Tuesday, 24 January 2012

true love... but which one?

We're not talking Wesley and Princess Buttercup here... but photography. After being asked, well actually simply begged, by several students to take the mystery out of tubular right angle weave, I've finally finished my kit of the same just in time for Valentines Day. I love tubular R.A.W it is a really handy technique to use as a base for necklaces, plus you can work it in all sorts of bead mixes. As with Albion Stitch, I love that you can 'build' in different directions. My little Love Hearts charm shows you the basics, plus some directional beading and the whole zipping up some ends thing, mystery solved. The dilemma is which photo to choose?
I do enjoy styling pictures and the way that an image can tell a little story, evoke a mood, and really change how you see a piece of beadwork. Here are my three pictures...

The first one shows the Love Heart charm on a lovely knitted wool heart which my friend Jackie gave me for Christmas. Filled with dry grain and lavender it is one of the most huggable and comforting things ever, if you need one they are made by Catherine Tough a British designer of many lovely things.
Next I picked the keys out of an old computer keyboard (tsk!!), and used a cheery gingham heart as the back drop for the charm. This heart is one that just appeared in the house, you can get similar from gifty stores or make one... I'm noticing gingham and a distinctly 1930's type of red white and blue creeping into fashion and giftwares, could we possibly be gearing up for a retro styled Golden Jubilee?

Then I used the cover of a lovely old book, the gold embossing curling into a lovely art noveau kind of heart motif. The book is a beloved and the linen is a bit grubby. If you're curious it's a copy of
'Country of the Pointed Firs' written in 1896 by Sarah Orne Jewett.
I find that my copy is an original Houghton Mifflin and Company 1896 edition, gosh! Anyhoo, I was enchanted the first time I read the book, and now it has become one of those 'comforter' reads which are an essential for those occasions when retreating from the world, even if just for a while, is the only option!
How I'd love to row the boat over to Green Island and be cheered by company of the indomitable little lady that forever lives there.

Oops, bit off topic there...
So I'm thinking one and two are better than three for the purposes of telling a little Love Hearts charm story, have a look here to see which one I plumped for.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

chasing rainbows

Rainbow swatches colour class
Yesterday we had a great workshop day at StitchnCraft in Dorset. Choosing colours for beading can be really scary, trying to find out about colour to maybe make that job easier can be totally intimidating.
So many theories, colour wheels and horrible words, analogous colours sound like they've congealed on a plate, complementary should mean side by side, shouldn't it?
Then even if you do tippy toe through the minefield of knowledge, or just plain cheat and use one of those websites that make an instant colour palette from your chosen image, oh look! they don't do that colour in glass! Doh!
Thanks to a fabulous group of students willing to laugh at the colour monster... Bahahaha!!!!!! the day wizzed by in a snowstorm of paint chips, followed by the best sound in the world, the rattle of beads in tubes as serious colour selecting took place. We even had time to bead up some test swatches so everyone could leave with the first chapter of her personal colour library beaded up. As always, I learned heaps too and have some new colour mixes to explore next time the beads come out. Thanks to everyone for coming, some of you a long way, thanks for the chocolate sins in a box (you know who you are!), and for everyone who wasn't there, here's one we made earlier...

Friday, 20 January 2012

Handmade Living

Handmade Living magazine is featuring a lovely Peyote stitch ribbon bracelet in the current issue, which makes me happy happy! because it's one of my designs. Plus there's the promise of a bonus pattern on-line. You can find their site here.
I'm loving the way they have presented the design, in fact the whole issue is full of projects I'd love to make.
For the bracelet I've put together a materials pack in three delicious colour ways, Lavender, Denim or Spice, which include everything readers will need to complete the design. I've also included some notes for beginners, a kind of FAQ check list to help you get started.

Denim, Spice and Lavender
I'm doubly excited because the design includes the little clasps which I've just started using and sell here too. It's taken just ages to find the style of clasp which can be used with narrow beadwork. Once I'd finally found that, yes they are made how I'd imagined them, it's taken another few months of wearing and road testing samples with various bead and thread configurations, just to make sure they really do work. Now they are, at long last in stock, and I can start writing up more of the designs that started my questing for clasps in the first place... somehow that 'to do' list never seems to get any shorter!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

one for a sparkly vampire lover

Bella's Charm Bronze version
My latest beading project began with the lovely vintage photograph shown here. I don't know who the person is, I picked her out of a box of old photographs in a junk shop.
I loved the detailing on what was probably her 'best' outfit and the fact that she's wearing both a brooch and a pendant necklace, her favourite treasures maybe.
I am intrigued by treasures and trinkets with secret compartments,
talismans, and the way our personal treasures have layers of meaning. 
Like a touchstone, our treasure can anchor us to a loved one, a moment in time, or an ambition achieved. Simple lockets with photographs and curls of hair, or gifts given to celebrate graduation, childbirth, marriage, coming of age, symbols to protect the traveller and on it goes.
I also like the way these treasures travel with us through our lives and witness our best and worst.

Bella's charm is a pendant with a secret compartment, just big enough to hold a slip of parchment with a wish, hope, dream, prayer, spell or incantation written on it. Embellished with sparkling chatons and gleaming pearls it is worked in a mixture of stitches. I made the first one in the lovely warm shades of sepia photographs, bronze and gold. Then I thought I'd take a look and see how it worked out in a lighter mix of silver and aqua... which became my instant fave... until I tried blood red and pewter, the perfect gothic mix!
The pattern, materials pack and full kit are on the website if you'd like a Bella's Charm of your own.
Sunset bronze, Midnight pewter or Moonrise silver

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

wax on... wax off....

If your first thought was of a certain scene in the Karate Kid movie... I know how old you are! me too!
Are you sitting comfortably? then I shall begin...
When I started beading I was curious about the various thread conditioners you could buy. I still have my little blue box of Thread Heaven, and a chunk of 'Crystal Wax', a fluffy old piece of beeswax and a candle stub left over from my embroidery days. As a beginner I also had the vague notion that one or all of these, liberally applied, would aid my beading no end.
Having tried them all, been a fan of each for a while, I came to the conclusion that non are essential, but each very useful for certain tasks.
I also found that I was in want of something in between, not as heavy as beeswax, not as hard as crystal wax, for those times when I want to condition my thread to have a little 'resistance'.
So this is why, one sunny frosty January morning I head off deep into the Somerset countryside to my friend's cottage. Yes, gasp in envy at the idyllic setting, the gorgeous garden, the orchard beyond the wiggly stone wall. Dash past the curious goose, chat with the comfortingly fussy hens, and into the big stone floored kitchen which smells of warm baking and where the kettle is already singing on the range. I'm here to collect some beeswax.
Beader's Blend

My Beader's blend thread conditioner is the result of a lot of experiments mixing together different types of wax. One of the essential ingredients is beeswax. It already has a long tradition of use with stitching and embroidery, to stiffen and protect threads and prevent them knotting; we are talking sensible seam sewing here (think patchwork quilting rather than embroidery floss and fine silks). It is also used in Goldwork to help thread glide more smoothly, the same reasons we like it for beading threads. The beeswax I'm using is very pure as it comes straight from my friend's hives. Some years it is dark and golden, other years a paler yellow. Back home and in my own kitchen there is a lovely smell of honey and beeswax and the first batch of Beader's Blend is gently cooling.
Beader's Blend cooling in the kitchen

In my recipe I include a blend of two kinds of crystal wax along with the beeswax, and serve up the results in little foil wrappers topped with a pressed flower from my garden. Each summer I harvest forget-me-not flowers and pop them into the flower press with the hope that there will be enough to keep up with demand until next year's flowers appear.
Use Beader's Blend to lightly condition threads where you need a bit of extra grip, or if your thread tension could do with a bit of help. Just lightly pull your thread across the cake, then run the thread through your fingers several times, this will warm the wax and give a very fine coating. Customers tell me it works well for their embroidery projects too.