When it comes to starting a new sewing or knitting project, I usually just dive in. I don’t want to take the time to check my knitting gauge or practice my quilting design, although I often do. A quick test can save me time and materials. But I avoid extended practice because I don’t feel like I have any time to waste. Knitting, sewing, and beading are my downtime activities, things I do when I’m trying to recharge. Even though they are “just hobbies”, I want something to show for my effort. So I am always working on a project, instead of taking time to practice.


Recently, I let myself practice beading. I was still getting over being sick and needed something to do with my hands, so I decided to make the beading sampler from Liz Kettle’s book First-Time Beading on Fabric. I felt a little silly working through the exercises because at least half of them were stitches I already knew. But beading projects usually require a bunch of planning. Here was a way to spend my time beading without having to think or plan, and that was ideal.

My bead sampler pages, ready to be made into a book.
My bead sampler pages, ready to be made into a book.

To my surprise, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve done so far. Not only has it been a great excuse to play with my many beads, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve found out that there are things that look easy but require practice. For example, making “train tracks” with the bugle beads was much harder than I would have expected. I made mistakes on my sampler, but rather than fixing them, I just moved over and tried again. Seeing the mistakes will help me to remember just how careful I need to be if I ever want to use this technique on a project.

"Train Tracks": harder than they look.
“Train Tracks”: harder than they look.

I also discovered new favorites that I might never have tried. Picot edging is fun and I love how it looks. Because the choice of bead color can greatly affect how the ruffled picot edging looks, I’m looking forward to experimenting with it. I also have a poor track record with peyote stitch, but I felt like hero when I conquered the cabochons.

Simple picot edging
Simple picot edging
Ruffled picot edge
Ruffled picot edge
Two cabochons, plus a button flower.
Two cabochons, plus a button flower.

I’m glad I took the time to do this practice work. I might have seen the bugle bead train tracks idea somewhere and tried it on a project without realizing how hard it would be. That would have been frustrating. I certainly would have by-passed any chance to use a cabochon because I didn’t think I could make the peyote stitch work. Now that I know more about these techniques, I’ll have more options the next time I design a beaded project.

I still have to put the bead book together, but you can be sure I’ll follow through on this one. I’m looking forward to practicing more of my beading techniques on the cover. I wonder what else I’ll learn?

Do you take time to practice techniques you use for your hobbies? What have you learned from taking time to practice? From not bothering to?

4 thoughts on “Practice Makes Possibilities”

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one! There’s only one time where did I the full thing: swatch, wash, and dry. It was for a cable-knit sweater I was designing myself and I wanted to be absolutely sure I was getting it right. When I did the math, it turned out I didn’t have enough yarn to make the sweater! So I guess it really saved me a bunch of time. I have yet to find another yarn to try.

  1. I’ve only ever swatched once. It was also a cable-knit sweater, my first, and I was making it for my husband. I felt so righteous about actually making a swatch…even though I half-assed it and only made one: ribbing (small needles), stockinette and one part of one cable (bigger needles) all on the same swatch. I piously took my measurements and adjusted the pattern, then knit from waist to armpits only to discover that the circumference was fully 100cm (~39 inches) too big. I ripped it out, of course, and I’ve only made hats since. I started working on a shrug recently, but I can’t make myself swatch. I’ll just blithely follow the pattern and hope for the best.

    1. I can relate to the sweater-the-wrong-size thing though mine are usually too small. I have one collection of yarn that I have made into three different (partial) sweaters so far before ripping it out and doing something different. Right now, it’s a half-finished sweater that I intend to turn into a pillow so I don’t have to knit it any more. Getting things to come out the right size is no simple task. It’s why, once I find something that works (pattern/yarn/needle size) I’ll stick with it for a while, just so I can knit without fretting.

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