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Monday, March 26, 2018

My Froggy of Friendship


     Now that Spring is here, it is time to show you my latest bead embroidery effort.  It is special to me because when I look at it, I think of the friends who were involved in it's making.  A few years ago, my friend Stephney Hornblow gave me a stuffed, toy frog left from a challenge among her beading circle in Barton-under-Needwood, England.  Stephney had opened a seam in each animal toy, removed the sand inside, and replaced it with a lighter stuffing; then each group member chose an animal and covered it with beads.

Froggy with no beads
     As soon as I saw the frog among my choices of toy animals, I knew what I wanted to do.  Years ago, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden had done a topiary frog and I was reminded of that botanical creation when my friend Suzanne and I ran across a succulent topiary cat as we were walking to the studio of our friend Stephanie Tomalin.  So I immediately thought of doing a succulent frog in beads when I was offered my choice of animals.

Succulent cat in progress
     In 2016, I had fun shopping for shaped beads that reminded me of the leaves of succulent plants while visiting the booths of my friend Beki Haley of Whim Beads, Betcey Ventrella of  Beyond Beadery, and Leslie Pope of Twisted Sistah Beads and Fibers. 
     Professional and family commitments kept me from starting on the frog until last year, but I finally had a chance to start the embroidery- 3 times.  The oft-forgotten truth of doing something new is that it might require many tries until you are happy with the results.  When I got to the point where I wasn't sure what I had, I was grateful that my friends Nikia Angel of Bead Gypsies and Judith Schwab of Bodacious Beads independently gave me encouragement.  It's always nice to have others let you know that you are on the right track!
      I started the embroidery with the most important part: the "succulents" on the back of the frog; the next step was to fill in around each "plant."

The start of the "succulents"
        I started sewing lines of beads to mimic the wire structure of a topiary but it didn't work, so I sewed a line of green beads along the seam of the toy between top and bottom to lend some definition.

Outlining the shape with beads
     After that, I figured out smaller groups of "plants" for the limbs and then the "greenery" for the feet.

Smaller plants on limbs and filling in the moss

     My plan had been to do a taller "plant" to fill in between the "succulents," but longer "leaves" obscured the fun groups of beads, so the shorter "plant" won out.

Filling in the head

     For the bottom of the topiary frog, I played with varying the length of the fringe for the "moss" to give it more interest, but I couldn't resist a "volunteer plant" because you know that real plants love to keep spreading.

The "moss" on the bottom of the frog
     To top it off, Don took a photo of the frog socks for sale at the New York Botanical Garden's shop because they complemented my new frog so well.

Now Froggy sits front and center in the china cabinet to remind me of the positive force of beadwork in my life.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Bead Crochet Stitches Revisted: Slip Stitch, Single Crochet, What's in a Name?

 My friend Judith Bertoglio-Giffin of Bead Line Studios contacted me recently to say that she had seen a new video entitled Double Euro Harness Bead Crochet and wondered if this was really a new stitch or if people were just adding names to established stitches.  I took a look and, indeed, people are adding names to established stitches, resulting in more confusion about bead crochet.

 So, let's try to lessen some of the confusion with an illustrated comparison of the 2 bead crochet stitches that masquerade under so many names. There are plenty of free tutorials on the web that take more time to teach you each stitch; my purpose is just to show the anatomy of each stitch so that we are all talking about the same thing.

When crocheting a tube with beads, there are 2 main methods of construction used today.  The one that most beaders in the U.S. learn first is:

                         SLIP STITCH BEAD CROCHET
My first bead crochet bracelets

   This is often just called bead crochet or tubular bead crochet, but a more accurate name in the U.S. and slip stitch bead crochet.  Why do I mention the U.K.?  Because crochet stitches have different names depending on which country you are in; this stitch happens to have the same name in both countries.  For our purposes, here is the anatomy of this stitch:

1.  The foundation row is made by sliding a bead down close to the hook and doing a chain stitch over the bead.

Slide a bead down, wrap thread around hook

Pull thread through loop on hook

Foundation row completed
2.  Every other row is worked under the thread that runs through the hole in the bead.

Hook going under the thread that runs through the bead and
on the side of the bead that is farthest from your hand.

  Slide a bead down close to the hook

Wrap thread around the hook

Pull thread under both loops on the hook

Now let's compare slip stitch with single crochet with beads.


Part of the confusion surrounding this bead crochet stitch comes from the fact that no common term has caught on.  When I was writing Bead Crochet Snakes, the stitch was know as bead single crochet, single bead crochet, and single crochet with beads.  To make things more confusing, the American single crochet stitch is known as a double crochet stitch in the U.K.  In the U.S., new bead crocheters without a foundation in plain crochet started calling this stitch European crochet because "they do it in Europe;" that term has apparently been shortened to euro bead crochet. 

The new video entitled "Double Euro Harness Bead Crochet" is apparently referring to the English term of double crochet.  I looked at the Russian video that calls the stitch "Harness Bead Crochet" and it seems that the phrase is a translation problem since the video also refers to the finished necklace as a harness (which is known as a rope among English-speaking beaders).  You can even find a video entitled "Knitting Harness Beaded Crochet."  What?

So what stitch do all these names refer to?  Let's look at single crochet with beads and see how it differs from slip stitch.

The foundation row is exactly the same as for the slip stitch with beads: slide a bead down and chain over it.
Slide a bead down, wrap thread around hook

Pull thread through loop on hook

Foundation row completed

Take a look at the back of the foundation row and notice the teardrop-shaped chains behind the bead: these are where the crochet hook goes in.  In this example, the stitch will be worked through the top thread of the loop.  More about that later.

Put hook through top thread of the loop behind the bead, slide
 bead down towards the hook, wrap thread around the hook

Pull wrapped thread through the top loop of chain behind the
bead so that you have 2 loops on the crochet hook

Wrap the thread around the crochet hook again and

  pull it through both loops on the hook

The stitch is complete

Some completed stitches seen from the back of the work.
Notice in the last photo (above) that you have made another row of teardrop-shaped chains behind the green beads; the next row is worked into the top of those chains, just like the 1st row.


You can actually work the single crochet with beads stitch 4 different ways depending on whether you go under 1 loop of the chains behind the beads or both loops and whether you bring the bead down before or after you make the 2nd thread loop on the crochet hook.

Each method results in the beads being in a different position, affecting the structure of the tube, how much the tube spirals, and what patterns you can work into your tube.  Here is a photo from Bead Crochet Snakes that show the same pattern done in each of the 4 different methods of single crochet with beads.
Photo from Bead Crochet Snakes showing 4 methods of single crochet
with beads

Which is better, slip stitch or single bead crochet?  Depends on what you want to do.  Slip stitch bead crochet has less thread showing between the beads and produces a sturdy (sometimes stiff) rope, but it is very hard to increase and decrease with this stitch.  The beads sit half a bead over from the previous row, resulting in a pronounced spiral, which restricts the type of decorative patterning you can do.

Single crochet with beads has more thread showing between the beads than slip stitch, but the "hand" of the finished tube is more supple.  You can do 3-dimensional shapes with this stitch because it allows easier for increasing and decreasing.  You can also do a different kind of decorative patterning with this stitch.

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion around tubular bead crochet.  Now I am going back to work on my pattern for a bead crochet rose.

Happy Beading!