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Monet’s Garden at Giverny

This year for the Stitch n Craft challenge the theme was ‘Anything Goes’ – so no theme, no packs, no requirements, just enter something you’ve worked on this year that you’re proud of.  So I beaded away at a particular thread of an idea, and was getting really pleased with it when I realised it didn’t really meet a key requirement to use some beads bought from them.  Yes the core of the work used their beads, but the flashy bits, the visible bits were all from elsewhere.  So this didn’t really feel to me like it was entering into the spirit of the competition, so although I ‘d already paid the entry fee I decided to pause for a little think.

Whilst I was thinking (OK procrastinating) the theme was announced for another competition that fit my nearly complete piece perfectly.  In every other way that competition seemed like a better fit for it, so I decided to enter something else at Stitch and Craft instead – another one of my big bead embroidered necklaces perhaps, using beads that were definitely from them and some of my own cabochons?

Digging around I found a set of experimental cabs that I made in the early days using the left over paint mess from a salad spinner painting session with the boys.  Surreal but true.  The drips and dribbles gave an acrylic pour effect, and I’d even tried mopping up the excess paint from the side of the spinner by blotting, giving a lovely blotchy effect which I’d then used to make a huge 50mm cab.

The large cab made me think of Monet’s waterlily paintings, particularly those in the Orangery in Paris, where if you stand close the beautiful paints form gorgeous abstract patterns.  In turn that made me think of water, with silvery bubbles and that got me to my base colour scheme of silver, etched vitrail and metallic mint green (Miyuki 4214 and 4214F), and I started my usual process of pulling out a big range of beads to kick start the design process.  A stash search unearthed some vitrail ridged back cabs from The Old Bicycle Shop, and a wonderful crumple backed oval Crystal Electra geode cabochon from Stitch n Craft themselves.  The colours though were still a bit subtle, and I needed to call on more of the contrasting colours in the cabs and crystals, so I added some pink – not my usual fuchsia though, but a more subtle Swarovski Crsytal Peony Pink (again from Stitch N Craft).  And finally I spent some of my Beadworker’s Guild Founder’s Award prize money on some gorgeous Anna Bronze findings, this time in an antique silver finish, but repeating some of the organic shapes I’d used in that piece.  Then I got stuck in, using what is becoming a standard process for these type of pieces.

First I did a rough layout and photographed it, then rather than bezelling onto a single backing I bezelled each of the flat backed hand made cabs onto a separate piece of backing.  I do this because I find that adding the bezel changes the shape, size and overall appearance of the cab, and usually means I want to alter the layout significantly (usually to add more space).  I used a simple backstitch/peyote bezel – quick and secure, adding a picot to some but not all.  If you want to learn how to do a basic back stitch/peyote bezel then take a look at my SunStar tutorial which takes you through this technique.

Then I did the beadwoven bezels for the crystals and other cabochons – biggest first, then using a variant of whatever bezel I came up with for that one (with less repeats, or smaller beads) on the smaller ones to give a sense of continuity, and a repeat of the method I used on my Great Dixter necklace for the chatons.

Then I looked at layout again, adding the metal pieces, and did my trick of deciding on a shape based on a specific neckline – in this case I’m really glad because the original layouts had been for quite a shallow ‘v’ which wouldn’t have been great in wear.  Then I was ready to start attaching the bead embroidered cabs to a fresh base, using both glue and stitching (these are big cabs so it’ important to be secure, particularly if there is any flex in the finished piece as this could break the glue bond on bending).

Then I checked the layout yet again, working out how I would attach the bead woven cabochons (which sit up above the base and bead embroidered cabs, and where and how to attach the metal pieces.  This showed me what space to leave free, and where I needed to cover the base with bead embroidery – which I then did using simple stack stitch, and supplemented with some lovely Backlit Spectrum and Etched Vitrail 2 hole cab beads (in my head these were the bubbles in the water).  Next the attachment points for the straps (I didn’t complete the whole strap, as I wanted to check the length with the finished centrepiece, but I chose the beads, got it started and reinforced it repeatedly), and then finally I was able to secure the metal pieces and crystals.

At this point it was becoming apparent that the 50mm cabochon was pretty heavy.  Inevitably the bead backing is weakened as well when you stitch into it, so it was time for some serious reinforcement, sandwiching, glueing and stitching on additional sheets of backing, and even some flexible plastic cocktail sticks.

Of course those are hidden by the beading above, and the ultrasuede behind, so once that was on I worked on the edging, adding a picot to the focal cab and a simple sunshine edge to the remainder.

The neck strap of backlit 2 hole cabs was completed with simple loop and a vitrail Czech button from Snoochy, and then the whole thing was posted off to Dorset.

You can see all of the entries here on the Stitch n Craft website – in the end I was beaten on the day by Chloe Menage’s gorgeous bead embroidered headpiece, which she’d made for her own wedding.  However that’s not really why I enter competitions – it’s to stretch and challenge myself to do something original and ‘me’, and  I’m still really very pleased with this piece.  It’s the third I’ve made using this process (the first was my ‘Diva’, the second ‘Great Dixter), and each time it gets a bit easier, and a bit more enjoyable.  It was the last Stitch N Craft Beady picnic (and probably the last challenge) as they’re closing the studio to focus on mail order only, so as I’ve enjoyed them so much over the years I was really glad to be able to enter again this year, and I’ve got a lovely necklace to show for it too.

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Secret Beadalong – Days 4 & 5

So day 4 was not such a good day for me. I lost my nerve as regards my colour scheme, and switched in my etched rainbow coppers in place of my matte dark metal. Because they are etched they are a bit smaller, so the netting surrounding the superduos was a bit thready.

So I unpicked that and tried again with my antique copper highlight beads.

They looked much better, but when I got to the rope on day 5 I realised that gave me way too much copper in comparison with the other beaded beads.

So I ripped out the central section (just a few steps worth) and switched in the correct dark grey beads, which has toned it down nicely. Without some copper I think this bead would have been too different from the rope to wear alone, whereas now it has a connection.

So onto the rope, which should take up days 5-7 (although I've only spent one evening in it thanks to all the indecisiveness around day 4). It's lovely. Pay attention to the instructions, they are very clear so I have no excuse, but I messed up the first couple of inches by getting the 8s to sit vertically rather than horizontally. Not only is this very fiddly to do, and much slower, it gives you a very inflexible rope with far too much thread showing. Once I twigged I was able to switch to the correct orientation and now it's beading up more easily, and has a nice curve. I'm definitely thinking of making some bangles using this rope – the maximum curvature feels like it would be spot on for a rigid bangle, it's easy and relaxing to bead a whole armful, and it looks great.

So I have a few more hours ahead of beading the rope, and need to dig out a clasp. I had been planning to use one of the Anna Bronze clasps I've just bought, but I can see now that the finished piece will work well with one, two, three or even none of the beaded beads, so I need to ensure that the clasp doesn't stop me sliding them on and off, so may simply have to obey Jean and get a S clasp.

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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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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………