Beading · crafting · Knitting

Stitch markers – easy peasy, right?

I have been thinking about making my own stitch markets for an age. Every time I buy some I think about it. I mean how difficult can they be? They certainly look super easy and the tutorials I’ve watched on my old pal YouTube definitely make it look a cinch. I even have all the gear left over from all the disappointing beading workshops I went to at the library years ago.

My partner is a keen and talented cyclist, there’s a saying him and his pals use for cyclists who turn out on Boxing Day all loaded up with new Lycra and gadgetry costing thousands but haven’t ridden a bike since they left junior school – all the gear and no idea.

Yeah that’s me and the stitch markers.

Oh my god those little buggers are fiddly. FID-ER-LEE. It took me a good two hours to make five. Five!

It didn’t help that years ago I bought a cute mini set of jewellery making pliers with teeny tiny handles. They’re not a good move because your knuckles end up right against everything you try to do so you feel like you have giant sausage fingers.

Let me tell you, turning that little wire loop takes practice and I have no patience. I ballsed that move up several times. Then you have to wedge a bead on to the end of the jump ring when you close it, poke a bit of glue in with a cocktail stick, close the ring and line it up with the bead hole and then get that bead to sit across the join. That bit turns the air quite blue.

Why in God’s name do they make all the bead holes different sizes? There are now dozens of tiny vicious beads lurking in all the dark places of this flat. I wear slippers so I’ll probably survive but the other half’s feet are going to feel like gravel rash.

Eventually I finished five of them and I think they’re pretty bloody good for the trauma invested. I’m going to buy some adult sized pliers when I’m feeling stronger and then I’m going to make a million more – the beads are from a large stretchy cuff that found its stretchability limit pushed too far but they’re pretty so I kept them. I have a lot of them.

This project drove me to finish off the Christmas Baileys.

Beading · crafting · embroidery · sewing

Today I’m Making… Embroidered roses with beads

You might remember the lovely workshop I did a while back where I made the scissor dangle thing? Well, I really liked making the bullion knot roses so when I finished that my head was full of ideas of images I could embroider filling in with hundreds of bullion knot roses and french knots.

Finally I have made something. I had to come up with a birthday present for someone I don’t know brilliantly well but I didn’t want to just buy a scented candle like I usually would, I wanted to make something. Fingers crossed she’ll appreciate it took up most of my weekend making it and I’m not just being cheap.  I found the picture frame in TK Maxx, they always have gorgeous frames in there and the prices are very good.  This one I think is supposed to look like a vintage plate that has been made into a frame.

I had intended to use the gorgeous De Havilland silks I bought at Ally Pally but in the first place I could only find one hank in the wrong colour and then it didn’t work for making the roses, it all just tangled up hideously and I had to cut it out.

In the end I went for ordinary DMC in three colours – red, maroon and hot pink. I think another time I’d go for a variegated thread because it gives a better result than a block colour for flowers, but I did use a variegated coral for the french knots and that worked out really well.


I started off by couching a double row of metallic blue thread, then I sewed the line of beads on individually, I did think about stringing them on to a thread and couching those on too but I prefer to sew them on one by one. After that I couched on another double row of metallic blue.  If I were to make another one of these I think I’d do this outside edge last because I was worried I’d catch the blue thread and ruin it as I made the roses.


The fabric I was sewing on to is white with a white floral print which was handy to use as a random template to fill with the roses, rose buds and leaves. Making something look random is really hard, I think I have a roughly even colour distribution of roses and buds but I hope it doesn’t look too much like it is.

Here it is, the finished thing all mounted up. The mounting is the part that causes me the most stress but it seems to have worked out OK and I haven’t smashed any of the glass beads under the glass.


I wanted this to have a vintage look, as if it had been upcycled from a 50’s boudoir set. I think that has worked out quite well personally. Though now that I’ve made this I realise my ideas about embroidering shapes filled in with bullion knot roses was a bit ambitious, I don’t think I could bear it, but it has reminded me how much I like doing french knots so I’ll be doing a lot more of those.


Beading · craft fair · Knitting

Workshops – please read the joining instructions

Much as I love a workshop, there’s something that irritates me about them.  Its the joining instructions. They’re either rubbish so that you turn up unprepared and don’t get the full benefit, or end up having to buy a load of stuff that you already have at home.

Worse than that though is when the other people don’t bother to read the joining instructions.

I did the most fantastic short workshop at Unravel in February,  Knitting with Beads clearly described as “Suitable for intermediates and experienced knitters” it was only a two hour thing so that’s a sign that there will actually be a pace rather than a cosy day of meandering.

Literally everything was provided, needles, yarn, beads, findings the lot.  We spent a bit of time choosing our colour combinations but we were underway pretty quickly.  First instruction – Cast on 30sts.  This is where I get irritated, there were only about 12 of us on the workshop, yet FOUR people really struggled to cast on 30sts.  One person had to have help making her first loop.  I mean really?  You’ve booked on to a course for intermediate and experienced knitters but you can’t cast on?  That means you have less than basic skills.

It was lace knitting so there was a fair bit of PSSO type action.  Slip stitches and YON nearly caused a melt-down in low-skills corner while the rest of us were all losing out on teaching time we’ve paid for because of them.  Oh and then there was the needy woman that finally admitted ‘a workshop environment doesn’t work for me’ apparently other people’s voices are too distracting.  So why join a workshop?  It was fully booked too so I wonder if there were other people out there who would have got something valuable and enjoyable out of the workshop like I did that lost out.

Really people, no shortcuts.  At least learn the basics before you join an intermediate workshop and if you don’t like workshops perhaps signing up for a workshop isn’t the greatest idea – there’s probably someone out there that would have really enjoyed that class.  I’m off to find lace stitches that I can adapt to incorporate beads.


Union Jack Keyring

I made this gold, silver and bronze keyring in January this year at the Fleet Library Beading Workshop.  Again the tutor appears to have nicked this pattern from a magazine – is it just me that thinks she’s cheating? She passes the designs off as her own – even apportioning copyright to the text but then includes photocopies from magazines. I think that’s a bit rich.

Anyway, gripes about design theft aside, I like working in brickstitch, I like my beading to be neat and problems with tension are not an issue with brickstitch. If you look closely you’ll see it looks a bit hairy – that’s because I stuffed mine with kapok, everyone else left theirs flat and mine is much better if I say so myself. If I were to make another one I’d stuff it with felt and save myself the bother of snipping away at what looks like gooseberry fluff for hours.

I have this on my own set of home and car keys and it’s lasting very well indeed.  In fact I did think about making a pattern of my own and then making some more to sell  but then again I worry that they might be a bit twee. I have a bit of a horror of tweeness.

The colourway was more about using up odds and ends in my stash than the Olympics but I can’t deny it ties in very well.


Beading Workshops – Dutch Spiral

Last year I requested a spiral lesson hoping for a nice tight candy cane two-colour spiral. Of course our teacher Marilyn likes to do her own thing and instead chose a dutch spiral project using bugle beads. 


Let me tell you right from the off I didn’t like it. Marilyn’s one was all gappy and saggy, I find her beading tension too slack so thought perhaps it would turn out ok if it was stitched a bit tighter.. nope, turned out to be a duff project. No-one’s looked good.  I took some pics first but I cut it up when I got home. 


I think a lot of the problem was that my bugles were too big, it looked slightly better when people made it with shorter bugles but not good enough really. I think I’m a delica beader at heart.

Beading · craft fair · crafting

Gem & Bead Fair at The Maltings, Farnham

This morning I went to the Gem and Bead Fair at The Maltings, Farnham. I went to the one they held there in the summer and spent most of the day there wafting about buying everything in sight and still went home regretting not buying some things. I've been looking forward to today's fair to put some of those missed purchases right and to have a lovely day looking at lovely things.

So I was a bit disappointed to find they had less than half the exhibitors/stall there this time and it was pretty much all gemstones with only the odd finding or supplies stall tucked away in a corner. To be honest I could have left within 20 minutes if I hadn't been absolutely determined to make a day of it but in the end I went round the whole thing 4 times, had a coffee and cake, and stroked the cat for a while and eked it out to 2 hours. Here is that lovely little cat –

Anyway, I was looking for supplies to make some Shambala bracelets and despite my moaning above I managed to buy quite a lot of waxed cotton thread, some glue, 20 organza bags, lots of teeny tiny cloisonné beads and a few strings of half-price gemstone beads from the Notting Hill chap including some of their experimental faceted freshwater pearls.  

Here is that stash which hopefully will transform into saleable bracelets very soon. 

Beading · crafting

Beading workshop – June

 I know, I’m always very late writing about the beading workshop. In June we had one of the best sessions this year I think. It was one of those projects that you look at and think ‘hmmn nice, but not for me’.  Its such a nice day out though that I normally don’t care too much what we make.  It was a mixture of seed beads and crystals on bead stringing wire and I thought it looked a bit twee. 

I take it all back. This is what I ended up with and I cannot tell you how many people comment on it whenever I wear it.  It gets so many compliments. I haven’t made any more of them because it does take forever and the crystals are quite expensive but it was nice to make so you never know. I might change the pattern a bit, perhaps experiment with cubes in there somewhere and perhaps it’ll end up in my new Etsy jewellery shop one day. If I ever manage to get it up and running anyway…