10 December 2008

Make your own presents.

A lot of folks in the blogosphere have taken the "handmade holiday" pledge, giving only gifts that they made or someone identifiable sold to them (wait, that sounds sinister. You know what I mean, right?) I like the idea of this, but I also feel like it could go terribly wrong...I hear Sally Brown (Charlie Brown's sister) saying "This year I'm going to make all my Christmas presents. And guess what I'm getting everybody....paper airplanes!"
So no, I'm not making all my Christmas gifts. But Megan, one of my commentors, has asked for more information on my jewelry making habit, so here you go.
I first started making earrings in college, and bought my first computer (a Mac 530 or some such thing: I loved it) with the proceeds. My friend Tami taught me how, and as is my way, I got carried away. So this is how I do it, if'n you're interested.

Step 1: Be organized. Here is my main toolbox of beads. I say "main" because there are other beads rolling around here somewhere, I'm sure.

Step 2: Choose some beads. I originally got my beads from the corner craft store: JoAnns or Ben Franklin, for example. That was back where there were only 6 different beads available to buy. But then I started checking out thrift stores (grandmothers and great aunts have the best jewelry for dismantling) and telling everyone I loved to bring me beads when they went on vacation. My collection grew and grew and grew (see above). Once people knew I made earrings, they saved broken bracelets to give me, or just handed over complete necklaces they no longer wanted.

For a long time, a lot of my earrings looked alike. Three beads, two on either side of one main bead. My friend Nena was really good at thinking outside that pattern, though, and helped me to mix it up a little, so now I spend more time trying out different combinations. Oh, also, you'll need a small pliers with a wire cutter. I bought mine in the hardware department, because the ones in the craft department with the pretty pink handles tend to be crap and more expensive too. Why anyone would pay more for pink crap is beyond me.

Step 3: Make up your mind and cut your wire. I figure for most of my earrings, the headpin or eyepin (what the beads are strung on) doesn't touch skin, so I tend to use basemetal findings for this. They're cheap. As you can clearly see, I use the technical "half a fingertip" measurement for cutting my wire: you'll have to figure out what works for you.

Step 4: Bend your wire into a loop and slip on an earwires. This is one area where I don't skimp on materials. I only use sterling silver earwires or gold-plated sterling silver. I didn't always, but even I started breaking out from basemetal earwires, so I figured I better step it up.

Close up your loop, finish the second earring in the same way, and you're done. Easy peasy.

When I get rolling, I can make maybe 15 pairs in an hour. But that's only if my assistant is napping.

My supplies largely come from this enormous stockpile that 15 years of jewelry making has grown in my basement, but occassionally I see beads at Michael's or JoAnn's that call my name. I order my earwires through South Pacific Wholesale Company, a beading company I discovered way back when and just really enjoy shopping with. Their prices are MUCH better than any craft store, and I just like them a lot. I often order beads or other gee-gaws there, too, because I am easily swayed into unnecessary purchases. Back off.

So there you have it. All the pierced ears in your life can be bejeweled, by you, in time for stocking stuffing! How exciting! If you are going to sell these commercially, you'll need to get a tax license and all sorts of other things that I don't wanna talk about because it's boring. Have fun!


Megan said...

Woot! Woot! I feel like doing a happy dance! A post that was just for me (or so I'm imagining - don't spoil it for me).

They're lovely! Do you usually keep some on hand, or do you just make a few pairs when you get an order? Those little high-heeled babies sure are delectable :)

Jennifer said...

Ah, no. I have about 300 pairs here and there right now. Actually, about 40 pairs are at work for perusal by my colleagues, and the other 260 are with my mom, for her teacher friends to look at. I give away about 30 pairs a year, and sell maybe about that many, and then just make more. It's kinda silly, actually.

Megan said...

Silly? I'm not so sure. At least it's not a baking habit, which would mean you'd have stuff to get rid of quickly before it goes bad! And hey, if someday you look at a pair and think, "What was I thinking? This is hideous!" you can always just take it apart and reuse the materials.

I'm just trying to wrap my brain around where you have all the storage space for your crafts. I know you've mentioned dolls (or at least we've seen V running around your blogosphere with dolly heads in tow), quilting, apparel sewing (like V's backpack and I think I saw an old post about some skirts...), jewelry, etc.

Not to mention you're a mom, wife, AND teacher. My goodness, I'm really feeling inadequate right about now. Or at least very underachiever-ish.