Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Discovering "A Bead Bracelet" and other Musings

Between moving to a new place, starting preparations for the 2018 Citizen's Forum, and the half attempts at exercise, I've scarcely had time to work on any projects. Most of my things are packed away in boxes stacked so deep, I'm afraid to look at them. If I die in a suspicious box toppling incident, we could call this post prophetic. However, one bead project made the move separately, so it was out and available to work on: the fated Bead Bracelet!

Ever since I've been able to poke around primary documentation, I've stumbled across this gem of a homemade project. I'd look in awe at the simplicity of "A Bead Bracelet". I've seen them before in someone's shop; it was a few years ago, and I can't remember who it was! In any case, I wanted one and was convinced that I could figure it out...

Godey's magazine. v.58 1859 Jan-Jun.


Materials.- Some large-sized chalk beads, 3 or 4 sizes larger than seed beads, or shell pearls may be used, or turquoise, and No. 10 steel beads, or uncut jet beads; either will look handsome. No. 20 cotton. A fine needle.

1st round.— Take three-quarters of a yard of cotton; thread thereon 18 beads; tie these up in a circle, not too tight, but sufficiently loose that 20 beads might be tied in, if they were requisite; leave one end of the cotton, about a finger in length; tie the knot of the circle securely.

2d.— Place the circle of beads on the point of forefinger of left hand, with needle and cotton in front; thread a bead *; pass it close up to first circle; make an overcast stitch over the cotton, between 1st and 2d bead; with the point of the needle pass up close to this a bead of 1st circle; hold it tightly; thread another bead. Repeat from * till there are 18 beads in the 2d row; then pass the needle and thread all through the 1st circle of beads, and tie in a secure knot to the end left on; pass the needle and cotton again through 2d circle; tie in a knot to the end of cotton, and cut the ends off, so that the knot is not seen. This running the cotton through the beads makes them firm, strong, and even. This forms the first link of bracelet. To make the second, after threading the 18 beads, pass them through the 1st link; then proceed as before. Link as many of these circles together as will enable the bracelet, when joined, to pass tightly over the hand. To join the 1st and last link together, thread the 18 beads, and, before tying, pass the cotton through 1st and last link; then tie, and proceed as before. When each link is complete, a 3d row may be added, if desired, worked in the same way; but, of course, the preceding row is immovable, which is of no consequence.

The Process
Wherein the Heroine discovers she has no patience...

I would normally consider myself a patient person. I'm patient while I teach students. I'm patient while letting others cars pass in front of me during rush hour. I'm patient when my significant other can't find something that would bite his face off if it had teeth. 

But this one would not budge. I tried every which way but could not figure it out. For years I fiddled with the beads, needle, and thread, only to throw them down in frustration. The directions didn't make sense! The beads just didn't fit well together! It didn't look like the picture!

Then one night, the directions all of the sudden made sense. I bolted upright in bed, scaring both my fiance and sleeping dog. Here's how that conversation went:

Fiance: What is it? What's wrong?
Me: I figured it out!!!! (Runs to crafting room, collects supplies. Returns to room)
Fiance: NO! No more crafting in bed! (Fiance recalls time when I used his side of bed as pin cushion)
Me: No pins, just beads, I swear! (Fiddles with thread, figures it out)

As the original directions state, I needed to use beads 3-4 sizes bigger than seed beads. I started with a size 6 regular round bead. Obviously, this did not work. I tried a size 11 seed bead. This did not work either. *Sigh*

The far left green one is a tiny, original bead. The far right blue is a size 6 regular bead.
The other green and the pink are two other wrong sized beads for this project.
The blue in the center was just right Goldilocks!

But then I went back to re-examine my originals with beads. Look how TINY they were! My beads were much too big. But what beads are slightly bigger, have a flat-ish shape that will mimic the picture, and take multiple passes with the needle and thread? I settled on a chance find at a craft store: Czechoslovakian glass seed beads.

And it worked! Not only do the beads lay correctly, but the general shape and size fits aesthetically with the overall look of the chain link that was a popular 19th century motif.

I did make a few changes. First, this bracelet does not stay well as a whole, continuous piece. With this large amount of beads, it kept falling off my wrist. To fix this, I added a clasp to make the bracelet more fitted. I imagine one could use ribbon too, but the clasp was more permanent and made it more wearable. I've decided I will offer both finishing types in my shop, though I strong reccomend the clasped piece. As a person who has completed many a Godey's project, sometimes the instructions don't match practical usage of an item. 

Are you tempted now? You can totally buy them here in my shop.

I'll be offering more color options as new beads come in. They're quite adorable, and at least one family member has attempted to snag one for modern wear. At the very least, my fiance has not complained of errant pins on his side of the bed, so he approves of this project.

Until next time friends, where I play with more beads, move boxes around the apartment, and generally make a nuisance of myself in some way. Just ask my fiance.


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