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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!!

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More UFOs

Last week I was hunting for my wire box (which should have been labelled, but the small people like to take the labels off, presumably to make life more fun), when I happened upon the UFO box. This should really be called the failure box, since this is where I put things I’ve given up on (genuine UFOs which I intend to finish live in a different box in a different room, and I’ve already blogged about them and done nothing to them since).

Amongst a tangle of hopeless failures and technical disaster zones I found several viable pieces, which I think got thrown in there in a hurry when I was clearing my stuff out of the spare room before we had the smallest boy.  As he is nearly two and a half you can see it’s been a while since I looked in there, so it was a pleasant surprise to find so much usable work! There were also some lovely beads and a finished pair of earrings……..

In no particular order we have:

  • The black net base for a Racel Nelson Smith Ootheca cuff.

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  • Part of another Rachel Nelson Smith piece in lovely earth colours.
  • A finished black and white hollow cube – a sample with more zip beads on the corners than I now do, so an early point in the evolution of this series, but I now think rather fun.
  • Some lovely mushroom beads, and a pair of earrings made from them.
  • A couple of salvageable beaded beads – the giant pewter ones has issues at either end, but can be embellished to hide them, and the blue one was an attempt at using RAW which didn’t go well, but will be fine as an Anenome base.

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  • The teeny ones were going to be part of a big piece, but bored me.  They will now be a nice little pendant, hung as a trio.

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  • A khaki and copper attempt at a sea urchin design, which failed as an urchin but could make a rather nice hollow beaded bead.
  • A long piece of peyote with graduated delicas that simply needs zipping round a wire core to make a necklace.
  • Assorted beads, stones and bits and bobs.

I did find the wire in the end, but got distracted and haven’t used it yet. Tomorrow…….

 

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Beaded Bead 1

So I had another go at beaded bead pattern number 1 – Conway Beaded Bead by GwenBeads.  And then a few more goes, and finally I’ve got one finished.  Actually I’ve finished two, but the first one is not good so will be fragged………..Interestingly I found this pattern quite challenging, possibly because conceptually it is actually quite simple, and as I was tired I struggled to maintain the absolute accuracy it demands.  An single extra thread pass in the wrong place can mean this one doesn’t work, and as the internal structure is all seeds, rather than building on base of larger beads, it is a bit of a nightmare to unpick if you make an error and don’t discover it for a while.  Looking on the bright side, my sister Susie Hoad (BeadingBySusie) churns these out in a couple of hours, seemingly without any effort, so I think once I’ve made as many as she has (which is quite a few) I should get the hang of it.

Conway Beaded Bead - Gwen Fisher, beaded by the Indecisive Beader

Conway Beaded Bead – Gwen Fisher, beaded by the Indecisive Beader

Anyhow, the pattern is by Gwen Fisher of Bead Infinitum fame, and was my first introduction to prismatic RAW (PRAW).  On reflection this was quite a tricky one to start with – I might have been better with something like her fun looking Tentacle bangle or the Daisy Chain bangle rather than the full on 3D experience.

 

Conway Beaded Bead - Gwen Fisher, beaded by the Indecisive Beader

Conway Beaded Bead – Gwen Fisher, beaded by the Indecisive Beader

Tips

  • It says ‘advanced’ on the blurb, it means it!
  • And you definitely need to understand the structure of a dodecahedron (and constantly check you’re doing 5 sided units, it’s very easy to loose count).
  • And don’t use colour lined crystal beads for your first go as they seem to confuse the eye – I’d go for something matte (to help you manage the tension), for a good contrast between the 8s and 11s in the structure colourwise to help you see what you are up to, and nothing too dark as you will be working inside the structure a bit.
  • Like any embellished RAW, CRAW or PRAW you should maintain a medium tension for the base – too loose and you’ll get an uneven finish, too firm and you won’t be able to add the embellishment.  My first version, as well as containing a couple of mistakes, was as usual too firm and I’ve struggled to get an even outer finish.  It will be unpicked and redone soon………..

Susie says that this works well in 6s and 8s, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend them for a first go (as maintaining any kind of tension in RAW or netting with 6s is impossible), I’m definitely going to try them next.  She also builds out on the embellishment step using twin holed beads of various types, which helps alleviate my slight reservation about the small size of the finished bead (for all that work I’d like something about half as big again – the 11 and 15 version is under an inch in diameter). And Susie has already tried out lots of colours and embellishments, so have a look at her Facebook piccies of them here for inspiration.  Very kindly Gwen allows limited commercial use, so I may even be able to sell a few as pendants when I finally get the hang of it and get the completion time down.  Overall a very interesting advanced pattern.

Conway Beaded Bead - Gwen Fisher, beaded by the Indecisive Beader

Conway Beaded Bead – Gwen Fisher, beaded by the Indecisive Beader

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Tiles on a Ring Pendant

Well the book arrived two days ago and I got stuck straight in. Luckily I have a good stock of chatons, because this book is going to munch them up. For choice I would have made the Bubble Ball Pendant first because it’s my favourite, but I had the right beads for Tiles on a Ring so I dived in. It went together beautifully – Sabine’s designs are always so simple, whilst looking amazingly flamboyant. Around three hours in total, so an excellent weekend project.  It uses a RAW base with a 3D netted embellishment to form the cups and frames for the chatons, and I’d say it’s suitable for intermediates.

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Recipe

Sabine Lippert’s Beadwork Evolution p99
Seeds in 401FR Matte Black AB 11 and 15
Matte purple iris fire polished
Fuschia Swarovski bicones and chatons

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Tips
I got the colours wrong – the fire polished beads are too different in colours from the seeds, and because the seeds and the firepolisheds are next to each other rather than used together it makes the firepolished ring look a bit disconnected. A shiny finish might have worked, or blue iris to match the seeds. This is a shame as I’d chosen the combination to go with the Baroque Dimensional Bracelet I made a while back.

Use the same colour of bicones and chatons – that will give you lovely squares of bling, and you’ll loose those squares if you don’t match them.

As with all of Sabine’s pieces a relaxed tension really helps – I have to make the effort to remember this one!

 

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And another one……

Since I had the pliers out yesterday I finally got round to adding a clasp to a Sabine Lippert piece I finished beading a while back.  It’s a Baroque Dimensional Bracelet and  instructions are available for download from her website, and the simplicity and repetition made it a really lovely piece to make – but of course as with all Sabine’s pieces it looks absolutely amazing.  It curves beautifully – both around the wrist and across the width of the piece, making it seem lovely and fat and chunky.  Very pleased with this one.

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Recipe

Fire polished beads 4mm  Matte purple iris (from Etsy More Beads4U)

Fire polished beads 3mm Purple iris (from Robins Beads)

3.4mm drop beads Miyuki 401FR Black Matte AB (from Stitch N Craft)

Size 11 & Size 15 seed beads Miyuki 401FR Black Matte AB (from Stitch N Craft)

Fireline 6lb

Silver magnetic clasp, jump rings.

The Miyuki Black Matte AB are a current favourite as they are a kind of navy blue base, and I’ve not been able to find another good match for navy.  For some reason I am wearing a lot of navy at the moment and it is certainly easier to work with than straight black.

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Tips

  • I did 30 repeats as per the instructions, and it fits very nicely.  The finished beadwork measures 20cm (without the clasps) although do bear in mind I am quite a tense beader.
  • On that note, relax, relax, relax your tension, particularly for the base layer.  For me that means beading in a way which felt baggy, floppy and downright messy, but you need plenty of give in order to add the embellishing layers.  This is common with embellished RAW pieces.
  • Otherwise as usual Sabine tells you everything you need to know……..

Next steps

Another good relaxing project, like the Faux Cro, I’m definitely going to make another one of these when I have assembled enough Fire Polished beads (it does use quite a lot).  Perhaps this time I’ll go a bit wilder with the colours (I’m thinking some sort of outrageous red, pink and orange with lime highlights again).  Or perhaps something bright but wearable instead.

And I’ve got the pattern for Sabine’s Tweed bracelet to do as well yummy yummy.  Sabine has also put together some beautiful kits, and one day I will definitely treat myself……..

 

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A quick comment about ordering from abroad before I get told off for listing MoreBeads4U:    I usually try to stick with local suppliers – although sadly I don’t have any ‘normal’ bead shops selling teeny beads locally, I use UK mail order shops where possible (mainly Stitch N Craft and Robins Beads).  However wonderful they are though, it isn’t possible for them to stock absolutely everything I need, and I have now found (through Etsy) a super supplier in Latvia for Czech beads (links above) – reasonable and prompt postage, and pretty much every colour and size of fire-polished beads I could want, competitively priced.  So while I continue to use and support my lovely UK suppliers when they sell the colours and shapes I need, and will always look here first, I do sometimes have to go elsewhere.  I don’t take this lightly, as shops like Stitch N Craft are so wonderful for the beading community – their class programme is probably the best in the world, they are very supportive of the Beadworkers Guild and bead groups and their range is absolutely wonderful.  So their website will always be the first one I go to so that I can support them in return.

Of course one day I will open my own bead shop, sell everything I want and consequently go bankrupt in a year.  But it will be fun.

 

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Birthday beaded bead

As usual I was stuck for a birthday present for my mother, and as usual had left it a bit late (under a week). But then inspiration struck on Tuesday as I remembered that Stitch ‘n’ Craft have started selling lovely Shibori Ribbon. Made by Shibori Girl, I’ve wanted to buy some for a while, but have held back as it’s not cheap.  However, I thought a yard of it would make a lovely necklace if I made a big beaded bead to thread on it, and it didn’t seem quite so expensive if it meant I could get a whole necklace from only a few hours work.

The colours that were very obviously Mummy’s thing were sadly out of stock, so I gambled on ‘Fallen Apple’, ordered on Tuesday morning and it was with me by Wednesday lunchtime – and it’s perfect for her. Some scrabbling around in my too large book collection turned up ‘Amphora’ in Marcia DeCoster’s Beaded Opulence, and I got started. I’ve made one before, which you can see below top left (reds and black).

My first attempt this time failed – the tension of the RAW base was much too tight (it seems to need to be very loose for this piece, presumably because of the shape and embellishment), and the colours I had chosen (coppers and lime) were much too brash. You can see that one in the middle below, half done and then hacked about a bit to get at the beads.   Fortunately the second attempt (bottom right), using much more subtle beads has turned out perfectly, and was all done in just a few hours.  I tweaked the design a bit, substituting copper 3mm pearls and matte copper 3mm fire polished beads for the 3mm bicones (Mummy is not really a crystal person), and using drop beads as the central few embellishments to add texture. I’m very pleased, although the ribbon is looking a little thin, so I will experiment with pressing the pleats a little tonight to widen it out. Hopefully Mummy will like it when we give it to her tomorrow.

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RECIPE:

‘Amphora’ – Marcia DeCoster’s Beaded Opulence page 107

Shibori Ribbon in ‘Fallen Apple’ by Shibori Girl (Stitch & Craft if you’re in the UK, or available through her Etsy shop and from other US suppliers if you’re elsewhere).

Beads (seed all by Miyuki, from Stitch ‘n’ Craft of course)

  • A (11), F (15), G (8), H (drops, substituted for 8s) – 2035 (Matte Metallic Khaki Iris)
  • B (11) – Custom Coated Vintage copper, also used instead of 15s around the Drops in step 3 above rows 6, 7 & 8)
  • C (3mm FP) – Brown Iris (Robins Beads)
  • D (3mm pearl substituted for bicones) – Copper I think (Robins Beads)
  • E (3mm FP substituted for bicones) – Matte Copper (Etsy –  MoreBeads4U)

LESSONS LEARNT:

  • Tension in first layer needs to be pretty loose.
  • The substitutions worked well.  However if you want to substitute drops in where I did then you will need to use 11s rather than 15s to surround them (as although the  top of the drop is over 3mm, the base is much smaller).
  • Marcia works with lovely subtle base colours – so it may be best to stick with these if you’re using one of her designs. She then uses several highlight colours in the upper layers, but I also found that using just one worked.
  • You can’t really see the fire-polished beads from the centre of layer 1 as there are two layers above – so don’t flap too much about having the perfect ones – use some OK ones and save the nicer finishes for something where they will be seen properly.  A darker colour than the rest of your base beads actually seems to enhance the design.
  • Good and quick – I’d say around 2 hours if you’re familiar with the design or an embellised RAW fanatic.