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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Testing... 1, 2, 3, 4... 5... 6...

I have been thinking about making bead embroidered clothing for almost four months now.  And it has been hard to start, because I knew the results would not be very swell the first time.  But I am going to share my struggles.  Because both of us can learn from my mistakes, eh?

 Lesson #1
If I want to keep using quilted dupioni silk as a base, I need to contrast the embroidery with the silk color.  Matching it doesn't work.  I am used to working in the super-bling of rhinestones, but the beads do not have enough punch of their own, (unless I am planning to be very subtle) to be the same color as the busy textured ground.  If the ground was not quilted, it might work.  I do like seeing some fabric in this piece, but I can also imagine loving entirely filling the graphics with beads.  But, wait... weight!  But the idea of using floss in conjunction with beads is pretty juicy too!

Lesson #2
I was so excited when I realized that I was finally ready to give this a try, I did almost zero design work.  I just flew by the seat of my pants.  I grabbed a quilted vest I owned, patterned a similar vest, chopped it out and laid out applique on it as fast as I could, so I could start working with the beads.  
Fine, but if I want to produce something gorgeous, I need to plan.  And since I am planning to make the garments myself, I need to start with the design of the garment, and THEN the design of the embellishment.  No more wasting energy on making it up as I go along.  

Lesson #3
I don't think I want to use bead backing.  I want the garments to stay as supple as possible, so tension is everything.  And I have a notorious tight hand with a needle. So I must pull the thread taught and STOP.   I don't really see a way to put the work in a hoop, so I have had to learn to keep it completely flat where I am working, so I do not cram in too many beads, another of my favorite things to do. Every time the lines buckle, too many beads is the problem. Took me a long time to catch on.  
 I started at the top and worked my way down with the scroll work.  You can see how my edges improved as I went along.  They REALLY SUCK the the top.  It is much easier to work over the extra layer of fabric where the applique is, than to stitch free form without the added stiffness of the applique.

Lesson #4
Finishing the garment is going to take time, and I have to account for that.  I imagine that what I want to make will be mostly tailored things, vests, jackets, coats...  And everything will need linings.  I am an adequate tailor, and hopefully my skills will be sufficient to the task.  

Lesson #5
There has to be a way to clean these garments I want to make.  I purposefully chose beads with various finishes from various manufacturers.  And I will send the thing to the dry cleaner and see what happens.  Eek.  That will be a grand lesson.  I know Miyuki has a list of beads they consider to be colorfast.  I imagine Toho does too.  No idea about Matsuno.  We shall see.  This was the thing that was maybe the most frightening to me, but the stores are full of fall and winter party dresses. Many of them have beadwork, with beads that look less permanently attached and of lower quality than mine. 

Lesson #6
 I need to think about closure as part of the design.  I have some awesome Chinese frogs I thought would close this garment, but nope, WAY too busy.  I ordered gold snaps.  FROM TURKEY!!! Because that is where I could find nice brass snaps.  Really?  Really!  So the closure will have to wait a bit.  But I think I am ready to do some sketching for a second effort.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Giving Tree

My son is poised on the edge of leaving home for real. He will graduate from college this Spring, and has a great job waiting for him.  I asked him to clean out his bedroom before he moved to his apartment this fall, so it could be used as a guest room.  I meant, just to get all the stuff off the floor and off the surfaces, but he accomplished a major purge, including the last of his childhood books. He put them in the hallway, for me to give away.  Any locals looking for great junior high/ high school reading for their children?  We have purged books many times in his almost 22 years, so only the most recent are still in residence.

Looking at these books (in addition to making me feel a little sad and nostalgic!) reminded me that the Etsy Beadweavers September Challenge theme is "Your Favorite Children's Book."  There were so MANY! I read to him literally from birth. How could I choose a favorite??

I thought words from a favorite book might provide great inspiration, so I googled quotes from Children's books and happened on this article.  The first quote was from Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree".

"I wish that I could give you something... but I have nothing left.  I am an old stump.  I am sorry..."

Goodness!!!  That was just how I felt!  He doesn't need me anymore.  Anything he wants, he can get for himself.  I don't see myself as an old stump... although I can appreciate how some parents might feel entirely drained by their children.  The quote continued...

"I don't need very much now," said the boy, "just a quiet place to sit and rest.  I am very tired."  "Well," said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could.  "well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting.  Come boy, sit down.  Sit down and rest."  And the boy did.  And the tree was happy."

I got a copy of the book from the library, and although apparently it is a very controversial book, I loved it. I am made very happy by my sons simple presence in my life, and I am not an old stump.  I can still make apples!  Or at least, beaded apple necklaces.  I decided it was my perfectly timely, favorite children's book, and walked to an ancient neighborhood apple tree to do some research.

It was still happily bearing fruit, and I loved how the apples were partially hidden by the leaves.  I decided my work should be dense, and that the apples should have the coloring of these, some rosy red, some pale gold, with a few scars and dark bits.  I found some great ones on Etsy, ordered them, and set to work on a yoke, to support my leafy fringe.  When the apples arrived, I wove them into a pretty harvest-time apple tree.

And then I made a pair of earrings, while I was cleaning up.

Most amazingly, the piece sold within hours of my listing it!  So THANK YOU, Etsy Beadweavers for the inspiration and the deadline.  I have reaped much benefit from my many years of membership.  If you are an Etsy seller of beadweaving, you can join at the link.  I liked my necklace so much, I made myself another, with my leftover apples!  Just to remind myself of the joys of my particular child, and how very intact and productive I feel as a person and artist.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Swarovski #4627 Octagon Fancy Jewel Bezel

I got such a cool e-mail!  I am going to share it, but remove the name to protect the innocent.

"Hi Marsha,
My name is X and I was reading your blog post about square beaded bezels.  Your tutorial is the most thorough I have come across!  I consider myself to be a fairly competent beader, but the beaded bezel technique including corners has completely eluded me!  Before I attempt this for the seventh time, I have a question for you...  I am trying this technique on a 27mm Swarovski Fancy Octagon.  I assume this technique would be the same for rectangular shapes, but the bead count would be more on the longer sides.  For the corners, once I have skipped a bead on the first round of creating the corner, would I skip it again on the next round of peyote stitch? Or do I just skip each corner once, then proceed as usual on the following rounds?  I hope that I am trying to describe makes sense.  :)  I am currently building a bit of a bead embroidery collection and it simply would not be complete with out bezelled cabochons of varying shapes!
Thanks so much for your blog posts.  Your beadwork is exquisite!

This felt like such a fun challenge to me that I raced out to my local bead shop yesterday and picked out one of the jewels.  It's a Swarovski "Fancy Jewel" #4627, 27x18mm.
I got it out this morning while water boiled for my coffee, and gave it a go.  I did it initially in silver delicas, with silver 15/0 rounds as needed.  I felt that the angles were too small to to skip a bead, which results in a 90 degree corner, so I just replaced the eight corners with 15/0 seeds, along the facets. I did do some decreases on the last row of the face. I thought it worked well, and after finishing the face, I realized it would be hard to see here in a picture, so I did it again in black and silver, to take pictures.  Then I looked at my clock and realized it was 9:30 and I had not ever made that coffee!  Time FLIES when you are having fun!

Here is the thinking I used.  I am sure there are other ways to do this, but, you can follow along if you like!

I strung a few cylinder (using delicas in the first effort and Aikos in the second, both work fine) beads and took a look at how many each side of the jewel would require.

The two short sides, top and bottom - 8 beads each x 2 = 16 beads
The two long sides, 14 beads each x 2 = 28 beads
The four diagonal corners, 4 beads each x 4 = 16 beads
16+28+16=60  So...

Rows 1 and 2 - I strung 60 beads on about 2 yards of fireline, and stitched through the first bead again, in the same direction.  I left about a 12 inch tail, which I used later.
Row 3 - I worked one row in peyote stitch, holding the work FLAT on my hand,so the outside row was larger than the inside one, trying to create the basic shape of the jewel, without any structural stitching, just thinking and shaping.
Then I stepped up into the inside of the oval shape.
Row 4 - Peyote stitch 6 11/0 cylinder beads , 1 15/0 seed. 1 cylinder, 1 15/0 seed, 3 cylinders, 1 15/0 seed, one cylinder, 1 15/0 seed, 6 cylinders, 1 15/0 seed, one cylinder, 1 15/0 seed, 3 cylinders, 1 15/0 seed, one cylinder, 1 15/0 seed, and step up into the next round.  (That is the pattern, but I don't work it in that order.  I started in the middle of a 6 cylinder side. When I do geometrically shaped bezels, I like to start in the middle of a long straight side, because starting at or near a corner is just too difficult and confusing.  I think it is easier to understand the pattern if it is written this way though. so in the picture, I am in the middle of the long side when I step up.)
See the eight 15/0 beads, and how they begin to create the shape?  My fingers and tension help this along.

Row 5 - Peyote stitch 7 11/0 cylinder beads, 2 15/0 seeds, 4 cylinders, 2 seeds, 7 cylinders, 2 seeds, 4 cylinders, 2 seeds, and step up in to the new round.
Row 6 - Switch to all 15/0 seeds and stitch 6, (I used black but they could have been silver) take one stitch without adding a bead, and add the one 15/0 seed corner bead, followed by a stitch with no bead.  Then stitch 3 15/0 seeds, one stitch with no bead, 1 15/0 seed and one stitch with no bead.  Repeat the 6 15/0 seeds, one skip, one seed, one skip and 3 15/0 seed, and the face is done and fits our shape nicely!  Has kind of a cool deco shape too.  Which I got all excited about and decided to finish a necklace with my little victory!

Row 7 - I stepped up through the bezel to the outside of the work, and switched to the tail thread. Then I loosely stitched a row of peyote with the cylinder beads. all the way around the bezel, holding the stone in place.  I needed to leave a little space at the outside corners between beads.  (It might have been possible to add a 15/0 seed at each corner, to be treated as a single bead in the next round, but I did not do that.)
Row 8 - I stepped up again and stitched a second row in peyote, this one more snug, beginning to hold the shape in place.  You must pay attention to having the stone positioned in the center as you work, and tighten carefully to keep things aligned properly.
Rows 9 and 10 - Turn the original thread and stitch two rounds of 15/0 seed beads.  SO here is a lesson.  When a shape does not have 90 degree corners, you could probably get away with just making the essence of an oval bezel. like I did to finish the back. but I really like my shaped front.

Then I got all crazy and spent the rest of the day adding to the top and bottom of the bezel to create a Hexagon, adding a drop and bail and beading a rope. Because I liked it, and I had a free day!!!

I continued with the Deco feeling of the bezel, and used up a cool little cone I got in my goodie bag from Swarovski at "Meet the Teachers" in Wisconsin at the Bead and Button show.  There were loads of pretty awesome things in that bag, but this one I have been trying to use for months!  For those of you who know me, I do not plan to sell this piece.  I consider it an experiment.  I want to see how the backside of the jewel wears, (since I did not completely cover it) and I want to see how permanent the "Permanent Finish" is on those silver beads. 

I liked working fast and crazy for a day, and want to thank my reader that a fabulous time!!!