At last I’ve found time to put together my yarn packs – I’ve been dreaming about doing these for so long! These are a tidy version of the skeins I make for myself when I’m doing some heavy embroidery or weaving so I don’t have to lug around a giant bag of yarn balls – have a look at my Instagram for some examples. There are some gorgeous yarns in here, some have been in my stash since my teens, others are newer and brighter! The roving yarns in particular are scrumptious and make the best french knots, and there are some super brand yarns in here such as Rowan and Wool and the Gang.
There are three colour combos at the moment with more to come if these sell (I’m happy to take requests, although this is a destash project so please don’t tempt me to buy more yarn). ‘Soft’ is ice cream colours with a dash of retro aqua soft greys (the grey super chunky roving in this one is gorgeous and nearly didn’t make it in!). ‘Bold’ is based round a multicolour roving yarn, so picks up the navy, chartreuse, reds, purples and deep pinks, with a few more colours thrown in. And ‘Bright’ (my favourite predictably) is all my favourite neon pinks (who knew there were so many neon pinks), lime, yellow, aqua and a little bit of navy and white for balance.
And don’t forget I also have some gorgeous crystals available at the moment . For the beadweavers I have the lovely etched flower crystals which come in a 14mm or 10mm chaton shape (the 14mm work really well in projects asking for 14mm rivolis).
Or if you’re an embroiderer or bead embroiderer I now have a selection of crystals in sew on settings – either pear shapes in glass crystals (more colours coming soon), or for a more unusual finish these new Indian acrylic stones in a variety of shapes. I wouldn’t normally use an acrylic stone but the textured metallic finish on these is irresistible.
I really loved making this piece – every year I try to challenge myself creatively during the winter months, usually working on something big and using new techniques or materials. Often it’s a Guild Challenge provided that the theme is one which chimes with me.
I’ve worked in most of my usual beadwork techniques into this piece – peyote bezels, a wide variety of bead embroidery stitches, goldwork smooth purl loops, scale like sequinned areas, but the ‘fur and feathers’ theme meant I also added some new to me materials, and perhaps new to the Challenge techniques – not too many though, as it does have to be beadwork based after all.
Tiny tufts of fur and a variety of feathers were taken from trimmings and individually cut down and stitched in place. I used punch needling on a separate fabric using hand dyed threads and fibres to make additional mossy fur patches, which were then stitched onto the main base, and also used needle felting and felt balls cut in half to add height under some sections, which were then bead embroidered.
Early on as a key part of the piece I created the lutrador and tyvek sections – hand painted then carefully heat shrunk, the tyvek gives the bubbles, and the lutrador the mossy textures. Both were tacked in place and then bead embroidered using simple stab stitches and a variety of bronze Miyuki beads. The tyvek had to be pre-pierced with a beader’s awl so I could attach it and add the beads, and with the lutrador the objective was to fill in all of the lacey holes.
I’d already bezelled the cabs onto hard felt, and stitched those in place at roughly the same time as the manipulated synthetics, starting to build the layout. The hard felt edges were then masked with stacked seed beads and sequins. Below you can see one section as it built over time – bear in mind I was building all three sections in parrallel to ensure I had the same look and feel on each, so I was constantly swapping as I then went on to build up the beadwork sections.
As you can see above, all the sections were worked onto soft felt which was mounted onto tough dress net – I needed to use soft rather than hard felt so the collar sections would drape on the body and move, but it wouldn’t have been strong enough then to support such heavy beading, so I added two layers of net beneath. The net was easy to work through, and as well as strengthening the felt once the stitching started, it of course provided the tensioned base to get the felt pieces onto an embroidery hoop (or in the case of the largest section, a quilting hoop as I had no embroidery hoops big enough!). More often I work bead embroidery on hard felt, which doesn’t require a frame, but with the soft felt you have to work under tension or it puckers (as well as flopping everywhere) – slower and bulkier but worth the extra effort.
Some parts of the base felt were also hand painted – bright green felt was the right colour at the beginning of the project but then the teal and bronze colours took over from the lime greens as I progressed, so I needed to use watered down acrylic inks to tone it down into the background – silly error but a useful new technique for me to perfect.
The beetle wings have been in my stash for about 15 years, and this was finally the perfect project for them – they’re carefully attached through tiny holes with give in the threads to allow them to move with the wearer, and had to go on just before backing.
And finally, each section has small ‘button holes’ for the toggles – the sections need to move independently in wear so each have just two joining points, and the Anna Bronze toggles can sometimes just be seen sitting snugly in the textures. Each of those button holes plus all of the edges have been finished using the standard bead embroidery ‘sunshine edge’ – fiddly (particularly round the peacock feathers on the neck edge) but an important strengthening step to marry together the strong ultrasuede with the softer felt (which I’d already reinforced with dress net either side) .
I’ve probably missed some techniques or materials in this list – this was a very long project (started in November ’22, finished in March ’23) but I will try to share more ‘in progress’ shots on my social media accounts so we can all see it grow and I can describe some more of the process – just follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see those.
With so many materials in one piece a definitive supplier list is tough, particularly as so much came from my stash, but here are some key suppliers:
The majority of the beads are Miyuki and from my stash, but I did need to bulk out some colours from a variety of bead sellers including Old Bicycle Shop, local to me Peppy Beads and the sadly now gone Stitch and Craft, and NataschaKralen rescued me when I needed lots more frosted silver lined teal in seeds and drops, as well as being the only place I could find the dark green Ultrasuede used to back it in a big enough quantity.
There are also Swarovski pearls and bicone crystals from my stash, plus other crystals from Peppy Beads, who also supplied the long uneven rice pearl used in the reinforced linking strings. The chatons are Aurora from Old Bicycle Shop.
The cabochons are Parrot’s Wing Chrysocolla from Designer Cabochons, actually partially purchased using a gift certificate from a previous Guild win – these were a great find and were the starting point for the whole piece and it was lovely to cycle the prize money back into the contest like this.
The other pearls were all from my stash and had been there for many years, as had the beetle wings, and the Anna Bronze toggles have been languishing for a while waiting for a special enough project.
Sequins again from my stash but also quite a few new ones from Fan New Trimmings in Soho’s Berwick Street (who sell them loose by weight – wow – pictures below), and they also provided the amazing feathers (plus a few of the peacock feathers had been collected on our annual trips to Brownsea Island, where the peacocks roam wild).
Hand dyed threads for the mossy furry punch needled sections came from my stash, and were originally from Hope Jacare as usual.
The tyvek and Lutrador came in a mixed pack from Molten Designs on Etsy- really useful for trying this out. I you want to have a go you’ll need a heat gun to melt and I used acrylic inks to colour them – you can use alcohol inks but they’re not as colour fast.
And the smooth purls used on the loops are (obviously) from my stock for my own Etsy shop – where else!?
Anyway, overall I did enjoy making this piece, and after 5 months of work still actually like it (not always the case with some pieces). I feel very happy and proud that it won it’s class in such an important competition. Thank you to the Guild for continuing to run the Challenge and for setting such an interesting theme (and for liking my work yet again!). A particular thank you has to go to all those who enter – whether you’re like me and have entered several times or it’s your first try we’re all contributing to stretching and promoting our wonderful art form and I’m jolly proud to be part of that.
Inspired by the rotund green endangered Kākāpō parrots of New Zealand, this feathered cape like collar celebrates Kākāpōs and their dark, moist forest floor habitat.
Parrot’s wing chrysocolla is surrounded by seed beads, pheasant feathers, beetle wings, pearls, crystals and sequins. Tufts of salvaged fur and peacock feathers replicate hairy tree fern trunks, and hand painted heat shrunk lutradur and tyvek add pebbly and mossy textures to the felt base, strengthened with net and backed with ultrasuede. Displayed flat, when worn the cape sits comfortably on the shoulders, the three pieces linked by reinforced seed pearl strands and bronze toggles.
This was my winning entry in the ‘Previous Winners’ class of the Beadworkers Guild annual challenge. The theme this year was ‘Fur & Feathers’ and I’m looking forward to seeing all of the entries in the various classes soon. The cape will now go on tour with the Guild for a year, visiting shows and exhibitions, before it flies home here, at which point I will work out how and where to display it. Follow me here for some more posts on how this was made, and/or on Facebook and Instagram for more pictures and in progress shots.
I’ve done a quick update on my Christmas Tree Brooch tutorial to show you how to adapt it and use the same techniques to make a bauble. Both of these look great as a brooch (very useful for those of us who don’t really ‘do’ Christmas jumpers) but both also look great hanging on the tree. I’m thinking in one in every colour of the rainbow for next year’s tree – I’ll add a large jump ring to the back about a centimetre down from the top for hanging, plus the usual brooch back, so I can grab one off the tree and have a bit of sparkle for every outfit.
I may not do Black Friday or Cyber Monday but I do like to try to offer a discount in December as a seasonal gift to my lovely customers around the world. Please note that this only applies to Tutorials and Cabochons, but hopefully that will still keep most of you happy. All happening in my Etsy & PayHip shops, links below and no codes needed.
This year’s International Beading Week runs from 23rd – 31st July. I’ll be doing my usual duty as Beadworker’s Guild social media helper as an admin on the IBW page and group, and also doing my bit for beaders everywhere by offering a massive 20% off all of the tutorials in my Etsy shop, including my brand new ‘Ice and a Slice’. No code needed, they’re all reduced and ready to go right here!
As an IBW Ambassador I’ve also donated a free fringe earring chart which you can download from my website here, or from the Beadworker’s Guild site where there are lots more free patterns from a whole range of lovely designers here.
I know it’s been a long while, but I’ve finally had time to finish writing up a new tutorial which is now available in my Etsy shop. Ice and a Slice celebrates our love of Gin and Tonic with a variety of fruit adornments, each altering the flavour. It’s a bead embroidered component in three sizes which can be used separately or together to make a Pendant, Necklace, Brooch, Earrings or Ornament.
It uses a variety of bead embroidery embroidery techniques with optional goldwork, and will suit intermediate bead weavers, bead embroiderers, or embroiderers looking to learn some bead embroidery techniques.
The twenty six page tutorial contains a full materials list, with suggestions for suppliers, and as usual every step is fully illustrated with a detailed diagram showing thread paths etc, photos to show you what you are aiming for and every step is also written out clearly (in English). A detailed variations section covers a range of colour and final formations for a range of pieces, and the motif can be beaded in three different sizes, all covered. All of the different techniques used are covered in full, with tips as well as stepped out instructions, and you should finish this piece ready to use the techniques in your own designs.
Full requirements are available here, and the tutorial itself is available for instant download from my Etsy shop here.
Did you know that I actually sell some of my finished beadwork and embroideries?
I have a little shop on the UK site Folksy with earrings, a couple of necklaces and some of my embroidered mini hoops – you can view it here. The range is deliberately small to keep it fresh and current, but I also run commissioned work through Folksy, so if you see something you like there or on my social media do feel free to contact me and request custom colours etc.
Folksy is a bit like Etsy but much smaller. They’re deliberately fussier about handmade only and it’s a sensible, easy to browse size as it is just for UK makers (although I can of course still ship worldwide from there). Best of all it has a small, caring, supportive and innovative management team and has a wonderful community of friendly makers which I love. That community take an active interest in promoting the site, spotting non-handmade shops and supporting other sellers with advice and help through the forums and Facebook group. The management team support makers with advice and help, and consult about improvements – Doug the IT guy is legend, and Camilla and her colleagues are experienced makers themselves who constantly feed us useful advice about selling and running our handmade businesses. They actively curate really lovely gift guides, themes of the day and highlight interesting pieces, and run a fascinating blog with ‘makers of the week’ (I was one back in 2014 – read the posts here – very out of date but fun to look back at where I came from).
I’ve been selling there for more years than I care to mention and it’s a lovely place to sell and shop for beautiful handmade items. I’ll probably always have my Etsy shop for supplies and tutorials but it’s very hard to be seen as a maker rather than a supplier there as it’s simply so huge and geographically diverse, so I find Folksy suits me really well for finished items.
Pop over and have a look at my works there using the link below, and do take time to browse some of the other lovely shops too. I’ve listed a few of my favourites below:
Susie West – stunning ‘travel posters’ – we have three of these already and are trying to collect one for everywhere we have lived (we have a little way to go!).
Claire Gent – amazing aluminium and silver jewellery. I’ve lusted after Claire’s work for years!
Holme & Moss – I’ve got one of their classic hairbands in my basket at the moment.
Eynonymous – I have a beautiful yellow silk hairband from Eddie which I wear a lot – she designs and prints beautiful textiles.
I don’t really do Black Friday. I think that comes from my main job being in IT with a major retailer, and the impact that needing to match discounting elsewhere has on us as a business both financially and operationally. Here at the Indecisive Beader I relish having the freedom to make my own decisions about when and why I might chose to run sales, and this year once again that means offering my lovely customers 10% off Tutorials and Cabochons for the whole of December as a thank you for all of your support this year. No code needed, just pop over to my Etsy shop and the prices are already discounted for you. Thank you.
I’m often told ‘your colours are marvellous’ or words to that effect, and that’s lovely to hear as colour is incredibly important to me and I do work hard at it! I do have some specific methods I use to really get my colours to work whilst focussing on my designs, and I thought you’d like to hear a bit about my main one.
I’m sure many of you will have noticed that over the last few years you’ll see a run of pieces working through a similar colour theme being posted in sequence and may have wondered what I’m up to. This is a deliberate working method for me now – I focus on a set of colours for several months at a time, work them out, play with different combinations of finish, different juxtapositions, and get really comfortable with them. This saves time pulling and tidying beads, and allows me to focus on new designs without the endless distraction of playing with new colours and rooting around in drawers and drawers of beads.
This has become a standard working method for me of late and it started a while back when I used to pull sets of beads to take on holiday or for a large creative project. I pull a range of beads, threads, sequins, crystals, focals and basic supplies such as threads, findings and backing/foundation in a new set of colours. So for the seed beads that means a set of anything from three to many more colours in as many sizes as I have, plus corresponding delicas, then as standard I usually dig out whatever I have in 3mm and 4mm rounds, fire polisheds and bicones which gives me a really versatile working base. I’ll always add a complimentary metallic colour with matching findings, and then it’s time to rifle through my crystals, feature beads and growing collection of sequins. I’ll add drops (very useful) and then chuck in whatever I have in the right colours in shaped beads. If I have shrinkets or cabochons already made I’ll pull those out too or I’ll make more as I need them.
I’ll usually do some bead embroidery in one of these runs, but will grab foundation and backing as I need it, but I’ll get out the right shades of beading thread so I’m never tempted to use something less than ideal. These days I usually work with purls as well, so I’ll add smooth, pearl and textured purls, and if I’m also thinking of a hand embroidered piece, some linen, silk, tulle or organza and of course, stranded cottons, perles and treasured texture packs and hand dyed threads.
I can end up with anything from a small A5 box or bag to a big stack of A4 boxes, depending on how deep I want to go and how indecisive I’m feeling. So right now, I’ve deliberately picked a smaller set to work with, just beads, purls to complement a set of rainbow coated steel findings I want to work with. So far that’s just turned up one piece using a cab and set of shrink pieces I forgot I had made, but I’ve only been at it for a week. I’m already slightly off track as I didn’t use the rainbow findings yet but I’m quite happy nonetheless as can amble along trying out some ideas I have floating around without needing to root around for beads constantly. And when this is worked through, I’ll tidy them away and pull a new set.
My previous set was a box of beads the same size (A5) plus a similar size box of purls, findings and sequins and a bag of threads and fabrics – that lasted several months and resulted in these beaded pieces:
That set was inspired by a lovely yarn pack from Wild Floss Embroidery – ‘Sherbert Pastel’ colours on a dark teal base. I did an embroidered piece first, adding hand dyed threads from Hope Jacare and beads in similar colours, so once I’d completed the embroidery hoop I had a set of beads ready to go and had got the hang of how to use these colours – which aren’t my usual combo at all. As well as some pieces for myself (including the big embroidery hoop) some of the earrings are now available for sale in my Folksy Shop.
Looking back you’ll be able to see some other series of works which came about in a similar way – first some works which started with my big Egyptian piece for a Beadworker’s Guild Challenge a few years back and spawned several pieces:
And then my very long (over 6 month) pastel based marine inspired pieces – again coming from a winning Beadworker’s Guild Challenge piece ‘Where Corals Lie’.