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Monday, January 16, 2017

Using Two Large Focal Beads In One Necklace

Sometimes interesting beads sit in my collection for a long time before I figure out the perfect way to use them.  I was given the pair of red patterned African trade beads that you can see in the necklace picture many years ago.  I liked them, but I had no idea how to use them.  They are large and somewhat heavy, which means that if you string them on the wrong part of the necklace, they will make the whole thing hang funny.  They are long, and the ends are not tapered.  This means that smaller beads may be visually swallowed up next to them.  Their holes are very large, which means that smaller beads may be literally swallowed up by them.  So they posed some challenges.  I had originally thought of making two separate chokers out of them, and maybe giving one as a gift.  But I thought that would be too easy and predictable; plus, my selfish nature took over, and I wanted both of the beads for myself.

I ultimately decided the beads would hang best in the front of center of any necklace.  That pointed to a double strand necklace with one bead on each strand, rather than, say, a long single strand necklace with a bead on each side.  I decided I wanted to incorporate bead weaving, but wanted the strength and security of beading wire.  So I stitched four seed bead tubes (herringbone stitch, if anyone is interested).  The two "top" tubes are shorter than the two "bottom" tubes; that is what creates the curve in the necklace.  On each side of the necklace, I partially stitched together the long and short tubes.  That is a detail that isn't very obvious in the picture, but I think it helps to maintain the necklace's curve.

Once I had done all of the seed bead work, I strung everything on beading wire.  I string some small seed beads inside both the African trade beads and the beaded tubes to help keep them centered on the wire.  The blue beads I strung right next to the African trade beads are large enough that they don't disappear into either the African trade beads or the beaded tubes.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  The one thing I'm not as happy about is the clasp.  I couldn't find any two-strand clasps with an appropriately rustic look, and decided my best option in terms of appearance was a toggle clasp.  Two-strand toggle clasps are horribly fiddly when you try to clasp them (I had originally thought it was just this necklace, but I made another, very different necklace with a two-strand toggle clasp recently, and it's nearly as bad).  So if I ever use that type of clasp again, I'm going to be very careful that everything near the bar portion of the clasp is tiny and/or flexible so that it can pass through the toggle as easily as possible.

I'm happy when beads I've had for a while finally find a home.  After recently organizing my collection, I concluded that quite a few beads need happy homes.  With luck, I'll find time to make that happen more often.  I got stuck in a busy rut in the fall and felt too overwhelmed to start anything.  I'm cranky when I don't have a project to work on, though, so I hope my recent reorganization will make it easier for me to find the things I want and start projects I can work on for at least a few minutes a day.

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