Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Beaded braids made easy with Prumihimo!

We try out the new Prumihimo disk from Pru McRae

Pru McRae was one of our favourite designers at Beads & Beyond magazine - we could always rely on her to come up with new and innovative ways to incorporate beads into her designs as well as creating some beautifully wearable jewellery.

When Pru got in touch last month to tell me about the launch of her new 'Prumihimo disk', I was quick to hint that I'd love to give it a test run ;-) Well, I was lucky enough to receive a little parcel within days containing a disk, hot off the press and a link to a YouTube tutorial to get me started. 

It's all in the preparation!

I was intrigued by the design of the disk as the usual numbered slots were replaced with just 12, seemingly randomly distributed slots around the disk, some marked with a black dot, some not.

I couldn't wait to have a go so first watched the quickstart tutorial Pru suggested so I could see exactly what I was dealing with.

After a couple of viewings of the instructional video (it explains both plain and beaded braid), I delved into my stash and found some Shamballa cord in silver grey and some toning macramé cord that I thought would work along with some really pretty blue lustre fire-polished rounds (6mm) that I felt complemented the grey perfectly. I wasn't sure if my choices would turn out to be okay but dived straight in anyway!

Pru told us a little about the unique design of her disk with its unusual slots and markings:

"The braid is a traditional kumihimo braid, which I have adapted for use on this new disk. The great benefit of this braid is that the structure does not spiral, which allows more precise placement of the beads than is possible with the basic Round Braid. Beautiful braids can be made with beads along 1, 2, 3 or 4 sides, with no twisting or distortion. Fewer beads are used, which makes the braids economical and very quick to make up. All sorts of unusual bead shapes can be used, so the potential for experimentation is only limited by your imagination. This disk will open up a whole new world of creativity for all braiders!"

Getting set up

I cut two 2m lengths of each cord and folded them in half at the centre, securing with a scrap of cord before pushing the centres through the hole in the disk. I then set up the thin and thick cords according to Pru's video, with the Shamballa cord in slot 1 and the opposite slot, slot 2 and the slot oppostie and the macramé cord in slot 3 and opposite and slot 4 and opposite. At this point, all the slots with dots are occupied. This is the starting pattern.I then threaded on the fire-polished beads onto the cords at 3 and opposite. I added around 25 beads to each cord and knotted the ends secure them.

Mastering the braid

I decided to braid a little without beads first to get the hang of the move sequence. Starting with the cord at number 1, I moved it to the empty slot opposite. I then moved the cord from the slot opposite 1 (with the dot) up to the empty slot just vacated in the first move. I then swapped the cord from the slot without the dot to the one with the dot right next door. I then turned the disk anti-clockwise until number 2 was at the top, repeating the same sequence as before with the number 2 cord, and ending up with all cords back in slots with dots. Turn the disk anti-clockwise again so number 3 is at the top and move the cords as before (except this time the empty slot is on the left instead of the right of the cord in the dot slot!). Turn the disk anti-clockwise again so number 4 is at the top and repeat the moves.

NOTE: It will feel a little strange at first and difficult to build up a rhythm as you don't always turn the disk by the same amount as you would in a normal Round Braid. However, follow the arrows and the numbers carefully and you won't go wrong!

The fun bit!

Once you've mastered the plain braid, you can start to add beads. Each time you move a cord at number 3 slot (or opposite), you add in a bead. Keep your thumb on them to stop them moving as you continue to braid. Once you've done the next two moves at 4 and 1 again, the beads are secure. I quickly realised that my 6mm fire-polished beads were a little on the large side so added in a plain braid sequence between each beaded one to space out the beads a little more. Ensure you lay the cords down each time so that the two beads are sitting one each side of the braid. It gets easier to see when the beaded braid gets a little longer.

Keep going, adding in beads each time you move the thin cords with beads on until your bracelet is the right length. If you haven't added enough beads to the cords, just cut off the knot and thread on more!

The finished braid

Here's my finished bracelet. I didn't have any kumihimo end caps to hand, so have fastened it with a macramé sliding knot for now. I will probably add some smaller fire-polished rounds to the cord ends too when I locate some the same colour.

Experiment a little!

The bracelet was a simple design with the same beads above and below the braid. I then experimented a little with some Czech daggers and smaller fire-polished crystal beads. To get this pattern of a dagger (A) below and a round (B) above you need to thread up your cord at number 3 as follows: 1A, 1B, 1A, 1B.. and the cord opposite 3 in the same pattern but starting with 1B. As you braid, you'll build the pattern of beads shown.

Where to get your own Prumihimo disk

Feeling inspired to have a go yourself? Pru is selling the disk as a package together with detailed written instructions, a short video as well as a full tutorial for a gorgeous necklace design 'Pipalicious' which uses Pip beads and seed beads. She has lots more tutorials lined up too!
The cost of the package is £10 (Paypal will convert to other currencies) and P&P is kept to a minimum with instructions being emailed upon purchase. 

I thoroughly recommend the 'Prumihimo disk' and also suggest that you follow Pru's Blog at www.prumihimo.com
Happy creating!

Monday, 14 December 2015

A decidedly decadent decoration

Kit Review - Emperor Bauble from Spellbound Bead Co

Around mid-October I spent a really lovely afternoon in the back room at Spellbound Bead Co, learning how to make wire decorations with the lovely Pat. It was a little different to the afternoon that we'd planned. I was going to surprise Vicky who was supposed to be teaching the Emperor Bauble workshop but she was ill so I came away with the kit to have a go at myself.

The first thing to note if you haven't tried a kit from Spellbound before is that each one is assigned a difficulty rating from 1 to 10. This particular kit is rated 7/10 so a little experience of stitching beads would be an advantage. However, I am by no means an expert and I managed to complete the bauble with minimal stress! I probably spent around eight hours in three sessions but competent beaders could probably do it in less time.

As with all Spellbound kits, the Emperor Bauble kit comes with all the beads and thread you will need plus a 60mm glass bauble, a beading needle and comprehensive instructions. All you'll need is a beading mat and a pair of scissors (and a craft lamp if you are planning to work in the evening!

Everything bagged and labelled
All the different beads come in little bags, clearly labelled to correspond with the supplies list on the back of the instructions.

I began by tipping a pile of beads from each bag out onto my mat. Don't tip them all out else it will be harder to work out which one is which!

Before you start beading, it's a good idea to have a read through of the instructions as it will help you to visualise what each step is trying to achieve and minimise mistakes. The instructions for the bauble are divided into five clear sections:- The Fringed Motif, The Unfringed Motif & Hanging Strand, The Foundation Row, Stringing Up and The Hanging Loop. 

The Fringed Motif
First, you bead the peacock motif with the fringe. The first one took me a while but I got quicker with each one and by the fifth, I didn't even need the instructions!

The Unfringed Motif

Next was the unfringed motif suspended from a string of beads. This took much of the previous motif but with the addition of a simplified version at the bottom of a long chain of beads. Again, by the fifth one, I was beading confidently without referring to the instructions.

The Foundation Row was straightforward and then the trickiest part was stringing up all the motifs. Lots of counting beads required and careful placing to ensure the pattern is forming correcting around the foundation row. Take your time!

Pride of place on the tree!
Once you've popped your beautiful beaded net onto your bauble, you can create a pretty hanging loop using one more peacock motif and a lovely large faceted bead. Finish off all your threads and your luxurious bauble is complete.

Mine is currently hanging on the tree but really it's so beautiful, I shall almost certainly be finding somewhere to hang it all year round. I also have a lot of beads left so am already wondering what else I could make using that peacock motif...

The Emperor Bauble kit is available from Spellbound Bead Co priced at £12.95. If you like the peacock motif, there is also a matching necklace and earring kit (£12.95), a bracelet kit (£8.95) and even a tassel kit (£12.95).

This review was on the Teal/Blue colourway but all these kits are available in three other colour combinations (Black/Grey, Pink/White, Turquoise/Lilac). Pick one to complement your Christmas decor.
The Emperor Bauble is also one of the designs featured in Julie Ashford's book Spellbound Festive Beading.

Black/Grey, Pink/White, Turquoise/Lilac

Monday, 23 November 2015

Beads & Beyond....and beyond!

Another exciting chapter begins...

I would never have foreseen the huge jewellery making journey I was about to embark on when I took my first steps into the world of beads. Looking back over the last six years or so, I have grown so much in my creativity and had some wonderful opportunities - how can the next six years live up to it? 

An unexpected journey

When I first picked up a pair of pliers in 2009 and was shown how to make simple loops and open jump rings, little did I know that it was the beginning of a passion that would become so much more than a hobby. When I began making jewellery for friends and set up my own little craft business on Facebook in 2011, I still had no idea where it might take me, and when I won the Beads & Beyond Jewellery Maker of the Year competition in 2012 and became a regular designer for the magazine, I could never have thought that I might one day be Editor of my favourite beading title! 

A month in the life of...

In my 22 months as Editor, I was often asked what it was like to work in publishing and on a monthly craft magazine. When I first applied for the role, I have to admit that I was imagining a glamorous office with a whole team working on each issue and a big photography studio where projects were left to be styled and photographed by a team of photographers. I was more than a little worried that my lack of editorial experience or knowledge of publishing would be very obvious and that I would struggle in such a fast-moving and high-powered environment. 
When I arrived at the publisher's offices on an industrial estate in Malvern, I was relieved to find a family company based in very unglamorous offices. There was a small team of editors working on numerous craft and model-making titles with an even smaller team of designers, a single photographer and just one editorial assistant to support all the craft titles. I couldn't believe that such a great magazine could be produced by so few people, but loved the idea that the editor had complete control of each issue, from commissioning projects right through to the final proofs. It was my dream job and when I received the letter offering me the position, I knew I had to take such a fantastic opportunity even though it was initially just a temporary position while the current editor took maternity leave. Within three weeks, I was commuting to the Traplet offices from Tamworth and starting an intensive handover! Three weeks later and we had relocated to Malvern, renting an amazing house right on the hills and I was editing my first issue of Beads & Beyond ON MY OWN!

Unless you have worked in publishing, you probably wouldn't be aware just how far ahead editors work to allow time for commissioning, editing, designing and printing. I would spend many days each month working ahead by at least three months, sometimes more, to come up with themes, decide on which techniques to include and contact contributors for project ideas as well as co-ordinate the designer challenge and pick an interviewee for the meet and greet pages. There would then be a short period of to-ing and fro-ing before projects were finally scheduled for an issue along with all the other regular features. Designers were generally given 4-6 weeks to make and write up a project then you needed a week or two to edit and get it photographed before the designer could lay it up in the right format for the magazine. Whilst the designers were working on their tutorials for a future issue, I would be editing and proofing the next issue, writing blog content to accompany it all whilst promoting it and the current issue on social media. At any one time, I would be juggling a minimum of three issues on a day to day basis which required fastidious organisation and a real focus on deadlines. I relied on a single Excel spreadsheet to tell me exactly where I was at with every issue and to track issues that could impact on print date. There could be all sorts of minor issues or mishaps that could suddenly require me to re-jig the magazine, find additional content or rework several pages. Being editor was not always plain sailing. I would often have to reorganise the issue several times before the pages were final - projects might turn out to be more or less pages than planned, or occasionally not arrive in time. Designer challenge beads have been known to go missing or challenge pieces not make it in one piece. On more than one occasion I found myself writing a last minute project or making some challenge pieces to fill some missing pages - it certainly helped to be a contributing editor in these situations!

Alongside the writing and editing of projects, articles and regular features, I was also responsible for styling all the jewellery pieces for photography with help from my assistant, Aimee. Aimee took over from Rosa at the end of 2013 and managed all the administrative tasks for the magazine like sending projects and prizes out. However she also wrote some great blog articles and even modelled the occasional piece of jewellery for photographs. There was a huge array of props to choose from but I also provided a lot of styling bits and bobs from my own stash of interesting and quirky items. You would not believe the amount of 'useful' stuff that I have amassed over the years from charity shops, antique shops and jumble sales. I also really enjoyed shopping for 'real life' props such as oranges, cocktail snacks and even a Cornish pasty! Take a look through your back issues and see how many 'fresh' props you can spot!

One of our regular features was the Top 10. This was planned months in advance and our beautiful projects were provided by our advertisers to promote their beads and their beading expertise! Some months, we were inundated with top 10 pieces and I would be forced to leave some out of the printed magazine and publish them on the website. Other months, both myself and Aimee would need to make something to make up the numbers and keep the feature to the planned number of pages. This was always a bonus because it gave me the chance to make something and to teach Aimee a new technique!

Whilst all this work was going on with magazine content, both myself and Aimee would be managing all the social media for the title, including the very popular mini design challenges on Facebook. I would also be working with my designer, Ruth, on revamping features, coming up with new ideas (such as the 'make it easy' series) and organising additional bonus content on the blog. For the final issue, we even filmed a project video. We'd also be planning special features and competitions, sourcing the latest hot products and books for review,and organising giveaways.

The onward journey...

There was never a moment spare in the Beads & Beyond schedule and I have to say that it has been a welcome relief to step off the publishing treadmill and take a breather. I am enjoying creating for fun and writing for me again. I am really looking forward to bringing you some of the same content I used to provide for the magazine but to my own schedule! Online craft content is the way forward and I have lots planned for the coming months here on this blog, over on my Facebook page and on Pinterest. I do hope you will join me on my onward journey...