Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I've Come Unstrung...

aka... MaryLou's Misadventures in Bead Crochet. And it's not so much me that came unstrung as my latest bead crochet project.

It began with a request from a very special customer who wanted to have a bead crochet lariat with a row of pearls in it. The request was for the row of pearls to be in a straight line - if you know anything about bead crochet, you know that it naturally spirals as you crochet, so putting something in a straight line requires a special kind of pattern.

The rope was also to use two shades of 22k gold delicas, beautiful matte finish beads that are very similar in color but have just enough difference to be interesting.

So off we go. I didn't have any bead crochet software, so I used my old standby for making quick graphics - Microsoft Powerpoint. (I've used it for years to do all sorts of things for which it was never intended.) I began laying out the design, and as I played around with some different concepts I thought a pattern of diamonds made from the gold delicas would look nice. I eventually wound up with this:

Looks like a viable pattern, doesn't it? The two shades of gold (which don't have that much contrast), with the dark blue showing where the pearls will go.

The next step in the process, because I know that the spiraling effect of bead crochet can result in some surprises, was to print that out on paper and wrap the pieces around a pencil, lining up the edges of the beads to make sure the pattern didn't go wonky. I was very careful to match up the beads when I made my paper model, and I was so excited to see that everything lined up perfectly!

Having completed those steps and received a big thumbs up from the customer, I proceeded to write out the stringing order for the rope. Bead crochet, you see, requires that you string all the beads for your project before you begin crocheting. And when you string the beads, you don't string them from left to right / top to bottom like you would typically work in other techniques. You string from left to right and from bottom to top. The last bead you string is the first one you crochet, and with a repeating pattern you have to make sure you start at one point in the pattern and end at the same point so you have a continuous design (well, in this case I have to do that because the ends of the rope will be joined in an invisible join).

So I wrote out the stringing pattern (B for bright gold, A for dull gold, X for pearls): B 2A 2B 2A B X 2A 3B 2A 2B 2A 2B 2A B A B 2A B 2A B 2A B 4A B A X A B 3A B 4A B 2A B 2A B 2A B A B 2A 2B 2A B B 2A B X B 2A 2B 2A 2B 2A B A B 2A B 2A B 2A B 4A B 3A B A X A B 4A B 2A B 2A B 2A B A

Fun, right? All of that stuff before the first bead is strung.

But now I have the pattern written out, so I pour out the little piles of delicas onto my beading mat and separate the pearls (the customer purchased them and had them sent to me, but I can't use all of the ones in the strands because some are too large for this project). Thread the needle with my Coats and Clark heavy duty nylon upholstery thread, and I'm off!

See anything wrong with the process so far?

I didn't.

It wasn't until I had completed the 12th repeat of the pattern, having strung 1536 beads, that I happened to notice that the spacing between the pearls in one section of the pattern was UNEVEN. That can't be. There should be the same number of beads between the pearls every time, or they won't wind up in a straight row.


That was Sunday night. I looked back at the pattern, looked at the beads, looked at the pattern, counted, recounted, and decided I needed a night's sleep and a fresh mind to figure it out. Monday morning dawned with pouring rain, the perfect weather for sitting down and focusing on a problem. I came to realize that I was off by a row -- instead of 33 beads between each of the pearls, I had one instance of 25 beads between the pearls in each repeat of the design. It's an 8-around pattern, so I had to figure out how to alter it to add those 8 beads back into the design so the pearls would line up like little soldiers.

Back to my Microsoft Powerpoint, back to fiddling around with the design, and I finally have it! The pattern is still symmetrical, but it's slightly different now; and this time I know it's going to work.

The unstrung part? Yes, you can take that literally. I had to UNSTRING those 1536 beads I had strung before and sort the two shades of delicas back into their little piles. I'm lucky to have good eyesight, a good task light, and just a touch of OCD. Really. Just a touch.

Now it's time to get back to stringing. One last picture, though. This is a little bracelet I made for that same wonderful customer... this one using rondelles in the pattern (no design in the delicas though). This one presented its own set of challenges, as the holes in these tiny little rondelles (which are only 3mm in diameter) were so small that I had to thread each one like a needle. I couldn't fit any of my beading needles through the holes, and the thread I normally use wouldn't even fit, so I strung these onto 10# Fireline. I have to say that crocheting with the Fireline wasn't too bad, although I still prefer the nylon upholstery thread.

Time for more stringing now. I've done 10 repeats of the pattern so far, with about 140 repeats to go... or as many repeats as I can do before I run out of pearls. :-)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fabulous Friday Finds for July 9

It's late in the day again, but here are this week's Fabulous Friday Finds! It's been a busy week here... working on some custom orders, playing in the kiddie pool we bought to cool off (since our house has no AC), taking elevations at our property (I know everyone is probably envious about my getting to walk around for three hours in 85-degree weather carrying a 24' long pole), watching fireworks on the 4th, and attending an auction (who knew you could buy honeybuns at an auction?!).

Anyway, I have some new finds. Hope you like 'em!

My first Fabulous Friday Find was sent to me by my friend Carol Dean Sharpe (aka SandFibers) when I posted a picture on my Facebook page of the paper mock-up I made of a bead crochet pattern I designed. As much time as I spend on the computer, you'd think it would have occurred to me to look for bead crochet software, but noooooooo. I've been doing it my own weird way, using Microsoft Powerpoint! (Hey, don't knock it -- it works.)

I have the software downloaded, but I haven't used it yet. From this picture, it appears that you can create patterns for loom / square stitch, peyote, and bead crochet! And according to the Brunold Software website, the bead crochet design technique is described in books by one of my bead crochet heroines, Judith Bertoglio-Giffen.

Best of all, the software is FREE. We all love free, right? :-)

Fabulous Friday Find #2 for this week is a monster. Specifically, a monster named Carl Boobermeister.

Carl is one of those art dolls who's so ugly he's cute. Well, kind of. I know his mother probably loved him.

He's the creation of an artist named Alyshells, and he's just so weird and funny that I like him. A lot. And I like a bunch of Alyshells' other creations, all of whom have interesting names and stories. The cool thing about these creations is that many of them come with portrait cards. So you can leave your doll at home and carry his/her picture around with you to show off to your friends.

I also love Flubbin Tubbin. What a hoot.

Visit Alyshells' blog for more monster goodness. Or check her out on YouTube. Monsters! Boo!

If you've read any of my other Fabulous Friday Finds posts, I'm sure you realize by now that I am enthralled with polymer clay. So it should come as no surprise that I have a fabulous polymer clay artist whose work I want to share.

My French is very rusty, so I can't really tell you very much about the artist, whose name (I believe) is Sylvie. Her website is called Maniguette, and I know her by her Flickr photostream, Fimo Maniguette.

Her work runs the gamut from jewelry to objects, and all are wonderfully detailed, with amazing colors and shapes. The bracelet I chose to feature here looks like something from outer space! And if nothing else, you must look at this pendant! Amazing. Remember that it's made from polymer clay.

Well, this is odd... I had more Fabulous Friday Finds to post this week, but Etsy is not cooperating. Phooey.

I do have one more to share, though. Once again, if you've read any of my previous Fabulous Friday Finds posts, you know I like art dolls. And the art dolls created by Alexander Mergold just blow me away.

I'm not sure where or when I first saw them, but I visit his Facebook page pretty regularly just so I can see what he's posted.

There's such a variety that it's hard to imagine they all come from the same person. Realistic looking people of every age, silly creatures, puppets, animals... you name it.

Of course, I had to choose the Mad Hatter to post here.

Cuz I love him. Even before Johnny Depp's portrayal, he was my favorite character from Alice.

Just look at that face!!!! He's ready to engage in rhetoric. I just know it.

Well, sorry there aren't more finds. But I'm at the mercy of Etsy tonight. Maybe it's a good thing. It's past my bedtime.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Fabulous Friday Finds for July 2

Da da da DA! Two weeks in a row. I'm back. We'll see if I can keep up this time with the Fab Friday Finds. I almost didn't make it, but since it's only 11:00pm here, I think I'm still good. :-)

The first Fabulous Friday Find for this week is a ring I saw on Flickr, by an artist named Ponsawan who is participating in the Ring-a-Day exercise.

Ponsawan's work is incredibly varied, so I had a really hard time choosing what picture to post here. I eventually wound up just posting one of her most recent works because I could not choose!!!

I love finding people like this who are so talented that the ideas flow out of them like water.

As I usually do with these finds, I visited Ponsawan's Etsy shop (silastones) and some of her other links so I could see more of her goodies. You can find links to her other sites on her blog.

Her creativity is remarkable to me, especially after having read of her daughter's auto accident in 2008 and knowing what she must be going through to help her recover from a brain injury. I applaud Ponsawan, as it's obvious through reading her blog and the one she's devoted to her daughter (Ada) that she's doing everything she can to care for her. And all the while, she's creating art.

I've been busy beading some custom orders and working on house plans, so I haven't been spending as much time as usual looking at lampwork beads on Etsy, but I saw these when they were in a treasury with one of my cuffs.

They're from an Etsy shop called mylampworkgarden, a shop filled with beads of all sizes, colors, and patterns. I think I'm gonna have to do some shopping... :-)

These are called "Ammonite" beads by their creator, a lampwork artist from Ontario, Canada, and they really do look like a fossil. There's something about the square shape of the beads with the organic quality of the design that's just downright cool.

I never really spent much time playing with dolls when I was younger (tomboys don't play with dolls, unless they're G.I. Joe dolls), but now I keep finding dolls I like! Maybe after we get our house built I'll have a shelf full of dolls - does this mean I'm starting my second childhood?!

When I came across this doll on Etsy, I knew she was going to be a Fabulous Friday Find. She is AMAZING!!! From the expression on her face, to her perfectly poofy hair, to that posture -- I love her.

Her name is Eli, and she was created by a very talented artist from Lithuania, named Dorote.

Dorote's Etsy shop name is tirelessartist, and although she only has a few listings in there you can see more of her work in her blog and her Flickr photostream. There are even some tutorials on her blog, for any doll makers who might be reading this post.

I'm going to go ogle some more.

And if anyone feels like giving me a doll for a gift, this is a nice place to start. :-)

Okay, my last Fabulous Friday Find is a little different than anything I've posted before. You'll need to turn the sound on to fully appreciate this.

One of my friends on Facebook posted a link to a video of the Cactus Cuties from a 2008 performance. At the time of this video, these little girls were only 6-8 years old!

Click here to look and listen to five amazing little voices, singing in beautiful harmony -- and particularly fitting to the upcoming weekend, this is the Star Spangled Banner.