Beady Fun Delivered!

By | February 21, 2018

Disclaimer: This post is a review of a product that I was sent for reviewing purposes.   Opinions are my own.


A few months back I was contacted by the lovely folks at Facet (Bead and Button,) to see if I would be willing to test out their new subscription bead box that they planned to launch in the new year. I have been itching to try a crafty subscription box for a while, and couldn’t decide where to start.   How could I say no?

Time passed, and I had almost forgotten about it, when low and behold a beautiful teal box appeared in my mailbox last week.    Facet-boxWith a squeak of delight I ran inside to open it right away.   The Facet folks had promised two projects in each box.   And indeed there were the supplies for two complete projects all clearly labeled with a shiny, full color instruction booklet. facet-box-1-revealI dug out my pliers and got started right away.   I made the earrings first.   They came out a bit wonky, but wire wrapping is not my forte, and I forgot to follow the wire work rule of making the proper bends on each piece before moving to the next step.  So they don’t quite match, but they are definitely still wearable.   Facet-Box-1-briolette-earrings

The Pearl Cascade necklace was fun to put together.   I separated out all the beads and got to work popping them on to headpins.   I was happy to see that there were extra headpins in the kit.   I had a few misfires and definitely needed a few extras. Facet-Box-Contents-on-bead-mat

The overall quality of the beads was great.  There was one pearl where the finish was chipped, but that’s pretty much par for the course with glass pearls.  No one will ever see it in this project. Facet-box-1-bubbles-necklaceIt was definitely a treat to have two projects appear in my mailbox.   The instructions were easy to follow and the quality of the supplies was very good. I ended up with two fun, very wearable pieces .   I was perfectly happy with my experience.   Then the next day there was another teal box in my mailbox.   I thought it might be a shipping mistake, and assumed it was just a double shipment, but no!  They also have a bead weaving box. And I got to try that out too!

In this box there was a bracelet and a necklace kit both designed by Anna Elizabeth Draeger.  I think my favorite part was the adorably tiny spools of Fireline.   Those will definitely be going in my travel bead box. facet-box-2-revealI whipped up the pendant right away.   It went quickly and will be going in my future gifts box.    facet-box-2-right-angle-weave-pendantThe chain bracelet is still in progress.    I have made my fair share of beaded chain, and this one has the same challenges that they all do.   They are time consuming.  But it’s going to be lovely when it is finished.  Again, the instructions are well written and nicely illustrated.  The seed beads are Miyuki, which is nice.   facet-box-2-chain-in-progressAll in all I would say a big thumbs up for the Facet Jewelry Box!  And as an added bonus, the shipping boxes are the perfect size for project storage if you are into that sort of thing.

Subscription boxes are all the rage these days in the crafting world.   It seems like there is one available for every sort of hobby.   Some seem to be better deals than others.    The Facet Jewelry Box is available in two formats as I have learned.  You can get a Bead Stringing box or a Bead Stitching box.   Prices start at $24.95.  The price goes down a bit the more months you sign up for.  Each month you will receive a box with all the supplies and instructions to make two projects. The only thing you need to supply are the tools.   I think this is a great service for anyone who loves to bead and likes surprises.   And if you sign up right away you can use the code FACET to receive 10% off your first box.

The Making of a Challenge Piece Part 6

By | June 24, 2017

Fancy photos were taken before sending the piece off to the TOHO folks.  We even took a few of me wearing the piece.    Then the piece was boxed up and sent off 2 day air.   All set to arrive in plenty of time for the deadline.  Or so I thought…headdress-13 headdress-16 headdress-6 headdress-4


I checked in a few days after sending the piece to make sure it arrived safely.   I never received a response.  Life got busy and I just assumed that all was well.   A few weeks later I checked again.  This time I received a response saying that my piece hadn’t been received!   ACK!  Insert all sorts of expletives here.  A tense 15 minutes of googling found that my piece had been sitting in the Boise post office for the last 28 days.   ARGH!  A few panicked emails, and my piece was picked up by the Starman folks the next day.   Less than a month before it is to be displayed at the Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee.

I was greatly relieved to finally see it on display with it’s counterparts.   Everyone else’s pieces were delightful, and I was clearly not the only one who found the color selection challenging.    The other entries can be found on the TOHO facebook page here.Headdress-on-Display-1 Headdress-on-Display-2

Well, that mostly concludes the saga of how to make a challenge piece.   Now the pieces will be on display at the TOHO Glass Village/ Glass Museum for the next year.    I won’t see it again until next year’s Bead and Button Show, unless someone wants to send me to Japan… :)  All in all it was a great experience.  It certainly stretched me out of my comfort zone in many ways.  I learned a lot, and look forward to making some more big show pieces in the future.    Hopefully I will be invited back again some  other year.

The Making of a Challenge Piece Part 5

By | June 23, 2017

This piece is finally coming together.  It’s looking like it’s actually going to work, but the deadline keeps looming.  In the mean time, other obligations keep sucking up my beading time.

Now it’s time to start on the forehead panel.   You might remember that my initial sketch didn’t include this piece…   Time to start designing again. Forehead-Piece-Template This piece also came with a structural challenge.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get my needle in the space between the wires to whip stitch this portion as I had the other sections.   The easiest solution was to add a bit extra to the top of the panel and  thread the vinyl through the gap, and attach it to the back side of the piece.   A little extra trimming was necessary in the end, but it worked out well. Forehead-piece-in-progress-2 Forehead-Piece-in-progressThings are getting close now.    The forehead panel is attached and everything is looking good, but it still needs a little something.


At this point I had used all but one of the types of beads in the kit   I really wanted to work in those big gold melon beads.   And I wanted to cover up that bit of ultrasuede that could be seen from the front.    Thinking back to those Brazilian headdresses, they all had some sort of fringe or swags to bring some movement to the piece.     Time to make more tiny flowers…Headdress-finished-Left-side-viewSwags added to both sides, and now it’s time for some glamour shots.

The Making of a Challenge Piece Part 4

By | June 22, 2017

With the fabric problem solved, I sat down to some serious bead time.   The first step was to transfer my design to tracing paper.   Paper-Embroidery-Template Headdress-Paper-Template-The paper then gets stitched to the vinyl and from then on, it’s like coloring with beads.   Fill in the areas with the right beads, and remove the paper as you go. My super pointy tweezers are one of my favorite tools.  This is a great technique for all sorts of bead embroidery.   I filled in all of the parts, then added the lizards last, since I knew they would be sneaky thread catchers. Headdress-Center-Panel-in-progress Headdress-Front-Panel-finishedThe side panels went quickly compared to the center panel. Headdress-side-piecesNow comes the tricky part, attaching the panels to the frame.    I backed each piece with ultrasuede, and stitched a row of beads along the two side edges to join them, leaving the bottom edge open. Now another issue arises.

It looks ok, but needs a bit more oomph.  Enter my beady/quilty friend, Carol with a fabulous heat sensitive batting/interfacing.  I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called at the moment.  But you can cut it to size, then heat set it to harden and shape it.  I put a small bit of that in each of the panels and it added just the right amount of stiffening.   I then slid them over the frame, and pulled the ultrasuede to the front and whip stitched it as close to the wire as possible.   Headdress-Cat-ears

And here is where the structural issues rear their annoying heads.   Notice that there is no space between the side panels and the center panel.   Hmmm, how is that piece going to fit? In the original paper planning stage, I had set the side panels farther apart.  I didn’t notice until now that they got wired on closer than I had intended.   Also notice that the back panel has a support beam.  Unlike the side panels, I can’t just slide the piece over the top.

The backing for the front piece was made in two pieces that overlapped.  A small horizontal cut was made to accommodate that support wire.  A little wire bending and a little creative sewing worked to attach the center panel without undoing the work I had already done.   Headdress-Nearly-completeNow the problem becomes the forehead panel.   There is no longer room to wrap that panel around the frame.   The back wire of the forehead panel is removed and reattached a bit lower.

The Making of a Challenge Piece Part 3

By | June 21, 2017

So now I had a skull and two lizards, but no real plan other than a head piece of some sort.   Another trip down the Pinterest wormhole provided tons of inspiration, and lead me to wire frames for Brazilian Carnival Headdresses.  Well there was no time to order one, but through the magic of the internet, I found tutorials for how to make your own!

The first order of business was to find an assistant. Mannequin-Head

I busted out the heaviest gauge aluminum wire that I had on hand and got to experimenting.  I made a basic headband out of wire, and then started experimenting with paper shapes before deciding on the final design. Headdress-Frame-in-ProgressI knew that the skull would be front and center, and since the piece would be somewhat heavy, it would need a forehead panel to balance the weight.  There is also a piece of wire that runs down the back of the head for balance.Headdress-Wire-Frame-Finished

Here’s the frame all finished.   A few tweaks were made as the piece was embellished, but this is the general shape and size.   Next the frame parts that would remain exposed were wrapped with grosgrain ribbon.    I didn’t take any pictures of this part of the project.  Not terribly glamorous, but necessary.   I figured the grosgrain would offer a bit more grip for the wearer of the piece.  I don’t know about other people, but my hair is pretty slippery, the more tooth the better on a head piece.

Now that I had the bones of the piece in place, it was time to start sketching.   By now I had made a few more components and it was time to play. Headdress-sketchA lot of people ask about my design process and if I sketch things out ahead of time.   The answer is not always, but sometimes it is definitely necessary.  This was one of those times.    Next I made some paper templates, curving the bottom edges so that they followed the shape of the frame.

The next challenge was discovering that the fabric I had initially decided to use wasn’t going to work.  I have been making pieces with marine vinyl for a while.  Diane Fitzgerald introduced me to this fun surface a few years back.   It’s great because the edges don’t fray, and it comes in great colors.   I had some lovely gold, but it was way too stiff.   Experiments showed that it wasn’t going to do what I needed it to do.    I did have a roll of fashion vinyl on hand, but it was silver.  It was the perfect thickness and had a nice hand to it.   Enter Lumiere paints.   I cut off a piece of vinyl and got to work painting.   Hand-Painted-Vinyl Painted-vinylI wanted a mottled look, and I wanted to pull in a bit more color in a subtle way.   Thank goodness the colors held.  I heat set it with my heat gun for extra insurance.

The Making of a Challenge Piece Part 2

By | June 20, 2017

The lizards sat for a while, and I moved onto other projects for a bit.   Then I went on vacation, and the time crunch set in.   I decided to definitely head in the desert direction, but I figured that everyone else would probably be making a necklace, so I should make something else to help my piece stand out.    I had been thinking about crowns.   My grandmother and her sister, Pauline made beautiful fabric crowns from vintage trims and embroidery.    They were soft, and elegant.   But a full on crown is a lot of real estate to cover in a short time.  I was still waffling between a crown and a necklace.

A fortuitous trip to Target yielded an unexpected meeting with my lampworking friend Camille.   Camille and I worked on another challenge piece together several years ago.   We had a nice little brainstorming chat, and I was convinced to head down the crown/ head piece route.

Thinking of my grandmother reminded me that she had several bleached cow skulls hanging on her porch for years.   This sounded like just the thing to go with my piece, so I started thinking about how to bead a cow skull.   It could work like the lizards, but I would definitely need an armature.  I thought about asking Camille to make me a glass one, but decided that since I was short on time, I should figure out how to do it myself.    Enter a trip down the Pinterest wormhole.   I found a tutorial for making them out of polymer clay, but in the interest of keeping it light, I made a few with Crayola Model Magic which is an air dry foam clay.   Skull-armaturesThey came out a wee bit wonky, but since they were going to get covered with beads, I didn’t worry too much about it.    The clay is not super sturdy.  I definitely wouldn’t use it on something that was going to get heavy wear and tear, but it worked fairly well for this job.   I did have to re-attach the horn after a small incident. Cow-skull-in-progress-1 Cow-Skull-in-progressI went ahead and painted the eye sockets to give it some depth.   I had to go back after this shot and touch it up a bit more so no white bits were showing.    Getting the jaw close to right was tricky.   I ended up having to break off part of the jaw and create the shape using just beads.  Not exactly anatomically correct, but you get the right feel from it. Cow-Skull-EmbellishedI also added a few tiny flowers for good measure.   I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

The Making of a Challenge Piece Part 1

By | June 19, 2017

Back in November I was contacted by a representative from TOHO Beads asking if I would be interested in participating in their bead challenge.  Having seen all of the magnificent pieces through the years at the Bead and Button Show, of course I said yes. TOHO makes beautiful beads, and I am always up for a challenge.   Right before Christmas I received my box of beads.  I opened it up and marveled at the sheer quantity of beads.  I knew the quality would be great.  I expected seed beads, but I didn’t expect the extras – crescent beads, and melon beads in two sizes.   The demi rounds were a surprise as well.   I had been hoarding some that I bought last summer, but hadn’t had a chance to use them yet.    The colors were the biggest surprise and the biggest challenge of the whole piece.   Beige, Cream, Electric blue, and Eggplant.   Not the colors I am used to working with.      Toho-Challenge-Kit In the rush of holiday excitement, the beads got put aside, and my brain had time to percolate.

The rules stipulated that you could add one focal piece, and whatever findings were necessary, but that the focus should be on the beads.   They also said that the contents of the kit and progress photos should remain secret until the unveiling at the Bead and Button Show in June.   I was so excited about being asked to participate, it was hard not to share.

The more I looked at the colors, the harder the project got.   I am a bright color gal, and a nature girl.   These colors didn’t work for either of my comfort zones.   I started thinking about deserts and sand, and I started doing research.   My first thought was to make a desert necklace full of lizards and succulents.    But I couldn’t quite get past the lack of green.    I decided to make a few lizards anyway.   Lizards are definitely in my comfort zone.  I ordered some bags of tiny lizards from Amazon and got to work.  Blue-Lizard-in-progress Blue-Lizard-UnderbellyI was hoping to make a bunch of lizards, but there weren’t enough 15s in the box to make more than two. Beige-Lizard-Side-View Lizard-Duo        Lizard-BattleThe lizards sat on my bead mat for a while and things got a little silly.

Un Finished Object Blog Hop #2

By | May 1, 2017

Hello Everyone!    This has been a doozy of a month.   I completed my piece for the TOHO Beads Challenge. (It’s pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself, but I can’t show it off until next month.)   I taught 2 big classes, and I participated in the Stutz Artists Association Annual Open House, which is my biggest show of the year.   In between all that I somehow managed to make 6 new necklaces, 40 pairs of earrings, and I knit a shawl out of sock weight yarn! (The shawl still needs to be blocked, but I’ll post a picture soon.)   This didn’t leave much time for the old UFO drawer.    But still progress was made.

I’m pretty sure this is what the inside of my brain looks like at the moment…


Two of the six necklaces that I made were technically UFOs.   Last fall I made several sets of beaded beads from a Diane Fitzgerald class last summer.  I had intended to turn them into necklaces for last fall’s shows, but they got put into a box and forgotten.   I pulled them out a few weeks ago, and realized why they had been relegated to the box.   They are long, so they don’t drape as nicely as I had hoped.  But I am pleased with how they turned out. The set pictured here is strung with vintage lucite beads and some mahogany obsidian.   I still have two sets to string.  I might experiment with hanging the other ones vertically.

Diane-Beaded-Bead-Necklace-Close-up Diane-Beaded-Bead-Necklace-aqua-brown

I also made some progress on a freeform peyote bracelet that has been sitting in the drawer for years.  It’s not finished yet, but it’s closer than it was.  I pulled it out yesterday, thinking it just needed a clasp, but really, it needs a little something else, and I didn’t have quite the right button.  Maybe this one will be finished next time.

Here is the before:


And here is what it looks like now:

Freeform-Citrus-BraceletIt’s getting better but not quite there yet.  I think it needs more embellishment, but I’m not sure what.

Yesterday I was a total zombie after the whole crazy month and having spent the last two days working the show, so I needed something low key to work on.  I pulled out a half finished crocheted rope that I started several years ago.   I thoughtfully left the pattern with the piece, but it took a few minutes to sort out exactly what I was doing.   I cut the finished portion of the rope from the spool, and strung 4 36 row repeats of the pattern, which should give me the same length on the other side.    I decided I would make the rope in two pieces, and add a focal bead in the center.  This seems like it gives me more design options.   I tried to start crocheting it last night, but I think I have the wrong sized hook.   Lately I have been crocheting with smaller cord, so I switched to a smaller hook, and that wasn’t working.  Need to dig out the other hook which is probably buried in the ufo drawer somewhere.   I’m hoping I will be able to find a cool focal bead at the Bead and Button Show in June.

Crochet-rope-in-progress crochet-pattern

For the next deadline, I hope to tackle one of my big UFOs.   May is traditionally UFO month in my studio. I like to finish up a few projects before I head to Bead and Button and come home with more unfinished projects…

I hope the rest of you have had more success with your UFOs.  I look forward to cruising through the list to see what everyone has been working on.


Karen Williams, Baublicious

Francie Broadie,  FAB

Christine Van Dyke Altmiller, One Kiss Creations

Therese, Therese’s Treasures

Kim Dworak, CianciBlue

Liz Hart, Treetop Life

Liz En, Bead Contagion

Amy Severino, Amy Beads

Cynthia Machata, Antiquity Travelers

Hope Smitherman, Crafty Hope

Christi Carter, Sweetpea Path

Bobbie Rafferty, Beadsong Jewelry

Margo Lynn Hablutzel, My World and It’s Full of Books

Adventures in Buttons

By | March 16, 2017

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Indiana Button Society’s annual Button Show with my friend, Carol.  Having been to many bead shows that incorporated some button dealers, I thought I knew what I was getting into, but the whole button show experience was totally new.

We paid our admission and were given adorable nametags embellished with cute buttons.  And then we entered into a hotel ballroom full of people with boxes upon boxes of buttons, all neatly labeled and carded. It was a tiny bit overwhelming.  I generally do not have the patience to sort through lots of boxes while shopping.


But all of the vendors had their cards arranged by subject and type of button.  It made it all fairly easy to browse.   Since I hadn’t come to the show with any specific button needs.  I did some casual flip throughs of the boxes, and mostly stuck to the inexpensive grab bags of buttons.  I found a few treasures there.

At the back of the room was a display of button cards that were being judged on their merits.  I snapped a few quick pics of an embellished button card that caught my eye.  It reminded me of the fun embellished button swap that I did with Diane Fitzgerald, Stepheny Hornblow, and their beady ladies.  I also did a fun button swap with my Siever’s bead girls. That reminds me that I still need to do something with all those buttons…

Embellished-Button-Card-Full Embellished-Button-Card-Close-Up

Another fun treasure was this cute little display of tiny plate beads.  They made me long for my ever so brief doll house days.


A few more passes around the room yielded several treasures.   I found several inexpensive grab bags of buttons which will hopefully be turned into jewelry in the near future.   And I found two spectacular cicada buttons that had to come home with me. metal-ball-buttons French-Tights-ButtonsThe small ball shaped buttons would make great centers for beaded flowers.  And those little metal florals will be fun to play with.  I also found some fun vintage glass buttons set in metal, and a bag full of tiny red glass shank buttons. Vintage-glass-buttons-in-settings Vintage-Red-Glass-ButtonsAnd you can never go wrong with mother of pearl.   I can’t believe this bag of carved buttons was only $10.  Most of them are larger than a quarter. Carved-Pearl-buttons Pearl-Shank-Buttons And finally the treasures of the day, the cicadas. Cicaida-Button Pink-Glitter-Beetle-ButtonI know nothing about either button, except that they are both glass.   The top one looks a bit Japanese to me.  The bottom one was just screaming my name.  Hot pink glitter and bugs all in one?   It had to be mine.

I also bought a few blank button cards to jazz up my studio.  I certainly have enough buttons at home to fill up a few just for fun.   This is what most of the buttons were displayed on.  Some were grids, some were random arrangements.  They are all sturdy mat board.  And most of the buttons were wired on with bits of telephone wire.  The lady who sold me the button cards threw in a free jar of wire bits.  Button-Card-Radial Button-Card-Concentric

The vendors were all nice and helpful when asked questions.  There were even refreshments on hand.   All in all it was a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.   Next year, I will go with a better plan, and hope to come home with some real treasures.

Un-Finished Objects Blog Hop or UFOs as we like to call them…

By | March 11, 2017

A while back, the lovely Karen Williams invited me to a “support group” for all those un-finished objects that all beaders have.   I hopped right on board.  I have an entire set of drawers full of UFOs!  One of the perils of being a full time beader and designer.   Inspired by the rest of the group, I resolved to tackle the drawers.  I went through each drawer and catalogued what was there and what needed to happen for it to get finished.  I also pulled out the things that I knew I would never finish, and I pulled out the things that were kits that hadn’t been started. I had 4 drawers of projects to cull.

UFO-Drawers UFO-drawer-notes

UFO-Drawer-Interior  What I learned was that pretty much everything there was there for a reason.   A problem was encountered: maybe lack of supplies, maybe technical difficulties, perhaps even insufficient skill level at the time of the project. Some of the reasons were small.  Those are the projects that get pulled out when it’s show time and I need some quick inventory.  I think I found at least 7 bracelets that just needed clasps!

I managed to finish a few quick fixes.  I have three major UFOs that I would really like to finish this years, but an unexpected vacation and a secret bead project have kept me from tackling those just yet.   For the reveal, I decided to go with a project that has been languishing for at least 5 years.   In addition to the pile of nearly finished bracelets, I found 6 crocheted ropes just waiting to be finished.

Crochet-Rope-Disassembled-1 Crochet-Rope-Disassembled-2   This pair of ropes was completed shortly after I learned to do bead crochet at least 5 years ago, maybe longer.   I had made several bangles with a similar color scheme.  I think I originally planned to make more bangles, but I got inspired to hunt for lampwork beads to match.   I found these beads at the Bead and Button Show several years ago.   They were carefully wrapped in tissue in the same bag as the rope.   Now they have been joined together.  I added a few onyx spacers to tie the lampwork in with the ropes. The clasp is sterling silver with a black stone of some sort in the center.   I am quite pleased with the outcome.  It inspired me to dig out the other ropes, but alas, I do not have the requisite focal beads to pull the others together just yet.  I guess I know what I’ll be shopping for in June.

Crochet-Rope-Primary-Finished Crochet-Rope-Primary-2

I also found this cute little dagger bracelet.   It’s so wiggly, I can’t stop playing with it!  I added the perfect purple slide clasp, and reinforced the whole dang thing since it seemed like that would be a good idea.  I think this one will be worn a lot.Dagger-Slinky-Bracelet-2 Dagger-Slinky-Bracelet-Close-up

It has been fun seeing what everyone else in the group has been working on. I look forward to seeing which projects they chose to finish for the blog hop.   Pop on by everyone else’s blog to see what they have been working on.

Karen Williams, Baublicious
Christine Van Dyke Altmiller, One Kiss Creations
Amy Severino, Amy Beads
Therese, Therese’s Treasures
Kim Dworak, CianciBlue
Liz E, Bead Contagion
Margo Lynn Hablutzel, My World and It’s Full of Books
Cynthia Machata, Antiquity Travelers
Cathi Salzarulo Kent, The Cat’s Meow
Liz Hart, Treetop Life