Editor's note: this hilarious exploration of the wonderful world of bead embroidery was written when Debbie was on staff here at Bead&Button magazine. I wish I had been here to see it! -kk
After running several articles featuring bead embroidery techniques, we decided to try a piece of our own. We’d seen the masterpieces by Sherry Serafini, Heidi Kumli, and others. We’d examined them and marveled. We’d tested the directions and written that with a few stitches, you could make one, too. But could we prove it?
In our Monday morning meeting this idea met with silence and no volunteers. Bleary-eyed from a late night of hockey and post-game developments at Liquid Johnnie’s, I stepped up. The initial enthusiastic outburst dwindled as we wondered if an inexperienced seed beader like myself could do it.
I promised simplicity. I’d make a pattern and stick to a plan. At the time, it seemed like a good, even comforting idea: me, the Jane Austin heroine, with my hair in ringlets and crisp Empire-waist pinafore, quietly embroidering by the fire waiting for Hugh Grant and his inheritance to ride up and propose. I could do that.
I started with my focal piece, a carved Tagua nut frog pendant from Red Horse Ranch, and designed leaf and bail patterns on a piece of Lacy’s Stiff Stuff. With an assortment of beads, crystals, and glass flowers on hand, I set to work. I always thought the best way to avoid threading needles was to stop wearing shirts that had buttons. Woefully unprepared for the rigorous threading that lay ahead, a fellow editor nimbly threaded the entire packet of #13s for me in a minute.
It was time to bead. I backstitched the first line, thereby signaling the end of my celebrated plan. As soon as those beads hit the Lacy’s, nothing else mattered. The way the colors played off each other, I could see why so many painters are attracted to this technique. After the first hour, I abandoned the 11/0s, got some magnifiers, and went to 15/0s. After a week, the 15/0s felt like baseballs, and I wanted to go even smaller. I was obsessed. I spent more time wearing magnifiers than I did wearing shoes. Beads were all over my house. They were in my hockey skates and among my unopened mail. A 15/0 hit me in the forehead when I turned on the garbage disposal. I didn’t care. When Sherry Serafini named one of her pieces My Insanity, I thought she was simply describing how the beads combined to form such crazy patterns. Now I know better.