A T. Rex Dressed As Elizabeth I

For Halloween this year, Tiny the T. rex decided to be Elizabeth I of England. She looked through books until she found a dress she liked (the jewel encrusted gown of the Ditchley portrait), then asked her Aunt Rexie if she could help her with her costume.

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The Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I (ca. 1592)

Aunt Rexie took one look, sighed, and then got out her sewing kit. After all, she adores Tiny. She spent days putting “gems” and ribbon on fabric before she could even begin sewing the dress, but the end result, and the happy look on Tiny’s face, was well worth the effort.

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Tiny LOVES her dress! (Thanks, Aunt Rexie!)

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Note: This is probably the most elaborate costume I’ve ever made. What was yours?

Intuitive Beading: Bead Stitch Sampler Finished

My recent class with Lisa Yoder inspired me to finally finish the bead stitch sampler book I started in 2014. I had stopped because I’d reached a fussy stage where I need to fuse fabrics together to make the cover and I couldn’t be bothered. Now that the itch to bead was back, it was easy to get the cover ready and finish the project.

In the instructions in First-Time Beading on Fabric: Learning to Bead in Nine Easy Lessons, Liz Kettle suggests “intuitive beading” on the cover: doing one thing at a time without planning ahead. I dove in and made up my designs as I went. It was incredibly satisfying and even the things I wasn’t sure about worked out fine in the end.

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The front cover of my beading sampler book (3.25 x 4.5 inches)
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The back cover of my beading sampler book (3.25 x 4.5 inches)

As I worked, I looked in my sampler to get ideas for things to put on the cover. The fringe on the spine, while a bit of a challenge to add since it gets sewn on after the book is assembled, gave me an opportunity to break out lots of novelty beads I’d been waiting to use.

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Overall, the whole project was great fun, a wonderful excuse to use a variety of stitches and beads just because I wanted to. Now that it’s finished, I’ve realized the other benefit to making this sampler beyond the obvious one of learning and practice: it was something I could bead to death. I’d like to do some more beading soon, but I will have to come up with a project. While I don’t want to make another sampler, this was a great way to learn while having an excuse to bead like a fiend.

3 Reasons to Take Classes on Techniques You Already Know

When I saw that my quilt guild had a beading class with Lisa Yoder coming up, I debated with myself about taking it. I’ve been beading on fabric for years and have even done demos at the guild on basic beading techniques. What more was there to learn?

Fortunately, I talked myself into taking the class. After all, a class gives me a chance to practice a skill I won’t practice at home. I’ve taken multiple machine quilting classes over the years, even after I started getting compliments on my quilting, and never regretted it. Classes remind me of things I’ve forgotten, and I always learn something new, though it may be something small.

Here’s what I got from taking Lisa’s class:

1) Inspiration: Lisa’s quilts are hand-sewn gems, tiny bead-encrusted worlds that are delicate, whimsical, and breath-taking. I loved her work.

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Hand-sewn and beaded quilt by Lisa Yoder.
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My studio the day after Lisa’s class: Beading frenzy!

2) Fun: I thoroughly enjoyed making my little beaded quilt during class (and yes, I got all but a dozen of those beads on during the 3-hour class). I remembered how much I love to bead things.

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The beading I did in class (fabric is 3.5 by 5.5 inches).

3) Learning: Even though I’ve beaded for years, Lisa had things to teach me. She did some things differently than I do. I gave them a try because I was in her class and discovered some tips to make beading go more smoothly.

As a rule, I love to learn. But it’s easy to forget that just because I know how to do something doesn’t mean there isn’t more to know. I’m really grateful I took Lisa’s class. Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but there are so many new tricks out there waiting to be learned.

3 Tips for Working with Beads

I’ve been beading on fabric for years, but thanks to Lisa Yoder’s To Bead or Not To Bead class, I’ve just learned some new things that make my beading go more smoothly.

1) Use a beading pad. Lisa provided supplies for her class, and one of the items was a beading pad. It’s a rather fat and squishy fabric that is fuzzy on both sides. It keeps your beads from rolling around, making it much easier to pick them up with the needle. It’s ideal when you are adding one bead at a time.

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My beading pad. It also doubles as a needle holder. I keep my pad in a recycled food tray for added safety.

An unexpected bonus: it makes it really easy to return your beads to their storage container as well. You just pick up the cloth and pour them in. It’s like using a paper funnel, only the beads roll more slowly so you have more control.

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Bead pads also make it easier to pour beads into their container.

2) Use a single strand when beading. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have had the habit of doubling up my thread and knotting it that way for years. My thought was that it was easy insurance — twice the thread per stitch — and it would keep my beads from falling off the quilt. What I didn’t realize is how hard it was making things for me. Using a single strand means keeping track of the loose end (which can be particularly tricky when there are lots of beads on your thread) but it also means it’s a snap to un-thread and fix any problems that come up. It reminds me of what I learned when I went to a standing desk: reduce the effort involved in doing something, and you increase the likelihood that you’ll do the right thing.

3) Use a bowl or jar of beads to string lots of beads at a time. This is something I remembered after class, when I was home and beading madly (inspired by Lisa’s class). You just stab the needle into the mass of beads and pick them up at random until you have as many as you need. It’s faster than picking them up one at a time.

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Dip your needle repeatedly into the mass of beads to pick up a bunch at once.

Finished Friday: Crocheted Owl and Cockatoo Necklace

I’m just back from a week in Tucson, where I helped my sister sell her art glass beads at The Best Bead Show, which is part of the annual Gem and Mineral show that takes over the entire city for nearly a month. As a downtime project, I took along Bunny Mummy’s free crocheted owl pattern and a bunch of scrap yarn. I made my first crocheted owl.

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The pattern is very detailed and easy to follow, with lots of photos to help explain things. I used yarn instead of beads for the center of the eyes, but otherwise I followed directions. I even made the wings, although I don’t think it necessarily needs them.

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WingCU_webMy yarns were not all the same weight, so I doubled up on the thin ones. Instead of using a single yarn doubled, however, I put together two different light-weight yarns of similar shade, which gave the final project richer colors. The yellow (except for the beak) is two yarns, and the dark blue-purple is one strand of blue, one strand of purple.

If you look closely, you can see that the yellow is really one strand of yellow and one of gold.
If you look closely, you can see that the yellow is really one strand of yellow and one of gold.

The only thing I don’t like about this project is the size. I was hoping for a more petite owl, so I will try this again with a sock yarn and see if I can deal working that many stitches that small.

My other project from the week is a necklace I made while in Tucson. My sister gave me the beautiful cockatoo bead as a thank you for helping her out and I bought the rest of the beads at the show. Then she helped me finish it since my jewelry-making skills are rusty. I love how it came out.

The cockatoo is glass with a delicate feather pattern in transparent all over it. The bead is 2 inches long. Bead by Cleo Dunsmore Buchanan (Grama Tortoise Beads)
The cockatoo is glass with a delicate feather pattern in transparent all over it. The bead is 2 inches long. Bead by Cleo Dunsmore Buchanan (Grama Tortoise Beads)

Have you finished an art or craft project recently? Share it here!

Past Projects: Beaded Pony

Before I made my Sorrow Angel, I made this little beaded pony.

Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore

I love the pony’s chunky shape and stubborn feel of her stance. I made the body with machine-quilted fabric, then hand-stitched beads on over the quilting lines to get the flower design.

Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore

To give the static pose more energy, I used wire for the mane and tail.

Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore

The pipe cleaner armature was stiff enough to make my pony stand, but in the future I’ll use stiffer wire just to be sure. Beading can add a lot of weight to a piece.

Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore

Practice Makes Possibilities

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.

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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?