Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beading Tips

Saguaro cactus, dusk, near Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin ATkins
Hi Everyone!

I'm in love with Saguaro cactus (above... this one may have been just a wee tyke when my Mom was born 93 years ago) and all the desert cacti and wildflowers in March!!!!! But our adventures in Arizona will have to be the subject of my next post. We took thousands of pictures... really, no exaggeration! So, it will take a bit of time to sort through them and find a few gems to post here.

In the meantime, I was reading Lisa's blog (Indigo's Beads) and decided to comment here on a couple of the issues she had with her March BJP bead embroidery... Here's her very beautiful piece... called Springtime in Heaven.

bead embroidery by Lisa Criswell, title: Springtime in Heaven
In her post, here, she wrote about making the fringed "grass" border before filling in the background sky and about how the thread caught on the fringe over and over again, making it quite challenging (and time-consuming) to bead the sky.

Tip #1. It makes sense to wait to add fringy things to my bead embroidery until AFTER I've completed everything else. But often that's just not the way it goes. Often the fringe just needs to happen and I can't resist the urge. Generally I curse the tangles and keep beading, just as I imagine Lisa did. However, when it really gets to be a problem, I take the time to cover the fringe so that it doesn't keep catching my thread. There are two ways to do this. One is with tin foil. Tear a small piece of tin foil and scrunch it around the fringe. If a larger area of fringe is involved, as in Lisa's piece, I stitch a piece of netting or fabric over the fringe, temporarily containing it. The netting is nice, because you can still see the fringe through it.

Lisa also mentioned that she had to break the Bead Journal Project rule of maintaining the same size for all of her pieces. This is because she started with the ribbon meadow, working from edge to edge of her predetermined size. After creating most of the design, she decided it needed a grass border. That would either mean starting over or making the piece larger than the others in her BJP series for the year. Lisa chose to break the rules and go for the larger size. I say, "Bravo!"

Tip #2. Always break the rules of any art project when it enables you to create your art in a way that works for you. I really believe this! Rules are good guidelines. But don't let them hold you back when it comes to the flow of your creativity!

Then, showing a closeup picture of her beading, Lisa wrote, "oh, enlarged pics really shows my crooked lines! lol. oh well. They looked pretty straight when I was doing them." Yup, Lisa, I certainly know that feeling well!

detail of bead embroidery by Lisa Criswell, title: Springtime in Heaven
Tip #3. This issue always reminds me of looking at my cuticles under magnification. They look fine until I peer into the magnifying glass. Akkkk! The truth is this: it's the same for all of us. Any flat beading (back stitch, couching and/or weaving) can look smooth and straight... even when we examine our work with a critical eye. But when we take a photo of our work in macro or enlarge a high resolution photo to greater than twice the actual size, suddenly we see the thread between the beads and the beads appear to be crooked and unevenly spaced. Our work looks flawed. This is even more pronounced because of the nature of digital photography and scanners, which are designed to capture even slight differences in value. When I find myself feeling harsh about an enlarged picture of my beading, I try to remember to look at the whole, the un-enlarged picture and the original work, to regain proper perspective.

Hope these tips help...

I'm glad to be back on the computer, even though I have lots of catching up to do and oodles of pictures from our trip to sort through. I'll be around to your blogs as soon as I can... Oh yeah, and I'd better get started on my March BJP piece too... YIKES... the month is nearly gone!


  1. This is why I usually bead over the first layer of beadwork I have done. Because it takes the viewers eye away from the first imperfect layer. LOL

  2. Great tips Robin - especially the one about viewing our work close up - I know I am always guilty of criticising my work in that manner.


  3. It is very late and all I can say from this hour-weary time of night is 1. WELCOME BACK DEAR ROBIN! and 2. Never a truer word was said about macro photos and the **flaws** they reveal...HAH!...flaws my puhtookey!! All they are are the individual marks we make, under a microscope (of sorts) which are creating an expressive whole, each beautiful in their own right of stitchery - up close and very personal.

    Time to snooze. Night all....

  4. thank you for the tips robin. man, i wish i would have thought of covering up that dang grass! sure would have made things easier. ah time it'll be different.

    i really like sweetpea's comment! flaws are not flaws but the individual marks we make! what a gem of a saying. i hope sweetpea doesn't mind if i borrow that in the future.

    glad to have you back online and can't wait to see your pics.

  5. Thank you Robin for this post. You have addressed two issues that I struggle with.

    The fact that everyone has crooked really didn't realize that. I won't be quite so hard on myself anymore.

    Breaking the rules. Well, I don't intentionally break ANY rules except when the rules aren't really rules but guidelines. Personally I refer to the BJP rules as guidelines. What I gain from this project is avenue to journal and explore my inner thoughts and express then in my page and the commentary that accompanies it.

    To the other participants..if you find your original size/shape to extensive as demands on your time change. Don't give up, just reset your perameter. If your selected size and shape is too confining..enlarge! Its your art.

    I have been wanting to say that since last year after falling behind I only completed 8 pages. But in the end, I completed some powerful pages and the year enriched my life so much more than I can say.
    xx, Carol

  6. Hi Robin, welcome back. I loved your tip on covering the fringe with foil or net! I never thought of that. Also, the straight versus crooked lines of beading...I won't be so hard on myself for my not perfect backstitch. I try so hard t make it perfect and then I find that some of the lines aren't straight and I'm disappointed. Not anymore, well, not AS disappointed :)!

  7. We have missed you!! I am thrilled to hear that you ahd sucha great trip- you sound very invigorated and inspired!! WELCOME Back!!!!

  8. Ah Robin, you're back! Welcome home.

    Thanks for your tips! I too have struggled with my thread getting caught up in my fringe-roots and leaves... I put plain adhesive tape over the fringe. The cheap kind that will not stick to anything for a longer period.

    I was glad to read about all our crooked stitches... Whenever I find myself scrutinizing my work, not being confident because it didn't come out as neat as I wanted to, I pick up my two beading bibles ("beaded embellishment" and "the art of bead embroidery") and take a close look at the pictures. I am always relieved to see that even the masters in bead-embroidery have threads showing en beads not lining up perfectley. SIGH!

    We're in good company (and that includes yours!)

    Don't feel "yikes"about your March piece... go with your flow and I am sure that it will all work out.

  9. Great tips. I love the idea of using the netting - there have been several times that if I'd known to do that the air wouldn't have become quite so 'blue' *smile*. I try to check carefully when beading to make sure that no threads are showing, etc. but if one were to enlarge any of my beading they'd surely see a 'whoops' or two. I try to put them in the same vein as the Native American woven rugs where a mistake was purposely made on each one.

  10. Those are some great tips! Such a gorgeous piece, too. I LOVE the fringe. I had a teacher tell me if you hang it on a wall and then stand back, and you don't notice the "flaw", don't fix it, hehe :)

  11. You are right about trying to do the fringe last. It really causes a lot of problems with tangling. I try to make my rows curved, not straight, to distract the eye and the mind from expecting them to BE straight. And I love saguaro too.

  12. robin, thanks so much for tips and blog post! I too have looked at pics of my work and even have 'ripped' out beading all for not! Geezzzz Sometimes we are way too critical of our own work..maybe we just want to note our what we think are flaws before our friends do! HA

  13. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Great thoughts to pass along, and I especially like the one about not allowing rules to get in the way of creativity. Well said!

  14. Welcome back, Robin. Glad your trip was all you hoped it would be.
    When I see my "mistakes" under magnification, I remind myself that I am not a machine that makes perfectly straight lines. Part of the "art" in our work is the individuality we each bring to it. Good post. Looking forward to seeing your pictures.

  15. I try not to worry about the imperfections; after all, how else do we know it was made by a real human being? Perfection is for robots!

    It's beautiful, fun was had, and the creator is happy, and that's what matters.

  16. Welcome home Robin! It's great to hear your voice...xo susan

  17. Dear Robin,
    Lovely to have your here again, and thank you for greeting us with a very useful beading lesson!
    You'll be very busy sorting all those photos the two of you took. It will be great to see some of them.

  18. such great advice for all artists, regardless of medium...looking forward to more photos of your trip and your art.

  19. Anonymous5:06 AM

    Welcome back Robin. Looking forward to seeing more photos of your trip. It is encouraging to see a little crooked bead here and there, courtesy of the camera close-up. Makes someone such as myself considering the initial tentative foray into beading look not quite as daunting!Imperfections are sometimes reassuring.Thanks for the hints.

  20. Brilliant idea on how to handle fringe! I do the same thing... put it in as it feels right and curse the decision as my threads get tangled in it. I can't wait to get to the point on the next piece that I'm working on right now to try your ideas out!

    I love looking at enlarged pics of my work. I already am resigned that my lines are never going to be straight and perfect, but with middle-aged eyes, it's easy to miss small bits of loose threads on a "finished" piece that weren't trimmed closely enough. I've now taken up photographing all of my serious work in macro, looking for that kind of flaw so that I can fix it before offering anything up for sale. Technology is good.

  21. Hey Robin
    I've been trying to get in touch with anybody to get put on one of the 3 blogs! I'm listed as participating in the overall bjp 2010, but I can't share my work on the blogs. Please add me somewhere!


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!