, to different effect. Try them all!
These beads (also sometimes referred to as crystal rondelles) sit beautifully when crocheted because of their shape, which is larger around the middle than in height. They are available in many sizes, including 2 × 3, 3 × 5, 4 × 7, and larger. While the sizes listed are ideal for crocheting, the larger sizes (6 × 9, 7 × 11, etc.) make excellent focal beads.
PEARLS (FAUX AND REAL)
While diamonds may be a girl's best friend, pearls are as "classic" as the "little black dress." Always dependable and beautiful, they are perfect for every occasion. There are benefits and drawbacks to using both real and faux pearls in bead crochet. Faux pearls are wonderful because their holes are large enough to facilitate stringing on heavier threads like C-Lon Bead Cord or C-Lon Fine Weight. They are also perfectly even. Believe it or not, they can also be more expensive. The only faux pearls we recommend are those by Swarovski, because, unlike other faux pearls, their coating does not peel off.
Real pearls have the obvious advantage of being natural. They come in every shape, size, and, thanks to irradiation, color. Their holes are smaller (more appropriate for C-Lon Fine Weight or C-Lon Micro), making them more difficult to string.
PRECIOUS AND SEMIPRECIOUS STONES
The biggest problem with using stones is that their holes are small and sharp, especially those of faceted stones. When buying these beads, make sure that the holes will be large enough for the thread you want to use (remember that you always want to use the thickest thread possible). Also, look at the quality of the stones. The less expensive ones tend to have irregular holes, which make them more difficult to string. They are also usually duller in color and have less brilliant faceting. Higher-quality stones, though more expensive, will look better and have larger, more even holes. Stones can be substituted for crystals or pressed glass for the projects in this book, as long as the sizes are consistent (e.g., you can use a 4mm round semiprecious bead instead of a 4mm fire-polished crystal). Note that if you make a substitution, you may have to change your thread as well.
Metal beads (such as sterling silver, gold-filled, copper, etc.) are measured in millimeters, so they can be used for any project in this book that calls for a bead of the same size. When buying metal beads, be sure they are seamless; many have seams that can open up while you work with them or after the piece has been finished. Also make sure that the beads are not plated. For example, you can buy a base-metal bead that is plated with sterling silver. This does not mean that the bead is made of sterling silver; it means that a poor-quality metal has been coated with sterling silver. Over time, the plating will wear away and you will be left with uneven, unattractive beads in your piece.
When we refer to focal beads, we mean large accent beads that are used in small quantity (sometimes only one) to enhance a piece. They are not made from any specific material, so they can be glass, metal, semiprecious stone, etc. The most important trait of a focal bead is a hole large enough for your thread to go through several times when you reinforce the connection.
GENERAL BEADING SUPPLIES
You need a pair of sharp scissors with a fine point, and a tape measure, as well as a practical work surface such as a bead mat. Using a bead mat will prevent your beads from rolling away.
You need needle-nose pliers, round-nose pliers, and wire cutters if using standard jewelry findings.
Everyone finds his or her own favorite way to string beads onto thread. You can use a big-eye needle, a small darning or sewing needle, a size 10 beading needle (for thinner threads), a flex needle, or even a blue GUM EEZ-thru floss threader. Try different methods until you find what's right for you in each situation. Often, it's easier to just load your beads directly onto the thread and bypass the needle completely.
Safety pins are often your best friends when bead crocheting. Whenever you walk away from your work, whether for a bathroom break or a weeklong break, you will want to hold the working loop of your project with a safety pin. Just insert the open safety pin into the loop and close the pin. This will prevent your work from unraveling.
Safety pins are also helpful if you drop a stitch; you can pick up the working loop much more easily with the point of the pin than you can with your hook.
Lastly, safety pins are useful for marking your place if you need to count rows or to measure.
FINDINGS AND BUTTONS
Depending on the project, you might need to incorporate standard jewelry findings. These include headpins, earring posts or hooks, pin backs, chains, and clasps. We do not recommend magnetic clasps, because they can open easily and you can lose your jewelry. When choosing findings, decide what color your want your metal to be and whether you prefer better-quality materials (silver, copper, etc.) or less-expensive materials (base metal). When buying jump rings, make sure they are soldered (fused shut). If not, they can open and your piece can break.
Buttons are an interesting way to enhance your work. They can be used as closures and as focal elements. Try ending a bracelet with a striking button and wearing it in the front as the focal piece.
Take a trip through the basic methods and some useful hints that will help you learn and master bead crochet.
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A NOTE ON THE ORGANIZATION OF THIS BOOK
After years of working with students, we found that achieving success with circular crochet is more likely if you start with a chain stitch project. We know that you may be eager to get to the advanced projects, but we strongly recommend making at least one project from each section before moving on to the next. Each section provides you with the foundations you need to move up to the next level. We like to think of bead crochet as math: you have to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divided before you can learn algebra. Or (if our math analogy frightens you), you need to know the alphabet before you can start spelling words!
This section contains general information to help you troubleshoot as you are geiting started. At the beginning of each project section, you will find detailed instructions for the techniques needed for the projects in that section. In the last section. Advanced Tips and Tricks, you will find additional suggestions for making your bead crochet experience as smooth as possible.
WORKING WITH THREAD
In bead crochet you always begin by stringing on all the beads for your project (or the piece of the final project that is worked separately) directly onto the spool of thread. Once you have strung your beads, do not cut the thread from the spool. You will crochet all the beads and then cut the thread when the piece is complete.
It is difficult to give exact quantities for each project, because we all crochet with different tension, and have different wrist and neck sizes and tastes. Each set of instructions gives you the approximate quantities for the project. You may need to adjust your quantities by using fewer or more beads, so that you can achieve the look and fit that best suits you.
If your beads are stubborn and you can't use a needle to string them, cut the end of your thread at an angle, creating a point. If the thread begins to fray or lose stiffness, trim it as often as necessary. You can also use a dab of basecoat nail polish to stiffen the end.