Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tool Spotlight: Bead Coasters

Readers often ask me where I got the stainless steel beading cups that I use to hold each of the bead types I’m using for a particular project. Since these are my go-to tool for keeping my seed beads and other materials separate and accessible while I work, there’s always at least one or two on my bead tray each week. The trouble is, I can’t say for sure where to get the exact cups that I use, since I repurposed them from a mug set that was gifted to me years ago.

Bead Coaster Holding Pods of Awesomeness

I recently went on a hunt for similar coasters that would be perfect for beading. It’s surprisingly difficult to find coasters of just the right design. Most are simply flat slabs of one material or another, and don’t have a rim that will keep beads in. Others have an enormous rim, which defeats the purpose – the reason these coasters work so well for beading is that they don’t get in the way of needling up seed beads one-handed.

I was able to find a few coaster designs that fit all of the criteria, and a few that are just so stylish that it might be worth it to have them in your workspace even if they’re not perfect for the job. These are my favorites:

These Elegance stainless steel coastersare by far the best of the bunch. Although I don’t like to use metal materials in my work, I do like it for my tools because they’re better for the environment than plastic overall, and very sanitary. These coasters could be soaked in warm soapy water if needed, and will be dry and ready to use again in seconds. They’ve got a smallish rim for keeping beads in place, and no extra decorations to take up space. The only downside is the holder. Unless you go long periods without doing any beadwork, or clean up completely between every single project, it’s not likely to get much use.

This InterDesign Rain Coastersset has all of the size and shape features that I like, but sadly isn’t made from glass as I thought when I first spotted them. To be fair, the plastic coasters would be very lightweight, making them nice for taking a project on holiday. Plus, they're just as washable as a stainless set.

This handmade ceramic coaster from Pottery by Saleek is gorgeous, and has a nice ridge, with some inspiring decoration. The only downside is the size – it’s meant for wine bottles and takes up a whopping 5 ½ inches. This one would be great for bead soups or anytime you only have a single material to work with.

These bamboo coastersby HealthPro are very pretty and have all of the right features, minus the unnecessary holder. They should be fairly lightweight, which is always a bonus. The only real downside would be that they’d have to air dry after washing. If you’re a disorganized or procrastinating beader like me, you might struggle with timing clean ups for periods when you won’t be needing them.

Another handmade ceramic set, these coasters by Laura Harmon Pottery are really lovely to look at. The decorative edge would take up a lot of workspace, so these probably wouldn’t do for a bead tray like the one that I use, but they’d be great for an open workspace. Washability is definitely a bonus, and they wouldn't be prone to shifting around your workspace or spilling unexpectedly.

Although the rims are much too high for beadwork, I couldn’t resist including this vintage coaster set from DayJahView. The design is gorgeous, and the holder could double as a tray for tools, finished projects, or just about anything in your workspace that needs a transportable home. While not ideal for seed beads, these coasters would work really well for larger beads and other materials that don’t require a needle to pick up.

I also found some great DIY projects for making your own coasters. The most functional one is this tutorial for mosaic coasters made from old jar lids on Running with Sisters. If you’ve already experimented with resin pouring, it should be a snap. You could easily create coasters with the rim height that you want, and include an inspiring design.

I highly recommend checking out the thrift shops in your area and scouring the housewares for coasters that would work in your beading space. Even if you can’t get a matched set, these bead holders are a wonderful addition to your tools, especially if work with plenty of tiny seed beads. You can also keep an eye out for mug and coaster sets with the right features. Use the mugs for coffee or to hold your other tools and pencils!

Do you have any repurposed tools in your workspace?


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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tutorial: Diagonal SuperDuo Peyote

Diagonal SuperDuo Peyote Earrings

One of the best things about most flat beadwork stitches is their ability to transform with just a few simple tweaks. Start with a ring, and you get a gorgeous rope. Drop or add a bead in the right place, and you’ve got some intriguing shapes and structures crafted with beads.

This variation on diagonal peyote stitch uses two-hole SuperDuo beads for a honey-comb like pattern that is perfect for earrings and pendants. The technique is pretty simple, and the large bead sizes make it easy to stitch. Even if you’re not quite comfortable with ordinary flat peyote stitch, this technique is very easy to start thanks to the SuperDuos.

To make a swatch of diagonal two-hole peyote, you’ll need a few grams of 11/o and 8/o seed beads, and some two-hole beads that are a good match for 8/o’s. SuperDuos are ideal, but you could also try this with Rullas, half-Tilas, Twins, Bi-Bos, or smaller CzechMates. In this tutorial, we’ll be using two colors of SuperDuos for clarity, but you can certainly create any pattern or palette that you like.

1. Attach a stop bead to a comfortable length of beading thread, leaving a 6 inch tail. Pick up 1 color A SuperDuo and one 8/o seed bead. Repeat 5 times, then add a 6th SuperDuo.

2. Flip the beadwork so the stop bead is facing away from you. Pick up three 11/o seed beads and a Color B SuperDuo. Stitch up through the 2nd hole of the last Color A SuperDuo added in step 1. Pull snug.

3. Pick up 1 Color B SuperDuo, and stitch through the 2nd hole of the next Color A in the strand. Pull snug and repeat along the row to add a total of 6 Color B.

4. Flip the beadwork. Pick up three 11/o seed beads, and stitch up through the 2nd hole of the last Color B added.

5. Pick up 1 Color A SuperDuo, and stitch through the 2nd hole of the next Color B in the previous row. Repeat to add a total of 5 Color A.

6. Flip the beadwork. Pick up 1 Color A SuperDuo, three 11/o, and 1 Color B. Push the Color A SuperDuo up to the work, then stitch up through the 2nd hole of the same Color A. Carefully pull snug.

7. Pick up 1 Color B, and stitch up through the 2nd hole of the next Color A in the previous row. Repeat to add 4 more Color B, for a total of 6 in this row.

8. Repeat steps 4-7 until your swatch has reached the desired length. Finish with a Color B row, and turn to add three 11/o seed beads as usual. Fill in the final row with five 8/o seed beads. Add a loop or finish as desired, then weave in your thread and trim.

Are you a fan of SuperDuos? What’s your favorite stitch to use them with?


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Monday, November 23, 2015

Czech Glass and Copper Inspirations

Another giveaway has come to a close, and this one might be our best ever! This month we had two stunning prize packs designed by Beads and Babble, including a huge assortment of beads and tools valued at over $150. That’s a lot of inspiration!

Our winners are Maya and Holli – congratulations to you, and thank you so much to everyone who entered! I asked you to tell us what your favorite picks are from Beads and Babble, and with such an amazing selection, your answers were incredibly varied. The winning comments picked some very delectable Czech glass and lovely copper components.

Bohemian Picasso Seed Beads from Beads and Babble Copper Links from Beads and Babble

Czech Glass Spindle Beads from Beads and Babble Seafoam TOHOs from Beads and Babble

A huge thank you goes out to Beads and Babble for sponsoring this giveaway just in time for holiday crafting. Have you started your gifting projects yet? What are you making this year?


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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Geek Jewels: Donna Noble

Donna Noble

The first design in my new challenge series was a quick project that I couldn’t wait to start. When I decided to start a new series inspired by my favorite nerdy themes, the very first inspiration that came to mind was my favorite Doctor Who companion, Donna Noble.

Donna was one of the toughest and funniest of all the ladies to travel with the Doctor. She was my favorite right from the start, and continued to be awesome right until the sad, irreversible end. Donna was incredibly stylish, and often rocked lovely gray and purple ensembles to compliment her ginger locks. It was this palette that I wanted to use for my inspiration, which would prove to be the biggest challenge. An overall design was easy to envision – most of her best outfits included a big pendant or opera length necklace.

I started by pulling out every single gray and purple bead that I had in my stash, just to see what my options were. While I was sorting, I spotted a recycled bottle glass pendant that I thought might come in handy. Sure enough, it was a perfect fit to outline a pretty gray shell butterfly. All I needed to do was add some chain.

Donna Noble's Statement Jewelry

I stitched up a quick St. Petersburge chain with white-lined black and purple-lined Rosaline, then suspended the bottle pendant from the chain, and the butterfly from the pendant. The double loop on the butterfly helps to keep the chains in place, and everything looks as sharp as the best temp in Chiswick.

So the first design in the new series is complete, and I’m pretty happy with the result. I have lots of other character inspired designs in mind, and I’m working on a list of some even more obvious inspirations that my fellow geeks should enjoy.

Donna's Butterfly Pendant

Are you a Whovian? Who’s your favorite companion?


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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Work in Progress: Messy, Messy RAW

This week I got started on my new abstract/ugly necklace design, using nothing but culled seed beads. I’ve always got an old tealight cup on my bead tray to collect beads that are a little wonky, and after so many years of beading, I’ve collected a lot of them. They’re the perfect material for an ugly necklace, and my plan is to stitch a great big swatch of them with right angle weave. This will be the base for my piece, which will probably include some embellishments of assorted bead leftovers and some Unfinished Objects.

Mixed Bead Right Angle Weave in Progress

I’ve still got a tray of lime green 8/os waiting to be put away after shooting some photos for an upcoming tutorial. I’ve got 3 different projects lined up for you in the coming weeks. The one I’ve just completed is so much fun – I think you’re going to really love it. Keep watching for that one!

What are you making right now?


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