Even a Quick + Easy Beadwork Project Can Still Teach You New Beading Skills
I love working on the Quick + Easy special issue of Beadwork magazine. The projects are very approachable — you can complete most of them in just a few hours. This year, I made two Quick + Easy projects before the magazine even came out! Here’s what I learned while stitching Lindsay Burke’s Free Spirit Bracelet and Cecil Rodriguez’s Es-o Express Cuff.
Free Spirit Bracelet
As soon as we saw Lindsay Burke’s Free Spirit Bracelet, we knew we had to have it for this year’s issue of Quick + Easy Beadwork. The feather design is trendy, yet timeless. And the turquoise colorway captured our attention immediately. But when Lindsay sent in the actual bracelet sample with an additional colorway in black, aqua, and coral, we fell in love all over again. I had never loomed before, but I knew I had to make this bracelet!
Learning to Loom
Before I even pulled out a loom, I watched Tammy Honaman’s eCourse Getting Started Bead Weaving Series: Learn How to Bead on a Loom. Although I knew next to nothing about looming before watching the videos in this eCourse, Tammy had me up to speed in no time. I quickly set up a Rick’s Beading Loom and got started. Because it was my first time, I naturally had some hiccups. Here’s what I learned while looming the Free Spirit Bracelet.
1. Pay attention to dimensions.
Using the Rick’s Beading Loom creates a finished piece with only two warp threads to weave in, which is a great advantage! However, the tradeoff is that you have to know your finished bracelet length ahead of time. I started with about an 8″ spread between the warp rods but quickly realized that my bracelet would be way too long. Back to the drawing board I went! I consulted the instructions and was soon back on track with the correct dimensions.
2. Use the correct materials.
I knew the alternate colorway of Lindsay’s Free Spirit Bracelet would be the perfect gift for a good friend, so I was careful to order all the correct beads. What I failed to note was that the alternate colorway uses a different color of thread than the main colorway. So I mistakenly ordered crystal FireLine and even beaded a few rows before I realized the error of my ways. The white thread contrasted pretty drastically with the black beads. I already had smoke FireLine on hand, so I started over once again.
3. That first row is a bear!
As many times as I restarted this bracelet, you’d think I’d be a whiz at the first row! But nope, I struggled every single time. Using a warp card separator didn’t seem to help; I found myself battling with 11 tiny beads for an inordinate amount of time.
I finally decided to grab some slightly larger beads and create a “dummy” first row. Aha! Suddenly, that first row was a breeze. I didn’t completely loom in the dummy row of beads, which made it easy to remove those beads once my real first row was done.
4. Try the Artist’s tips.
One of the tips in Tammy’s looming eCourse is to weave back through the beads with the eye of the needle rather than its tip. This prevents splitting the warp threads with the needle as you weave the weft threads. I took this tip to heart, and this method now seems to me like the natural way to bead loom.
5. Pay attention to the details.
In my first couple of attempts at looming the Free Spirit Bracelet, I missed going over the warp thread a few times. When this happened on the edge of the bracelet, the edge bead immediately fell right out. When it happened in the middle of the bracelet, a few rows later I’d notice a “dropped” bead and have to rip out a few rows of beads to fix it. By the time I was on my final version of the bracelet, I had learned to pay close attention to every warp thread, making sure I went over each of them with my weft thread.
6. Improvise when necessary.
I didn’t realize until I finished looming the Free Spirit Bracelet that the warp rods on a Rick’s Beading Loom take up a fair amount of space. If you’re using size 8 round seed beads, you can probably spread your beads out to fill the gaps, as recommended in the loom instructions. But if you’re using size 11 Delicas to loom a distinct pattern, your design will likely get distorted. I discovered that I could fit an extra row of Delicas onto each end of the bracelet after removing the warp rods.
After I removed the warp rods, I threaded a spare needle through the last row of beads (eye end first!) to give that row some stability. Then I spread the beads to create a gap between the last and second-to-last rows. I was able to easily weave another row of beads into that gap.
I repeated this process at the other end of the bracelet. I threaded a spare needle through the first row of beads to act as a front warp rod. Then I painstakingly moved the beads to the other end of the bracelet, creating a gap between the first and second rows. I was able to work a final row of beads into that gap. (Note that you should be careful not to break any beads if you try this. You’ll need to decide how important it is to your tight design to get one last row of beads loomed in.)
Cecil Rodriguez’s Es-o Express Cuff
The other bracelet I made from Quick + Easy Beadwork Winter 2018 is Cecil Rodriguez’s Es-o Express Cuff. This project is available as a kit, while supplies last. The Es-o Express Cuff worked up amazingly quickly. But I still had time to learn a thing or two while stitching this bracelet.
1. Shaped beads are fun!
I haven’t used a lot of shaped beads, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Es-o Mini beads in this project. I was surprised at how fun I found working with these beads. They’re so much larger than seed beads that for once I didn’t feel like all thumbs!
2. The first row is still hard.
Perhaps I haven’t been beading long enough to be a “natural” yet, but I always find the first couple of rows or rounds difficult. This project was no exception, with my first row of Es-o Mini beads flopping all over the place. But the second row quickly secured everything into place, and then I was off!
3. Measure twice, bead once.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” This rule also holds true for beadwork. If I had measured my wrist before finishing all 46 rows of the bracelet, I would have realized that I only needed 40 rows to make it fit me. Oh well — it isn’t bead weaving if I’m not doing the frog stitch (rip it! rip it!).
4. Adaptations are OK.
When I finished the Es-o Express Cuff, I decided to modify one of the clasp connections a bit. My adaptation isn’t necessarily any better, but I like how it turned out.
5. Learn to play with color.
Style-wise, I tend to be pretty conservative. So I probably would have chosen different (more boring) colors if I had created the Es-o Express Cuff pattern. But once I’d finished the bracelet, I absolutely loved the periwinkle blue and red/burgundy palette Cecil chose. I’ve actually worn the bracelet to work twice since finishing it, and I always get compliments on it!
My Next Quick + Easy Project
I had so much fun making the Free Spirit Bracelet and Es-o Express Cuff that I can’t wait to make another project from Quick + Easy Beadwork Winter 2018. This issue includes so many great designs I can’t decide which one to try next. But I know whichever project I choose, I’m sure to learn something new — either about beading, or about myself!
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine
Get Quick + Easy Beadwork Winter 2018 and the Es-o Express Cuff kit in the Interweave Store!