Saturday, July 16, 2005

Permutations & combinations

I vividly remember in high-school math class having to calculate "permutations and combinations" -- that is, given a certain set of objects, how many different ways they could be combined or put in sequence. There's a formula for calculating this, based on how many objects there are and how many are the same, but of course I've long forgotten it. (I could probably go look it up.)

Occasionally I go on a gift-making binge and turn out a dozen or so give-away rosaries for one of the various groups I belong to. With a string of glass 8mm beads selling these days for about $2-3, they aren't very expensive and are fairly quick to do -- most of the work actually goes into making the tassel, since I make my own rather than using the chintzy rayon tassels for sale in craft stores.


These pictures are of a batch I made in January, each one in a different combination of beads and colors. I barely had time to photograph them before they had to be packed up and given away, but I had fun with the project even though it was done under a time deadline.


At least one of the history groups I belong to periodically does gift-basket exchanges, and these rosaries are a much-appreciated basket item. I package them with a short flyer about rosary history and suggestions for how to use the beads. They also make nice "bread-and-butter" gifts -- a small thank-you to someone who hosts an overnight stay or a dinner party, for instance.


My mainstay for stringing these is size F or FF silk perle thread from Gutermann's, which comes in quite a few colors. It goes through the beads nicely and makes good-looking tassels as well. I buy it by the spool since I also use it for other things. The only problem I've had with it is that Gutermann's color descriptions bear little resemblance to reality -- their "dark green" is actually more of a medium-light shade. But if you ignore the descriptions and look at the thread you can still tell what colors you want.


As for beads, I stock up on the basic strings of glass beads once a year or so, and by now I've taught enough classes and acquired enough "odd" strings of beads that I have plenty of material for contrasting gauds (marker beads).