Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pushing Yourself Creatively

I think most beadweavers start out the same way; you like jewelry, you like beads, and you see pretty woven jewelry somewhere, and you want to make some. You may go to your local bead shop and take a class, or you may tackle a pattern in a magazine or online, or you may check out YouTube videos - but most start by following patterns; some pattern, somewhere.

I find that the first step in getting creative with beadweaving is often just trying different colors from those shown in the pattern. For some folks, that's a huge step, as lots of people have trouble visualizing colors; for others, that's no big deal.

My take on "Quadrille", with lots of substituting and some pattern-tweaking

A bigger step is substituting beads. Lots of people just won't go there - the pattern calls for a certain bead? Many beaders see that as LAW, and won't deviate.

For me, substituting started out of desperation. I own a bead shop, for crying out loud, but no bead shop can have every dang bead, all the time! And I even had the correct bead, technically - I can't remember the specifics, but I think the pattern called for a 3mm Swarovski crystal, and I just did NOT have enough in a color that went with all the other beads in the materials list, so I finally decided: well, if a 3mm bicone will work, why can't a 3mm firepolish? Sure, the shape is a little different, but how bad could it screw up the pattern? The answer: not at all.

And I was off on a journey of substitution....never looking back.

At first, I stayed pretty close to the original bead: substituting 3mm firepolish with 3mm bicones, 4mm firepolish with 4mm bicones, etc. But then a pattern called for 8mm Swarovski pearls, and I didn't have any, so I went with some irregularly shaped 7 to 8mm freshwater pearls. And then I just went crazy - if the size I needed to substitute wasn't available, I supplemented by adding seed beads or other beads to either side to make up the difference, and sometimes I just went with a completely different shape: changing a round bead to a triangle, for example.

And that's when I decided to do something I NEVER thought I could do: design my own pattern. This again arose out of necessity, as I wanted to use SuperDuos to do something, but every pattern I found everywhere I looked was acting like this particular "thing" I wanted to do couldn't be done with the Duos (I am not going to go into the specifics here), but I was determined to show that it could be done.

I sat down with beads of all different shapes and sizes, and my SuperDuos, and started to play. I don't know any pattern designers personally, so I didn't have any mentors or guidance ... I just kept stitching little samplers, all day long; I kept getting closer to my goal, but kept getting thwarted. I'd set each failure aside, so I could remember not to repeat it! I wasn't taking notes ... just keeping my little samplers.

After many, many mis-stitches; and many, many hours, I hit upon the correct pattern, and my "Well-Traveled" design was born. It wasn't a tutorial yet - I taught it several times, stitched it up countless times, and finally sat down to hammer out the written instructions with diagrams. All in all, it probably took 6 months from idea to publishing of the pattern.

And it was many months before I decided to see if I had any creativity left! But I did, and I have published several tutorials since then, and am actually working on 2 simultaneously right now.

This past week, I wanted to take a mental break from working on tutorials, and just do some good old fashioned stitching, for stitching's sake. Plus, I needed a few more samples to display in the shop.

I went through old beading magazines, and found 2 that interested me (and would use lots of different bead shapes I could then hopefully sell in the shop, based on the stitched up examples I wanted to make). I let a couple of my most frequent customers decide which I would tackle first, and (much to my chagrin), they chose the one that was going to require LOTS of substitutions, which I knew was going to mean lots of extra work and brainpower on my not as much of a stitching vacation/mental break as I had hoped for! But that's OK ... beads are always fun!!

So I thought I'd walk you through the paths I took as I was making bead substitutions in this particular pattern.

The pattern they picked was from the April/May 2014 issue of BeadWork, and is called "Quadrille Bracelet" (by Sandie Bachand).

The day I received my copy of this issue, I marked this pattern to make up because it called for 2-hole lentils, and I had 2-hole lentils in the shop that I needed to sell! Making up samples always helps people visualize the project better than just seeing the pics in the magazine. You can see my little pink sticky flag at the top right of the pic. Unfortunately, the mag with its flagged patterns went on top of my To-do pile, and was soon buried by other projects ... you know how it goes .... and here it is, well over a year later, but I'm finally getting to it!

In addition to the 2-hole lentils, the pattern called for 6.5mm Rose Montees.

I do not carry Rose Montees. I do not have any Rose Montees. I do not like Rose Montees. And I had NO intention of purchasing Rose Montees for the shop just so I could make this one pattern, because I knew they would not be a popular seller. One of the 2 customers that picked this particular pattern for me to tackle first even told me she had some Rose Montees at home that she'd give me so I could make this bracelet, but ... did I mention? I don't like them! Too blingy and gimmicky (to me). Plus, if I made the bracelet with Rose Montees, my customers would then expect to be able to BUY rose montees in my shop, and, as I said....not going there! So, it's Substitution Time!

My thought was 6mm is close to 6.5mm, and the pattern shows multiple thread passes through the Montee, so I need a 6mm bead with a large enough hole for multiple thread passes, so probably not a pearl. I decided to go with a 6mm firepolish, but could just have easily chosen a 6mm gemstone, or 6mm round Swarovski, or probably even a 6mm Swarovski bicone.

My next stumbling block? The pattern called for 2mm glass pearls. I didn't have any. I had some 2mm gemstone rounds, but they didn't go with any of my 2-hole lentils, so I decided that a size 8/0 seed bead was close enough to 2mm, and I had a huge color selection in 8/0s, so yeah, I'm gonna use 8/0s.

Scanning the rest of the materials list, I had everything, so I set about to put together my colorway.

The bead on the material list that I had the fewest colors to choose from was the 2-hole lentil, so I decided to start there. This is where I start whenever I am choosing colorways, and harks back to a term from my chemistry days: Rate Limiting Step. Briefly, the rate limiting step in chemistry is the step which determines how fast a chemical reaction will occur, and is determined by the amount of reactants (or "ingredients") present in the reaction - the one you have the least of is the one that controls how fast things progress, because when you run out of that particular one, the reaction stops. Period. So my choice of 2-hole lentils would determine how many different colorways I could possibly put together.

The bead ("ingredient") I had the next fewest choices of was a 3x4mm rondelle, and when I compared my choice of lentils with my choice of rondelles, I really only had one choice to continue forward: the matte copper 2-hole lentil and a blue and copper rondelle. I chose the rest of my beads, and sat down to stitch.

And soon ran into my first substitution-induced stitching road block.

When it was time to add the rondelles, the 8/0s in the previous step had pushed the 2-hole lentils further apart than a 2mm pearl would have, and the 3x4 rondelle no longer fit well.

Solution? A 4x7 rondelle. Fortunately, I had one that went nicely with the rest of my chosen beads, or I would have had to start all over at the beginning, choosing a new colorway. Been there, done that ... but didn't have to do that this time!

And almost immediately, stitching road block number 2. I completed the first unit, and was getting ready to move onto the next one, but noticed that by using this larger rondelle, a tiny bit of thread showed on either side of each rondelle. How much is "a tiny bit"?

Well: 1) enough to drive me insane
        2) therefore, enough to need fixing
        3) enough to be covered by a 15/0.

So I took apart the unit, and restitched it with a 15/0 on either side of the rondelle. Perfect!!

Next, it was time for the step which called for the montee. As I said earlier, I had decided to use a 6mm firepolish instead, and stitched the unit exactly as called for in the pattern (except for substituting the firepolish for the montee). The pattern explained that the 15/0s on either side of the rose montee would roll to the back of the montee and not be seen, but mine stayed on either side of the firepolish, which didn't bother me at all.

Then it was time to stitch/add the second unit.

Keep in mind, by changing the rondelle from 3x4 to 4x7, I had significantly increased the length/width of each (by 3mm on each end, for a total of 6mm total increase per unit). As I looked at constructing the unit, this would really impact the number of units in the finished bracelet, so I made a creative decision to make each unit SHARE the end rondelle from the previous unit (whereas the pattern calls for each unit having 4 rondelles, and the end ones are connected to each other by other beads).

From there, I proceeded to just follow my stitching pattern from unit one, and when it was time to add my 6mm firepolish to the center of the unit, I discovered stitching road block number 3: when I added the 6mm firepolish to the center of the first unit, the pattern had only said to center the "montee" between 2 particular lentils on each side of the unit, so I did ....not thinking ahead that because the montee is round, the placement in regards to the rondelles isn't important .... round is round! But the firepolish bead has 2 obvious ends, and the way I had placed it (even though that was the placement called for in the pattern) left the 2 ends pointing diagonally across the unit (I wish I had taken a photo - but instead of my firepolish spanning the unit from side-to-side, or end-to-end [as they do in my finished bracelet], it was in between those 2 positions, so it would never line up with the one I added in each subsequent unit). My symmetrical left brainedness would NOT allow this (and probably wouldn't have been happy if the firepolish beads had lain horizontally, either), so I had to rip apart my beadwork ONE. MORE. TIME. Oh, well.

Same bracelet, slightly different lighting. Also: note how my firepolish centers line up!

 this pic shows details of the bracelet units

But from there, it was smooth sailing, and I really like the finished bracelet. Plus, the units just lent themselves to earrings, so I made a those, too.


And my point when I started this post was ... don't be afraid to push yourself creatively when beading. If you really like a pattern, but don't have/can't find all the beads the pattern calls for, make a substitution. Or ask your local bead shop to help you with substitutions - if they are like me, they LOVE doing this! And just be aware of the butterfly effect: as happened to me, in this particular pattern, one seemingly innocuous substitution led to a cascade of unintended consequences, causing me to make another substitution, and some more minor changes to the design, but I ultimately ended up with a pretty bracelet, and you can, too!!

PS: Speaking of substitutions, SpellCheck would like me to know that "bicone" is not a word, and it strongly suggests "bacon" as a substitution. Which sounds pretty right about now.....