Sunday, June 03, 2007

Finger Weaving - New Work & Tips

finger weaving, tassel by Robin Atkins, bead artist Recent Finger Weaving Projects

I feel like I've been on another planet for about a month. Almost all my attention was devoted to the Bead Journal Project. But for one weekend, I took a happy break and went to a bead retreat with some beading buddies! There I worked on (and finished!) some new finger weaving projects.

The reason why the tassel on the right looks a little like a jelly fish, is because the top lampwork bead reminded me of a jelly fish from the moment I saw it. I think the maker, Jenny Friske-Baer (of Portland, OR), intended these beads to be flowers. They'd be lovely that way too.

finger weaving, tassel by Robin Atkins, bead artist, detail
Here's a closer look at the top of the tassel.

I had quite a lot of beads left over from the tassel, so next I used the finger weaving technique to make a multiple strand bracelet. The weaving is used at the ends to make the loop and clasp.

finger weaving, bracelet by Robin Atkins, bead artist
After that, I went to work on a necklace using some beads made by Alicia Kawano Oh, a lovely creator of raku-fired ceramic beads. I met Alicia while teaching in Honolulu years ago. Here's a picture showing the results!

finger weaving, necklace with raku beads, by Robin Atkins, bead artist

You Can Learn Finger Weaving

Finger weaving is actually easy to learn, yet it has endless possibilities for design, depending on the cord and beads used. I've been doing it for about 15 years, and a year ago published a book with step-by-step instructions and design variations.

I also teach this technique, because I know it's always great fun to work directly with a teacher. Although I'm winding down my teaching career, you still have 2 opportunities to learn this fabulous method for making bracelets, necklaces, tassels and straps in a workshop environment. Both are comming right up:

Chicago, IL ~ June 26 and 27
Woven Treasure Necklace ~ two day workshop
North Suburban Needle Arts Guild
contact: Rhonda Newman ~ 847-564-4357

Tacoma, WA ~ July 15
Woven Treasure Bracelet ~ one day workshop
Puget Sound Bead Festival

My Chicago class is very small, so if you can do it, you're guaranteed lots of individual attention. Because it's a 2-day workshop, you'll learn many advanced techniques.

The Puget Sound Bead Festival in Tacoma is a fabulous event with great classes and great vendors. Smaller and more personal that the Bead & Button Show, it offers many perks for students. My finger weaving class there is filling, but still had openings the last I heard.

About Beading Cord for Finger Weaving

For almost all of my finger woven pieces, I use #18 bonded nylon cord, although linen and other materials are OK too. A person who has my book, Beaded Treasures, wrote to me recently to ask about C-Lon. Here's what I've learned so far.

cord used for finger weaving, macrame and bead stringing
There seem to be a good many put-ups for #18 nylon cord! (See picture above.) Sold in bead shops for macrame, this cord is also good for stringing and for finger weaving.

The spool on the left (A) is manufactured by Mastex and distributed to bead shops under the trade name of BeadSmith. This is what I've been using for finger weaving for 15 years. It's also what I sell on my website (here). Mastex used to put-up their cord on large spools (D), and a few suppliers still have stock of Mastex cord in this form.

I don't know who manufactures the larger of the two purple spools (B). It's slightly heavier than Mastex cord. It works OK and comes in this beautiful, rich purple color, which Mastex doesn't make. So I use (and sell) it too.

The other two spools (C and E) are now being offered by many bead shops. I've seen them referred to as either S-Lon and C-Lon, which is confusing. I don't know who is the actual manufacturer of this cord. Whoever it is also manufactures a much lighter weight cord, used for beadweaving and bead embroidery (similar to Nymo D). If you decide to try this cord for finger weaving, be sure you are getting the heavier weight!

One advantage of these smaller spools (C-Lon or S-Lon) is that they come in many luscious colors, and are sometimes packaged as sets with 3 to 12 colors/set. Because the put-up is smaller than Mastex cord (A and D), it's less expensive and you're not buying more than you need. It is very similar in all other respects to Mastex.

The disadvantage of these smaller spools is that the cord is stiff and holds the curls from being wound on a relatively small diameter spool. This makes it tangle when you're working with it.

cord used for finger weaving, macrame and bead stringing
Tip for Getting Rid of Tangles

Iron the cord! Measure off what you need. Heat up your iron to medium heat. Lay the cord over the ironing board and put the iron down on top of it. Leaving the iron in place, pull the cord slowly, ironing the entire length. It just straightens it right out... no more tangles!


  1. Robin, The picture of the necklace didn't come out, when I signed on and soon I'll have to order some of the purple cord. I want some and have a lovely windfall that fell my way so will order soon. I went to Alica K. Oh site and saw her lovely beads, but didn't get to see her beads in the necklace. Don't you feel like you've gotten you life back with the BJP started and things more back to normal!

  2. I can't remember who pointed me in the direction of your blog but today I am grateful - that beaded tassel is simply stunning! All 3 pieces are actually - I am in awe that you can do all of these in a weekend!

  3. Robin I am so sorry I will be back in Michigan the day of your workshop in Tacoma, so I won't be able to attend...I know how thoroughly organized you are and your students will learn so much!

  4. Wow! That tassel is gorgeous. It does look like a Jelly Fish!

    Thanks so much for the tips on C-Lon. I just recently got into finger weaving, and I love it.

  5. Loved the beauties you showed today. Must have a try at the finer weaving!
    About C-lon. The only place I was able to find it locally was in the upholstery section of a large fabric store. Limited colors, clerks didn't know much about it, and it turned out it wasn't suitable for the intended project.
    I will say this; it's sturdy stuff.

  6. To Mary ~ I don't know what happened to that necklace picture at first... it should be ok now. Yes, thanks, I'm still playing catch up, but it's better (and my husband is happier too).

    To Vicki ~ We started Friday afternoon, and beading is all we did. It was a blast!

    To Allie ~ I'm sorry too... was hoping to see you. Family event in MI?

    To Jewels ~ I didn't see any finger weaving pictures on your blog yet... right? If I missed them, please let me know. Thanks for the compliment.

    To Nancilyn ~ Yes, all of theses varieties of cord are sturdy! I think they put too much sizing (stiffener) in them these days... it makes them almost like wire. But ironing definitely helps, and softens them just a tad as well.

  7. Robin,
    Rene's website is I beleive it is a fairley new site and don't see much compared to what she has at bead shows.


  8. Anonymous3:54 PM

    Hi Robin!
    You don’t know me but I follow your blog quite regularly! When I was visiting today I noticed the bead that you used in your recent finger weaving project. You said that you thought it might be from Ashes to Beauty. I’m not positive but I think it might be mine! I'd love to send you a photo but I didn't know how to include a picture here.

    It looks pretty similar – it was one of those things that when I first saw it on your site my heart skipped a beat – I thought Wow – Robin Atkins used one of my beads in a project! Anyways, if it is mine I’d love to be able to link over to your site to show people what they can do with this type of bead. And if it’s not mine then I’m really embarrassed! LOL!

    Anyways, the Jellyfish piece you did is awesome! And I have been inspired more than once from your blog (especially your writings about working in series) and many times from your book One Bead at a Time. Thank you for that!

    Please take care,
    Jenny Friske-Baer
    Divine Spark Designs

  9. The jellyfish inspired tassle is stunning! I'm always a sucker for tassles and this one is probably the most beautiful one I've seen. I may have to order your book about finger weaving and give it a try.

  10. I really love the bracelet. That came out cool=:)

  11. Robin, yes, it is the annual trip to the old family cottage on Lake Michigan; my once a year visit with my brother...that is the only thing that could keep me away from Tacoma!

  12. To All ~ As you can see, above, the mystery of who made the top bead of the jelly fish tassel is resolved, and I've corrected the post and given links to Jenny's wonderful site, where you can see more beads like the one I used.

    The site mentioned by Bethan is also pretty wonderful, but they sell bronze buttons and charms, not lampwork beads.

    I love the serendipity that happened here... me posting the picture, Jenny reading my blog and seeing her lampwork bead, and now us getting together... all in the space of a day!

  13. Touché! LOL! ;)
    No, I haven't posted any yet, 'cause the ones I did complete mysteriously flew off my table before I could even have a chance to photograph them. But I did score myself a nice spool of dark gray C-lon last week, and I've got some serious plans to use it with black/peacock pearls, and that piece will remain in my personal collection, so I'll be sure to share a photo of that one. ;)

  14. Anonymous3:35 AM

    I don't have your finger weaving book. Although, I'm winding down my beading, I'm tempted to get it. I like the look of this technique a lot.
    Really beautiful jewellery Robin! Why are you winding down on teaching?

  15. Robin every time I come into your blog I sit here for the longest time with my mouth open looking in wonder until a little wow comes out! lol lol lol lol Your beading is WONDERFUL! always so special to see.

    thank you.

  16. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Robin, your fingerweaving is wonderful and I treasure your book.
    Was interested in your discussion of cords. I think the wide stubby spool you label as "D" is Conso #18, not Mastex. After a recommendation from Marla Gassner I tried all three (Conso, Mastex and C-Lon #18) and still prefer Conso as I find it the toughest, though unfortunately it comes in the fewest colours. As Marla says in her classes, Mastex does fray more easily than the others if you use it in anything where it is rubbed or stressed. The new C-Lon, which comes in dozens of colours is a close second for me though it is a tad thinner/lighter than the Conso.

    PS did you know that Conso, though developed for upholstery, caught on because it is excellent for making (a) teddy bears and (b) rigging for model ships? You'll find lots of bear/shipwrights who still will use no other nylon cord.

    -- Bennett

  17. To Bennett ~ Thanks for the interesting information about Conso! Actually, the spool D in the picture is Mastex according the label inside the spool. But yes, I neglected to mention Conso as another manufacturer of #18 bonded nylon cord; their putup is similar to D.

  18. Wow! This "jellyfish" is fantastic!! I adore it, the colour and texture combo is wonderful. So inspiring.

  19. Thanks for talking about the cords. Since I don't have a local bead shop, I order everything through catalogs where you only get limited info. I have your book on my Amazon wish list; unforturately before I saw it I had already spent my money on other stuff. It always seems to go that way but next month or the one after I can order some more and fingerweaving will be one of them. I always like learning a new technique especially one I can teach my grandaughters. Have fun on your trip and hopefully get well and experience something besides the BJP. Too much of a good thing can become just too much.

  20. I'm definitely going to make that strawberry tassel (thanks for the comment on my blog, tho I'm belated w/the thanks!) It's just going to take me a bit to collect the pieces for it, as it's a little here, a little there.

  21. This is incredible! I wonder how you can manage all those beads at the same time!!

  22. I love the tassel, it is just scrumptious!

  23. Thanks a lot for this helful tip.

  24. I really like making crafts and stuff like that. I'd rather wearing stuff made by my own than wearing commercial ones.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!