October 15, 2012

An Introduction to Using Fiber in Jewelry Design

I hope you'll forgive me for the duplication if you saw this over at Artisan Whimsey, but I thought there was some good information here that I really wanted to share with you.  And yes, I did write it - I'm not just ripping off blog content LOL.  Read on:

 Fiber in jewelry design is HOT – it’s everywhere you look right now. From leather to repurposed sari silks and everything in between, adding fiber to your jewelry designs can soften things up and add "warmth". Think of it like adding curtains and floor coverings to a room.

There are lots of different ways to add fiber. Try using silk ribbon as a stringing medium with large hole beads. Or use a length of lace to suspend a pendant. How about some waxed linen knotted between an eclectic collection of beads? Or nylon cord knotted into a macramé bracelet. A strip of material wrapped around a bangle? A simple little ribbon bow might be just what you need to add the finishing touch to a pair of earrings. You are limited only by your imagination.

There are a few things to consider when using fiber:
  • Strength: Some fibers are not as strong as other materials, just as some chains are not as strong as others. Be sure you understand the strength of the fiber you are using. Weaker, thinner fibers might best be used for accents rather than the main stringing material, for example.
  • Stretch: Elastic stretches and many other fibers do, too. You'll want to think about this when you are designing if you don’t want your choker to become a necklace.
  • Drape: Different fibers have different draping characteristics. Some are thinner, some are thicker and others even have stiffeners or coatings added. Experiment a bit with your chosen fiber to make sure it will behave the way you want it to.
  • Durability: A delicate handmade lace might not hold up as well over time as leather cord, which leads to the next consideration:
  • Special care: Will oils from the skin affect the fiber? Will it react badly to being accidentally immersed in water? You will want to know these things, and so will the people wearing your jewelry.

What types of fiber are we talking about here? The choices are practically endless! Consider:
  • Ribbon of all kinds including hand dyed silk and sari silk
  • Hemp in a range of colors and sizes. Some hemp is less refined and has more variation in diameter down the length of it, which gives a more rustic appearance.
  • Nylon cord in a huge array of colors and diameters
  • Lace
  • Leather, suede and manmade alternatives
  • Yarn including a huge variety of hand spun alternatives
  • Fiberwire which is essentially a fiber with a wire core
  • Textiles
  • Waxed Irish Linen/Cotton
Now that I have you convinced using fiber in your next piece of jewelry is a must, you are probably wondering, “But, how do I finish it?” There are all kinds of specially designed findings from end caps to ribbon clamps made just for working with fiber. Or go outside the box and do you own thing. Knot it around a jump ring or tie your clasp on with a bow. Experiment and have fun.  And for some great examples of fiber used in jewelry design, check out the Artisan Whimsey Pinterest board for all things fiber: Fiber, Leather, Silk! Oh, My

If you haven't signed up yet at Artiscan Whimsey, you really should.  It's a gathering of some of the most talented jewelry artisans I've ever seen and the blog posts are fantastic.  There are also tutorials, forums and enough eye candy to keep you busy for weeks:)

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