Monday, March 7, 2016

Beading Needles

A few days ago my friend, Gale, asked me a question about beading needles:  

"What size and style of needles do I need to buy for beading?  I have some that are extremely flexible and they're driving me crazy.  They've got little staying power.  After two pairs of simple earrings, they're junk.  I can't remember where I bought them.  They're a size 13.  Why is size 10 sticking in my head?  I have some 12's, but they look pretty flimsy too."

The following is what I told her:

The easiest size beading needle to use is #10, because it’s the biggest.  However, #10s won’t work with some projects because of the number of times you have to run the thread through the same bead.  If you’re not working with seed beads, #10s are good, nice and sturdy, and easy to thread.

I sometimes use #12s when working with the smaller seed beads.  #12 beading needles are smaller than #10s so that they can make several passes through most seed beads.  In spite of that, they’re not too flimsy.

#13s are quite fine, which is why they’re so flexible or flimsy.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen #13s.  I think they must be for very delicate work.

If you can find #11s, they’re a great compromise, and the size that I probably use most often.

You should be able to buy #10s, #11s, and #12s in Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, or your local bead shop.  I bought a package with a mix of #10s, #11s, and #12s in Wal-Mart for about $2—great deal.  Be careful, though.  Sometimes beading needles are not marked with a size, especially in non-bead stores.

I also recommend getting a “big-eye” needle, which is really good to use with larger beads or seed beads that don’t get too many passes through.  It appears to be like a regular needle until you look closely—there’s no eye on one end.  Instead, you see that there are actually two pieces of metal that are fused together on the ends and separated in the center.  Just pull the two pieces away from each other and it almost looks like a bow without the arrow.  Needless to say, it’s a snap to thread these needles.  Just open the "bow" and slide the thread in.  When you let it go, the thread stays trapped.  You can use either end as your tip.  The downside is that the tips of these needles are a bit blunted, so they won't be as sharp as regular beading needles.  That's not always an issue.

The big-eye needle I have only came with one in a package with no size specified on the package--I'm guessing that it's a #10.  You can find them online in various sizes as well as multiples per package.  Big-eye needles are pretty hardy and  last through many projects.  I've had mine for years.  I always put it back on its cardboard and keep it in a Ziploc snack bag in a box with my Fireline threads.  You need to get big-eye needles online or in your local bead or craft store.  I’m guessing they’re about $3 for a package of one--and they're more economical for multi-packs.  

When you're in the mood to splurge, buy a package of Tulip needles.  They’re very flexible, but they always go back to their original, straight shape, and I’m told they last a long time.  The pros rave about them.  I bought a three-pack of #11s for $5.50 a couple of years ago.  I tried them and liked them, but when I’m seed beading, I often like my needle to maintain a curved shape.  I think that it's easier to use a curved needle when trying to bury the ends of a thread.  Anyway, I’m hoarding these lovely, expensive Tulip needles.

Make Stitch Markers for Your Knitting from Jewelry Supplies

A couple of weeks ago one of my knitting friends, Lois, was showing off her beautiful polymer clay beads.  Another friend, Carol, said she would like to make stitch markers from polymer clay beads.  I know that many people like to make stitch markers using wrapped loops from wire.  They’re really pretty, but it can be hard to keep the cut ends of the wire from catching the yarn.  The stitch markers that Carol showed me used flexible beading wire, which made a lot more sense to me.  So I put together some instructions to share here. 
If you don’t work with polymer clay, you can substitute a purchased bead as your focal bead.  Almost any kind of bead will work, but be sure to purchase a size bead that won’t get in your way while you’re knitting.
These are two stitch markers that I made.  There are a couple of minor differences between them.  The obvious one is that the loops are different sizes.  The left marker has two decorative spacer beads at the top, which I didn't like, so I only used one large spacer bead at the top of the right marker.  I also made a mistake while finishing off the marker on the right, so I had to get creative when I attached the crimp cover.  I'll talk more about these things later.

The stitch marker on the left was made with a 3-inch piece of flexible beading wire, which works with knitting needles up to US #10.  The marker on the right was made with a 4-inch piece of flexible beading wire, which works with needles up to US #15.

These are the supplies needed for each stitch marker:
  • Wire cutters
  • Chain nose pliers (good) or Crimping pliers (better)
  • 3-inch or 4-inch flexible beading wire (depending on desired loop size)
  • 2 decorative spacers
  • 1 polymer clay focal bead 
  • 2 crimp tubes (much better than a crimp bead, which is not as strong)
  • 2 round crimp covers

Here is an excellent video for using the crimping pliers.  If you’ve never used them, you will need to watch this video.  It’s much more clear than the instructions on the package.

You can also attach a crimp tube with chain nose pliers.  I could only find an old video because most beaders today use the crimping pliers.  Also, I’m telling you right now, AVOID tiger tail beading wire.  It’s stiff and will get kinks and creases in it, making your markers hang funny on your knitting. Again, just ignore the part where they string the clasp. 

In the photo above are all the supplies for making a stitch marker.  On the top row are wire cutters (left) and crimping pliers (right).  Below that is a finished stitch marker.  The row below shows the beads which will be used.  I will list them from right to left because that is the order in which I string them:
  •       Crimp cover
  •       Crimp tube
  •       Large spacer
  •       Focal bead
  •       Daisy spacer
  •       Crimp tube
  •       Crimp cover

At the bottom is a length of cut wire.  It would be either 3 or 4 inches in length.

Soft Flex is my favorite flexible beading wire because of its high quality.  This wire is .019 inches (.48mm) in diameter, labeled as Medium, which is the perfect size for the small crimp tubes that I used--2X2mm crimp tubes are recommended.  Note that there are 49 strands of stainless steel wire encased in nylon coating, which I believe is the most number of strands available.  The more strands of inner wire there are, the more flexible the wire as a whole will be, and the higher quality.

1.    Cut a piece of wire with the wire cutters. 
·      You need enough length to:
-     make a loop large enough for the size of knitting needles you will use it with.
-     go through all the beads.
-     leave a tail to hold onto while you work.
·      I found that 3 inches is good for needles US size 10 and smaller, 4 inches will work for needles up to US size 15.

2.    Fold the wire in half, but don't squeeze it. You don't want a bend or a kink in it.

3.    Run both ends of the wire through the crimp tube.
·      It’s a good idea to use a knitting needle to measure the loop, leaving some wiggle room.

The wire has been strung through the crimp tube, making a loop at one end.  The wire has crossed in the tube, making an X.  This must be fixed before the next step can be taken.

4.    Slide the crimp tube up to where it needs to be.
·      Make sure that the cut ends of the wire below the crimp tube are not crossed.
·      If using chain nose pliers, squeeze the crimp closed and skip steps 5 through 7.


5.    Place the crimp in the opening closer to the tip of the crimping tool.
·      Gently squeeze the crimping tool so that the tube changes from circular to oval.
·      Hold the end wires so that they are touching the opposite sides of the oval.  Be sure that those wires are not crossed.

6.    Now move the crimp tube into the tool opening that is closer to the hinge.
·      It’s easiest if you rest the crimp on the smooth opening and leave the opening with the bump in the middle on top.
·      Keeping the end wires separated and uncrossed, gently squeeze the tool.
·      Your tube should now be changed to two smaller tubes, like a figure eight. 
-     There should be a wire coming through each of the smaller tubes.

7.    Finally, you will move the doubled crimp back into the opening closest to the tip.
·      You have to turn the crimp onto its side and squeeze the tool gently. 
-     If you have placed the crimp into the tool properly, the crimp will fold in half and become a neat, narrow tube.
-     If you don’t place it properly, nothing will change when you squeeze.

This photo is a little fuzzy.  I'll replace it as soon as I can.  In the meantime, you can see the crimp tube has been separated into two smaller, connected tubes.  Then those tubes were folded and the entire thing rounded off.

8.    The next step is to cover the crimp tube with the round crimp cover.
·      You don’t need to use a crimp cover here, but it will look nicer if you do.
·      Place the crimp cover over the tube.
·      Now put it into the opening of the crimp tool closest to the tip.
·      Squeeze the tool in short, gentle motions, turning the tool slightly with each squeeze, until the cover is closed and rounded around the crimp.
-     If you squeeze too hard, you’ll crush the cover and it will never be round.
-     Sometimes the edges of the cover do not meet perfectly.  I don’t worry about this.  You'll get better at it the more you do it.

The folded crimp tube is nestled inside the crimp cover.

The crimp cover has been gently closed, little by little, with the section of the crimping pliers that is closest to the tip.  This is a much more attractive look than the crimp tube.

9.    Place the end wires through the components in this order:
·      The decorative spacer
·      The focal bead
·      Another decorative spacer
·      Another crimp tube

I photographed this from right to left because I'm right handed.  I'm using my left hand to hold onto the tails of the wire because I'm going to be using my right hand to work the crimping pliers.  WARNING:  This crimp tube is too close to the daisy spacer above it.  The little balls around the daisy will get in the way of the crimping tube.  Even more importantly, there must be a gap between the daisy spacer and the folded crimp tube or the crimp cover cannot fit.
10.     The end wires will be sticking out of the bottom crimp tube.  Don’t cut them yet, because you will need to hold onto them.

11.     You need to be careful not to push the crimp against the other beads.  I know this because, out of habit, that’s what I did.  The problem was that I wasn’t able to fit the crimp cover over it because the spacer above the crimp tube got in the way.  So, be sure to leave a little bit of wiggle room for the crimp cover.

12.     Repeat steps 4 through 7.

13.     Using your wire cutters, trim the excess wire as close to the bottom of the crimp as possible.

14.     The final step is to cover the crimp tube with the round crimp cover.
·      You definitely DO need to use a crimp cover here because of the scratchiness of the cut ends of the wire.
·      Place the crimp cover over the tube and any of the wire that might be sticking out.
·      Now put it into the opening of the crimp tool closest to the tip.
·      Squeeze the tool in short, gentle motions, turning the tool slightly with each squeeze, until the cover is closed and rounded around the crimp.
-     If you squeeze too hard, you’ll crush the cover and it will never be round.
-     Sometimes the edges of the cover do not meet perfectly.  I don’t worry about this.  

When I made my second stitch marker, I pushed the ending crimp tube against the daisy spacer above it.  I was able to use the crimping tool, but with difficulty.  When I tried to put the crimp cover over it, there was no room between the crimp and the daisy spacer. To make things worse, the outer edges of the daisy spacer overlapped the crimp tube.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the crimp cover over the crimp tube.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  I turned my crimp tube sideways and place it over the crimp bead with the opening against the spacer above.  It wouldn't close totally, but it did make a strong closure.  The result is that if you look at it sideways, it looks like a donut!

Now go make a bunch of these and knit something beautiful!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Where Have I Been??!!

I'll bet some people thought that I had abandoned my blog.  I'm a little shocked to see how long it's been since I posted.  I thought it was last summer.  Nope.  It was August of 2014.

I'm not one to post for the sake of posting.   I like to have something worthwhile to share, so I often go for long periods without blogging.  There are some things that I've been meaning to post, and I hope to get to them before long.

In December of 2014 I was hit by a car.  It was a very gentle collision.  The car began to back up as I was walking behind it and I was knocked down.  Unfortunately, I twisted my back and spent about six months going to the chiropractor and sitting around.  I wasn't able to ski or play tennis.  You'd think that I would have caught up on my blogging. Maybe I should have.

Instead, I started knitting "seriously."  I've been knitting off and on since I was a kid. About every ten years I'd start up again.  Because I had nobody to help me, I'd get frustrated and give up within a month or two.  This time, I have a friend who loves to knit and she has become my mentor.  I joined a knitting group and a knitting forum. Whenever I run into a problem, I just go online and watch videos.  I am amazed at how it's all come together for me!

So that's where I've been all this time.  But stay tuned because I'm writing a new tutorial. This one is for making knitting stitch markers with jewelry supplies.