Friday, 3 November 2017

The life of beige

In a former career life, I got to interview textile artists and jewellery designers for magazines. I had a personal wish list of people I wanted to meet, and right up there was the King of colour himself, Kaffe Fassett. During one of his highly entertaining lectures, he addressed a room full of ladies of a certain age with a deep sigh and the heartfelt plea of 'Why does everything have to be so beige?' taken out of context like this it does sound like a criticism of his audience, but was actually a commentary on his first impressions of English interiors; but you could take it either way.
Well, that was a good few years ago and ladies of a certain age nowadays have a rainbow of Lagen look linen layers and the liberating Gudrun Sjoden eclectic and vibrantly colourful fashion collections. We can knit ourselves a rainbow of shawls, cowls and cardi's in gorgeous artisan yarns. Not for us the path of fade to grey in soft creams and beige with touches of navy for smart. No, we will likely celebrate the arrival of a full head of grey or white by dyeing it lime green or purple.

What got me thinking about that throw away comment (which stuck with me ever since, as you can tell... with a promise to self never to settle for beige), was the rediscovery of these images of a huge basket of walnuts. They were gently drying in the corner of a studio where I was invited to teach. I loved the bountiful abundance, the subtle mix of warm neutrals and the cool grey greens of the hand made willow basket.
A gorgeous abundance of neutral beige colour palette.

So then I thought about how we use colour in beading, lots of us love a good neutral mix, the newish matt metallics are divinely every shade of beige, from almost ash white, to deep chocolate with all points champagne and gold between.
Then I remembered that I made this necklace not long after I took the pictures of the walnuts.

It started with the glittery Czech glass button, gifted to me by a friend which set the colour theme for all the beads I picked out. CzechMate two hole tile beads with a lustre coating, fierce gunmetal spike beads discovered in the haberdashery department,  inky matt black and several matt metallic seed bead colours; plus some chunky matt gold bugle beads for the necklace strap.

The main pendant is bead embroidered, with a peyote stitch bezel to hold the button in place. Lot's of fringing with the willow grey picked out in the fringes. The strap is a mix of ladder stitch and right angle weave. The necklace sides are linked to the pendant with old brass curtain rings.

Definitely mostly beige, but not, I hope, in a settle for beige kind of way.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Nature's Ruby and Russet

My nephew and I decided to take a walk and found a tree with these gorgeous red leaves; from a distance the tree looked darkest purple, but up close it was a riot of purply reds. I photographed the leaves with the light coming through and they glow like a stained glass window.
On the ground a cast iron drain cover was the perfect shade of dark rusty grey to showcase the leaves.
A gorgeous ready made colourway for a beading project. Unnoticed until later, those lemony Sycamore wings add a perfect accent colour.
On the way home we made a list of all our favourite red and purple autumn things, like rosehip syrup, blackcurrant cordial, bramble jelly and stewed plums; all of them giving us a hoard of nature's goodness to store, ready to cook and eat through the winter.

Once you start looking it's hard to stop, back at home I found some papery, silky red onions too. I love how the dried roots and stalks introduce that same lemony accent.
When the colour muse inspires, it's great to have a simple design as a standby, to try out the new colour mix. Mine is a 'wear all the time' bangle that was a sample for a techniques workshop. It uses pinch beads and crystals with a sprinkling of seed beads and works up into a sturdy bangle that can withstand every day wear.
I can make one in an evening, but only if it's not my turn to cook.
 I used matt and shiny dark plum pinch beads, with dark red and copper ab crystals. Lemony green seed beads are there too, as a reminder of the Sycamore wings.

Between the two bangles sits one made earlier, using a favourite turquoise and sage mixture. I like the way they look all together, like even more that they match a new chunky knit jumper in dark purple that is perfect to snuggle inside.

The best thing about these bangles is that they have enough flex in them to be made slightly smaller than usual; and, they can be rolled onto your wrist.
You can throw all sorts of colours at them and they organise your mix for you, here are some in violet, teal and turquoise.

The pattern for this bangle, and several variations of necklaces is called 'Pinch me I'm Dreaming'. It started as a workshop to show and share different right angle weave variations and was inspired by my friend Andreina who showed me how to make the necklace she wore to a class.
It's available here in my pdf store.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Autumn beady inspiration

Ready or not, here it comes; the time of bounty and colour before the cold greys of winter set in. The time for long walks on bright clear days, for gathering leaves for their colour inspiration. I'd love to create a gorgeously leafy inspired project, but right now I have a to do list so long I hate it for getting in the way of spontaneous creating. Instead, here is a really simple idea.
Gather up some colourful leaves, real or virtual (you can borrow mine), then gather all the odds and ends of seed beads you have, in the colours you find in the leaves.

Next, choose one simple beady motif, small enough to bead easily.
Make as many variations you can come up with, using the colours chosen from your bead stash.

Lots of beading is repetition, and a mass of one thing is gorgeous.
Like crocheting granny squares or preparing patchwork quilt pieces, this process of gradually amassing a simple element is easy to squeeze into a spare half hour here and there.

Here are a couple of examples to get you thinking.

These beaded leaves were made using the same process, I had half used tubes of nine bead colours ranging from very dark red, through rust and coral to light yellow and gold. There are 18 leaves and I joined each one with a jump ring through the stalk end, to a chunky copper chain.

Beaded beads can be quick to make and look great in any colour mix you throw at them.

For this necklace I used yellowy green, olive and bronze mixes over pale beech wooden beads.
Then added some detail when I strung them together with antique copper bead caps more seed beads and green pearls.

There are lots of quick and easy free patterns if you google search for leaves, beaded beads or other simple motifs.
The leaf pattern I used is published in Albion Stitch book 2

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

New workshops reveal

It's September, I'm sitting in my workshop with the doors and windows wide open; sunshine streaming across the door sill; I can hear birds celebrating the warmth, the farm tractor in the distance, and my neighbours chickens and ducks are rummaging through the long grass, clucking and quacking contentedly. So what has all this got to do with new workshops?
A designer's year falls in to different segments, designing, writing, kit packing, hectic travel and teaching, creative solitude, all punctuated with deadlines from venues and event organisers, groups, magazines and stores. So a day of beautiful sunshine and the lovely feeling of having new work ready to share is definitely something to be relished.
The new projects for 2018 workshops are ready and here they are...

I'll be offering nine workshops for 2018, some need to stay under wraps for a little while longer, some are the most often requested workshops from 2017.
If you'd like to see when and where the workshops will be held, I'll be posting the 2018 schedule on my website in November.
Click the link for the current schedule on my website.

You are welcome to join my newsletter to receive regular updates.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Bento box beading

In my travels I've discovered that, just like me, most beader's are on a never ending quest for great storage. Who hasn't rushed out to shop when storage envy strikes at a bead meet?
Portable storage is a quest, either to haul stash to class, or like me, to have everything for a project in one place when I sit down to bead.

I was using the plastic trays you get with food packaging, they are free, abundant, and there's the feel good factor of recycling, but they are just not, y'know, all that pretty to look at.

Then I converted to these plastic food boxes with lids. This was necessary because, after some lengthy searches and moments of complete befuddlement, I realised that one of my cats likes nothing better than fishing out a baggie of beads to go play with... when I'm not looking.
This kind of  box is also great because they can be stacked, if you are a multi project beader. They are made if almost clear plastic, so you can see what's inside; take a fair amount of stuff. But, it is a fishing expedition through the packets and tubes to find the next thing you need to use.

Now though, I feel so happy, I have graduated to a Bento box. I saw these in our local supermarket, they had me at Lime green, but the pocket money prices was all it took to commit. Even if I didn't have a use for it, it's adorable! Should I brand name? It's made by Sistema, widely available
(I google checked for you and, Oh My! they have a gazillion variations, pink and purple too! So you are bound to find one to suit your beady need and spend allowance).
Me? I may be acquiring a slightly larger version, perfect for the travelling, then maybe one for the art stuff, and...and...

It has little lift out trays, deliciously translucent so you can see through to the next layer; which is a plentiful storage space Inn this variation there is a screw top pot for all the random odds and end it takes to build a bead project (for scale, those are 14mm Rivoli in the pot). Long and short bead tubes fit comfortably, and the lift out trays make a great tool station to sit next to the bead board.
I also really like that the lid is segmented, you can put the lift out trays there, or just use it for sorting the larger than seed beads bits and bobs without them rolling away.

Best of all, it is completely cat and accident proof with a snap close clasp that is good and strong.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Mission Falls 1824 Crochet blankets

Fresh laundry
Last week we had hot sunshine, it's a secret pleasure of mine to go a little domestic with the laundry then hang it out to dry in the sun, because nothing beats the smell of sun dried fabric. It's good to get the heavy and hard to dry things out there too and let nature do the work. I posted these pictures of my stack of freshly laundered crochet blankets, and Chester taking advantage of my hesitation putting them away... with a totally cattitude expression on his face. Lots of people commented on the gorgeous colours of the blankets so...
Chester's new sleep spot

I thought it would be fun to share the story behind the top blanket, because although I'm all about the beads, confess love of a good yarn almost as much. Yup, owning up to being the curator of quite the collection of yet to be used yarns; and so try to find time to knit and crochet too.

These are a matching pair of blankets about a yard square, they sit over the backs of the sofas in winter, it's a favourite cat snooze spot as the radiators are nearby.

The yarn is one I totally love, by Mission Falls, a pure cotton yarn in a richly vintage range of colours, a joy to work and a good double knit weight with lots of strength in it. Sadly it was discontinued in 2011 and is much missed by lovers of colour the world over. The artist's hand behind the colour palette was Mags Kandis and you can find her patterns on Ravelry.

Building the first blanket

One summer I began work, starting with small square blocks for the centres, rows of stitches, followed by more blocks then more rows. I would take the yarn basket out and sit on the lawn and work, making it up as I went along and playing that fun game of choosing which jewel and cool colours to work next, then picking out the edges with inky black.
At that time my constant creative companion was Holly, a dear sweet soul of a cat. We made a game, (Cat owners will know it, cats love to swipe stuff off the table/shelf/windowsill and watch it drop to the floor, regardless of how precious/delicate/mess creating it might be).
I'd put all the finished squares on the bench, then she'd gently hit them off one by one, and that was the sequence in which they got added to the blanket. She enjoyed participating, and enjoyed even more, spending many winter evenings snoozing on her finished blanket on the back of the sofa.

Holly choosing squares.
Holly was a very poorly rescue kitten when she arrived with us, but went on to have a long and happy life. Years later I still miss her calm presence and outrageously loud purr.
But, there are always pets in need of a safe haven and now it's good to see Chester enjoying the Mission Falls blankets too.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A year and a day

This past year I have missed writing this blog, the blog on my website is fun and the place where I share snippets of news, ideas for colour inspiration and information about classes and products; but somehow it's not quite the right place for longer chats with you about my beady life...
So, I'm back!
Let's get right into some beady musing and the latest in my 'Just for me' series.
Vintage green Happy sack dress.

I bought this dress, mostly because I fell in love with the colours of the print, and secondly, because it's a 'Happy sack', which is a sack like dress that you feel happy in because you can hide under it's yardage!

I spread out all the beads I thought might be a good fit with the dress colours, seed beads, dainty crystals, frosted daggers, dark plum coloured pearls and some semi precious stone beads in pink (Phosphosiderite) and dark green (Agate).

Choosing the beads
Next was a vintage glass crystal from a hoard I have been longing to use, in a just right shade of dark purple. This transparent glass has no foil backing, and for those of you curious about the behind the scenes processes of building a design, here's what happened. First I cut a ring of backing fabric to support the edges of the crystal, then I used some silver foil from a chocolate wrapper (hence the need for a happy sack dress, sigh). I used a glue stick just to hold everything in place, glue sticks are a 'neutral' glue, like PVA (a good alternative), that will dry and not do weird things to the fabrics, threads or bead finishes.

Vintage glass Cabochons
silver foil backing, glued and trimmed

My bead embroidery isn't perfect, but it's one of the most relaxing ways to create and play, so beady happiness ensued after the crystal was bezelled into place with traditional peyote stitch.
I got a bit daring and added some different size beads among the rows of seed beads, and then brought dainty strands and ladders of seed beads up from the surface to add depth and detail.
velvet cord with beaded end caps and clasp
To finish off, I added a loop of ladder stitch at the top, and lots of fringing at the bottom, each fringe is tipped with a loop of beads, with dagger beads on little jump rings attached through each loop.
A Peyote stitch ring and another ladder loop give a place for the cord and a way for the pendant to hang the right way. The cord is a velvet one and I stitched some beaded end caps to it.

If you're tempted to have a go, I have decided to share the hoard and have a limited number of these purple vintage glass crystals available in the shop here.