Loose Bead Society Reviews

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I recently visited West Bend and across the street from West Bend Tap and Tavern (excellent lunch), I spotted a bead shop!! Xpressions Yarn and Beat Boutique at 264 N. Main Street, West Bend 53095. 

Here are some pictures. I also included a snap of the yarn display, just in case we have any cross-crafters.

On a recent trip to Wisconsin Dells, I stopped in at Prairie Flower Beads in Portage, Wisconsin. Just a 15 minute detour off the interstate.
For such a small town, this is a huge shop.
They have everything, including an impressive array of gemstone beads, cabochons, fossils and other semi-precious gemstone specimens.
My husband is always okay with checking out the neighborhood bead stores, as long as there is something for him to look at too.

Check them out!

Prairie Flower Beads LLC
210 West Cook Street
Portage, WI 53901


I visited Blue Bead Trading Company in Stevens Point, WI. Check them out when you are in the area! Although it is a small shop,
there's lots of stuff. My husband enjoyed looking at all the geodes, fossils and minerals, while I looked thru the bead section.
Blue Bead is in downtown Stevens Point, so there's lots of shopping available in addition to the bead store.

Blue Bead Trading Company LLC
1043 Main St.
Stevens Point, WI 54481

I first saw the Xuron 4 in 1 Crimper at the Xuron Bead&Button Show booth.  Abby and Ashley were there giving demonstrations.  Since I gave a glowing review of the Xuron "Fireline" scissors, and sell them, Abby gave me a sample of the new crimper!  I was so excited with the demonstration and the sample that I said, "Glowing review coming right up!"

When I first started making jewelry (was it really over 20 years ago?), my mother and stepfather gave me a pair of Craftsman 4518 needle nose pliers.  I did everything with them: bend wire, cut wire, and squeeze crimp beads.  There were many times where I wasn't happy with the crimp and had to do it over and over again because it just wouldn't hold.  I even had to restring pieces because I had to cut the wire to try crimping again.  I got nervous that my necklaces and bracelets wouldn't hold.

Years later I bought actual crimping pliers - the Mighty Crimper and the Micro Crimper.  In looking those up I found there's also a Bead Crimper tool that I think is made by the same company.

The difference with crimping pliers and squeezing the crap out of the crimp bead with needle nose pliers is that crimping pliers (with the right kind of crimping bead) will put a dent in the middle of the bead in one part of the pliers then you turn it to fold the two halves together.

I had slightly better success with those tools, but I frequently had problems getting the dent deep enough so the two halves would fold together nicely.  I don't know if I was using the wrong tool for the size crimp beads I had or if the dent just wasn't deep enough.  Here's a close-up picture of the Mighty Crimpers squeezed shut:


The first hole is where the bead gets folded over, and the lips-looking one is the part that makes the dent.  See the huge gap there?  I think that was my problem.

Again - I could have been using the wrong size crimp beads.  Remember I mentioned three different pliers by the same company?  The Micro Crimpers are for 1mm beads and smaller.  The Mighty Crimpers are for 3mm beads and larger.  I guess the Bead Crimper tool is for 2mm beads.  So you need three tools to cover all the different sizes of crimp beads.  I guess you can just buy one tool and one size crimp bead, but that's limiting.  Somewhere along the way I've misplaced the Micro Crimpers, so I've been limping along with the Mighty Crimpers... Until now.

Here is the Xuron 4 in 1 Crimper in all its glory:


I love the color.  The bright green will stand out on my messy desk (as long as it's not completely covered in papers).  It's actually brighter in person and very pretty.

Let's look at the business end close up:

XC03  Open

XC04 Closed

The back of the package has a detailed diagram of each of the parts of the pliers.  From left to right there's the 1mm folding station, the 2mm folding station, the 3mm folding station, and the crimping station.  I think it's so cute that they call them "stations".  There's also a step by step guide for how to use the pliers.  And... Bonus!  The tip is a chain nose plier.  You can use the crimping pliers to help you bend the wire into place instead of grabbing another pair of pliers.

Did you notice the difference in the crimping station?  It's a tight V instead of a loose U.  This makes a world of difference.  Also, the 3mm folding station is a lot smaller than the one on the Mighty Crimper.  I know it's for crimp beads 3mm or bigger, but I think the hole was too big to properly work on 3mm beads.

Let's see the Xuron Crimper in action.  I have quite a mix of crimping beads I bought from who-knows-where.  The only ones I'm sure are actual crimp beads are long, so each part of the process needs to happen twice: making the dent twice and folding twice, once at each end of the bead.

Here's the initial crimping (making the dent):

XC05 In action

XC06 Final result after crimping twice.

I find it's easier to have the V with the opening at the bottom.  Gravity keeps the crimp bead in place while the top part comes down to crimp.

In case you're wondering, I decided to take pictures while making a necklace instead of wasting a crimp bead.  I put the loop of the clasp through the wire's loop instead of using jump rings which can pull apart during wear.  I don't want to risk the wire slipping out of the jump ring's slit and having the piece fall off.

I then turned the crimp bead to the side so the dent is horizontal (like this: > ), and squeezed it in the 2mm folding station:


After squeezing both ends, here's the final result:


That sucker isn't going anywhere!

The one thing I wish the 4 in 1 Crimper had is a "cutting station".  Once I have the wire crimped, if the end is too long, I need to reach for my cutters to trim.  It's not a huge deal, of course, but it would be nice.  Doesn't hurt to dream!  :)

For anyone who strings jewelry at all, this is the tool to use for all your crimping needs.  I have used it numerous times - it's easy to use, and I have had no problems with any crimp beads sliding out.  I love the bright green color, and since Xuron makes it, I know the quality is high.

This is not going to be the case with every tool I review, but I sell this 4 in 1 Crimper along with a few other Xuron tools.  You can find the Crimper at any bead show I go to (see my website for my calendar) or on my Xuron tool shop page for $22 plus $3 shipping.  You can find them cheaper elsewhere, but I include a project worksheet which explains how to use the tool along with instructions for a two-strand bracelet.  Also, you'll have my undying gratitude, and if there are any problems with the tool, I have a direct line to Xuron.

Happy crimping (for once)!

Book Title: Spiral Ropes
Author: Claudia Schumann
ISBN: 978-3-940577-26-9

I recently bought this book and I actually made something from it!! Usually, I buy books, look through them, buy the beads necessary to make a project, and then it sits in my UFO section.

I love spiral ropes. I have made many over the years, mainly as a rope on which to hang a pendant. This books takes you many steps farther, and uses a variety of beads to make stand-alone bracelets that need no further embellishment.

The author gives you some basic instructions on spiral stitch, and then the rest of the book contains patterns for all the variations, using bugle beads, large beads, small beads, etc.

I liked this format, because I already know something about spiral stitch (I don’t need any instructions in the stitch), but I am not so skilled at combining beads to create an unusual effect. The book contains dozens of projects, and lists the beads required to make the stitch.

 SpiralRopeBook small Bracelet small

Having a long term relationship with textiles and loving their tactile nature my ears perked up recently when Kathy Willmering predicted that textile related jewelry will be the next wave on the beading scene. I’d recently discovered the combination of soutache and beads and was fascinated with the results. While soutache itself, a skinny little woven ribbon that is typically used to add flourish to uniforms, high-end garments, and jewelry, has been around for centuries it hasn’t been seen much in the States for some time. European jewelry makers however, have been carrying on the tradition. If you aren’t familiar with this growing craft, it’s reached our shores now and there are plenty of resources to bring you up to speed. Let’s take a look at two of them.

The first book to appear was Anneta Valious’ Soutache: 30 Gorgeous Bead Embroidery Designs (Lark Jewelry and Beading, 2013). (You can find it in the LBS Library.)


Valious is a self-taught beader with a strong textile background. Somehow, she didn’t discover beading until she purchased a beading kit for her young daughter. The rest, as they say, is history and history is how Valious opens her book, giving an illustrated chronology of the braid or trim as soutache is often called. The traditional overview of materials and tools comes next followed by a section with detailed instructions on specific aspects of the technique. The 30 projects that make up most of the remaining pages apply those techniques and progress rapidly from a few simple bracelets and earrings to more complex brooches, pendants and necklaces. The instructional sections go step-by-step and include close-up photos that help clarify the text. The lists of supplies needed for each project are easy to decipher thanks to the extra space and lines separating each item. A gallery of stunning samples from a variety of artists ends the book.




In 2014 Kalmbach Books published Soutache & Bead Embroidery by Amee K. Sweet-McNamara.

McNamaraHer book begins with a description of necessary supplies followed by step-by-step instructions on soutache-specific techniques that are used throughout the book. The techniques are in alphabetical order making them easy to refer back to. The 18 jewelry projects are in three distinct sections and this is where Sweet-McNamara effervescent personality shines through with terms like ‘eskimo shoe’, ‘koala face’, ‘harp’ and ‘lily’ are used to describe the foundation shapes in soutache jewelry. Projects in section one focus on one basic shape at a time: a bracelet of ‘koala faces’, princess earrings using the ‘eskimo shoe’, or a necklace that incorporates the ‘lily’ shape. The second and third sections advance the skill level and incorporate more beading elements like cabochons and rhinestone chain into the basic shapes or their variations. They also show how to keep soutache jewelry appearing light and airy. The closing ‘Author’s Gallery’ shows 16 more Sweet-McNamara pieces. 

At first glance, the end results in Valious’ and Sweet-McNamara’s books look the same, but there are differences. Sweet-McNamara always uses a brick stitch to secure the ultra suede backing and finish off her work. Valious, on the other hand, never takes this extra step. Valious recommends making a paper pattern of the jewelry’s shape before cutting the ultra suede backing. She also fills in depressions on the back of pieces with stuffing. For pendants and brooches, she advises a liner of cardboard or plastic for stability. Sweet-McNamara never mentions these issues. Other than that, both authors do a good job of explaining the process and I would recommend either of these books to a determined beginner. One word of caution: reading through their introductory directions before beginning this exciting technique is critical. Jumping right into a project may lead to frustration and disappointing results.

Give soutache a try, and see if you agree with Kathy that textile jewelry is the wave of the future.

Sweet-McNamara, Amiee. Soutache & Bead Embroider. Kalmbach Books. 2014.
Valious, Anneta. Soutache: 30 Gorgeous Bead Embroidery Designs. Lark Jewelry and Beading. 2013.

More resources:
Sweet-McNamara, Amiee. Soutache & Bead Embroidery: Three Basic Shapes. BeadSmith. 2012.
Soutache Made Simple: Learn How to Do Soutache. On-demand web seminar. Interweave. http://www.interweavestore.com/soutache-made-simple-learn-how-to-do-soutache


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