New kit, True North

A New Kit!  It has been lovely to sit and bead the True North samples, thinking of all my beading friends as I work. True North was inspired by a poem which got me thinking about history and treasure, quests and purpose. Finding your True North is supposedly the key to happiness, for me, it is the time and space to immerse myself in my crafts and simply create the ideas in my imagination.

I love this pendant for several reasons. Firstly because it was my first adventure with Cork fabric, which is a very thin layer of cork, bonded to a backing. It is soft as butter to stitch through and is my new favourite foundation for bead embroidery. Next, True North combines gorgeously sparkly components brought back from journeys abroad, with really easy beading techniques so it is relaxing to make. No complicated challenges here, yet the end result looks satisfyingly rich and colourful. I also love this design because the making of it helped me calm down and work through the processes of designing, instruction writing, photographing and sharing, settling me back into my journey of creativity. The antique compass featured in the product photographs belonged to a family member and it was used often throughout his life to make journeys across far flung continents.  The True North kits can best be described as ‘one of not very many’, as the combination of supplies are limited to my precious stash! if you’d like one, they are available here.

A different kind of Blue

It’s Forget me Not harvest time! Some years I miss the harvest because I’m travelling. It’s an extra bonus of lockdown to be here, just as the hedges around my house are full of these cheerfully blue flowers. Because they are a crucial part of my little’ Beaders Blend’ thread conditioner.

I developed it after experimenting with lots of different thread conditioners and finding them not quite right for my beadwork. There is a big debate about whether to condition thread or not. Some threads come pre-waxed, or coated, but for those that don’t, or if you need a helping hand… the basic rule of thumb is, Silica based conditioners like Thread Heaven, help synthetic thread to become more slippery. Wax based conditioners do the opposite. So, if you have thread tension issues, one or other type can be a useful addition to your tools.

Having taught a lot of beaders and peeked into many work boxes, I’ve seen everything from a white candle stub, fancy crystalline wax in pots, to a gnarly lump of bees wax being used. I like to condition my thread when I’m working on complex structural beading, and developed the Beaders Blend to be a light touch helper.

It took lots of trial and error with various recipes until I found the one that worked best. It’s a mix of pure bees wax, straight from the honey makers, combined with two different white waxes, in (of course) secret proportions. The ingredients melt together into an easy to apply wax that gives a very light application, which is just what I needed for my style of beading.

The process starts with the Forget Me Not harvest, flowers are pressed in an old fashioned flower press until they are completely dry.

 

 

 

 

 

Then the cooking the mix day starts and kitchen slowly fills with the gorgeous scent of warming beeswax. When the blend is ready I pour it into tiny silver foil cups. The finishing touch, once the mixture has cooled, is to add a tiny blob of more mix (harder than it looks and each one a little different!) and decorate it with a pressed flower.

One Beader’s Blend will last you a long time, and you can find them in my shop here.

Let’s talk Pom Poms

The Frieda Khalo craze saw the humble woolly Pom Pom re-emerge as a go to accessory and seems set to continue in popularity. As children, we would cut two circles of card and laboriously wrap them with yarn then glue googly eyes to the resulting pom pom, sigh.

 

 

 

But then, the ingenious folk at Pom Maker, created an enticing selection of wooden pom makers, painted in macaroon colours and… mine is Pistachio thank you! A quick google investigation had my pom pom making tools increase to include several natty plastic ones from Prym, and a ‘slip them in your handbag’ nestling set from Pony. So what has this got to do with beading? not much except that yarn = colour so what’s not to love about any yarny craft. But, how about beaded pom poms, tada!

Earlier this year, with aubergine and lime yarn, I spent a happy afternoon winding and fluffing, what turned out to be, enormous but delightfully sqidgy pom poms. Isn’t it the truth that stepping outside the comfort zone, trying something a little different and revisiting your inner child, is how inspiration starts.

I looked at my pom poms and decided that the addition of beadwork would make for great bag charms. Ergo several evenings of frantic beading later and the Pom bag charm took shape. Because the pom poms were super sized (about 6cm diameter) I used size 8 beads for the bands, 4mm crystals for sparkle and size 11 beads for the rest. Frantic beading because I also decided to give the bag charms to some awesome beading friends I was about to visit.

The beading plan is simple. You can bone up on the basics with my free  Stack a Rainbow bracelet pattern, (minus the edging). It can be worked in just one bead size, or mixed sizes. To start make a ring of beads that fits snug around the pom pom, making sure you have multiples of 4 beads. Work the stitches and join the stitch tips.

Start a second band from a tip bead of one of those apertures, and anchor it to a tip bead of the aperture directly opposite on the first band. The bead count is half the original ring, minus 5.

If the original ring was 40 beads (10 apertures), the half ring will be 15 beads (20 minus 5). Add the stitches, then join the tips attaching to the next tip bead of the apertures on the original band.

Repeat on the other side of the same two apertures and voila, you have a frame that will hold the pom pom securely once you squish it into place.

Next, go crazy with crystals and colourful beads and embellish each aperture (again, the how is in the bracelet pattern). 

The finishing flourish is to stitch from bottom to top through the beading and the pom pom, to secure a large sparkly crystals and a loop of beads for the bag charm clasp.

All bagged up and ready to go.
add a big crystal and a big lobster clasp.

 

The new normal

After a wonderful 10 days in California, and a rush back to prepare and deliver our Elemental Beading March Retreat just a few days later (also wonderful fun), the whole Covid19 lock down took me a while to get a handle on.

I am in awe of my beading colleagues who have already started delivering on line tutorials and live events. Bravo you, but if like me, you need a little longer to process things, my favourite business advice guru Jennifer Lee has the best advice ever… “It’s okay if you feel stuck, uninspired or overwhelmed. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy or capacity to create something new, lead a free call, or write inspirational posts like everyone else seems to be doing. It’s okay to feel ALL the feels”.

Feeling all the feels is good, resting up after a hectic, time zone crossing schedule is good. But suddenly finding a huge expanse of creative time stretching ahead of me, absolute heaven. You’d think I’d rush to the beads, but actually, with so many project ideas in various stages, it was time to get organised. Out came my darling Featherweight sewing machine, born in 1933 its history is a comforting reminder of the many upheavals it has calmly stitched through over the years. Inspired by my friend Marcia and an easy to follow tutorial by Erica Arndt, I decided to make some project bags. Fat quarters and ribbons bought for their colours on shopping trips with friends, added another layer of comfort.


I adjusted the size, mine measure 11″ x 8″ (28 x 20cm) and added ribbon above the zipper, because more colour is a happy thing. I got a bit pernickety and hand stitched the binding at the back mostly because my machine sewing skills were not up to the task of keeping neat lines, those of you who sew will totally get this. I made them this size so that they would fit neatly into the top of my adorable mint green trolly. But there was definitely a little something missing.
My dear friend Sabine Lippert came to the rescue with a live facebook lesson in making little beaded beads. It’s so lovely to just have time to take an aside and make something beady just for the pleasure of it, instead of guilt tripping over upcoming deadlines. I picked out beads to go with the fabric colours. Then spent a very happy few hours making the beads, putting them on to wires and adding accent beads and little lobster clasps, and Voila! the cutest zipper pulls ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little zipper pullers gave me another idea for the yarn hobbies, knitting and crochet. They make the prettiest stitch markers! All you need is a beaded bead, there are lots of patterns out there to suit the bead stash you have to hand. A couple of accent beads (I used Swarovski 6mm briolette cushion beads in Pacific opal and Crysolite opal), a 5cm head pin, a 10mm Lobster clasp, some round nose pliers and a little bit of patience to make the wrapped loop.
Picking up familiar hobbies, immersing in gorgeous colours, beading for pleasure, each one a little step to finding balance and inner peace.

 

 

 

Intrepid beadwork

My ‘Georgiana’s Gems’ bracelet made the front cover of Bead and Jewellery magazine this month. Huge sqweee of excitement! I thought you might to know the story behind the design.

It all started with this little ‘UFO’ (unfinished object) which I thought might make a pretty bracelet. The UFO box is a treasure trove of, unloved at the time, bits of beading. But sometimes one piece will jump out, and there is usually a reason.

This time it was because my mind was on intrepid Victorian women explorers. Having just read about several in this book. What absolute bravery! to set off on what would be months of travelling to reach their exotic destinations.  I began to imagine the places they would see. Now we can stream, binge watch and pretty much see every corner of the world from our sofa; but how exotic and strange (and unblemished by tourism) the world would have looked to these amazing women. Georgiana is a fictional traveller, who has a little treasure box of mementoes of her travels. I decided to make her a bracelet to add to her collection, and the result is Georgiana’s gems. Lots of delicate detail, gleaming crystals and, more importantly for a traveller, light and easy to wear.

 

My travels for this year start next week with a trip to California to meet up and bead, at Creative Castle. How different my packing is to those Victorian ladies who had to take every conceivable tool, supply, essential and luxury with them, all while being trussed up in corsets and long frocks. I have the reverse, everything I need must weigh less than 23kg and I have to carry it myself. I’ll definitely be wearing one of these bracelets though, to remind me of how lucky I am to travel so easily.

February Love

February, the month of Valentines or ‘V-Day’ but also, the month when the first hints that winter might be coming to an end appear. I did a quick review of my Bead related Love and rounded up my heartfelt offerings, for anyone in need of a beaded heart this month.

In the pdf store my Tattoo Heart, inspired by wild child ink, I have one as a bag charm.

For a softer design, perfect as a pendant without wearing your heart on your sleeve, Beloved is pretty and feminine and can be worked in as many colours as you need. For colour inspiration ideas from Beloved fans, have a look at this post. Beloved is also available as a kit in my favourite English country garden shades here.Beloved Colourways

 

 

 

My most recent design with a heart theme is Divine, I love it because it has so many variations. Inspired by the Californian sunshine and friendship, which you can read about here. Divine is available as a kit here. It can worn as a simple crystal encrusted pendant, or adorned with one of two styles of wings for more drama.

However you choose to celebrate Love this month, take pleasure in the small things. Bead love is the best! These love letters are by my friend Marcia DeCoster and can be found on her bead love blog where bead artists from around the world shared their love of beads. The flower is available as a pdf here.

 

Elemental Beading Retreats 2020

Two beadwork artists, a country house hotel and a long weekend of beading in great company.

My friend and fellow beadwork artist Melanie de Miguel and I, have been deeply busy behind the scenes organising our 2020 Elemental Beading retreats. We hold them in March (13-15th) and again in September (25th-27th). It starts with the beadwork. Following the success of our Tudor Inspirations concept, of beading elements that can be combined and recombined into infinite variations, we decided to give a whole new era of history our unique Elemental treatment.

Two brand new and gorgeously sparkly designs inspired by Art Deco are on the menu. Party like it’s 1920 in 2020! Our retreats are a little bit different, because along with the designs to be beaded, we give you bite size servings of design history. It takes months of research but the end result is a fascinating and fun packed beading experience.

At our Tudor themed retreats last year, we covered everything from food to palace intrigue, serving Elizabethan recipe cakes at break time, and handing out homemade pomanders filled with perfumed herbs and spices. Everyone also receive a cute goody bag filled with beading related treats. We have  lots of Deco inspired surprises for everyone this year too.

Places for our Divinely Deco Elemental Beading retreats are filling fast, but we can still squeeze a few more in (We have the hotel on speed dial ready to book more rooms). Last year we welcomed visitors from all over Europe and the USA, and if, like them, you’re coming from a distance, we can help you plan a longer visit. The venue is close to lots of amazingly English places of interest, with Bath, Bristol,Glastonbury, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds within in easy travelling distance.

To find out more and book your place please visit our website: www.beadingretreat.co.uk

We look forward to welcoming you!

Divine pendant

The inspiration for Divine is all about friendship and new places. On my first visit to California, I fell in love with San Diego’s ice-cream colours and Art Deco treasures. The sound of the Pacific ocean on an endless beach edged with fairytale pretty Jacaranda trees, and the Eagles lyrics coming to life as we drove along the highway at sunset.

I took the Beloved pendant and redesigned it to create the first Divine necklaces as gifts for my friends, who make my return visits such memorable and treasured events.

‘On a dark desert highway’ la lalala la
Jacaranda trees in the hot sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So then, of course,  I had necklace envy and made one for me. Requests for the pattern whenever I wore it resulted in more design options with curved wings, no wings, and a delightful rummage in my stash of vintage and modern glass beads to make the kits.

Everyday version of Divine

For everyday I made one without wings, as they are fairly quick to make its easy to make one to match a favourite top; next on my bead mat is one in Jacaranda purples and silvery ocean blue to remind me of my journeys.

The kits are here in a delicious set of colourways, pretty and sweetly pink for good girls, soft turquoise for angelic souls and darkly divine ruby for our inner party girl diva’s.