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Crimson Frog Fish

Having been reminded of her gorgeous work in the recent Stitch and Craft  brochure, I googled Kinga Nichols to see if she offers kits or tutorials for those of us unable to get to classes.  She does, but her Etsy shop is a bit empty as she’s just been away – this is probably just as well given that I have far too many beads already, the pound is low, and postage from the States is horribly expensive.  However, further googling turned up her new video tutorial for Interweave.  I’ve used free video tutorials in the past to help with things like knitting and sewing, but never for beading, and to be honest, never paid for.  But it’s something I’d maybe like to try doing myself one day, and I’d just bought a fantastic eye cabochon from WingSmith and some red bead foundation from Jencel at the Big Bead Show, so it felt like the beady universe was saying ‘go on go on’,  so I splashed out the rather steep $19.99 and had a go.

We made a fish.  She is rather lovely, and ugly at the same time, and I really enjoyed making her.  I have learnt about glues, fabrics etc, drawn and cut out my base (the tutorial claims to be focussed on working with pre-cut foundation, but to be fair other than the fact that we are using one, it’s not about that, it’s really about making a lovely beaded fish).  I’ve at last sorted out my back stitch (which I’d never got to like previously), and I’ve added a bezel to the glued on eye, seeded on some Swarovski lochrosen (glass sequins), drops and best of all added some lentils to cover a huge space in no time at all!

The video is well structured, with good, clear explanations of the key stitches and techniques.  There is possibly a little too much of watching Kinga do back stitch, but one can always fast forward.  It’s certainly possible to watch and bead, and then just pause when you need to catch up, which works well so long as you have a device/PC next to your beading area (in my case this consists of an iPad on the arm of the sofa).  It’s certainly been the best bead embroidery technically that I’ve done, and I think Kinga deserves full credit for that.  The next test will be to see whether I can appy this to some designs of my own.

I enjoyed making the pink and red one so much that I’ve made a second fish in pink, green and purple – this time the correct size (I scaled the first up as the eye I had was huge), and I see more of these plus some other Kinga style bead embroidery in my future…….

Hints & Tips

  • Interweave sell this as either a single video ‘download’ (there is a second project available as well) or as a pair of projects on DVD.  The downloads are $19.99 each (so $39.98 the pair), the DVD pair $34.99.  I don’t know who does their accounting, but that feels like a rip off.  The downloads should cost significantly less to sell, and yet are more because you can’t buy the pair.  With the pound low this works out as at least twice what I would normally pay for a tutorial, and more than the price of a book for a single project.  If you are based in the US and can buy the DVD set then that will be a reasonable deal – otherwise for UK based beaders I’m not sure I can recommend based on price.  As I write it is reduced to $15.99, so if you live somewhere with a favourable dollar exchange rate, it may be worth a buy!
  • If you are using an iPad or iPhone, they are not even downloads – you are effectively buying access to stream the video, not to save it on your device.  Yes, I will when I have time download it onto my PC, but I’ll want to watch it on my iPad or iPhone so will have to get dear husband to transfer it on.  This is governed by the way that Apple run downloads onto iPads and iPhones, and is not something Interweave alone can change, but a more substantial warning before purchase would have been appreciated.
  • There’s a PDF included with a template of the fish to trace, which is great, but no materials list.  You have to work out as you go along what beads you will need, and for me, that was quite annoying – I like to pull together the right beads (or roughly the right beads) before I start, so that I know I can bead all of the way through without having to go hunt out or even buy additional beads.  A written tutorial or magazine project would always contain a list, so why not a digital download.  Even just talking through the materials required at the beginning of the film would have helped………hopefully though my list in the Recipe below will be of some use!
  • Coloured bead foundation is a must here – going back to the lack of materials list you’re going to be pretty disappointed as you can’t start without it.  Coincidentally I’d bought some red and pink Nicole’s Bead Backing from Jencel at the Big Bead Show, so was kitted up ready to go.  It’s the first time I’ve worked with it, rather than using white Lacey’s Stiff Stuff or Beadsmith Bead Backing and it was really, really liberating.  Using a backing that compliments or even contrasts with your beads, which you’re happy to show through makes everything easier, and means you can use larger beads with ease without having to fuss filling in the tiny gaps with seeds, spoiling the effect and multiplying the work! I’ve invested in some more colours now, and I feel that having a good backing colour will make me more confident and bold with my beads.
  • I didn’t really want to make a big, heavy cuff, and didn’t have the right materials to do that anyway – instead I had a look at the other fish pieces Kinga has done and spotted that sometimes she puts a hole in the upper fin and uses that to thread a cord through, making a pendant.  This was relatively easy to do, although I’m slightly worried about the strength of the loop – will it distort in use?  Another time I’m going to cut a piece of plastic (from some washed veg packaging or similar) to sit between the foundation and backing to provide additional strength.  I may even consider doing this for the whole piece as with so many heavy beads on it does feel like it could do with some extra stiffening.
  • I didn’t have the petals Kinga used for the scales – instead I used some lentils I’ve been sitting on for a while, and I think they also work really well.  As they are smaller than the petals I decided not to add seed bead stalks, as the holes are reasonably inconspicuous.  That meant I had to work from the tail inwards to get the layering of the scales right (Kinga is able to work the other way as her petals sit further off the foundation with their beaded stalks, so can be pushed aside).
  • Big eyes are better – the second fish I made has an eye closer to the outline provided (15mm), and I don’t think she is as fun as the first one, which has a much larger eye (25mm) in proportion to the rest of the piece.  If you’re working using the template, I would use a 20mm eye.
  • Dragon eyes (with a vertical slit for a pupil) don’t look as nice as ‘normal’ eyes.  Don’t know why, they just don’t look as friendly.
  • They’re pretty big and daring, even for me to wear.  They may take a turn on the Christmas tree this year………..

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Recipe

Creative Bead Embroidery 1 with Kinga Nichols: Working with Precut Foundations Video Download

Coloured beading foundation to tone with your main colours.  I used Nicole’s Bead Backing in red (red & pink fish) and fuchsia (pink & purple fish).

Backing – tone, contrast, compliment, whatever – I used Ultrasuede in fuchsia as it’s easy to work with and I had some, although Kinga suggests leather instead as it is more durable.

Glass eye cabochon – I used a 25mm from Wingsmith for the red/pink, and a 15mm from Kookeli for the purple/pink.  Next time I’ll use a 20mm (see Hints & Tips).

Seed Beads:
  • Size 11 in at least three colours (an outline colour, a main colour for the backstitched circles and one of the fin stripes, and a third colour to give some contrast round the eyes – you could work with more than two colours in this area).  I used Duracoat Zest 4205 as the outline and Silver Lined Fuchsia 1436 as the main for both, with Silver Lined Vermillion 1010 for the red/pink fish and Silver Lined Purple 1446 for the purple/pink.  All Miyuki of course.
  • Size 15s – just a few to close the eye bezel and for attaching the lochrosen – Duracoat Zest 4205 for both fish.
  • Size 11 delicas in a contrast to form the stripes on the fins.  I used Silver Lined Frosted Orange 682 for the red/pink fish, and Galvanised Dark Magenta 463 for the purple/pink.
Feature Beads:
  • For the belly, Swarovski Lochrosen in 4mm (Fuchsia & Light Siam) for the pink/red fish, and O-beads and Tri-beads in Magic Orchid for the pink/purple.  Kinga uses the Swarovski in two sizes, which would be lovely, but I don’t have them and they seem to be very difficult to get hold of at the moment.  Probably a Strictly Come Dancing induced shortage.  The O and Tri beads worked very well though, and are more economical.  If you’re using a ‘magic’ coating, make sure the coated side sits at the back, so that the transparent side sticks up giving you the sparkle.
  • Next along the belly, some 3.4mm Miyuki drops – ideally transparent, with optional colour lining rather than a frosted or opaque – they’ll look like glossy bubbles.  I used red lined topaz for the pink/red and a pink/green mix for the purple/pink.
  • And finally, some larger, flattish beads for the scales – Kinga uses Petals, but I didn’t have any so I tried Lentils and they worked well – Etched Crystal Full Marea for the red/pink, and Magic Orchid for the purple/pink.  Again make sure you use the beads the right way up to get the best from the coating.

All in all not the best value, but well explained and demonstrated, and a fantastic, enjoyable project which I plan to repeat. A lot.

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Space Needle Case Tutorial

So I’ve finally finished a new tutorial.  It’s been a long time in coming – it’s the needle case from the Chatelaine I made for a Stitch n Craft challenge several years ago, and whilst my Baroque Tape Measure Surround has been available for a while now, it’s taken ages to get this one done.  That’s not because it’s tricky, or complicated, more because I’ve not until recently managed a really concentrated period of work to get it done, so I’ve ended up reworking more than I really needed to.  Anyway, I’m really happy that it’s done (and all of that rework has simplified some of the stitch paths and dealt with some tension pitfalls), so here it is:

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It uses those standard wooden needle cases you can get for making peyote tubular wraps, but has a twist – it uses RAW to cover the case, so it shows through the finished piece, so must be coloured to match (or contrast), and then the ends and opening are built out to form a very solid surround for a 14mm rivoli.  The finished embellished sections with their pointed rivolis reminded me both of flying saucers, and of the Space Needle in Seattle – hence the name.  As part of my Chatelaine it formed one of the more substantial elements alongside my Baroque Tape Measure.

It’s really an intermediate level piece – there are full instructions for completing every step, including the basic RAW sections, and none are particularly tricky, so in theory a relative beginner could follow it, but I would say that you’d need to be confident of an even, controlled tension, and be able to handle beadwork that is fighting back a bit, so if you’re a beginner maybe work on some more basic RAW projects before you buy this one?  It’s not going anywhere anytime soon……

It’s available for instant download from Etsy (EU buyers note VAT will be added on top of the selling price)  or from Payhip (where I can absorb the VAT in the selling price).  Or if you don’t mind waiting until I’m awake/have a spare moment, then you can purchase through Folksy and I’ll email the PDF to you.

And Ive been super organised, so materials packs containing all of  the beads and crystals you need, plus a pre-coloured needle case are now available for UK buyers from my Etsy and Folksy shops.  You can choose between a long or a short needle case to suit the types of needles you use, and there are four colourways, available in either length.  If you’re not based in the UK, all of the details of the beads used in those colourways are in the tutorials, so you should be able to recreate without too much trouble (and save yourself the exhorbitant international postage from the UK).