Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Lives Beads Live

I got an e-mail from a colleague at work not long ago:

Quick story about your jewelry….. Recently I was traveling through O’Hare airport and was asked to “step aside” after going through security.   I couldn’t imagine what in the world I had on me or with me that was prompting a more intrusive search.  It turned out that one of the agents noticed my necklace (one I bought from you at the Handmade for the Holidays event).  She wanted to take a minute to take a closer look at it and commented that it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen! 

Another friend called me in the middle of the music fest she was attending in North Carolina to tell me that people kept asking her about the necklace she was wearing. Some of these were evidently beaders because she wanted to know what stitches were used to make it as they kept asking her.

Of course the other side of that is when someone quizzes you about one of your pieces that they have seen and speak as though you have a slide projector in your head and can summon up the exact item. Especially when they don't speak Beadish. It made me realize anew how technical beading was, and gave me renewed sympathy for those queries I see online about how to read bead patterns and instructions.

The piece that went to the North Carolina musicfest was Carol Wilcox Well's “Ruffled Lace” necklace, which you can find here.  The long lacy rope goes through the loop, about the fanciest lariat necklace I’ve ever seen. Here is my version:

I made two of these, the first time according to the directions. I did my loop differently the second time around which you see here, adding some triangular leaves and a different bezeling technique for the chatons. I broke too many needles making the original design! Let’s not discount frustration as a prime motivator for creative beading.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Memory Lane: The Twilight Bag (not that Twilight - this piece was made well before the book and film came out)

In some earlier posts  (here and here) I talked about beaded amulet bags when they were all the craze. After learning circular peyote stitch I wanted to design my own bag.  Being BDA (Before the Digital Age – the earlier 90s) I resorted to graph paper and colored pencils.

I have always loved twilight for the slow bleed of one color into another, especially at this time of year for the stark beauty of bare trees in winter.  This was one of the first projects where I became absorbed in the process of creating not only the design on the bag, but everything else that went with it: the strap, the fringe, the closure. Beading is about building.

 Along with bags we were all back then learning about fringe, though it seems hesitantly done on this piece. I think I was trying to suggest the ground on which the tree stands, but it seems too short to me now.

I had more fun with the strap, for which I made peyote tubes that mimicked the color shift. 

I don’t wear this much anymore so it is nice to bring it out and introduce it to a wider audience. Say hello.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


One of the pleasures of subscribing to bead magazines is encountering a new stitch or design and suddenly seeing new ways to apply it.  Such happened when I first came across the plaited Herringbone or Ndebele stitch in the April 2002 issue of Bead & Button magazine. The pattern was for a bracelet but I loved the stitch so much I wanted to do something more with it.

Here’s the bracelet design made by the creator of this stitch, Chika Terai:

 A lovely design, but…two sides of whatever you created with it would always be V-shaped, and designing for something besides a bracelet would be a challenge. But that was answered when I immediately saw a wall hanging in my beading future.

I used a palette inspired by the autumnal colors of a cherry tree outside my window. It went from green to yellow with splashes of purples and reds.  I stitched it organically rather than create a pattern to follow. With this stitch you start at the center and work your way out to the length you want on one side, each row getting shorter than the previous one, and then you do the same for the other side. I call the result “Arboreus.”

It’s funny, I haven’t thought of this stitch for a long time, but am now thinking about finding other possibilities for it – creating earrings, using this stitch in lieu of brick stitch, or for neck straps to frame a bead embroidery pendant. Hmmm…

Want to try it yourself? Chika has a free tutorial on her website, Sweet Pea Beadwork, and you can find it here.