Tuesday 18 May 2021

Wedding Belles!

Hello everyone!

Well a lot has happened since my last blog post, hasn't it? Written on the very cusp of a global pandemic, I don't think any of us really knew what the following year had in store. Just over a year ago I was living in a busy town, going to the gym nearly every day, doing beadwork demos on live tv, juggling various work and life commitments, meeting my friends for coffee and cake and just generally living a wonderfully busy but happy life. When Covid-19 struck, it was an almost immediate lockdown for me as my husband Simon has a serious lung condition and needed to be shielded. However, we are very fortunate, and the timing couldn't have been better for us. As luck would have it, that very same week I was visiting my parent's old house in the middle of the countryside and so Simon joined me (complete with no end of technological paraphernalia from his employer) and we've been here shut away from civilisation ever since. It took a while to get used to the slower pace of life (and to being in the house of painful childhood memories) but gradually I adapted and started learning and relearning all sorts of skills, like growing my own vegetables and learning to bake, and I also discovered that I am not cut out to be a hairdresser! The one constant all through this time (and the thing that helped me maintain my connection to the outside world) was that I carried on beading. I'm grateful for so many things, but at this point I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Preciosa Ornela for not only enabling me to continue doing the work that I love, but also for providing me with a creative outlet and a platform to share my work and ideas.

I've made many finished pieces during the last 14 months, but the items I wanted to share with you today are three wedding themed projects. This kind of work is months in the making and it can easily be 6 months to a year before the first imaginings appear as the finished article. I began working with Preciosa's new ranges of Light Ivory Wedding and Pearl Pastel Lining beads and seed beads as far back as June 2020. My first step is usually to spend time with the beads to get a feel for them and to see if there are any obvious design ideas. It was easy with these as although they are all beautiful beads suitable for many occasions, it was clear that a wedding theme was what Preciosa was looking for. When I got married (27 years ago!) I was completely ignorant about beads and beading and so I bought myself a pearl necklace and earrings, but if I did it again it would be a different matter and I would probably be completely festooned in beads. For this reason I found it easy to step into full on 'bridal mode' and come up with a range of items for the imaginary bride, bridegroom and bridesmaids. The first piece (shown above) was the Floral Hairband which uses very basic beadweaving techniques to create a variety of flower motifs which are then sewn onto a length of wide ribbon to tie around the head. I like this because it's a bit different to the usual tiaras, it's easy to match the colours to the rest of the wedding colour scheme and it looks super cute on little bridesmaids too. Of course this idea works just as well if you wanted to make an every day summer hair accessory.

Preciosa then asked me to design a buttonhole for the groom. This was unusual as I am usually left to design whatever enters my head, but I must admit that I enjoyed the challenge of having an exact brief and so started to research what all the best dressed grooms are currently wearing. I noticed a trend for nature inspired buttonholes - feathers, flower buds, grasses and leaves, lots of leaves. So then I thought, wouldn't it be great if the groom had a nature inspired decoration that wouldn't wither and die but that could be a special keepsake that would last long after the memorable day. And so, Everlasting Boutonniere was born - I must admit that naming my projects is always a major part of the designing fun for me as I love words and language! The finished piece here consists of a simple beaded leaf and a spray of twisted silver wire with some lovely little forget-me-nots and a heart captured in it, all held together with a couple of beaded bands and a bow of ribbon to match the wedding colours which can then be pinned to a jacket lapel. I used the grey Pearl Pastel Lining rocailles for the leaf and added a spine of Light Ivory Wedding rocailles in ivory to tone with the forget-me-nots and heart. If you'd like to make one of these, you can download the pattern here.

The final project in this collection is the Wedding Belles set. These Pearl Pastel Lining beads are really very pretty and they were just crying out to be made into little flowers which lend themselves so well to a bridal theme. I'm a big fan of beaded ropes and have spent months of my life weaving miles of them, but this time not only did I want to create something quite delicate looking, I also wanted the flowers to stand out and to be the main focus and so I chose to create a little cluster of flowers which could be suspended from fine sterling silver chain. I gave each flower a long stamen of size 6 beads and mixed the colours up to use more of the lovely beads and to pull everything together. I also added matching size 6's along the length of the chain and this resulted in an elegant very wearable necklace which is light to wear and has great movement. These flowers are incredibly quick to make and so it is easy to make an entire matching set of necklace, bracelet and earrings for the bride along with coordinating items for the bridesmaids. A pair of earrings or a single flower as a pendant or bracelet charm would also make a great thank you gift for a maid/matron of honour or bridesmaids.

As you can see, I also made a tiny set of jewellery for the beautiful little bridesmaid in our make-believe wedding and this angelic picture makes me smile every time I see it. And so, I finish this blog post as I started, feeling fortunate and grateful. I have spent many years learning about beading and trying to perfect what I do and this doesn't only involve spending hours sat alone in silence with a needle and thread, it also includes learning to write easy to follow patterns, painstakingly drawing diagrams and the art of running a small business. But everything has come together, which means that with great thanks to Preciosa Ornela for their continued support, I can share more free patterns with you and whether you have a wedding on your horizon or simply fancy making yourself a summer hairband, I wish you many happy hours of beading.

Take care, stay safe and see you next time.



Friday 13 March 2020

The Floribunda Story!

Hello everyone!

Do you remember Floribunda Bangle? Back in 2013 (Gulp! Was it really 7 years ago?) Preciosa Ornela gave me the opportunity to create a collection of work to showcase their striped seed beads. This was perfect timing for me because Mum had recently passed away, and having an important creative assignment that I could immerse myself in was just the thing I needed to be able to quietly process my thoughts and feelings as I came to terms with my loss. I spent several months experimenting with these beautiful beads, creating a variety of finished pieces - some wearable, some for decoration and some purely whimsical. One of the items was Floribunda Bangle.

I always knew that Flori wasn't shy. Big and bold, full of movement and fun, she was a popular girl from the moment she came to life and for several years after. She received lots of attention on social media, graced the cover of a magazine, became a calendar girl, was also selected to appear in the Playful Perfection book and even got a mention on live TV on JewelleryMaker.

Fast forward to the summer of 2019, when suddenly Preciosa Ornela asked if I could make matching earrings and a necklace so that a full Floribunda set could be used for an exhibition in Prague in 2020. I already had lots of work on at that time, but it seemed such a great privilege that of course I happily agreed. Now, I believe that 'Floribunda' is Latin for "many flowering", so I knew that to make a necklace worthy of being Floribunda Bangle's big sister would require a LOT of flowers. Of course I could have saved time and effort and made a single flower to hang on a chain, that might have looked lovely and elegant, but Flori wouldn't have approved, so I made a start.

I tried to do a rough calculation of how many flowers I would need to make, how much time I had and how many flowers I would need to make per day. However, I am not the least bit mathematically minded, and so I ended up having to make nearly double my original estimate to create a really dense cluster of flowers that encircled the neck. It took 80 flowers to fill a neckwire and to make matching earrings and each flower took approximately 1 hour to make. I beaded in the evenings, at weekends, on car journeys - every spare minute was spent working on Floribunda flowers and when I closed my eyes, all I could see were stripes!

Florence, my beautiful model, helped me a great deal. She patiently wore the part-made necklace, and at the end of each day I added a few more flowers, wondering how many I could make the next day, just how many more would I need to make and would I have enough striped beads to finish it? Beading is a wonderful satisfying pastime, but any professional beader will tell you that when the pressure is on, it can turn into something else. It was August and the UK was experiencing a heatwave, my clammy fingers kept losing a grip on the needle, the perspiration ran into my eyes, the Fireline thread cut into my fingers and made them bleed, but I had to keep going to meet the deadline. To keep me motivated, I tried to imagine a gorgeous catwalk model wearing a set of beaded jewellery that I had made.

After nearly two weeks, I was satisfied that I had made enough flowers to bunch up nicely on the neckwire and I breathed a sigh of relief. All I had to do then was make a couple more flowers for a simple pair of earrings and I was done. A few quick pictures were taken, some rough notes made and then the Floribunda necklace and earrings were carefully packaged up, ready to be sent to the Czech Republic for professional photography and to take their place in the exhibition. I crossed my fingers that everything would arrive safely.

And now, seven months later, here is the beautiful model wearing the full Floribunda set of bangle, necklace and earrings. When I look at the picture below, I can hardly believe that I am looking at my work. Despite my small frustrations during the making of the necklace and earrings, I am delighted to have been part of this, and I would like to thank Preciosa Ornela for entrusting me with this undertaking.  The pieces are currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Glass Art Portheimka in Prague, representing beads and seed beads from the PRECIOSA Traditional Czech Beads brand as part of the Stardust - Luxury Czech Jewellery exhibition. The exhibition runs from the 9th of March 2020 to the 14th of June 2020 and is open to the public.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes in the making of these pieces. I am already working on the next exciting project, so watch this space ...

See you next time!


Monday 8 October 2018

Two-Cut beads - or not to cut!

Hello everyone!

Things are still a little bit topsy-turvy in my life at the moment, so this will be another brief post, but I wanted to show you a few little pieces I made using PRECIOSA Two-Cut Beads. I have quite a lot of cut beads in my collection, ranging from Two-Cut and Three-Cut, to various sizes of Bugles, and although I love the way the light glints and reflects off the cut edge, I've been more a collector of cut beads rather than a user. I must admit that I used to shy away from any cut beads as I feared that they would have sharp edges that would sever my beading thread, undoing all the hard work in a carefully crafted piece of beadwork. However, not long ago, Preciosa Ornela asked me to work with some of their Two-Cut beads and so I put my fears to one side and gave it a go.

Instead of jumping in with both feet, I thought I would take my introduction to weaving with cut beads slowly. I decided to make a simple Kumihimo bracelet to start with, which would enable me to use thick S-Lon thread, therefore reducing the thread-slicing risk. The lovely rhythmic braiding process gave me chance to look closely at the beads, to get to know them a bit better and to start to relax. I chose red and blue Two-Cuts and mixed them with some white size 7 rocailles and white S-Lon to give a patriotic feel - the colours of both the UK and Czech Republic flag! I made the bracelet long enough to wrap twice around my wrist, and added a little button and loop closure.

Although I was happy with the results of my first piece, I still didn't quite have the confidence to use my usual Nymo or Fireline with them in basic beadweaving stitches. So next I did a bit of embroidery using Ultrasuede and heavy duty 14lb Fireline to create a Gothic style brooch. I used a mix of Two-Cuts, Drops, fire polished beads and Charlottes to circle a glass button with a skull and crossbones design and completed the look with a drooping black ribbon bow. I had absolutely no problem with the Two-Cuts and the thicker Fireline, so by now I was starting to wonder if I had spent years missing out on using cut beads in my designs because of my unnecessary fear of them.

So for my final Two-Cut piece, I went back to what I know best - 6lb Fireline and herringbone stitch! I made lots of little beaded tubes with grey AB Two-Cuts in both shiny and matte, threaded them onto sterling silver beading chain along with some cream 4mm glass pearls, and then added a sterling silver clasp to make a three row bracelet with lots of movement. This is the sort of beadwork I love to do and I made 24 of these little tubes with absolutely no trouble at all. None of the beads cut my thread while I was working with them and the bracelet has been worn repeatedly with no problems. So there - accepting the opportunity to work with PRECIOSA Two-Cut Beads not only gave me chance to work with interesting bead shapes and colours, it also cured me of my phobia of cut beads!

See you next time!


Tuesday 14 August 2018

And the winners are ...

Hello everyone!

I'm going to keep this brief, as my father has recently passed away and there is a lot of work for me to do. But, I didn't want to keep you waiting any longer, so here are the winners of my International Beading Week contest in association with Preciosa Ornela.

The five first prize winners are as follows:

Carolyn Cave - Canada

Evgenya Mytsyk - Ukraine

Nadezhda Kochukova - Russia

Sally Kelly - UK

Sithara Alywn - India

There are also five small runners-up prizes which go to the following:

Eszter Molnar - Hungary

Iryna Migal - Germany

Monica Visconi - Italy

Nurshida Sweet - USA

Zuzana Ludvigova - Slovakia

And a special mention and small prize also goes to Anna for her entry, as she is only 13 years old!

Anna - Belarus

Thank you so much to everyone from around the world who joined in with IBW and entered the contest. Both myself and Preciosa agreed that it was incredibly hard to choose the winning pieces as there were so many wonderful, intricate and imaginative entries. If you have not been awarded a prize this time, please do not be disheartened, every entry I received showed hard work, patience and a love of beadwork - keep on beading!

Will the 11 winners please contact me as soon as possible with their postal address so that the prizes may be sent out.

Happy beading!


Monday 30 July 2018

International Beading Week - It's Here!

Hello everyone!

Well here we are, after all the anticipation and behind the scenes preparation - International Beading Week is upon us! There are all sorts of great offers and events taking place all over the world, so be sure to check out the menu on the IBW websiteI've often said how much I appreciate the way modern technology enables us to connect, and I generally consider myself to be an international beader, but the build up to IBW has been a particularly exciting time for me. For the last couple of months I've been working with companies from the UK, Czech Republic and Germany, posting books to the USA, Portugal and Austria, answering beady queries from Cameroon, Nigeria and Canada and processing contest entries from the UK, USA, Ukraine, Germany, Greece, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy and India!

You still have one week to send me your contest entry photos to be in with a chance of winning a copy of my book and a kilo of beads from the PRECIOSA Traditional Czech Beads brand, as shown in the photo below. Find one of my patterns, make it with beads from Preciosa and send me a picture, it's as simple as that - just imagine what sparkly things you could make with that lot!

For my next IBW initiative, I've teamed up with Beads Direct to design an exclusive kit, which has been launched today and is available to purchase from their website. Designed and written by me and beautifully packaged by Beads Direct, Pretty Pellets is a softly romantic looking bracelet made with PRECIOSA Rocailles, Imitation Pearls and Pellets™. You have the option to make a simple single row bracelet, or a more elaborate double row cuff style bracelet. Each kit contains sufficient materials to make two single row or one double row bracelet and comes in either gold or silver colourways.

We hope you enjoy making your Pretty Pellets - be sure to join in with the International Beading Week buzz and share photos of your bracelets on Facebook on either my page, Beads Direct or on the International Beading Week page using #IBW.

Happy International Beading Week!


Friday 25 May 2018

Mix and Match Flower Bracelets!

Hello everyone!

What's this? Nothing on the blog for a year and a half and then two entries within ten days?! Well, as I hinted in the last blog post I've just had my 85th pattern published. This time it's a fun summery project 'Mix and Match Flower Bracelets' which you can find in issue 87 of Bead and Jewellery magazine which is out now.

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 50th birthday in Madeira, where I discovered that cork is used to make everything from jewellery to clothing. I learned that cork is a sustainable natural product harvested from the Quercus suber tree (cork oak) and I believe that most cork forests are actually in Portugal and Spain. While in Madeira, Simon bought himself a cork wallet and it's such a beautiful soft material that most people don't realise what it's made from when they see it. I treated myself to a cork bracelet which I sadly lost, so I was very pleased when I later discovered that I could buy the cord and incorporate it into my own jewellery designs. I love the look and feel of the natural cord, but I've chosen to use pastel coloured cork cord from Endless Leather for these pretty little bracelets as it perfectly compliments the lovely transparent and opaque PRECIOSA rocailles I've used to make the flowers.

I've called this project 'Mix and Match' because these simple flower shapes are made in two layers, which means you can slide them on and off the cord and jewellery findings to change the colour combination for alternative looks. I decided to make my bracelets in delicate pastel colours of yellow, apricot and rose, but if girly isn't your thing, you could easily make them in darker or more muted tones, or even go for bold neon colours for a completely different look. The cord is only 10 mm wide so these also make great stacking bracelets which is in tune with the current festival trend.

I hope you enjoy this quick and easy project, and don't forget you can also use this pattern if you want to have a go at winning the prizes I am currently offering in my contest.

Have fun and see you next time!


Wednesday 16 May 2018

International Beading Week - Competition time!

Hello everyone!

It's been a little while since I updated my blog, but here I am, and with news! I've been involved in National Beading Week since it began in 2015, but this year it has morphed into INTERnational Beading Week and I'm delighted to be one of the ambassadors. International Beading Week takes place from the 28th of July to the 5th of August this year and there will be all kinds of exciting worldwide beady activities taking place. Keep a close eye on the menu at the top of the IBW page as details of events, special offers and freebies will be added soon. I have several things planned, but the first thing I wanted to tell you about is that I am holding a contest which is open internationally.

There are five fantastic prizes on offer (more on that below) and to be in with a chance of winning there are two main requirements: the first is that you make something using one of my patterns, and the second is that it must be made using seed beads and/or beads from the PRECIOSA Traditional Czech Beads brand. It could be one of the patterns I sell via my website, one from my book Playful Perfection, one of my free patterns available from the Preciosa Ornela project page or one of the many that I have published in books and magazines over the years. I actually did a count yesterday and was quite shocked to realise that I have published 84 different patterns (soon to be 85!) so there are plenty to choose from, as you can see below.

You could make a simple pair of cufflinks in a couple of hours, or you could spend considerably more time making one of my floral lariats for example - from beginner to advanced, there is something out there for everyone. It doesn't matter which project you make, whether you make an identical piece or adapt it. You might like to change the colours, turn a bracelet pattern into a necklace, try using different sized seed beads and beads, whatever you wish, but it should be clearly identifiable as originating from one of my patterns. Some of my designs call for specific types of beads, so unless you want to have some fun seeing if they work with other types, choose your pattern carefully. When you have finished your piece, take a picture of it and either post it on my Facebook business page and tag me, send me the picture via Facebook Messenger or email me (address can be found at the bottom of my website). Please make sure I have a way to contact you should you be one of the lucky winners, and if you are, we will then need your postal address to send you the goodies. The contest will be judged by both myself and Preciosa Ornela and the final five will not necessarily be selected due to the complexity of the piece, but rather the workmanship, attention to detail and overall pleasing appearance.

Preciosa Ornela is generously providing five equal prizes of a copy of my book and 1kg of beads (yes you read that right - one whole kilogram of beads!), which, as you can see from the sample photo above, is a whole lot of beautiful beads. So if you want to increase your bead collection, or maybe experiment with some new shapes that you've never tried before, it's well worth having a go at this contest! I'm so glad to be in a position to be able to embrace the spirit of International Beading Week and share the beady love worldwide, and I'm really looking forward to seeing which piece you decide to make. The contest is now open, the closing date is the 6th of August 2018 and the winners will be announced on my blog the following week. Good luck everyone!