Friday 30 August 2013

Prima product of the month - August!

Hello everyone!

It's time for my Prima Bead Blog Team monthly post and I have to say that this month has been quite a challenge for me. First of all the 'products of the month' were from Prima's Kumihimo range and although I have read about this Japanese art of braid making (Kumihimo literally means 'gathered threads') I have never actually tried it and so I spent several nervous days panicking about what kind of misshapen rabbit I might be able to pull out of my hat. Secondly, I have spent the last few weeks away from home, staying at my father's house, trying to sort out some more of Mum's stuff and trying to get used to the fact that no matter how hard I stare at the rose arch that leads down the garden, her beautiful smiling face will no longer appear there. It hasn't all been hard work and tears though - I have been for lots of long walks down the leafy lanes, had some lovely trips to the coast and managed to fit in some beading time nearly every day. In fact, once I got the hang of it, I actually found the repetitive nature of the Kumihimo to be very soothing and so this time has definitely shaped the end results of my braiding experiments. Before I started I spent some time asking questions, following up valuable links that my Facebook friends kindly sent me, researching, Googling and watching how-to videos and then I boldly warped up ...

My first piece 'Autumn Sunset' was directly inspired by walks along Chapel Lane which runs past the house. It's a lovely little country lane with a huge variety of wildflowers growing in the verges, only a few cars a day travel down this lane and so you can walk in the middle of the road while butterflies flit around you and birds merrily chirrup and tweet. At this time of year the hedgerows are covered with dark purple sloes, pinky red hawthorn berries, orange rosehips and juicy blackberries. When I opened the Prima pack the rustic looking brown cord the bright orange acrylic beads and the gold metallic thread made me think of the lane and its berry laden hedges glowing in the Autumn sunshine. I added one strand of orange embroidery thread to my braid to pick out the colour of my 'berries', created golden beaded endcaps with a matching central connector to hold the two sections of braid together and fastened it with findings from the Prima range before adding a bunch of orange berries as the finishing touch. With its mix of streamlined beadwork and rufty-tufty braid, this is a very different piece for me but I am pleased with the way it turned out as I think it captures the feel of those hedgerows with their crispy leaves, bits of brown twig sticking out at all angles and smooth sun-ripened berries.

My second piece 'Maritime Chic' was inspired by trips to Dungeness and Rye Harbour (which are both on the coast) and as I wandered past the fishing boats looking at piles of coiled rope, fishing nets and lobster pots I was reminded of the tan and silver twist cord from Prima which was waiting for me to do something with it. I kept this one really simple and created a couple of lashed loops at either end to give a feel of rope and rigging and knots. Using the silver rondelles I added three simple beaded circles and a couple of finishing touch dangles to try and pick out the silver in the cord and to add some fiddle factor to the finished bracelet.

With a couple of pieces under my belt I was feeling ready to attempt adding beads to my braid and so using size 8 beads from my stash I made the very simple 'Moonlight Braid' bracelet. I am not keen on using glue in my work and so I made a couple of beaded endcaps to hide the knots in the braiding and topped it off with a silver toggle clasp. If you follow my blog you will know that I recently spent 14 months beading in this one colour of beads creating my Midnight Garden collection and after all my recent neon work it felt good to have them running through my fingers again.

Still wanting to mix beads and braiding without using glue I made a pair of quick and easy 'Kumihimo Blooms' earrings. As you can see from the photo above, I was directly inspired by the campanula flowers that are one of the few things left over from Mum's beautiful garden. These little flowers are blooming everywhere with their bright little heads bobbing and swinging from every hanging basket (along with all manner of naughty weeds that Mum would never have tolerated) and so I thought that creating a small tubular flower and threading it on to a short length of green braid would give a similar effect.

Still on a floral theme, my final Kumihimo piece 'Flowercup Cascade' is much more my usual style and uses a mixture of seed beads and some beautiful glass Flower Cups from yorkbeads which I have had for some time but never got round to using before. I was really pleased with the way the flowers and seed beads braided together and I can't really think of another beadweaving stitch that would have created this effect and so I guess that makes me a Kumihimo convert! Despite my initial reservations I will definitely be doing more Kumihimo and I have other ideas of ways I can use it in my designs. Thank you Prima Bead for introducing me to something I might never have otherwise tried.

See you next time!


Tuesday 6 August 2013

Neon News (and sparkles do not last forever) ...

Hello Everyone!

Following on from my big stripe reveal a couple of weeks ago, I have more news as Preciosa have now sent out their August newsletter showing all the pieces I made with their neon beads during May and June of this year. Preciosa very kindly linked to my Midnight Garden work and that prompted one or two people to ask about the garden and what happened to it and whether I have abandoned it, so I'd like to reassure my readers that everything is as it should be. In true fairytale style, the garden has been temporarily frozen while the gardener (that's me!) juggles lots of sparkly things that have been sent her way. Sparkles do not last forever and should be accepted with playful delight when they appear. When the sparkles begin to dim, I will contentedly return to my Midnight Garden. BUT in the meantime ... ta da!

When I first opened the package of neon beads it truly was like lifting the lid on a box of sunshine and I was a little apprehensive about where to start. Neon beads are very 'now' and I have seen several people say that neons are not for them and to be honest, I may have said the same thing a few months ago (after all I am a middle aged woman not a teenager!) but it is my job to show alternative ways of using beads and hopefully to inspire and so here is my neon collection. First of all I made a little trio of bracelets using the pink, orange and yellow neon seed beads:

Next I began experimenting with the Farfalle and as I haven't worked with these before I decided to keep it simple and created a set of roll on/roll off bangles. I chose the green Farfalle as a base and added the yellow, orange and pink seed beads as I thought it gave them the look of fruit or flowers amongst the foliage:

By then I was really getting into the swing of the neon beads and so I decided to make a much bolder bracelet to really try and capture the neon summer moment. For this one I mixed the neon Twin ™ beads with seed beads and pearls to create a floral explosion which I named Tropicana Cuff. The piece was used in the Preciosa advert in issue 57 of Making Jewellery magazine:

After having mixed Farfalle with seed beads and Twins ™ with seed beads I thought it would be good to try and mix all three bead shapes in a single piece. I chose the green and orange beads as I think these colours go together so well, but when I started working with the long orange Twins ™ and the round green seed beads and the piece gradually expanded, all I could think was that they reminded me of a plateful of peas and carrots and so that name stuck and here is Peas and Carrots bracelet:

Pink and orange was another colour combination that really appealed to me and so for the next piece I decided to concentrate on using the pink and orange seed beads but toned them down a bit with the use of black seed beads, pearls and ribbon which resulted in Jardin De Cancan:

And by then I was running out of time but I still had lots of lovely beads crying out to be sewn together and so as I enjoyed the look of mixing black beads and neon beads, I whipped up a set of three flower pins.  This is where I think neons could be worn at any time of year by any age. Imagine how a single Neon Nights pin, with their stained glass effect, would liven up a simple black jacket in deepest darkest winter!

So there you have it - the results of my neon experiments and where two months of my life went! The beads I was given to work with are actually the opaque neon beads and so despite looking very bright when they are in their original bags, they have a lovely soft matte feel to them and the yellow neon beads seemed to be amost a primrose yellow. I found these beads to be a joy to work with and I hope that my experiments will perhaps inspire you to look at neon beads in a new light. Some of these pieces will appear as projects in future issues of various beading magazines so be sure to use the 'Follow by Email' box at the top of my blog if you want to be kept informed of all the latest beady news.

See you next time!