Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Boulder Opals


Triangular, Double-drilled Boulder Opal focal bead - Australian
Simple Cut faceted Boulder Opal beads - Australian
Tobacco colored top drilled "potato" fresh water pearls - Chinese
5mm dark brown round fresh water pearls - Chinese
5mm vermeil barrel beads - Thailand
2mm vermeil round spackers - Thailand
3mm vermeil granular spacers - Thailand
Vermeil toggle clasp - Thailand
Strung on Gudebrod Chestnut 124.5 "E" Silk

#10 wire beading needle (2)
Gold "french wire" fine (1 inch)
Tri-cord knotting tool
New razor blade

This project had a few challenges to overcome, not the least was getting the lengths of the top and bottom strands correct (they aren't, yet), planning the layout of the simple cut boulder opals so the best ones are in front, but the layout is balanced, and of course, the pleasure of selecting the contrasting "filler" beads. Because the layout of this project is essential, I strung the entire necklace on monofilament first. The goal was to have the top strand lie flat and straight against my neck, taking most of the weight of the necklace; the bottom strand was supposed to swag a bit. When I tested the pre-strung version, the top strand felt a bit tight, so I added an inch to either side. Bad move. The finished version doesn't lie quite right, because the top strand is too long. I will have to cut the top strand off and restring. Sigh...

I started the stringing with the right half of the bottom strand. In addition to the challenges noted above, stringing a multi-strand necklace with a focal bead has its own challenges - mostly doing things in the correct order.

In accordance with my usual practices, I set up and strung the first part of the pattern in reverse on a single strand, then fed a 2mm round spacer, the french wire, one half of the clasp, and then a second 2mm spacer. I like the added protection that the double round spacers give, keeping the thread from rubbing against the first bead. I then knotted the strand against the spacers and started feeding the second thread through the starter pattern. Because I was using small pearls, I wanted fewer knots. Rather than a knot on either side of the pearl, so I used two round spacer beads between the pearls, and knotted between them.

When I completed the setup, I was able to string the first half of the strand without difficulty. The boulder opal beads were well drilled, with straight and even holes and the 2mm round spacer beads sat nicely against them. To minimize stress on the silk cord, I knotted the first half of the strand, finishing off the tails from the clasp by feeding one of the strands through the larger beads and including the additional strand in the knot.

To keep the thread from rubbing against the larger opening of the focal bead holes, I used a 3mm flat spacer made from round granules fused into a circle together with a 2mm spacer, and placed a knot against the assembly on each side of the focal bead. I completed the other side of the lower strand, and knotted all of the beads upto the pearls and vermeil barrel beads. Once I strung other side of the toggle clasp, again with the double spacer beads and french wire, I was able to string through each bead and place a hitch knot between the spacers, as I had done with the first half.

The top strand was strung and knotted in the same order as the lower strand, and the necklace was finished by cutting the thread tails off with a razor blade. To do this, I hold the razor blade at the edge of the knot where I want to cut the thread off, and then I pull the waste tail across the razor's edge. This gives me a clean cut without any remnants to trim or work loose. This is not a method I recommend for the inexperienced beader, as the wrong alignment of the cutting edge means you slice through your finished work.

Difficulty: 4 out of 5
Materials Cost: $275.00
Time to Complete: 7 Hours

No comments: