Flex Your Power!

There are heaps of different types of cord in the beading industry: waxed linen, leather, Nymo, and Fireline, just to name a few. However, the cord we return to time and time again for the majority of our beading needs is SoftFlex. We have tried other brands of flexible beading wire, and we have found that, when it comes to flexibility & durability, SoftFlex stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest.

With their wide range of diameters & colors, SoftFlex offers one of the most extensive selections of cord we have ever seen. But how do you know which cord is appropriate for your project? We’re glad you asked! 🙂

econoflexEconoflex
This is a great cord for beaders just starting out who aren’t sure if they want to make beading a full-time hobby. We say that because, although Econoflex (like all cord in the SoftFlex family) is comprised of thin, steel wires woven together and coated with nylon, it has the fewest number of metal strands woven together. That means it is the least flexible type of SoftFlex, and so it is prone to kinking more than other styles. However, as its name indicates, it is the least expensive cord SoftFlex makes, and it’s a heck of a lot better than stringing your beads on fishing line or (gasp!) dental floss. (We understand that there are very few options for stringing materials at summer camp, but it’s time for an upgrade, people.)

Regular SoftFlex comes in several diameters:

Photo courtesy of caravanbeads.blogspot.com.

Photo courtesy of caravanbeads.blogspot.com.

Very Fine – .010 inches in diameter (Use 1x1mm crimps to fininsh.)
This diameter is only found in the SoftTouch style of SoftFlex. Being that it is very fine, it cannot withstand a lot of weight before it kinks and, eventually, breaks. The folks at SoftFlex recommend it only be used for sewing, crocheting, knitting, and weaving. Other diameters in the SoftTouch family (see below) are better suited for necklaces and bracelets.

Photo courtesy of Rare Find Jewelry by Cindy Lou on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of Rare Find Jewelry by Cindy Lou on Etsy.

Fine – .014 inches (Use 1.5×1.5mm  or 2x2mm crimps to finish, giving each crimp and extra squish.)
This diameter is designed for softer, less abrasive materials such as fresh water pearls and seed beads. As SoftFlex states, “Diameter .014 offers the softness and flexibility of pearl stringing threads, yet has the strength of stainless steel.” It is best not to use heavy beads with this diameter; as a good rule of thumb, avoid .014 if you are stringing beads that are larger than 8mm.

Photo courtesy of ArtfulHummingbird on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of ArtfulHummingbird on Etsy.

Medium – .019 inches (Use 2×2 crimps to finish.)
This diameter is our favorite! Medium works well with small to medium glass beads, gemstones, crystals, metal beads, and the majority of freshwater pearls and seed beads. We recommend using this diameter when you are designing with a variety of materials.

Photo courtesy of Rocktoplois on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of Rocktopolis on Etsy.

Heavy – .024 inches (Use 2.5×2.5 crimps to finish.)
This diameter is designed for abrasive materials (it has the thickest coating of nylon applied to the woven wires) and “designs that will meet excessive movement such as watch bands, bracelets, belts and purse straps.” It is great for large, heavy beads, such as lampwork glass and large gemstones.

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company.

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company.

SoftFlex Metallics and SoftFlex Colors
These two subcategories of SoftFlex are manufactured in the same way as the other Fine-through-Heavy SoftFlex cords, with one exception: the nylon coating on the outside of the woven wires has had color added. This is a permanent color and will not bleed. It is ideal for woven and floating-style pieces where you want the cord to show, or if you have somewhat translucent beads and you don’t like the idea of having the standard, gray color of regular SoftFlex to show.

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company

Photo courtesy of SoftFlex Company

ExtremeFlex
The fanciest of the SoftFlex family, this subcategory also comes in SoftFlex’s full range of diameters, but what makes ExtremeFlex so nifty is that the woven wires underneath the nylon coating have been plated with precious metals! These cords are shimmery silver & gold because they have real silver and gold in them. Don’t worry about the plating wearing off: you’d have to scrape through the entire layer of nylon to get to the wires, then scrape the electroplating off of the wires. In other words, it would be darn near impossible. We recommend using ExtremeFlex for the same kind of projects where you’d use the Metallics or Colors. Covering up such lovely (and somewhat pricey) cord would be a waste!

We hope you find this guide helpful, and that you have great success with all of your beading projects. Flex your beading power!

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Student Projects from Our Metal Stamping Class

Although these photos are also in our Make & Create gallery, we were so impressed with what our students created in our Metal Stamping class this past Saturday, we felt they deserved their very own blog post! Can you believe they made all of these pieces in just 2 hours?! Such talent!

A subtle squirrel-and-initial combo will make for a sweet, dainty necklace.

A subtle squirrel-and-initial combo will make for a sweet, dainty necklace.

"Love, laugh, purr" for the cat-lover in your life, and one should always "dream big." We love the messages, plus the mix of fonts and sizes!

“Love, laugh, purr” for the cat-lover in your life, and one should always “dream big.” We love the messages, plus the mix of fonts and sizes!

Celestial earrings are the perfect jewelry for daytime or evening.

Celestial earrings are the perfect jewelry for daytime or evening.

"Reach for the stars." LOVE!

“Reach for the stars.” LOVE!

This student made a necklace for her niece. A beautiful, thoughtful gift!

This student made a necklace for her niece. A beautiful, thoughtful gift!

We like this students' variety of pieces: pendants that say "endure, "fly" and "create", plus two journal covers for a "create" booklet pendant. Textured circle charms and square squirrel charms complete the collection!


We like this students’ variety of pieces: pendants that say “endure, “fly” and “create”, plus two journal covers for a “create” booklet pendant. Textured circle charms and square squirrel charms complete the collection!

Fabulous Feather Jewelry

A fresh batch of colorful feathers from local parrots!We just received a fresh batch of colorful feathers from our favorite flock of local parrots! Selene, Chloe and Gwendolyn are just a few of the Pionus, Amazon, and Macaw parrots owned by one of our customers. Lucky for us, our feathered friends naturally molt dozens of vibrantly-colored feathers — the perfect accents for earrings, pendants, and more!

We here at Blue Door Beads enjoy earrings of all kinds, but when it comes to large earrings, we feel that the lighter they are, the better. Heavy earrings can stretch earlobes with time, so we recently got busy making some lightweight earrings using feathers. We think they turned out really nice!

IMG_2575The trickiest part about working with feathers is attaching a finding to the quill, which is the small, stiff part of the feather. You can choose to use wire by the foot to wrap a coil around the quill, but we’ve actually had good luck using fold-over crimp ends.
IMG_2570All you need to attach the crimp ends are a pair of chain nose pliers, some Hypo-Cement (optional, but recommended), and a bit of patience. If you want a little bit of added security, you can apply a tiny drop of Hypo-Cement to your crimp end before sliding in the quill. The quill can still slip out of the channel of the crimp end at this stage, but as long as you pinch evenly from both sides using your pliers, you should be able to fasten it fairly easily. Try not to have a “death grip” on your pliers; too much force can cause the quill to crack in the crimp end, and then you’ll have a sad, broken feather.
IMG_2571Once you have attached your crimp end, you can attach an open jump ring to the loop of the crimp end to create a bail. This way, you can wear your feather as a delicate pendant!

IMG_2573IMG_2574

Have several feathers you’d like to wear? Attach ear wires to your crimps ends, and you have an easy, lightweight pair of earrings!

Have you found some lovely feathers, but would like to clean them before wearing them? We visited http://www.howtocleanstuff.net and found a helpful, gentle how-to for cleaning feathers:

“Dry” Cleaning Method

You Will Need:

  • Corn meal
  • White flour
  • Powdered Borax
  • Ziplock Bag

Steps to Clean the Feathers:

  1. Fill a bag with ½ cup flour, one cup corn meal, and three tablespoons Borax.
  2. Place the feathers in the Ziplock bag.
  3. Close the bag and shake the feathers around in the powdery mix.
  4. Once the feathers are clean, remove them.
  5. Shake the feathers to remove any excess powder.

Keep in mind:

  • Birds secrete oils that keep the feathers waterproof. Once removed from the bird, these oils quickly deteriorate and make the feather more vulnerable to damage from water and cleaning methods.
  • Insects are problem for feathers as they like to eat through them. Check your decorative feathers regularly to ensure they are not being eaten by any unwanted guests.

Have fun creating your fabulous feathered jewelry!