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The Frog Prince

Bead embroidery magic turns this frog into a prince

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.

The Frog Prince a simple plan
A simple plan
I drew right on the Lacy’s in pencil, then drew over it in pen when the design was finalized.
The Frog Prince tool time
Tool time
Note the professional use of the Hacky Sack ball to hold needles. Diane Hyde’s Designer’s Workpads are the most important invention of our time, ranking slightly under microwave popcorn. I’m wearing magnifiers called OptiVisors, which became a permanent fixture on my head. Co-workers pretended not to notice them in the halls throughout the day. I find this disturbing.
The Frog Prince advance planning
Advanced planning
Terri’s threading clinic. Too bad I cut the thread between the spool and the needles. When she had the nerve to go on vacation, I had to learn to do it myself.
The Frog Prince Beaded Backstitch
Beaded backstitch
This is the main stitch I used. To attach the crystals and the flowers, I came up through the Lacy’s where I wanted the element to sit and strung a large crystal and a 15/0, then came down through the crystal. By the time I was done beading around them, I had knocked these crystals over so many times they were loose, and I had to cut them out and re-sew them back on.
The Frog Prince so much for the plan
So much for the plan
It didn’t take long to leave the original pattern behind. Even after moving to smaller beads, I could see that they would still be too big to fit the pattern. I simply abandoned the pattern and just had fun beading freeform.
The Frog Prince large elements
Large elements
I liked beading several large elements and then filling in around them. Lucky for me, I didn’t cut the Lacy’s right at the border of the leaf because I ended up beading all the way to the edge. Next time, I’ll make sure to leave even more room around the edges.
The Frog Prince placements
Proper placement
When filling in, get the beads as close to each other as possible. You can use an awl or even a T-pin to snug the beads up against each other and position your line if you don’t have a solder pick (pictured). It was a challenge to get the lines to curve smoothly. For the really tight circles, I backstitched one bead at a time.
 
The Frog Prince front to back
Front to back
After finishing the embroidery, I attached the frog. I liked this part because after you back the Lacy’s with Ultrasuede, your piece really starts to feel substantial as you sew it together. It’s also reminiscent of Oreos.
 
The Frog Prince edging
Edging
This really makes the piece look like more than a couple of patches sewn together. It was tricky to get the rows to stand up straight when edging the cutaway sections. This was one instance when I should have stuck to the plan and kept a clean, left-hand curve.
The Frog Prince fringe
Fringe
With a table full of crystals sitting in front of me, it was easy to get out-of-hand with the fringe, so I did. I even added some coming out of the flowers. I also added some small brass bells in the mix. The hardest part was keeping the back looking neat. Once you back the embroidery with Ultrasuede, any new stitching will be visible. 
The Frog Prince tubing
Tubing
This was used for the endcaps and the section that supports the bail. It’s available at any home improvement center and comes in a variety of diameters. It’s inexpensive and easy to cut.
The Frog Prince netted tube
Netted tube
Because the lampwork flower was fairly heavy, I wanted something that would support and stabilize the bail. It also needed to have a large enough opening to allow the macramé cords to pass through.
The Frog Prince simple netting
Simple netting
Simple netting – I used netting to cover the tube, leaving the ends open to be covered with fringe. No matter how thick your tube is, simply encircle it with an even-number of beads. Go through the first bead, string three beads, skip the next bead, and go through the third bead in the row. After you’ve completed Row 2, step up to the middle bead in the three-bead section, add three beads, and connect them tip to tip.
The Frog Prince bail
Bail
 As you can see, it was easy to deviate from my original bail pattern as well. Being able to adapt the design to work with the piece as it evolves is part of the fun.
The Frog Prince putting it together
Putting it together
 After beading the bail, I wrapped it around the netted tube and sewed it closed. There was no need to back it with Ultrasuede. Then I sewed the longer, front section to the top of the leaf.
The Frog Prince details
Details
Fringe covers the end of the netted tube and edges the bail. I backstitched another row of beads to cover the seam created when the leaf and bail were attached. 
 
The Frog Prince endcap
Endcap
I did even-count circular peyote around the tube (How-Tos), then stitched the top closed.. After beading the tube, I attached a row of fringe to the bottom and another row to the top.
 
The Frog Prince putting it together
Macramé necklace
I tied four cords to a wrapped loop at the end of a piece of 20-gauge wire, glued the knot, and left the tails long. I did a simple macramé spiral, which is just the first half of a square knot repeated and intermittently added beads on the middle two strands. I also added lampwork and furnace glass beads, and a vermeil bead on each end of the tube to keep it all centered.
The Frog Prince the end
The end
After fringing the endcap, I tied beads to the cord tails with overhand knots. I pulled the wire up through the endcap, added a lampwork bead and a crystal, and attached the toggle with a wrapped loop. I added two dangles at the base of the toggle.
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