There is no single correct way to embark on a design.
Most of the time, I start with a bead, cabochon, or other component that is the kicker in my design process. Another favorite of mine is a “challenge”… this can be wanting to use a particular technique or stitch, or include a type of bead or other non-typical component in bead embroidery. These approaches are fun to play in the “what if” and “let’s try” area of my imagination. I supplement the imagination process with pencil and paper and/or moving beads around my bead mat and it’s a generally good time! The particular design I am going to talk about today is a combination of these approaches.
The start of this design was actually a bead embroidered cuff bracelet I saw that was done on leather. There was a center cluster design and much of the leather was left open, a style I refer to as “relief beading”. This term is borrowed from printing crafts where protruding surface faces of the printing plate or block are inked while the recessed areas are ink free. Or, as it relates to bead embroidery, there are places where beads are applied, but also areas that are left bead free. As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of this primarily because I am suspicious of the sustainability of that open surface to remain clean and look good over a long period of time. However, it is an interesting technique with a unique look. The bracelet I saw was left open (unbeaded) to the edge and as a result, threads from stitching on the edge row were on display. Let’s just say I am NOT a fan of seeing threads when they are not a part of the design but simply a part of the construction process.
The threads bothered me. But I also know seeing things in person can be a totally different experience than seeing a picture of the same thing. I needed to do one myself and see this thread issue in person to really decide. While I was checking in with FieldsFabrics.com looking for sales on ultrasuede and I saw some “Faux Leather Look synthetic fabric” (like a vinyl) in burgundy that was interesting and a good price. I ordered. The good and bad thing about this vinyl was it was thin…. So it was easy to get a needle through it but was floppy so it would be difficult to manage tension while beading. Since I was going to do a metal cuff insert, I decided to leave it raw and bead it. Here is the bracelet:
This experiment was really about how I felt looking at this edge with the threads; to judge it in person so to speak. I decided I actually don’t like seeing the threads but, on the other hand, if the thread color is a good match it isn’t terribly offensive either, so it’s a judgment call. I think the obvious solution is to do a row of backstitch on the edge which will hide the threads. Technically, this would best be done before adding the backing and edge row but could also be done after… if you worked very carefully so the backside didn’t have lots of thread showing.
My goodness that piece I bought is big…. What to do with it?
I’ve had a design rumbling around in my head that might be a fun way to use this material. The design is a paneled collar. One of the things I tried to convey in Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects (BEJP) is a vocabulary and thought process for categories or types of designs. I find it useful to run through types of designs (pendant, totem, collar, bib, pieced collar, panel collar, etc.) in my search for what design to do. It isn’t unusual for me to first select the type of design and refine it from there. I love the concept of a paneled collar (pg 52); distinct design areas, comfortable to wear and doesn’t retain heat like a full collar. I want to take this concept and explore different shapes for the panels. In fact my head is seeing shapes so different from the project on pg 52, that, even though that's the design concept I want to use, I didn’t use it to develop my panels. Instead I drew a collar like on pg 80 and I reviewed the lesson for cut-outs on pg 91 and I’m ready. My plan is to attach the panels like the project on pg 52 so I don’t adhere strictly to the cut-out instructions.
Here is my design:
In terms of construction, the faux leather base material is very thin and, in my judgment, too thin to support my beading plan. So I first attach thin-weight ultra-suede to the back. I used SoFro fabric glue to attach it because it is a very thin runny glue which I knew I could spread very thin and it would stick. It worked great. Getting a needle through it was easier than some leathers I’ve worked with. You can see from the finished necklace that I did a row of backstitch around the edge to hide the threads from the edge beading and also hide the threads where the panels were attached to each other. I selected the sunshine edge stitch (aka brick stitch edge) for the edge for two reasons. First of all, that edge technique results in a stiffer final beadwork piece and I wanted that stiffness. Second, while I planned to combine only at the top, I wanted to have the option to stitch combination sections all the way down the panels and I didn’t want to decide till the end. I could have used the clean edge, but that is not as stiff and it doesn’t provide for a good base for combination. A raw sunshine edge is not optimal but, since this is a necklace it is acceptable and it has other advantages as previously mentioned.