Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Week of Beading - First Installment

I took this week off work to meet a challenge - 21 beaded gifts in 4 days.  I wish I could say I made it, but I only got to 14.  Thankfully, I do not see all of the folks who some of the gifts will be for until after the actual holiday, so I still have some time to do the remaining 7!  I wish I could say I was burned out on beading, but alas, I am not.  This is such a great craft - it is a bottomless pit of awesome.  The first day was a tad frustrating, as I tried to make things up entirely in my head after a few beading-free weeks.  That was a mistake.  I find I need to bead by pattern first, then I when I am in a good groove, I can create something unique or create my own design without as much angst.

I can't show most of what I did until the gifts are given, but I have already given out teacher gifts (and they have been opened), so I can show those.  Here are Betty, Suzanne, Mary and Carrie's gifts, all based on Glorianne Ljubich's Star Power earrings in the June 2011 issue of Bead and Button.  I post them in progression so you can see where I started, on my own, then very close to the pattern, and where I finished, making my own changes and embellishments.  Fun!

First, Betty's. These were from day one experimentation, and the were the only product that I was happy with that day.

Next, Mary's.  These are the closest to the pattern, but I did not like the length of the 3-unit version in the magazine, so I just made a little link on top and that was it.

Third, Suzanne's.  I made a 5 unit circle to start rather than a 6 unit circle, and the result is more star-like and less flower-like.

Finally, Carrie's.  I love these - also very close to pattern but with picot's instead of rounded outlines.

This project is a great "stash buster" for 4mm fire polished crystals and those peanut beads you do not know what to do with!

These were all made with love for the Toddler Full Day staff at Chiaravalle Montessori.  They are loving, professional, fun and they make magic with toddlers.  Hat's off!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Dear Fellow Beaders/Crafters/Jewelry Makers:

Most of us occasionally buy and work with gold, even small amounts.  I am proud to work at Human Rights Watch (my day job) and one of my colleagues, Juliane Kippenberg, has recently completed a large research project on child labor in artisanal gold mines in Mali.

This complements the work HRW has done on the more corporate side of gold mining in Congo.

Please take some time to watch this report on Brian Williams' program about artisanal gold mining.

If you are interested and want to learn more about mining in Mali, please read more here.

The bottom line: what can we do?


This is the best way to get word down the supply chain that consumers care.  Think of it like you would Fair Trade Coffee or Fair Trade Chocolate.

As you hear on Brian Williams' program, the United Kingdom has a new standard that allows consumers to know if they are buying gold that was not mined using exploitative and dangerous practices.

How will you use this information going forward?  Are there other fora where you can share this with fellow crafters?  Let's all play a positive role in protecting children around the world.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Experimenting with Rachel Nelson Smith "Bumps"

Thanksgiving weekend, and I finished this funny little experiment with Rachel Nelson Smith's "bumps" - little Peyote hills atop Right Angle Weave units. This is from the Bead Riffs book by Lark.

The rope is an odd count Peyote rope, 5 beads round.  Very dark blue, and lots of misshapen beads so it is not terribly regular. 

The beaded bead is 5 units wide and 8 around.  That is a lot of bumps, and the last few were super hard to get in there!

Can't decide if I like this or is it too odd?

Of course, the author's bumps are a lot more regular, but I am starting to think this is pleasantly wonky.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Voices for Justice Necklace

Can you spot the result of 1:00 am stress-beading from two nights before my big work event?

Correct!  An incredibly fussy bezeled rivoli crystal!  The thread broke, I dunno, 1,000 times.  Probably because it was the middle of the night and my reflexes were completely gone.  But I was determined that it was exactly the necklace I wanted to wear that night.

This picture is from after the event, with the lovely Renee, my Voices for Justice partner in crime.

Tubular Netted Rope a la Jessica

My friend Jessica (the co-owner and bright light of the magnificent Studio Beads) showed me a lovely tubular netted rope with size 13 beads, just a 3-bead net, that she was working on earlier this fall.  I was so taken with it that I ignored my internal warnings about losing my vision early to those tiny beads over such a long rope, and I dove in.  Finished today.  The result:

My camera is not doing so well getting this, but it is about 17 inches and very shimmery, and nicely lacy and see through.    I may end up hanging something from it to spice it up a bit, something I could remove and then wear the rope solo.   There are two colors in my 3 bead net, I still can't keep track of net without color changes to mark the connector beads.  Jessica's was a pure taupe, and it was sooooooo lovely.  I am getting there, but not there yet.


I've been working in the rope for my Bead Show owly forever.  Just inching along.  I think I started it in June!

Here is the Cubic Right Angle Weave rope, embellished with the accent colors from the bead:

Once I made the rope, the next challenge was to do a beaded bail that looked nice and was also removable so I could wear the rope without the owly for more grown up occasions.  Here is the result:

The bottom of the bail is a circular peyote disc that is a little lumpy, and a little lopsided.  It is attached via the owly bead hole to a herringbone loop that is large enough to slide on and off.  I think it is very sturdy if not perfect in terms of symmetry, as this design (the peyote) allowed me to take multiple passes through the owly with every consecutive round of the disc.

I am really pleased with the way the colors worked out.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Project with New Beads from the Show!

The colors I loved best at bead show this year were the jonquil/mint green beads, paired with the cranberry/blue beads (all Toho I think), that I selected to go with the simple lampworked flower I got from one of the fabulous glassworkers at the show - from afar they look like raspberry and lime!  DE-licious.I could not figure out how to hang the flower since the hole goes front to back rather than up and down. 
I started thinking of a breezy net, something like a stem network.  It was pretty neat, but it did not go with the focal bead in the end, when I tried to hang it on there.

I also made a think odd-count peyote rope to that has a nice twist to see if that would look good, but I missed the lime.

In the end Fiona suggested I kill two birds with one stone and make the bail into a lime-colored leafy thingy, that would solve both the need for green contrast and the need for an interesting bail.  So here it is!

I was especially happy when I put the finished net right on top of the other - not bad for an accident!

For anyone who is interested in the mechanics, the bail is a loop with leaves stitched on like loose nets, and then the cup in the back is a 6-bead circular herringbone cup with increases every row and picots on the ends.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Favorite 2011 Bead Show Artists & Vendors

For those of you (Anyone? Bueller?) who might want to create a virtual bead show with online shopping, here is a list of my favorite vendors from this year.  Some of the web sites are a little rustic but I am sure if you close your eyes, turn around three times, and say "there is no place like Bead Show," you will get the idea.

I tried to record everything I really loved but I am sure I forgot more than one.  Even though it was only last week, it is already a blur, and my receipts and cards are a mess.  Anyone else who went to the show have faves I missed?

Glass Bead Artists:

Dvora Silberman - beautiful glass, very classy and artistic.

Avenue Beads - I got a number of really nice pieces here - based in Downer's Grove.

Julie Miller - lovely lovely lovely glass.  Little itty bitty vases.  Happy vases.  I did not buy any this time but I WILL.

Patti Cahill - OK, this stuff is in a class of its own.  Whimsical, beautiful, well made, exciting, inspiring.  Sigh.

Beau Barrett - I wanted to buy some of this glass but did not get to at this show, really liked it though, especially the "inside out" beads.

Thornburg Bead Studio - great colors, sense of humor, fun fun fun.  I got some of the squares and discs and am having fun wearing them already.

Marsha Hedrick - wonderful porcelain.

Beads Nest - the web site may be under construction, but the work at the show was wonderful.

Kyoto Studio - unbelievable lampworked flowers.  To die for.

Erin Hook - another web site that is under construction.  Must be busy making beads!  There are some good photos here though, to give you a sense of the talent of this Michigan beader, part of the Michigan Beadworkers Guild (I think, correct me if I am wrong).


MAKUStudio - I bought some from this shop last year, and looked longlingly this year.

Lisa Peters - ditto, above.  I hear she was so popular that most of her new stuff sold out the first night of shopping at the show!  Good thing her older stuff is still so AWESOME.

Multi-item stores / beads and materials:

Knot Just Beads - this is an anchor at bead show, with tons of selection, friendly faces and good prices on everything, including Kumihimo supplies.

Funky Hannah's - great selection of seed beads and good overall assortment.  Plus, if you are in the Chicago area, this could be a great actual road trip!

BeadCats - best best best selection of the tiny tiny tiny ones.  Size 15 charlottes, 16 charlottes, antiques.

Beyond Beadery - MASSIVE sead bead selection.

Raven's Journey - incredible selection, reliable provenance of quality Czeck glass.  Plus, Lenka was really nice to us and loved our jewelry.

Victorian Purses by Sue - wonderful collection of Czech seed beads, purse knit and crochet patterns and supplies, as well as Kumihimo.

Multi-item stores / findings:

Silver Dash - Best. Jump Rings. EVER.   Perfect cuts, perfect circles, right ratios of gauge to ring size for strength.  If you could see me, I would be kissing my fingers.

McDuck Creations- McDuck has terrific not-necesssarily-for-beaders bails and findings, so you can wear your beads without having to fuss.

Grain of Sand - wonderful findings, vintage and otherwise.

Nina Designs - silver and gold, silver and gold... well made, timeless designs, a little pricey, but worth it.

Kits and Patterns:

Cynthia Rutledge - as always, Cynthia was there, friendly and encourating.  I have a couple of kits in the works so I did not buy any, but her work is unparalleled, and her instructions are almost as good as taking a class.

Sabine Lippert - Sabine did not have a booth at this show, but she was in a class with me and I have since checked out her kits and patterns. Wowza.

Leslie Frazier - Leslie taught the class I took and sells marvelous kits.  Ingenious, elegant designs. Very good instructions.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Detail on the finished Tolkien LOTR piece...

Here is the finished "40th birthday challenge" piece.  My friend Fiona and I made this challenge to one another last year, and since our birthdays are both in the coming 6 days, and since this week was Bead Show, we unveiled our work. It took about 6 months start to finish, with lots of other projects interceding.  It also went through many re-designs, mostly which gave me excuses to buy more beads.

The challenge was to create a concept piece using all of our bead-weaving (tiny beads stitched together with needle and thread) skills, designed (with help from books and mags for elements) by ourselves, that would pay "homage" to an author or film director.  I chose Tolkien, specifically LOTR. 

We got loads of attention walking around Bead Show wearing our creations, which was super gratifying. People loved the spiderweb and the Great Eye.  It did make shopping harder, as people kept stopping to chat and take our picture. A few vendors even guessed (with some hints) the inspiration for the piece, and many people asked us what class we took to make them!  I was proud to say that this one, there is no class for this sort of tomfoolery, at least not yet.


From the East. you can see the Elanor flower really well, but I am afraid my leaf of Lothlorien got a little hidden in the end.  The Evenstar hangs down from Samwise's favored flower.

 From the West, you get a good look at Shelob and her web, and hanging down from that the Elassar, which was needed when Aragorn had to heal so many wounded after battle!  You can also get a good look at the Eye of Sauron, which owes a great deal to Diane Fitzgerald's Shaped Beadwork, but which has a free-netted black pupil holding in a black rivoli in a peyote bezel.

Detail of the leaf... my own design, mostly herringbone stitch with some embellishment.

Detail of Shelob, whose legs were a bit wonky.  I did not want to use wire, but if I had, they would have stood a tad more, well, standy.  He is made from two adjacent "plum blossoms" (30 bead spheres) with one fat red bead in her belly to make her look more angry and less cute.  She has 8 red eyes and two little tusks made from size 15 crystal charlottes, so they are almost invisible here.

The One Ring.  Just some embellished cubic right angle weave.  I wanted something that looked old, and heavy, and with enough gaps that one could imagine a message there that only flame could tell...

The Elassar, also owes a lot to Diane.  In Tolkien's description it is set in silver with an eagle behind it, but it was also described as being set in Aragorn's helm.


The base of the piece is a 4-unit lattice, which I learned from a Cynthia Rutledge pattern.  


Making the eye.

While this might be the bit of the piece that to the naked eye is least easily associated with LOTR, this Elanor flower was based on a flower I have always had in my imagination from reading the books.  I based it on Tolkien's own words describing it, and some fan art. 

Well, on to next year's challenge!!!  I learned a lot with this one, it is the first I have ever designed really thoughtfully from start to finished, all by myself.  Also, I pushed myself to pick up new skills in the making. 

Assembly took almost 8 hours, all this Thursday. (Assembly means stitching all the bits and pieces I've spent 6 months making onto the base.)  It was a huge challenge to put it all together with some balance and not be as literal as I had originally intended (moving, map-wise, from West to East with all the items being in their real locale.  Can you say "geek"?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Raku bead from 2010 show, experiment a qualified success?

I can't decide if this worked or not.  Does raku bead get a little lost in the bezel?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gifts for the ladies

This is a terrible pic but I it is all I have of these sweet little gifties for sweeter ladies - the team who planned our DC advocacy trip this year.   I am hoping to do more of these woven earrings, they work up fast and use very little in the way of beads....  and they fit neatly into plastic eggs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Phew. Another stress-induced UFO completion.

This one has been lurking around my craft area for, oh, a year or so.  I started doing a bezel for the larger cabs, then found the matching smaller cab and did it up likewise.  Then the pair sat on the tray, and sat, and sat....... I figured out how to do the cable after finishing my last Cynthia Rutledge kit which inspired the encircled stones, which match the cabs. I have no idea what this rock is, but it sure is purdy.  I am thinking I need to take a brown sharpie and eliminate the visible white stiff interfacing onto which the tiny beads are stitched - I am a little annoyed that in the light of this picture, the white is visible. 

I have to say, this one looks lovely on.  Some of my work, well, doesn't.  My husband says it is his favorite thing I have ever made!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Getting them started early

Soren's first design!  He picked the color, the length, had the idea of how to do the loop, and selected the number of beads in each loop and between each loop.  A Huib-to-be?  He does have the right middle name...

And here is Stella, with her very first fist full of beads.  Oooooh, Stella.

First successful Kumiimo braid

My first (unsuccessful) braid is so bad I cannot salvage it.  This one came out nicely, with beads bought in bulk on one of my trips to NYC's beading district near our offices in Midtown.  (HRWers, I sneak out between meetings.  Every 15 minutes free is precious bead shopping time.)

Kumihimo instructions and supplies can be found here.  The ropes are extremely strong and have a nice drape.  Set up is a pain but it works up very quickly once you get rolling!

Cubic Right Angle Weave Stuff...

I am totally and completely obsessed with this stitch.  It keeps me up at night.  I want to stitch it all the time.... is that healthy?  Here is a basic rope with some lovely glass beads my sister-in-law got me in Mexico, and another rope with a window stitched right into the bottom.  These work up much more quickly than regular RAW or herringbone!  I also found out that this stitch has its roots in Southern Sudan, where one of my favorite HRW researchers is right now.  The male beaded corsets apparently included many structural right angle connections.

Earrings to experiment

I've learned two new techniques and used the results in earrings to avoid making new UFOs.  This is a Chinese Plum Cluster (the pink ones) and some flat circular peyote (the blue green ones):

More UFO resolition...

Here is something I have had in my backpack for almost 2 years.  I have become a much better beader since I started it, so it has lots of mistakes on one side and gets smoother as it goes to the other!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Operation Eliminate UFOs - 2 down, 6ish to go*

I am challenging myself to clear the beading deck before bead show 2011 in Milwaukee.

Here are two bracelets that the day off today allowed me to finish.  It is really frightening how many UFOs (unfinished objects) I have cluttering up my space.  I started beading 5 years ago and I have several UFOs that old!

This one is flat herringbone, 10 stacks wide, with a pretty button that Fiona got me at the 2009 bead show in Milwaukee.

This one is a"lattice weave" a la Cynthia Rutledge with a nice button from the 2010 bead show.

*UFOs designed for elimination are only in the category of beading.  If I had to go after knitting and quilting UFOs, the task would be way too daunting, as I have at least one 15 year old knitting UFO and at least one a year since then waiting for me!  This challenge, I am sad to say, probably will not include my minute UFOs, beaded beads and the like that spawn like, well, spawn when I am not looking...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy President's Day To Me! Finally cracked Cubic Right Angle Weave!

I want to shout from the mountaintops:  I can do cubic right angle weave!  Like, really!  But alas, there are something like 2 people on earth who might even look up to acknowledge the accomplishment.  Sigh.  Anywho, what tipped me over the C-RAW edge was an online video, on the Bead & Button Mag site. 

Once I started, I could not stop.  This may be first time I have finished a bead weaving project in the same week I started it!

The pendant is not RAW, it is just a peyote bezel around a pretty rivoli I picked up at one of my favorite bead shops, La Bead Oh! in Springfield, IL.

Below see the little caterpillar that represents my RAW chain's humble beginnings.  It worked up very quickly and is quite flexible.  The only downside I can see is that it eats a lot of thread, my 'spensive One-G, and you have to use the 'spensive stuff because a lot of thread does show in this. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

How-to - Applique Circles

Here is the tutorial I used to make the circle appliques for the 48 circles in the modern quilt for Shayna.  I sorted through 3 different tutorials and this was by far the easiest for a newbie.

To make 48 circle-in-squares, I cut 96 squares of fabric and 96 circles (based on a coaster or a template of the right size of freezer paper.) That was the hardest part!
I followed the tutorial link above to a T and, given that I am NOT a perfectionist, came out with 48 pretty nice little circles inside squares.  Sewing in a circle on the machine was helped by a tip from another site: stop with the needle down at every point on a clock or compass (whichever you prefer) to lift the foot and slightly turn your fabric.  This makes for a smooth looking curve without bunches.

This was mostly just a matter of staying organized... and I really did not pay attention to which circles went on which squares, but let fate play a role!