Monday, April 5, 2010


Back in the age of dinosaurs, when I beaded my first bracelet on a child-sized hobby shop loom, the selection was Czech-made beads - opaque, in primary and secondary colors. When I got my first whacking spool of nylon beading thread, I was in heaven. It didn't break! Of course, it split when you tried to get it through the needle and it stretched. It stretched, and at one outdoor craft fair, when I had a table with no shade, I found out about heat and shrinkage. Long rows of fringe, fried in the summer sun, buckled and warped. I spent an evening breaking beads with pliers to fix that disaster.

Centuries later, we all had electric lights, computers and cell phones and thread quality was a hundred times improved.  Japanese beads became the first choice of most beaders, including me. No more uneven sizes, no more fat beads with almost non-existent holes.

Over the years, like most fanatical beaders, the cash equivalent of my supplies equals the national debt of many small countries. First it was Toho beads. Lately, I've been buying Delicas. And there are fire polished beads, Swarovski crystals and Rivolis - not to mention findings and my passion for good semi-precious stones and handmade lampwork. Let's not leave books and magazines off the list either. And how about the price of Fireline, folks?

Here we all are, in the middle of a financial "downturn." If the word, "downturn" can be used to describe the monetary system being chucked off the top of The Empire State building. I find myself rethinking what I tell students about supplies: "Buy the very best you can afford. Do not use cheap findings." Maybe, for the beginning beader on a tight budget, that's a discouraging thing to say. So....

I confess that I still love Czech beads - in the old primaries and secondaries - but also in the hundreds of other colors now available. The holes are not so small. The sizes are more regular. And Thor's hammer! They are certainly economically feasible and there are brands that have taken a step up in quality, like Ornel. While I prefer Japanese beads and Delicas for peyote stitch, both pieces in the top picture were done with vintage (35 year old) Czech beads. Lumpy as they are, I was pleased with the result. And there are many stitches (Chevron comes to mind) that are ever so forgiving and allow for a variation of bead sizes in the same piece.

Thread is NOT negotiable. I don't even have to explain that.

And focals. I have a weakness for really fine semi-precious stones. I've paid the price and don't regret it. But if you look at the second picture, you'll see stones that I think will look just lovely with beaded bezels, on a piece of embroidery - and they were bargain basement.

We're an ingenious lot: straws and tubing from the hardware store to line necklaces or short beads that require support, a little Polymer Clay added to the lumpy flip-side of a beautiful ammonite fossil makes it sit properly in a bezel, and rough scoring helps E-6000 adhere to it.
An inexpensive mold and a little Polymer Clay and pigment make a focal. Until Fusion Beads sent me a little "prize" - a triangular bead scoop, I used a matchbook creased to make a kind of funnel to scoop beads.

I'm going to try designing a bargain basement bead class. A project using Czech beads and perhaps incorporating found objects or buys from the hardware store.

I have perfect faith that all of you are hiding some common, everyday, inexpensive thing beneath a layer of gorgeous beadwork - or that you've come up with a cost-effect tool on your own.

I'd love to hear how you've economized and what dollar store/hardware store solutions you've discovered.


Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

I love your idea for using polymer clay to flatten out the back of a wonky stone! Very clever. If you ever need another glue that works well between polymer and just about anything else, you can use Weldbond. It cleans up with water, is waterproof when dry. Sticks to everything and doesn't smell like E6000. It's a Canadian invention too!

LLJones said...

That IS a tip. I'm feed up with E-6000. First it stinks to high heavens. And second - I've never finished a tube because it turns to cement no matter how tightly capped or how many bags it's in! Thanks

Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

Yeah I know what you mean. My tubes always went rubbery and I ended up poking a hole in the side or end of the tube, just to squeeze out a few more drops. Always got a headache too, when I used it.

Weldbond is great. You can also use it for mosaic work since it is so strong and waterproof. You can find it in Walmart, Rona, Michaels and lots of other places. It's the cheapest in Walmart in the Adhesives section (where the guys go) and not the Craft section (where the ladies go). :-)

LLJones said...

Thanks Cindy. I must have every glue known to mankind now EXCEPT for Weldbond. I'll remedy that. And PS..
My idea of a hot time is browsing in Canadian Tire. Toy store!!! You can find the oddest most useful stuff in the guy section.