Margarita's Beads | Adventures in Beading

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I’ve only recently taken up beading, but it’s quickly become my greatest obsession.

Flower with Leaves Beaded Bracelet

Beaded Bracelet Flower with Leaves

After about three weeks, my bracelet is completed.

I made this bracelet from the picture posted in the “Your Work” section of Bead & Button Magazine, Issue 102 from April 2011. The piece is created by Michelle Albertella from Encinitas, CA.

My friend Alicia and I were very impressed with this gorgeous design. We drooled over the picture for about a day and decided to make it.

There were no instructions in the magazine, but the article mentioned that the leaves were made using St.Petersburg chain and the petals are brick stitch. (I later found that Michelle sells it here as a pattern.)

First order of business was to make 8 leaves.

I’ve made a fair share of Russian Leaves in my life, but those are done in Peyote stitch resulting in a more solid leaf with a thicker outer edge. The St.Petersburg chain leaves used in this design are lacier and more delicate. We really liked that look.

I have some experience with St.Petersburg chain, too. In the introduction to the first St.Petersburg chain project I’ve attempted, the writer claimed that by the time I was through, I’d know the stitch backwards and forwards. The project delivered. I did learn the stitch. But I think it also shaved a few months off my life expectancy in the process…

We looked up instructions for St.Petersburg chain leaves and found some from Very helpful, thank you very much. Takes a little bit of getting used to, following instructions broken into 16 tiny pages — they do want to maximize their annoying ads — but it’s there and it’s free.

It took me the better part of the evening to complete the first leaf. The beginning of the instructions threw me for a loop. It positions the stop bead in the center of the thread and uses 2 needles, since  the leaf is stitched from the top down. So the first steps is to make the little leaf tip.

From there on, you do straight-forward St.Petersburg chain for a few rows to make one side of the leaf with one needle, then go back to the top to make the other side with the second needle. Then connect the sides by stitching a 2 row base using a pretty peculiar method, which I think could be improved on, but it worked out.

My problem with this kind of design is that I’m a very tight beader, but there is no way to make the beadwork tight here. It kind of flops and twists around in your hands and makes you bonkers. I really had to work on staying calm. However, once the sides are connected, the leaf sort of firms up. So that was a relief.

Sadly, my friend Alicia couldn’t make it happen. She gave up after the first leaf, which in fairness came out kind of cockeyed. But she made a killer braided bracelet instead!

I went ahead alone and struggled through. But really from the first leave on, it was easy.

Once you have made the necessary number of leaves (eight for an average wrist), they are sewn together, base to side, as shown in picture: four facing left and four facing right. This means that the two leaves in the center of the bracelet are sewn base to base. And this junction is where you attach your flower.

The flower petals were done with brick stitch and are very easy. Ana Garcia, my favorite bead teacher, taught us the technique to make them longer or shorter, so that was no problem. The petals are sewn together at one tip to form a flower.

The center of the flower was done from the middle out, starting with three 11° beads, and peyote stitching the beads in a circle with one increase. When you have a big enough circumference, sew through the top beads in the last row and pull. It makes a ball with an open base that is attached to the center of the flower.

The bracelet looks so cute. It’s very girlie. I just adore it! And it’s actually easy to wear. Initially, I thought it would catch on everything, but it’s behaving.

My tip would be not to make it too long. It should just fit; otherwise, it spins around your wrist and inevitably drops the flower, which is heavier, to the pulse point on the wrist and puts the clasp, which is lighter, out for display.

I myself had to take two leaves off to shorten the bracelet. Those are the ones to the side of the bracelet in the picture. Maybe I’ll use them for a necklace…. (Alicia would say I’m out of my mind.)

I completed the bracelet about 2 weeks ago, and just now, looking at the picture in the magazine that I shamelessly copied, I realized something disturbing. I’ve studied the picture in detail, I even counted the beads. But what I failed to notice is that the original flower had six petals. Poor mine has only five.

We look, but do we really see?

Flower with Leaves - Bead Bracelet - Detail

Maybe it’s a five-petal white Lilac…

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My first beading project ever — The Beaded Stick!

La Jolla Indian Reservation Beaded Stick

Digging through my beading stuff, unfinished projects etc. I came upon my very first beaded object, the Beaded Stick!

Years ago my Russian friend Lena had a coworker, a Native American lady, who invited her and her daughter, Anya, about 7 years old at the time, to join an annual Native American celebration given by La Jolla Indian tribe on its reservation on Mt. Palomar, North-East of San Diego. Lena invited me, I dragged my husband Raoul along. We had tents, and the tribe provided food and entertainment.

One weekend a year the tribe extends its hospitality to share its history and traditions with its members and outsiders. It was one of the most interesting and wonderful things we have ever attended. The tribe members were very welcoming and caring. It was free of charge and really gave us a glimpse of the life in a small nation.

The food was fantastic too. The tribe served breakfast, lunch and dinner potluck style under the ancient oak trees. There was even such exotic fares as  grilled rattlesnake for the brave to try.

The culmination of the food scene was an enormous wild pig roasted in the pit dug right there in the ground. A bunch of enthusiastic tribal man came together to dig the pit, put the pig in, cover it with leaves and tend the smoldering  fire for hours. It took hard work and expertise, but it looked like they thoroughly enjoyed it. The pig was delicious!

La Jolla tribe is a Bear tribe. First night at the campground we were treated to the tribal Dance, where men of the tribe wore bear hides and went around the fire led by a Medicine Man to the sound of intense drum beats. It lasted about an hour and and grew more intense as the dancers seemed to progress into an altered state of consciousness. The young men sort of became bears…

My girlfriend and her daughter didn’t go to the Bear Dance. They stayed in the tent and tried to get some sleep. Bad idea. The drumming and the growling and the stumping carried pretty far. Inside the tent the girls were paralyzed with mysterious  fear.  They were too scared to get out to join everybody by the fire, since there was some distance to walk in complete darkness, while no doubt  imagining horrible creatures lurking in the pitch black madness behind the trees. But it was equally if not more terrifying to stay inside, easy prey for the same horrible creatures, in case they fancied to come close to sniff around. The girls just wanted that drum beat to stop. As we had fun, Lena and Anya endured one of the most terrifying experiences of their lives.

Another great thing was a sweat lodge.  It was a large  pretty well insulated tent with hot stones placed in the center. The people, maybe 20 to 25 of us, hovered around to the sides of the tent.

I found there is a sort of ritual followed at the lodge. As you enter, crawling in on all fours, you were expected to greet the people already inside the tent with the words “And all my relations…,” meaning that you represent your whole clan, all your relatives, dead and alive. Always. A totally different way of thinking of oneself, not so much as a separate entity, free, unique and unattached, but as a member of your community, your family. Want it or not.

In the smoldering heat inside the tent, each participant got a chance to speak, give thanks, express concern to the rest. It was a very peaceful and centering ceremony.

However, the heat from the stones was so intense that it made you almost lose it. To not pass out, we were told to lay flat on the ground. Strangely indeed, the ground was cool and comforting. Needless to say, I spend most of my time flat on my stomach.

When I crawled out of the lodge at the end of the ceremony, I was covered in mud head to toe. I mean dripping with sweat, red-faced, clothes soaked through with perspiration, and dirty and mud smeared all over my hands and face. Not for the faint of heart, the sweat lodge.

But back to the beading…

In the afternoons, the tribe had some workshops set up, mostly for kids: native crafts, such as dream catcher making, leather medicine bag sewing, animal hide curing, and yes! bead weaving.

As I was wondering around the tables, I tried this and that. I made a little cute medicine bag, then a dream catcher; and gave both items to Lena’s daughter. Made her day.

I tried curing hide too. But it turned out that the magical substance smeared onto the hide to make it soft and pliable was liquified cow brains. I’m not squeamish in the least, but the brain goo emitted a particular smell, slightly putrid, faint wet-doggie… It just made my stomach turn. I had to bow out or I was going to be sick.

And then I reached the beading table…late! The Native American instructor was through explaining the project, turning a beaded stick about 2 inches long into a cute little key chain. The students – all kids! – were dutifully stringing and sewing. I expressed my desire to join the fun, but the teacher showed no enthusiasm whatsoever. I was tardy for the party. I told the teacher that I’d need no special instructions; I’d learn sort of by osmosis.  Hey, two college degrees should count for something at the table filled with 5 to 10 year-olds! But the teacher replied that she was fresh out of  sticks, which were prepared ahead of time, collected, sorted, cut into 2 inch peaces, stripped of bark, and set with an eye hook inserted on one end to turn them into key chains.

I am a sensitive person. I can feel when I’m not wanted.  Normally such an exchange would for sure drive me away, but I really wanted to learn to bead around a stick.

I looked around. The ground was littered with all matter of sticks. No joke, we were in the forest! Nothing cut small and stripped of bark and regular shaped though…

It’s not in my nature to just give up. I picked up one more or less regular-shaped round stick. It was, however, about ten times the length of the teacher’s sample. That would make a cross between a key chain and a police night stick. I had no time to trim it. I just stripped it of bark and presented it to the table, victorious. Now there was no legal obstacle between me and the stick beading.

We were taught what I now know to be a tubular peyote stitch with a variety of size 11 bright color beads. I enjoyed the project, but in time the kids were running to show their moms finished key chains, I was not even a quarter done with my monster…

I finished it in my own good time, about three years later. The stick feels so good in my hands when I pick it up. Makes me remember the campground, the cow brains, the heat of the sweat lodge, the cool earth, and the Dancing Bears…

What a great weekend!

I don’t know if the La Jolla Tribe does that sort of gathering anymore. In 2007 a massive wildfire swept through that exact area. I haven’t been there since. But I’m very grateful to the tribe for their warmth and hospitality. And for introducing me to the needle, thread and bead combination!

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Volcanoes Necklace

Volcanoes Beaded Necklace Finished

Volcanoes Necklace from Sabine Lippert’s “Beaded Fantasies”

Recently I’ve made two of those fabulous bead necklaces, one in gold with turquoise center bead (in the photo) and another in silver with dark garnet beads. The pattern is straightforward, easy to follow. Really loved making it. I I found this necklace in Sabine Lippert’s Beaded Fantasies, a great beadwork book that makes you want to try every project in it.

Volcanoes Beaded Necklace Pieces

Volcanoes Necklace Pieces

However, I think there is one inconsistency in the pattern. Pay attention in the beginning. The pattern calls for a 6mm center bead,  but I believe it should be an 8 mm.

I went ahead and made it with a 6 mm center bead. But I had to compensate for the 6 mm center. I used three delicas in the first row, instead of the five that the pattern calls for. And followed with five in the second row, and six (3+3) in the final row.

The row of 15°s encircling the center bead, for a 6 mm, is more like three, not five. Here you can actually put four. The 15°s are a decorative element and they hide the thread. An even number of them, here, will make no difference structurally.

Volcanoes Beaded Necklace Layout

Volcanoes Necklace Layout

Here it is almost ready. Very exciting!

Volcanoes Beaded Necklace Closeup

Volcanoes Necklace Closeup

Here you can see the count I used, which results in maybe a smaller, steeper beaded volcano.

Go ahead and make this pattern! Easy to make and a pleasure to wear! I got tons of compliments on it!

P.S. Definitely read Elr’s comment for other ways to adjust to a 6mm center bead.

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Beaded Lace Necklace

Beaded Lace Necklace

Beaded Lace Necklace

I stayed up all night making this incredible necklace. It was a project out of one of the Bead and Button magazines. It’s a nice pattern because, really,  you can stop at any point at the end of any row. And it would look great anyway.

Closeup of the Beaded Lace Necklace

Closeup of the Beaded Lace Necklace

Making this, don’t pull too hard. Looser weave makes the necklace drape better.

Peruvian Beaded Lace Necklace

My dog Ella proudly displaying Peruvian Beaded Lace Necklace

My high-fashion model didn’t show up. Had to make do with a dog of a stand-in…

Peruvian Lace Necklace

Ella, weary of displaying Peruvian Beaded Lace Necklace


Lace Necklace

Maybe there’s a cat in the tree?..

Actually, I would like to make it again, this time 1/3 its original width. Then I could wear it too.

Bead & Button

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