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Secret Beadalong 2017 – Day 2

Day 2, and we’ve embellished our remaining triangles and joined them to the first four to form a fat geometric form (which I should look up the name of).

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Still can’t work out where the rest of the week will be going, but still loving it!

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Secret Beadalong 2017 – Prep work and Day 1

As you know once again I’m taking part in Jean Power’s Secret Beadalong for the Beadworker’s Guild’s National Beading Week – you can read about the beads I’ve chosen and find links to last year’s here.  I finished my prep work just in time, and here’s my first day’s beading.  After some self doubt around colour choice (the prep work was all in a lovely but for me rather restrained matte pewter), I’m feeling much happier now I’ve moved onto adding in some copper.

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My sister Susie (from BeadingBySusie), with me this week and also beadingalong, has stuck to a more characteristic bright palette.   Our colour choices for joint projects are often similarly bright – she’s usually on the blue/turquoise side, with me on the red/fuchsia, but always both bright, so this is really highlighting my departure from the norm.

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Secret Beadalong 2017 – Picking Beads

So things have been a bit quiet around here lately as I have spent much of my beading time working on a couple of competitions.  For a blog that aims to show my working process, competition pieces are a bit useless as I have to keep them hidden away, and then by the time I can show them to you the moment has passed.  But they are both done now, with one out in the world (more about that soon) and another about to be, so I can move on and start to focus on this year’s Jean Power Secret Beadalong.

So for those of you who are new to this, for the last couple of years the wonderful Jean Power has put together a ‘Secret Beadalong’ – a pattern which is beaded over a series of days which span the UK Beadworker’s Guild’s National Beading Week.  I’ve done both years and loved them, and thousands of other beaders across the globe have also participated.  You can read about the previous years starting here (2015) and here (2016), or have a look at the piccies on the Facebook Group Jean set up for us to share our progress, and of course learn more on Jean’s website.

This year the requirements list rather usefully including suggestions for which beads should be a contrast, compliment and so on.  This is really helpful as of course we don’t know what we will be making, so can’t use images etc of the finished piece to look at the juxtaposition of the different beads when picking colours (something I’m a little bit obsessive about), but there’s quite a few beads to juggle into the mix so I made a sheet to help me (which I share here with Jean’s support!).  Please feel free to use it yourself, or even make your own like Sam Wescott did.

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And then I got picking – part of me wanted to make a really bright piece, with lots of yellow (as I have a lovely new navy dress with a dark yellow band around the hem).  The other part of me wanted to make something more neutral and versatile, that I could wear with lots of different outfits.

The brights went well, although I had trouble sourcing the right quantity of Cherry Red Neon Superduos, and got a bit stuck on the bicones as crystals don’t always tend to work as well in a multicoloured scheme.

The metallics also progressed well but seemed a bit dull until I remembered that I might be able to work in my favourite etched beads, and then things went ‘pop’.  Working in a mix of crystals (rose gold and some neutral opals with lovely 2x AB coatings) brought some pale blues from the AB in, and some new etched rainbow copper beads pick that up as well.

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So the beads I have picked (and where I’ve got them from) are:

A – Vintage Copper SuperDuo (Old Bicycle Shop and Robin’s Beads)

B – Pastel Light Grey SuperDuo (Robin’s Beads)

Main – Etched Crystal Rainbow Copper Czech seeds (Bead Stampede)

Highlight – Coated Crystal Vintage Copper (Stitch N Craft)

Contrast – Miyuki 2002 Matte Metallic Silver Grey (The Half Moon Bead Shop)

Bicones – Swarovski Light Grey Opal AB2, Air Blue Opal AB2, Sand Opal AB2 and Rose Gold (Gemstone Boutique)

So now I’m onto the prep work and I’ll share that with you shortly.

 

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Experiments

Those of you that follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know that recently I’ve been playing with Pebeo paints and Liberty fabrics to make my own cabochons.  It’s been an interesting diversion, and it’s still got a way to run as I hone the processes and get used to the paints.  It’s quite satisfying to be able to sit down and play with colours so quickly, never quite knowing how they will turn out but not having had to commit too much time.  I’ve had to try lots of different processes and materials, and source a whole new set of supplies, and now I’m getting good results I’m even beginning to use the finished cabs in my beadwork.

Anyway, once I’m happy with the process I’ll share it here so you can play too, and hopefully I’ll also make some of the cabs available in one of my shops (perhaps with some instructions for bezelling?).   But in the meantime here are some pictures of my experiments so far.

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Materials Packs

I’ve just realised I forgot to update you here about the addition of a new set of Materials Packs  for my Baroque Tape Measures.  As I said in my previous post, the plan is to stick with a set of colourways going forward, rather than building each pack individually, as this allows me to hold more of each one in stock.  I’ll vary the sets over time, but for now these are the colourways:

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Tequila Sunrise – my current favourite Yellow Opal rivolis, with my always favourite 407FR light red opaque matte rainbow seeds, and silver and orange to make a fun cocktail.

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Fuchsia and Bronze – the original and I still think the best!  The garnet AB rounds are a favourite, and this time I’ve included some lovely Halo coated fire-polisheds.

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Red and Gold – a splendiforous luxurious colourway, for VIP measurements.  Lots of Swarovski Light Siam, one of their most intense colours.  This would work well with the red colourway in my Space Needle Case.

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Turquoise, Silver & Scarlet – more Light Siam, this time mixed with opaque turquoise and silver for a Mediterranean feel.  This is a variant on one I made for myself a while back, shown below, but with some adjustments to balance the red and turquoise more effectively (it had too much turquoise on the edge and red in the middle, so I’ve swapped the rounds and fire-polisheds over for the pack).

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DSC_0398Vitrail, Lime & Silver – Medium Vitrail rivolis and shiny rounds, with a silver base and lime and turquoise highlights to pick out some of the colours in the rivoli.  I really love the opaque lime fire-polisheds with a half Vitrail coating in this.

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Fuchsia and Dark Plum – born initially of a bronze bead shortage, this grew into a lovely dark, intense colour way.

Sadly, because I’ve been so slow posting, the Fuchsia and Bronze has sold out, and the Fuchsia and Dark Plum I replaced it with has also sold out.  I hope to have one or both of them back in stock soon, but in the meantime this week I’ve listed the new Vitrail sets (which may not appear that often as the rivolis are more expensive and the other beads can be harder to source).  Anything I have is available in my Etsy shop here, or by clicking on the pictures (in the case of those still available), in my Folksy shop.   Do let me know if you have any ideas for colour ways you’d like me to make I the future.

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Materials packs for my Baroque Tape Measure

Just to let you all know that I’ve just sold the last of the current set of Baroque Tape Measure materials packs – the plan from now on is to run a restricted set of colourways in bigger quantities, rather than the one offs and very limited runs. That should help me keep a nice ranges of choices available at all times. The beads are all due with me any day, so hopefully by next weekend (25th/26th) I will have the following colourways listed:

Red and old gold
Turquoise, scarlet and silver
Tequila sunrise (yellow, salmon, orange)
Vitrail and silver
And if I can get the right tapes, the original Bronze & Fuchsia.

They’re all based on colourways I’ve offered previously, so have a look at the Materials Packs page here to see if you might like to wait, or even ask me to hold one for you. And if you have any requests for future colours, just yell!

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Diva – more adventures with bead embroidery

Apologies (yet again) for the quietness here and in my shops.  I’m working on two separate competition pieces at the moment, which means I can’t really post about them, but in between doing and re-doing them, I’ve finished another piece which this post is all about.  It’s a necklace I made for a concert – as a soloist I had an opportunity to make something with all of the enormous crystals I’ve been hoarding and dress up the plain black velvet dress the piece (Faure’s beautiful Requiem) required.  The concert went really well, and the necklace gave me an extra confidence boost.  Sadly I forgot to take pictures on the night but I have been taking them as I made it, so I thought it would be interesting to describe that process.

So – how did it come about?  I’d bezelled several modern and vintage crystals from my stash already using my usual MRAW into Peyote bezel, as I’d intended to use them for another piece, but it didn’t work out so they were sat in my workbag.  When the solo came up it seemed like the perfect chance to use them, so they were my starting point and set the initial colour scheme of silver, light matte pewter and etched vitrail with plain crystals.

Grouped together the bezelled crystals didn’t seem big enough to occupy the very deep V shaped neckline of the wrap style dress, so I had a root around and found a huge labradorite cabochon.  I mounted that on some grey Nicole’s Bead Backing, and cut a rough shape, adding wings at the top to join to the crystals. I bezelled using back stitch and then peyote, alternating bead and no bead on the final row for textural interest.  A back stitched row of tiny 2mm etched granite fire polished beads finished that part.

Next I had to decide how to put the piece together.  Because I was making for one very specific occasion, and one dress I wanted to use the shape of the dress to really enhance the piece.  So amid much laughter from my long suffering husband I cut a section out of a piece of A4 paper to leave room for my neck, then stuffed it into the front of the dress and drew the outline of the dress’s neckline onto the paper.  I also added a rough sketch of what I though the ideal shape would be – following the lines of the dress but giving a gap so that the piece would be nicely fitted and framed – giving me a probable outline and an idea of the space I would be working with in case that outline had to evolve.

Then on that paper I tried lots of different layouts, placing the bezelled stones in different combinations and positions until I settled on one.  

Next I needed to form a base – I’m not really used to bead embroidery, and had bezelled all of the crystals with a peyote band off an MRAW starter – only the labradorite cabochon was mounted on backing, and the backing was very small (poor planning on my part – I should have just worked on the full sheet and cut down later).  I had intended originally to link the stones with beads, but I had a change of heart and decided to back them instead, so I tacked an additional bit of backing onto the cab piece.  I kept it quite narrow (about a third of the finished width, rather than the full width) as I wanted the bezelled crystals to sit independently of any base, and to avoid the breastplate look so beloved of some bead embroiderers, as it’s just not to my taste.  This was almost certainly extra work compared to bezelling straight onto a backing, but it did allow me to avoid issues around the crystals not being flat backed, and I think the end result looks good.  So anyway, eventually the bezelled crystals were stitched in place onto the backing.  

Next I covered some of the backing and added some edge interest by stitching on some faceted drops – I had bought these a while back and they seemed to pick out the blues and purples in the labradorite.  Then things seemed to be getting a bit too flat, so I wanted to add some height – I beaded some herringbone rope which I nestled between the asymetric crystals (they were starting to look a bit like leaves) and then twisted and twined above the central stones – again using etched vitrail, with 8s in the central section and 11s either end to nestle into the gaps.  A couple of matte vitrail etched spikes filled in some more gaps and gave more textural interest, and a gorgeous waterlilly chaton with a rather risky minimal bezel broke up the rope a bit.

I used stacking (one large bead caught down and through with a smaller bead – in this case a mix of 8s and 6s caught with 11s) to fill in the remaining backing – again in the etched vitrail which looks absolutely amazing on the large 6 seeds, and then I was ready to think about a strap.  

I had originally intended to use silver chain because I had expected it to be covered by the dress, but a quick check showed this wasn’t going to be the case, so I felt something which continued the textures round, but was still quite delicate would be a good idea.  Another herringbone rope seemed called for, but I don’t have much luck with preserving a perfectly even tension on these, and with the etched beads this would be even more challenging.  So I went through my bead books and found a lovely delicate spiral rope in a Marcia DeCoster necklace – a bit of substituting gave me a central core of silver 11s, with an outer spiral of etched 11s surrounding either an etched 3mm or an etched 8.  I haven’t used spiral rope for years, but I actually really enjoyed it (after all the experimentation and fiddly bezelling earlier it was quite a relief to have something straightforward and repetitive).

While this was going on I backed the main piece – I wanted to secure the ropes to both the bezelled crystals and the backing first, and then I decided to order some grey rather than using the black ultrasuede I already had – I think it was worth the wait.  That then allowed me to edge – I had planned an extravagent fancy edge, but once I’d put the first brick stitch edge in place that felt like enough for now.

One last quick try on set the length for the rope, and I then followed Marcia’s example and used a simple loop and a rivoli I’d bezelled earlier to form a catch.

Rope complete, it was finally time to mount my favourite crystal – an unbacked vintage stone, which I’d given the barest of netted bezels, and wanted to use free of backing to display the capturing beads and the transparency.  I had hoped to link sides and base with crystals, but wasn’t happy with the visible threads, so I came back to the fire polished etched beads, and then off to seeds.  Then I tried the necklace on and found that the unbacked crystal was digging into the base of my throat slightly, which would have been a real distraction when singing, so I snipped the whole thing off again.

That would be why you’re always told to start new threads to do attachments – makes it much easier to simply change your mind!  That left me with a rather boring top edge to the central area, so another bezelled chaton attached at an angle broke that up nicely, and hey presto ‘Diva’ (what else could you call a necklace for a soprano) was complete.

In case you’re wondering about materials, this was made almost entirely from my stash so I’m a bit vague, but here’s what I know:

  • 2mm fire polished etched- Spoilt Rotten Beads
  • 3 & 4mm fire polished, all sizes of seed in etched vitrail – Bead Stampede
  • Miyuki seeds and delicas – Stitch N Craft
  • Vintage crystals (coloured leaves, round) – Old Bicycle Shop
  • Labradorite cabochon – Mark Varah Fossils
  • Nicole’s bead backing & Ultrasuede – Jencel
  • Crystal drops – My Vintage Charms & Creative Beadcraft
  • Asymmetric crystals – small – Swarovski shop in London many years ago – I didn’t have the skill to bezel such awkward shapes then so they’ve sat in my stash
  • Large asymmetric crystal – cheap local bead shop which has since closed!

 

It’s a good long list – I do seem to get around a bit!

Happy Beading!!