Welcome to our new location at the Albany Library and Community Center located at 1249 Marin Avenue in Albany, CA.
On January 16, 2018, our first speaker of the year was Sara Oehler from Soft Flex. Sara has been with the company since 1999 and is currently their Sales and Marketing Manager. In this position, she has worked with both Jamie Hogsett and Kristen Fagan to publish two wonderful books* on how to use Soft Flex. She just moved from Arizona to Albany and lives close to our new location. At Soft Flex, she is in charge of developing classes as well as videos which are held every Wednesday at 1:00 on their Facebook page.
Soft Flex was the brain child of Mike Sherman and Scott Clark…literally in their garage (a familiar development in the SF Bay area!). Mike developed a line of awesome, yet heavy jewelry which featured large stones and elements. The only beading wire available back in the day was “Tiger Tail” which was priced at $3/spool. They received numerous complaints about the wire breaking so set out to develop their own ~ and did ~ and Soft Flex was born.
The heavier .024 was developed first, as that was the weight needed to carry the heavy elements of Mike’s jewelry line. The 30’ was initially strung around two paint cans; but now, with modern production, it is no longer hand spooled. The wire was introduced to and supported by their local bead stores that tried it out successfully.
The rest is history…but that night, we learned things from Sara that most of us never knew. Soft Flex comes in three strengths: .014, .019, and the original .024. It has a stainless steel core of microwires that are non-tarnish. The nylon coating is colored, with the color names and hues based on actual gem stones. It is hypoallergenic and color-matched to Pantone.
- .014 – FINE – is made for seed beads and fresh water pearls. It has 21 strands and a thinner nylon coating. It comes in five colors.
- .019 – MEDIUM – is made for general purposes: glass, mineral, and metal. It has 49 strands and comes in 22 colors. (.019 is more expensive than .024 because the 49 strands are taken through a draw plate to make the wire thinner)
- .024 – HEAVY – is made for those beading elements that might have abrasive cores and for large stones. It also has 49 strands and comes in four colors. It is especially good for use in making bracelets, as they get a lot of wear and tear.
The part of Sara’s presentation that was of real interest was the importance of using their famous colored beading wire. How the color becomes an integral part of the design element and enhances the color of the stones and gems used by the artist. Their special “Trios” are a lot of fun to experiment with, as they come in 10’ spools and are color coordinated. All of the colors are also available in 10’ spools if you want to try your hand at playing with color.
HSN (Home Shopping Network) had a problem with their jewelry breaking. They tested all types of beading and jewelry making products for a year starting in April 1, 2010. Soft Flex won ~ hands down. Now they mandate that all their jewelry is strung on Soft Flex. They also give written testimonial that Soft Flex is the best quality.
Their other well-known product is Soft Touch. It has a softer feel and is more flexible. Where Soft Flex is made in Sonoma, Soft Touch Premium is made on the east coast. The difference with using this premium product is that it also comes in .010 – VERY FINE – which is 7 strands and is most often used in stringing fine quality gems and pearls. It has a thin coating and is also used for bead weaving in off-loom techniques.
A new product is Extreme Beading Wire. It is a special 1×19 micro woven alloy. It is more expensive but is made in 24kt gold plated, in .925 Sterling Silver and in Champagne, in which the copper alloy is plated with a clear nylon to show the warm color, is eco-friendly and free of harmful metals.
The Soft Flex Metallics line is made in the three major sizes, comes in copper and antique brass, and will not tarnish.
Their Econoflex wire is made in China. It comes in .010, .014, and .019. It is made with 7 strands, comes in 10 colors, and the cost is normally under $5.00. Because it has fewer core strands, it is not recommended for regular jewelry unless created with multiple strands. Pro Econoflex comes in .014 and .019, is made with 49 strands and comes in gold and steel.
*Two books were offered at a discount that night and were co-authored by Sara. “Seed Bead Revolution” contains 32 projects that are shown in two color ways each, uses the new 2-hole, 3-hole, and 4-hole beads, and are all projects can be completed in one sitting! “Show Your Colors”, contains 30 beading wire jewelry projects. Both books give a great deal of information about Soft Flex as well as the company products and tools to use with them.
The next category Sara went over were tools: Soft Flex offers crimps which are 2 times thicker than others in the market. They are seamless, thick, strong, and come in three sizes: 1×1, 2×2 (the size most beaders use), and 3×3. Sara taught a beading class where the hosting company insisted that she use their own crimps. The projects kept breaking and it was a total disaster until she brought in their Soft Flex crimps = success!
Soft Flex also offers crimping tools. Micro, Regular, Mighty, and the new Magical Crimper. The key issue is to NOT press too hard. Press gently and go around numerous times. The Magical Crimper makes a little rounded “bead” with four tiny corner points. The crimpers made by both Beadsmith and Eurotool were compared to Soft Flex and Soft Flex came out on top.
What surprised many of us was that Soft Flex also made Craft Wire. It comes 18 gauge to 28 gauge. It is made with a copper wire base, coated in polyurethane, does not tarnish and is 100% lead and nickel free.
Members asked what Soft Flex could be used for other than stringing beads. We were amazed that it is often used in looming, Kumihimo (the 10’ bobbin is perfect), knotting, and macramé. One customer even crocheted a dress with it.
SoftFlex is located at 22678 Broadway (Hiway 12) in Sonoma. They are open to the public on Wednesdays from 8:00am to 4:00 pm. Their phone numbers are: 1-866-925-FLEX (3539) or 707-938-3539. Sara also offers a video on Facebook at 1:00 pm. Check her out directly at SaraOehler.com