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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Beaded Beads IV

Long ago I made these earrings:
It was cloudy the day I took the picture
The pattern was for a "caged beaded bead" by Carol Wilcox Wells (March/April 2000 issue of Beadwork), but I made two, adding a loop to one end and fringe to the other.

I had leftover beads, so why not make more in the same color scheme?
(Actually, I didn't quite have enough beads, and lucky me, they no longer make that shade of purple, and the metal beads -- actual white gold if I recall correctly -- are super expensive now.  I did find a darker matte purple for the larger bead.)

These three are Wonder Beads, designed by Sue Jackson and Wendy Hubick:

A saucer-shaped bead in different colors, just because
The basic patterns can be found in the April 2001 and 2005 issues of Bead & Button; the designers encourage customization (not that I did a whole lot of that).

To go with them, as spacers, I made these Peyote Donuts by Sharon Bateman (Beadwork April/May 2003):
The construction on these was kind of neat -- you bead the inner circumference first, expanding out both at the top and the bottom, and sew the rings shut along the outer circumference.  I'm thinking of repeating this on a much larger scale to make a bangle. (I'm not sure if the structure will hold, though.)

All together, now:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Book and the Brotherhood by Iris Murdoch

I've been meaning to read more of Iris Murdoch's work for quite a while -- not only is she one of the most highly-regarded British writers, she was a major influence on one of my favorite authors, A.S. Byatt.  And what better to read than The Book and the Brotherhood, one of her best?  Set in the 80s in England, it opens with a long, richly detailed scene at an Oxford reunion that introduces the characters and sets in motion the events of the rest of the novel.

This is a highly intelligent, deeply-felt novel, full of ideas, descriptions, and emotions.  The perspective shifts from character to character, giving us an opportunity to inhabit the mind of each one -- his or her hopes, disappointments, strengths, and weaknesses.  All characters, that is, except for one who is the catalyst, directly or indirectly, for everything that happens.  Fittingly, we never truly understand him, leaving us to wonder if he is a fraud, a madman, or a true believer.  Instead we see the expectations the others have placed on him, and how it reflects their own understanding of who they are.  The result is a smart, honest, moving read about the need to find one's place in the world.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Beaded Rings

The April 2014 issue of Bead & Button had an intriguing pattern for "Basketweave Rings," designed by Nina Raizel; unfortunately, it did not work for me at all. For one thing, because of the way it is designed, the ring can only be made "approximately" size 5, 8, or 12, which is not a very useful range.  I wear an 8, though, so I thought it would work for me anyway.  So I constructed the base from hex-cut delicas:
The key word is "approximately" -- the ring was just a bit smaller than size 8, making it uncomfortable to wear, especially because it's such a tall ring; closing my hand squished the band on that side.  I didn't even bother making the strips to weave around it.  Instead I flattened it into a rosette, and will add to to my beadweaving screw-up/failure project.

The chevron ring from the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Make it Yourself, designed by Claire Elizabeth, was a much more successful pattern:
It would be easy to customize the design, too, since it is a simple peyote band.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Super Bangles

Shaped beads have been popular in the beading community for a few years now, with manufacturers coming out with new shapes and configurations frequently.  As a result (and, I'm sure, the result of advertising pressure) various beading magazines have increasingly focused on these beads, much to my dismay.  My beading budget is currently quite small, and I prefer projects that are more generic in the beads they call for, so that I can work out of my stash.

But I couldn't resist two beaded bangles made with the two-holed beads known as Superduos and Twins.  One tube in each of three colors was enough to make both bangles, with plenty left over:

The top bangle is from the "Super Spiral Set" pattern by Michelle McEnroe, from Bead & Button's February 2014 issue.  The instructions say it only works with Superduos, not Twin beads, but I am skeptical of that.  It's got a nice heft and drape to it, and I love it.

The bottom bangle is from the "Lasso Loops" pattern by Teresa Sullivan, in the Beadwork April/May 2013 issue.  I twisted the rope once before sewing the ends together, the better to see all three colors; otherwise the pretty strawberry red, my favorite, would have been on the inside. The instructions explain the section where one steps up every round will develop a slight curve, the better to form the inside of the bangle, but I didn't think about that when planning the colors.  Also, Sullivan writes that the pattern works with either nymo or fireline beading thread, but I found the nymo to result in way too floppy a tube (I was also afraid it might not stand up to wear and tear as well).  This pattern called for Twin beads, but the Superduos worked just fine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This Year's Eggs

I've had Easter egg embroidery patterns (from the defunct Needlecraft Magazine out of England) for almost 20 years, and this year I finally made two of them:
The rabbits were for me, the cross for Beadmom.  As usual, I embroidered perfectly egg-shaped eggs that became lumpy when I sewed and stuffed them.

These earrings are from a Fusion Beads pattern:

This year I decided the Beadboys would dye blown eggs, that way I could keep them for future craft ideas.  Over a week I carefully blew out eight eggs, and Easter Monday we sat down to dye.  Only I didn't think about the fact that hollow eggs float, so we had to hold the eggs in the dye with our fingers.  And I didn't add vinegar to the dye because we were also dying marshmallows, but that meant the color didn't take as well as I wanted.  The sad result:
One of the eggs didn't survive the process
The kids didn't care, but I did.  So a few days later I brushed on some watercolor paint, keeping it streaky for a homemade vibe (... yeah, that's why they are streaky):

Enjoy the rest of the Easter season!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Brown's first novel, The Weird Sisters,is a smart, delightful book about three sisters who come home to their parents to lick their wounds and help their mother through a bout of cancer.  As tends to happen in these kinds of stories, each sister confronts a truth about herself and sets off on a new, hopefully better path.

At the start, the three sisters describe themselves as failures, which is not a term I would use.  Lost, certainly, and stuck in a rut, and having made some really bad decisions, but "failure" has a ring of finality to it that I don't think applies to them.  None of them has actually failed; for Rose and Cordy, an earlier stage of life has simply come to an end, and even in Bean's case the problem is not in her capabilities but in bad habits she needs to leave behind.

What makes this novel better than others of its ilk is how smart it is.  Brown does not make the mistake of thinking that a man will solve each of their problems, nor does she downplay the consequences of their behavior.  There is no false dichotomy between the city and the small hometown, between a career and a family, between academia and the real world.  While the end result for each of the family members is not surprising, it is not unearned, either.

What makes this book stylistically unusual is the choice of a first-person-plural narration.  The three sisters narrate the story together, as a "we," which does an excellent job of showing how these three people, as different as they are, have a shared history and love for each other.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ojos de Dios

I found a pinterest these incredible complicated Ojos de Dios (God's Eyes) and I couldn't resist.  So I cut a couple of chopsticks in half (... with a steak knife), got out my stash of size 3 perle cotton, and set to weaving.
Not quite as neat and professional as the ones at Honestly WTF, huh?  They are constructed by starting two traditional ojos and then weaving them together to make the eight spokes.  That's the part I had trouble with, weaving the two together with the turquoise thread; no matter how many times I did it, I couldn't get the thread passes to lie properly.  I think it would have been neater if the spokes were flush with each other, and indeed when I poked around on the interwebs I found that the artist who inspired all of this, Jay Mohler, often notches the sticks so they interlock at the center.  That was beyond the capabilities of my steak knife, however.  I plan to pick up some wooden swizzle sticks/cofffee stirrers, which are nice and flat, and try with them.  I might also try gluing all four sticks together from the start, rather than weaving and attaching two ojos, and see if I can weave the
same patterns.  (Although in that case, maybe having thick spokes would make it easier for the threads to go under the spokes I'm skipping ... hmm ...)

I did have popsicle sticks, which are nice and flat, but too wide to work with eight spokes.  So I tried six:
I also reversed some of the weaving with each color, to play with the negative space.  This one makes me think of a rose.

Some people use the process of wrapping the thread around the sticks to meditate on God, but I can't say I was meditating on anything more than making sure the threads lay properly.  Ojos de Dios are also placed in homes to bring blessings, which we could certainly use.  They now hang with a large painted Sacred Heart milagro and a glass "evil eye" charm.