Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Make Wig Wags

Because people keep asking, and because the internet is full of tutorials on how, I'll add one more. It's not hard. But it's not easy either. Forget everything you know about making twisties... just empty your head about the whole steady business of heating the gather, pulling and twisting at the same time. You will not be pulling and twisting at the same time, and you will be trying to keep the gather hot and the last twist you just made cool enough that it doesn't un-twist on you. You'll see. It's fun though. Wicked fun.

1. Start with a chopstick or short mandrel that you normally use to make twisties or murrini. Make a tube/barrel of your base color. If your base color is too soft, you may want to shore it up by putting a sub-base of a stiffer color under that. However, if you do that, you may end up like me with stretched out, squished beads where the wig wag got too thin and the sub-base becomes visible. Not pretty. At least, mine wasn't. So choose wisely, based on what you think you are going to do with them when you use them.

2. Once you have a good sized tube of glass (what's a good size? I don't know, a nickel to a quarter around maybe? and say an inch long? More if you can handle more? Less if that sounds scary?) at the end of your chopstick, start adding some stringers for stripes - just like you would for making a twisty or murrini. Until you get the hang of it, you may want to just have one color. You can put as many stripes on as you like, make them evenly spaced or unevenly spaced, it just gives your finished wig wag a different personality. As a variation, you can do what I did and role your base in enamels first before you add stripes. It makes a really groovy looking wig wag. But you may discover your finished bead gets all scummy where the enamel was. Again, choose wisely and learn from my mistake, maybe skip the enamel unless you just want a jar of pretty but un-usable wig wags.

3. Heat it up so that the stripes will stick well, then punty up one end to a fat glass rod, and then remove your chopstick and punty up the other end to another fat rod... and then, heat your gather up well and good, melting in your stripes, getting a good even heat throughout, but without distorting it. You want to keep your stripes straight.

4. This is where it gets tricky - and you'll have to figure it out as you go - but the gist of it is this: pull about an inch of your gather out as if you were pulling a twistie, but then stop. Twist it one way two or three times. Stop. Heat your gather again, pull out a little more, twist the other way, stop. Heat, pull out a little more, twist the other way, stop. Heat, pull, twist the other way, stop. You want the twists you just made to cool enough that they don't untwist. You want the gather/blob hot enough that it's ready to pull again, but not too hot that you pull too fast and get too thin. It's a balancing act - heat, pulling, twisting, stopping.

You'll get it. It's not hard. And it's fun, so if you don't get it the first time, you'll want to try again. And again. And then you have to figure out how to use them in your beads in such a way that they look as good as the wig wags themselves look. When you figure that out, let me know, ok?

Here's an example of my wig-wag going transparent on me due to the squishing and mashing and pressing and clear core issues.

Not so hot. Eh, I'll try again.


  1. I don't burn glass but and so amazed at those who do. This is just awesome!

  2. Very nice, Pam! Mine are a little thick, but, at least, I didn't drop them and break them this time!

  3. I guess I'll have to try this. thanks for the tips, Pam
    xoxo Kim

  4. Your wig-wags are looking good, can't wait to try this when I get home, I am having bead-making withdrawal! Jenni

  5. Thank you for sharing your technique. I have seen different techniques which sound all too complicated, but yours appears to be much simpler.