Friday, 31 August 2012

Giveaway notice

Well, after having spent time doing everything from sorting out my parents' new computer (the one I'm sitting on right now so it was partially selfish reasons for doing it) to judging finalist entries in a swedish beading contest where I'm a juror, I know what I'll do this weekend -- I'm going to start a few new embroidery projects (must begin doing something for the sequin blog hop). And... preparing for a new giveaway!I'm so excited. I love giving stuff away.

And, no, the giveaway doesn't have anything to do with the photo. I just didn't have a relevant pic to illustrate the post and so added this image instead. You might recognize the scene from this post. The photos are rather big so be sure to click on them for a full-scale view.

I'm digressing. Being too chatty. So -- back to the giveaway.

This post is really just a notice that you might not want to miss my posts -- on this blog and/or Manekis Pärlblogg -- next week if you're interested in a chance to win a bead embroidery book (that's all I'm revealing right now, got to keep you curious, right?). And if you know someone who might want to win, it's not too early to let them know about the upcoming giveaway. I really hope I'll be able to have everything sorted so the giveaway will be published next Friday or there around. Not a promise because you never know what can get in the way, but fingers crossed...

Since the giveaway will run on both my blogs, I'm going to do a (bilingual) form rather than have people write a comment to enter. That way all entries are in one place and there's no worries on how to merge entries into one list, nor do I have to refer readers of one blog to the other in order to enter. Haven't planned on doing the whole "spread the word and get more entries" even though it's a good way to encourage people to spread the word. Basically trying to make sure I don't break some stupid lottery law, especially now that the prize is sponsored by someone other than myself. Anyone got opinions or suggestions on how I've planned the giveaway, you're welcome to voice them (this weekend, later is too late). As usual, you can always e-mail me if you don't want to write a public comment.

Same pic, different colourway

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review: One Bead at a Time

Earlier this summer I began thinking about posting my book reviews not just on Manekis Pärlblogg, but also here. In English. So here you are, my book reviews -- now also available in English. First book to be reviewed is Robin Atkins' One Bead at a Time. And as usual when I start writing, it never ends. I don't do short reviews.

Title: One Bead at a Time. Exploring Creativity with Bead Embroidery
Author: Robin Atkins
Publisher and year: Tiger Press, 1997
No. of pages: 56
Summary: Book on improvised embroidery and the positive effects of creativity.
Pros: Unique approach compared to other books on the subject. Encouraging and full of food for thought.
Recommended for: Those interested in the liberating and healing process of creating with your own hands. 

In 1997, american bead artist Robin Atkins wrote her first book, One Bead at a Time. After several printings, she decided not to print any new editions but instead publish it as a e-book (pdf format), available for free at her website. To download you own copy, click here.

One Bead at a Time is a different kind of bead book. It doesn't focus on techniques and projects -- even if a stitch guide and practical advice on supplies are included -- but on the creative process and also the therapeutical properties that can be found in creative arts and crafts. It might sound lofty or spaced out when I put it like that, but this is very much a down-to-earth , practical guide. A perfect little book for those interested in exploring their creativity and feeling by creating art using beads, needle and thread. Even if you prefer other beading or jewellery-making techniques than bead embroidery, the thoughts on how to overcome creative blocks and freeing your creativity could be inspiring and useful.

The book has two pervasive themes. The first part of the book is all about finding your own creativity and start creating. Atkins wants to fill you with a "just do it" attitude, encouraging the reader so he or she can break through that all too common wall of self-critisism, doubts and negative thoughts that keeps us from indulging in creativity and creating art. The permissive approach is important in the book: it's ok to hoard beads that won't be used, it's ok to just look at the treasures, it's ok not to plan ahead, it's ok not to feel pressured into selling, it's ok to stitch however you want. There is no wrong way to bead. The author wants creativty beading to be without demands or rules: don't overthink it as it can create blocks and self-critisism, just sit down with some beads, a scrap of fabric and needle and thread -- and start beading. Now. Focus on the process, not the result -- that will come by itself.

Atkins encourage a unbridled creativity and freedom to dare create freely, without limitations as ideas of right or wrong in the choice of materials, techniques or colour combinations -- controlling the work can suffocate the inspiration. Dare is an important word as it's very much about daring to go outside the safe but narrow framework that's been building up around us as we grow up. It's about following impulses instead of rules on what's appropriate, correct, tasteful or safe. For what comes uncensored from the heart is always beautiful as it's inspired and by focusing on the heart's voice we can break through negativities that block our creativity.

The second theme of the book is healing, meditative and therapeutical effects of the spontaneous or improvised beading. How the not preplanned work that lets the heart and soul decide can create a harmonious flow or release emotions. How the creative process can be used to work through difficult events in life. Examples mentioned in the book are transitions in life, the death of a family member, depressions and more. The book doesn't claim this is an easy process and it is sometimes about recognizing blocks and working through them. It might sound very theoretical or spaced out, but it's not -- many,who began to bead (or crochet, embroider, knit, paint etc) during a tough period in life, can tell about how the hobby became a life line.

The book contains many photos or improvised beadwork, made by the author herself or by her students. A number of the works are mentioned in the text, discussing the origin and process behind them. There are stories about students who were helped by this creative process and Atkins also dare to expose herself, telling personal stories from her own life and how the improvised beading process helped her. These concrete examples makes the book an encouraging, practical guide to the creative process. The book is based on real experiences and a genuine wish to spread the ideas of the ability to, through beads, express yourself directly from the heart and soul -- and the positive, healing power that can be found in such beading -- to beaders of all skill levels. The book wants to inspire and it does.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Martagon lily

I think I've forgot to show these photos. Edited and ready, they've been forgotten for some time now. The lilies bloomed in late June and since there hasn't been many martagon pics on this blog, I thought it was a nice flower to feature one day.

So here they are, memories of a summer that's soon gone.

The latin and english name, Martagon, sounds like a man's name in a fantasy novel, don't you think? It's also called Turk's cap lily in English and martagon is believed to stem from a turkish name for a turban. In Swedish it's known as krollilja, named after how the petals curl when the buds open.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Meowy Monday: Cat photo of the week

This week's cat photos are all about Mimi. If you've followed this blog for a long time, you might have seen her before. This time I had my sis' camera out as I just had to capture the colourful clouds as the sun began to set. Mimi came with me and climbed up the small ash tree by the driveway. She looked so cute, I had to get some pics. Just room for a couple of more photos on the memory card, she decided to make feat even harder by refusing to sit still for five minutes -- and when sitting still, she was either obscured by leaves or turning her back on me. And then there were all the times she ended up way too close as she had to sniff the camera or wanted to be scratched behind the ear.

So this is what I ended up with. Two photos that sums up cat photography perfectly, don't you think?

It looks like she has no tail and only one hind leg!

Let's hope for better luck next time, shall we?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sequin waste patterns

Expensive designer lampshade? No, roll of sequin waste (three layers) in plastic bag.

I guess I should be working on something neat for the Sequintastic September blog hop or at least finish my bead embroidery, twin bracelet or catch up on TAST. Or do a monthly design challenge piece. But since losing Sötis and Vitfluff, some of the creative energy just seemed to seep out, like a balloon slowly deflating. And without a camera, I have one less creative outlet, the one that I always turned to when too jaded for anything else. Compared to embroidery and seedbeading, photo was and is my place to go to for some instant satisfaction.

I'm not going to moan my way through this post, though. I did get most of that out in Tuesday's post and today I feel better. Tired, but not sad. (And earlier this week I got some fun news in my inbox -- not saying anything yet, but it might be fun news for my blog readers too...) In fact, the idea for this post was to show some pics, hoping they'll inspire me. And perhaps you too?

After signing up for Saturday Sequins' Sequintastic September, I couldn't help myself. I did a little shopping. Inspired by the pics in Hazel Everett's book Goldwork (fab book, if even remotely interested in goldwork embroideyr you should buy it!), I wanted not just sequins, but also sequin waste (aka punchinella). On page 81 (see e.g. the preview), she shows some examples of how to use the waste, creating new patterns by layering the material slightly offset.

Sequin waste, I should perhaps explain, is the perforated plastic strips left after the sequins have been punched out (as seen in the photo above). Amongst crafters it's sometimes better known as punchinella. Round holes are the most common, but sequin waste or punchinella is also available in other designs. A few years back it was popular among scrappers and card makers, but it's also used in e.g. embroidery and as a tool to create textures in friendly plastic (Liz Welch's ooze technique) or as a stencil for stamping and painting. It can pretty much be used in all crafts, one way or another. You can find it in some craft and scrapbooking shops as well as in shops specializing in sequins.

Below are some pics I took of layered sequin waste and the different patterns that emerge when just slightly changing the position of the two layers. As seen in the first photo in this post, you can also add more layers as well as make geps between the layers for dimensional effects.

First I just saw BMW logos, then the flowers appeared.

On the right, I sense a very retro pattern. 60's or something?

Has anyone else used sequin waste/punchinella? I'd love to see pics. Especially if it's jewellery as I've mostly found emroidery and paper craft creations so far. Surely, someone must use this interesting material in jewellery.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

August bead soup palette (part 4)

This is the last weekly palette, from now on it's back to the standard schedule again on my other blog, which means monthly palettes. I did intend to do another bead mix this week, but due to the camera incident, I had had to change things a bit. So this week's mix ended up being an autumnal pearl blend.

I will stop moaning about colours looking better IRL, but it is worth mentioning in this case: the heather and burgundy looks better together than the photo might suggest. Some don't like mixing red and purple. As neighbours on the colour wheel, they do match, but it's very much about finding the right hues. In this mix, the dark brown pearls also help softening the mix. If you really don't want to mix the two, the brown pearls look good with just the red or the purple too.

What about the future monthly palettes now that I have no camera? Well, I'm still hoping to find a nice and cheap used camera soon, but there's also my sis' camera that I probably will get more used too -- and I'm thinking of using some of my older bead photos that have been published on this blog before. Only problem is that I don't always have the exact bead colour names and I really do want to use them whenever I can.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Random bead photos -- and a rant

The photo above is one I took for a forthcoming blog post on my other blog (stones sold as jasper, but aren't really). One of the last bead photos taken with my camera.

I've tried to take bead photos with my sis' camera too, but just don't feel they turn out the way I want. First of all, she doesn't have a minimum focus distance (närgräns) of 1 cm like. She isn't sure exactly what it is on her camera, perhaps even as much as 10 cm, all I know is that I can't be as close to the beads as I'm used to. Also, I can't change the white balance when using macro on her camera. Which annoys me a lot as the automatic WB doesn't always work well in some lights. Also it makes me think of the fact that the one not-too-expensive camera I've found with similar features as my Z3 (1 cm min. focal lenght, 12x zoom, P mode etc etc), the one camera I've found I could perhaps buy within a few months, is constructed just like her camera. I can't shoot macro i P mode, according to Canon's costumer service, which is usually the setting you have to use to be able to change the white balance. So one camera had all I wanted. Or so I thought and when asking about it and receiving a negative reply, I was so disappointed. Stupid cameras...

Above are two bead photos taken with her camera. The best ones, which neede balancing the white balance and tweaking the exposure more than usual. Maybe I'm overcritical. Maybe it's just that I'm upset and tired what with Sötis and Vitfluff. Maybe it's just that it takes a little time to get used to a new camera, especially getting used to the less stellar min. focus distance. Maybe I'm just to attached to my old Konica Minolta Dimage Z3 and to its -- in my view -- better and more predictable results. And it's a bit unfair using these unsual matt-finish beads as an example. But I'm just not pleased with the pics I get. Landscape pics are ok; they're pretty easy and mostly a matter of getting the exposure right. It's the close-ups I don't like the look of. You know, the kind of photos that make up pretty much 95 % of my other blog's and perhaps (including macro shots of flowers) 60-70 % of this blog's image collection. Photography turns into frustration rather than fun right now. So I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself.

PS! Do you think many people would big on a used Z5? I just bidded 116 SEK for one on Tradera. Stupid as I don't know the seller and can't inspect the camera? Perhaps, but if it just last a few months it would still be ok value. It's within my budget and a so-so old Z-series is better than no camera. Keep you fingers crossed. For both that I'll be lucky in the bidding and win it dirt cheap and that the condition is ok. ;) Not making any illusions, though. Have lost many auctions before (one for the most fab embroidery book, Bonniers stora bok om broderi -- that was sad).

Monday, 20 August 2012

Meowy Monday: Cat photo of the week

First I wanted to show pics of Vitfluff today, but I felt it was too sad a way to start a week. So instead I'm showing two pics of Snuttis -- which means that she's been featured in three of four Meowy Mondays. Hope the others don't get too jealous.

Many years ago, the local power company "dug down" the the overhead power lines, replacing them with cables. At the time, many wondered why the phone company didn't seize the opportunity to switch from phone lines in the air to protected underground cables. Our cats were very thankful they didn't as they love the phone and electricty poles, losing the wooden electricity poles, at least they still had two phone poles to use as scratching posts and to climb up. In fact, a few of our cats have actually climbed all the way up!

This was Snuttis' first try at climbin the phone pole. She got to about my eye height before stopping. (Not scared, just bored, she tells me to make clear to you.) Julle, Jinja and Jisse were also around, both showing the kittens how it's done and how much better they, the big cats, are at climbing.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

More sad cat news

For next week's Meowy Monday, I was going to share a little surprise. Another kitten I doubt I mentioned when Sötis had died and one that did show up in the kitten pics here.

I was going to tell you about the adorable little furball called Vitfluff, Lille Plutt (= "little runt") -- yeah, even less of a name than Snuttis and Ullegull, not even one name. How Plutten had a rocky start as an unusually tiny kitten with a neglecting mum and us worrying about if they were really healthy, but managed to survive as the only one in a litter of four. Growing slowly, but at least it seemed that we didn't have to fear anything too serious due to the difficulty to get the mum to feed her kittens nor showing any signs of innate damages.

Plutten had also started to play a bit with Ullegull, Sötis (at the beginning, before his fatal accident) and Snuttis. Sure, they were much bigger and the roughhousing was a bit too much at times, but at least the little runt didn't have to feel too lonly without siblings and a mum only occasionally appearing. Plutten did feel left out sometimes as all the other cats jumped up in our beds to sleep, cuddle, play, feed (the kittens on their mums) -- but would let us know with loud meows so we could act as personal elevators. For my sister's bed, we installed a flat scratching post as a ramp, which made it much easier for the little one to join the others. And soon someone learnt how to climb up the side of the beds too. Very cute to look at because their was so much determination and toil involved.

I was going to tell about the special little things Plutten did. All cats have a special thing or manner. E.g. Plutten liked to sit on our clogs all the time, whether we had our feet in them or not. Other cats love to play with clogs, but we've never had a "clog sitter": Sometimes I'd also call the kitty Pig because of the horrible table manner: paws and face dug into the food, growling at anyone daring to get near. Especially bad idea if you're a long-haired cat (one of the reasons for the lack of photos of Vitfluff so far is that someone simply was too dirty to publish photos off as our photo sessions often occured after a meal...) -- and even more so if you're a long-haired cat with a neglecting mum that doesn't want to help you to clean yourself. The runt was also constantly hungry and always demanded early breakfast by standing next to our beds meowing loudly until we woke up and caved in.

I was going to tell all that. But then something happened. On Friday morning, we were woken by a loud cry. I could hear who it was and soon noticed it wasn't the usual martyr cry of a kitten starving to death, but a cry of pain. When reaching my sister's bedroom, where Plutten used to sleep, I saw something so scary. I saw Plutten in some sort of fit. When the fit subsided we were so glad that it was over. Plutten was weak, but at least seemed to respond and after awhile started to purr a bit. Then came a second fit, a worse one. In the end, Plutten looked at us, struggled to breathe for a few seconds -- and died.

No idea what happened. Was it a disease, something innate, an exposure to something (don't trust dad not to use pesticides near the kittens)? Some days before something happened that we of cause now know was a first sign: we found Vitfluff, who had been outdoors enjoying the sun and been with the other cats, weak and appearing to have lost all sense of balance. Not having seen what had happened and seeing how the little one made a full recovery after being fed (nothing wrong with that voracious appetite) and resting for an hour or two, we thought it was a combination of strong sun and too little to drink. It was a real scare, but seeing no further signs of anything being wrong in the kitten that for the rest of the night ran around playing as always, we never went to the vet for a check up... Now we of cause wonder if what we saw was the result of a first episode.

The kittens have missed our little sweetie and we're glad they at least are two, not losing their only playmate. Before he died, Sötis used to sleep with his head on Vitfluff. Now they'll have each other again in cat heaven (there's nothing strange about an atheist believing in cat heaven, you know).

A tiny kitten that's left a big void.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

August bead soup palette (part 3)

Good thing I'd prepared a few palettes before the camera broke... This week I focused on two summer colours: green and blue. Couldn't pick which palette to publish so I did two. Two simple mixes with one green and one blue tone.

Above I use a slightly greenish blue and a slightly blueish green. Below I used another blue-green hue, minty pacific opal, mixed with two different blues. (Note that I use Preciosa's pacific opal, which isn't exactly the same hue as Swarovski's.)

You can also create an analog colour combination by adding more hues that lie between the green and the blue you chose. Hues like blue turquoise, green turquoise, teal, petroleum/petrol, erinite, jade, mint, seafoam etc -- exactly which ones to use depends on the beads you use as a starting point. Then you won't get a blue and green palette, but rather a blue-green one.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Meowy Monday: cat photo of the week

Ah, it's monday. I should be posting cat pics, not photos with cows today, right? This week I'm focusing on last year's litter: Jisse, Jinja and Julle. And an old windmill.

The miniature windmill was a birthday gift for dad from some friends (they could be spotted in many gardens back then). Not intended as a playhouse for cats I'm sure, but the kitties soon learned that this was a great place for play and hiding. They hide inside the mill -- easier for kittens, but the big ones also like to lie in there -- balance on the wooden ledge and jump up on the  moving roof. Some even dare to touch the wings when they're spinning. Most of them only do that once...

For those of you who haven't followed my blog for some time and for those of you who don't remember the name of our cats, I could add that it's Jisse up on the ledge in the pic above and Julle (with the white spot on the nose) inside the mill. Below you see Jinja on top of the windmill.

Jinja didn't want company.

An evening in June

Now that I don't take (many) new photos, I'm looking through old ones. This is one such photo, taken back in June. There's nothing like taking pics on June evenings and nights. The nights are bright (dusk turning into dawn with no real night inbetween as Harry Martinson wrote), the twilight long and often you get mist -- as in my blog header -- or a romantic sun haze as above. And the cows are out, the hay is cut, the weather can be warm and the winds gentle.

PS! I added two new labels, cows and garden, but I'm not really going to go over all 618 published posts to label all garden-related posts correctly so flora is still the tag to use if looking for garden flower pics. Nor do I think I can find all posts with cows as I don't always write what's in the photos, making it hard to search for old posts.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The bead embroidered mystery gift

Well, without a camera I don't have many new pics, but of cause I have loads of old ones. I always keep moaning about forgetting to post things I want to show etc -- now maybe I'll have some time to catch up. (Of cause I've already taken new photos as I "borrowed" my sis' camera yesterday in my patent move, which basically means she takes pics -- I ask for the camera to take a pic from my perspective -- we share it -- I end up hogging it. *lol* Yeah, she isn't thrilled about me doing that...)

Anyway, one series of photos I've been meaning to show you is this one, which you might have spotted on Flickr or a couple of embroidery forums.

My sis and me recently got this embroidered object from a woman who thought we might want to "harvest" the beads for our own beading. I think it's a shame to rip up this pretty beadwork and want to keep it even if I can't restore it. 

My sis was the once receiving it so I had to opportunity to ask about the piece at the time. So after a while I started posting pics online asking for more info, but without much success. I had asked my sis to talk to the person givining it to her to see if we could learn more about the origin and what it really was. Yesterday my sis remembered the giver having mentioned that it was a backseat. So it's part of a chair, but what kind of chair I wonder? Don't know anything about age or origin either. Don't even know if it's european or east asian (the giver have spent many years over there).

A bit about the piece: The technique is bead embroidery, using different stitches such as satin, stem, back stitch, with a needlepoint background stitched on canvas. Note that the beading isn't done on top of the needlepoint embroidery, but the needlepoint is stitched around the beadwork. Beads used are crystal clear and white and light grey opal and opaque seed beads with accents in haematite cuts. The flowers are padded with a thick, hard felt material. It is backed with what seems like a waxed or in other way treated cloth (see below). The size is about 46 x 23 cm. Weight -- don't know, but relatively heavy.

rip in the back shows canvas and stitches

Ok, the back is boring if you aren't interested in old embroidery so let's get on with more close-ups of the bead embroidery, shall we? Keep in mind that it is a piece in dire need of repairs so all pics aren't pretty -- and many of them were taken more in order to document the techniques used than anything else. If you enjoy bead embroidery and are interested in beading techniques, I hope these close-ups will be of interest to you. The rest of you can joy enjoy the workmanship and labour behind this amazing embroidery.

PS! For a really large pic of the whole embroidery, please see my Flickr page.

Notice gap i bottom left corner where you can see how the beadwork is done directly on the canvas.
Large leaf (left) has a chain stitch vein.

chain stitch flower with padded centre

close-up of padded centre with stitches attaching it visible.

Notice how the stems/stalks on the left overlap each other

padded buds or bell flowers -- not sure exactly what they are.

Thick padded flower with chain stitch centre

ribbons stitched in two colours

Hope you enjoyed the many pics -- and please do comment if you have any further info on this embroidery! I want to know more about it.
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