Archive for May, 2011

Quick tip: how to cut equal chain lengths

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
how to cut equal chain lengths for jewelry

Hold up the pin and it is easy to see where to cut! Gravity is our friend.

I hate counting. But when it comes to cutting chain for your jewelry designs, sometimes you have to count links. After I’ve exhausted my attention span by counting out a section (look, sparkly crystal hearts!!!), I string it onto a head pin and snip a bunch more. This is the easiest way I’ve found to speed up the task. Do you have a better way? I’d love to hear it! ~ Cindy


Wire lashing: an easy way to cover your jewelry with beads or bling!

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Two wire-lashed bracelets
Artistic Wire + bracelet forms = many many options!

I call this easy jewelry-making technique “wire lashing” to distinguish it from “wire wrapping” – but really, it is just wrapping thin wire around and around a component in order to cover it with beads (or chain!).

bracelet plain

A plain hook end bracelet is the perfect candidate for a good lashing!

The keys to wire lashing are simple, but oh so vital:

  1. Always begin with a few wire wraps around your base piece (in this case
    bangle bracelets) before adding beads or chain. Rather than trying to wrap the very end of the wire, leave about a 1″ tail so you have a bit of wiggle room.
  2. Always keep your wire wraps tight around the item. Pull the entire wire all the way through and around before beginning another wrap. If using beads, lay the bead against the base in the position you want it to end up in before wrapping the wire tight.
  3. Always use two or more wraps between beads to keep everything securely in place.
  4. Always stay calm if (ha – when!) the wire gets kinked or tangled. When in starts getting cranky, take a second to smooth it back out or it will grow into a major mess.
  5. When you’re all done, you can adjust the wraps and beads with your fingers to make it more uniform. Likely there will some wraps that are tighter than others. This is perfectly normal and easy to fix.

I’ve used this technique before on small items ( kidney ear wires, links, ear hoops and hair combs) so decided to step up to bracelets today. The only difference is working with longer wire (about 4-5 feet for a typical bangle). You have the option of working with smaller sections of wire and adding new pieces as you go, but I really wanted to use one continuous piece. I did of course kink the wire. Repeatedly.

Looks scary, but this nightmare actually only took a few seconds to correct.

But the nice thing about using one piece of wire is that as you go along, the lashing goes faster and faster until suddenly you realize you are having fun! At the end, you feel so victorious you immediately want to make another. So you do … and realize the wire is too darn long again … but wait, now it is fun again … victory is within reach … This is how addictions start.

I like to use 24 or 26-gauge wire when lashing because it is very easy to manipulate with your fingers. Today I used several colors of Artistic Wire. The beaded bracelet has 6mm purple Miracle beads, 4mm turquoise magnesite and opalite barrels held in place by chartreuse Artistic Wire. It was quick and easy to make. However, I started with waaaay too much wire, so it took a little longer to add each bead than was really necessary. Impatient as always, I decided to do away with stringing beads. My next attempt uses rhinestone chain.

Sparkle mania

Sparkle mania has never been easier to achieve!

It turns out the 14pp size Swarovski Elements crystal rhinestone chain is almost exactly the same width as the bracelet form, so it stays in place nicely. I think this would be a great girl’s night jewelry project – simple, sparkly and easy to customize by adding some charms or changing up the wire color.

For those of you who prefer thread, check out Toni’s rhinestone hair comb – same technique, different materials.

rhinestone hair comb
Cover a comb with ribbon and rhinestones for easy elegance.

What else can we cover in rhinestone chain? Perhaps an easier question would be what can’t we cover! ~ Cindy


Creative Community: Rings & Things at the Great Spokane Art Party 2011

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The slogan for the 2011 Great Spokane Art Party “Eat, Drink and Be Artsy” was very fitting!  Saturday, May 7 was a fun-filled evening of delicious food, tasty wine and hands-on art.  This inspiring fundraiser benefits Blueprints for Learning, a non-profit organization working to increase the quality of early child care and education in our community and the Community Building Children’s Center.

At the event, several talented local artists mentor participants in creating collage magnets, handmade clay tiles, watercolor paintings, printed silk scarves, mono-prints, handmade paper, stick puppets, felt beads, jewelry and more.  Rings & Things has participated in the event since its inception.

At the sold-out event this year, we created nearly 180 individual pieces of jewelry!  The project was interchangeable magnetic jewelry using buttons made by Justin East. 

Russ and Dee donated the findings for the project, and various Rings & Things staffers and their friends worked the event. If you are interested in participating in this event next year, or in other community projects in the Spokane area, let us know!

Next on the calendar is the ‘Make It Art’ booth for kids at ArtFest. Also, please contact Russ if you’d like to help with recycling at ArtFest (June 3-5, 2011).  Every year he coordinates the recycling efforts at this and many other community events!

Local art perched on mountains of recycling!

Another use for crimping pliers

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Thanks for sharing a tip (comment below),
and thanks for sharing this blog with a friend!

Crimping pliers (crimpers) are special pliers designed for a very specific purpose: to crimp (fold) crimp beads onto beading cable such as Beadalon or SoftFlex. (Our beading cable technique sheet illustrates this very well.)

tuck wire tails with crimp pliers

No more chippies!

But here is another use for them: use your crimpers to tuck wire tails. The concave shape helps pull the wire in close to the wrap without chipping the bead underneath – especially handy when you are working with glass beads or crystal!

Snags are a drag. Do you have any similar tips for keeping wire tails tucked where they belong? ~ Cindy

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Thanks for sharing this

5-day sale discount

with a friend!!
(Buttons at bottom)


Sale discount code: 20% off, 800 TierraCast items, thru Sunday!


What will you pick out?

Luster Gel – a new way to color silver!

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Create a full rainbow of colored patinas on silver with new Luster Gel.

Iridescent Luster Gel for Silver is a brand-new product that makes it easy to change the color of silver jewelry. Unlike patina solutions that mostly* darken or oxidize the metal, Luster Gel creates a whole rainbow of different colors. The best part is, the colors appear in a reliable order! (*I say mostly because it is possible to get cool rainbows when using liver of sulfur…however, the process is less predictable and may require additional chemicals or heat.)

buddha beads

Sterling silver Buddha / bodhisattva beads before and after being treated with Luster Gel. The blue color takes 20-30 minutes to achieve.

Sterling silver, fine silver and silver-plated jewelry pieces can all be colorized with Luster Gel. Since patinas are created via chemical reactions, anti-tarnish treatments and coatings could interfere with the gel’s performance. Also, follow the basic chemical safety rules when working with this product: avoid skin contact, wear eye protection and work in a well-ventilated area. Don’t eat it either!

luster gel for silver

Iridescent Luster Gel for Silver

Luster Gel is sold in a 4 oz. jar and needs to be mixed with water and the included activator powder prior to use.

luster gel

Luster Gel gets its green color from cupric (copper) acetate.

For each batch of Luster Solution, mix, in order:

  1. 100 ml (about 3.5 oz.) filtered water (use warm – not hot – water for a more rapid color change)
  2. 30 ml (1 oz. / 2 tablespoons) Luster Gel (stir before use)
  3. 1/2 teaspoon Luster Activator
luster gel solution

Once mixed with the activator, the Luster Solution turns dark orange.

Dip your piece into the solution (use a string or a plastic hook, or wear gloves, to avoid touching the solution). Over the next 30 minutes, the silver will change from yellow to gold, then orange – red – brown – purple – and finally blue. If you leave it in longer, it will go through the same color-change process again, only this time the colors will be deeper and more iridescent.

luster gel silver rainbow

All of the colors pictured here occur within 30 minutes, starting with gold (top left) after about 5 minutes in the solution and ending with deep blue after a full 30 minutes. On the far right are plain sterling pieces to show the transformation.

Once you are happy with the color, pull your piece out of the solution, rinse with clean water and allow it to air dry. Once it is completely dry, seal it with Renaissance Wax or a clear spray sealer to protect the finish. That’s it. Super easy!

When you are done, mix baking soda into the Luster Solution to neutralize it. At that point you may safely dispose of it by washing it down the drain. Happy rainbows to you! ~ Cindy

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Extra midweek fun: we updated our Tuesday Tunes today.

(Hint: put on your boogie shoes!)


Mixed-media fiber/fabric jewelry art!

Friday, May 6th, 2011

{Thanks for clicking the Share buttons, to tell a friend!}

Mollie embellished the tag Toni made with seed beads and added a sweet little brass bird charm, before hanging it from a length of chain.

We’re very fortunate to have Toni, a mixed-media artist and art teacher, as one of our jewelry designers here at Rings & Things. From pottery to doll making, Toni has dabbled in it all. So when we started seeing fabulous fabric tag pendant necklaces in magazines like Belle Armoire and Cloth Paper Scissors, we asked Toni to make a few for our design team to play with. She has a huge fabric stash and was more than happy to put her scraps to good use! Toni’s “Patchy Blue Skies” in our design gallery also has a wee little birdie.

Whether you’re a jewelry artist or a fiber artist, it can be a lot fun to cross over into a similar craft. It challenges your creativity. Toni never does anything half way, so we had a ton of fabric swatches and squares of all sizes and patterns to play with. Here are some of the results, as well as some design tips and tricks we learned along the way.

First off, Toni sandwiched a piece of felt between two layers of fabric to give each tag a nice sturdy feel. If you’re using thick fabric, this step can be omitted. Most of the designers used
3/16″ eyelets to create a sturdy hole from which to hang their tags, but as you’ll see, you have other options.

Kameron used a piece of Vintaj natural brass altered blank canvas (read: sheet metal) and used Artistic Wire to stitch a lovely ocean-esque piece of impression stone on top.

Sondra used her polka-dot tag as a backdrop for inked Tim Holtz idea-ology pen nibs for "Letters Never Written." The only jewelry-making skills required for this necklace are opening and closing jump rings to hang the pendant from a trio of pre-made magnetic cable chokers.

Laurel stitched luster fire-polished Czech glass beads and bronze seed beads around a "raku" ceramic Buddha bead to make a beautiful purse clip.

I used choker clamps to grip the ends of the tag and added short sections of chain to turn it into a cuff bracelet. The choker clamps could also work in place of a bail to make a pendant.

Amy's "Lime Delight" necklace uses olivine glass beads, lime keishi pearls (available at our road shows!) and red bamboo coral to match the bright colors of the fabric tag.

She punched holes into a copper tube bail to stitch it onto the fabric tag.

It is so much fun to see what unique designs people come up with, even when starting with almost the same inspiration. Look for one of Toni’s fabric tag designs in an upcoming Rings & Things magazine ad! ~ Cindy

Shopping list:
Buy some of the items used in these projects…

Vintaj “rustic” altered base-metal canvases

Artistic Wire

Tim Holtz idea-ology pen nibs

magnetic cable chokers

“raku” ceramic Buddha

choker clamps

impression stone beads & lime keishi pearls from our BeadTour bead shows

red bamboo-coral beads

copper tube top bails

PS: here are some handy links to some other how-to‘s in the Rings & Things blog!

What Rings & Things’ blog looks like

Thursday, May 5th, 2011