It’s All in Black and White

Do something everyday that can’t be undone.
The Mother’s Almanac

Now that I’ve wrapped up that purse, I’ve moved on to some smaller projects. Nothing kickstarts a project like a new, inspiring focal piece. I got this lovely one from my friend in Hawaii, Patricia Larson. Her lampwork glass pieces are unique and so colorful. I’ve collected a few beads that Patricia has made, but this is my first cabochon.
I originally wanted to use this cab as a focal on a cuff bracelet, it looks like it’s going to be a little big for what I want to do, so a necklace it will be!
I’ve been having fun with a few smaller collar designs thanks to my daughter’s inspiration…basically she told me what to do. I doodled a bit and put down a few stitches and promptly took them out. Finally, I came up with something that made me happy. For this one I’m keeping it simple and working with shapes more than color.
When I teach or just get together with a bead group, the topic of color choices usually comes up. It can be the most daunting part of any project. I think I’ve covered this in a previous blog but, it bears repeating.
For starters, I begin by rounding up anything I like that might work in the project, you can narrow down your choices as the project gets underway.
I have a little formula that helps keep a project from getting too disorganized.
#1 – Pick your focal.
#2 – Pick your secondary beads – smaller than the focal. Larger pearls and fire polished beads are great candidates.
#3 – Seedbeads – I start with three colors in the same family, usually 15s. Pick a matte, colorlined and irridesent. Think monochromatic. Add an 11 seedbead to vary the size and an 8 as a stop bead.
#4 – Toss in a couple of crystal colors. Vary the size, 3mm and 4mm.
This should give you a good start. For beaders new to embroidery, I recommend avoiding very shiny beads, especially black beads. If you aren’t sure how a bead is going to look before you stitch it down, put several on a thread and lay it next to the focal or another row of beads. It’s hard to judge bead color when they’re in the tube. Sometimes I stitch a few sample rows in a 1” square just to see what they look like next to each other.
Contrary to my quote at the beginning of this post, I do undo things…at least when it comes to beading.

Genie’s New Hangout is Complete!

It’s done!  The epic Genie’s New Hangout handbag is complete. If anyone is wondering, I stopped counting the hours of beading after I hit 100. There is also more than 400 yards of thread or Fireline in this project and I can’t imagine the number of beads. For my non-beading friends that have been following this project, the beads are all sewn on two or three at a time. Occasionally, I use a little glue or double-sided tape to hold something in position while I bead around it.

Completed project. Genie’s New Hangout handbag original design by Sherry Serafini.

In case any of my beading friends want to give this project a try, the partial and complete Genie’s New Hangout kits are available at in Ann Benson’s shop.

I don’t do too many kit projects anymore but it’s hard to resist when something this detailed comes along and I get the opportunity to learn something new. I learned plenty with this one and thankfully, I’m comfortable enough with my skills to have made little changes along the way.

The part that presented the most challenges was the lid; working with the materials I had on hand required some adjustments. I confirmed that I really dislike thread, ok…I really hate it! Fireline might be overkill in a project this size but I find it easier to work with. The “knot gremlins” had a great time when I had to use thread; it got all twisty and shredded even after it was waxed. Try 4 lb. Smoke Fireline and get yourself about 400-500 yards of the stuff.

Since I relied on my collection of beads, I ended up using a color-lined size 15 seed beads on the raised part of the lid. Yuck! They are going to the back of the drawer. I moved on to a size 12 Tulip needle and still broke a fair amount of the little glass beads because the holes weren’t consistent. I ended up starting the raised part of the lid over with different beads. I was happier and there was peace in the world again.

Now life moves on. I have a pile of other projects to finish but I’m still working out plans for another bag. I’ll do something small first that doesn’t take two months of my time.


Purse Project…Another Reason to Buy More Beads

The purse project continues. I finished the front/back and side panels of the Genie’s Hideout Handbag. I’m kind of sad they’re done because I seriously enjoyed stitching away and seeing how far I can get in a day. Now I’m moving on to the last piece at the top called the lid or what is to be the handle and snap closure.


The lid parts are presenting a few beading challenges. I’m not very good at following written instructions; I am truly a visual learner and need lots of pictures. There are some tricky bead moves around a 12 mm glass pearl…decreases! Ugh! Plain and simple, I stink at decreases of this magnitude. The first attempt went wrong, the second looks good. The instructions call for Toho brand beads but they worked up big and clunky. I switched to the Miyuki brand beads, added a couple of extra rows and got a nice finished product. Lesson learned…while instructions are great, let experience be your guide and make changes if you don’t get the result you’re looking for. In this case, the switch isn’t going to have an impact on any other part of the project.

Beaded bead
I still need to work on the other supporting parts of the lid. Looks like a trip to the fabric store is in order to get some piping to add a little dimension to the top. It’s never safe to walk into a store with endless opportunities to start another project. I’m going in with blinders on. If I’m not out in 15 minutes, someone better come get me.

I mentioned when I started this project, I want to make another purse. My trip to the Bead & Button Show this year was a shopping success. I was able to put together a nice collection of focal pieces and seed beads.


It’s pretty clear by the picture, I probably won’t be making just another purse. My favorite find? The large vintage crystal cabochons from a favorite vendor, Sandy Schor from Fort Worth, Texas. I spent quite awhile sorting through boxes of nicely organized pouches of cabochons once produced for costume jewelry. It’s fun to imagine what original pieces of jewelry held these lovely crystals. Cocktail party anyone, a night at the opera or just a classy trip to the grocery store?





Listen To Your Mother

Do it right the first time…
-Moms Everywhere

Recently, while working on my epic purse project, someone commented on the back of my work,  “It looks as good on the back as it does on the front”. That, my friends is thanks to my mom. My mom taught me to cross stitch, sew, and to just be resourceful. When it comes to the technical end of things she was, and still is, exacting. Do it right the first time and take your time. A lumpy, mess on the back makes for a messy front. If you spend a lot of time putting together a project, why not spend the extra time on the details.
Back of the purse project

This project is full of detail. I’m really enjoying it and I still want to make another one. I’ll share my recent “finds” for the next bag in a future blog. I’ve had to change a few things to accommodate the pieces that I had on hand, but I don’t want it to look exactly like the original.

Progress on main piece and sides

When it comes to working on larger projects like this, there are a couple of tips that will come in handy for your next embroidery project.

  • Start at the center or around a large focal piece and work your way outward. Add your other focals as you go. This will help you avoid awkward little spaces.
  • Don’t crowd your beads. They should lay flat so the rows are smooth.
  • Rows of matte beads next to shiny beads look great and keep a piece from becoming too over-the-top blingy.

Now go get that kit you bought years ago and get busy. Don’t forget to do a good job the first time, sit up straight, and call your mother.

Handbags, Lipstick and a $100 Bill

“All one needs to carry in the evening is a lipstick, handkerchief, and a $100 bill.”

Judith Leiber, Handbag Designer

I started the art of bead embroidery in 2009 with the help of a bead friend. Materials and resources were few and far between. Pinterest and YouTube weren’t a thing yet. There were a couple of great artists at the time sharing their expertise through books.

Sherry Serafini is one of my favorite bead embroidery artists. I love her color choices and I’ve had the privilege of taking four classes with her. She is generous in the information she shares and her kits are wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to follow the style advice of a woman who has made pieces for rock stars like Steven Tyler and Lenny Kravitz.

I have always admired Sherry’s Bead Dreams winning entry, Genie’s New Hangout. It’s an amazing little handbag that she created in 2003. The colors, shape and overall construction, have kept this project in my sights. As luck would have it, Sherry has allowed Ann Benson from Beads East to recreate the bag. I wasted no time in getting my order in for the Genie’s New Hangout Partial Kit.

Genie’s New Hangout Starter Kit

After about 15 years of beading, I have amassed a collection of beads that will sustain my hobby for years to come. I was able to use some of my precious treasures to put together my own Genie bag. Now the process begins. The colors and layout are printed onto the backing material and with the help of a very detailed key, I should be able to lay this out close to the original design. I did have to make a few substitutions but it shouldn’t alter the overall design too much.

No telling how long this will take, but I do have plans for a second one. With the annual Bead & Button Show coming up in a few weeks, I can shop like a rabid beader for new pieces to add to my collection. Afterall, you can never have too many pairs of shoes, handbags, or beads. I also need a place to carry my $100 bill…or maybe just a few singles, a bunch of Kleenex and a Chapstick.

It begins…about six hours of work.



The Inside World of Bead Camp

I get to participate in at least four bead camps or retreats every year, as well as attend a big bead show.  Ask any beader and they’ll say that just doesn’t seem like enough. We anticipate each event like it’s Christmas morning with planning, packing, and snack preparations.

This past weekend, I went to the 14th annual Funky Hannah’s Bead Camp in Racine, Wisconsin. Always held at the DeKoven Center along Lake Michigan, we check in on Friday and do our best not to leave, unless we need to make a pajama run for more beads. This particular April camp (there are three each year), we had 28 energetic campers.

The building we stay in is Taylor Hall on the grounds of DeKoven. It was originally a boys school founded back in 1852 (insert joke about our age here). If you ask any regular campers, they say the building might be haunted but any specters seem to stay clear of this crazy crowd.We sleep, eat, and play in the same building. The food is great but we also have an embarrassing selection of snacks so we can “eat before we eat”.

Taylor Hall at the DeKoven Center – Racine, WI

We are proud of the fact we welcome back old friends and initiate new ones with the same zeal. We share ideas, skills, and more laughter than you can imagine. Some of us actually get something done.

Need your own bead gathering? Visit a local bead shop to see whats going on. If you’re really adventurous, get a group of like-minded beaders together and start your own party.

Visit these links for more info on our favorite Racine locations:
Favorite local bead shop —
Where some great glass cabs come from —
DeKoven Center —



Retreat Time & Bead Soup Premier

Bead Soup Bracelet

After months of anticipation and planning, I had the pleasure of teaching my Bead Soup Bracelet at the Loose Bead Society of Greater Milwaukee’s Bead Retreat.The retreat was booked solid this year and I think everyone had a great time. Thanks much to the planners and fellow members of the LBS for their efforts in making this event a success. We especially enjoyed our beading room with a view of the chilly harbor in Racine on Lake Michigan.

The harbor in Racine, WI on beautiful Lake Michigan. Our retreat room with a view! (photo by Denise Uttke)

While the alleged spring weather was iffy, it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy three solid days of beading, eating, shopping, and conversation. My class on Saturday was loads of fun. I had such a wonderful group of enthusiastic beaders of all levels. I can’t wait to see how the bracelets turn out.

I got the opportunity to share some tips on cuff construction.(photo by Carol Surges)

With the retreat behind me it’s time to start gearing up for the next Funky Hannah’s Bead Camp. This one is also held in Racine, WI at the very historic (allegedly haunted) DeKoven Center.

If you’d like more information on the Loose Bead Society of Greater Milwaukee or Funky Hannah’s and the bead camp check out these links: