Wire Beads

Another post based on a project from the Creativ Festival! This one is from a wire bead workshop by Giovanna Paz. I’ve never worked with wire, so I was completely taken with the photo of these beads when reading the workshop descriptions in the registration book. Here are the earrings and pendant I made in the class, aren’t they fascinating?

Silver and black wire bead earrings

Silver and black wire bead pendant

Turns out they are the easiest things in the world to make. All you need is a coiling tool. I picked up the Artistic Wire Coiling Gizmo at Micheals with a 40% off coupon for less than $10.

Artistic Wire Coiling Gizmo

Clip it on a table and you’re ready to go:

Coiling gizmo set up

I’m using 28-gauge, coated copper wire. Holding two strands together you simply wind the wire around the rod piece by turning the crank bit:

Partially coiled wire

Here’s the finished coil, still on the rod:

Finished coil

Pull the coil off the rod and stretch it apart like a spring. The coil on the top hasn’t been stretched yet, the one on the bottom has.

Stretched vs. unstretched coil

Once the coil is stretched out, just start winding it into a ball by hand. It’s the same motion as you’d use to wind up a ball of yarn – work for a bit in one direction and then turn and wind in another direction. The goal is to get the little individual coils to fit together to make a fairly compact ball.

Starting to roll up the coil

Voila! Gorgeous wire beads that look at lot more complicated than they actually were.

Red and black wire beads

You can really vary what the final beads look like based on the gauge of coil rod you use, how long a coil you make, and how tightly you compress the bead as you form it. And of course, the colours of wire you choose!

I seriously can’t stop making these things. Here are the smaller red ones from above finished into earrings. And a pair of green wire beads made using a finer gauge of coil rod.

Wire bead earrings

And a few more (mostly pendant sized) beads with a ruler for size comparison.

More wire beads

If you’re interested in making these, Giovanna sells a YouTube video tutorial through her Etsy store, as well as many colours of 28-gauge wire.

I couldn’t resist buying a huge pile:

28-gauge wire

Or, if you prefer, Giovanna sells the finished earrings as well!


Next up from my adventures at the Creativ Festival is a workshop on sashiko, taught by Alma Laidlaw of Sew Fancy Inc. I had no idea what sashiko was when I signed up for this workshop. All I knew was that it was a type of embroidery, and I’m always game to learn a new embroidery technique.

Turns out it’s a Japanese technique that uses small running stitches to create geometric designs. The craft dates back to the Edo era (1615-1868) and was originally used to help strengthen fabrics or patch together worn out pieces of fabric. Although it is unknown exactly when or where in Japan this craft first emerged, during the Edo era laws prevented the lower classes from wearing bright colours or large patterns so small stitch designs of white thread on indigo fabric became common place. Today sashiko is prized for the beauty of these geometric patterns and many stitchers enjoy the relaxing, repetitive action of creating the designs.

Sashiko thread today comes in many different colours and sashiko can be stitched on many types of fabric, however, white cotton sashiko thread stitched on indigo cotton fabric is still a common and popular combination.

There are two types of sashiko so the workshop focused on creating two small samples. The first is moyōzashi, which is made up of continuous, uncrossing lines of running stitch.

Moyozashi sashiko stitch sample

Notice how even in the corners of this design the stitches don’t actually meet. Your eye naturally fills in the spaces to make it work.

The second type is hitomezashi which is also worked as running stitch but the stitches meet or cross to make up the design.

Hitomezashi sashiko fan stitch sample

In this particular sample, the outline of the fan is moyōzashi and the design filling the fan body is hitomezashi.

It was interesting learning about the history of sashiko and getting to try out this historical technique, and I may even do some more of it in the future. But to me it’s pretty much just blackwork with more initial set up effort. First you need to find the specialty sashiko thread and needles and an appropriate piece of fabric. Then you need to meticulously transfer the design to your fabric using transfer paper or stencils. I’d much rather just grab a piece of counted fabric and some standard embroidery floss from my local craft store and be on my way. The advantage of sashiko of course is the beautiful curves that are so difficult to create on counted fabrics. And no one wants to wear a piece of aida.

Lilies Biscornu

Biscornus seem to have exploded in popularity over the last few years. For those unfamiliar with these strange needlework creations, a biscornu is essentially an eight-pointed pillow made by stitching together two offset squares of fabric. They are primarily used as pincushions. Since I’d never made one before, and I have done very little actually embroidery (I’m mostly a cross stitch girl), I decided to take a Punto Antico biscornu workshop at the Creativ Festival. The workshop was taught by Kathryn Drummond, the designer behind Gingerbread Girl Designs, and an active member of the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada. The project in the workshop was Kathryn’s Lilies Biscornu pattern.

Here’s my final result. For a first attempt at Punto Antico I’m pretty pleased!

Punto Antico biscornu top Punto Antico biscornu side

I’m not always great with the finishing end of my stitching projects. Many of my stitches end up stuffed in the cupboard in an unframed or ‘this was meant to be a pillow cover, but I don’t really sew’ state. It was a refreshing change to stitch something where the finishing was as simple as whipstitching together two backstitched borders. No additional materials or skills required. I can see why biscornus are so addictive! However, a girl only needs so many pincushions. (In my case that number is zero – I use the magnetic dish that came with my screwdriver set and love the heck out of it). If any one has any innovative uses for these neat creations I’d love to hear about it!

HyperLynks Chainmaille

Hands down, my favourite thing I did at the Creativ Festival in Toronto was a chainmaille workshop with Michelle Brennan from HyperLynks. Michelle is a former high school teacher who left her teaching career to follow a passion for chainmaille and co-found the company HyperLynks. She is the designer of many beautiful chainmaille jewellery kits, while her husband makes all the jump rings.

With a background in education, Michelle has the talent and patience (as well as the incredible sense of humour!) needed to guide even the most novice chainmailler through the steps to create complex weaves. In this workshop she taught her Clockwork Weave as we created a bracelet using bronze and aluminum rings. Here’s the final product:

Clockwork weave chainmaille bracelet

I’ve done a small amount of chainmaille before and enjoyed it, but this class really got me excited about the craft. I think it’s impossible to take a class with Michelle and not have some of her enthusiasm wear off on you.

After the class I immediately headed off to the HyperLynks booth in the exhibit hall to spend all of my money. I picked up three more of Michelle’s kits as well as three pairs of Xuron pliers. I was previously unfamiliar with Xuron pliers but they are absolutely wonderful for crafting. They are small and lightweight making them very well suited to intricate work. Michelle even worked with the company to design a pair of bent-nose pliers with a 90-degree bend, so of course I couldn’t leave the expo without those!

I’ve been chainmaille-ing like mad since returning home from the conference. First up is the Trellis necklace. I’ve never worked with scales before but these small (1/2 inch long), black scales make for an incredibly striking necklace:

Trellis chainmaille necklace

My favourite of the items I’ve made is the Micro Cogs bracelet. It’s not for the novice chainmailler (my husband had to deal with a lot of grumbling and a few unlady-like exclamations while I was working on this one). Each of the the cog units are only a 1/2 inch across.

MIcro cogs chainmaille bracelet

This kit also came with the instructions and materials for a matching ring. The band on the ring is made from rubber rings in addition to the aluminum jump rings. I’m not in love with the band as I think it somewhat distracts from the cog, so I may come up with another band option. But I love the concept, and it’s surprisingly comfortable to wear.

Micro cogs chainmaille ring

Last up is the Infinity Weave. I love the intricacy of this one and the subtle wave shape.

Infinity weave chainmaille bracelet

I’m incredibly happy with how all of these pieces turned out, and although some of the kits were challenging, the instructions were fantastic – detailed and full of a ton of full colour photos.

HyperLynks don’t sell any products directly through their website, but they do list the stores where the products are available. And if you happen to live near Newmarket, Ontario, Michelle regularly offers chainmaille workshops at That Bead Lady. Sign up for one. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Although once you try out this amazing craft, your wallet might!

Creativ Festival

Sadly, between a terrible cold that has left me wanting to do nothing for three weeks, and a debilitating addiction to Story of Seasons for the 3DS, there hasn’t been much crafting happening in the last month.

Luckily, I was able to spend three days last week at the Creativ Festival in Toronto, Canada, which was a great way to get the crafty juices flowing again. The festival featured five days of hands on workshops and lectures, as well as a three day exhibit hall packed full of craft vendors. The workshops were definitely the highlight for me as I attended a wide range of classes on a number of different techniques, including chainmaille, crochet, needlework, and jewellery making. (More to come on all of these later!).

For now, here are a few pictures of my favourite parts of the exhibit hall.

The crew at the Crochet Crowd made a stunning Winter Wonderland display, complete with two huge Nutcrackers made completely out of yarn:

Crocheted Nutcracker

Crocheted Nutcracker

(I think my favourite detail is the tiny Christmas trees on the second nutcracker’s feet!)

As well as the crocheted igloo I helped create snowflakes for:

Crocheted Igloo

All of the Crochet Crowd’s workshops were held inside the igloo, which was a really neat idea, and gives you some idea of the scale, since it was large enough to easily accommodate chairs for 10-15 people.

Yarnspirations showed off its incredible Narnia-themed display, Yarnia, which featured a large number of creatures and characters from the Narnia world. My favourites were the small woodland creatures, who contain a ton of detail and show off a wide range of techniques.

Knit/Crocheted Owl and Fox

Knit/Crocheted Beavers

Knit/Crocheted Owl

The last thing that caught my eye was a Christmas tree covered in hedgehogs. I didn’t catch who made it, but it was part of a competition where exhibitors were asked to decorate Christmas trees and attendees were able to vote on their favourite.

I didn’t manage to get a good picture of the entire tree, but here’s a close up to give you an idea:

Christmas tree decorated in knit & crocheted hedgehogs and snowflakes

I absolutely must have a tree like this. I best get working on the hedgehogs!