Bead & Button Show 2017!

It seems like it takes forever to get here and then it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Tons of plans were made for the annual Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I sure had a full schedule but not so full I couldn’t get in a lot of shopping on the show floor.

I was lucky to have my daughter with me this year. She’s busy with work and plenty of gigs (yup, she’s a musician). Sara accidentally introduced me to beading when she went to a birthday party at Funky Hannah’s in Racine, Wisconsin…that was 17 years ago. I signed up for a class while I was there and the rest is history.

Friday morning we went to Coffee with Candie. Candie Cooper has a fun Facebook live video. She works with chain, stones, and metal pieces to make eclectic pieces of jewelry. Candie and her great bunch of sponsors (Jessie James Beads, Beadalon, Vintaj, RoundBeads….) put together a bag of goodies, coffee, and donut holes. It was an opportunity to meet and put names to those tiny little pictures of friends on Facebook.

After fueling up with much needed caffeine and donuts,  it was time to hit the show floor and shop. It’s overwhelming even for someone like me that’s done this for 15 years in a row! I like to stroll the floor and get the ideas flowing. My favorite purchase from this years show? Red lucite schnauzers! Awfully cute and I’ve started a project with one of them already.

Friday and Saturday, I had the privilege of teaching at Brenda Schweder’s, Now That’s a Jig booth. Experienced jiggers (someone that uses a Now That’s a Jig) and newbies, learned how to make shapes and wire wrap seed beads inside the shape. On Saturday, I got to teach my cuff bracelet. We made the TriPetal element and created flowers to attach to a leather cuff. Brenda offered 23 different workshops and demos from Thursday to Sunday.

Another show is in the books so its time to start the shopping list for next year because you can never have too many beads.


My Top 3 Fave Jewelry Books for Crafters

If you get a bunch of creators in a room, the conversation is going to ultimately go to the latest new project and the book it’s in. Even if you’re not looking for patterns, books are one of the best resources for the “how-to” of most techniques. I refer to my book collection often and each volume has a bunch of colorful bookmarks to prove it.
It’s getting a little crowded. My favorite shelf of jewelry and inspiration books, my beaded purse and prized squirrel bookends.

The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving – Carol Wilcox Wells

I can’t say for sure this book was my first, but it’s got to be one of the first books I got when I started stitching. Each chapter highlights a technique. Besides the amazing beaded beads and crochet ropes, there are chapters for the popular herringbone and peyote stitches.


The book also includes projects to cover most skill levels with detailed instructions and diagrams. You can take the skills you learn and apply them to just about any project you can think up. With all the new bead styles available today, it would be fun to see how they can be worked into some these patterns.


Even though it’s no longer in print (Pub. 2002), there are new and used copies available through a variety of internet vendors.



Steel Wire – Brenda Schweder

If you want to get started with wire working, try the steel stuff; it’s inexpensive and very versatile. I have a love affair with bead embroidery but that doesn’t mean I don’t cheat on my beads and go over to the dark side of steel wire from time to time.

I got this nifty book when I took Brenda’s class at our local art museum. We enjoyed a weekend of learning how to handle steel wire using everyday objects to create components for unique pieces of jewelry. The book gives you the basics of steel wire and some fun projects. Go ahead and experiment, steel wire is forgiving and just plain cheap.


Brenda has since invented the Now That’s a Jig (NTaJ) so you can create consistent shapes and designs; it’s so easy to convert these original projects to the jig.


Another book no longer in print (2011) but easy enough to source through the magic of the internet. Once you’ve got the book you can hop on over to Brenda’s Etsy shop and get all the supplies you need…and then some!


The Art of Bead Embroidery – Heidi Kummli and Sherry Serafini


It’s pretty obvious I have a thing for bead embroidery. I was introduced to it by a local bead friend. Not sure why it’s stuck with me all this time except I don’t really have to follow a pattern and I can use whatever I have on hand to put together a project. I could create for many years to come with all the stuff I have on hand. Beads don’t go bad ya know!


All the basics of bead embroidery are shared by two very popular artists. Heidi and Sherry each outline their favorite materials and techniques. I have used a little from each of them to create the perfect cocktail for my designs. The projects in this book range from basic to more complex. There are easy to follow instructions for earrings, pendants, large necklaces and a trinket box. The gallery of projects at the end of the book is beautiful and great for inspiration.

This book is still available on Amazon. According to Amazon, I purchased this book in 2009…gee, thanks for remembering. Heidi and Sherry also have other books worth looking into. Kind of like potato chips, you can’t have just one.

My book collection doesn’t stop here. These is nothing better than having great reference material at your fingertips. Now go make something fabulous!

Quick Bead Embroidered Earring Project

I enjoy designing  big bead embroidery projects, but it can take time for the ideas and colors to come together. While I wait for the next great color revelation, I like to tackle little projects like these super quick bead embroidered earrings. The great thing about these mini masterpieces is they usually lead to bigger ones and are a fun way to experiment with a new technique or color combo.

Quick and simple cabochon earrings

If you’re new to the bead embroidery world or just need a refresher, hop on over to my Quick Tips page for detailed instructions on the techniques that you will find in this project. For some added fun, make your own ear wires.

Earring project supplies

• 2” square (or enough to accommodate each cabochon) of non-woven material – Lacy’s Stiff Stuff or Beadsmith Beading Foundation
• 2” square (or enough to accommodate each cabochon) of ultra suede
• Thread – I use 4 or 6 lb. Fireline (Smoke). Use what you like best.
• Glue – E6000
• 2-cabochons
• 2 mm firepolish crystals
• Size 11 seed beads
• Size 15 seed beads
• Ear wires

Glue each cabochon to a small piece of non-woven material. Leave enough material around the cabochon to sew on the crystals and give yourself something to hang on to. The excess material will be trimmed away later. Using the backstitch technique (Quick Tips), add the crystals around the cabochon. If you want a bigger shape, add a second row of crystals or a row of seed beads.
Glue the cabochon and add 2mm crystals

Time to cut away the extra material leaving only 1/16” to add the edge beads. It helps to color the remaining bit of fabric with a Sharpie in a coordinating color.

Trim away the excess non-woven material

Glue the ultra suede to the back of the cabochon. Trim the ultra suede to match the embroidered piece; don’t cut it too close. The embroidered piece should be completely covered by the ultra suede on the back.

Attached the embroidered piece to the ultra suede

Using size 11 seed beads and the edge stitch (Quick Tips), finish the edge of the embroidered piece. Decide which end is up and exit out an edge bead and pick up enough size 15 seed beads to make a loop (about 10) for the ear wire. I recommend passing the thread through the loop a few times to prevent the ear wire from cutting through the thread. Add your favorite ear wire and you have an incredible pair of earrings!

Add the edge beads and ear wire

Now that you’ve got the basics, try out a different shape or add a long crystal or pearl off the bottom. Try swapping out the 2 mm crystals for a row of rhinestone cup chain. So many options, you’ll fill your jewelry box up in no time!

Fun Stuff in Big Snow Country

It’s winter and while everyone else is heading for warmer climes, I go north…further north than I already am. Hurley, Wisconsin and Ironwood, Michigan are the perfect playgrounds for winter sports, eating and shopping.

I’ve been skiing off and on for the better part of 30 years…ok…more off than on. The husband and I decided we’ve give it another go for our annual anniversary trip to the U.P. of Michigan. We visit this area often, usually in better weather but winter is the busiest time of year up there and if you hit it just right you’ll get the best skiing conditions. Besides skiing, there’s the food and a bit of shopping to be had.

Our favorite day of skiing was at Indianhead Mountain. There was fresh snow, temperatures in the mid 20’s and a little sun. I skied until my fingers got really cold then went in for a little lunch and a chat with my dad, who came out to visit us at the hill.

One can only ski so much before one’s legs feel like jelly. Time for coffee shops and a little treasure hunting. Sharon’s Coffee Company is our favorite breakfast and coffee place in Hurley, WI. You’ve got to see the breakfast menu for yourself. Most of the options are named with references to the mining industry which supported this community back in the day.

Hurley and Ironwood share a border and it’s easy to move from one community to another. Over in Ironwood is where some antiquing opportunities are. My favorite is Dan’s Antiques on East Aurora Street. The shop is pretty well organized for a place with so much cool stuff in it. A few of my favorite storage pieces have come from there as have many of my random maps, photos and vintage greeting cards.


Pour over coffee at Contrast Coffee

Across the street is a new coffee shop. Yes, it is acceptable to visit two coffee shops in one day, after all its cold outside. I drop off my newly acquired treasures in the family truckster and head over to Contrast Coffee. Their main shop is in Iron River, MI. This new location in Ironwood opened only a few months ago.

Since it was my first time visiting, I asked for their recommendation on what was good. They were very knowledgeable and recommended a pour over coffee. I’ve never had one so they showed me how it’s done. I have to say for someone that loves flavors and lots of dairy in their coffee, I could drink this stuff without all the add-ins.


Coffee round two complete, on to more shopping. 906Boom is just down the street from the coffee shop. It’s a maker’s space for local artists and micro business owners. My stepmom has her own little shop and a creative space. I have to say, I sure love this space. They don’t have a website but they are on Facebook, 906Boom.


While the weather didn’t cooperate for a whole lot of skiing, the food was amazing and there was still much fun to be had. You can’t beat the scenery no matter what season you visit. Check out the links for more area information.

Hurley, Wisconsin

Ironwood, Michigan

IKEA 101 for the Hobbiest

I have a stong organizational gene and passed it along to my daughter. Sara is a willing travel companion when I mention a shopping trip to just about anywhere. Recently, she needed new furniture and I invited myself along for the ride to IKEA. Ok, I drove and she bought lunch.
I had a simple list that I created with the IKEA app. The app is really handy for making a list in advance of your trip. It also gives you the location for picking up your items in the store and a total of all the stuff you bought. My daughter’s list was extensive so I kept it simple to save room for her much needed furniture. I came home with some great finds and I’m pretty sure I need a trip back for the rest.
If you’re a crafter of any kind, good light is priceless and sometimes a little tough to come by. Winters here in the midwest mean cloudy, grey days. I have Ottlites but I often need a boost from another light. The swing arm lamps (TERTIAL) are inexpensive ($8.99-$14.99) and versatile. I have one on my bead table, wire working table and my desk. They clamp on or in the case of my wire working table, I secured it with screws to the wood surface.
Drawers and Storage
There is no shortage of storage options at IKEA. I have some great ones already but I still need a few new pieces to replace the old, not-so-appropriate bits of furniture. I didn’t know about this drawer unit (HELMER) before I got there but I’m glad I spied it. It was only $39.99 and pretty easy to put together. It has little wheels on the bottom and six drawers. I keep it close to my table to grab supplies I use all the time; you can’t keep everything on the table top.
These boxes (TJENA) were an impulse purchase. They were on sale for only $3.19 each and have 12 sections about 3”x3”. They fit my bracelet collection perfectly. The black is no longer available but the new collection of colors are $3.99 each. I sure hope they bring the black ones back.
My renewed obsession in wire working creates another storage dilemma. There is the wire, tools, jig and its accessories. I found this box while waiting for my daughter to work out her closet storage options (it was going to take a while). This box (SAMLA) comes in a variety of sizes. I went with the 6 gallon size (15-1/4x11x11”) box with the insert and cover. The only downside is the cover doesn’t snap on the box. Since I don’t carry around or store little beads in it, it works well. These were also on sale and the three pieces were less than $7.
I didn’t get this one but Sara did and I think I need one. The KALLAX ($64.99-8 space unit) is a shelf unit that you can attach a workspace to. You can also get inserts for the “cubbies” to add drawers or doors. Sara added drawers to one cubbie and filled in the lower spaces with flexible storage cubes. She also attached a workspace. I was impressed with how easy it went together; it looked intimidating. You can remove the workspace if necessary or get adjustable legs if you want it higher. At this point I’m going to recommend at least getting the $9.99 drill from IKEA for putting your furniture together, your hands and arms will thank you later.
Besides the trip to IKEA the Christmas season produced some wonderful gifts. My son, paying close attention to my wish list on Amazon , got me a new Wubber bail making tool and a flat pliers organizer. The organizer keeps the tools on the table lined up so I’m not burying them under other stuff on the table. You might say, it’s a tool landing pad.
My husband, also following my suggestions for a Christmas gift, got me a TUL Notebook. It’s an over-the-top binder of sorts. You can get different discs to accommodate your pages. There’s a special hole punch so you can add just about anything to your paper collection. I got the purple leather cover and 2” discs. It’s hefty but it’s such a cool looking binder. You can see it sitting on the HELMER storage unit in the picture below. I think I need the storage unit just to hold up the notebook.
Now that everything is so neat and tidy, I think I can find the stuff to make something fabulous…or get distracted, start six new projects and get nothing done.

Steel, Paper, Scissors…

The year…2011. I had no idea when I took a weekend class with Brenda Schweder, I would get so hooked on working with steel wire. We used basic tools and got resourceful with everyday items to form shapes with the humble wire of steel. I loved how you could just play and not worry about wasting expensive wire. Steel wire is readily available, economical and easy to work with (that is, after you get past the cleaning it up part).

Fast forward a couple of years, Brenda creates the Now That’s a Jig (NTaJ) with threaded parts so everything stays put on the grid. It can handle steel wire and works really well for non-ferrous (silver, copper, brass) wires. After the investment of the jig starter kit, you can add all kinds of pegs and shapes to create endless configurations of wire. I’ve had my NTaj for a while and never realized all the potential it had. Now with the help of Brenda’s live Facebook videos, I’m getting the jig out of the box and experimenting with shapes.

Inspiration for my latest project came from a studio visit Brenda did with Maike van Wijk. Maike works with steel wire and attaches pretty papers with hot wax. A long forgotten bottle of Diamond Glaze seemed like a neat way to get a resin-like finish and was a good alternative to using hot wax to attach paper to steel wire. Diamond Glaze also works as an adhesive and can be watered down to make a thin glaze applied with a brush to protect the pretty papers. Why have I not been using this stuff more? It didn’t take more than a couple of tries to get a good result. This is super simple and worth a try for anyone, even a beginner. The worst thing that can happen is if it doesn’t work out you lose a little paper and glaze.

Start with a shape
This is where the Now Thats a Jig comes in handy. Pick a shape, any shape as long as it isn’t too big. After wrapping your wire around the jig shape, make sure your wire piece is nice and flat. A little hammering should take care of that. I’m fond of this tear drop shape at the moment but I’ve tried others with good results.
Tear drop shape for the Now That’s a Jig.
Pick your paper

Making paper choices might just be the hardest part. You can use almost anything. Beware of thin paper, it will get wavy when you add the water-based glaze over it. Small shapes work best with thin, older papers. Scrapbooking papers are nice because they are on heavier stock and can handle the glaze in bigger shapes.

Stick it together and fill it in

I add a little glaze to the outline of the shape as an adhesive. Attach it to the paper of choice and fill it in with more glaze. A little tip, when you squeeze the bottle do it over a gluing mat or some other surface you don’t care about. You’ll notice a little bubble comes out first and you don’t want that floating around on top of your piece. If you get a bubble, use a toothpick or straight pin to move it off the surface. Use just enough glaze to cover the surface; easier to add glaze than to try and remove it.

Now you wait

Ok, maybe THIS is the hardest part. Let it dry. Don’t touch it unless your finger print is an integral part of the design. It’s going to be ready in a few hours. Best to walk away and start another project, walk the dog, do the dishes or catch up on some daytime tv.

Finish it off

Cut the excess paper away from the shape. I like using a small appliqué scissors to cut the paper away from the wire shape. Depending on how you’re going to use your little piece, you can add even more fancy paper to the back to finish it off. Maybe the back of your paper looks good enough, it’s all up to you. After everything is totally dry, add loops to the top for hanging.

I’m fond of making earrings lately so I need to give a shout out to Judy Menting and her inspiration and Facebook live videos for helping me add to my ear wire skills. Her Dancing Tea Cup Alphabet is pretty neat too. She has live videos on Facebook daily if you want to get creative with swirly bits of wire.

Finished pieces with custom ear wires.

Your turn to go be a handufacturer! Try something new, make a mess and have fun. I leave you with the links to my wire wrangling friends that have been so generous with their time and talents…

Where to get your Now That’s a Jig (NTaJ) –
Brenda Schweder Jewelry Facebook –

The Colorful World of Shibori

Purple shibori silk cuff

I’ve been waiting for one of those aha moments to create an incredibly clever blog post that will amaze and entertain. I’ll lower those standards a bit and just pass along some great information on working with shibori silk.

When I teach, I like to bring along some of my pieces to help inspire and provide some great visuals of alternate techniques. One of the most popular pieces is the shibori cuff. You can’t beat the array of color on each piece silk and the slightly intimidating options it presents when it comes to picking bead colors. To help answer a few questions and hopefully get you fellow beaders started, I’ll pass along a few tips for working with shibori silk.

Start your shibori project with a piece of non-woven material. Lacy’s Stiff Stuff or Pellon 70 (stitchable interfacing) are the usual choices for this. Either option can be dyed or colored to tone down the bright white color of the material. Check out my blog on dying non-woven material (

Rounding up all my options

Silk is incredibly versatile. You can twist, tie, and bunch it up to add interest. When working with it, take care not to snag it. Once you decide how you want the silk to lay, tack it down with small stitches along the edges of the silk. Even though the stitches will eventually get covered with beads, it still helps to keep them small.

You can easily add a focal piece on top of the silk and create a beaded bezel. Instead of using glue to secure the focal piece, I use a strong double-sided tape to hold it in place as I stitch around it. You can also skip the focal and simply add rows of beads along the edges of shibori and in the creases.

Tacking down the edges of silk

Finish off your embroidered piece as you would another other, add ultra-suede to the back, stitch the beaded edge and add a clasp. Skip on over to my Quick Tips page for a little help with the edging stitch.The most intriguing thing about shibori is the color; it can vary from piece to piece and can present lots of options when it comes to picking complimentary beads. Let the fabric do the talking, maybe stick with one color and vary the bead finishes, sizes and tones. If you’re feeling adventurous, add that second surprise color and see what happens.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take a class to learn this technique. Check out your local bead shops and maybe a bead show to see what kind of class offerings there are.  In the meantime, start experimenting and see what happens.