Monday, December 26, 2016

A Little Pollyanna in Me

Here it is the day after Christmas and I am thinking, good it is over.  I can be glad in that.  I am not fond of Christmas any more.  I have many happy memories of past years but time has changed many things associated with those happy memories so I no longer like the season.  I won't get into all of that.  I know I am not alone with my feelings about the season.   But today I woke up and had happy thoughts that it is over, I am glad, and I don't have to deal with it all for another year.

That made me think of many times that I was accused of being a "Pollyanna".  For those of you too young to remember that Disney movie staring Haley Mills, a theme in the movie was the 'glad game' finding things to be glad about in a difficult situation.  Also the movie ended up with a phrase that she was looking for the good in people and found it.  When people at work would accuse me of that attitude, I would tell them "OK, I can think of lots worse things to be accused of.".  Much of that attitude in me has hardened over the years.  Being a Pollyanna resulted in quite a few times where I really ended up with a 'knife in my back' due to what I was told was na├»ve attitude about people.  Ok, I'll take it.  I have learned to be more cautious and that is sad in a way but it was a life lesson I guess I needed to learn.

I spent most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day binging on Downton Abby.  It isn't a Pollyanna series, there is a lot of sorrow in it.  But they seem to come thru and get on with life in high fashion and the series always makes me smile in the end, maybe thru a few tears.  And then there is the jewelry to look at!  What more can you ask for.  So I beaded and watched.  What better could I do (besides, shudder, clean) than watch that program and hide in my bead holes.  It was quite nice in Florida, so I was on my porch with my cats enjoying squirrels running around on the deck.  It was good.

I still have a bit of Pollyanna in me and I'm GLAD of her in me.  I like to look at things and find something to be glad about.  That has not been easy in this election year.  It seems the world is so filled with hate, prejudice, and so many other negative emotions.  I don't expect it to improve either. 

So I look forward to a year of beading with friends, teaching my passion for beading, sharing with others who love to bead.  I am quite glad I can bead and share that passion.  Yes, I hide from the world of negatives.  I prefer my beading to the reality of our world full of so much poison.  I will bead to be.  Pass me my rose colored glasses.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Shows in 2017

December brings browsing for the big bead shows in 2017.  I'm very excited to be going back to Santa Fe, NM in March to teach at BeadFest.  I love it out West.  That is no secret to anyone who really knows me.  I am equally excited with my classes for Bead and Button in Milwaukee, WI in June. 

The Santa Fe show is open for browsing now and you will be able to register December 15.  Dreaming about early spring time is fun when it is cold!  My friend Pamela Garbig will be going along with me and she is teaching in Albuquerque March 26.  I will not have an artisan table in Santa Fe.
I'm teaching 3 classes in Santa Fe.  Hippie Girl, a favorite of mine because it is funky.  I've always loved funky.  Hippie Girl is being taught in Santa Fe only at this point.  Obsessed is a wide cuff with a variety of beads.  Studs and Diamonds is a show stopper.

In Milwaukee, I'm adding Top This Cuff, Button Jewel, Caterpillar on a Tile Road and Going to the Ball along with Studs and Diamonds and Obsessed.  Top This is exclusive to Bead and Button as I have a limited quantity of the material used and some parts are no longer available.  Browsing for Bead and Button should be open any day now and for people who attended in the past, the catalog mailed about December 1.  Registration for Bead and Button is January 3rd CST.

In addition to teaching at these two big national shows, I am teaching two of these bracelets at Bead Week in Tampa, FL in March.  Other national instructors will be attending Bead Week as well.  I am teaching Going to the Ball, Caterpillar on a Tile Road, and A Moment in Time during this event.  See for details.  Registration for this event will officially start January 2nd.  March is a great time to visit Florida.
I am applying to teach for Bead Fest in Philly in August and hope that will happen.  That application process has begun but any selection will happen about February.  I do expect to have an artisan table in Philly. 

I love teaching at retreats and bead shops and want to discuss any options with you! 

Ok, now back to your regular programming.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My beading life - THE Colorado Bead Retreat

I used all capital letters for THE in the title because this retreat is the best ever!  I knew it would be fantastic.  Attendance requires that you have gone before to get "in" or be lucky enough to be selected for one of the few lottery slots.  Betcey Ventrella of Beyond Beadery and her fantastic staff set the gold standard for treating beaders to a combination of a great atmosphere, food, shopping, pampering, goodies, and fantastic teachers. 

The pendant swap and desert social Thursday evening was a great kick off.  I've never seen such a fantastic collection of pendants.  Most, if not all, were bead embroidery.  The pretty sparkling pendant I received was made by Janis Starkey.  The donut used is labadorite which is stunning.
The flowing chocolate fountain during the social was a tempting display as were all the other goodies.  The event was a spectacular kick off for what was to come.  When I returned to my room, I found a goodie bag filled with all kinds of wonderful treasures from all over.  The sponsors of the event really provided some amazing items for everyone.

The classes were all perfection.  I loved them all.  I really enjoyed that they were all bead embroidery with such wonderful teachers.  For me the bead embroidery really set this retreat apart from the growing number of bead retreats all over the country.

Heidi Kummli's pendant is fantastic.  It was so much fun to see how it came together and it was the first project I wore outside of the event.  It is reversible and a such a really nice piece of engineering.  Her colors selected for the 3 kit options were all fantastic.

Sherry Serafini's cuff was also great fun to make and I've worn it already to the Il Divo concert in Clearwater, FL.  It was a fun piece to wear to such an outstanding event.
Finally, my project with Kinga Nichols is finished as well.  This spectacular cuff was fun to do, I loved making the bridges.  It took longer but was well worth the time.  I love it.
And for me, nothing tops being in Colorado with the mountains.  The group was warm and friendly and I felt welcomed to the event.  I was thrilled with the special 'Wolf" meeting and talk.  And as you can see, the 'wolf' meeting was popular with many at the retreat.
I was very lucky during the drawing for the prizes associated with the tickets for the Wolf charity.  I won a beautiful Laura Mears moth.  What a wonderful bonus for the weekend.  I look forward to making a bead embroidery pendant or necklace to feature this piece of art.
I've always love Colorado and the opportunity to bead and just to be there, was an event I'm glad to have attended.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Snips

New products come out from time to time that are really worth purchasing.  I'm usually slow to try something new unless of course it is a bead.  It took me years to try a Bead on it Board.  I didn't believe the hype.  If you are wondering about one of the several beading boards now available, it is true!  They are worth the investment and I don't know why I waited so long.  But I digress.

In this case, a friend is selling the Super Snips, they are inexpensive which is a bonus and cute too.  So I figured I would try them.  Her ad says they cut Fire Line like it is butter.  Really?  Color me skeptical.

I have dozens of pairs of scissors.  I have purchased all kinds, from less expensive kids scissors to more expensive embroidery types.  I have also purchased a pair of rather expensive Xuron scissor type cutters and they do work very well on various lines and threads.  But I don't want to purchase several pair to have all over where I'm apt to be beading.    Ok, so I could be a little more organized.  Sorry, that isn't going to happen. 

I travel a bit and prefer to use smaller less expensive scissors to pack.  You just never know when you are going to run into a TSA clerk having a bad day.

Typically scissors will just bend the line over if you try to just snip it off without maintaining some kind of tension on the line.  Also, as the various lines dull the scissors, it gets worse and worse.  I've tried to sharpen scissors without much success.  And if you are a fan of Power Pro line, one of the best lines to use for loads of crystals, it can be very hard to cut it with traditional scissors. 

These little Super Snips are under $5.00.  Frankly, I did not expect that they would work.

At first, I cut as I normally do with a little tension on the line.  Then, as I used them over and over, I tried cutting without even holding the other end.  WOW I am a convert.  Ok, so I don't have much of a life outside beading, little things excite me.

SO, I tried them on PowerPro both 8 and 10 pound, tried them on Nanofill, One G and other threads.  They snip the thread right off without holding the other end of the thread on all of them.  Pops off like magic.  I didn't believe it.  So I tried again figuring it was a fluke.  Best darn little thing I've ever seen.  The cute little cover to put on the tips is a bonus.

I'm not big on video but gave it a try to show how great they are.  The video is on YouTube and the Baubles by Balonis Facebook page as I could not get it to load on this blog.  Search Super Snips on YouTube and you will find it.

You can get the Super Snips at:  Beads by Dee

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Beading Life - Off to Alaska

What could be better than a bead cruise to Alaska?  I do love to cruise.  I also love to bead so the combination is a great thing for me.  Add in a trip to Alaska and I'm one lucky girl. 

This trip was organized by Amy Loh Kupser of  Her bead cruises are different.  She hosts a smaller group and offers organized days to bead while at sea.  She does not include a guest instructor.  She brings a selection of kits, some are her own, some from other national instructors.  For me the format is perfect.  I have enough projects and or other kits to keep myself busy.  But I do love being with fellow beaders and this format works to keep us organized and beading while enjoying the cruise.  Behind me when I took this picture from our private bead room were large windows overlooking the stunning views of Alaska.
Two of the projects I finished are shown next.  The green one is a rambling bit of bead embroidery on Shibori silk.  The focal at the center is by Heather Powers.  I didn't have much of a plan except to play with the silk and use Heather's great focal.  I even added the brown beads from the fantastic goodies in our gift bag.  It is a little odd but I like it, very light!  The second piece is mostly a kit from Betty Stephan.  I changed a couple things as I'm apt to do.  It was fun to do and perfect for a relaxing day at sea.

Want to have a massage?  No problem, leave the bead area, you 'stuff' will be safe, get your massage and return.  You can pick up where you left off with your work.  Bead cruisers come and go and mostly bead bead bead.  It is perfect for me.
A little sentimental for me as many of these stops brought back happy memories of my brother.  In Skagway, I recreated a pose in the Red Onion Saloon.  I think Ed enjoyed it more than I did.

And of course there is Alaska!  Our bead room allowed us to look out at the marvels of the coastline or sea.  We saw whale several times from the ship! 

Next time it will be New England and Canada departing September 10, 2017.  Check out for more information.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How Much Thread??

As a teacher I have observed different reactions to thread length for years. This came under a spotlight at a recent show where I taught. For years, I have included the yardage required to complete the project.  I also include if the project will work if half the thread is parked somehow.  (More on that later.)  I always tell students to take the longest thread they are comfortable with.  I like to use just over a wingspan which, although it differs for everyone, is also commonly the amount you arms will work best.  Taking a project length does not work well for most people as you are asking for problems.

Long thread lengths tend to tangle more,  it tends to catch something on your work space or on your project, it slows you down pulling over and over thru the beads, and it wears on the thread in many designs causes freaying or weak spots.  Recently, I have about decided I should stop telling people how much a project requires if only to protect people from themselves and unnecessary frustration.  

I watched one lady struggle in class with 5 yards of thread. I suggested she "park" half on the Spoolie I had provided. She didn't want to do that. Ok I said, suit yourself I thought and I moved on to other students.  She continued to struggle. I suggested she cut the thread.  "No I'll manage."  I continued with other students. During this time, I showed several how I like to add thread.  I untangled "Miss Stubborn" a few more times. I suggested cutting again...
Finally after wasting a couple hours she relented and let me cut a lot off. It wasn't 15 minutes before she said "This is much better."  At the end she said she should have listened, the shorter thread was a lot better.  Ok, we learn a LOT of our lessons the hard way. 

I get it, many bead weavers struggle adding thread. Others dread threading needles over and over.  (Please try the Tulip needles if you have problems threading needles - they are easier and worth the extra money.)  For whatever reason, people often take more thread than is easy to work with.   It is actually counter productive.  The time lost adding thread is nothing compared to the frustration of tangles, knots, and pulling over and over to use a long piece of thread.

The only exception I make to taking a little over a wingspan is when I can park thread. That can be done many ways. I like the little Spoolies, but a sponge roller works well, as do little embroidery floss holders. You can take twice your comfortable length, find the mid point, and store half the thread on your device of choice winding it from the middle to one end.  This technique works similar to a bead stopper with the storage device acting as the bead stop.   The thread is then available to use later without weakening the thread, slowing you down pulling over and over or taking out knots. This works well on constructed designs which go back and forth or on a design which works equally well in both directions. It does not work with all designs.

The long and short (pun intended), is that it is a happy day when you figure out that shorter is better for most of us when working with needle and thread.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bead and Button 2017

The highlight of my summer is often the shipment of my class proposals, all carefully packaged in a box, to Bead and Button for the following year.  Many changes are coming in 2017, some beyond the results of the election this year.  In the bead world, Bead and Button changed the requirement for returning teachers to ship the physical samples to Wisconsin for the initial evaluation.  I understand, it is expensive to ship all those projects back!   Initially, I welcomed the change.  No projects to send, no worry about my samples gone for so many months.  This is a bonus for their repeat teachers who are bead designers sending in proposals.

However, for me it was also a bit of a let down in some strange way to mail my class proposals, as paper only, in a flat priority envelope.  I have done it this way since before 2003!  (My first two years they did not pick any of my proposals.)  Ultimately, not mailing in is a good thing as some of the proposals this year are also being taught elsewhere before B&B and now I won't have to have as many samples.  As I entered one last piece in the system on August 10th, there were 541 proposals in the system.  I'm positive that many people wait until the very last minute so there will be many more by the deadline which has now been extended another week!  Lots of work for staff to evaluate and make selections.

I now anxiously wait until fall to hear which of my class proposals they select.  I like them all but I do have a couple favorites and I'm hopeful they will see it the same way.  I also have a several still on my bead mat unfinished.  I had to stop from creating anything else as I needed to prepare for my Artisan table and teaching at BeadFest Summer in Philly.  As usual,  I have mostly bracelet projects.  I tend toward bracelets because I cannot wear much around my neck any more.  Too many years with heavy pieces have taken their toll.  I'm not complaining, it is only a fact of my life.  It is somehow hard for me to design something I know I can't wear.  Here is some eye candy of my 2017 Bead and Button class proposals.  And now the WAIT begins.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Baubles and Beads: The Finishing Touch

Baubles and Beads: The Finishing Touch:   For me the clasp is often the finishing touch on a piece.   What do I consider when selecting a clasp?   There are quite a few factors....

The Finishing Touch

For me the clasp is often the finishing touch on a piece.  What do I consider when selecting a clasp?  There are quite a few factors.

First, is the piece only for me?  If so, I have a few ‘go to’ choices for my pieces.  On a necklace my personal preference is one of the premium quality ‘snap’ clasps also called ball and socket or trailer hitch.  They are mostly a functional clasp.  My old hands like them and can work them easily without torture.   The only exception for a necklace being a beaded toggle or a push pull type clasp that works on a spring mechanism.  I almost never use a lobster clasp for myself as I have a hard time working them with my hands.  And although I can work with a metal toggle, if I’m to use a toggle, I usually make it.

For a bracelet, I have several personal preferences.  On narrow pieces, I normally use the snap clasp.   For a flat piece, I inevitably use one of two clasps.  The choice depends on the fit which is often governed by the pattern.  I like to make a peyote or herringbone toggle and loop when that works.  If not that, I select a premium German clasp from Claspgarten or Elegant Elements (same clasps different names).  I like the narrow bar clasp they sell in several styles and number of holes to connect.  Finally, if it is a chunky piece, such as my Tile Mosaic, I will look for something special for me.  It could be almost anything, but will still be from the above mentioned German company.

For a class piece or kit, I consider other factors in my choice.  I prefer to select a clasp that compliments the piece.  And my favorite is still one that comes from my favorite German source.  Consider the look of the flowers sewn in Pockets full of Posies and the choice of the enamel flower clasp. 

On Going to the Ball, I used a similar size of round clasp to compliment the size of the Rivoli components. 

Sometimes, I’ll use a toggle and loop on a bracelet by design.  Curacao is a piece where that was my choice.  Ok, I’ll be honest, I made the first one while away from home and didn’t have my stash of clasps and wanted to finish it.  SO, a herringbone toggle happened. 

For a bead embroidery piece, the clasp choice often depends on fit.  My favorite choice is usually the same type of slide clasp.  However, in the case of a piece made too big, I make a toggle and loop which can be done to correct the fit problem.  Notice how the same style herringbone toggle connection is set back from the edge to make it tighter.   The same fit problem was solved with a right angle weave toggle on the next example.  

Another inexpensive option is a button and loop.  This has the bonus of also allowing you to adjust the fit a little by moving the button and loop back from the edge if needed.   It is also kind of fun to go thru your button box to discover a treasure and remember something to make you smile when you wear the piece.  Another inexpensive option is to make a little ball clasp done with right angle weave and embellished.  The little ball clasp or other hand made clasp does work well to dress up a piece.  The final picture shows a peyote clasp with different size beads and little drops in the center.  Have fun making clasps for your work and you will enjoy your finishing touch.

My final comment today on clasps is to add a clasp that for you is both functional and attractive.  We spend a lot of time on our beadwork and the clasp is a finishing touch.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

All About the Thread

Thread is a recurring topic of conversation with bead weavers.  I normally test new threads and often return to my old standby choices.

I started beading using Nymo.  I learned about threading the needle from the cut end of the thread.  I learned to scratch my needle and thread along the glass of the beads not just poking thru the holes of the beads all willy nilly.  I learned to stretch the Nymo before using.  I learned to take out knots with two needles.  I learned to condition the thread.  I can still hear some of my teachers in the 1990's talking about using thread in ways not to split, fray, or get all tangled.

Then I learned about Fire Line.  At first, I hated it.  Change is not always easy.  I had learned on soft threads.  I had learned to use them and liked them.  But I switched to Fire Line as it seemed students liked it better and the store owner where I was teaching most of the time always recommended it.  It did react better for most students than Nymo.  Not as much knotting, little fraying or splitting, and generally easier to use.

When C-Lon and S-Lon came out, I tried both.  I liked both better than Nymo but by this time I was used to Fire Line so seldom used thread.  I tried others not specifically mentioned here but for years I have stuck with Fire Line.  I even purchased some of the dyed Fire Line from the Sparkle Spot to satisfy my need for color.

All during this thread journey, I've also used Power Pro for pieces with crystals in lots of angles.  I still do for some pieces.  It is one of the strongest and most resistant to cutting.  So it is often my go to thread when using a lot of crystals.  But it is more expensive than Fire Line so not my first choice of threads.  And I find it somewhat hard to thread the needle.

Then new Japanese threads came out on the market.  I tried Sono and found it much like the other improved threads, C-Lon etc.  The colors are soft and subdued.  I tried One G.  I liked it better and when I want a colored thread I have used this one up to this point.  There are better color choices of One G as well.

A cousin to Fire Line on the market used by many is Nanofil.  It is also a fishing line.  Much like Fire Line it is stronger than most threads and does not tend to fray, knot, or tangle as easily.  Nanofil also comes in a nice green which blends better than the Fire Line color choices.  It seems a bit slicker and softer in the drape of pieces which I liked because it is more like the old Nymo thread that I learned on.  So I do like this product a lot and use it as my first choice.

But, I still often want color.  So ok, I use One G for color.  The down side to One G for me is that it is very slick.  When the thread is shorter, I often pull the needle right off!  Not fun.  And I can't add thread the same way I do with either Fire Line or Nanofil.  I prefer to add using the knot, melt, and tug technique.  I almost always add that way now.

New on the market now is a Japanese thread called Hana.  So I figure, why not, I'll test it.  I received my order for Hana Monday, June 27, 2016.  I’ve tested it in three different projects and had students try it in classes twice.  So far my results are totally positive.    I like this Hana much better than other threads.  The colors are fantastic.  SO I figure I'll try the knot, melt, and tug technique to add thread the same as Fireline.  Hana worked!  That probably doesn’t mean much to some of you, but to any bead weaver who likes to add using the knot, melt, and tug technique it will.  I’ve added at least 8 times in the last couple of days and each worked.  Students told me that it was not getting tangled as much as Fireline.  I even like the spool better.  The little slot to hold the cut thread is a great bonus.

So for my 2 cents, this thread solves some of my issues I have had with other threads and brings great colors to my beady life.  My first 4 spools will not be my last.  Hana thread is available from The Beadsmith.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Design Crunch Time

This time of year, after Bead and Button, is when I usually go into hyper drive to finish up some new designs for the following year.  The pieces are usually due in early August.  So I come home, relax a bit, then dive into my beads and finish up with some new pieces for the show.  Normally, at this point, I have a few pieces already done and ready to go.  I design all year long and save my favorites for Bead and Button.  So sitting here today, I should have several pieces saved and ready to go.

This year I have a change in my routine.  I have some great designs ready to go but they are all tied up with a book proposal.  When I submitted the book proposal this past spring, I sent along a number of fun new and different pieces.  Maybe subconsciously I figured I would be rejected and I'd be able to use the designs for 2017.  I don't know, but I can't use those pieces while the book is still in consideration.  It is great that the book may still happen.  Except, now I need more fun new pieces for next year's show.

I seldom have a design block.  Usually, I have more ideas for cool things than time to create them.  Lots of ideas seem to flit in and out of my brain, some work, some don't.  Today, I'm at an energy low point and the new pieces I'm creating are not jumping up at me with the WOW I like to get from my beads.  While I'm sure this will pass quickly, I have to wonder, did this have to happen NOW?  This is crunch time, not the time to be lazy and ponder why my cat is so happily purring away.

New bead shapes usually get my juices flowing thinking up new ways to construct a pattern.  So lets try that with some new ones picked up at Bead and Button.  Then I think, there are enough shapes out there ones at this point are making me think, oh no, not another shape.  And I LOVE shaped beads.  So my mojo for designing with yet another new shape is not working.  So ok, what about putting some really colorful combinations together to brighten my day and wake up my artistic muse?  I've tried that with several pieces, and somehow, ended up monochromatic.  How the heck did that happen?  I started wanting color and failed.

While I'm pretty sure this will all pass quickly and something I've dreamt about will work, at this point, I'm reduced to working on dreaded paperwork or petting my cat who continues to purr.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bead and Button 2016

Another great year at Bead and Button.  Yes, the show is smaller, and yes, sales are down.  But the energy is still there and for me nothing will replace the experience. 

I taught 4 classes, and for the first time, I had an Artisan table in the showroom.  The table was exhausting but I'm pretty sure I will do it again next year.  My students were fantastic.  They were all prepared, mostly on time, and respectful of other students.
Meet the Teachers Bead and Button 2016
I have often pondered the reasons for the slow down at Bead and Button.  The obvious reason of the economy overall and cost of attending the show is obvious.  However, I believe that over the years, the Bead and Button Show has encouraged such an interest in beading in general, that competition has grown.  This cycle of consumer interest, from going to the Biggest and Best, to local or destination based beading opportunities, has also contributed to the slow down at Bead and Button. 

Beading societies are increasingly sponsoring their own retreats.  These retreats are usually open to other beaders.  The growth of social media has meant that more and more people find out about these retreats and often will attend something local to feed their desire to bead with others and learn.  Other commercial retreats are also available beyond Bead and Button.  They allow the consumer to make a decision based on location or a cruise.  These opportunities result in a destination based choice for a vacation to include beading.  In my opinion, all these options, are a part of the slow down at my personal favorite, Bead and Button.  Choice is a good thing but has come at a cost. 

I hope that Bead and Button will be able to make positive changes for 2017 and beyond to continue the energy that is found at this particular event.  I will be there.