Thursday, July 27, 2017


The Beader’s Needle

I'm going to start a regular feature called the Beader’s Lament. And my first post is about beading needles.

Here’s what they look like coming out of the package:


And here’s what they look like after a bead project or two:


Bent needles (especially in that disctinctive S shape!) come with the beading territory. I don’t know any beader that doesn’t have a collection of these.

Some deal with it by using thicker needles but that means you may have trouble using smaller beads. Though small is relative. The rule for seed bead sizes is: the smaller the number, the larger the bead.  The smallest size I work with is size 15, though I have a small stock of size 18 and even a few in the size 20-22 range I bought years ago and nearly went blind trying to use. 

But needles are tools and you need the right tool for the right job. So here is my little primer on the kinds of needles I think a beader should have. And I mean the two-inch long ones generally known as English beading needles.

Size 12 – these are the workhorses of beading and can bead most beads. They are fairly easy to thread which is a relief and can handle most kinds of beading thread. Even so, beads this needle can pass through the first time may not be so accommodating the second time (and there is always a second time, believe me), in which case you pick up:

Size 13 – the savior needle, when you return back up a row and cannot pass the thread through a bead – this will generally do the job and if it doesn’t, opt for:

Size 15 – the emergency needle. These get bent just by breathing on them, and they snap easily, no surprise. So you only use them when circumstances absolutely require it and you take it off when that circumstance is dealt with or you will be the proud possessor of first, the bentest needle there is and second, a broken one.  Also, you can go permanently cross-eyed trying to thread them, so use them sparingly.

A few years ago the Japanese company Tulip came out with a size 13 beading needle that could do the work of a size 15 with impunity. The catch was that a single needle retailed for $7.00. Ulp.  But eventually, as I have a tendency to do, I broke down and bought a pair and have not regretted it. These are easier to thread and don’t bend so much, saving my precious stock of 15s for when all else fails. Little has failed with these beauties.

Two other kinds of needles I use a lot:

Sharps – by this I mean the short needles, a little over an inch long and durable, in size 12 or 13. They are great for when you want to take that last couple of stitches - which will finish your row so you don’t have to add more thread, but you end up with a shorter length to weave in – the sharps will let you do that.

And let’s hear it for the size 10 muscle needle. Sometimes the beads you have already stitched just won’t cooperate and this needle tells them where to go.  It’s great for opening up a path for that difficult-to-reach set of beads, or shoving beads aside or flicking them into their proper position so you can clear the way for your working needle.

It also works well in pulling out thread when you make a boo-boo or many boo-boos, like an entire row that needs to come out. This is the most common way my needles get bent and I finally learned to call in the Brute Needle for this work. It also makes a useful little platform to skate your working needle across when you are stitching on a crowded surface and trying to avoid picking up an unwanted bead or thread – simply lay this down perpendicularly across the path of your working needle and it acts as a ramp to give you the elevation you need to take that stitch cleanly. So your working needle gets a little bent in the process, what of it? You nailed the stitch! YAY!


Thursday, July 6, 2017


Beta Beaders

One of the things I have been working on is developing instructions and kits for my designs to sell. I taught in a local bead shop for several years and am a teacher in my other life, so I know the first step is to craft good instructions. Looking at the creative process from this angle - how to teach your design to someone else - is an interesting exercise. What can I assume people will know when they come to my design? How detailed should my instructions be? One wants to hit a happy medium between a half-page list and a 1gig file.

So I decided to recruit some Beta Beaders – my friend Connie was my guinea pig and she roped in two other willing innocents, Alicia and Jesse. Actually they were not novices – one of the things that led me to talk to Connie is that we are both stitchers and both Alicia and Jesse were too. So that would be the first assumption – don’t tackle a bead embroidery design if you have no stitching background – otherwise those tiny needles and misbehaving beads will be even more of an aggravation.

We got together one afternoon out on Connie’s lovely enclosed porch and had a grand time. The idea was for them to work their way through my instructions – I supplied them with a kit – and give me a critique. I tried not to guide them as the idea was for them to pretend they were doing this at home on their own.  Their advice and comments were right on target and I’m grateful. Doing the project as a group was also more fun – lots of opportunities for comparing and commenting and just plain beady horsing around.

And, no surprise, some things I never gave a thought to stumped them, other things I thought would stump them didn’t. For example, they had no difficulty stitching the crescent beads, I’m hoping because the advice I gave in my instructions was helpful. On the other hand, I neglected to make clear that when you pick up an O bead plus a seed bead, you are supposed to stitch back through the center of the O bead, not to one side of it – leaving the thread showing. I confess, that is so standard with me I never thought about it – but that’s the view from inside the beading universe, not elsewhere.

                             Beading on the Porch in the Summertime

The project was a piece of bead embroidery using a brass filigree that I painted with Vintaj Patinas. I call it my Filigree Art Nouveau Pin (it can also be made into a pendant) due to its shape. I came up with three colorways and here they are:


                                                    “Dry Martini” 

                                                      “Hollyhock”

                                                       “Harvest”

My thanks to you all, it was a fun afternoon and I love my Beta Beaders!

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Old Glory

There are some color combinations I have trouble with and they are mostly of the holiday variety. Red and green as in Christmas, and red, white and blue as in July Fourth come to mind. And red and blue as in, I dunno, but that’s another one.

But I have found that if I use different versions of these colors they begin to work for me. For example, I remember doing a piece in red and blue for a friend at her request and sighed, as I thought it would be a tad boring. Maybe that’s the problem I have with these color combinations – they are overused. However, when I chose a cobalt blue and a red with a good deal of pink in it I was smitten. And something ho-hum turned into an exciting project.

I did not forget that lesson when I accidentally created a “holiday” palette on a piece of brass filigree I was painting:

This was a version of the patriotic palette I could live with and I immediately began calling it my “Old Glory” colorway.  It wasn’t long before I began adding beads to it. I picked a different filigree piece to paint, which had a place in the center where you could glue a cab. I have a stock of clear glass tiles and have begun painting them with nail polish (yes, now I have a nail polish stash that I never use on my nails). I had a perfect antique dark blue on hand and went from there:


So, what about Christmas red and green? Maybe crimson and olive? Hmmmm…