Wednesday, 1 April 2015

I do NOT need another hobby!

But I'm tempted! I went down to Suffolk to spend the day with a friend. I have known Cheryl for several years, first through the UK knitting forum Phoenix Knitters and latterly on Ravelry. I had forgotten that I had made a felted tea cosy for Cheryl back in 2010 in my early days of swaps and it was lovely to see that it was still in use!

Cheryl got a spinning wheel fairly recently and I went down to do some spinning with her. I know just how helpful I found it watching someone else spin when I was a new spinner. I showed her how to Navajo ply as she is hoping to spin some gradient yarns and this is the best way of keeping colours separate. We spent the morning spinning and after lunch, Cheryl's daughter Heather showed me how she makes lampwork beads. It was absolutely fascinating, watching how a tube of glass becomes a bead. And guess what?! I had a go too! It was quite tricky and certainly has made me appreciate all the effort that goes into making the beautiful lampwork beads. You start off with a rod of glass which gets heated in a flame until it starts to melt. This molten glass gets wound around a thin metal rod called a mandrel and then you rotate the mandrel whilst heating it so that the glass melts and flows into a rounded shape. You can add all different adornments; I rolled one of my beads in some tiny chips of blue glass called frits and then continued heating the bead until they melted into the bead. Once you are happy with your bead, it is removed from the heat and left to cool for a couple of hours in some vermiculite. Then it is put into some water to loosen the bead release coating on the end of the mandrel, removed with some kind of pliers very carefully so it doesn't break and the inside of the bead is cleaned with a pipe cleaner. Here are a few photos to show you.

First, the coloured glass rods. Aren't they just beautiful? Sometimes the beads end up a different colour depending on what temperature the glass is heated to and if there are any other additions to the bead. Fascinating stuff!

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (4)

In this next photo I have already melted the end of a glass rod and wrapped it around the mandrel to make a bead, and am turning the mandrel in the flame. Towards the back of the photo, you can see a couple of white pots with mandrels sticking out of them. These are beads cooling in the vermiculite. 

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (13)

Some cooled beads that Heather had made earlier. You can see the bead release coating on the end of the mandrel; it's a bit like a coating of slip (used in pottery.) 

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (16)

Some examples of Heather's beads. They are just beautiful!

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (8)

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (6) 

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (7)

And finally, my own efforts! I shall sew a couple of bags and use them on the zippers I think. 

spinning and bead making with Cheryl and Heather (21)

It was so much fun making the beads, I would love to do more of it. Cheryl gave me the name of the company Heather uses to get her equipment and glass supplies from (what a good enabler!!) and you can take a look at Tuffnell Glass to find out more if you are interested! I don't have room for this new craft at the moment, but who knows what the future may bring! xxx


Claire said...

Oh that is so tempting. I don't have room or tine for another hobby either but never say never :)

Unknown said...

they're so beautiful, I love the variety of styles and colours

Brenda B said...

I love lampwork beads and it's something I'd sorely like to have a go at myself too, but like you, I really don't need another hobby! It's a fascinating process though and I love to watch them being made. Yours came out beautifully, they certainly don't look like they were made by a beginner!

Anonymous said...

What fun....and gorgeous picktures as always! Alhbooks

Lynne said...

Ooo, those beads are beautiful, and it's interesting to see how they are made. I can definitely see why you're tempted to take this up! I'm frightened that I might be getting the quilting bug again, so I feel your pain!

Jennyff said...

Just gorgeous. I can imagine you building up a stash of those beautiful glass rods just like a collection of sock yarn. Unlike socks though I can't see bead making as a hobby you can pick up, put down, take with you, so maybe later, dare I say when you retire.

knittingsandwich said...

oh wow! how fun!!
your beads look beautiful! what a treat to get to try it out, i love watching people working glass at craft fairs and such, so cool that you got to give it a go!