Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About SoftFlex

Although the jewelry-making “family tree” has dozens of branches (including soldering, fusing, and PMC, just to name a few), probably the most well-known jewelry-making branch would be the one of stringing beads into necklaces and bracelets. Bead stringing is relatively quick & easy — it’s the designing that can be tricky! — but what really makes it pleasurable is working with the right materials. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours designing and constructing a necklace or bracelet, only to have it break after a few wears due to inferior-quality stringing material. Luckily, there is a product whose quality we have relied not just since we opened Blue Door Beads, but since we started beading over 20 years ago: SoftFlex Beading Wire.

SoftFlex is one of those products that is ubiquitous in the beading industry, and for good reason. Their patented cord, comprised of woven stainless steel wires coated with heavy-duty nylon, is one of the most durable materials a beader can string with. However, there are so many variations that it can be hard for beaders to know which variety is best for each of their jewelry projects. We have always told our customers and students in our Basic Stringing class that the general rule of thumb is to use the thickest SoftFlex cord that can fit all of the beads in their jewelry piece. Although this is true, there are quite a few factors you may want to consider the next time you sit down to string up a beading design.

Fortunately for you — and us! — SoftFlex recently posted a series of incredibly helpful and informative YouTube videos to help beaders feel confident in their SoftFlex decision-making! Posted below are links to their videos; the first few are the ones we felt were the best “crash courses” in basic SoftFlex facts, with some additional design inspiration. The last link is the longest video; it bundles all of the shorter videos together, including a few not linked here, in case you’d like to absorb all of the SoftFlex info all at once!

Crash Courses & Inspiration:

Choosing The Right Diameter Of Soft Flex Beading Wire

Choosing The Right Brand Of Soft Flex Beading Wire

Various Ways To Use Soft Flex Beading Wire

The full-length video (approximately 40 minutes):

Beading Basics With Soft Flex Company

The SoftFlex Company is based in Sonoma, California, and we are proud to support a local business. SoftFlex helps our customers bead happily and boldly — thanks SoftFlex!

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Beads with Purpose

Back in June of 2012, one of our first blog posts ever was titled “Beads with Meaning.” One of the bead companies we highlighted was Kazuri (www.kazuribeadsusa.com), a company that started out as a backyard business (literally!) and soon expanded to become a help center for women in need of steady jobs in Kenya.

Here at Blue Door Beads, we believe that conscious consumerism is one of the most important tools for social change. In the months since we wrote “Beads with Meaning,” we have found several more bead & jewelry businesses whose primary focus is to empower others. We decided to write this week’s post in honor of these worthwhile companies, and we hope that you find their stories as inspiring as we did!

BeadForLife – Eradicating Poverty, One Bead At A Time

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BeadForLife’s mission is to create sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty by connecting people worldwide in a circle of exchange that enriches everyone.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 2.56.46 PMWhat started as a chance encounter between three friends and a woman making paper beads in a crowded Uganda slum has turned into an inspiring company. BeadForLife promotes education, supports fair trade, and encourages folks from all walks of life to host bead parties to support the artisans.

Read more about ways you can donate, volunteer, or just find out more about BeadForLife by visiting their website!

Raven + Lily – Empowering Women Through Design

spring-blog-post-2Founded by Kirsten Dickerson and Sophia Lin who share a close friendship and passion for fashion and ethical design, Raven + Lily was created as a platform to utilize those passions to alleviate poverty among women.

Each piece of Raven + Lily jewelry has a unique story, like the Telau Gold Braid Long Necklace (pictured above). Each necklace is handmade by HIV+ women who live near Entoto Mountain in Ethiopia and comprised of recycled silver, copper, and brass beads created from melted down bullet casings. Their Ethiopia collection transforms what was once meant for harm into something beautiful!

Read more about Raven + Lily on their website!

Same Sky – Employing to Empower

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 12.04.32 PMIn addition to providing employment to underserved women here in the U.S., Same Sky also provides women in war-torn Rwanda the chance to rebuild their lives. Even though Rwanda’s horrific genocide happened 20 years ago, many women still live with the after effects. Same Sky’s mission is to help them (as well as others in need worldwide) reconnect to their creativity, build skills through artistry, restore confidence, and reopen doors that once seemed closed.

Inspiring factoids:
– One Sky Bracelet buys an artisan a year of healthcare
– One Prosperity Bracelet provides a month of clean water for an artisan
– One Hope Necklace buys a year of education for an artisan’s child
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Find out more about the Same Sky story by clicking here!

P.S. Unicorne Beads from Placentia, CA, is the bead company that supplies Same Sky with the distinctive teardrop-shaped beads used in many of their designs, like the Sky Bracelet pictured at right. We carry Unicorne teardrop beads here at Blue Door Beads!

Do you know of an inspiring bead or jewelry company that we should feature in an upcoming blog post? Please email us at info@bluedoorbeads.com.

Photos courtesy of BeadForLife, Raven + Lily, and Same Sky. A special thank you to Briana for discovering these companies and recommending we include them in our blog. 🙂

Fruitastic!

Although we love all times of year, spring and summer are the seasons during which we enjoy fresh fruits & veggies the most. Any goodies you find at a local farmer’s market (see a full list of Bay Area farmer’s markets here) are brightly colored, fragrant, and perfectly ripe. Even the typically hum-drum produce section at Safeway is bursting with color!

Our recent trips to local markets got us in the mood to find some fruitastic & veggie-ful inspiration, and we weren’t disappointed! We also found some funny photos of fruits and veggies to share because we love the fact that someone can look at an orange and say, “I’m going to make art out of that!” Enjoy. 🙂

Earrings made from real kiwi fruit! Photo courtesy of www.realfruitjewelry.com

Earrings made from real kiwi fruit! Photo courtesy of http://www.realfruitjewelry.com

Ring made from slice of polymer clay oranges. Photo courtesy of Larashandmade on Etsy.

Ring made from slice of polymer clay oranges. Photo courtesy of Larashandmade on Etsy.

PMC and concrete beet necklace. Photo courtesy of LulubugJewelry on Etsy.

PMC and concrete beet necklace. Photo courtesy of LulubugJewelry on Etsy.

Simple elegant cherry earrings. Photo courtesy of pawandclawdesigns on Etsy.

Simple elegant cherry earrings. Photo courtesy of pawandclawdesigns on Etsy.

Hilarious veggie pendants! Photo courtesy of sloshcreations on Etsy.

Hilarious veggie pendants! Photo courtesy of sloshcreations on Etsy.

Polymer clay fruit beads. Photo courtesy of downeastbaubles on Etsy.

Polymer clay fruit beads. Photo courtesy of downeastbaubles on Etsy.

Fruit salad bracelet. Photo courtesy of www.juliabristowjewelry.com.

Fruit salad bracelet. Photo courtesy of http://www.juliabristowjewelry.com.

Although it is possible to dye citrus fruits, they won't look at good as these! This image has been Photoshopped, but we still thought it looked cool.  Photo courtesy of www.welivedhappilyeverafter. blogspot.com

Although it is possible to dye citrus fruits, they won’t look at good as these! This image has been Photoshopped, but we still thought it looked cool.

The queen of fruit fabulousness - Carmen Miranda!

The queen of fruit fabulousness – Carmen Miranda!

A crazy fruit for sale at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati. We couldn't figure out what it is. Can you? Photo courtesy of www.freshpickedwhimsy.typepad.com

A crazy fruit for sale at Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. A customer just told us it’s a rambutan. Wild! Photo courtesy of http://www.freshpickedwhimsy.typepad.com

Funny fruita makes us smile! Photo courtesy of www.gallery.xemanhdep.com

Funny fruit makes us smile! Photo courtesy of http://www.gallery.xemanhdep.com

Too cute! Photo courtesy of www.yourlifechoices.com.au

Too cute! Photo courtesy of http://www.yourlifechoices.com.au

Wrap It Up!

It can sometimes be hard to keep up with the newest trends in jewelry, since the fashion world is constantly evolving. But in case you didn’t know, wrap bracelets are the current trendy accessory for both men & women. (Check out our previous blog That’s a Wrap, featuring our how-to for an ultra-easy wrap bracelet design.) Do some research and you’ll find that designer versions of some styles can go for triple digits. Yowza! Love the look, but not the price tag? Have no fear, Blue Door Beads is here to help you make an equally appealing bracelet for a fraction of the price.

It’s amazing how easy these bracelets are to make, especially the version that’s a combo of leather & metal “beads”. All you need to make a double-wrap bracelet (for a 7-inch to 7.5-inch wrist) is:
– 4 feet of leather cord (1mm or 1.5mm both look great)
– 10 feet of waxed linen in a complimentary or contrasting color
– 22 inches of ball chain, like the kind used for dog tag necklaces — no need to thread a single bead!
– a button, washer, or large-holed bead to use as a clasp

We like using waxed linen as our anchoring thread because it’s stiff enough that it stays pretty much right wear you wrap it, without needing to constantly pull it taught. However, both the linen and the leather will soften with wear, resulting in a perfect, broken-in feel!

We highly recommend coming in to the shop so we can show you how to create this trendy accessory (for less than $9.00, by the way)! However, if you aren’t nearby and are in an adventurous mood, check out this great DIY how-to: DIY Wrap Bracelet.

And there you are! A fun new bracelet project for you to try out. Once you’ve completed your bracelet (or several!), be sure to email us your finished pieces at blog@bluedoorbeads.com and we’ll share the photos on our Facebook page. Happy beading!