Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Thoughts on the Bead Journal Project 2016

Now that I've completed the whole year of the 2016 Bead Journal Project I'm thinking about next year. Here's a picture of all twelve.

I'm really grateful to the people who have organised this over the last however many years. It's given me so much inspiration and a focus for experimenting. These are the thoughts I've had.

1) I liked that I chose something small and manageable. Each piece took around an evening to complete which was doable and gave me a bit of variety from whatever longer project I was working on at the time.

2) Prepping the basis in batches worked well for me as it meant I could just choose the beads and get straight on when I felt like it. If I'd had to get the sewing machine out each month I probably wouldn't have done it.

3) Having a few extra 'rules' suited me. I decided only to use fabric I have somehow made myself (ie: dyed or designed) and to include at least one button each month. This encouraged me to use things I might not have used otherwise.

4) Not planning too much, and allowing the work to just happen was fun.

5) Letting each piece say something about the month I was in has meant it was a real journalling experience. I can look at each one now and it reminds me of things that were going on at the time.

6) 2016 has been a much better year for me and my family than 2015 or 2014 were and for that I am very grateful.

After much thought, I now have my idea for 2017. Not quite sure if it will work but am off to experiment now. It will be completely different from 2016 but will incorporate all the best bits identified above.

December 2016 Bead Journal Project

The 12th and final piece.

I'm really pleased that I've managed to complete every month of this project, even if a couple were a little late. Like many people I have a habit of starting things but not finishing them so it's nice to have managed this. Also, I haven't actually posted anything but bead journal stuff for about four months because I'm working on an embroidery that is taking me a long time to finish so it's nice to have some quick pieces to vary things a bit.

One of the things  I did at the start of this project was prepare all the little squares in advance. Each one is about four inches square and I knew if I made them each individually I would end up getting behind because I would be too lazy to get the sewing machine out every month. I prepared about four back in January using a variety of fabrics, then the rest around April, choosing which one to use each month. This worked well in the sense that I always had one handy and could get straight on but it did mean that as the year went on I had less and less choice. This wasn't a problem until the final piece. The last one I had left was originally light blue. It was a batik piece that you can see here. (It's the last picture in the post). I just wasn't feeling light blue for December so I over dyed it with a purple dye. It's the only piece of the year with a different colour backing cloth now but that doesn't really matter. You can hardly see the batik pattern but purple felt much better. 

I started the year using silver to represent hope. This year has been pretty good on the whole so I  chose five silver swirly beads to represent the five members of the family, linked with silver beads. The purple represents all the good things that have come our way this year. It's more of a summing up of the year than a piece about December but that seems OK as January was more of a thinking about the year ahead too. Final close up.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

November 2016 Bead Journal Project

Here's November

November has been cold and grey in the last couple of weeks, and some of it has felt a bit rocky to be honest, hence the design. The fabric is a piece I made using a sun printing technique. I used most of it one my silver mine bead quilt but there was a nice corner left and it suited grey February perfectly. Quite ironic that it was produced using the rays of a bright summer sun. 

Just the one close up, showing a nice detail of the print.

Just one more Bead Journal piece to do for this year. I'm not quite sure how I want to do it next year but I definitely want to carry on. I'll have to give it some thought...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

October Bead Journal Project 2016

Here's October which I did a couple of weeks ago (in October - honestly)

 The fabric is a piece I dyed using the shibori method. I love the wavy patterns and when I tried to make something out of it before I felt I spoilt it completely because my design went against the lines of the dye. (It's here but don't look - I don't like it much.) So this time I heeded the lesson and allowed the lines to dictate the pattern. I was also careful not to overload it.

It fits this month well as it has a sea feel to it and I've been dabbling in and around the sea quite a bit this month. On the first of October I had my last swim in the sea for this year. I was walking up on the Norfolk coast and the sea looked so wonderful I couldn't resist so went for a quick dip. I've also had several walks along the Essex coastline in the last few weeks including a lovely ramble with a friend and her dog. A few of the silver charms on this piece were given to me by that particular friend.

This month's piece was not made at home for a change. A colleague and friend of mine invited two of us round for a 'crafternoon'. She has the most gorgeous flat full of all kinds of interesting things. It was a lovely environment to while away an afternoon of sewing or other crafty things. I didn't quite finish the piece so did the last bits at home.

As usual there are a few elements I'm unhappy with. If you look closely you can see the pink pen line where I marked the fabric out with the wrong pen. I did this on several pieces and have been able to cover most of them up but I felt it would have spoilt the design of this one so I'm hoping it will fade over time! Here are a couple of close ups (carefully avoiding the pink line!)

Well I thought it was in focus when I took the picture. Never mind.

Friday, 23 September 2016

September 2016 Bead Journal Project

I'm wanting to get on with a particular embroidery at the moment but don't have the right threads so I thought I'd do my September Bead Journal Project while I'm waiting for the other thread to arrive. Here it is.

Once again it didn't end up how I imagined! I thought this one was going to be blue or grey but I was drawn to the orange again. Perhaps it's because the weather has been as warm as August for a few days.

I didn't think too hard about this - just kind of went with how I felt. I  think it reflects the cautious optimism I'm feeling at the moment. All five of us in the immediate family have started either new jobs or new roles  over the last month or so and so far things seem to be going OK for all of us. The mental health issues which several of us suffer from seem to be under control at the moment and generally things seem on an even keel. But I always feel things can change quickly so I think perhaps the thin lines represent the slightly precarious nature of life, even though the beads suggest bright things at present.

The material is a batik I produced some time back.

I have just realised that this month's piece breaks one of my self-imposed rules. There are no buttons!!! I will have to add something in one of the gaps. I'll post a revised photo when it's done!

Edit - it has taken me about a month to add one button! I've updated the picture above. I think it was worth the wait as it's a lovely button I ordered online from Czech Beads. Here's a close up.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Goldwork Pomegranate

This last week or two I've been doing some traditional embroidery. Here's the result.  It needs a better photo.

This was an unusual piece for me. Partly because it's a more traditional embroidery than I usually do and partly because it was following someone else's design. It's based on a design printed in Inspirations Magazine issue 61 and I first saw it on Mary Corbet's website NeedleNThread. 

I wanted to try it as I was fascinated by the whole goldwork thing and also, I wanted to see if I could do something which required a bit more skill in terms of the embroidery. I used Mary Corbet's site a lot for advice on transferring designs, stitches, finishing and framing. She really does cover everything you need to know. 

On the whole, I'm very pleased with the result although as always there are things that I learnt and would do differently next time. I'm particularly pleased with the leaves and red part of the pomegranate which were done in long and short stitch. The were supposed to be in different coloured silks to create a shaded effect but I couldn't seem to get that right so I just concentrated on making it as even and smooth as I could and I think it came out pretty well. Here are a couple of close ups.

Once I'd finished I liked it enough to frame it but it was a but grubby, despite my rigorous hand washing and covering it with a clean pillow case.

Putting it in a bowl of water was terrifying but I just about got away with it.

Then I stretched it on a cork board - all proper like.

And here it is all framed.

The goldwork of the stem did crumple a little when I washed it. I should have washed it completley flat, but it doesn't look too bad. In fact the photo doesn't do it justice but it's the best I could manage on a dull day. Might try again at a later date.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Bead Journal Project August 2016

Here it is.

I've gone in completely the other direction from the last few months' minimalist approach! This month I've been taking inspiration from Sharon Boggon's website, Pintangle, where, among other things, she features very sumptuous embroidered surfaces. I made my Sumptuous Zebra after spending many hours studying Sharon's work. When I sat down to do my bead journal piece it seemed appropriate to use the same crammed style because August has been a crammed month.

I'm lucky enough to have long  holidays as I work in education and often, in a very ungrateful manner, I get to the end of a holiday and feel slightly unsatisfied because I feel I've wasted a lot of time. That wasn't the case this year. This year we've really packed things in and the six week break included a music festival, a very active week in Derbyshire, camping in Ypres (Belgium), trips to the beach where I swam in the sea, walking, meeting up with lots of friends, preparing for my new role at work (hours of maths study!) reading, sewing and a whole lot of other lovely things. I kept a list and I don't think there was one single day that I felt was wasted - even days when I didn't do much were good. So for those reasons, I filled most of this months square with 'things'.

The fabric, which I sort of thought reminded me of the beach, especially with the added blue, is a piece of silk which I dyed some time ago with onion skins.

There's only one close up this month because apparently I wasn't able to hold the camera steady and the rest were all out of focus! (and this one's not too sharp.)

Can't believe there are only three months to go on this project.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Beaded art quilt - Stef Francis Experimental Pack

I recently ordered some beautiful hand dyed silk thread from Stef Francis and decided to buy one of her experimental packs at the same time. This is what I made.

Stef currently sells six experimental packs. The one I bought was the mixed media experimental pack 5 in brown. This is what it contained:

It consists of a hand dyed pieces of silk noil which I used as the background, Indian fabric (which I presume is the crinkled silk like fabric), organza, two dyed threads (one thick and shiny, one thin and matte), a coil of wire and some large plastic sequin shapes.

In addition to the things in the pack I added a selection of beads although I only used of few of them in the end.

My plan was to take it on holiday to work on. I did take it but in the end I got side tracked by some knitting so I didn't start it. Once I got home I made a start and finished it quite quickly.

Unfortunately I'm a bit disappointed with the results. This isn't because of the materials, in fact it's quite the opposite. I don't feel I've made the most of the lovely fabric and threads.

Initially the problem was that I had too many ideas but then I couldn't seem to get an overall idea and I ended up working randomly hoping it would all come together. The result is that it's quite bitty and not very original. The other main problem was that the noil is so lovely I didn't really want to cover it up at all. I would have done better to choose a plain background and used the noil as a feature perhaps by applique.

I also experimented with heating the organza to wrinkle it. It worked quite well but again, I don't feel I made the most of it, just laying it in lines. And instead of spreading the Indian fabric out I scrunched it up too much.

Finally, the thicker silky thread was really beautiful colours and should have been a major part of the design. Somehow it doesn't stand out enough. I probably should have used some stump work with maybe some satin stitch to really showcase the thread.

In the close ups below you get a bit of an idea of how lovely the fabric and thread are.

One thing I am pleased with is the metal wire. I coiled it round a needle then stretched it out. I quite like the effect of this.

When I stand back and look at this piece I do quite like it but I still think it's an opportunity missed in terms of using these beautiful materials. One thing's for sure - I'll be ordering more from this website in the future.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Beaded and Embroidered quilt - Sumptuous Zebra

My latest little beaded quilt (about 6" square) is more embroidery than beading. Here it is.

This was inspired by a course which Sharon Boggon used to run called Sumptuous Surfaces. Sharon writes the website Pintangle which features the TAST challenge (Take a stitch Tuesday). I started to follow TAST but didn't keep up with it. However, I did keep coming across examples of Sharon's beautiful work and found that she used to run a brilliant on line course which taught this very highly embellished embroidery with beads. If you search for sumptuous surfaces on Flickr you can see lots of examples from her former students.

Since I couldn't do the course I used the pictures and other people's blogs to get the general idea. Sharon uses a contrast of high relief, low relief and plain areas. Students are encouraged to produce a piece in natural colours first before experimenting with more bold colours. They use ideas from nature and simplify them to come up with a design.

I've called this piece Sumptuous Zebra as a tribute to Sharon's technique and because the design started out as a tracing of a small portion of zebra stripes though I altered it as I went.

The first stage was the low relief in satin stitch.

You can see from this close up how practise makes perfect; the section on the left is my first attempt at satin stitch and the one on the right is how I was doing towards the end.

Next I added all the larger elements. These included the large beads, some covered washers, buttons and a number of embroided elements. At this stage the embroidery included whipped wheels, buttonhole wheels, bullion stitches, cast- on stitch and open based needle woven picot. Instructions for all these stitches can be found on Sharon's brilliant stitch dictionary pages.

After that I filled in all the gaps with french knots in various shades and thicknesses of thread, and finally added some smaller beads to the surface. Here are a few close ups.

I'm fairly pleased with the outcome, though as always there are things I'd like to change. My low relief and high relief stripes are roughly the same width and I think the piece would look better if the high relief parts were thicker than the low relief. I'm also not sure about the plain parts. Still, I'm very pleased with the actual texture of the surface, even though it does take a very long time to produce, and I'm sure I'll use this technique again.

Thanks Sharon, for sharing so much of your knowledge and artistry!

Out of character knitting

I don't knit; I leave that to my eldest sister. But recently I bought a kit to knit some wrist warmers. It was really for my daughter to have a go at but when we opened it it clearly wasn't a beginners' kit. In fact, I wasn't at all sure I could manage it. I threw it in my bag at the last minute before going on holiday to Derbyshire this month and they turned out to be just the thing to be getting on with in the evenings whilst watching the Olympics. Here they are.

Ok, so there's a funny line across the left hand one but given that this is my first attempt at knitting for many years I was quite pleased. 

They were knitted in the round on four needles and included lots of complicated (for me) things like bobbles and picking up stitches. I also don't think the instructions were quite right in one or two places but perhaps that was just me.

Anyway, I was so pleased that I bought some blue wool and knitted another pair for myself. I have promised my daughter that I won't wear them when I'm out with her.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

July 2016 Bead Journal

July was somehow an unsatisfactory month. It's not quite over yet but I've finished my Bead Journal Project piece anyway.

So why was it unsatisfactory? Well, there seemed to be a lot of waiting for things to happen and a general air of impatience and sometimes lethargy in the house with little bits of worry thrown in. There were some nice things too. For some reason I feel this piece sums it up quite well. We had a few scorching hot days which is why I chose this particular fabric with its 'scorch' marks. In fact it's a fabric I rust dyed some months back. The overall brown theme represents the general 'unsatisfactoriness' of the month, with the little coloured beads being the nice bits.

I've been doing more embroidery lately so I wanted to include some here. I recently bought a back copy of Embroidery magazine which had an article about Ollivier Henry. He makes the most fantastic historical costumes and is an expert embroiderer but despite being able to do just about every stitch there is he says that left to himself he would choose buttonhole stitch, couching and French knots so I decided to use just those stitches in this piece. The couching at the top covers the pen line where I accidentally used a permanent pen instead of my fabric marker. These lines are making quite inventive in finding ways to cover them up and I quite like the way it's making me do things I wouldn't think of other wise.

Here are a couple of close ups which, unfortunately, are out of focus. I'll retake them when I have time,

Button hole wheels filled with beads and French knots.

I forgot to mention the three turquoise beads and the square white and turquoise one. Well, despite the month being a bit iffy, some of the things we've been waiting around for look like they might be really positive in the end so these splashes of my favourite colour represent the feeling of good things to come.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Little Windows Beaded Quilt

I've called this a beaded quilt but by rights it's got more embroidery than beading. Here it is.

This is a tiny bit bigger than normal, maybe about 12" by 14" (haven't measured it). It was inspired by a piece of textile art called 'The Old Garden' shown here on the right by the Polish artist Bozena Wojtaszek. Her amazing blog (where you can buy her work) The Textile Cuisine, is here and the link to 'The Old Garden' is here.

I was quite pleased with my effort until I took another look at Bozena's and now I realise I've still got a lot to learn!

Here are a few close ups.

I've just noticed that most of these are sideways but never mind. All of the fabrics (apart from the backing) are fabrics I've dyed myself. I do quite like the combination of different colours and textures. I'm also quite pleased with the black/brown back stitched flowers shown above left. I used a stamp to stamp on the design then stitched over it. This piece also has some stitches that were new to me including the braided chain stitch shown above right.

I seem to be moving more towards embroidery and away from all beads at the moment. I already have plans for my next piece but more about that later. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Embroidery stitch library

This isn't really a blog post, it's actually somewhere for me to keep a stitch library. Stitch libraries are easily available online. The one I use most (which I think is excellent) is run by Sharon Boggon on her website Pin Tangle. But this page is really just for me to keep a note of stitches I've actually tried myself. It's a bit like my Natural Dyeing Results page - meant just as a resource for me but shared in case anyone else is interested.

picturestitch and location

Back stitch
Little Windows

Blanket stitch
 or Buttonhole stitch
Little Windows

Braided chain stitch
Little Windows

Buttonhole bar
Little Windows

Buttonhole wheel
Little Windows

Cast on stitch
Little Windows

Chain stitch
Bright White

Cloud stitch

Cross stitch
Rose Central

Detached chain
stitch or Daisy
Little Windows

Feather stitch
Rose Central

French knot
Little Windows

Parma stitch
Little Windows

Pekinese stitch
Bright white

Satin stitch
Rose Central

Stem stitch
Rose Central

Bright White

Whipped wheel
Little Windows