My Second Reversible Hoodie!

I made my second reversible hoodie from fabric that I got during my LA Fashion Distric trip. I think both of these are stretch knits that I got from the FIDM scholarship store. I love the black and white side, and I mostly wear that side out. I've had several people comment that it looks like a snowboarding jacket!

I basically made this hoodie the same way that I made the previous one. Except I tried to make this hoodie more slim fitted than the first. Also, instead of using a ribbed knit for the waistband and sleeve cuffs, I just made the hoodie sleeves and waist fitted, so a waistband and cuffs were not needed. I made the length a little longer than the first hoodie, but I found out that I can turn up the bottom, and it makes a nice contrasting waistband if I want to show off the reverse side.

This hoodie is the favorite thing that I've made so far! I love the fit, it wears slim, but not too tight. If I were to make it again, I might make the upper arms a little more fitted, but as it is, it fits perfectly, and is not restrictive to motion at all.

I also love the fabric I used. I kind of wish I had purchased some more. It's a really nice thick, smooth stretch knit on both sides. The black side is heavier weight than the striped colored side.

Showing off the hoodie with my Oscar Boss. I think the hoodie fits really well! No waistband or cuffs, so the lines look really straight and smooth along the body. 

Showing off the hoodie with my Oscar Boss. I think the hoodie fits really well! No waistband or cuffs, so the lines look really straight and smooth along the body. 

Zipper open

Zipper open

Zipper zipped up. Nice and fitted. 

Zipper zipped up. Nice and fitted. 

Showing off the reverse side, with colorful stripes. Again, no waistband and no cuffs if you wear the hoodie long like this. 

Showing off the reverse side, with colorful stripes. Again, no waistband and no cuffs if you wear the hoodie long like this. 

Hands in pockets!

Hands in pockets!

Hood up!

Hood up!

Here I paired the hoodie with the black/gray reversible skirt I showed before. 

Here I paired the hoodie with the black/gray reversible skirt I showed before. 

I folded the bottom of the hoodie up to show a little contrasting waistband. You can also see some contrasting sleeve cuffs from the reverse fabric peeking out. I like that you can show as much or as little of the reverse fabric as you like. 

I folded the bottom of the hoodie up to show a little contrasting waistband. You can also see some contrasting sleeve cuffs from the reverse fabric peeking out. I like that you can show as much or as little of the reverse fabric as you like. 

Twirling with my skirt at sunset

Twirling with my skirt at sunset

Some outdoor photos

Some outdoor photos

More outdoor photos

More outdoor photos

Ok, I hope you enjoyed my newest project! I just call it my second hoodie. I know this post is very photo heavy, but I"m very very proud of it, haha! Like I said, this is so far my favorite piece that I've made. Too bad its too hot here for sweatshirt wearing. I'm hoping I'll get more mileage out of my hoodies in fall/winter.

Thanks for reading!

My Reversible Hoodie

I have been so excited working with projects with my new sewing machine. Now, I will reveal my most complicated sewing project to date! It is a reversible hoodie! It took me 2 days to make it. It is my first shirt/top (everything else I've made so far had been skirt or pants for bottoms). So it was my first time making sleeves, a hood, and my first time putting a zipper in. It was also my first Kangaroo pocket, since everything I'd done previously had been inseam pockets. But the pockets were actually much simpler than inseam pockets. I like making things reversible, and I wanted to hide my ugly seams, so I purposely made it 100% reversible.

The main side is a thick purple stripped terry material with a little stretch, very warm. The reverse side is a solid purple, and is a thinner fabric with very little stretch. On both sides you see the light gray ribbing that I used for the sleeve cuffs and waist trim of the sweatshirt.

Hands in my kangaroo pockets! So stylish and comfy cozy ^_^ I was surprised that my first attempt at a hoodie fit so well! 

Hands in my kangaroo pockets! So stylish and comfy cozy ^_^ I was surprised that my first attempt at a hoodie fit so well! 

Hood on, with Mu rubbing on my legs. 

Hood on, with Mu rubbing on my legs. 

MIlo is wearing his read sequined shirt, haha. 

MIlo is wearing his read sequined shirt, haha. 

Showing off the reverse side, which is a solid purple. Both sides share the gray ribbing cuffs and waist trim. 

Showing off the reverse side, which is a solid purple. Both sides share the gray ribbing cuffs and waist trim. 

Fits very well! Here I'm hiding the irregularity with my pocket, haha. 

Fits very well! Here I'm hiding the irregularity with my pocket, haha. 

I will try to describe how I made it, since I told my friend Anh that I would give her a link for how to make a reversible hoodie. Except I kind of used several sources and combined them all. So hopefully this explaination will help.

The Hoodie http://mellysews.com/2016/02/reversible-zinnia-jacket.html I followed the idea from this website, where they made a reversible hoodie jacket. I did not buy their pattern. I have never bought a commercial pattern, as I don't think it is necessary if you already have clothes that fit you.

I used a hoodie that already fits well on me as a pattern. I lay my hoodie down flat on the fabric that I want to use, look at the seams in the hoodie, and how many pieces it took to make, and I lay flat and cut out the pieces with extra length all around for seam allowance.

My Hoodie required one back piece, two side front (left and right), two arms, and one hood. The arm pieces and hood piece I cut on a fold to make sure it was symmetrical. I probably should have cut on a fold for my back piece and cut the two front side pieces together on a fold to make sure they were symmetrical as well, but it was harder to do that with my premade hoodie pattern. So I just cut around my commercial hoodie, just be sure to give yourself enough seam allowance, otherwise it will end up smaller than you wanted. I also cut out two pocket pieces for each reversible side, using my commercial hoodie as a pattern.

To make the hoodie reversible, you have to cut out two of every pattern piece in your two different fabrics, except the waistband and cuffs. I cut one set out of the striped purple, and one set out of the solid purple.

I then cut out one waistband and two cuffs (one for each sleeve), since both sides will be sharing the waistband and cuffs.

For the construction, I used a zig zag stitch for everything except the zipper, to allow a little bit of stretch in the seams.

I added the kangaroo pockets to the front sides, according to the above website. http://www.ikatbag.com/2010/11/pockets-v-cut-in-patch-pockets.html This website has really good information on kangaroo pockets as well. She has a great series on all types of pockets, that I highly recommend!

I then sewed the side seams, sleeves, arm holes, and hood on. Do this for both reversible sides (striped purple and solid purple), so you end up with 2 separate hoodies.

Then I sewed the hoodies to different ends of the waistband, making sure that when they are put together, both right sides will face outwards. The website has a good picture.

I then attached the cuffs to the outside side only (striped purple). Do not attach to the inside side (solid purple) yet, since you will need the sleeves open to turn the whole jacket inside out later.

I think around this point, I sewed the hood outside and lining right sides together, so the hood had its lining. At this point, you have two jackets connected by the waistband and the hood.

This is when I inserted the separating zipper. The above website did not have much info on sewing the zipper, so I did some more research.

The Zipper First of all, make sure you buy a separating zipper that is long enough for your hoodie. Make sure that the zipper is reversible, meaning it has a pull tag on both sides, so it can be used on both sides.

I bought this 24 inch reversible separating zipper from Amazon, and it was the perfect size. It has nice metal teeth, so it looks durable.

http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/10/sewing-tips-installing-a-basic-zipper.html
This is a good tutorial on how to install a basic zipper. However, this does not work for my reversible pattern. But I would read this first because it has good information about how to install a zipper using the zipper foot, proper placement of the zipper, and gives good tips on how to move the bulky zipper pull out of the way.

http://www.craftingfashion.com/2013/10/inserting-separating-zipper-in-thick.html This is the method that I used for installing the zipper on the reversible hoodie. There is a very good image that they have where they show the zipper sandwiched between the two sides of the fabric, with right side and wrong side clearly marked. I followed this to get my zipper inbetween the two sides. I just pinned the zipper in place instead of basting.

This is the image I thought was super helpful for zipper placement. Your fabric is right sides together, with the zipper in between, but the zipper teeth must be facing towards the inside of the sandwich. 

This is the image I thought was super helpful for zipper placement. Your fabric is right sides together, with the zipper in between, but the zipper teeth must be facing towards the inside of the sandwich. 

http://www.sewingmamas.com/b/showthread.php?131698-lined-jacket-with-separating-zipper-tutorial-dwnl
This was another good description on how to install a separating zipper into a lined jacket, which is basically the same as a reversible jacket. She also shows how she does the cuffs for a lined jacket. The pictures and text here are a little more difficult to follow, so I would follow the one above if possible.

Finishing
Once you have both sides of the zipper sewn in, you will have to turn the whole jacket inside out. You have to do this through the open sleeve, so it will be a tight fit, but you have to pull the whole hoodie inside out through one of the sleeves. Hopefully you either did not attach the cuff, or only attached one side of the cuff.

Once you pull the hoodie inside out, so it is right side out, the last step is to finish the cuffs. Since I machine sewed the gray cuff to the striped purple side before adding the zipper, my cuffs were half on already. I just needed to attach the gray cuff to the solid purple side.

To be honest, the instructions here and here for how to finish the cuffs were kind of confusing to me. So I just hand stitched the gray cuff closed to the solid purple linind side. I used a blind ladder stitch (http://www.squishycutedesigns.com/ladder-stitch/) Just make sure your inside sleeve is not twisted before you sew it, otherwise your cuff will look twisted when you wear it. I made that mistake, and had to redo one of my cuffs to make it look nicer.

Ok, I hope that explaination was a little helpful. I know it is kind of confusing because I combined different sources, and didn't use a real pattern, but instead cut a pattern based on one of my existing hoodies. Hopefully you could follow it well enough though. If you have any questions, I am responsive via email!

Thanks, and good luck!

Trip to the LA Fashion District

I had been wanting to check out the LA Fashion District since I moved to southern California two weeks ago. I had the opportunity this past weekend, when my husband and I were going to the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA). I had gotten us tickets to see the Rain Room, which had been sold out for some time. Before we headed to the LACMA, we made a stop at the Fashion District to check out some fabric.

My first stop was the FIDM Scholarship store. I had heard about the place from some other blogs online. It was a super cool store, and the fabric is a great deal. Solids are only $1.00 per yard, and prints are only $2.00 per yard. They do have some specialty fabric for $5.00 per yard, but I didn't really look at any of those.

The FIDM Scholarship store had a lot of other stuff, not just fabric. They had denim bottoms (jeans and shorts) for only $5.00, and lots of clothing for really cheap. They also had a wall of special occasion gowns for $25 -$50, and a wall of wedding dresses for less than $300, some as low as $50!.

The FIDM Scholarship store. 

The FIDM Scholarship store. 

I bought $24 worth of fabric. I'm really into stripes these days. 

I bought $24 worth of fabric. I'm really into stripes these days. 

This is part of the fabric wall. It was super fun to just look around and touch all the fabrics! 

This is part of the fabric wall. It was super fun to just look around and touch all the fabrics! 

My next stop was the Michael Levine Loft, which I had also read about prior to coming to the Fashion District. We didn't have time, so I skipped the main store and went straight to the Loft. Here, they sell fabric for $3.00 per POUND. That would be a huge deal if you bought silks or lightweight fabric. I bought mostly knit, which is heavier. I walked out with a little less than 7 lbs of fabric, but I forgot to take a picture of it. It was a great deal for about $21.00. The fabric is mostly in big bins, which is kind of fun to scrounge around in, but it's not organized in any way, so it feels kind of like a treasure hunt. So you'll have to like that sort of thing. I personally thought it was lots of fun, but I wasn't trying to find anything in particular.

Rummaging in the boxes at Michael Levine Loft, so much fun!

Rummaging in the boxes at Michael Levine Loft, so much fun!

After my trip to the FIDM scholarship store and the Michael Levine Loft, we headed to the LACMA. It was our first time there. We went to the Rain Room, which was very cool, and walked around a lot of the general exhibits, but there wasn't enough time to see everything. Definitely worth a second trip!

I think it would be fun to go back to the Fashion District and walk around the streets and look at the other shops. The sidewalks are filled with shops showcasing their fabric, and I really didn't get a chance to experienc it all.

Fabric on the sidewalks everywhere!

Fabric on the sidewalks everywhere!

I didn't really get to see everything the Fashion District has to offer. Must go back later! 

I didn't really get to see everything the Fashion District has to offer. Must go back later! 

Thank you for reading! I will update next time I go to the LA Fashion District!

My First Sewing Projects

Hi
I'm in california now, and I have vacation for a little while before intern year starts. I stay home during the day, and I've been working on learning how to sew. I wanted to share some pictures of the sewing projects that I've completed over the past week!

I started with some more strawberry bags. I followed the tutorial from http://www.ikatbag.com/2010/04/strawberry-bag.html

Made two of these strawberry bags

Made two of these strawberry bags

Bag stuffed into the strawberry corner. I have to get a drawstring to close it up properly.  

Bag stuffed into the strawberry corner. I have to get a drawstring to close it up properly.  

Closeup of the strawberry corner

Closeup of the strawberry corner

I got fancy and used a twin needle for the first time! I think it looks interesting, with the double stitch and zig zag on the inside. 

I got fancy and used a twin needle for the first time! I think it looks interesting, with the double stitch and zig zag on the inside. 

And I made a pillowcase with a pocket for my sleeping mask. I like the textured fabric, but it was hard for my sewing machine to work with.

Pillow with sleeping mask pocket! I love the textured knit fabric I used, but it was kind of difficult for me to get it to sew properly. I'm going to save the rest of the fabric for another project once I'm a little better. 

Pillow with sleeping mask pocket! I love the textured knit fabric I used, but it was kind of difficult for me to get it to sew properly. I'm going to save the rest of the fabric for another project once I'm a little better. 

Close up of the textured fabric. The other picture is more accurate in terms of color, it looks too washed out in this pic. 

Close up of the textured fabric. The other picture is more accurate in terms of color, it looks too washed out in this pic. 

Then I got real fancy and started making skirts! This is a reversible skirt with foldover waistband and an inseam pocket at the waistband on each reversible side, so total of 2 pockets. One side has a striped pattern and the other side is floral. The material is a cotton jersey knit.

Black, red, and white striped side of the skirt with contrasting floral waistband

Black, red, and white striped side of the skirt with contrasting floral waistband

Floral side of the skirt with contrasting waistband

Floral side of the skirt with contrasting waistband

Showing off my inseam pocket! Pockets in this skirt were sewn into the waistband seam

Showing off my inseam pocket! Pockets in this skirt were sewn into the waistband seam

Showing off my pocket again! I love making pockets :-) All skirts should have pockets!

Showing off my pocket again! I love making pockets :-) All skirts should have pockets!

This is my second reversible skirt, also cotton jersey knit fabric. I left the hem open, so it looks like a 2 tiered skirt on the gray side. I repeated the foldover waistband in this skirt. I added two inseam pockets on both of the reversible sides, and put the pockets on the sides of the skirt instead of at the waistband, so 4 pockets total.

My second reversible skirt with pockets! Gray with confetti on one side, black floral on the reverse side. If you wear it a certain way, it looks like a 2 tiered skirt! I think it's a cool effect that wasn't exactly intentional, but I like it better this way. 

My second reversible skirt with pockets! Gray with confetti on one side, black floral on the reverse side. If you wear it a certain way, it looks like a 2 tiered skirt! I think it's a cool effect that wasn't exactly intentional, but I like it better this way. 

Showing off the pockets. This time I had two inseam pockets on the sides of the skirt instead of the waistband seam. 

Showing off the pockets. This time I had two inseam pockets on the sides of the skirt instead of the waistband seam. 

Showing second pocket. I couldn't get a pic of both hands in the pockets since I was taking selfies with my phone. 

Showing second pocket. I couldn't get a pic of both hands in the pockets since I was taking selfies with my phone. 

Black floral side with contrasting waistband. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but there are subtle flowers outlined in gray on the black side. 

Black floral side with contrasting waistband. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but there are subtle flowers outlined in gray on the black side. 

Showing off the pockets, one on each side. The lining is contrasting gray. 

Showing off the pockets, one on each side. The lining is contrasting gray. 

This is my first pajama pant. I used a soft fleecy fabric and used an existing pajama pant as a template. I used extra material from my gray skirt for the waistband, since it was stretchy, so I did not need to use an elastic for the waistband. This also has 2 inseam pockets.

My first pajama pant! So soft and so comfy

My first pajama pant! So soft and so comfy

Showing off the pockets, I love pockets! The waistband is the same gray confetti that I used for my skirt. My husband keeps thinking that I'm wearing a skirt under my pajamas! 

Showing off the pockets, I love pockets! The waistband is the same gray confetti that I used for my skirt. My husband keeps thinking that I'm wearing a skirt under my pajamas! 

Another view 

Another view 

I also made Milo some clothes! He has a red sequin shirt and a black and red striped shirt (same material as my skirt, so we can be matchy matchy!). These shirts use velcro closure. I'm going to make him a tiger shirt next, haha.

Milo in his red, black, and white thundershirt! Its the same material as my first skirt. I need to get a picture of us together all matchy matchy! 

Milo in his red, black, and white thundershirt! Its the same material as my first skirt. I need to get a picture of us together all matchy matchy! 

My husband says Milo looks like he's an Olympic athlete from Yemen and he's wearing his country's flag during the medal ceremony. I call this Milo's Yemen shirt. 

My husband says Milo looks like he's an Olympic athlete from Yemen and he's wearing his country's flag during the medal ceremony. I call this Milo's Yemen shirt. 

Closeup showing what I did for the velcro closure. I just used a zig zag stitch all around. The Yemen shirt is lined with the gray confetti fabric on the interior. 

Closeup showing what I did for the velcro closure. I just used a zig zag stitch all around. The Yemen shirt is lined with the gray confetti fabric on the interior. 

Milo's red sequin shirt! He looks Fabulous! 

Milo's red sequin shirt! He looks Fabulous! 

My husband hates it when I have Milo wear this shirt, haha. 

My husband hates it when I have Milo wear this shirt, haha. 

Hope you like these projects! It was a lot of fun!

Faceting Gemstones

FACETING PROCESS

This section describes how a stone becomes a faceted gem. Here is a piece of rough sphalerite that we will follow step by step trough the complete faceting process. The size is some 4 x 3 cm and the weight is some 250 ct. It is almost clear but has very small cleavage fissures, some inclusions and slight color zoning. We will cut "Bright Angel" design shown in designs section.

Rough sphalerite

1. Dopping

Dopping is the placing of the stone on a cutting stick known as a dop stick (a brass cylinder that will be mounted in the faceting machine).  The dop axis will be the center of the future stone, so it is very important to centre the piece of rough very well. To fix the stone on the dop we use green wax and cyanocrylate ("Super glue"). The wax on the dop is heated using an alcohol lamp to make it softer, small drop of cyanocrylate is located above the wax and the stone is slightly pushed to the wax. Soft wax acts as a cast and the glue as a junction between the stone and the dop. Now we are ready to fix the dop in the faceting machine and start faceting.

Dopping

2. Pavilion preform

We start faceting the pavilion of the stone. Coarse grit discs are used to make a preform. It is in this step where a rough piece loses a lot of weight and gets a form and size similar to the future stone. Once this is accomplished, we measure the width of the stone so we can know quite exactly the weight of the future gem.

Preform cutting
Preform cutting

3. Faceting pavilion

Following the sequence marked by the faceting design diagram and using the fine grit discs all the facets are made. Frequently, some new little fractures show up during this step, which were invisible previously trough coarse surface of the preform. In these cases, you must decide to reduce the size of the stone to avoid them, or to proceed with the original size of the perform.

Coarse grit
Coarse grit

Polysynthetic twinning can be frequently seen in sphalerites at this stage, but it will be invisible after polishing. Now that we have pavilion almost finished, we can proceed to polish the facets..

4. Polishing pavilion

With the first facets polished we will be able to take a real look inside the stone. Emotional moment! Now we will really see whether it will be loupe clean, eye-clean or more or less included… Nevertheless, if the stone have some inclusions, it’s quite difficult to know at this point how they will affect its brilliance. Only after we had faceted the crown and take the stone off the dop we can know it.

First only some facets are polished, then more and more, until we have the entire pavilion finished.

Polishing pavilion
Polishing pavilion
Completely polished pavilion

5. Transferring the stone

Now we have to facet the opposite side of the stone, the crown. For this, we will first paste a new dop to the pavilion using special transferring accessory to fix it totally coaxial to the first dop and to the stone.

Then we just heat the first dop to remove it, and the stone is ready for its crown to be faceted.

Transfering
Cutting crown

6. Faceting the crown

We make the same steps in the crown, including quickly removal of material with coarse grit discs, faceting and polishing, until we have the entire crown made, except the table.

Cutting crown
Polishing crown
Crown completed

7. Making the table

For this step, special table dop is used that allow fixing the stone exactly perpendicular to its vertical axis. In this position we make the table and then polish it.

Making table

The stone is ready now, we just have to remove it from the dop and clean it.

Finished on the dop

8. Final step

We heat the dop and the wax to remove the stone and then use acetone to dissolve the remaining wax and cyanocrylate. Finally, we can enjoy its beauty!

Finished faceted sphalerite

Weight 63+ ct, slightly included, fantastic brilliance and nice orange color.

http://gem-sphalerite.com/faceting-process

How to Make a Bead

How to Make a Bead

In this post, I will introduce a very basic method of making a simple round or donut shaped glass bead. A nicely shaped round bead is the very first technique a beginner lampworker needs to learn. It may look simple, but it is deceptively so. You will need to learn to control glass in and out of the flame to make it nice and donut round.

Safety and Disclaimer

Lampworking is dangerous! It involves manipulating very hot glass with an open flame. There are very real risks of fire. Please refer to my "Lampworking Safety" post for safety precautions and details. You resume all responsibility for your own safety! Do not lampwork without understanding all of the risks.

How to Make a Bead

Here's a step-by-step guide to a very simple round bead with no embellishments or patterns:

Preparations: Coat your mandrels with bead release the night before. I dip my mandrels so that about 4-5 inches on the end is coated. Some people like dipping mandrels in the middle so you can hold it with both hands. It is personal preference.

The bead release that I use is Fusion Bead Release. It is very very strong. I've never had a bead break the bead release while I am working on it, even when using bead presses and molds. It's even a little too strong, since it requires some force to get the beads off the mandrel after annealing.

Some bead releases are flame dry, so you can dip them and dry them in the torch flame as you need them. I always air dry mine, so I dip mandrels the night before.

It is a good idea to invest in good bead release from the start. It's a cheap thing, and will save you from lots of frustration. I previously had a cheapo bead release that came with my hothead kit, and I was constantly frustrated from beads breaking the release off the mandrel when I did so much as poke a plunged dot! I'd end up with a half made bead spinning on the mandrel, dangerously close to sliding down to my hand! Just get good bead release - you'll thank me!

Turn on torch. If you have a hothead, turn on your fuel and light the flame. If you run on propane/oxygen, remember POOP!

Assemble all of your glass and tools, and put them in an easily accessible location on your bench. You don't have a lot of time to be searching for tools when you have a hot bead on a mandrel in one hand, so it's best to have everything organized and ready to go before you start.

Step 1: Heat the glass rod. To do this safely, you have to move the rod in and out of the flame so it heats slowly. Also twirl the rod so gravity plays on it equally, never letting the end droop too far.

If you stick the rod in the flame too quickly, the glass rod is prone to shatter. Tip: start heating the glass rod by putting it in the very top of your flame where the fire is coolest. Then slowly bring the rod closer to the widest part of the flame. I usually work in the flame area about 3-4 inches from the torch. You should see the glass rod start to ball up as it melts. Don't let it get so hot that it melts.

Step 2:As the glass gets hot, start heating the coated mandrel as well. It should heat to an orange glow.

I am right handed, so at this point I usually have the glass rod in my right hand, and the coated mandrel in my left hand. Head up the bead release on the mandrel until it glows. This will allow glass to stick to the bead release. If your mandrel is not hot enough, your glass will not catch. Just heat it up a little more.

Step 3: As the glass becomes molten, start winding it around the heated mandrel. The glass and the mandrel should be in the flame as you do this.

I still have the glass in my right hand, mandrel in my left. I usually wind the glass a few times completely, until I get a size that I want.

Step 4: When the bead is the size you want, start pulling the glass rod away from the mandrel, continuing to rotate the mandrel the whole time. The glass will get thinner and thinner, and eventually break, a technique known as flame-cutting.

Rotate the bead on the mandrel around, and let gravity shape it. I rely on gravity to shape my beads quite a lot. I believe that you should never start using tools until you can consistently make good symmetrical beads using only fire and gravity.

Heat the bead in the flame to get it soft and movable, but not dripping! Take the bead out of the flame and rotate it along the axis of the mandrel, allowing gravity to shape it as it cools. Reintroduce the bead to the flame and repeat this step until the bead is nice and round. It is important to shape the bead outside of the flame when you are a beginner, until you learn flame characteristics. It is too easy for a beginner to heat their bead too hot, and have it drip off the mandrel into the bench. However, you must also be aware not to keep it outside the flame for too long, since if the bead gets too cold, it will crack! You want to keep the bead at the "just right" temperature.

Step 5: Take the bead out of the center of the flame to its cooler edge. Continue rotating the glass. This process is called flame annealing -- it makes sure the glass' temperature doesn't drop too quickly, which can cause it to break.

There is some controversy over whether "flame annealing" is really "annealing". It is definitely not good enough to "flame anneal" your beads without going into a real annealing cycle in the kiln. But it is better than nothing, especially if a beginner does not own a kiln.

That said, I will still typically flash my beads in the flame just before I put them in the kiln to garage. Just don't think that "flame annealing" will get you off the hook for buying a real kiln. It won't. A percentage of your beads will still crack if not properly kiln annealed. For further discussion on the science of annealing, see my "Science of Glass" post.

Step 6: Further anneal the beads using either vermiculite or fiber blankets, and then eventually a kiln.

I sound like a broken record but - kiln anneal if you can, fiber blanket or vermiculite if you don't have a kiln. To anneal the beads, you just put the bead (still on the mandrel) into a kiln. Usually you leave one end of the mandrel poking out so you can still move the bead around to make room for other beads if necessary. Run your annealing protocol (see my recommended protocols here), then wait several hours for your beads to anneal and the temperature to be brought back down to room temp.

Step 7: Once the beads are at room temperature, soak them in a bowl of water that is also at room temperature. Then you can more easily remove the bead from the mandrel.

This step is optional, but soaking the bead release in water helps in easing the beads off of the mandrel, especially if you are using extra strong bead release like Fusion Bead Release. If you have any persistently stuck beads, I have found that using a simple riveter works really well to remove beads stuck on mandrels. I recommend this one.

Step 8: Use a bead hole reamer to clean out the hole.

Once you have removed the bead from the mandrel, you will still have some leftover bead release inside the hole of the bead. You want to clean this out before you use it for any jewelry purposes. You can buy a bead reamer to remove the bead release manually. However, I have found it is faster to use a long diamond coated reamer as a dremel insert. You can use the dremel to clean out beads much faster than doing it one by one by hand.

And voila! You have a bead! I hope this short tutorial is helpful for beginners interested in getting into lampworking! If you have any questions or comments, please reply in the comments section below! Thanks

Lampworking Ventilation Guide

I hope you have read my "Lampworking Safety" post. Here I am going to go into more detail on proper ventilation for your lampworking studio. Ventilation is a very complicated, but VERY important safety issue that most people do not spend enough time thinking about.

#Ventilation

This is an often overlooked topic. Ventilation is very, very important for lampworking! The fuel used to supply the torch flame (usually propane) does not combust completely, and so propane gas fumes may linger in the torch area unless the area is adequately ventilated. The flame also produces by-products of combustion including carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide. These must be actively removed, otherwise prolonged exposure will cause respiratory and irritant problems.

Additionally, the process of heating up glass releases metal fumes in the air. If you have ready my "Science of Glass" article, then you know that the colors of glass are due to transition metal impurities in the glass. When heated to molten hot temperatures, the metals are also fumed and released into the air. Heavy metal poisoning is a severe health danger associated with glassworking. Any other products that you use in your glass, including enamel or leaded frit, will also add to the ventilation problems.

The most dangerous products include NO2 nitrous oxide and CO carbon monoxide. NO2 is a severe respiratory irritant, while CO is highly toxic. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that displaces oxygen in your red blood cells' hemoglobin. Carbon monoxide poisoning is serious, which is why having a carbon monoxide detector in your lampworking space is critical.

To adequately ventilate your lampworking space, you must

  1. actively remove the fumes generated at the torch and also
  2. replace the air removed with clean air.

##To do this, you will need:

  • A Fan - I have a hydroponic in line Max Fan. My fan is a 10 in inline fan, which is a little bit overkill. You can probably do with a smaller 6in or 8in inline fan. The smaller size is probably better actually because it was very difficult to find large diameter ducting, and I had to special order it. Six to eight inch diameter ducting should be available at a local home improvement store.

Edit: I have had a lot of people ask me about Fan recommendations. Here is a 10 inch inline fan similar to the one I have. I think the Can Fans and the Max Fans are very good. Alternatively, here is an 8 inch inline fan that is highly recommended. I would also get a rheostat of your choice.

If you want something a little bit smaller, here is a 6 inch inline fan. For this setup, I would also get a rheostat and some clamps.

They also make 12 inch and 14 inch inline fans, but honestly I think unless you are using this for a large teaching studio setup, this would be overkill. I think a 10 inch fan is plenty for individual use.

  • Ducting - You need to buy ducting the same diameter as your fan. I special ordered rigid 10in ducting. I choose rigid ducting rather than the collapsible flex ducting because flex ducting introduces more turbulence to the airflow in the duct, making it much louder. Rigid ducting greatly reduces the noise from excessive air velocity through the ducts, and is far superior than flex duct. If you go with rigid duct, make sure you buy elbow ducting as well for all of the corners you may have to traverse.

  • A silencer - I use a rheostat to control the speed of my fan. My fan has only an On/Off, and you cannot adjust the speed of the fan to somewhere in between OFF and MAX. This is where my rheostat comes in. A rheostat is an adjustable resistor. It can control the amount of voltage going to an electronic device, like the fan, thereby adjusting the speed that the fan moves at. You can have infinite control with a rheostat, so instead of having just a Low/Med/High preset speeds, you can adjust to any speed from OFF to MAX. I needed the rheostat because my fan on the Max setting was much too powerful and too loud. (It would even propel itself off of its surface if not anchored down!) I now use the 10in inline fan at about 50% speed, and it is SO QUIET!

  • A way to contain fumes - Some people use a boot register or reducer in front of their torch to catch the fumes. Some people use a kitchen hood type of extractor. I personally have a custom built fully enclosed hood that is closed on 5 sides, with only the front open. The hood is similar in design to biological fume hoods used in laboratories for sterile culture. Because my 10 inch Max Fan is so powerful, I am able to construct a hood that covers my entire lampworking desk. You should calculate how much volume (in cubic feet) you will be able to extract with your setup (fan speed and ducting diameter and length). I like my setup, it allows me to have all of my tools on hand on my desk with no physical barriers, while working in a fully ventilated system.

  • An exit - Your ducting must directly to the outside to remove fumes and combustion by-products. I have my ducting exiting out a window in my room. I also had a window box built to disguise the ducting coming out of the window, since it is pretty industrial looking.

  • A return - Now that you have removed the "bad air," you will have to allow fresh good air to replace it in your work space. My setup is not perfect for this, since I have to work in a room attached to the main house (not recommended for fire safety purposes). I also have to work with the door closed to prevent cats from entering (cats plus flame plus glass beads do not mix!). Also, my room only has one window, which I have used for the exit ducting. Ideally, you will want fresh air coming from a second window (ideally on a different wall or area of the room as the exit ducting). As it stands now, I have my return air coming from under the two doors to the lampworking studio. The studio is under noticeable negative pressure as I work with the ventilation system on, so I know my return air is not sufficient to replace all the air exiting. So when you setup your lampworking studio, make sure you consider a good source of return air. An easy solution would be if you could work with an open window or open door behind you.

Conclusion

I hope this lampworking ventilation primer makes sense. My system might not be perfect, but it works very well for me, and seems very effective. You can use this as an example of what kind of ventilation works, but because each person's lampworking studio is different (size of available space, location of windows and doors, number of windows and doors, etc), each person's ventilation system will have to take into account all of those parameters. I advise you to seek professional advice before setting up a system. But if you have any general questions, I will be happy to answer if I can. Please comment below!

Lampworking Tools

Lampworking Tools

Close up of the shaping tools I keep in my lampworking hood. Yes, I use lots of pokers and mashers! (Note my beautiful patchwork wood desk!)

Close up of the shaping tools I keep in my lampworking hood. Yes, I use lots of pokers and mashers! (Note my beautiful patchwork wood desk!)

The most basic tools necessary to make a glass bead are glass and a flame source. But because glass must be kept molten hot to manipulate it, we need special tools that can withstand the heat of the flame in order to shape and form glass as desired.

Often, tools are made of metal or graphite, since both of these materials can withstand the high temperatures in a torch flame. Graphite is unique because it does not stick to molten glass, so many marvers and pokers are made of graphite. Steel, tungsten, and brass are commonly used metals.

Required Tools

  • Torch/Bench burner - this is a fixed torch that creates the flame. Torches can be fueled by MAPP gas, or a mixture of propane and oxygen. (rarely, natural gas and oxygen is also used). I work on a GTT Lynx, but I previously started on a Hothead. I encourage beginners to start on a Hothead to make sure they like lampworking before diving into the more expensive options.

  • Fuel - the easiest fuel source is to get a Hothead torch that can run on small cans of MAPP gas or propane gas (buy this at Home depot or equivalent store); a hotter fuel source is propane/oxygen. I have a small BBQ tank of propane that lasts for several months of beading. Oxygen is used more rapidly, and rather than deal with the hassle of having large unwieldy oxygen tanks in my studio, I choose to purchase an oxygen concentrator which can purify oxygen directly from room air. An oxygen concentrator is a few hundred dollar cost, but will save money in the long run if you intend to bead for years to come.

  • Mandrels - basically a long metal rod that forms the "hole" of the bead. Glass is wound completely around the rod, and when the rod is removed after the bead is annealed, a hole going completely through the glass remains. Mandrels are also important so you can hold onto the bead without getting your hands too close to the flame.

  • Bead release - a clay like coating on the mandrel applied prior to winding glass around it. Bead release aids in removal of glass off of the metal mandrel. Without bead release (or with a crappy bead release) you end up with glass permanently stuck to the metal rod.

  • Glass - lampwork glass is usually sold in rods about 8mm in diameter. (Fusing glass that comes in flat sheets can also be used if you cut them into strips, but be careful of sharp edges!) Rods are just easier to manipulate and use for small scale lampworking.

    I recommend Effetre glass (COE 104) for beginners since it is relatively economical and comes in a wide variety of colors.

I do not recommend using bottle glass or window glass or any other "found glass" if you are just beginning. They tend to be "shocky," meaning they are prone to thermal shock when glass is first introduced into the flame, and are generally difficult to use. But found glass can be an interesting and fun to experiment with as you gain experience. However, you cannot mix glass from different bottles, even from the same manufacturer as different lots may have different COEs.

  • Fiber blanket, Vermiculite, Annealing Bubbles, or Kiln - Kilns are expensive (mine cost $745), but they are the best option. For those starting out, you can use a low cost alternative (fiber blanket or annealing bubbles). These are all methods to slow cool your glass beads back to room temperature. Kilns are the best because they slow cool the slowest and are infinitely programmable.

Kilns are used to anneal your glass pieces after they are produced. This means that a kiln will ramp the glass back to room temperature slowly to avoid thermal shock. The annealing process is required to relieve thermal stress and make glass more stable. Any glass you intend to sell or give to others should be kiln annealed to avoid eventual breakage.

Optional Tools

  • Kiln - I would consider a kiln to be practically required, unless you are a very new beginner, just testing the waters. If you find yourself getting frustrated losing your beautiful beads to thermal shock as I was, consider saving up for a good kiln.

  • Marver - A marver is a basically a flat piece of usually graphite material that you can use to shape your beads on. The marver draws heat out of the bead, so this can create interesting effects on special glass that have striking properties (change colors on heating and cooling). There are two basic types of marvers - a torch mounted marver that is fixed on top of your torch (this is nice to have to keep some smaller glass pieces like murrini warm) and a hand held marver, usually a block of graphite on a handle, useful for manipulating glass by hand.

  • Picks - usually either straight or with a 90 degree bend at the tip. These are useful in raking glass, poking bubbles into glass, or otherwise fine manipulations of molten glass. Do not use your tools directly in the flame, this will damage them over time.

  • Tweezers - useful for picking up small pieces of glass, removing amounts of glass from a hot bead, applying murrini or metal foil, etc.

  • Shapers, molds, and presses - These are all tools that will help you shape your glass to the desired form. You can purchase them in many shapes and sizes. They are nice if you have to make a set of consistently sized beads (for a bracelet or necklace set for example). However, do not rely too much on shapers and molds. In my opinion, you should be able to consistently make nice donut round beads without the help of any tools before you take the step to buy manufactured shapers.

  • Frit trays, glass shears, hot fingers, marble molds, bead reamers, bead coring machines...

    There are an endless amount of additional tools you can buy for your lampworking hobby! Please take the time to really learn the skills with the minimal amount of tools first before delving into everything else.

I have two magnetic strips installed on the side of my hood for holding even more tools! Tweezers and pokers are a necessity! There are lots of tools that I've re-purposed for lampwork use (pink nail file, painting spatula, dental tools, etc)

I have two magnetic strips installed on the side of my hood for holding even more tools! Tweezers and pokers are a necessity! There are lots of tools that I've re-purposed for lampwork use (pink nail file, painting spatula, dental tools, etc)

I hope you found this review of Lampworking Tools helpful. What tools have you found to be indispensable in your lampworking routines? Any tools you think I should add to the required and optional lists? Please feel free to comment!

What is Lampworking?

What is Lampworking?

Lampworking is:

  • an art
  • a form of glassworking
  • beautiful
  • a lot of Fun!
  • an expensive hobby
  • the process of using a flame torch to melt and mold glass

Lampworking is a process used in the forming of glass, typically smaller glass objects like beads, marbles, small sculptures, laboratory glassware, etc (usually less than 1-2 inches in diameter). You may be familiar with glassblowing, another glassforming technique that involves molten glass on a much larger scale (vases, vessels, plates, large sculptures).

Whereas glassblowing uses a very hot furnace (a glory hole) to heat the glass to white hot (around 2,400 F or 1320 C), lampworking uses a smaller torch to melt glass.

Brief History

Lampworking has started as early as the Egyptians over 5000 years ago. Many Egyptian decorative beads made in that era survive today, a testament to how durable and strong glass actually is! These original beads are thought to have been made in cone-shaped furnaces instead of the modern torch.

Lampworking became very popular in Murano, Italy in the 14th century. In the early days, glass was melted using the flame of an oil lamp (which is why it is called "lampworking"). They would blow air or use a bellows to direct flame from an oil lamp to heat pieces of glass. Lampworking in Italy was considered a very close guarded secret for about 400 years.

Eventually American artists began learning lampworking techniques, experimenting, and developing new styles. Today, most people use torches that burn propane and oxygen or portable MAPP gass.

Types of Glass

Soda-lime glass

  • the most common type of glass used in lampworking
  • "soft glass" because it melts at a lower temperature than boro
  • more brittle and prone to thermal shock than boro
  • has a much broader range of color than boro
  • can find unique colors including silver glass, metallics, opalinos, organics, webbing, etc
  • COE ~104

Borosilicate glass

  • "hard glass" because it requires higher temperatures (hotter, more expensive torches required) to melt than soft glass
  • more thermal stable, less resistant to thermal shock, less prone to cracking when cooled (therefore more forgiving to work with)
  • however, has a narrower working temperature
  • colors are more limited in range, but this is constantly expanding over time as boro gains popularity
  • some boro glass have very unique color properties not seen in soft glass (eg oxidizing or reducing glass)
  • more expensive than soft glass
  • COE ~33

(Other types of glass include Bullseye COE ~90, Spectrum COE ~96, Czech glass COE variable)

Beads, Marbles, Sculptures, and more...

When I say "lampworking," I usually refer to the process of making lampworked beads. However, lampworking is a versatile technique that can be used to make a variety of glass objects. Popular products include:

  • Glass beads for jewelry
  • Glass Marbles
  • Small glass sculptures and figurines
  • Hollow glass beads for storing small amounts of cremains, flower petals, dandelion seeds, small seed beads, sand, small shells, etc
  • Glass vessels with stopper, able to hold small amounts of liquid like perfume, holy water, etc

There are also a very large number of styles and techniques to be mastered in the art of lampworking. Examples of different techniques include:

  • Stringer application - for horizontal and vertical lines, scrollwork, surface decoration
  • Dots, plunged dots - for surface decoration, making flower petals, internal trapped bubbles
  • Raking - using a tool to manipulate and move surface glass
  • Encasing - covering a bead entirely in a layer of clear glass
  • Implosions - 3d flower, explosion, or vortex look inside clear glass, popular in marbles

Lampworking is a complex art, and one piece often requires mastery of many sets of skills.

Size Limitations

You can make many different types of glass objects using lampworking, but you are limited by size. Buying a larger and hotter torch can allow you to make larger glass objects, but there is an upper limit. You will never be able to make things as large as glass blowers with a furnace glory hole are able to (bowls, vases, paperweights, large sculptures).

On a Hothead torch, the maximum thickness is about 1 inch in diameter, assuming you have a digital kiln. Anything that big will need to be kiln annealed. A 1 inch marble is guaranteed to crack if cooled in a fiber blanket or vermiculite. Glass objects will be increasingly harder to melt on a Hothead as you approach the size limit. The hothead simply does not have enough heat to heat the glass completely through when it gets larger than about 1 inch diameter.

If you are interested in working larger, you must invest in a larger, hotter, and more expensive torch. You will also need to upgrade your fuel system to a propane and oxygen source. This comes with its own set of expenses (propane tank, fuel, propane regulator, fuel lines, check valves, flashback arrestors; oxygen tank and oxygen service if you want tanked oxygen, oxygen concentrator for an alternative, oxygen regulator, etc).

On this setup, you will be able to make glass objects up to about paperweight size <3 data-preserve-html-node="true" inches. I typically do not work so large. But if you decide to make large objects, understand that it will take longer to add glass and heat up to shape, so will require more and more patience the larger you go.

Additionally, larger objects must be carefully heated continuously. The parts of the object not directly in the flame will cool and be at risk of thermal shock if not evenly heated occasionally (insurance heat). For this reason, boro is typically favored for larger marbles and sculptures.

Larger sculptures can be created as long as no part of it exceeds 1-2 inches in diameter. However, legs or any long thin protruding parts are most at risk of thermal cracking and require insurance heating.

Lampworking is a very complex and intricate art, the mastery of which takes years of dedicated practice. However, it is very fun and rewarding, and soon you will have a beautiful collection of fine glass pieces of art!

What do you enjoy about lampworking? What techniques are you most interested in learning? Post links to your glass works of art below, I am interested in seeing everyone's work!

Additional Reading:

For more information on the Tools needed to begin lampworking, please continue on to my post "Lampworking Tools!"

For more information on the actual process of making a bead, please continue on to my post How to Make a Bead!

If you are interested in more chemistry and physics, look at "The Science of Glass!"