I was fortunate enough recently to be sent some goodies from The Bead Shop Manchester to review. For those of you who don't know, The Bead Shop sells a variety of beads and jewellery making equipment for all ranges of abilities.
I was sent a pack of Czech faceted round glass bead mix in grey and a Kumihimo seed bead kit in red.
Firstly, the faceted beads. I think you get a gorgeous mix of colours and in a range of sizes. The smallest in my pack are 4mm and the largest are 12mm. Here a couple of pictures of the pile when I tipped them onto my bead mat and after I had sorted them out.
I particularly like the colour of the grey ones to the right of the second picture. They have a lovely lustre to them. The larger beads on the bottom left have a brownish hue to them and there are several with blue tones. I will shortly be making a hairclip and a pair of earrings (at least) from this mix and will be posting up the free tutorials here on this blog, hopefully within a couple of weeks (assuming bump/hormones behave themselves and don't make me too ill). I'm really looking forward to experimenting with them.
Kumihimo is a form of Japanese braiding. I've know about it for a while and even bought the traditional marudai and bobbins approximately 10 years ago to have a go. I have a couple of books on the subject by Jacqui Carey too. However, I have never used it! Bad Gemma! Shortly after I bought the traditional equipment, new foam boards appeared on the market. They are MUCH cheaper than the proper looms and were reported to be easier to use. I was a bit miffed and it put me off trying my loom but I couldn't justify buying the discs as I technically had suitable equipment. So when The Bead Shop offered to send me a kit I was thrilled.
Here's what I recieved.
You get instructions, the board, 8 bobbins, braiding cord, thread, beads (seed or crystal depending on which kit you choose), clasp and glue. I suspect my kit accidentally got the wrong instructions put in as it talked about crystals but it doesn't really make and difference to the technique, only the bead counts.
Its really easy!! Definately suitable for a total beginner and really quick too. I think it took me less than 2 hours in total from beginning to finished bracelet. I found the instructions very easy to follow. There are instructions for an 8 strand plain braid, a 16 strand braid (please note you will need to purchase 8 more bobbins if you want to do a 16 strand braid) and details as to how to add beads. You braid a little without beads, then start adding the beads. There is a helpful picture showing you where the bead has to sit. When you drop a bead down it doesn't automatically go in the right place, you have to tuck it in. The instructions suggest you weigh the knot with 25 pennies, which I didn't have lying around, so I just used a bag of some of the glass beads above and a safety pin! I must admit, at first I didn't think it was working. Nothing seemed to be happening but on closer inspection underneath the board a tiny braid was appearing.
Because I had the wrong instructions I did have to add more beads to the strands as I ran out after about 13cm/5" of beaded braid. I divided the remaining tube into roughly equal piles and just threaded them all, though I didn't end up using them all. The final beaded length of my bracelet is 16cm/6.25". With the included clasp it gives a length of 20cm/7.75". I did think I was going to have to tell you that I couldn't get on with the glue as it didn't set practically instantly as suggested but in the time its taken to write this post it seems to have decided to stick. Excellent! I can now wear my bracelet on my trip to B&Q to buy mouse traps (long story).
My tension isn't brilliant but I'm extremely pleased with the results, especially for my very first go. The only thing I'd do differently, if I was starting this exact kit again, is to thread all the beads at the beginning. The kit recommends you thread the beads after you've done a bit of plain braid but this just means you have to unwind and rewind the bobbins repeatedly. With the aforementioned bead shortage, I ended up winding and unwinding 3 times.
I'm looking forward to experimenting with different beads, I think different sizes or shapes on the different strands could be fun. I'm also going to revisit my Jacqui Carey books to see if any of the braids in there can be done on the foam disc. Also, I may have to try with sterling silver wire. I've already got a plan for a pair of earrings or two with braided sterling.
So keep your eye out here! Soon there will be a tutorial or two using the yummy mix of Czech faceted beads and you may even see some new braiding creations in the near future (although knitting and crocheting for baby may have to take priority over making things for me!)