Sunday, November 19, 2017

Less Little

I guess I mean "more".

Turns out I've been beading more than I thought; I just hadn't taken pictures and you know how it goes: if there's no picture then it didn't happen.
I seem to have a weakness for fire-polished rondelle beads as they conspire to force me to buy them. I mean, they come in colours never found in the regular beads; they are surely conspiring to remove all self-restraint.

So it's a good thing when I figure out how to use them, though in truth I'll need to make necklaces rather than bracelets since they're used somewhat sparingly at the rate of one per inch.
This is a beaded bead I made ages ago which in its first iteration reminded me of the Death Star but above here: not so much. I always enjoy how a beaded bead based on a cube in terms of its bone structure can be filled out and primped and padded to look more round.

Omitting the sticky-out beads from two opposing sides would enable it to be strung on a narrowish chain or cord; keeping all the sticky-out goodness requires that it be strung on beading wire or something fine along a diagonal axis.

This rush of newness is all leading up to the next batch of classes at my local bead store.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Doesn't Look Like Much

I think I may not have done much beading for a while because all I have to show you is a necklace version of the last new thing I made which is once again, an idea in progress. And I'm gathering colours to make another one so I might be stuck, but not in a way that makes me unhappy. So.
The cube beaded bead is the same as the pale green one from last time and I had this idea of making some sort of huge circular bail as a design element but then I didn't have enough small blue beads and so it became this weird oval thing and then once it was there I needed to figure out a necklace (I knew exactly how to make the necklace from my planned bail) and so it grew.

I don't think the clasp goes well with the necklace, stylistically, even though it uses the same beads.

A rediscovered pleasure though is the actual necklace chain: the narrowest tubular peyote rope ever. It's fluid and has a pleasing structure which reminds me of a box chain, though rounded instead of squared, and even with my pretty tight tension it looks somewhat loose and is crazy stretchy.

What I don't love is that it feels incredibly slow to stitch but you know: seed beads.

Also: matte jet picasso seed beads which read black but have organic colour variations which make them so much more interesting.

What I've been doing a lot of is knitting on an endless project on 2.75mm needles and no, it's not socks (I use smaller endless for those and they are relatively quick actually).

This is a moss stitch sweater using up odds and ends of somewhat fine handspan luxury fiber yarns in natural colours. Randomish blocks of colour with the deeper colours towards the bottom and the lighter towards the top.

So far all I have is one and a half sleeves and an underarm panel and I'm not feeling especially impatient, probably because I know how futile that would be, and also because the particulars of the end product are not quite completely decided. Yes, I know I said it's a sweater but the neckline for example isn't completely fixed in my mind, nor the hem as it turns out.

I should probably show you but I'm always very dissatisfied with my inability to photograph knitting such that it looks amazing and this is just swathes of brown moss stitch so it's not as though my photos will dazzle with scintillating colour or extraordinary stitch construction or anything.
I told you. Brown knitting.

But it makes me happy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


When I tiled the floor of my family room and hurt my hands so badly that driving for more than fifteen minutes was painful, knitting for any amount of time even more so, I had to have something to keep my fingers moving. I'd been knitting since my age was in the single digits, all the time, all over the world, while in a plane or watching TV or waiting for the dentist or even a long traffic light.

If I couldn't knit, I had to have something like it, something portable and soothing and rhythmic and the closest and least painful thing I could find was beaded kumihimo.

I started with size 8 seed beads and while the way it chewed through my stash of seed beads, it yielded a ridiculous quantity of necklaces, and so after a couple of months I switched to size 11s which was only slightly better in terms of the volume of production.

I played with different shapes and sizes of beads, colour combinations, counted stringing patterns and some of it was fun but ultimately it started to bore me. Quite a bit. And stitching the ends, finishing the necklaces became even more tedious so I began to let it slide.

And then I guess I killed enough nerves in my hand because I've been knitting again for a year or so and I do have to limit myself because even though I can often manage three or more hours in a single day, if I try to sustain it I pay the price in pain. Sometimes when I hurt I consider making a kumihimo necklace or two - it's not as though I've run out of ideas, it's just that the ideas no longer have any urgency.

it was always a stopgap for knitting.
When I get around to stitching the clasps I'm pleased or perhaps relieved and I often like the necklaces, but still, I'd rather knit. Either way, another beaded kumihimo necklace for Amy's sale this  Saturday!
 I also finally joined the components in the necklace and finished the chain that goes around the neck. This is where the earrings I made over the weekend come from.
 And I made a couple of pairs of earrings.
Really, one can't have too many earrings. It must be true, because no matter how many pairs I make for myself, at least once a week my selection of earrings is found lacking. These aren't for me though.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Slightly Disciplined?

Weaver extraordinaire Amy (@amyfibre on Instagram) is having her annual show and sale next weekend, but due to the vagaries of zoning regulations as it pertains to kitchen renovations, her house isn't quite up to hosting the sale as usual, and so I offered mine.

Among other things this means that I'm not as constrained in terms of quantity what I display for sale so in theory all those half-finished pieces clogging my drawers and bins and baggies could be worked to completion, priced and put out there and I've honestly thought about doing it for a few weeks now but you know, what's it they say about paths being paved with intentions?

Actually I made pretty decent inroads (if you define "decent" as the percentage of unfinished versus finished being greater than zero; perhaps even approaching one) into some of those poor, partly-formed agglomerations of beads.
I finally finished stitching the necklace chain on this sweet little cluster of chatons.
 I stitched the second half of this necklace chain. It didn't even take an hour. I'm not sure why I put it off for so long (probably a year or more).
 I stitched a bail and found a suitable chain for this shiny shiny dodecahedron.
 I both added a bail to this beaded bead so that it could be a pendant on the kumihimo rope and also stitched the clasp and let me tell you that's where the smug started settling in and the discipline started dissipating and I started taking detours into what-if.

Not that it's entirely a bad thing because it's not as though all further efforts led to wasted time and piles of nothing but thread pieces: I was productive and I completed things.

It all started with a necklace which was going to be a class sample for Bead & Button 2017 but then I had plenty of colour-ways so I just didn't quite finish it. It's close though - just an hour or maybe two of stitching the necklace chain to join components. I gathered the materials and prepared to stitch and that's when I noticed that there were two more rivolis and so naturally my thoughts turned to earrings.
See? Complete! (The necklace is still in pieces though).

On Friday at work I had an interaction somewhere between a discussion and an argument; I tend towards "argument" when people who have no idea tell me about things that I'm closer to than they are: specifically that all necklaces are two-dimensional and that while women may make beaded jewellery, it's men only who make fine jewellery. If I cared more, it may well have turned into an argument but after not a whole lot more than "you're wrong" I began to find running another test case far more interesting and I'm not actually joking. I mean why waste time caring about the opinion of someone who's no more than a work acquaintance whom I generally try to avoid?


So the way the earring components are constructed draws my focus towards beaded beads with an insistence that cannot be resisted. Each component is built on a base with eight beads which means I'm looking at a solid with four-sided faces: a cube.
If I hadn't found six rivolis the same colour immediately I might have had time to reconsider my original plans (to FINISH STUFF) but it turns out that one vendor calls these "Pastel green" and the other calls them "Powder green" and so I ordered both Pastel green and powder green and didn't realise that they're exactly the same colour until a few hours ago so there you are.

It's not hideous to stitch (sometimes they are), each motif didn't distort when I joined one to the other, the bead holes didn't fill with thread instantly due to convoluted thread paths and even though it's not perfect and I have Thoughts regarding Improvements, it's not bad for a first prototype.

And it's a pendant (which means necklace, doesn't it) and Hello! It's three-dimensional.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Not Quite According to Plan

But actually I don't mind.

I had a plan which involved cubes made using cubic right angle weave and at least that is what I ended up with.

The plan was a small open cube stitched with seed beads joined to a larger open cube also stitched with seed beads which caged a smallish cube using fire-polished beads. It was a decent plan until I started stitching and feeling less keen on more short sections of cubic right angle weave so I went in another direction.
I made three cubes anyway.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Got It

I have boxes and ziplock bags and bins and drawers of little pieces of beadwork that haven't quite come into their own. Not yet matured, as it were.

There are tiny little motifs, design elements waiting to be incorporated into something bigger, little experiments that gave me an answer that wasn't interesting or useful - some are just ugly, but some are impossible to bead.

Sometimes they're impossible because the stitching is even weirder than usual or the number of passes through one particular bead approaches infinity where the size of the bead hole is definitely finite and sometimes they're impossible because a motif that needs to be repeated to make a three-dimensional shape and which works really well as a singleton just does not play well with others.

Sometimes the making was so unpleasant and unenjoyable that I couldn't even bring myself to finish it.

Sometimes there's something lacking, something which looks sloppy, something which is squishy where it should be firm; sometimes it's just ugly. If I can solve the problem, I tend to cut up the unsuccessful iterations so the bits and pieces of beadwork tucked away are those that just didn't quite make the cut one way or another (pun intended).

And even when I like something enough to finish it and enough to wear it, it's not always quite done because there's an improvement somewhere, whether in the design, the choice of beads, the thread path, something.
 Yesterday I figured out how to connect the components I wanted to incorporate into this beaded bead. It has the rivolis around its equator and tapers to an area with smaller chatons and ends up as something more or less ovoid.

It's ok. Nice-ish.

I really hate the ends. The one you can see above is just a mass of fringe beads which basically hide the fact that I couldn't come to a satisfactory solution at the poles. The south pole is even worse; I did this thing with size 15ºs and it was supposed to be sort of picots but they didn't behave and are just a mess so I covered them with a large rondelle so really only I know what's underneath.

Well, and you of course.
So I started the next version with a couple of improvements in mind, some of which I'd solved in my head, but knowing that the ends of this beaded bead needed to be better.
 Once I did away with my assumption that I'd use fire-polished beads at the ends it all fell into place: tiny picots form something like a star-shaped bead cap into which an accent bead may be nestled if desired, but which is neat and attractive enough to be left naked.

It's also even and regular enough that the bead can be balanced on its end. I think it's as close to done as it will be for a while, perhaps forever.

Right now? It's hanging around my neck.

I might be ready to move onto something else.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

I Can't Explain It Completely

I know.

I was silent from March until a few days ago and now it's talk talk talk and maybe it's enough already and what's that about.

All I can say is that I'd think about the blog and the pictures I should post and it somehow seemed less important than sleep or relaxing and it felt like I didn't really have anything to say - and maybe I still don't but am fooling myself that I do - so I didn't. And then I wanted to say something.

I'm on Instagram and somehow that's easier and I guess I like that it's spontaneous and I suppose I should make a button so you can go there if you want to. There's almost no beading, occasionally some knitting, a cat picture from time to time, food, pretty cocktails and travel pictures. You know, just like the rest of Instagram.

 There are two types of people: those who have to have earrings that match (as in exactly; part of a set) their necklaces and those that don't care one way or another. Actually three kinds, those that absolutely must, those that absolutely must not, and those that don't give a damn.  When I make necklaces that I plan on selling, I often make matching earrings but I don't sell them as a set since all three types of people will buy a necklace or earrings but not everyone wants both and so generally the sort of person who must have matching earrings finds that someone else already bought them (because earrings aren't a big investment).

I have a friend who is a really good customer and who invariably has a list of earrings which she wants me to make every time she goes shopping, but to tell the truth I make stuff because I want to and am in the mood and the tides are right or whatever and I'm not focused on making a living off my beadwork (luckily: I'd be living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere) so I'm casual about fulfilling those sorts of desires of my customers.

There's always a class that needs instructions by Tuesday, or class proposals that are due or colour-ways for kits or, you know, the day job which really eats hours and hours of what I wish were free time.

Cindy's birthday celebration is tomorrow so I dug out my notes and made her earrings. The matching bracelets are highly unlikely to ever materialise quite frankly.
I've still been fooling around with the beaded bead with chatons and finally came up with something I like enough, but which is really uncooperative in terms of its being photogenic.
 The problem I suppose is in part that it's a three-sided shape and so it's always lying at an odd angle but in real life it's moderately attractive and sturdy - the latter being almost as important as the former.
It's about an inch and a half long.

I'm also not done yet because More Ideas.

Both this beaded bead and the pendant which inspired it begin by constructing the band around the equator - you know, the fat part around the middle where my maternal grandfather insisted on putting the waist of his pants. He had a very large equator and instead of opting for the usual solution to increasing waist size - actually he was always large as far as I can recall - which is to say, pushing the waistband below the bulge of the belly, he instead required very long belts. Where was I? Oh yes, beaded beads.

Well, anyway, I found a good way to join the equatorial region of the original pendant made with rivolis to the smaller equatorial region of the beaded bead made with chatons in a reasonable way (attractive and sturdy) but I ran out of steam and only have two-thirds done so no pictures. I think I may not enjoy the doing, which happens sometimes, but I'm determined to finish it because I'd be happy to adorn myself with it.

Let me put it more strongly: I want to wear it. Soon.  My goal is Cindy's birthday brunch tomorrow.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Change in Direction

So I'd made a pendant using 12mm rivolis and I really wanted to make a coordinating miniature beaded bead using small chatons in the same way, but with smaller beads and it really hasn't been working well. I'd just been making ugliness and awkwardness.

So I wondered how it would be to use both the big and the small crystals and make something that wasn't three-dimensional and it turned out much better than my misguided previous attempts.
They're a hair over two inches long, not counting the ear wire.
Pattern is in my Etsy shop right here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Journey, Not Destination

So tomorrow I'm teaching a fun little pendant that uses a pretty simple technique to capture the rivolis and I was certain I could scale it down for chatons to make cute little miniatures for earrings.
 Turns out not quite. Similar, but only some of the beads are scalable and while I was able to use almost the same capture technique, it was not quite the same, enough different that the ends would have been wobbly and so it wouldn't work and (relatively) undaunted I've been trying to get something usable.

I cut up the first iteration.
 The second has two different ends, neither of which I like.
 The ends on the third are ok enough that they're the same, but I'm not quite there yet.
But the pendant itself? Not missing with it - it's come as far as I care to take it.

Oh and in case you were wondering, they're a bit of an odd couple: while they share some elements, their proportions and other elements are different enough that they would be uncomfortable bedfellows.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Successful Prototype

Let's just gloss over the fact that we haven't spoken since I was in Scotland in March because life, excuses, apologies, forgiveness, done.

But look at this:

 I have to say, I'm quite pleased and more than somewhat surprised at how easily it came together.

There was almost no thought or planning put into this. I was doing my usual Saturday bead surf and saw a beaded key which wasn't actually all that attractive so I typed "skeleton key" into my search engine, was pleasantly surprised at how pretty and ornate some of these are and how much some of the shapes reminded me of a sceptre, so I typed "sceptre" and decided to make a key with a crown on top and got going.

Usually when I make a new something this elaborate I end up with piles and piles of short bits of wiggly thread from all the cutting, but this time I cut after literally only about twenty beads - so really not much, no more than a few minutes of beading.

If you know cubic right angle weave it's very straightforward, much more so than some things I may have made that may have caused people to question my sanity, not that I know what their problem is.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I Didn't Die

Except for the first few hours of my trip here it was rainy in Edinburgh. Not the drenching skin-soaking rain of a summer downpour but the damp drizzle I grew up with: enough that you need an umbrella but not enough that you need to wring your clothes out if you forget it.

Enough to make the walk up Arthur's Seat muddy, scary and treacherous especially with crepe-soled shoes.

I mean they sort of warned me.

After climbing Scott Monument on my first morning here I spent a couple of hours at the National Galleries at which the Impressionist room was a lovely surprise.

Before my trip I spent some time researching places to eat because I know how it is if you don't: you just end up at some disappointingly mediocre tourist trap because you're hungry right now and don't have the wherewithal to make a better decision.

By and large I ate rather well.

After a very Scottish Eggs Benedict (black pudding instead of Canadian bacon) I visited Edinburgh Castle.

This might have been the first Close in the city which is full of Wynds (staircases connecting streets at different levels on the hillside but sometimes just a short length of road - often a dogleg connecting two parallel road. But not always. I'm not sure what exactly makes a wynd)

and Closes (usually covered walking passages between streets).

We have this idea - or at least I do - that a castle is just a building like a very large house but so often it's more like a walled compound especially when its at the top of a hill as this one is.

There are buildings and passageways

and a prison which turned out to be the most interesting part for me not least because of the fire alarm that caused us to be chased out.

After the castle I stopped at Tartan Weaving Mill which is at the start of the Royal Mile where I had fascinating conversations with the three kilt makers (after an apprenticeship it takes about ten years to work up to two kilts a day and they're seeing fewer and fewer apprentices) and a weaver who had fascinating information about the looms used by the mill, some of which may be well over a hundred years old.

He explained how the tartan patterns are programmed, how the rapier looms work without shuttles and have a stitcher which keeps the cloth under tension by stitching it to a selvage as it's being woven and then cutting it off as the warp advances. He showed me the machines that wind the warps, let me feel the selvage from looms that do not use continuous weft threads so that each end is woven back into the selvage creating a double weight edge. He seemed happy to answer any questions I had and talk about the history of the mill, different types of tartans, the rugs (more like blankets) that they weave at a looser sett using more softly spun yarn that they can brush to create a fuzzy surface - it was all so very intrtesting. The most modern looms they have date back to the nineteen seventies or earlier.

On the way to Holyrood Castle I stopped at St Giles Cathedral with its pretty vaulted ceilings.

Sadly I was too late and the castle was already closed so I started walking back in the twilight drizzle.

And then I found myself in the Calton New Cemetary where I saw headstones for people born in the seventeen hundreds.

The next morning I found the coolest coffee shop specializing in cold brew (but that's not what I had) and made my way to Holyrood Castle.

This is a working castle used by the royal family. There's an annual garden party and a massive hall where important people get to hobnob.

So the thing that struck me about the castle wasn't so much it's history or its massive walls in the oldest section or the wood paneling or priceless antiques; it was how worn and shabby all the textiles were. The red silk damask curtains in the bed chamber were badly streaked and faded. The needle-pointed chairs in the sitting room were threadbare - there were great holes on the sides of the seat cushions. The carpets were worn and faded.

I'd say nothing if this were a museum but as we were repeatedly told it's a working castle. The royal family sometimes stays there. Sits in those holey chairs, walks on those worn carpets. These people with wealth through the ages are surrounded by shabbiness among the grandeur here. It's weird to me.

What I really loved was the ruined Holyrood Abbey.

It's ruins. They speak to me.

And then since it's right there, I had to climb Arthur's Seat even though it was still damp from the morning rains.

I was warned after all but I didn't take my grippy-when-dry but lu Ed-when-wet crepe-soled shoes.

The lower path was paved but roughish so the walking was fine. As the incline got steeper so the path got muddier and slicker.

I was very careful.

The final (or so I thought) ascent was via a rough stone staircase, rough and uneven enough that I was reasonably confident that careful and measured placement of my feet would avoid death by mountain and I was doing pretty well until the steps were displaced by a very steep very muddy path perhaps twenty feet from the summit.

At that point life won over ascent and I turned around only to find the descent almost more unnerving.

But I didn't fall off the mountain and die which I celebrated later that evening by gorging on seafood.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And Now It's Raining

I've been on the move for less than twenty-four hours and every couple of hours it's something new and I didn't even post about the genius way I fixed my yarn on my last trip - wait what?

Two weeks ago I went to Sunnyvale (near San Jose) for work and due to the delays I finished my sweater on the flight there because I had time in the airport to fix improperly plied - by me to my shame. Pride, fall, etc. So many spinners ruin perfectly nice singles by underplying them, and I'd done the same and there I was in the airport without a spinning wheel or spindle but I did have four double-pointed needles.

It was slow and awkward but I added the requisite twist and finished the sweater which was just as well because after Sunnyvale there was San Francisco which was chilly and drizzly.

And now I'm in Edinburgh a few hours late, having caffeinated my underslept self, climbed the Scott Monument (all two hundred and eighty-seven steps), eaten haggis (tasty) and watched as the sky turned from deep blue with pretty clouds to dull grey with sheeting rain.

Luckily I'm in the Scottish National Galleries and can escape the damp with art.

Not complaining. I brought an umbrella with me anyway - I know what to do with weather forecasts.

And I even turned the heel on my sock on the flight here but favoured a couple of hours of sleep over substantial knitting progress. No one's holding a gun to my head after all.

Monday, February 6, 2017


I left for Rome on January 6th with yarn for a new travel knitting project and started knitting in the airport waiting for the first leg of my flight.

I stayed with my brother and his family in Rome and while we went out some evenings I found myself in my room too early to sleep most nights so while I watched episodes of True Blood I'd saved to my iPad (luckily; the wireless signal didn't reach my room) I made galloping progress on my knitting while on vacation.

I got home and found myself wanting to keep up the pace to the exclusion of all else - I've done virtually no beading since the beginning of January - and so I found other shows on which to binge while I worked on my knitting project.

By the end of January I could see February 6th: a month after the beginning of my project and I fixated on completion, trying to accelerate to get there.

I didn't quite make it.

Two sections of the last sleeve remain, as well as the neckband and one cuff, not to mention all the ends which were too awkward to weave in while knitting.

Still, for someone who has barely been able to knit for the past couple of years, even if I only managed ninety percent of a sweater in a month I'm not displeased.

Apparently with the disintegration of my thumb joint comes a certain amount of deadening of the nerves in the area so I'm assuming my ability to knit without too much pain (except after consecutive days of multiple hours of knitting which I suppose is reasonable) means the nerves are considerably less alive than when I stopped knitting.

I'm ok with that.