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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!!

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Un-Started Objects

Early last year I wrote a post about my beady UFOs. None of the pieces in that post have really progressed (I have put a couple more humps on the Ootheca cuff, but that’s it).  Then I wrote a piece about the tutorials I was planning to publish – one (my Space Needle Case) is now out in the world, but the others haven’t really moved.  I’ve managed to recreate the CRAW ring, but I’m still not quite happy with how to write up the corner joins….  All in all my beady planning is looking like the opposite of Mastermind – no ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ here.  On the other hand, I did get some work finished last year, published a new tutorial, and won a competition, so I won’t berate myself too much.

This year, rather than a series of pictures of lonely, unloved UFOs, a glance through my PDFs on my iPad has prompted a different kind of list – rather than UFOs I thought I’d share some USOs (Un-started objects).  As well as a huge stash of beads I’m afraid I have a large collection of tutorials lurking – I buy them because there is a discount offer, because I simply cannot fathom how something’s been done and I need to know now, because I want to support the artist, or just because I really want to make them.  Because I’m trying hard to focus on original work at the moment the unused ones are starting to accumulate, so I thought it might be interesting to give you a flavour of what has caught my eye (since it may be a while before they appear here as finished or even started beadwork).

So first (and I’ve had these for a while) a set of three from Barbara Briggs bought while I was very into Contemporary Geometric Beadwork.  How I ever thought I would have the time for such substantial pieces made almost entirely of delicas I can’t say, but they are quite amazing:

Fantasy Floral Cuff by Barbara Briggs (image by Barbara Briggs)

Fantasy Flora Cuff

Mermaid Cuff by Barbara Briggs (image by Barbara Briggs)

Mermaid Cuff

Barbara Briggs Dragon WrapFire Dragon Wrap

I’ve been a huge fan of Sabine Lippert for many years, and have completed lots of her pieces, which gives me an excuse for accumulating so many patterns (plus two books) – although I have to say until I wrote this list I didn’t realise quite how many.  Sabine has a sale on at the moment for some of these patterns, and even with the ridiculously low pound they are super value:

Sabine Lippert Tchacka Boom BangleTchacka Boom Bangles – a free pattern using her spiky button beads.

Sabine Lippert Wanna be a ButterflyWanna be a Butterfly – another freebie, this time using her Rizos.

Sabine Lippert TweedTweed – I’ve already beaded the related Baroque Dimensional which has a similar basis – I just need to get organised and pick fire-polished colours for this as I’ll need to do a bulk order as it needs 460 4mms!

Sabine Lippert TurbulenceTurbulence – looks like a lovely, smallish project.

Sabine Lippert - BoomerangBoomerang Bling – another one which needs some planning/shopping, and a fair amount of work, but looks like it will be amazing when finished.

Sabine Lippert Squaricals and PenticalsSquaricals & Penticals – I tried to start this on holiday last year but was a few beads short.  I should do this soon – it looks lovely to bead.

Sabine Lippert Go-Dimensional


Go Dimensional
– a classic Sabine blingy beaded bead – my Rivoli stash is much more substantial now so I should be able to do this without shopping!

From Cindy Holsclaw at Bead Origami (my sister is a big fan, and I love the way Cindy works) courtesy of a small special offer:

Bead Origami Teardrop BubblesTeardrop Bubble Beaded Bead – I love beaded beads and I love Czech teardrops, easy choice.

Bead Origami Supercoiled RopeSupercoiled Beaded Rope – how completely cool is this – I need to know how it is done, and hopefully a bit of a stash buster.

None of you will be surprised to discover some of the fabulous Jean Power’s work lurking in my collection.  As well as lots of tutorials and book projects from her which I’ve already beaded and some inevitable UFOs, I have two still to do:

Jean Power Star FlowerStar Flowers – this is quite new so I don’t feel too guilty about this one.  I have some of the giant acrylic stones already, so this should happen soon!

Jean Power Interlocking CrystalsInterlocking Crystals – this is a Jean classic which I’ve had for years.  I tried it with some cheap rivolis a while back, and it didn’t work because they were a different shape to Swarovski ones, which is fair enough.  I’ll need to take a deep breath before starting this one as the necklace takes over 40 rivolis.

Actually, apart from the huge glut of Sabine’s patterns, and the fact that I also have a pile of beading books and magazines, this list doesn’t look quite as bad as I had expected.  Hopefully I’ll get onto some of them soon – I have all my new cabochons to work with first though, so don’t hold your breath!

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Finished beadwork.

As any beader will know, no matter how much jewellery they make, there will always be outfits with nothing to match, and even more pieces which never get worn. Perhaps they are too precious, or too extravagant (there is a definite limit to how much crystal I can wear on the school run or in the office), or perhaps the colours are just wrong. I try and focus my work both for myself and my shop on colours and combos which are wearable, but I often find that because I work in colours rather than neutrals the finished pieces are limited to one (or no) outfits in my wardrobe. Often the beads take over, and I end up beading a lime and orange ring because it looked amazing, even though the two colours I never wear are green and orange. And before you ask, I know they will look good with brown but I never wear that, and if I wear with black I will need other lime and orange things to go with them…..
So recently I’ve been turning my thoughts to how to display the bits and bobs of beadwork that I don’t wear very often. Items I wear a lot (sea anenome, beaded beads, CGB bangles, anything pendanty tend to live in my bedroom, and go in and out of wear with the seasons, but the remainder are a bit lost. Previously they’ve been tucked away in cupboards, or in a box on my desk (it has a clear top so I can see the pretties, but inevitably things are piked on top). Beaded beads live in a lovely polished steel bowl, but again have a tendency to disappear under a pile of beads in little bags when I’m behind on tidying up or putting away deliveries. It’s such a shame, as I have lovely pieces that I almost forget I ever made just hiding away – they can’t influence me if I can’t see them, and I’m definitely less likely to wear them or develop ideas from them.
So last week on the way to bead group I passed a Muji, and popped in and treated myself to a lovely display box.

I’ve been mulling them over for a while, but let’s face it I could buy lots of beads with that money (OK a few beads, not that many really, they’d fit in the palm of my hand), but I was feeling extravangent. Yesterday I filled it up, and I’m quite pleased.

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Yes, it isn’t perfect, and there still remains the question of where it should live (I really wanted something to hang on the wall above the desk, but couldn’t find anything), so for now it is sitting on a pile next to the messy desk and behind the inevitable toys (prow of pirate ship on right!).

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It only really works for pendants, beaded beads and smaller pieces, but as I have a short attention span I have loads of those, and it’s basically pretty much full already. It won’t take my bigger bangles and cuffs, and won’t take any necklaces unless they are on a flexible rope or braid (so my last two Jean Power Secret Beadalongs fit in very nicely). It will though house my endless collection of beaded beads in a place that is constantly visible, so when I have to sit through anther episode of ******Thomas the Tank Engine, I can actually be staring at them working out how to make them into a wearable piece.

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It also gives me an interesting sample of my output over the last few years – my colour palette is less varied than I had expected in many ways, although it has definitely changed dramatically over time from subtle browns and golds to something much much brighter.

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I still have to solve the problem of what to do with the larger pieces, but there aren’t too many of them and many do get worn, so maybe they can stay in their boxes until I come up with something……