Friday, December 20, 2013

ATTENTION to Tension

Recently I followed a pattern to make an item that other people had also made. When I had finished making my piece, I noticed how my item looked in comparison to the ones made by others.

What were the differences in mine to the others?  Tension, tension, tension

How do you get good tension?
It is all in the way you hold your thread when beading. I notice with beginners they have a tendency to sit the work on their bead mat, place the bead on their needle with their left hand and then pull the thread through the beads. There is absolutely no tension kept on the work at all.

I immediately tell them to pick it up and I show them how to hold the work, hold the tension and  pick up beads with the needle.

I hold the needle in my right hand and the work between my thumb and index finger in my left hand with the thread placed over the index finger. The image shows how the thread is draped over my index finger and the middle finger is holding that in place and keeping the thread firm.

As I place new beads and pull the thread through the work my middle finger lifts up then comes back down to my index finger to hold the tension in the thread. Not keeping that tension makes your work loose.

Sometimes I want a very firm tension so I give the thread a good tug and the middle finger lifts and drops into play to hold that tension in place. It becomes all automatic like machine parts doing their job.

Drawbacks in too tight a tension
There are beaders who are unbelievably tight in their tension, how they do that is beyond me. I often wonder if the thread is hurting their hands. The difficulty with super-tight tension is
* you have problems getting the needle through the beads as there is no room for movement
your work can end up looking stiff and not move nor curve how you want.
* too stiff causes threads, or beads, to break and the work may come undone.

Personally, I achieve good tension by sewing my work twice. It is just what I do. I found early in bead-weaving that with sewing twice:
* beads sit better
* you can see the bead pattern
* the work feels better
* less chance my work gets pulled out of shape if I snag my thread
* added strength to my creations, they won’t fall apart
* an overall better look and presentation of the finished product.

To the right is an image of two right angle weaves. One has been sewn once each step and one has been sewn twice each step.  Both are an  8 rows wide x 4 rows high RAW.
Just by looking at the samples it is clear which sample has been sewn twice. You can see the lay of the beads very ordered and firmly in place. If you were embellishing the twice sewn sample you would know exactly which beads to embellish into as the pattern is obvious. Less risk of your work going out-of-shape because everything is firmly in place and has two threads keeping it that way.
But it goes further than that, picking these samples up and comparing the feel you notice the twice sewn sample is more substantial and how the once sewn sample is floppy/flimsy. If you were a customer buying, I am sure you would take the one that felt stronger and the most substantial.

Exceptions to the to rule
If I am making a spiral rope, a peyote band, netting etc  I don't sew these twice so there are exceptions.
Recently Mikki Ferrugiaro posted her video on her rolled peyote edges bangle. In this video Mikki shows how soft tension is necessary when doing her pattern for her bangles. Click on the link to see her sew with a loose tension and get the idea. Also take note on how Mikki holds her work and thread.

Another time you need soft tension is with fringing. Fringing needs to swing and sway in the jewellery design so a soft tension is required. I have found FireLine too hard for a soft fringe and I recommend Nymo for fringing as it is much softer. I am sure there are other products but not being much of a fringing person I have not tried them.

I do not wish to give the idea that tight/firm tension is the 'rule' for beading but rather a 'guide'. Learning how to do all types of tensions and knowing when to use them is important. Often the tension relates to the design. For instance when sculpting with beads multiple sewings and tight tension is definitely required.

I urge you to experiment with tensions to discover what works for you, along with seeing how your finished items appear with a firm tension. If your fingers have difficulty holding the thread firmly then get into the habit of sewing twice. Also, I urge you to know when to use the varying tension types to achieve the look you desire in your work. When you have these skills and know what works for you, then be surprised at how much better your work looks and feels.  The difference in your finished creations will also be noticed by others. 

Happy Beading.