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Beaded bracelet-ring jewelry.

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For many powwow dancers, the beginning of the dance season is an exciting time. The long winter hours give way to brighter days and the chance to bring out all of the new beaded outfits that have been created over the long winter months. Each new powwow season brings with it new trends, new ideas, and regalia items that have never been seen before. Over the years some trends come, some stay, and the outfits in each category are always evolving.

One of the new trends on the powwow scene are beaded bracelet-rings sets that appear on Jingle and Ladies Fancy dancer's wrist. With the hot new trend of "bling", rhinestones seem to have been added to every fashion accessory imaginable. Even our cell phones become encrusted in brilliant jewels and baubles.

The construction of these sought after articles can be simple, once you learn the basic materials. Most of the bracelet-ring sets I have seen match the rest of the wearer's beaded outfit. The colors and beadwork pattern are the same as what is represented in the larger outfit.

The shapes and colors of such bracelet-ring sets are not limited to one size, or a basic pattern. The sky is the limit as to how simple or how intricate the shapes of the beadwork can be. One can easily design the beadwork shapes free hand, and then use these ideas for the pattern for the base of the beadwork. It can safely be said, most of the beaded bracelet-ring sets will have some kind of added rhinestone edging and/or embellishment incorporated right in the main bead design. The goal of the beadwork designer is to have their jewelry to be brighter, shinier, more innovative, and more flamboyant than others.

Construction

Begin with the design. It helps to view many examples of what the final bracelet will look like. There are powwow web sites which offer many pictures to choose ideas from, or attending powwows and seeing the designs and patterns up-close. Actually knowing and sharing ideas with other dancers and beaders is another way to design a new bracelet-ring set.

Create a paper pattern of the design. Once this basic design is put down on paper, begin the construction phase of the set. With this paper pattern you can transfer the design to the base material. "Baby lap" material (photo 1) is something that I have always favored. It is a "felt-like" textile with a rubbery interior layer that prevents the edges from fraying once patterns have been cut out of the cloth. On very rare occasions, I have found the elusive "baby lap" in fabric stores and the large department stores in the craft and sewing departments. More often than not, I have found "baby lap" at garage sales, or share supplies with other bead workers. "Baby lap" is easy to bead on. The beading needles pass very easily through the fabric and the basic construction of the fabric allows for a more stable and sturdy work surface.

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I have found that backing the "baby lap" with some light weight cardboard (cereal box cardboard weight is an ideal weight for this purpose) is needed. I would strongly suggest "backing" your work with at least some kind of lightweight stiffener to allow the bead work patterns and rhinestones to have a sturdy base.

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Sandwich the pattern piece (paper form with your bracelet-ring design) right side-out onto the "cut to shape" baby lap, with the lightweight cardboard stiffener on the other side of the sandwich. There should now be a three layer base on which to bead--pattern, baby lap, cardboard. You don't want all the hard work to be diminished by ending up with a "flimsy" final product. I have also seen some pieces constructed with light weight plastic (as in basic plastic milk jugs) as the stiffening agent.

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The pattern set should look something like Photo 3.

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Begin beading on the base material using flat work applique style on the body of the piece. By now, the beadwork colors and bead sizes to be used should have been chosen. By following the outlines and filling in the colors according to the beadwork pattern the beaded bracelet piece as well as the ring bead work will be complete. Edge bead the bracelet for a finished look.

The bracelet piece should be about two inches to three inches wide and about six to seven inches long. You can simply have the beaded bracelet piece "wrap" around the wrist and fasten it closed with small leather straps. Watch band type closures can be used to complete the bracelet. I have seen plain "hook and eyes" closures, as well as larger size "snap" closures used to complete the bracelet.

Once the beaded pieces have been completely beaded, I would suggest backing them (cutting out an exact same size pattern piece) with lightweight leather or non fraying material. It hides any thread work and knots, and adds to the overall professional finish to the product.

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The ring bead work can also be worn on the fingers in a variety of ways. I have seen some bracelet ring sets with the ring actually set on inexpensive rings that can be purchased in any craft store. You can mount the completed ring beaded piece (which will itself only be about one to two inches square) onto the beaded ring. I would back the completed ring piece with lightweight leather, out of which I would cut a tiny opening in the back, to fit over the ring part of your intended metal jewelry item. I would carefully sew-close the opening, so that the beaded decoration would be snugly affixed to the ring. This is a similar type of construction method as seasoned beaders would use to affix finished beaded barrettes to the actual barrette clip hardware. You can also tie down the ring piece to the finger with thin leather ties as well. This can be cumbersome if the ring need frequent tying.

Be sure to include in the beadwork pattern room enough to fit tiny rows of the pre-strung rhinestone chains (photo 2). Normally, the rhinestone embellishment would be added along the entire outer edge of the bead worked pieces. A large size rhinestone can be used as a focal point of the ring piece. Simply bead around the center rhinestone bauble to achieve the look of the professionally designed ring. The pre-strung rhinestone chains come in plastic as well as metal based chains. All that is needed is to carefully cut off the required lengths of rhinestone chain, and then carefully and sturdily sew the chains down on the base beadwork. I like to sew down every rhinestone by sewing on either side of the stones, along the complete length of the chain. The decision to lay down the rhinestones first and then bead the design, or bead first then lay the rhinestones, is up the individual bead worker. I would prefer completing my beadwork patterns first, then adding the rhinestones to prevent any mistakes in sizing the pieces. Some designs inevitably require the addition of the rhinestones first, then beading.

To attach the completed bracelet beadwork to the beaded ring beadwork, use the pre-strung rhinestone chains, or regular, very small size regular chains (photo 4 & 4A), that can be found in craft stores, beading stores and on the web.

The two pieces can be connected by whip stitching (many times for added strength) the ends of the rhinestone chain to the bracelet and the ring. The "jump rings" can be attached to the edges of the beaded pieces (whip stitching them in place), and then attaching rhinestone or chain links between the ring and bracelet. The connecting chain can be made by beading a thin strip to attach the two pieces together, or string beads on a very strong thread combination (for example, four thicknesses of heavy weight Nymo beading thread).

To wear the new bracelet-ring set, I would strongly encourage the wearer to first put the ring on, then tie the bracelet down on the wrist. To work in the opposite order would be down right difficult, if not impossible.

Show off this nice beaded bracelet-ring set at the next powwow!

Pamela Piche Meyers is a Cree Chipweyen Native American mother of two and home business operator. Her Indian name is "It Flies Around", in Cree, "Ka Pa Mas Stim Maw It". The beadwork Pamela creates is of the "flatwork" applique style, in moccasins, leggings, belts, crowns, capes, vests and large beaded pieces. She can be reached at home at any time to take orders and create works of beaded art. Email: true_humming_bird@yahoo.com
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Author:Meyers, Pamela Piche
Publication:Whispering Wind
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:1463
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