Monday, January 14, 2013

Head-to-Head Challenge Reveal!

I have been stitching, and stitching .... and I'm still not finished. But here is my head-to-head challenge piece as of 30 minutes ago:

It's hard to tell from this photo, but the piece isn't fully embellished yet; I'm going to run through a chronology of the creation of this necklace, so if you want the gory details, keep reading!

It all started on October 14, when my friend Sonya and I were sitting around, trying to think of something new to tackle. We thought freeform would be interesting, and we added a slight "twist" by deciding that the finished piece should include this ceramic bead:

I got off to a LOT of false starts.

Picking colors and beads was the easy part (for a change). For each color, I chose delicas, 11/0s rounds, 15/0 rounds, 8/0 rounds, 6/0 rounds, 4mm cubes, 11/0 triangles, Czech firepolish beads, and more.

This is the template I drew up for my neckpiece - showing the size, shape, and color placement I envisioned, as well as the center placement for my orange ceramic triangle bead:
Paper template
Template detail

Everything I have ever read about freeform recommends putting your chosen seed beads into a bead soup, so that you truly choose them randomly for the design. I actually balked at this for 3 days, because I don't like my beads all mixed together! But I finally did it, and then laid out my beads in the way I saw them going into the design:

But then the trouble started.  I have made several freeform peyote bracelets, but never a necklace. When I make freeform peyote bracelets, I start stitching at one end of the bracelet, and finish at the other end; meaning, my stitching goes back and forth across the width of the bracelet, not the length (I hope that makes sense).

Everything I had read about freeform peyote tells you to stitch the other way - across the length of the design, adding width as you go. So, even though my brain was screaming that this would never work, I decided to try it this way, and strung up all the beads I thought I would need for the base row around the neckline. Laying all the beads out in piles like this on the template was to help me know when to pick up a new color - since the template was actual size, I could see that I would pick up about an inch of orange, and inch and a half of blue, etc. These beady piles would keep my stitching on track, and my colors in the right place. Allegedly.

I could get a few rows stitched, but just could NOT figure out how to increase the length of the work symmetrically so that it would grow from 17 inches long (the inside length) to 24 inches long (the outside length). So after several days of trying (and many yards of Fireline wasted) I finally decided to do it MY way. (the pic above actually shows one of my attempts to stitch across the length of the necklace)

So, now that I would be stitching along the width of the piece, color by color, I could put away all the beads except for the color I was stitching. Whew! I can't tell you how many times I bumped this set-up, sending all the beads spreading out into other sections, requiring much wasted time, re-sorting the seed beads. Plus, it was horribly time consuming to pick up and take home with me, or to try to work around if I had to stop working on this to do something else. I dumped each pile into its own little bowl, and breathed a sigh of relief!

Then I discovered that I just canNOT stitch from bead soup - I absolutely needed to know whether I was picking up a delica, a 6/0, or whatever - it makes a huge difference! Certain spaces will allow for one size bead, whereas other spaces need another size or shape. So I had to sort all my bead soups before I could stitch. For some of the colors, I had chosen 5 or 6 different colors of delicas, and these I didn't sort further: it was the size and shape of the bead that mattered, not the color. But when I'm finally done, I can't wait to sort them ALL and get them back in their rightful containers. Bead soup bugs me!

Finally, by November 10, I had the ends stitched. (I had spent many sleepless hours pondering the design and creation of this neckpiece, and realized that if I wanted symmetry, it made the most sense to stitch the piece, simultaneously, in 2 halves, and then join them in the middle.) Here is my progress on November 10:

As I said earlier, I had chosen a lot of beads for this necklace, and my plan was to incorporate the bigger "focal" beads into my work as I stitched. But after working these 2 gorgeous copper-colored freshwater coin pearls into my ends, which required much tedious increasing and decreasing, I abandoned that plan, deciding that I would just go back and embellish the whole necklace when I finished the peyote. Y'all know how I love to embellish! I wanted to abandon the plan after I added the FIRST copper pearl, because it was such a pain in the ass to add, but I wanted my 2 sides to match!

November 14:
The pieces have grown from 3/4" wide, to about 1-1/4" wide. They don't quite match, but close enough. They desperately want to increase, and just get wider and wider, so I have to keep reining this in by doing some compensatory decreasing.

The photo above is the one that I photoshopped for my November 14 blog post:

November 16:
I used my paper template constantly, making sure the pieces I was stitching stayed on track. The blue section on the right (above) got a little off track - I decreased a little bit too much, so it is slightly narrower than the template. But I decided to live with it (I desperately wanted to rip out the stitches and correct it!)

November 20:
The blue sections are done, and I'm moving on to the purple. The sections are taking a little longer to stitch - they are wider, and longer, but I still think I'm making good progress.

December 7:
3 weeks have passed. It is taking way longer to stitch these pieces - one row is taking almost 30 minutes! Crazy! The outer edges of the neckpiece are now so much longer than the inner, that I have to add many beads (increase) as I stitch towards the edges. I developed what I call an "island swirl" technique to add these sections of increase, and sometimes these little islands of peyote that I add take the stitching a little beyond the edge of the template. But a little bit over the edge I can tolerate. Unfortunately, the pic above shows a swirl that just got too far beyond the edge for me (blue arrow), so I slept on it, and decided to take out this section. Spent 2 days undoing it. Oops. Setback.

At this point, I took a break from working on the neckpiece body to attach the clasp, because the clasp plays such a role in determining the final length and fit of a piece. I had allotted about 1.5" for the clasp when I drew the template, with no thought to what clasp I would ultimately use. I found a Swarovski Cosmic Square that matched perfectly, and used square stitch to attach it to one end, and stitched a peyote toggle bar for the other side:

December 14:
The purple section on the right is finished, and I'm working on the left-sided (as you look at the pic) purple.

December 19:

The purple sections are done, and I'm transitioning into the orange. This pic above actually shows some of  my island swirls for increasing; here is a close-up:
I lay the stitching on the template, and note where the outer edges need to be wider than the inner edge. Then I string enough beads to outline this area that needs to be increased, and bring that strung loop of beads around to the piece and attach it. I just start filling in the inside of the loop until it's full. Then I weave the thread out to the leading edge of the piece again, and resume regular peyote.

It's taking so long to stitch each section now (the edges are now about 4 inches wide) that I'm starting to despair about the deadline. I decide the project must come home with me on the weekends (especially since the next 2 weekends are long holiday weekends!)

December 29:
I have been stitching everyday (!) and have just now finished the transition zones between the purple and orange. Now I'm scared about finishing by January 14.

Here is where the beads will go:
Here is what I'm thinking: The orange section is actually smaller than either of the purples, and there's only one of them. Plus, the donut and the triangle take up a lot of space - so less peyote! Well dang, I'm almost done. I'm thinking.

But see where the inner purple/orange edges of the neckpiece (above pic) have deviated off the template, and into the area occupied by, oh, say.... a human neck? That's gonna be a problem! (When I finally notice it - I didn't notice it for the first few days of stitching on the orange section)

I started stitching the orange section, and after I had stitched about 1/2 inch onto each side, I "tried it on", thinking I was ready to start connecting the beads. But for some reason (e.g. those edges I mentioned in the last paragraph), I still have a lot of stitching to do before I can even think about attaching the focal beads.

January 8 (6 stitching days until the reveal!):

Sonya came by to visit, and I hid my work from her, but held up the ceramic triangle, to show her I hadn't even worked it into my piece yet (!) - I'm pretty sure she was horrified. As was I. This was beginning to look like it would never be finished!
Late that afternoon, the edges were finally close enough to attach the sponge coral donut! Tomorrow, the triangle! {this pic show the challenges of increasing in this piece - note how the purple/orange transition section is only 3/8 of an inch wide along the inner edge, but 3 inches wide at the outer edge - huge difference! All that difference was created with my "island swirl" increases.}

Can you tell how much wider the front orange section is, from what was allotted for it on the original template? - Yikes!

January 9:
The triangle is hanging by a thread (or two) - but it's attached!

Increasing around the triangle:
I wanted to create a peyote "frame" around the triangle - the beads would follow the shape of the triangle bead, but not touch it. Nailed it!

January 10:
Wow! I finally completed the "base" stitching - the front is way wider than I planned, but that's OK. Tomorrow: embellishing.

I guess I should know by now, everything takes longer than I plan on.

I started the embellishing on January 11. I couldn't start working on the embellishing until mid-afternoon, because Sonya spent the morning with me at the bead shop. Had to keep my project under wraps, don't you know.

Stitched for 4 hours that afternoon, all day Saturday, all day yesterday, and 2 hours this morning. By last night, I had accepted that I wouldn't be done by today's reveal, because I stitched for 10 full hours yesterday, and only got ONE purple section embellished. Ridiculous! And I still have the whole orange section plus the other purple one to go!

So, I'm almost done - probably 3 more days of finish work to go. I'll show the finished necklace when it is.... finished.

The embellishment is fun, but tedious. Partly because of deciding where each embellishment will go (requires thinking and planning!), and largely because the dang thread gets caught on every single piece of this neckpiece that it could possibly get snagged on, and I spent many, many minutes untangling it.

The embellishment is adding some beautiful texture, interest, and sparkle to the peyote "plainness" that I see when I looked at the piece on  January 10. It's a little hard to see the actual embellishment in the pics (it just blends into the piece perfectly), but if you compare before and afters, there's no question that there has been a change.

Embellished side:

In the pic below, the blue section is embellished, but not the purple:

Unembellished front section:

On a mannequin:
You can see the embellished purple section on the left, and the plain one on the right.

And here is the neckpiece, flat, again:
Wow - that was a long post. Back to stitching now!

Thanks for reading along! Now head on over to Sonya's blog to see what she's done with her orange ceramic triangle!


dreaminofbeads / SAS Jewelry Designs said...

Ok I knew when I saw your piece I would think it was stunning....but WOW! I saw this and my jaw really dropped! This is amazing. I love how the colors change. How cool that we take the same bead and use free-form and come up with something so different. You inspire me! said...

Absolutely a marvelous collar - You have the patience of Jobe - your stitching is amazing and your design is so beautiful

BackstoryBeads said...

Even though I got a treasured peak at your progress back in early-December, this far exceeds what I envisioned. And it's not even finished yet! I am printing out your post - it will be my go-to tutorial when I attempt my first freeform collar. Thanks so much for sharing your progress shots!

Halinka said...

Yay! This is fantastic!
I love this work-fine free stitched collar.I love the way the colors change and the texture of it.The focal elements are also fabulous.
Warm Greets-Halinka-

Christine Altmiller said...

Unbelievable! What a show stopper! Where are you going to wear this beauty?! It needs a night on the town and so do you after all your hours put into it. The embellishment does make a difference. Who would have guessed it needed a little more? or that a ceramic earthy triangle could be the jump start to this?!

Sweet Freedom said...

Thanks, Ladies.
I, too, am trying to figure out when and how to wear this, Christine - I'm just not a "night out on the town" girl - I'm a "rip of my clothes as soon as I get home at 6:40 PM and put on my PJs" girl who is often asleep by 8:30! Excitement city!

Leanne Kirsch said...

Wow...beautiful...and thank you so much for sharing the is so neat to see how creative minds truly is a work of art.