Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Happy Walpurgis!

It's Walpurgis Night, Valborgsmässoafton (aka Siste April), today and so I thought I must make a little blog post. I rarely visit any bonfires or celebrate the arrival of spring in any particular way other than just enjoying the flowers in the garden and in nature, perhaps reflecting on in now really being spring and that summer is just around the corner (thanks to the warm easter weather, meteorologists have already declared it meteorological summer down here but that is far from "real" summer).

To illustrate the beauty of spring, I chose to go with the cherry blossom this time.


Edited because I had to add a little bonfire and music to really set the mood. :-)

Monday, 28 April 2014

Meowy Monday: the wood anemone edition

Lately, I've mostly focused on all the colourful flowers that's popping up in the garden: daffodils, forsythia, tulips, pasque flower, violets (they're speading real good!), daisies, dandelions, the yellow flowers on the bush that I don't know the name of, annual honesty, bird cherry, cherry blossom etc. But last week I noticed just how full of wood anemones the hill was this year and decided I had to get some more pics before they started wilted. This time Julle and Knatti acompanied me on the walk so I'm making the pics into a Meowy Monday post (haven't had many of them lately...).

I'm just going to put up the pics in the order they were taken as it's getting late here. Meaning the kitties will be mixed with pics of flowers only.

I said initially that it was wood anemones, but to be fair the wood sorrel is in bloom now too and it helped filling in the carpet of white blossom. So why not end with a close-up of a sweet little oxalis flower?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Colours of darkness (Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge)

Wow, it get's late too fast when you're working on the computer! I should soon get ready for bed, but I have to blog about this first of I'll forget. You see, I've participated in the Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge this week again.

The challenge of the week was to be inspired poem, quote or song. I chose the latter and more specifically a song by Laleh called, simply, Colors. Now, you might ask why I chose it, but I don't have a good answer. I'm a fan of Laleh so it's not a random choice, not something picked just off the radio, but it isn't my favourite song by her. It's one heard on the radio almost as often as Stars Align right now and usually I like to be inspired by something I haven't heard that often and that recently. Anyway, regardless of why, I picked it.

As the focus felt like it was on words it's nothing like e.g. this challenge where I was inspired by the sound of the instruments and the melody. Here, focus was more on the lyrics -- and my very literal inspiration. First it was the age old idea of light-dark that I wanted to do something with, but in the end it was the chorus that stuck: "just because it's black in the darkdoesn't mean there's no color". And I made two, as I said very literal, creations based on that.

First literal interpretation focused on darkness and colours -- dark colours. In certain lights the beads look almost black even though they do have colour: dark bronze and montana burgundy luster respectively. For the bracelet, I was also inspired by the many delicate, simple bead bracelets I've been fond of for some time. This could be more delicate, but I still like it. The idea is to use it as part of a bunch of stackable bracelets, but it can also be used on its own.

Now, for the second piece I focused more on darkness AND colour. In a way, there's also light as you need light for the colours in the darkness of the stone to flash. Initially I wanted use just labradorite, but my light grey labradorite beads doesn't really convey darkness at all. So I picked up a larvikite bead -- it, too, has a schiller effect, but sadly it isn't very visible in my bead so it had to be paired with one of the labradorite beads. (First I added a second lab. bead over the larvikite bead, but it didn't look right so I took it off.) It's strung on three rows of medium braided silk cord hand-dyed in shades of grey and black.

The photo above gives a good idea of the colours of the stone, but not the lovely labradorescence. So I took the pendant out in the sun for this shot:

Colours very much hidden in the darkness (well, light grey can feel dark if it's, say, the grey of a sunless november day), but which needs just a little flash of light to reveal itself in all its glory.

These are two simple pieces, but I still hope you enjoyed seeing them.

Moon swallow

I had a little fun with a pressed-glass bead. The picasso effect wasn't very strong on this bead so the bird silhouette wasn't very visible so I thought "why not fill it with Pebeo Fantasy paints?" So I did. Using blue Fantasy Moon paint to be precise. At first I wanted to mix colours, but it didn't take much paint to fill up the depressed motif so I stuck with just one colour.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

An introduction to whipped and threaded bead stitches on stitched leather cord

As I promised, here's a closer look on the stitches I used for the 'candy berry' bracelet in yesterday's post. (Candy berry is short for opaque berry pearl matte beads on nappa in the colour candy.) This isn't a "real" tutorial, but I still hope it will be a useful introduction for beaders, jewellery makers and needleworkers, including those that aren't familiar with whipped and threaded stitches.

The illustrations are just simple sketches, but as the stitches are simple too, I hope the close-up photos together with the illustrations will still make the patterns clear and easy to understand. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions (in the comment section or privately via e-mail).

Choosing supplies

First, let's say a few words about supplies. For this bracelet I used a flat nappa cord, which is softer than many other leathers. You want a softer material in order to be able to get a needle between the stitches and the leather. Also, the seam shouldn't be too tight for the same reason, but it should be made with a tough thread that won't break when you press a needle under it.

I found my czech 11/0 seed beads to be the perfect size for this, not least since they're about the size of each stitch in the seams, but you might also want to try smaller beads for a more delicate look.

As for beading threads, I'm using my favourite (K. O.), but feel free to substitute with your own favourite. It's a good idea to match the colour of the seam so the thread blends into it, but as you can see I didn't follow my own advice, using a dark purple thread, and as long as it is more or less in tone with the colour of the seam and/or leather it will be rather invisible.

The needle I use is a size 10 ballpointed bead embroidery needle, which have a blunt point. Sharp beading needles are more likely to damage the seam and leather. If you still find that you push the needle into the soft leather, be sure to alter the angle of the needle so it is parallel with the surface of the leather. If that doesn't work, turn the needle so you push it under the seam eye first.

Simple whip stitch

The bracelet above is made using a basic whipe stitch, adding one bead per stitch. The difference between a whip stitch and a threaded stitch is that a whip stitch is worked in the same direction every time (so it goes over and under a seam) while a threaded stitch is sewn back and forth under a seam.

Most of the stitches discussed here only uses one bead per stitch, but do feel free fo add more than one bead if the spacing and bead size allows for it. You can create whole new styles that way.

Filling it up

If you don't like the "zipper look", you can fill in the bead rows afterwards by going through the beads, picking up one bead after each bead you pass through. Remember that the flat cord will curve once used so even if it might look a bit cramped when the leather is lying flat on the beading table, it will look ok once worn as a bracelet.

I haven't tried making more than one whip stitch per stitch in the seam, but that could also work. If adding more than one bead, be sure to adjust the stitch as the beads will be likely to arch or turn the hole up.

Basic threaded stitch

You can also make threaded designs. I don't have a photo of the basic threaded stitch so I'm afraid you'll just have to make due with one of my sketched illustrations. Here, you see the difference between whipped and threaded stitches.

Double threaded stitch

If you want more beads than in the example above, you can make a double threaded stitch by mirroring the first row of stitches. Start as above and then follow the grey thread path below.

Design tip: No one says you need to use the same colour/size/number of beads for every stitch.

Wide threaded stitches

I tried two variations of threaded stitches for parallel seams when making my candy berry bracelet: one filling the space between the seams and one creating a zig-zag pattern.

These are just two examples: by changning the number of beads, the direction of the threads (straight or zig sag), where you add the beads (in the middle and/or on the edge) and/or doubling the threaded stitches, you can create a plethora of bead patterns. Don't be afraid of experimenting!


Almost forgot this part. I secure the thread the way I would in an ordinary embroidery, by whipping or threading it on the flipside. The easiest way is to finish of the bracelet with glue-on end caps. Just secure the threads at the end of the leather strap so they too will be glued together when attaching the end cap.

I don't start nor end with a knot, but feel free to make a small, inconspicuous knot if you find that pulling the stitches tight pulls out the thread end. Do it near the end so it's covered by the end cap or in an inconspicuous place where the knot or secured thread won't show.

That's all, folks!

I hope you enjoyed my little introduction to beading on stitched leather cords. It's a great idea for anyone considering to bead on leather, but don't want to or don't have the tools to punch holes in it. Here you can undo your stitches without being left with a permanent hole. And that's just one of the things I love about these stitches and working on this kind of flat leather cord. Hopefully, you will like it just as much as I do!

Footnote: For a very good book with several examples of whipped and threaded stitches with beads, see Jane Davis' Bead Embroidery The Complete Guide: Bring New Dimension to Classic Needlework. If buying or borrowing the book isn't an option for you right now, you can read parts of it at Google Books. Threaded back stitch is found on pages 90-91. She doesn't show whipped back stitch (which is what's used in the bracelet), but you can find a variation of it in the whipped chain stitch on page 99.

The scrapped design

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I scrapped my first version of the berry metallic bracelet, which used 11/0 seeds. At the time I forgot that I snapped a couple of shots of the WIP before ripping it up, but now I found them while uploading photos to the computer and so why not show them?

Why didn't I go with them? Well, in the photos it doesn't look horrible, but IRL the colours of the beads didn't really match the leather and the size of the beads made the bead stitches stand out too far. I didn't like how chunky it felt, it was more like arches of beads rising over the flat cord than a rope of beads laying against the leather as in the finished bracelet.

I just felt the easiest fix was to find a better colour match and that automatically also meant using smaller beads -- and vice versa. I could perhaps have saved it by using few beads per stitch and making new holes so that the stitches don't end and begin in the same holes, leaving a gap in between for the beads so the first/last beads don't push up the arch of beads. But I don't regret switching to a different set of beads.

A pic of the finished bracelet for comparison if you haven't read the post showing the finished bracelet (or have read, but forgotten what it looked like in detail):

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Three leather bracelets

Today I've got three new bracelets to show. I got three different flat leather cords from Endless Leather and challenged myself with trying something new with them. The first piece was also a colour challenge as I opted for colours matching Pantone's Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid.

Let's start with the Radiant Orchid bracelet. For this one I used a soft, stitched nappa cord in the colour Candy and czech 11/0 seeds in the colour Opaque Berry Pearl Matte. The idea was to use one of my favourite stitches, whipping, to attach beads to the leather cord, utilizing the existing seams on each side of the flat cord. By using the seam, you don't need to make any holes in the cord so it's great for those who don't have hole punches, awls or similar tools for making holes in leather.

Below, you can see the cord partially beaded, showing the double seams it had from the beginning. You can also see a pic of the unbeaded cord at Endless Leather's website if you need a better idea of what it looked like before beading it (never thought of doing "before" photos).

I did try a few variations, as you can see above, but settled for a simple whipped stitch for this first bracelet. And while it's simple, I am quite pleased with it as my idea panned out really well. While waiting for the cord to arrive, I worried that the seam might be too tight or the nappa too hard, making it impossible to push the needle and thread under the stitches -- but this cord turned out to be perfect for this technique! If I hadn't run out of cord, I would probably have many many more bracelets just because they're so fun and easy to make.

(If you like the technique, stay tuned: I'll be doing a post showing more in detail how the embroidery is made.)

For my second bracelet, using a flat metallic leather cord, I wanted to use another one of my favourite stitches (in both "thread embroidery" and bead embroidery): the stem stitch.

First I tried it with 11/0s in one colour, but it felt too chunky so instead I went with size 15/0 black seeds and 13/0 copper charlottes. The change of sizes is the reason for the long stitches: the holes in the leather were spaced for the bigger seeds. It's also the reason why I don't have double rows of stem stitch, an idea I thought about for a bracelet I wanted to embroider with vaxed linen cord. On the other hand, making two (mirrored) rows, would've obscured the pretty metallic colour of the cord too much. So I'll save that idea for another bracelet.

Be sure to notice that big magnetic heart clasp. Normally I prefer smaller clasps, but this chubby copper heart was hard to resist.

That leads us to the third and last bracelet, which unlike the others doesn't feature seed beads. For a while the idea was just to use seed beads, but I wasn't happy with the ideas I came up with. So as a last minute resort, I picked up an antiqued silver-plate tea rose, put a matching lavender bead in the centre of it and wrapped it onto the bracelet. (You can see some of the cord on the rose here, but after taking the photos I pushed it down between the petals to make it more invisible.)

I might redo this one -- feel like making a feather stitch bracelet and this could be a good base... With or without the rose, come to think of it: the feather stitch could be used to make leaves each side of the tea rose. Or maybe make beaded daisy stitch leaves? Hrmm... I need to think this over for a while...

Anytway, that's it, my latest three bracelets. Hope you liked them!

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