A conversation with Melanie de Miguel

Learn more about what inspires this bead artist, the inventor of the Hubble stitch
Melanie de Miguel hero
Outer Limit cuffs by Melanie de Miguel, featured in her second book.

Melanie de Miguel did something that not many beaders can lay claim to: she invented her own bead weaving stitch! We had no idea that so many of our readers were so interested in Hubble stitch until our recent March Jewelry Making Madness Tournament, where Hubble stitch is a strong contender to be named the favorite technique of all of our readership. 

Melanie hails from Kent, and lives currently in Watford, Hertfordshire (both in the United Kingdom). Her background is in biochemistry and pharmacology, and she has worked as a science teacher. I reached out to Melanie via email to learn more about her life, her beadwork, and where she gets her inspiration.

Melanie de Miguel rope necklace
This 3-Drop Wave Hubble Rope necklace was a contribution from one of Melanie's project testers, Erika Simons.
All images are courtesy of Melanie de Miguel.
Melanie de Miguel Lets Hubble
Melanie's first book was published in the US by Interweave Press under the title Hubble Stitch, but it is no longer for sale on their website. Find new or used copies at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your local independent retailer. 

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO BEAD?

I was taught to loom weave on a Greek island, aged 10. I then began to pick up other beading skills in my teens; I taught myself the various beading stitches by following thread paths and mending damaged, antique beaded collars, bags, and jewelery that I had bought in antique fairs and flea markets. The trouble was I had no idea what the stitches were called. I joined the Beadworkers Guild in 1999 at the Great British Bead Show, and took a class in freeform brick stitch with Ann Mockford, who was a great teacher, and I was really surprised when I realised I knew the stitch.

The next day I took a class in freeform peyote, and realised I was familiar with that stitch too! At some point, people at the show saw pieces I had made and asked me to teach at the next show, and so it began. I was really excited and absolutely fired up for action, but rather scared that I would never be able to remember the names of all those beading stitches! In time I think I just somehow absorbed more and more stitch techniques.

IS THIS A HOBBY FOR YOU OR A FULL-TIME PROFESSION?

It started as a hobby but gradually took over my life, first with teaching, and then it really ramped up when I stumbled upon Hubble stitch and just had to share it with the beady world by writing Hubble Stitch 1 (known as Let’s Hubble! in the UK) and Hubble Stitch 2.

Melanie de Miguel Hubble Stitch 2 cover
Melanie de Miguel gold necklace and bracelet
Pieces demonstrating several variations of Melanie's sub-techniques. 

TELL US ABOUT HUBBLE STITCH. HOW DID YOU COME TO DEVELOP IT? WHY SHOULD PEOPLE TRY IT?

 

I’m all about the thread path and always have been; I love experimenting and the “what if….” thing. As often happens, Hubble stitch started with a serendipity moment and a very perky picot! I noticed some sad, droopy-looking picots on a bracelet I was designing, and wondered how I could perk them up. I added picot beads to a row of herringbone stitches and immediately they sat perkily, but then I needed to make a fanned-out clasp out of these stitches. Suddenly the Hubble stitch thread path simply happened.


Why try Hubble stitch? My mantra is that the more techniques you have under your belt, the more you can throw at a design idea to tailor it exactly to your vision. Each beadwork stitch confers its own unique orientations to the way the beads lie in relation to one another and I love the interplay between stitches when you blend them. The exciting thing about Hubble stitch is that each stitch within a row is connected to its neighbours simply by a thread, and not by a bead; that is what gives it the fabulous material-like, slinky quality. I’m still finding more and more exciting ways of using and varying Hubble stitch, particularly with regard to tiny chatons, which I’m calling "Chatonology" – the science from planet Hubble!

 

WHAT OTHER STITCHES DO YOU ENJOY USING IN YOUR BEADWORK?


I’ve got a modified brick stitch that I use a lot in bezelling cabochons, where you pass through a bead instead of under a thread – I call it "Up & Along" when I’m writing patterns. It’s very lacy and open, allowing you to see a lot more of the pretty cabochon and less heavy beadwork.

Melanie de Miguel drop earrings
These earrings are called Fans and appear in Melanie's first book. 
Melanie de Miguel several pieces
Various pieces contributed by one of Melanie's testers, Nitty Chamcheon.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MATERIALS TO USE IN YOUR WORK?

 I am known for using lots of size 15/0 Czech Charlottes (groan!), because they are just so very delicate and allow me to do finer, more detailed work. I also love using 4lb Fireline as it is so very versatile and goes through the Charlottes a number of times, easily.

I have been on a metallics spree for a few years now, but I am currently pushing my boundaries with some matte purples and turquoises.

SO, WHAT ABOUT TWO-HOLE BEADS? DO YOU USE THEM/ENJOY THEM?

I have played with them quite a bit with Hubble stitch – especially SuperDuos and Tilas. Interestingly, the distance between the holes of a two-hole bead is exactly the same as for two rows of basic Hubble stitch in size 11/0 beads. This makes them perfect for spacers when working in Horizontally Spaced Out (HorSO) Hubble!

Melanie de Miguel vertical green bracelet
The instructions for this bracelet, Sand Dollars, appear in Melanie's second book. 
Melanie de Miguel gold bracelet
The Wave Hubble Ropes bracelet features variations of the Melanie's sub-techniques.

DO YOU ENJOY ANY OTHER TYPE OF CRAFTING OR JEWELRY-MAKING THAT DOES NOT INVOLVE BEADS?

My second loves are knitting, crochet, and machine sewing, but I have so many beady ideas buzzing around my head that I rarely have time for them.


SO, TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORKSPACE. WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO BEAD?

My beady workspace is a "beading tower" where I stand and bead in the living room. My husband carves violins and guitars and is also into marquetry, and he often does that in the living room too. I’m happy not to have a studio as I like it when we’re working together.

When I’m writing up my patterns, I stand at my computer in our office, in the garden, and our cats, Jack and Charlie like to come in and keep me company, mostly sitting on my keyboard and completely blocking the screen. When I’m beading I love listening to music or a good audiobook.


NAME THE MOST UNUSUAL THING THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR STUDIO OR WORKSPACE. 

That would have to be the incredibly fine splinter scissors/pliers that were used in an Accident and Emergency department for my son. They extracted a splinter from his hand and were then going to throw them away, but I rescued them. They are absolutely brilliant for removing tiny fragments of broken needle or bead from difficult places in beadwork.


WHERE IS THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACE YOU’VE EVER BEADED? 

I had to mend a piece that I was displaying and there was nowhere to sit down in the display area, so I had to do a quick beady repair in a hotel loo – thank goodness it was all sparkly and clean! 

Melanie de Miguel green orange earrings
These Kelim earrings are featured in Melanie's second book. 

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK?


Oh my goodness! From everywhere! I am mad about the different historical styles of jewellery. And then there are the fabulous colours, spirals, geometric and molecular shapes you find in biology, maths and chemistry. The list just goes on and on, and there simply aren’t enough hours in a day!

SO WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON? NEW PATTERNS/BOOKS?


I am just putting the finishing touches to a book due to be released in September, 2018, but I can’t say any more about it!

 

We're so pleased to know more about Melanie. Want to learn even more? You can visit Melanie's website, her Facebook page, or YouTube channel! She's also on Twitter and Instagram under the name BeadschoolMel. 

FIND MORE: bead weaving , beads

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