Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Value of Perseverence, or Persistence, or...

One of those "per" words.

I just startled my husband out of his chair by bellowing "I AM TRIUMPHANT!!!" after many hours of silent work at my beading.

Yesterday and today, perhaps 5 hours or more in various sessions, I've been determined that this time, tubular bead crochet would not defeat me yet again. Earlier I spoke with my dad on the phone, and at that time, I told him, "It's whipping my ass."  I've tried this, reading along with various internet tutorials, watching different YouTube videos of people making it look ridiculously easy, at least 4 times before this weekend. I failed miserably each time, giving up, putting it aside.

So what did I learn today?  Besides that I'm irretrievably stubborn?

I learned that the right size crochet hook makes it possible, instead of impossible. Too big and it's clumsy, difficult to maneuver, and you can't get the darn thing through the loops. Too small and the thread slides off wayyy too easily and you're hunting for the lost, critical loop, which happens far too often even under the best of circumstances.  Just right, and working is slick and much easier.

This time I used size 3/o heavy metal seed beads. They're nearly spherical, and slippery, and I'm not sure yet if those qualities are good or bad. I used Wildfire 6lb thread, and a 1.25mm crochet hook. Perhaps I should have used S-lon thread or something heavier, but I wanted to learn how to work the smaller thread so I can use smaller beads, eventually.

I also learned that those first two rounds are real #*(&@# buggers. Eventually I resorted to using seven different colored beads for the first round, so I could clearly delineate where round one ended and round two began. I pulled out, and re-started, the first and second rows, at least 20 times. Eventually the casting on, the connection of the seventh bead to the first, and the transition into the second row became easier.

Half the times I restarted was because my hook slipped out of the working loop and I had to chase it all the way back to the beginning. After getting the right-size hook, it was easier to capture that loop before it unravelled all the way, even if I lost a bead or two to a slip.  That was something else I learned, locating the working loop in the mass of thread inside the rope as it grew.

Early on I realized that trying to transition from round two to round three was not going to happen if the piece was flopping about loose. It was totally impossible for me to determine which bead was next when none of them lined up properly.  So I learned that after connecting the first round into a circle, the best thing to do was to shove a pencil up the middle and work around it. It held the orientation of the beads for me, and let me clearly identify The Next Bead. It still took me about 15 more tries to get past round 4.  I missed a bead here or there, noticed the gap several rows later, and had to unravel and work back over it.

I learned that Tension Matters in crochet. I knew this from previous yarn crochet experience. One time I crocheted a popcorn-stitch scarf, which due to tension problems and persistently missing stitches, had 21 popcorn bumps at one end, and 10 at the other, and yet maintained the same width the whole way. Very strange-looking item, though it was functional and warm. Just strange. Tension is even more important with beads. Once again, you strive for Just Right.

And, like many other techniques, I learned that once you're well into the piece, and you're doing it correctly, the Next Bead becomes obvious, the thread and the working bead fall into place, and once integrated, they slide into the correct orientation smoothly, verifying that you got it right.

So finally, after all those starts, mis-starts, restarts, and retreats, I have a properly built crocheted silver tube about 20 rounds long, about 2.5 inches.  It has seven gold beads on the starting end, which I suppose I could remove, if I weren't afraid to touch it.  It only took me about 12 hours in all (counting all the previous, unsuccessful learning sessions). It has been the most difficult technique I've ever tried to master. I can't wait until I try to add pattern to this whole deal. That ought to be fun.

Thus, the bellow. I'm really glad I kept trying. It didn't, in the end, whip my ass.  Next, I learn to use my new microwave kiln. A bit scattered? Moi?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Japanese Beading Thread, Who Knew?

Click to see item for sale

Okay, why didn't I know about this before? I was looking for a small item to fill out an Amazon gift certificate, and thought, why not?

I got it and tried it out for the first time, and holy cow! No wonder Japanese beaders can make such amazing pieces, if they use this thread. It's downright obedient! Previously the only thing I've tried when I needed lighter thread than Wildfire or Fireline was Nymo. As anyone who has used it knows, Nymo frays, twists, knots, tangles and splits all over the place.

With the KO, I found I was beading much faster since I wasn't spending any time fighting the freakin' thread! I was able to use longer working lengths, since it doesn't fray. Between the nature of the thread and Thread Heaven, it also didn't knot or misbehave in other ways. Glorious!  I have to be careful because it maintains a much tighter tension than Nymo will, I can see it becoming too tight with a bit of encouragement.

I'm going to have to get many more colors of this stuff. I encourage anyone who hasn't tried it to check it out!! I wanted to share because I've spent way too long struggling with Nymo, and hope I can help someone else out.