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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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The Sting

I’ve been working really hard on a competition piece recently, and after a month’s solid discipline I fell of the wagon last week and wandered off into other beading.  I’m sure the break will be good for me, but none of the other beading really worked and that made me rather antsy.  When this happens, there are two options – have a night off beading, or do something which can’t fail.  I didn’t want a night off, so I turned to my stash of digital patterns to find something by a designer who never lets me down – Sabine Lippert.  Just before Christmas she had a pattern sale, so I had a little splurge on a few patterns, including her pendant ‘Sting’.  This looked like something which would be achievable in an evening or two, so I pulled some beads and got going.

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It was a good decision – as always with Sabine’s designs this piece went together very nicely.  It took around 3.5 hours – I’m used to Sabine’s designs so can usually work them up quite quickly, and I found this one pretty easy, with everything just slotting together perfectly for a contented evening’s beading.  It’s given me my beading mojo back, and with some child free time off the day job coming up, I feel refreshed and ready to get some of those long awaited tutorials finished and launched soon.

Recipe

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  • 15 seed – Miyuki Duracoat Cranberry 4211
  • 11 seed – Miyuki Matte Silver Grey 2012
  • SuperDuo – Jet Gunmetal Pearl
  • Delica – Miyuki Matte Pewter 321
  • 3mm Crystals – Swarovski Paparadscha AB2 (slightly hard to find colour in 3mm – I got mine at a show from Gemstone Boutique)
  • Spikes – Dark Bronze.  I have no idea where they came from!
  • 3mm Round – I didn’t have any in the right colour, so I used some Saturated Fuchsia firepolisheds from Robin’s Beads, which worked well.
  • 6mm Round – I used an orange FP, this can’t really be seen so you just need something that tones in.
  • 14mm Rivoli – Chinese (not as fine a finish as Swarovski or Preciosa, so they don’t work with a tighter bezel, but a fantastic colour which neither of them offer and worked for this project – from the Southampton Bead Shop)

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The ribbon (I know it needs a press, it’s been lurking in my stash for ages) was hand dyed by Stef Francis, a fantastic space dyer who I came across in my sewing days.

Tips

I usually find my tension too tight for Sabine’s pieces, because of the 3D embellishments and layering.  So I relaxed things a bit, but unfortunately I shouldn’t have done as this is one which requires stiff tension to create a solid rod of peyote, so it came out a bit floppy.  However, I have stuck a head pin down the middle and it’s fine!

Sabine does warn you about this in the blurb on her site, but not in the pattern.  Because I’d bought the pattern a while ago, I’d forgotten what the blurb said, but to be honest a beader of my experience should know that if you want to make a peyote tube rigid you’ve got to do some pretty solid stitching, and use a suitable thread – Sabine recommends Fireline explicitly in the materials list (which should have been another clue) but I’ve gone off it a bit, so I used KO which is clearly not going to give the same rigidity.  So entirely my fault, but a useful learning experience (just when you think you have things sussed…..), and it still looks fine.  If I make this design again, which I probably will, I might perhaps stick a cocktail stick down the middle for extra stiffness anyway (the head pin I used is after all flexible).

Sting - Sabine Lippert - beaded by Sarah Cryer

Colours

One of my resolutions this year is to include more neutral colours in my beadwork – I have a tendency to chuck colour at things, which sometimes gives me an amazing looking piece which is completely unwearable.  I try to avoid beading with black as it’s hard work, and anyway I wear a lot of navy blue rather than black, so I’ve been using a lot of 401FR and similar to give me a navy base.  I’m also getting really into pewter, and other matte, mid greys, as they work well with the etched beads I’m currently obsessed with, so for this piece I chose a selection of those tones for the base beads, and variations on a dark salmon pink for the main colour.  I toyed with a few different spikes (which you can see in the materials picture), but in the end the dark metallic chocolate worked best. This was going against my instincts, which were to pick out the fuschia and orange of the stone, and maybe chuck in some zest, but I think it’s worked well and given me a striking but wearable piece, proving that this is a good resolution!

Conclusion

A lovely piece, well worth buying and trying.  Rock hard tension and the correct thread would have helped keep the main shaft rigid, so always read the instructions.  I’m going to get back to my own work for now, but next time I need a break I’ve got Sabine’s Toggle Ring tutorial to try.

 

 

 

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Secret Beadalong – colours

One of the wonderful things about the Beadalong is seeing all of the different colourways.  It’s unusual to be exposed to so many interpretations of the same design so quickly, and it’s been fascinating looking at the different approaches we all take.  Some of us chuck as many colours as possible in, others focus on their favourite colour and use different tones, and others pop a single colour as a highlight with neutrals.  For me, as a bright beader, it’s been lovely seeing some really outrageous combinations, but I’ve also become drawn to some of the more sophisticated palettes.  I think my next delica project might be done in matte steel, with some antique gold – classic with a twist, and perhaps more wearable than lime, orange, scarlet and fuchsia…..?

Anyway, a few people have asked me to post my bead details so here you are.  Seeds and delicas are all Miyuki & from Stitch N Craft (of course):

Rivolis – Chinese ‘Volcano’ from Southampton Bead Shop.  I don’t normally buy cheaper rivolis but the colour on these is unique.  They are a bit fat, so you need to adapt the pattern (one extra row of delicas did it here), and I don’t use them for my own patterns and materials packs because of that.

Delicas – 1835 Duracoat Galv Zest; 45 Silver lined Orange; 683 Dyed Semi Frosted Silver lined Red Orange; 422 Galv Fuchsia

Seeds – 11 – 4205 Duracoat Galv Zest

Seeds – 15 – 4205 Duracoat Galv Zest; 1310 Dyed Trans Fuchsia

Crystals 3mm – Swarovski Fuchsia

Pearls/Rounds – 2mm Scarlet Czech Rondelles.  Not a clue where they came from!!

And as for the next step, I’d guess I still need another 18g or so of delicas, so I may have to make up a mix from my stash (I’m only using stash beads for this and I won’t have enough in a single colour by a long way), or come up with a way to use multiple colours once I know what we’re doing.

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National Beading Week

Here in the UK the Beadworker’s Guild’s National Beading Week will begin tomorrow (25th July).  There are lots of activities all over the country, at Bead Groups and in shops, but as I am a bit constrained by work and it bring the school holidays, I’m joining the beading community remotely in a few different ways.  Firstly, I’m taking part in Jean Power’s Secret Bead Along – I’ve completed my prep work which you can see at the top of this post with my beads all ready, and a bit of day 1 (a bit early but I couldn’t wait, photos tomorrow).  As you can see I have chosen very subtle colours.

Anyway, you can read all about it on Jean’s site or read my blog post containing the details here.  I’ll be popping a quick blog post out every day to show progress, and you can follow lots of other beader’s work on the Secret Beadalong Facebook group which Jean has set up.  Over 4000 beaders worldwide have signed up for this, which is absolutely amazing – Jean has done an amazing thing and it’s really very exciting and inspiring taking part.  For me the lovely thing is knowing that so many other beaders will be working on the same piece at the same time.  That includes that my little sister Susie Hoad, who I taught to beadweave a few years ago and got hooked on Jean’s work.  She is now a designer and teacher in her own right, and we plan to finish the last day’s beading together next Saturday, which will be just lovely.  Being Susie she is doing two colourways  (but she is a teacher so I guess she has nothing to do now school has broken up – or could it be that indecisiveness runs in the family?).

Secondly I’m going to kick off a project for this blog to celebrate the awesome range of beadweaving going on around the world – ‘Beading Beaded Beads’.  I’m going to be coming back to one of my original reasons for blogging – to show, review & comment on tutorials and patterns by other designers (as well as writing about my own original work).  I’ve put together a range of beaded beads, some from books & tutorials I already own, some from free tutorials, and some of my own designs, and the idea is that over the coming months I will focus on beading them.  I’ll be working from my stash, so I’m going with two colourways (as even my stash won’t accommodate the range of beads required to complete the various designs in one colour scheme) – bright fuchsia, lime, scarlet and orange, and fuchsia (again), indigo, cobalt and a bit of silver and gunmetal.  Hopefully I will end up with two very spectacular necklaces.  You can see the initial cut of designs on a Pinterest Board here, if you have any suggestions (or designs you’d like me to road test) then comment here or on Facebook and I’ll give them a try too.

I started beading earlier this week, and was hoping to have the first beaded bead to show off for the start of National Beading Week, but sadly the first beaded bead did not go well.  Out of fairness to the designer I’m going to have another go before I post about it………….probably just me being tired and being a bit of a tight beader.

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Completion

I’m not great at finishing things – as well as the usual UFO box of failed projects I even have a box full of nearly finished projects. Brooches needing brooch pins, pendants needing only a jump ring, and of course tutorial pieces needing writing up.
Seeing so much bead embroidery in the Battle of the Beadsmith reminded me that about 3 years ago I had a go at it, and had an almost finished piece cluttering up my beading cupboard. So I girded my loins, dug out my bead embroidery book (Jamie Cloud Eakin’s dimensional Bead Embroidery) and worked out how to finish it. And finish it I have.

I’m quite pleased with it, but made a couple of errors which mean it will be staying with me rather than going into the shop………….

  • I made a booboo when I was cutting out the backing, forgetting the remnants of a sticky label.  Which doesn’t look great.
  • I looked at the big roll of heavy interfacing in my sewing drawer and said ‘ I can use that, not this ridiculously expensive beading stiffener’.  This might have worked for a flat piece, but didn’t work for a bracelet as the interfacing has folded slightly, so I don’t have a smooth curve.

On the bright side, the faux suede upholstery fabric I used (I started this so long ago I hadn’t heard of ultrasuede) does seem to be fine – it’s nice to work with and hasn’t frayed at all.  Since it’s one of a large wad of samples I bought at a fabric sale I’m quite pleased since I now have a huge range of colours of backing to choose from.

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So here it is, my first completed bead embroidery piece – beads from my stash, a polaris clasp from Stitch N Craft and backing from my overstuffed fabric drawer.  I’ve enjoyed the process more than I thought I would – I have always perhaps slightly looked down on bead embroidery, feeling it doesn’t have the engineering and construction challenges of the 3D beadweaving I’m more used to, but it does give an opportunity to paint with beads, and really make the most of the finishes and colours.  Since finishing this I’ve made two more pieces, more about them soon (once they make it out of the nearly finished box!).

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May the 4th be with you……

Ok, so it probably won’t still be May 4th by the time I post this, and to be honest I’m not really a big Star Wars fan.   I mean why does Yoda keep saying ‘you are wise young Jedi’ to Anekin – he’s clearly not even slightly wise, since he got his girlfriend pregnant and changed the fate of the universe – use contraception you twit?  That said, DH is a fan, I do like the concept of Star Wars day, and I have this awesome Icos pendant by Jean Power to tell you about which reminds me of the Death Star.

As usual it was a lovely design to work, there’s one tricky bit at the corners of the outer puffs, but once you’ve cracked that it goes together very nicely.  I would really really love to do one with crystals – it will look fab and be even quicker, but for now I’m really pleased with this one.  I don’t have anything to mount it from yet – I’m undecided as to whether to bead a loop.  Jean uses a wire loop on what I assume is a headpin, but since I didn’t plan ahead and put it in before I zipped up the final seam I will need to either come up with an alternative or unpick a bit.  I’m going to wear it with a purple tunic I live in at work during the winter, so I have a while to decide, now the weather has improved at last.

Recipe

Jean Power’s Icos pendant tutorial

10g of Miyuki delicas:

1005 Metallic Purple Gold Iridescent (C1 & C2)

463 Galvanised Dark Magenta (rows 1-3 of C3)

422 Galvanised Fuchsia (rows 4&5 of C3)

Tips

If I had been more organised I would have used a cheaper finish delica for the inner rows of the base triangle (Jean does point out that these rows won’t be visible and labels them C1, but I was away and only had the three colours with me).

What’s next

My next version might be in 15s – using 11s makes a nice bold pendant, with a finished diameter of 35mm, but using 15s will make something quite exquisite.  I will save that for some daylight beading though as teeny beads hurt my eyes – so perhaps first I will do a crystal version.  Jean still has some crystal sets, and Perles and Co have stock in a few colours (Swarovski seem to have discontinued this shape).  Alternatively I’m feeling quite bold at the moment and have some new yellow sandals, so perhaps I’ll get Jean’s yellow plastic stones and work up a vintage colourway…………

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Summer is finished

Not the weather (although it does seem to have been and gone already), but the summer element of my Stitch ‘n’ Craft Challenge entry.  It’s taken longer than I had hoped, and as has happened with previous elements has rather taken over my beading time, so I am relieved to get it done.  I have so many other projects stacked up in my head, and so little time to do them (not helped by the baby coming down with chicken pox).  Stitch ‘n’ Craft is my favourite bead shop – great beads, light speed service and lovely people.  I first entered the challenge last year, largely to force myself to do some wholly original work, rather than just using other ‘ patterns and ideas, and it gave me a lot of confidence.  I’ve even produced one of the elements as a tutorial (hopefully available for sale soon, once dearest husband teaches me how to make the file smaller).  New ideas blossom out of the stretching work, but the trouble is there’s no time to work on them.  I’ve taken to keeping a notebook (as recommended by all proper beaders), so I hope that I don’t loose those ideas.

This year’s challenge features four pieces, one for each season.  Each season has a set palette, and must incorporate elements provided, so is a real push creatively.  All of the seasons have included elements I’d never normally choose to work with, and colour palettes that I’m not used to – I think the latter has been the greatest challenge as I’m somewhat of a creature of habit where colour is concerned, but I’ve come to enjoy some of the new palettes, and can’t wait to work some more in the winter scheme in particular which was completely new to me (and caused much bead buying).  The pastel shades of summer have been surprisingly uncomfortable as well, and with lots of green in Spring too I’ve been stretched (I love lime green – Miyuki Zest Duracoats are the best beads ever, but I rarely work with other shades).

Anyway, Summer and Winter are complete, Autumn is beaded and just needs making up, and then I must dash through Spring if I’m to finish by the end of July.  So I need healthier children soon………