Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Elephant No. 128: Safety-Pin Bracelet

I didn't have much time to make anything today, so I thought I'd try a safety-pin bracelet. I've always been intrigued by them, but didn't really know how they were made, so I wasn't quite sure what I was in for.

I covered the history of safety pins in a previous blog post, but I couldn't find anything on the history of safety-pin bracelets. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that safety-pin bracelets probably originated sometime during the first wave of Punk in the mid-1970s, when the most interesting fashion featured safety pins in some form or other.

Safety pin bracelet with glass beads and beads made of rolled tin cans
created at a women's cooperative in South Africa.
Source: http://www.eco-artware.com/catalog/IW2-safety-pin-bracelet.php

Today, safety-pin bracelets come in all kinds of materials, including beads made of glass, tin and rolled paper; tubes and coils of recycled plastic and rubber; and just about anything else that can be strung on safety pins. In recent years, safety-pin bracelets have become particularly associated with women's cooperatives in southern Africa, providing much-needed income for single-parent families.

Safety pin bracelet made with telephone wire,
computer cable sheath and plastic tubing, created
at a women's cooperative in South Africa.
Source: http://www.eco-artware.com/catalog/IW2-safety-pin-bracelet.php

For today's elephant, I bought this little kit for $1.25. It says it has enough supplies to make one safety-pin bracelet, so I decided that I would take them at their word and limit myself to whatever was in this kit. They undercalculated, but for $1.25, who cares?

The kit contained everything you see below: purple elastic cord, 40 safety pins, a bunch of round glass beads, and an assortment of plastic and acrylic beads. I didn't like most of it, but the only rule I had for this activity was that I was stuck with whatever the kit contained, so I made the best of it.

The instructions were sparse, but it's an easy activity, so not a lot of instruction is needed. The essentials are: put beads onto safety pins in whatever order appeals to you; string them on elastic cord; tie knots in the cord.

Because I could see that my colour choices were limited in the round beads, I decided to make the elephant dark blue and aqua.

I started at the end of the trunk, filling in around it with clear beads. I knew I was going to run out of clear beads fairly quickly, but if I used them carefully, I figured I could just manage to surround a simple elephant head. By the way, I didn't bother to graph this out or anything. With something so simple, I figured drafting would just add time I didn't really have today.

One thing I noticed virtually right away is that the clasp end is a lot bigger than the coil end of the safety pin. Because you have to alternate the way the safety pins lie, this will affect the design. I had to adjust things a little at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was no big deal to make allowances for the size difference between clasp and coil.

I kept feeding the round beads onto safety pins, laying the completed pins beside one another to get an idea of how the elephant head was going to look. The photo below shows the finished elephant section of my bracelet. As you can see by the light green interloper, I was already out of clear beads.

I had now run out of dark blue beads and clear beads. In the round beads, I had a few aqua beads left, lots of light green, and some orange. And the plastic and acrylic stuff on which I wasn't all that keen.

I completed as much as I could around the elephant with the round glass beads, working equally on each side. I figured I could use the plastic and acrylic beads around the back of the bracelet, where they wouldn't really show.

I still had a few glass beads left, but I thought I'd save them to intersperse with the rest. Still working equally on both sides, I used up as many of the remaining beads as I could. When I was finished, what remained was pink and red, which I didn't want to use anyway. 

Now came the stringing part. For this, you need two lengths of elastic cord that, each about twice the circumference of your wrist. The extra length is just to give you room to adjust the size and tie things off.

I started by stringing the top. Two things to remember here:

1. Make sure all the beaded sides of the safety pins are facing outwards.

2. Make sure you alternate coil with clasp as you're stringing.

The stringing part irked the heck out of me. It had nothing to do with any difficulty in the process, but everything to do with the quality of these particular safety pins. Many of the holes in the tops of the clasps were too small, making it impossible to feed the elastic cord through. I could get around that by threading the cord through the main part of the safety pin, then pulling it up into the hole in the clasp. What I couldn't get around, however, was the fact that the hole was still too small to allow the elastic cord to slide freely. This made it really difficult to adjust the spacing of the safety pins, since most of them snagged and caught. If you try this, have a good look at the safety pins before you buy them.

I tested this on my wrist and discovered that it was a bit too spacey, so I added the remaining "bald" safety pins, putting an equal number on each side.

To finish, all you do is tie a double knot in each set of cords.

Clip off the ends of the elastic and you're done. The knots will eventually work their way into the bracelet and become more or less invisible.

I quite like the front of this bracelet, and it wasn't anywhere as difficult or as complicated as I thought it might be before I started. I'll definitely try this again at some point—perhaps with something like rolled paper beads or recycled tin. Three things I'd make sure of next time, however: colourless elastic cord, better safety pins, and a more plentiful supply of beads.

Elephant Lore of the Day
According to a 2006 study, elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror. The only other creatures known to have this level of self-awareness are dolphins, great apes, and humans. 

The study tested three adult female Asian elephants in front of a large mirror. All three sized up their reflections by looking behind the mirror, rubbing their trunks along the length of the mirror, and probing their mouths with their trunks to see if their reflections did the same.

One of the elephants, named Happy, also passed a more advanced text. A white X had been painted on each elephant's cheekbone, visible only in the mirror. Unlike the other two elephants, Happy kept touching her trunk to the white mark on her head. Researchers say that this is strong evidence of mirror self-recognition, since the only way to see the marks is via reflection. 

Although not all researchers agree with the study's findings, most concede that mirror self-recognition is limited to large-brained animals with highly complex social structures. Recognition of self is seen as a means of separating from others, leading to the development of such qualities as empathy and altruism. 

X marks the spot on Happy in a 2006 study.
Photo: Joshua Plotnik, Frans de Waal, and Diana Reiss/PNAS
Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/10/061030-asian-elephants_2.html

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation 
Elephants Without Borders
Save the Elephants

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