JEWELRY MAKING AND BEADING
FOR WOMEN ON THE EDGE
by Kathleen Lynam
Intuitive. Inspired by Nature and the world around me. Translating feelings and senses and vague images into beautiful jewelry, wonderful beadwork, exciting wearable pieces of art. Beyond following step by step. We’re on the edge and we’re high strung about it.
THE SQUARE STITCH
When learning how to bead-weave, I think the Square Stitch is one of the best stitches to begin with. It is not difficult to do. While learning, it helps teach you the basics of bead weaving. That is, how to…
1) hold your piece while working with it
2) manage the thread tension
3) begin your piece
4) end your piece
5) add simple embellishments
The Square Stitch can also utilize patterns developed for Cross Stitch, Loom, or Knitting. This makes it very easy to find many basic patterns for very pretty bracelets, necklaces, and other beaded objects.
The Square Stitch lends itself well to uniform, square cut beads. Therefore, cubes and delicas will produce even, straight rows.
Rounder seed beads are more difficult to use with the square stitch. However, I often use 8/0 seed beads to create a square stitch band, off of which I embellish or add fringes. The embellishment or fringe hides the slight curve in the square-stitched piece produced by the rounder beads.
There is little concrete information about the Square Stitch prior to the early 1990’s when it began showing up in instruction books. Some people say it can be traced back to early African beadwork and some work dating back to the 15th century beadwork out of England.
Whenever I do square stitch, these pointers, which I’ve learned from experience, come to mind:
o Try to keep your tension as even as possible. This is particularly true when using size 8/0 or larger seed beads.
o I flip my work over after every row so that I am always working bottom to top.
o I hold on to my working thread as I begin each row. For me, this helps to keep my tension more uniform.
I have made several bracelets using a square stitch base, including my Monet’s Garden Bracelet.
Here the bracelet has a square stitch base made with 8/0 seed beads. From this base, I create fringes to give a sense of a flower garden. Even though this base is covered, I still need to maintain good tension – Why?
Well the obvious – we all like our beadwork to be smooth and with even tension (even the back side).
However, with the square stitch, if your tension is too tight, your beadwork will creep up on itself. Too loose, and it’s not only sloppy but screams poor construction.
With the square stitch, find a way to control your bead stitches – not too tight, and not too loose. Just right.
NATURE INSPIRES BEADWORK
Nature inspires all great art, including bead weaving.
Flowers, leaves, vines, and butterflies, (to name a few), are fairly common examples of attempts by bead weavers to transform nature into beadwork. Some are spectacular, like Diane Fitzgerald’s “Ginkgo Leaves.”
Along with other design elements, the color of your beads and the size of your beads play a major role in how successful your piece will turn out. I have told my students that a solid foundation in the stitches, like we teach at our Stitch of the Month at The Center For Beadwork and Jewelry Arts / Be Dazzled Beads, will allow them the freedom to choose the best stitch for the project. This is particularly true when designing your own piece.
The following is an example of how I was inspired by nature and the resulting Poke Berry Lariat piece.
During a walk one day, I saw some poke weeds. I had so much fun playing with these when I was a child — I love making ink out of the berries! So I went over for a closer look.
Beading is always on my mind, as I examined the stem and berries. It could be done! At least, I could try and re-create this glorious work of nature using beads. I broke off the stem (a bright magenta) and the berries (both purple and green). I took the stem and berries to the bead shop to match up the colors.
The shape of the berries resembled some freshwater pearls. Again I used the actual berries (purple and bright green) to match up the colors with the pearls.
I already had certain stitches in mind. I decided to make this a lariat necklace. Bead crochet was my obvious stitch of choice for the vine-like rope. I decided to use size 8/0 seed beads for the crochet rope to provide strength and a balance to the berry clusters that I would add on to the rope.
For the berry clusters, ndebele would have strength, provide movement and mimic the way the real clusters are attached to the vine. Using the same magenta color as the crocheted rope, I switched to size 11/0 Japanese seed beads.
The tubular ndebele stitch was easy to begin right off the crochet rope — both from the ends and a berry cluster aobut 4 inches from one end. From this ndebele base, the last stitch, fringe, was used to attach the pearls.
To represent the ripening of the berries, I used a combination of green and purple pearls on 2 of the berry clusters. I decided not to add any leaves. My “Poke Berry” necklace was ready to be worn.