Monday, November 28, 2011

Bead Looming & Delica Samplers

As I said before I am a seed beader...I researched and studied and practiced until I learned all of the off loom bead stitches and techniques that I could find. Then I bought one of those wooden sleigh style looms from FMG. It was only an $8 loom but I really just wanted to play around with it and see if it held my interest enough to invest money in a better loom.

Well, I did like the fact that you could add 30 beads at a time (or even 100 beads at a time) as opposed to 1 bead at a time like most off loom stitching! But at the end you are stuck with 30 or 100 warp threads on each end of your loom work! And you have to stitch all of these back into the beadwork! Major pain in the ass!

So I started looking around for more info about bead looming, and there's not much out there in terms of actual finishing techniques. There are plenty of books with beautiful loom work in them, and even patterns to loom the projects, but nothing with any real substance for learning the technical aspects of looming.

I did purchase Sharon Bateman's book, "Contemporary Bead Looming: A new look at a traditional stitch". This is actually a pretty good book. I won't go into a review of it here, but it is worth buying. It just doesn't have any new ideas for handling those warps...and that is what was keeping me from looming!

Then I joined a Facebook group called A Bead Looming Intervention (BLI) and have learned several different techniques from the members of the group and by taking "classes" within the group and then using these techniques in our class projects. We also share our ideas, suppliers, photos of our Works in Progress (WIP's) and just a bunch of random stuff about beads and bead looming.

Here are just a few of the cuffs I have made since joining the group:

Art Deco in Blue
Design by: Catrin Maier
Techniques: Warp Management by Erin Simonetti, Brick & Picot Stitch Edging
Materials: Miyuki Delica 11/0 and Miyuki Seed Beads in 11/0 & 15/0, One G Warp & Weft threads, Ribbon End Crimp, Sterling Silver Lobster Claw and Chain
August 2011

Copper Ripple Fringe
Design: Juanita Carlos at Jaycees Patterns, modified by me
Techniques: Reweave warps, 2 needle weaving, Brick Stitch Pattern Extensions and Fringe Pattern Extension
Materials: Miyuki Delica 11/0 Duracoat, Miyuki Mini Fringe Drops, Nymo D Warp, KO Weft, Ribbon End Crimp and Lobster Claw clasp, Chain
November 2011

Sorry about the quality of those light box or photo booth set up yet, and I just used my iPhone instead of my real camera!

Like I said, I am not that into FB, and I tend to be a solitary beader, but this group is a lot of fun...and it's not just a bunch of crazy old ladies either, we actually have 2 crazy guys in the group too!

Recently one of the ladies found an EBay store that is selling Delica Bead samplers. These are not the Miyuki color cards with the beads sewn down to the cards, in no particular order! You know, the ones that cost $10 to $20 each and you have to buy 20 of them to have all the colors! This is a set of 971 little 1"x 1" baggies with 10 beads in baggie of each Delica color produced by Miyuki. And these kits are $32 including shipping. Here is one of the little baggies:

Of course the poor lady was not prepared for 18 of us to order them all at the same it took her a week or so to put them all together and send them out to us, but she is very friendly and provides excellent service. And now even more people in the group are ordering them!

We all discussed how we were going to store these samplers. There's a lot to think about with this...we are talking about 971 packets of beads that you need to keep organized in some fashion if you want to them to be useful!

Some of them decided to print out the Color Sample Charts available at Silver Hill Design and stitch their beads onto these charts. Others decided to stitch them into little Peyote squares...971 Peyote squares!! With 10 beads each! That's a lot of thread changes!

And some of us decided to store them in 3 Ring Binders in some sort of pocketed page protectors. So I searched around and found some Coin Protector pages with 20 pockets on each sheet. These are PVC Free, Acid Free, Archival quality coin I figured they should be good enough to protect little baggies of beads!

I purchased 2 sets of 20 pages on Amazon (free shipping is awesome). And I put them all in a 3 ring binder. The pockets are big enough to easily fit 2 baggies in each, with a little square of Card Stock separating them:

This way you can have 40 baggies per page and see them on each side of the page. However another lady found these same pages with 30 pockets per page, so that means you can have 60 samples per page! I wish I had found those before I bought mine! But I am still very happy with this storage system!

I arranged mine by color and then in numerical order per color group. I just used the ROYGBIV system plus Whites, Blacks, Browns and Metals (not metallic finishes but Metal colors like Silver, Gold, Bronze etc).

I don't know why that picture refuses to to turn itself to around so you can see it right side up! But I am not tech savvy enough to rotate it once it's posted here and my original settings did not stick!

This sampler has turned out to be such an awesome tool...having every single Delica color in my possession allows me to see what they look like in real life, how they change with different color thread and how they change depending on the bead next to them.

And it helps you decide if a color will work in a pattern you are designing or a project you are creating...and it is extremely helpful when shopping online! Those photos are never accurate representations of what those beads will really look like in person! Besides, not only is every monitor going to show the colors differently, every person sees color differently...

So if you work with Delicas on a regular basis, or if you are trying to sell patterns on Etsy using Pattern making software, you should really consider purchasing one of these sets! It is well worth the investment!

And another day I will share more about how useful these bead samples are...and maybe more about my thoughts on loom work.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Well, it is Thanksgiving Day for us in the U.S.

This holiday just kind of snuck up on me...I didn't even know that Thanksgiving was this week, until this week! But my family is not all that traditional anyways, and due to the many extended family circles, we don't get together for our big family dinner until Saturday.

But it does seem that everyone else in my family has somewhere to be today, so my husband and I are just spending the day at home like any other day. I am beading (and playing on the computer) and he is playing his guitar and the occasional video game.

I guess the only real problem I am having with this holiday is that nothing is open, not even the Chinese Restaurants!! What's up with that? But also since money is kind of tight these days (not to mention grocery shopping is a major chore with my car being out of commission lately) we haven't even prepared a regular, non holiday dinner and we have very few options in the pantry!

But at least we can look forward to a wonderful meal prepared by my mom on Saturday...and there will be left overs that will last us at least 3 or 4 days!

It has been a really rough year for me both emotionally and financially, but I do still have many things to be thankful for. I have an awesome husband and a beautiful daughter and I have my parents; I have my brother, his wife and my niece; I have my sister, her husband and my nephews and all of their extended families. And with the exception of my 2 nephews, we all live in or around the same even with all of our family issues and excentricities, we are still a close family and I love them all.

And I have my beads!

I am so thankful to have discovered the these little beauties. They have definitely saved me from a life of uselessness...and I know that sounds a little ridiculous, but it really is true.

I hate feeling useless...and non productive.

I have always worked in the service industry on many different levels, and most of the time whether your work is appreciated or not, it is a non productive industry. By "non productive" I mean that you produce nothing, and that can make you feel pretty damn useless when you spend most of your life working to support yourself and your family.

But there has been a deep, dark feeling of uselessness inside me for a while. Several years ago a culmination of events and major life changes sent me into this downward spiral. But in the simplest terms, it just boils down to not having anything important or meaningful to fill my time...outside of work, loved ones, friends, family. Having something of your own, that matters to you is very important to feeling fullfilled in life.

So when I discovered the world of beads...I felt like I had discovered myself again and felt like I had some sense of purpose and usefulness again! I could create beautiful and tangible things with these tiny glass beads.

And when I am working with my beads that darkness seems to fade away into the background. I feel useful and creative and productive. And it doesn't matter whether my beadwork is appreciated or needed by anyone is appreciated and needed by me.

So I am very thankful for my beads. And for my husband who understands why I stay up all night working and playing with my beads!

So, Happy Thanksgiving! Knowing how dark this world can be, I hope that you can find some little light in your life to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Storage Solutions

I am a member of the Beading Daily forum and recently someone started a thread all about organizing your bead stash (this happens every couple of months because those threads get lost in the backlog pretty quickly!) So I took some photos of my work area and shared them with the ladies on BD. There were some excellent ideas and lots of photos were shared!

And now that I have my little online Diary, I decided to post some of my storage solutions here.

I work with seed beads and lots of other tiny 2mm and 3mm crystals and beads, so it's hard to imagine how quickly you can amass a huge stash of these tiny little beauties...but before you know it, you will be lost in piles of baggies and tubes and hanks and flip top boxes all full of beautiful beads!

So realizing that not only did I spend every penny that I found in the couch on buying beads, now I had to find the perfect storage solution for all of these beads...This habit comes with a lot of extra paraphernalia!

After a lot of trial and error, and with my obsessive/compulsive organizational issues, I decided that I wanted a system that stored all of my beads in the same type of containers...and I wanted to be able to see all of them. I didn't want them stored in little compartmented boxes stacked up in a closet somewhere.

I finally decided on those stack able storage jars that screw together...they seemed like a perfect fit for my needs. So I started picking them up every time I found them somewhere...which was a terrible idea!

Every company that makes them, uses a different thread measurement so if you mix and match the different brands, you will find yourself in a huge mess of bead soup...and I hate bead soup! They might feel like they are securely screwed together, until you knock one over! So I decided to start over and find a good supplier to buy these from...and to stick with it!

Here is what I found:
I get the 1.5" size (listed as 40mm x 100mm) from Shipwreck Beads. They have good bulk pricing on them in this size.
I get the 2" size at FMG who had better bulk pricing for this size...but I see their prices have gone up, just a little, but it makes a difference!
FMG also has a 7"x4" box that comes with 5 stacks of 5 jars in the tiny 1.25" size so I added a few of those to my order is a photo of the 3 sizes that I use.

Lovely...maybe I should use a coaster, or clean my desk before I take pictures!

The 2" size holds around 40 grams of round seed beads, the 1.5" size holds around 15to 20 grams of Delicas and the tiny 1.25" size holds my crystals (they easily hold 250 3mm bicones) and jumprings and other tiny items. I stack these pretty high too, so I stand them all up in rectangular baskets that I get at Michael's. I have them organized by color too...a stack of reds, blues, bronze etc...

When I pull my beads for a project, I just take the jar out of the stack...then I screw together all the jars of beads for that project. They still have their labels on them so it's easy to put them all back when I am finished and easy to store my project when I am not working on it!

I find that I have tons of extra lids because of how high I stack these, so I always have an extra lid for my stacks of project beads! I also end up with extra bottom jars in the 2 smaller sizes...So I keep some of these around for silver scrap and all the little random beads I find on the floor, etc. And I sell a lot of the extras on eBay, as well as my empty bead tubes! Some people really like to use the individual gem jars, and this helps to re purpose these supplies while adding funds for my bead stash!

The boxes that came with the tiny 1.25" jars have become my carry along project kits...I lined them with bead mats and add my thread, needles (in a tiny bead tube) a stack of bead jars and my project and it's ready to go! The small size of this box fits in my purse or my messenger bag and it holds everything I need for a project.

My wonderful daughter recently moved into a new house that came with some nice old furniture that she didn't need. So she donated an awesome desk to my work space!

The desk has 4 long drawers under the main work surface as well as a little riser along the rear edge of the desk...this riser is perfect for storing my baskets of beads and has 4 smaller drawers under this. Then it also has a shelf under the desk that is perfect for some of my beading books, my Delica sampler binder, extra storage supplies, project trays, etc...

Here is another shot of the's hard to get a good photo with the lighting in here. I have no overhead lighting in my house (it was built in 1880) so I use a lot of lamps and of course my Ott light!

Now I need to get back to work on my Secret Santa for our Beading Daily swap!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Obsession Begins

I have never written a blog before and since this is my first post ever, it's really more of a test than anything...I just want see what my new blog looks like! I'm really not sure of the template design but I can always work on that later!

But no one else is out there reading this yet, I guess I will just start with a simple introduction:

No one tells you how bad this obsession will get when you pick up your first tube of seed beads! No one tells you that you will soon own every shape, size and color that you can get your hands on...and that you will never sleep again because you cannot put them down!

It all started one winter when I was helping out with my 8 year old niece while she was on her winter break from school and I took her shopping for Christmas presents for her parents (my brother & his wife).

While in a department store, she desperately wanted to buy this little set of stretchy bracelets made of sparkly blue faceted glass beads and I just knew it was one of those impulsive, gotta have it cause it's so sparkly, kind of moments for her. But it was $20 for 3 (cheaply made) bracelets for an 8 year old...and I was not spending $20 on something that she would lose or break within the day!

So I promised that I would go buy some beads and the next time she was spending the day with me, we would make some bracelets for all of her friends. This seemed to catch her attention! So I dropped her off with my brother a few hours later and I went to Michael's craft store figuring I would just find some fun sparkly (cheap) beads that would be perfect for her.

And I did...but I also got a little carried away with all these hanks of colorful embellishment beads too! Of course these ended up being cheap, uneven seed beads, but they worked perfectly for my niece. And I spent much more than $20...however we ended up making over 40 bracelets for all of her friends and everyone in the family, and she loved it!

But when I first got home that night I figured I should at least do some research and find out the best methods for making these little stretchy bracelets so that they didn't just fall apart in a day. This "research" quickly turned into an all night google session that turned up some amazing results about bead work!

And this was the beginning of the end for me. I found Beadwork on and within the first few days on that site, I had ordered another $200 worth of seed beads from Shipwreck Beads, Thunderbird Supply and from several eBay and Etsy stores.

Luckily Jen, the guide at Beadwork on at the time, had written some wonderful articles about the different qualities of seed beads. So I knew I was looking for Miyuki or Toho Japanese round seed beads and Miyuki Delica cylinder beads as well as Czech Fire Polish rounds and Pressed Glass beads. Oh, and of course Swarovski Crystals and Crystal Pearls.

And I found them everywhere...then before I knew it I had a notebook with my own directory of all the online stores I found...I listed their shipping policies, their prices per gram or per strand, their variety of selection...and then I started shopping! and of course I haven't stopped shopping!

My mom came over after she saw the bracelets that we had made for everyone...see my mom used to be a seed beader, but I had been long out of the house when she started beading so I never really took an interest in it. But when she saw that I was getting into beading, she just had to see it for herself! Now that I look back on this, I know what she knew then...that this would become an all out obsession! But she didn't bother to share that with me then! She was just so excited to see what I was up to!

She had always taught me and my brothers arts and crafts...actually, she taught us everything that she could when we were little. She was a stay at home mom and spent all of her time and energy on me and my brothers. We could read long before we ever went to school...and I mean years before we went to school!

My mom taught me how to cook, sew, crochet, embroider and quilt...I was making dresses for myself out of pillowcases (with her sewing machine) when I was 7 or 8 years old. So she just had to see how far I had gone into this beading obsession.

And to my surprise she brought me a Tupperware shoebox full of seed beads...all kinds of seed beads...Silver Lined Czech seeds, tubes of Delicas, Japanese Bugle beads and round seeds. She hasn't been able to work with seed beads as much any more because of her eyesight, but she still does beautiful stringing work and she makes some of the most beautiful earrings! Everyone we know has at least one pair of her earrings!

So needless to say, the first real bead work project that I was able to create, was for my mom. I made her a beautiful 2 drop Peyote stitch necklace from a pattern by Rebecca Peeples "Mimic Fine Needlework with Peyote Stitch" that was published in Bead & Button Magazine. And I made one for her best friend too...she is like an Aunt to me and is my mom's seed bead buddy, they took all of their classes together and beaded together for years!

Now I make things for both of them all the time. And they love it so much that they are always trying to give me "seed" money, because I refuse to charge them for my work as they are the ones who inspired me to learn as much as I could! But that term "seed money" sure takes on a whole new meaning for me now!

Well, this "short" little introduction should set the tone for how much I like to ramble on about beads...or anything else for that matter...but I have my Mom, my Aunt and my Niece to thank for this wonderful obsession of mine!

Next time I will try to post some photos of my bead storage solutions, cause we all know that is a major necessity when it comes to seed beads!