Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ear! Ear!

The family agreed several years ago to give mostly hand-made or home-made gifts at the holiday season.

This year, the offerings were wonderful and varied:
Oldest daughter Kage made coffee/sugar facial scrub for the women of the family and peppermint bark for the men, both presented in mason jars. Here's hoping that none of the couples mix up their jars...

Son BeanBeanMoreBean created dozens of tiny (business-card sized) paintings and asked us each to chose our favorite.

Youngest daughter Smallest of All took a photograph of a table that my grandmother (G-Nan to the kids) had given her. She then altered the photo to add one of G-Nan's most familiar sayings in a font that looks like cross-stitch and gave us each a large print of the final product.

I worked for several weeks making holiday-themed earrings, which I hung on a jewelry organizer from Home Goods. (Slight diversion: If you do not have a Home Goods nearby, I weep for you.) Everyone was invited to chose a pair for herself or for his significant other.

This is what the selection looked like before the family arrived on Christmas Day:

The jewelry organizer was perched on the music rail of our 1910 Milton upright piano. My Mom disassembled the piano and refinished it in the garage of my childhood home back in 1969. I come from crafty stock.

Here are a few close-ups of the earrings:

From the left, the designs are: Christmas tree, angel, Christmas tree again, gold snowflake with lots of dangles and holiday gift with bow on top.

Another close-up:

Besides another view of the Christmas tree and holiday gift design, this view shows the snowman design.

It was fun to see which design each family member and friend selected. Making the earrings was great fun, too, because they were finished so quickly that I didn't experience my usual foot-dragging dislike of finishing a piece.

Which design do you think was most popular? Which one do you like best?
Happy Holidays to all! I am looking forward to a creative New Year.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Saturday Morning Cartoons

This may be hard for younger folk to believe, but there was a time before DVRs or TV-on-demand internet services. There was an even more distant time before VCRs. It was an era when, if you wanted to watch a particular television show, you had to be sitting in front of the set when it aired.

During this primitive time, the most important TV viewing time for kids was Saturday morning. This was the only time that all of the major networks showed cartoons for hours on end. There were prime-time cartoons during the week, like The Flintstones and The Jetsons, but for a dizzying glut of animated slapstick and mayhem, it was all about Saturday morning.

I have a visceral memory of flopping on a bean bag chair in the den of my childhood home just as Saturday morning cartoons were about to begin. That sense of anticipation is something that I did not experience again regarding a television show until many years later when my daughters Kage and Smallest of All got me hooked on (bwah!) Project Runway.

A consistent favorite during the Saturday morning cartoon era was any Looney Tunes cartoon: Bugs & Daffy (Wabbit Season! Duck Season!), Marvin the Martian (I am sooooo angry!), Michigan J. Frog (Hello my honey, hello my baby!). But for dialog-free, surreal cartoon bliss, there was nothing like The Roadrunner.

The great Chuck Jones directed many (if not most) of the Roadrunner cartoons. He crafted the complex and doomed methods that Wile E. Coyote devised (with help from The Acme Corporation, of course) to capture (or obliterate) the Roadrunner. He gave us a stylized, gorgeous view of the American southwest desert landscape that served as the backdrop for the Coyote’s never-ending pursuit of his prey. Chuck Jones taught us that, in the cartoon world, you could run across thin air for exactly as long as you didn’t look down.

An actual roadrunner looks very little like the purple, soft-edged Warner Brothers version. They look like this:

The Gruffalo and I enjoy spending leisure time in the desert, and roadrunners are a frequent sight. With their Mohawk-like crest, long legs, skinny frame and nervously peeved demeanor they resemble nothing so much as punk-rock chickens. They have a distinctive call which does not sound anything like ‘meep meep’.

This piece, a project-in-process, is called Roadrunner. I started it after a weekend walk with the dogs that included several roadrunner sightings. The shape is elongated and spiky, the colors are desert-like and the saturated orange tile beads are reminiscent of cartoon hues without being too extreme. I plan on adding long feather-shaped orange drops along the bottom of the necklace.


The colors and angles of this piece are a departure from my usual preferred hues and shapes. It is also woven in a set pattern of alternate opaque and translucent beads. This type of pattern is much easier to stitch than a random placement of colors. Whenever I am doing a random placement I have to think much harder than when I am following a pattern. Making a combination of colors look random is not as easy as it sounds; you have to pay attention to the way that the various rows & columns combine to avoid large blocks of a single color. Following a simple pattern like this allows my mind to wander while I bead. In fact, my mind wandered a bit too much and one side is longer than the other by two rows, so I have to unbead a little before I go on.

The translucent bead color in Roadrunner is called 'root beer' by Tila. Every time I read the side of the bead container I want a root beer float. Perhaps I will drive through A&W on the way home tonight--or maybe I'll use 'root beer float' as my next inspiration. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Czech It Out

This is Czech It Out, a necklace made of tile beads in light purple tones with a czech glass button as a focal.

I have a small box full of czech glass buttons in my workroom. Some of them were given to me by my Mom, others were purchased throughout the years on eBay. I have used them in sewing projects in the past but have never been fully satisfied that the button was getting all the attention that it deserves on a jacket or a dress. In Czech It Out, the button is front & center, as it should be. For my next piece of this size, I am thinking of using several glass buttons of various sizes on a single color bib necklace. The tile beads in this piece are the lighter weight Tila tiles so the large bib is not too heavy.

Like La Liz, the tile beads are a mix of 2/3 opaque and 1/3 translucent. This gives the surface of the necklace shine & movement. There are 7 gold drop beads at the bottom center of the piece and bronze seed beads at the top & bottom of each column. The necklace closure is made of gold tone chain with a little extra at the back so that the length can be customized.

This item was on display at the TACA show in early December 2012. There were several interested parties however it did not sell and so remains available. Contact me via email if you are interested in this necklace.It is not too late to have something delivered in time for Christmas...mention the blog and I will ship for free.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Good Luck Bunco Bracelet

Bunco is one of those things that was unknown one minute and was EVERYWHERE the next minute, sort of like salted caramel or the Kardashians. 

During the six years that bracketed the new millennium I worked for an extremely wealthy couple as a personal assistant. Whenever they entertained, Mrs. Riche would spend weeks shopping for decorations, linens & party favors. She was the first person to mention a Bunco party to me, and I thought she was confessing to some sort of illegal activity. Her Bunco group must have been the happiest group of women in the history of the game; her idea of a party favor was most people's idea of a very nice holiday gift. 

I have remained friends with Misty, a co-worker from my tenure with the Riches. Misty recently invited me to join her Bunco group. The game is very easy to learn and completely based on luck. Only the person keeping score needs to pay close attention to game play so it is perfect for socializing. My group meets once a month. Dinner is served first, we play two rounds, have dessert, play two more rounds and then distribute prizes so the evening is full of opportunities to chat and get to know each other. 

The group of women that I play with is so wonderful and welcoming that I wanted to make each of them a quilted Bunco-related fabric clutch bag. I searched online for Bunco fabric and came up with zilch. Then I searched for fabric printed with dice. Again, no luck--the results were all Vegas-themed with roulette wheels and decks of cards as well as dice. 

My search did turn up small dice beads, though, which lead to this design:


Bunco is played with three dice so the Good Luck Bunco Bracelet has three dice in the center portion of the design. The dice beads are three-dimensional with the stringing direction through the diagonal dimension of the bead. The bead mix that I purchased included black, white & red dice beads. I used all three colors in this design. The border is stitched with seed beads and bicone crystals to add some shine.  

This design is called the Good Luck Bunco Bracelet. The first time that I wore it, I ‘won’ the consolation prize for the most lost games in the evening. So, is that good luck?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

La Liz

Another piece that is made from the mosaic tile beads that I love sooooo much.

The combination of bronze and green seems both natural and dramatic. The green beads are a mix of 2/3rds opaque and 1/3 transparent which gives the surface of the piece some shimmer and movement:

At the TACA benefit last weekend, this piece was one of the items for sale at my table. I originally had another name for it, but one of the women who tried it on said "This reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor!" so I changed the name to La Liz.

When I was younger I was obsessed with movie magazines, the trashier the better. Ms Taylor made frequent appearances in the pages of those magazines. The woman's life was nothing if not dramatic. Of course, now there are websites that cover celebrity news in much seamier detail than anything I read as a teenager. While I do confess to reading online gossip sites now & then, I do miss being able to cut out photos of my favorite actors (RIP, Chad Everett) to tape on my school notebook covers.

When I make something that I offer to sale to the general public, whenever feasible I leave some extra chain, which you can see at the top of the photo. I also carry a small set of tools with me. This way I can adjust the length of the necklace easily to suit the customer. For a bold collar-shaped piece like this it really needs to lay correctly to be shown off to its best advantage.

I will continue to post photos of other pieces that I were for sale at the show. If it did not sell I will make a note that the item is still available. If anyone is interested in the price of an unsold piece, send an email to (please do not use the comment section!) and I will respond as soon as possible with details. La Liz is still available to purchase. 

Mention my blog in the email and you will get free shipping on any items that you purchase.

It isn't diamonds, Liz, but I still think you would have rocked this necklace.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Puzzling Pieces

The Gruffalo and I attended a charity luncheon and fashion show in Del Mar this past weekend.

The event was for the benefit of TACA, which stands for “Talk About Curing Autism”. The speakers included one of the founders of the organization as well as a mother who talked about her family’s journey so far. I can’t begin to understand what people go through when they are living with a family member on the spectrum, but I deeply empathize with any parent who is struggling to provide his or her child with the type of life that every child deserves.

Before & after the luncheon various vendors had tables set up outside the ballroom. The Gruffalo was a huge help in setting up my table and adjusting the props so that everything was displayed beautifully. He also helped me chat up the shoppers who came by my table, which represents one of the many ways that our relationship is filled with wonderful synergy. I can produce jewelry designs all day long but I am pretty shy about promoting myself and not very much of a salesperson. The Gruffalo, on the other hand, is amazingly good at sales and very, very charming. He is not shy at all about telling a woman that she should buy the necklace that she has draped around her neck or helping someone try on a bracelet that they are admiring. 
We met some wonderful, hard-working women who have started their own companies and are using this sort of event to grow their business. Many of the women who were selling their products are raising children who are on the autism spectrum. Traditional 9-to-5 office jobs are mostly out of the question for caregivers in this situation so these women have built other ways to provide family income.
The fashion show was staged by representatives of Jockey Person to Person. Yes, it is the underwear company and, no, it was not a lingerie show. This line includes all types of clothing and the models included Jockey reps, mothers of kids with autism and a young woman who is herself on the spectrum. Everyone on the runway looked gorgeous and worked that catwalk like the sassy, amazing women they are . Plus I really, REALLY want the leather-look pencil skirt in the fall/winter line. (This last line is brought to you by blatant holiday gift hint-dropping directed at any family members who may be reading.)

I will post photos of other finshed pieces from this event in later blog posts, however I wanted to acknowledge TACA and salute the good work that they do in this post.

Once I confirmed my vendor registration for  this show I made three necklaces with a puzzle piece focal. The puzzle piece represents autism awareness (in the same way that various colored ribbons symbolize various causes). The way that this condition manifests is often a vast, confusing, shifting and interrelated array of symptoms with various degrees of associated impairment. Individuals on the spectrum can make great improvements in their cognitive and motor abilities, but there can also be mysterious and sudden declines. The medical community (and, for that matter, the public at large) has an ever-shifting understanding of the spectrum. Families often become frustrated in their efforts to seek answers and help. The purpose of TACA is for families with autism to support other families with autism.

The necklace is a single charm on a silver-tone chain that has been embroidered with seed beads and crystals.

Special thanks are due here to my daughter, Smallest of All, who designed my logo and helped me prepare signs and price tags before the show, samples of which you can see in this photo.
I donated one of the three necklaces to the raffle and sold the other two. If I had make 10 necklaces I could have sold all of them. A woman came to my table before the luncheon and told me “I put all of my tickets in your bag and I am going to win your necklace”. She was indeed the winner. Congratulations!

I now owe TACA a check for a portion of the money that I made from the charm necklaces that I sold, which I will gladly write and mail off to the event organizer later today.

One of the banners in the ballroom demonstrated to me the combination of hope and feisty determination that I witnessed again and again at the benefit: All of the professionals tell us to send our son to an institution. We’re hoping for Harvard.
To the organizers, vendors, family members and other attendees of the TACA event, my wish for you is recovery and that, one day, the final piece will slip into the puzzle.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guy With Windbreaker on Bridge

When I leave the house for the train station a little later than usual, it never fails: I hit every red light along the way.

This happened today, and it was raining to boot. My usual commute to the station is under 15 minutes and today it took almost twice that long.

The parking is (mostly) on the north-bound track side of the station. To reach the south-bound track I have a good 5 minute walk to the pedestrian bridge that spans the tracks, then up & over the bridge itself. Since I was running late this morning, I stood a good chance of missing the early train even if I pulled into the parking structure before the train arrived.

I have come to recognize several of the people who ride the trains with me every day. One of my fellow morning commuters always wears a nylon windbreaker, usually neon green but sometimes purple. His habit is to stand on the pedestrian bridge until he sees the lights of the approaching south-bound train. He has a very distinctive hip-shot way of leaning against the inside rail of the bridge so I recognize him even from far away. As long as that guy with the windbreaker is standing on the bridge I know that I have a few minutes before the train pulls in. He is my signal—if I don’t see him, or if I see him start to walk to the end of the bridge, I know it is time to run. Well, walk very quickly; running is not something that I do well. Or without falling.

He is usually wearing earbuds so I have never attempted to speak with him. This is my thank-you to Guy With Windbreaker on Bridge. Please keep standing on the bridge, waiting for our train.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Owl Be Seeing You

The Gruffalo and I live in what is called ‘an urban/wild land interface’. It is one of many pockets around the Los Angeles area that consist of homes located in, well, the wild land. We are not far outside of the nearest city but where we live feels very much like the country.

We are surrounded by wildlife; sunbathing lizards, suicidal squirrels, lawn ornament rabbits, fat & sassy coyotes, gate-crashing rattlesnakes (they prefer to coil themselves on back porches, we have learned), shy foxes (only glimpsed twice), tufty bobcats, sashaying skunks, cranky raccoons, soaring hawks and, once, two horses that had left their stable and were chilling in our front yard. The bats are coming back to our part of the world. They left the area after the Medfly insecticide spraying in the 1970s killed off much of their food supply. It has taken decades for the bats to return and their presence is very welcome. They keep the swarms of little annoying black valley flies under control.

The first time that I cared for The Gruffalo when he had a bad cold, I told him that he looked like a peeved owl, and he really did. Wide eyes, wild hair sticking straight up in a crest, look of intense concentration. Since that time, the owl has become my spirit animal whenever someone is sick. When The Gruffalo was hospitalized with a serious illness I wore an owl-emblazoned bracelet every day.

There is one owl in our neighborhood who escorts me along the road to our home when I drive home at night. I am not making this up. This owl will swoop into sight and fly just ahead of my car until I drive into my garage. It has happened often enough that I can’t dismiss it as coincidence. I mentally refer to him as my Guardian Owl and I wave ‘thanks’ to him every time he leads me home.

The piece pictured above is made of tile beads with an iridescent owl bead in the center. It represents a stylized tree trunk with my Guardian Owl perched in a knothole. I am almost finished with one side of the twisted rope necklace that will complete the piece.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Corona del Mar

Corona del Mar means ‘crown of the sea’. To my family it also means lovely memories; Mom would often pack a picnic lunch and take my sisters and me to the beach during the summer months.  Actually, the phrase ‘picnic lunch’ barely does Mom justice. My mother was (still is) a dynamic combination of Betty Crocker and Donna Reed. Beach lunches usually consisted of fried chicken, potato salad and cookies, everything home-made and all eaten from a plate using a knife & fork. The inevitable slight sprinkling of sand that would stick to our food is probably the reason that I only like extra-crispy fried chicken to this day.

By the way, I have noticed that there appears to be a tradition in the blogging community to give nicknames to real people that one writes about. In my world, every family member, friend and pet has multiple nicknames so the chore will be to choose which nickname to use for each person. That is, except for my youngest sister, Barf being just too good to pass up.

There is a main beach at Corona del Mar, and there is a sheltered lagoon behind a jetty. Depending on the tide there is a small, shifting lagoon-side spit of exposed sand. People who climb over the jetty are not always certain of having a dry place to lay out their beach towels, but the peaceful beauty of this little corner of the ocean is worth the hike.

These two pieces are named after the beaches of Corona del Mar. I am very much in love with ocean blues & greens. I often combine these tones in my designs. While stitching these two companion pieces I imagined tide pool life viewed through the lens of undulating sea water.

The collar necklace is called Big Corona (what the locals call the main beach):

And the cuff bracelet is called Little Corona (the moniker for the lagoon):

Little Corona is finished & ready to wear. Big Corona is not completely beaded. Once the beading on the front is complete I will cover the reverse side of the piece with Ultrasuede ®, stitch a picot border around the entire edge and add a chain or other closure. If you look closely at Big Corona you will see that the beading is done over a piece of printed fabric, in this case a swirly batik. The printed fabric is attached to an underlying stiff white stabilizing fabric.

This is a good opportunity to write about one of my favorite teachers, the late Melanie Doerman. I took a bead embroidery class from Melanie at Brea Bead Works several years ago, and it was a revelation. The value of the class went far beyond learning mere technique. Melanie also taught a way of looking at things in a slightly different way that allowed me to loosen up and trust my own creativity. For example, the idea of attaching a printed fabric to the stabilizer is hers, and it is a brilliant way to avoid the possible paralysis created by facing a blank canvas.

Melanie called herself The Magpie, and this was the name of her website. The site has been taken down since her passing earlier this year but you can take a look at her last published book at Amazon.

Since I tend to fall in love with one color combination to the exclusion of all others, it was a relief to hear Melanie admit to this same sort of obsession during class. At that time she was enamored of bronze seed beads and was using them to cover a large jar to create an elaborately embellished container. She told us that the project was taking more beads and more time than she had imagined, but that she never got tired of those little bronze beads.

Magpie, thank you so much for your generous creative spirit. I hope you finished that project.

Picot:  In clothing design, a picot refers to a loop, usually made of thread or ribbon. It can be either decorative or functional. In beading, a picot is a stitch usually used for edging. The stitch uses three beads combined in such a way that the middle bead pops up above the beads that surround it.

Batik: Cloth that is traditionally made using a wax-resist method to create designs. Motifs usually represent the natural world, especially flowers & plants.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cleo, Again

Today is a rainy Saturday. The dogs are giving me various degrees of side-eye because it is too wet for them outside. Clearly this is my fault; in their minds I control the very weather. I am watching ‘The Apartment’ and beading merrily.

I finished Cleo, the black and gold collar necklace that I previewed in its unfinished state in an earlier post. The loose threads have been removed and the necklace chain added:


The gold beads that make up the motif in the view above are black on the other side, so the piece is reversible:

I will be displaying and selling my work at a show in Del Mar on December 2nd so I am finishing up many partially finished pieces. There will be several short blog posts to show off new pieces as I wrap up the final touches.

Finishing work is my least favorite thing. It would probably be much easier if I wove in loose ends as I went but I am always too impatient to see where the pattern is going to take me.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This photo is of a suite (a group of related jewelry items meant to be worn together) that consists of a pendant & earrings. I need to add the loops for ear wires to the earrings and drops at the bottom of all three pieces. Because of the color combination I am calling this suite Sugarplum.

This is a work in progress, so there are fuzzies galore—lengths of thread that need to be tied & cut.

The design for this suite is adapted  from a pattern published in a beading magazine. I changed it by removing the pearls from the design and changing the stitching around the central stone.

A few jewelry terms:

Montee: A stone that is set (mounted) in a metal fitting. The central stone in these pieces is an oval montee with four small holes at the bottom of the metal fitting. These holes allow the stone to be stitched in place through the back of the montee so that the stitching does not show. The stone of a montee is usually set in the metal fitting so that there is some space between the back of the stone and the metal fitting to allow light to shine through the stone.

Bail: The loop at the top of a pendant or focal piece that allows for addition of a necklace. Bails are usually metal. Metal bails can be an integral part of the bezel (see below) or they can be glued in place on stones that are not bezeled. In these pieces the bail is stitched from seed beads. Only the pendant has a bail (so far). I will add a small bail at the top of the earrings so that I can hang them from an ear wire.

Bezel: The area around a stone or other focal piece. In fine jewelry the bezel is metal that is formed around gemstones. The bezels around the montees in Sugarplum are stitched from seed beads.

Bicone: One of the many, many available shapes of crystal. A bicone is shaped like two pyramids stuck together at the base. They come in a variety of sizes. The smaller crystals in Sugarplum are 3mm bicones.

Rondelle: Yet another crystal shape. Think of a perfectly round crystal that has been squished. The diameter is larger than the length of the crystal. The stringing direction is through the shorter dimension. The larger crystals (hard to see, because they are a light smoke color) in Sugarplum are 4mm X 6mm rondelles.

I am undecided about the drops for these pieces. The pattern that I used calls for a fairly large drop (a series of beads that hang from the bottom of a piece) on the pendant and smaller ones on the earrings, but I might leave the pieces as they are.
When the focal point of a necklace is so intricate I use a very simple necklace, either a length of ribbon or a plain metal chain. I will try both with this suite and publish a photo of the final result.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The same way you get to Carnegie Hall...

For the past year I have been commuting to Irvine by train. This is my morning ride, the southbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner.

The fact that I no longer drive to work has changed my life. Besides not having to sit in traffic I can bead on board. The travel time between my home station and Irvine is less than 30 minutes so I have to glance out of the window often--when I see certain landmarks it is time to start packing up.

I tend to be a tad compulsive, so there is a good chance that I will miss my station stop one of these days and ride the train all the way to San Diego because I CAN'T STOP BEADING RIGHT NOW.

This is what my tray table looks like on board:

That beige thing is a bead mat. It is a fuzzy fabric that keeps the beads from rolling around.

Train commuters usually keep to themselves, however the sight of a woman with little piles of seed beads on her tray table tends to invite comment. The most frequent thing that people say is "How can you do that on a moving train?" The answer I usually give is "The same way you get to Carnegie Hall." (Full disclosure: This line is a variation of an ancient joke which I stole from my sister.)

Since I have started selling my finished pieces, the fact that I bead on the train gives me an easy way to track my time. Minus settling in & packing up I have a solid 20 minutes of beading time each way. The bracelet shown on the bead mat in the photo above was completed in two train rides so I know to factor 40 minutes into my pricing calculation.

Amtrak has a cafe car on board. The attendant in the cafe car will use the PA system after each stop to announce the location of the cafe car and to remind riders that they can get something to eat or drink on their journey. Most of the attendants make a straightforward announcement, however now & then there is an attendant who takes it one step further. There is a fellow who describes one of the offerings in the cafe as "Delicious fresh fruit Skittles", another one who sings the menu.

The recorded announcements ("Our next station stop is Anaheim. Thank you for choosing Amtrak!") are (I am almost certain) the voice of the great Gary Owens.

Monday, November 12, 2012


This is a piece that I just finished last week. It is made with square glass two-hole tile beads called 'czechmates'. The gold beads are black on the other side, so the necklace is reversable.

This photo shows the many threads that still need to be woven back into the piece. It would probably make more sense to weave them in as I go along, but I just can't stop beading when I really get going. I wait until the very last step to weave & trim the fuzzies.

The final necklace will have a chain attached with a clasp in the back. I originally was going for an Art Deco feeling but I think the finished product looks more Egyptian, so I am calling this Cleo. I want to make a jagged-edge cuff to go with this.

As much as I love the tile beads I cannot for the life of me figure out nice earring designs to go with the necklaces that I've made. These beads are not lightweight, so any earring that I make from them has to use only a few beads or they will be too heavy. I also tend to think that, with a really bold statement necklace, you don't need attention-getting earrings (but maybe I am just rationalizing to cover up my lack of good earring ideas).

I have an idea to design & make a wall hanging out of these beads. It would be like making a stitched mosaic. Again, however, it will end up being a very heavy piece. The thread that I use is a form of fishing line, so I suspect that it would hold up well, but the wall might not.

Bead Here Now

I grew up in a Southern California town that is so close to Disneyland that we could watch their nightly summer fireworks from our driveway. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana was a frequent weekend destination for my parents, my sisters and me. My most vivid memory is of the various beaded items in the Native American displays. I used to have dreams about being able to go inside the display cases to examine the beaded adornments more closely.

When I was about 9 years old, I saved up for a kit that included a wood & metal loom, needles, thread, seed beads and instructions for beaded patterns. The instructions were beyond confusing. The only thread included with the kit was white, and it very quickly got soiled & frayed from my constant pulling out & re-stitching rows. The headband that I (finally) completed was a truly horrible thing, even for a first attempt and I set the loom aside, convinced that I had no skill for this particular type of craft.

My Mom is an accomplished seamstress with great creative instincts, and she taught me to sew and embroider after I abandoned my bead-weaving loom. I continued to sew for myself and, later, for my kids. Sewing, especially hand-sewing, was a wonderful creative outlet for many years.

Then, five years ago, my husband The Gruffalo became gravely ill. I spent more time in the hospital than at home. Reading was impossible, and even the most tiny sewing project was too bulky to tote back and forth to the hospital. A few weeks before my husband got sick I had taken a bead weaving class at my local bead shop. Bead weaving projects are eminently portable: a few tubes of seed beads, needle & thread take up very little space. The pattern I had learned was just distracting enough to take my mind off the beeping and blaring of hospital equipment. I could set aside the project at a moment’s notice to follow my husband into radiology for yet another test. In those tense weeks spent watching over my husband I re-discovered my childhood love of beaded things.

My husband got better, slowly, and came home to finish recovering. I took more classes, learned more stitches and acquired (ahem) a few more beads. Scratch even a casual beader and you will find a magpie with an insatiable hunger for little shiny trinkets. In fact, one of my favorite teachers (more about her in later posts) called herself The Magpie online. The Gruffalo, now fully recovered, arches an eyebrow when I tell him that I have to go to the bead shop and says “Yes. I was getting worried that you might run out.”

My repertoire of skills now includes wire wrapping and metal clay techniques, but I keep coming back to bead weaving. It allows me to produce pieces that I can gift or sell while still delighting the 9-year-old girl inside of me who wanted nothing more than to get closer to the intricate, intoxicating beadwork on display at The Bowers Museum.

It has only been very recently that I have taken the stitches and techniques I have learned and started to design my own pieces. Sometimes I will start with a published pattern and make modifications based on my own taste, other times I will start with a pile of beads and no idea what the finished piece will be.

The purpose of this blog is to write about beading and to post photos of my projects, including work in progress. I’m happy to address any comments about my work as long as the criticism provided is constructive. Tips, techniques, resources, pitfalls and personal stories will all be fair game for blog posts and comments. I hope you enjoy and can join the conversation.