Design Play – Introduction

Hiya, all. We are starting a new class. Today we begin playing with design. I am going to share some of the things I’ve observed, some things I’ve been taught myself, and some things I’ve learned all by myself.

We will be discussing colour and texture. And we will be discussing shapes and spaces. There will be exercises to help unblock ‘designer’s block’ – you know, the same as writer’s block only relating to design.

By the end of this class, made up of however many lessons are needed, you should be able to draw on your own imagination and apply some rules to it and be left with a reasonable piece, ready to be worked.

These lessons can be used no matter what your milieu. They are  equally useful to needlework and to beading, to fashion design and interior decoration, to anything at all.

Questions? Comments? Please add your observations to this set of lessons: it helps make the classes more interesting.

That’s it for now –    … Helene …


Notes to Self – #6 – Agony and Ecstasy

Hiya. Today is the 1st day of September. Tomorrow the kidlets get back to school. It’s something all students feel for the 1st week. It isn’t until the 2nd week that reality sets in and they remember they hate school.

For me, the 1st day of September means a new topic in the Bead Journal Project. That’s the excitement of returning to school. My agony is a bit different to school children: I can’t find where the topic is listed. So I can’t get started. I have to wait. That’s agony.

School children buy their paper, pencils, and clothes BEFORE they hit the schoolyard. Their 1st week is showing off all their new purchases. They know in advance they are going to need these things, no matter what electives they have chosen. They are the generic requirements of going to school.

Well, in needlework there are generic tools used to produce a desired effect. But the choices of colour and texture cannot be decided until the topic is determined. Being held back, not knowing what the challenge topic is to be, makes me anxious. Today I cannot settle down to work – I mean real work – because my mind is floating over in the right hemisphere of my brain. 

Okay, I really am right-brained: I am a leftie, I am an artsy, all I can think about are the Project topics and a class I have scheduled in a couple of weeks.

My parents tried to instill in wee 3 that we don’t get everything we want but gave us all that we needed and, somehow, the lines were blurred. Wee 3 now have an expectation that our every wish will be fulfilled.  My fairy godmother is asleep at the switch.

That’s what I think.   … Helene …

Niki.Tasha – Lesson 7 – Peyote Stitch

Peyote Lesson 7 - Art Deco Design

Peyote Lesson 7 - Art Deco Design

There are many good books that can give you the instructions of the Peyote Stitch.  My favourite is a small, spiral bound book by Judith Durant & Jean Campbell:  ‘The Beader’sCompanion” , printed by Interweave Press, Inc. ISBN 1-883010-56-X.  Here is a link to where you can pick up this great little book and at a reasonable cost to yourself. .  There is also the ‘New Beader’s Companion’ at this same site.

In this and the next lesson, Niki, I will give you 2 different ways to start the peyote stitch tube:  the generally accepted way and then my way.  You can try both and decide for yourself which you prefer; you may even make a 3rd method which would be the Niki.Tasha way.

1. Cut a length of thread 2 yards long.  Thread your needle and pull both needle and thread through the Thread Heaven® or beeswax a couple of times.  Then, stretch the thread as you run the needle and thread through one hand several times.  Believe me, this really helps cut down the kinks and knots as you are stitching.

2. Put 1 bead on the thread a tail of about 12 inches from the end and run the needle through the bead a 2nd time.  This is the ‘stop bead’ which will help keep all your beads on the thread.

3. String 84 beads on the thread.   Check and double check your count.  This tube is an even number peyote pattern and these 84 beads make the first 2 rows.  The beads must be held loosely on the thread.  The slack will be taken up in the next step.

NOTE:  You must ensure the beads have lots of room because they will shift as you add the next row.  Calculating how much space to give these beads comes with practice and I admit I have never been able to figure out just how much slack is needed.

4. Run your needle through the 1st two beads, from right to left, beside the stop bead to create a tube.  … If you are right handed, Niki, you will be working from right to left.  But, if you are a leftie like me, your needle and ‘working thread’ will move from left to right.  …  Add a bead on your needle, skip a bead on your tube and run your needle through the next bead.   Add another  bead on your needle and skip a bead, and run the needle through the next bead.  Continue in this way, adding a bead and running your working thread through every 2nd bead, until you return to the beginning.   Slip your needle through the first 2 beads of the row just finished. 

Niki, you may now remove the stop bead if you wish:  I prefer to keep it because it will indicate the beginning and ending of the original row.  That helps when working your pattern.  It also acts as a weight on that 12 inches of tail thread which helps keep it out of the way of your working thread.

5.  You have now recognized that the Peyote technique is an offset pattern.  Following either of the 2 patterns offered on the last post, only 1 portion of the design has been graphed.  It is up to you whether or not you repeat the design on the backside.  Your stress level will be lower if you work the back in one solid colour.  Once you get the hang of things, you can add a 2nd full design on the backside or mix things up any way you like.

Ending and Beginning a Working Thread:

6.  Don’t work your design until you have run out of thread.  Allow at least 4 inches of working thread to use in ending the thread.  Run your needle through beads, one at a time, in a downward diagonal line.  Every 3 beads run the needle through the bead immediately above the bead your needle has just exited.  One at a time again, run the needle through another 2 or 3 beads.  Double back as before until a) you run out of working thread, or b) you are satisfied that the thread will not work its way loose. 

NOTE:  Some beaders add a discreet knot or 2 during their finishing a thread.  A small dab of glue is added by some beaderswith steady hands.  I have had great success with my method without the knots and the glue (my hands shake too much).

7.  Your 2nd and all other threads need not be nearly as long as the first one.  I like to use a thread 3 ft in length.  Leaving a tail of about 3 inches long, run the needle through your beads in an upward diagonal manner exactly the way you did to finish a thread.  You will double back several times and check to ensure the thread is not going to work its way free … tug on the working thread.  Bring your needle up in the exact same spot as where you ended.

8.  Continue working until you run out of pattern.  The last row must be even all around – don’t end in the middle of the row.  If you have lots of thread left in your needle, don’t end and cut the thread off.  Jump to Lesson 8 – Bottom’s Up.

6.  The designs I listed in Lesson 6 have no colour notations.  It is your choice what colours to use.  As mentioned, if you add your favourite colour as the basic, you will enjoy the process a whole lot more.  Keep a balance of bright shiny beads and flat matte beads.  The play of light on the different bead finishes adds to the design.  But, a little goes a long way. 

I hope you enjoy your first project, Niki.


Tubular Peyote Stitch:  A technique in which a hollow tube is created by adding a bead in the space between 2 beads of the previous round.

Stop Bead:  A bead through which the needle passes twice  to keep all the beads on the thread.  After the first 3 rows it acts as a weight to help identify  and keep the long tail away from the working thread.

Working Thread:  The thread going from a bead and through the eye of the needle.  It becomes evident once some beads are added.  ‘Working Thread’ becomes a helpful shorter term when describing complicated needle movement.

Copyright © 2008 Helene Turnbull.  All rights reserved.  No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproducted or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author.

Niki.Tasha – Lesson 5 – Colours

Art Deco Amulet Bag

Art Deco Amulet Bag

glass bead artisan jewelry, a spot to keep a talisman

glass bead artisan jewelry, a spot to keep a talisman

There are all kinds of websites that dedicate some space to defining the meanings of colours.  In Lesson 4 – Colour, we discussed colour theory and we explained cool and warm colours.  In addition to the theory, is the ‘feeling’ or reaction one has with colours. 

The warm colours of yellow, orange and red are gregarious, optimistic and aggressive.  The cool colours of violet, blue and green soothe ; they have a calming effect.

Black, brown and gold, ‘neutrals’ of the fashion industry, are warm colours.  White, grey and silver are cool neutrals.

Blue suggests strength, hence the executive blue suit.  It is peaceful:  the Madonna is depicted as a woman wearing blue.

People are trying to ‘green’ the world: green is the colour of the environment when it is healthy.  Hospital corridors are painted a light green tint.  Green suggests growth. 

Yellow was the colour of royalty in ancient China.  Yellow is cheerful, joyful.

Red:  outgoing, passionate, hot.  In China, red is a lucky colour.  When a bit of white is added, you get a pink tint.  Little girls in Canada wear pink. 

Purple is the royal colour:  an extremely costly dye to make, in the western world purple was reserved for royalty.  In the Catholic church, purple is a sacred colour and worn by bishops.

Gold, a warm colour,  and silver, a cool colour, are 2 precious metals.  Yellow or red gold, the colour of riches and of tradition.  As part of the marriage tradition, it is customary to offer wedding rings made of gold. 

Black is the colour of power and aggressiveness.  Limousines that are black are used in funeral processions in the western hemisphere.  It is a sober colour.

White once was considered the colour of bad luck.  It is also the colour of purity.   In olden days, a woman’s bridal dress was her best frock which was most often made of silk and either black or some other dark colour.  It was  Queen Victoria who started the trend of bridal dresses of white.

In the business world, there used to be a formula for the colours one wore to work.  On Monday you wear your power suit, black.  You want the symbol of authority, the colour black, at the start of the week.  On Tuesday the colour of choice was dark blue; still an authoritative colour but without the aggressiveness of black.   Wednesday is the apex of the workweek:  fewer mistakes are made on a Wednesday.  Wednesday was the day for grey.   Brown, the colour of earth, an approachable colour, is worn on Thursday.  The weekend is just one day away so it’s okay to loosen the reins of business.  Finally, Friday, a day of celebration:  when the whistle blows at the end of the shift we will be on our own time.  TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), people wear beige or any other tint [remember, a tint is the colour made when white is added to a Hue.]

When you look at your design and you can’t say exactly what is missing, but that something is missing, add a bit of black.   Interior decorators use this trick to ‘ground’ a room. 

When you pick the bead colours, Niki, that you will use in the first project, start with your favourite colour.  I believe, and I am not alone in my belief, that you can never have too many beads and you will always enjoy the pieces you make using your favourite colour.  You must pay attention to the colour values:  Hue= saturated, pure colour;  Tint= the colour you chose but lighter, by adding  white to the Hue;  Tone = the colour you chose but darker, with black added to the Hue.

Copyright © Helene Turnbull  All rights reserved.  No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or information storage and rettrieval systems – without written permission of the author.