Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bead stores in Kuala Lumpur: a review

I've just gotten into making my own jewellery. I spent today walking up and down Petaling Street, Jln Tun HS Lee and Jln Sultan because I did a google search and discovered that there are a few bead wholesalers in that area. I have to say it was a somewhat disappointing experience. Prices are okay but the selection of beads, spacers and links/connectors is dismal.

I went to Zen Chu on Petaling Street, Glister Fashion and Beading DIY on Jln Tun HS Lee, and Macy's on Jln Sultan. There used to be another store, Wan Fatt, but it has now closed down.

Zen Chu had lampwork glass beads, which the other places didn't have. However, it didn't have a wide variety (for silver foil ones, the 12mm flat round beads were only available in one colour, but they had ovals in a variety of colours. No squares, cubes, rounds, or hearts). Most of the lampwork glass beads have inlaid flowers, if you like that sort of thing. They also had cat's eye beads, which the others didn't have. Their selection of charms, spacers, beadcaps and links/connecters is limited (a lot of Pandora beads/charms, though, if you're into that, and sliding charms for flat bracelets).


Lampwork glass beads from Zen Chu

Glister Fashion had shell beads, which the others didn't have, and by this I mean the rhombus type of shell beads, like so:


Image is, obviously, from Pandahall.com

They also had porcelain beads, which again the others didn't have -- although they didn't have very many of those. And they sold chain off spools, more types of chain than the other two places (Zen Chu only seemed to have pre-cut chain, not bought off a spool). Another plus point: they have gold-filled findings if you are looking for those, and CRIMP PLIERS -- I had despaired of finding those in Malaysia! -- and wigjig thingies under the Artistic Wire brand, if you are into working with wire. They have quite a lot of metal beads (spacers, etc.) but I didn't look at those closely because it was the first shop I visited and I didn't think the prices were all that cheap. I planned to go back, but by the time I had finished at Zen Chu (the last shop I visited), it was 6pm and Glister had closed.

Beading DIY mainly focuses on pearls and gemstones. They have all kinds of semi-precious stones. I bought red coral (dyed) beads in three sizes, lapis lazuli beads, black line agate faceted oval beads (15x20mm), hematite oval twist beads (10x15mm), mookaite beads, and a strand each of turquoise, tiger eye, red coral, amethyst, citrine and lapis lazuli chips. Total cost came up to RM195. They had a very limited amount of metal beads and findings.


Some of the loot from Beading DIY

All three had the usual glass crystal bicones, faceted glass rondelles and faceted round glass beads, and both Zen Chu and Glister had faux pearls -- Glister also had real ones. In fact, both Zen Chu and Glister also had a few semi-precious stones, but I didn't look closely at the price. In Glister it was because I didn't actually intend to buy gemstones to begin with (I know you are laughing); in Zen Chu it was because I had already bought so many in Beading DIY!

Macy's only has plastic beads. Even their supposedly wooden beads are labelled "Wood plastic beads". They are the place to go to for seed beads, though. They have seed beads in all the colours and sizes you could want. Unfortunately, most of the packets aren't clearly labelled, so you will have to guess the size by looking at the beads. They have hardly any charms, metal beads or findings.

BUT they have E-6000, an adhesive which many jewellery makers swear by (I discovered this through Google). E-6000 is used to glue cabochons onto (into?) bezels and attach other jewellery parts together which otherwise can't be fastened securely, and it is reknowned to have amazing bonding power -- a stone affixed with E-6000 will never fall out of its setting. At least, that's what a lot of jewellery designers have said; they swear by it.

Problems: In all three places, labelling of the items was very poor. When I started jewellery-making about a month ago, I bought all my stuff online. The very first place I went to was local website beading.my, which sells all the basics and a lot more besides. What I like about beading.my is that everything is clearly labelled. If it's silver-plated, they tell you it's silver-plated. If it's silver-filled, they tell you it's silver-filled. They even tell you whether it's silver-plated brass, silver-plated iron, or silver-plated pewter. They give you all the necessary measurements, including the size of the bead hole. I always know exactly what I'm getting.

In all the above brick-and-mortar shops, nowhere could I find such detailed information about the beads and findings I was looking at. I had no clue what materials they were made of, or what sizes they were. In Zen Chu, the headpins and eyepins were labelled by length but not by gauge. The guy said you have to look at the pricing, and if two packets are the same length but different price, then the more expensive one is a lower gauge (thicker). But I still wouldn't know what the diameter is. This is important, as all you need is for the headpin to be just 0.1mm thicker and it may not be able to go through certain beads because their holes are so small. That has happened to me before. On beading.my I know exactly how thick my headpins are going to be, which helps a lot.

If beading.my is so great, why did I check these stores out? Why not just stick with beading.my? Well, for one thing, it's good to have alternatives :)   And while beading.my does have a variety of metal beads and charms, I feel it is limited in terms of bead caps and spacers. Plus, the variety of glass beads is moderate; for example, Czech glass beads are mainly available only in two shapes: faceted rounds or superduos. Unfaceted Czech rounds are only available in 4mm. "Chinese crystals" (faceted glass) are mainly available only in rondelle, round and tear-drop shapes -- at the time of writing, only four colours are available in 6x4mm ovals. They don't have cat's eye beads or crackle glass beads; neither do they have shell or mother-of-pearl items.

Basically, I want a greater variety of beads, especially different shapes and sizes, to make my jewellery more interesting. I've been poking around on Pandahall.com (based in China) and on that site they offer a huge variety of beads in all kinds of shapes and sizes, made from all kinds of different materials. I ordered a bunch of stuff from them and shipping cost one-quarter of the total amount I paid, but it was worth it. They sell in bulk, so you'll get stuff in huge quantities, but they have "mixed products" lots where they offer the same item in a mix of colours, so although you get 20 strands of, say, 6x4mm faceted rondelles, you get them in maybe 9 colours. It's a great way to build up your stock.

**(Having said that, I ordered hematite from them, and now I have a whole bunch! If you are looking for some hematite, please check out my offer at the bottom of this post.)


This, THIS is why you need beads in different shapes and sizes. Necklace by Teryn Ashley; see her tutorial over at Vintage Romance Style.

Don't get me wrong, I love beading.my and will probably continue to use them as my main supplier of findings, especially for all the basics, plus connectors/links and charms. They deliver very promptly, usually within two days of placing my order and making payment. Convenient and professional -- what more could you ask for?

Overall, I'm quite disappointed by the lack of variety of beads and spacers and bead caps in the stores I visited today. Also, all of them sold only ordinary monofilament thread (similar to nylon fishing line) which I had read is not suitable for beading -- especially bead weaving, and also stringing crystals, which have sharp edges and would easily fray the thread. However, I've read that there's a new type of bonded nylon thread which is better (stronger) than monofilament, and also used for fishing. The recommended brand is Firewire -- I got it from a fishing tackle store in Taman Mayang Jaya in PJ, but you can also get it on beading.my. The fishing store only had it in smoke (dark grey) or moss green, and it was RM45.10 (6lb test, 114m spool). Beading.my offers it in clear for RM35, 50m spool. I guess if you're making things just for fun, it's okay to use monofilament thread, but I'm a believer in using good quality materials. To me, if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing right. Plus, I might eventually want to sell my creations :p  I can't sell things not made with quality materials!

Apart from bonded or fused nylon thread, you can also use beading wire for stringing beads. This is also available on beading.my. Beading wire, so google tells me, consists of strands of wire woven together and covered by nylon, thus ensuring the "thread" is tough and lasting. It's wire but it's very flexible and can still be knotted like a thread. You're recommended to use 19-strand beading wire because 7-strand can be a bit stiff (good for chokers, I hear). Apparently, the more strands it has, the more flexible it will be.

Other stores. I didn't manage to go to K&K Crystal Sdn Bhd, which is located in GM Plaza along Lorong Haji Taib 5 (near Chow Kit), or Syarikat Bunga Reben, either on Jln TAR or or Plaza City One along Jln Munshi Abdullah. Those will have to wait for another day.
 
 
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By the way, if anybody needs hematite, I have 15 strands of oval twists 8x5mm (51pcs/strand) and 10 strands of drops 8x16mm (26pcs/strand). I'll probably never finish it all within my lifetime, so I'll be happy to trade or something. Contact me on gmail - wilfulsunflower.


A picture of the drops and oval twists. I love the twists because it's such an unusual shape, and the drops are awesome for earrings or necklaces.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Never-ending

Here's how it goes: you buy more stuff, then you need to buy more stuff to organise your new stuff.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

R is for relationships

I fail at ABC. I just realised I posted P after Q. *facepalm*

So anyway. Last night I was at a cousin's wedding banquet, and my brother and his wife had been asked to emcee the event. 10 minutes before it was to start, they were going over their script, deciding who was to say what, and an interesting fact emerged: he likes to ad-lib, she likes to stick to the script. You can imagine her chagrin!

Most couples I know do have somewhat opposite traits or personalities, so perhaps it's true that opposites attract. I don't know whether it's a subconscious thing that draws people together, recognising that this person has strengths you don't and therefore would be able to help you out, or if it's just something that happens. My brother and his wife have commonalities (among other things, they're both careful with money and share the same religious beliefs) but they're very different in other ways. She focuses on details, he sees the big picture. She observes the conventions, he gets impatient with them. She's an introvert, he's an extrovert.

I like observing couples interact because people and relationships fascinate me. We all know people whose relationships haven't worked out. You can read a lot of advice, but living it out is different, isn't it? What makes one relationship gel, while another doesn't? How do you build a relationship that not only lasts, but thrives? Is it possible to have a joyful, fulfilling relationship after being married 30 years? Coz you know, my parents aren't showing such a great example of that. They're still together, but they don't seem happy.

It all seems like such a mystery to me. The scary thing is that relationships have no guarantees and I've always been one who likes things to be certain. I want to know that if I put my heart into a guy's hands, he's not going to take it and walk away. But you just don't know, do you? People change, couples grow apart instead of growing together, or sometimes the person you thought you knew wasn't who he seemed to be. In some ways relationships feel like such a gamble. Perhaps that's why I'm still single; I do want to find love, but at the same time I'm afraid...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

P is for play

I play games. Like, you know, computer games. On my iPod Touch, though, not on a computer. But still, they're games.

I've always felt vaguely guilty about that. Like a 36-year-old has no business playing games. Nobody has ever said that to me, it's just me being weird (and weirdly judgemental of myself). I feel like games are frivolous and I should focus on more... err... productive things. Things which are useful and constructive rather than just for play.

The truth is, I most likely got that mindset from my parents, who both have a strong work ethic. Rationally, I don't think there's anything wrong with playing; all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy -- there's a time for everything. But emotions aren't logical, and I can't get past the feeling that I shouldn't be playing. In this sort of thinking, even play is work: you can read a book in your spare time, but it should be an improving book, not a mere trashy novel.


I use games and play as a sort of "time out" from the mad world. Sometimes I do puzzles, occasionally I'm playing word games, but the majority of the time I play mindless games that don't require me to think too hard. Lately I've been playing Reversi, which obviously isn't mindless, but I play it sort of mindlessly, in the sense that I don't have any real strategy: I do put some thought into where to place my next piece, but I don't think too hard about it and often just move intuitively (read: impulsively). My aunt was like, "I don't believe you don't have a strategy! How did you trounce the computer so completely?!"

The answer is: I don't know how I did it, and I don't know how to replicate it, but I'm going to have fun trying!
 
 
 
**I'm so behind on the A to Z challenge that I'm just going to post in order of the alphabet from where I last stopped, and quit worrying about what day it is. Apologies for falling down on it >.<

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for queue

So now I have a whole queue of unwritten A to Z posts. They're unwritten not just on the blog but also in my head, which is another way of saying, "I ain't got nuthin' fer ya." This week just completely did me in and the only reason I managed Tuesday's post was because I had pre-written it the week before. I've been working flat out, sleeping 4 hours a night on average and generally doing a great imitation of a zombie. Braaaaaaains... gimme some braaaaaaains...

I swear teachers must be masochists because we like to generate more work for ourselves. Assigning the students homework means this homework has to be checked or marked later. If they don't do homework, I scold -- okay, I don't scold, I am nice, but I raise my eyebrows and give them The Look™ -- and complain to my fellow teachers: "Can you believe it? Only TWO STUDENTS did the homework today!" when I should really be jumping for joy because I'll have less work to do.

Anyway, on Tuesday I:
  • Taught 2 hours of class
  • Facilitated 1 hour of language lab
  • Finished setting one testpaper
  • Formatted two other testpapers
  • Renamed and uploaded audio recordings of the students' speaking assessments to the database

By the time I'd done all that, it was 7:40pm and I still had to mark the students' homework and prepare the lesson for the next day. Not complaining, but after this week I will bitch-slap anyone who dares to tell me teachers have an easy life!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for MBTI

I am an ISTP.

For those unfamiliar with the MBTI, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, what I just said probably just looks like a jumble of letters to you. ISTP? Do I have a lisp or something?

The MBTI instrument breaks down various aspects of one's personality and gives you an understanding of how you make decisions, gather information from the world around you, interact with people, and order your world. These four different aspects provide quite a comprehensive way of looking at a person and how he or she functions. I've found it extremely helpful in understanding myself better and realising why I am the way I am.

For many, many years, I tried and tried to make myself into a J (judging type). Now, when MBTI uses the word "judging", it doesn't carry the same meaning as it would in layman's terms; it refers to the way you prefer to order your world. The judging types like to have life all planned out. They follow rules and schedules, they love order, they want things to be settled and organised. They don't like surprises and they HATE working last-minute.

My parents are very neat and disciplined people, especially my dad. Oh the Js! They were always trying to instill discipline into me, and of course you have to admit that being organised and neat and disciplined are good things, things to aspire to. So I always wanted to be J and despised myself for not being able to be J; each time I failed as a J, I felt like a mess, the sort of mess that my desk has always been -- a terrible useless human being who couldn't get her act together. What is wrong with you? I don't remember my parents saying this, but I said it to myself all the time. You can't even do such a simple thing like keep your desk neat.

When, in 2010, I realised I was actually a P (perceiving type), the direct opposite of the J -- random, spontaneous, rather messy -- and that I had been fighting against my very nature all along, I was devastated. I wrote this:

    All I feel is grief, grief because I have to accept myself and how can I accept myself as a P when I think I ought to be a J? Yet how can I be a J if I was made a P? And then I realise how screwed up I am because I don't want to be a P, because I still think J is right and P is wrong, and no wonder I always feel wrong... I can't accept that there are good things about being P, I can't accept that P might be acceptable too... in my world there is no space for P.

I didn't realise until that point that I had never liked myself.

The P in me is the impractical dreamer, the artist, the pianist, the poet... all the unimportant things, the things that I had believed needed to be discarded in favour of Getting Things Done, things that wouldn't get me anywhere; things that were a distraction, a waste of time, that didn't really count. And in trying to be J these were all the things that had fallen by the wayside, swept away.

It was a friend who pointed out that we need both Js and Ps:

"Look at the clouds. Clouds are P. Look at the wind. The wind is P. Look at snowflakes. Snowflakes are P. Everywhere you see creativity and beauty, it's P."

I nearly cried.

"Sure, the process is J," my friend added. "The snowflake structure is very J. The water cycle is J. Water freezes into ice at 100ÂșC; that is J. But look at the ice formations -- they are P. So you need both J and P."

It was so hard for me to find beauty in my P, when all my life I had looked at it as a liability, something to be hated and torn out and destroyed -- and if not, then at least pushed away and banished. I still hate the fact that I have a messy desk. But at least I don't think I'm a mess any longer.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for kilograms

I've fallen off the wagon in a big way this week -- with regards to sugar, not alcohol. Cake, ice-cream, chocolates, Pepsi... I swear, they're so gonna be my downfall.

The sweet tooth comes from mum. It is mostly undiscriminating, but I love sodas especially. The other stuff -- I love those too, but I rarely snack (THANK GOD). It's sodas which are the most accessible thing. After all, a body has to drink, right? Right???

Two years ago, I made a concerted effort to cut down on my sugar and carb intake. One way was to limit myself to a single can of soda a week. I'm not militant about it, like I don't set a particular day for my soda and tell myself other days should be soda-free, or make a mark in my diary whenever I do get a soda, or anything like that. Some weeks I will pick up a can, and some weeks I won't at all. The "one a week" decision has more to do with being aware of what I'm consuming than anything else.

Well, this week I've been aware that I'm consuming more than usual. The one problem I have is with impulsiveness: "I feel like having this, so I'll have it". Because sometimes I will feel like having a soda, sometimes I will feel like having a slice of cake, and sometimes I will feel like having chocolate. Not all at the same time, of course (phew), but if you have one of them every other day, it's going to be a problem. Sometimes I try to talk myself out of it, but other times I don't. Sometimes I feel like I deserve a little treat, or I don't want to deprive myself of one of life's little pleasures... amazing, the things you tell yourself to justify bad decisions!

Some researchers say that a can of soda has 10 teaspoonfuls of sugar. Ten! Knowing this makes me feel guilty sometimes when I drink it. And my dear dad told me that if I eat a single M&M, I'd need to walk the length of a soccer field to use up all the calories. Just ONE M&M! Dad said every time I eat something, I should think about how I'm gonna work off the energy later. I told him I can't live like that: I'd never be able to enjoy food again.

So I don't count calories, but I eat half the usual portion of pasta or noodles or rice, generally avoid french fries and potatoes, and drink at most one can of soda a week -- choosing water most other times -- and over the past two years I've lost enough weight that people have been taking notice. Oh, I'm far from svelte and slim, but at least I have a bit of shape back (I know round is a shape, but it is not the shape I wanna be!).

I'm trying not to beat myself up for falling off the wagon this week. I think I have drunk at least 3 cans of soda, eaten a small bar of chocolate and one slice of chocolate cake with icing. Logically, I think my sugar intake will even out, because there are weeks when I go without eating anything unusually sweet (that is, just sticking to my usual meals and water). But I'm having an "I'm feeling fat" moment tonight. Sigh.