Retreats are such a treat, and my first week long series of classes at the Alpine Experience in the French Alps was the best fun. The landscape of mountains forms a backdrop to the studio where we work. With a whole week of studio time, everyone has time to explore the projects at a pace to suit themselves. As a teacher it is heaven to have time to help students grow ideas and new techniques.We arrived to find the region basking in a heatwave, which gave us spectacular lightening light shows and thunderstorms some evenings. Awesome!
We kicked off with Divine, a gorgeously sparkly pendant, just to get our beady fingers limbered up.
Then we dived into the Colours of Love, beadwork inspired by colourful granny square crochet and the maths of Plato and Archimedes. You can see more about Colours of Love here). Everyone went home brimming with new ideas and inspiration to explore, which made me very happy.
A retreat is also about fun, food and fresh air. We went up a mountain in a cable car, walked back down through the beautiful landscape. Stopped to dine alfresco on the freshest local foods en route (cheese anyone?). Each evening we relaxed before supper with drinks, and watched the sun painting the mountains pink and gold as it set.
Nadine, Mark, Aubin, Jackie and the team look after everyone with great care and attention to the tiniest detail, from special dietary needs, to a choice of lovely excursions.
We day tripped to the beautiful town of Annecy, with it’s turquoise blue lake and quaint old town, everyone shopped for cheese and other delicious treats.
If you’d like to join me next time, in 2020 we’ll be meeting in the mountains in October for a week of exploration into the intricacies of bead embroidery combined with pure beading. The textures, the techniques and three very different projects to play with. I’ll be posting all the details very soon.
Samarkand was such a fun workshop! Now it’s time to share it to everyone who can’t make it to a class. If you’ve ever sewn a simple seam, this is a lovely introduction to a different kind of mixed media. You get to make a silk bead first. Which could be the start of an amazing creative journey through the fabric remnants. But for this design, just one silk bead is gently encased with pure beading. The inspiration was a conversation with a friend who makes silk jackets. It reminded me of the basket full of fabrics I had at home. Here’s how it happened.
All sorts of bits and pieces are gathered together, then work starts in the sketchbook. Scribbled ideas, cuttings from magazines and the internet, all gets messily mixed together. With gleaming and jewel coloured snippets of silk spread out, ideas begin to flow, which is a lovely state of being.
Then it is time to start working with the materials until there is a finished design. This goes in stages until a design emerges that I can’t wait to wear. Then it is refined and written up in easy steps to share in class. Here are two gorgeous versions made by students who joined me for a Samarkand day.
Like to make yourself a light and easy to wear Samarkand necklace too? The kit with everything fabric and beady to make a complete necklace is available in three colour ways here.
It’s all go here, preparing for a very special get together.
I’m delighted to be teaching at the Alpine Experience for the first time this summer… five whole days to bead together in beautiful surroundings… with delicious food and wine! I hear tell there’s even a hot tub for easing the beaded out shoulders after class.
The inspiration is Granny square blankets, those warm hugs of colourful yarn. I’ve created a whole new way to use Albion stitch to make squares, triangles, pentagons and hexagons. We’ll explore how to grow, join, and build everything from simple bands to complex 3D shapes, all with one simple technique. It’s going to be fun and creative!
My next lovely job here in the studio is to pick out some delicious colour packs for everyone to use, inspired by those vintage blankets.
To get the party started there is a delightfully delicate pendant called… Divine, it’s worked with tiny crystals and vintage accent beads. Worked in 3D it’s the perfect introduction to the techniques we’ll be using.
Behind the scenes I’ve been busy collaborating with my great friend and bead artist Melanie de Miguel. We’ve written a beading book, a gorgeous selection of designs inspired by the lavish Tudor and Elizabethan periods. The book has ten projects, but here’s the thing we are excited to share, all the projects are elemental… so there is also a library of all the elements. Why? to make it easy for you create your own sumptuous jewellery by simply picking and mixing which ever elements you like. We enjoyed working together so much we’ve organised a retreat and we’d love you to come join us for a weekend in the countryside.
Here’s just a glimpse of our hoard of treasure.
To find out more, order your very own copy of our book, and sign up to join us at our retreats,
I have had an amazing year of travelling to meet and bead with so many amazing beaders. My journeys have taken me to many village halls in the UK. Further afield I have crossed from the East to the West coast of the USA, with a couple of stops in the middle. I visited my lovely friends in Germany a couple of times, and, just got back from a delightful tour of Northern Italy in the company of like minded beaders. Meanwhile, I’ve been working behind the scenes on a new book; so there hasn’t been as much time as I’d like to sit and finish the pile of new designs. I promise new delights are on their way! Meanwhile, I have a fun beading idea I’ve been playing with for you to try too…
Take a design you loved making and wearing this summer, I’ll use my Carousel cuff workshop as an example. Now pick out the beads for your design, but in a colour way that fits with your autumn and winter woolies. It’s amazing how different a design can look simply by changing the colours.
Here’ the Carousel Cuff in the original bright and zesty colours, perfect for summer, and the same design, but in colours to go with a winter top.
If you’re in need of a pattern to play colour changes with, the Florabud bangle is a very quick and easy way to get busy with the seed beads, the pdf is available here.
International Beading Week is underway and it is lovely to see everyone coming together to celebrate!
Flora is my little offering, a quick and easy flower that can be made in any bead size (15’s anyone?) I made a double row bracelet to match my much loved Johnny Was top… but then I thought, why stop there.
With a little tweak to the pattern (start with five beads so you get five petals instead of six), the flowers can be joined to make a ball. You can decorate the flower ball with more beads between the petals and the joins too.
You’ll need 12 flowers, and a little planning while you join the petal tips together. In mathematical terms it’s a platonic solid, and if you google that term, there are lots of graphics to show how to make a Dodecahedron by joining 12 Pentagons together.
I added loops to flower centres opposite each other, and attached a fringy beady tassel and a simple right angle weave rope decorated with little ladder stitch beaded beads.
The bracelet is made of two rows of Flora flowers. Beads? I used Miyuki Duracoat opaque colours in size 11.
From small beginnings, wonderful things grow. National Beading Week is now International, and lots of designers are joining in to bring you free designs to bead. The event started with the Beadworkers Guild in the UK, as a time to celebrate everything we love about this wonderful craft. It’s all about community, getting together to bead, visiting your local bead store to shop or take a class, supporting a designer who’s work you like by buying a pattern or kit. Invite a friend to bead group, or go all out and host your own beading party. However you choose to celebrate find out more at www.nationalbeadingweek.co.uk
I’ll be at the StitchnCraft Garden party on August 4th for some make and take Flora fun.
Meanwhile, here are just a couple of ways you can use Flora to make a bracelet and earrings.