I suppose pattern books may help?

EDIT: 2-28-21, 12:33 AM: By the way, yes, I do know not to use other peoples’ patterns for profit without permission. I just now realized that I hadn’t included this information. The line between technique and pattern is still somewhat blurry for me, but I’m sure I’ll understand it more, the more I work on my own designs.

It’s been…an interesting few days since I posted. In the meantime, I’ve made another bracelet with the same construction method as last time, which looks very different because of the color scheme I used (bluish red through blue-violet, analogous). When working from a known pattern (in this case, my own), most of the things I learn — aside from color interactions — relate to quality and efficiency. And, perhaps, that I can use beads I never thought I’d use. I am getting better at doing this; still, I know I need to factor in time for original design work, so that I’m not doing the same patterns, just in different colors, all the time.

One of the goals I set for myself in starting this website was to try and write about learning how to design on my own. What I was thinking while at work recently, was that a lot of techniques, I initially learned through following other peoples’ patterns. It isn’t that I have the pattern memorized; it’s that I know the technique and why and how it works.

Something as simple as embellished right-angle weave (RAW) is something that’s stuck in my mind, because I learned how to do it at a young age (though back then, I’m not sure I knew it was RAW: the method of construction also obscured its origins as something that at least could have been easily reproduced with RAW and a simple edging technique). Then there is crossweave technique (another method of embellishing RAW)…which I didn’t realize was probably in practicality akin to being open-source, because it’s so unoriginal and commonly used, regardless of where I picked it up. (I’ve been learning about intellectual property law.)

Because of this, I’ve begun to consider following some of the many patterns I have collected over the years. I’ve been trending away from patterns, recently; but if they can introduce me to some new techniques and new ways of thinking about structure, that is welcome! I also have read enough to know that each designer has a different way of approaching beadwork…a different preferred set of mental tools, if you will. I can see this in my own work. Sampling multiple different designers would then introduce me to different methods of approach to the problem of how to make personal adornments — and I might pick up some additional approaches to add to my repertoire.

Then there are also those designers whose work tangentially touches on beadwork, or touches on a craft which can easily be integrated into beadwork. I’ve found this with bead embroidery, knitting, crochet, and tatting — in addition to wirework, kumihimo, and micro-macramé, of course. Then there’s leatherwork and lampwork glass, but now I’m kind of getting out into the weeds (I’ve played with molten glass, but that was in high school Chemistry, with Pyrex/borosilicate — it was fun, but requires a lot of caution — and likely, a studio space)…then there are things that I really have never tried, like soutache. Of course, there is integrating metalwork into beaded pieces (most obviously by making metal beads). And also Korean knotwork, which I’ve tried, but which requires a specific type or feel/firmness of cord (kind of like soutache, which requires a figure-8 cord. Korean knotwork, in my experience, requires a firm round cord with a solid core) — and also a lot of patience.

I’m trying to think of which of these side specialties I like best and at which I am most confident. I am a relative newcomer to micro-macramé, but I do enjoy it. I’m also a relative newcomer to tatting (a specific type of knotted lace, whose latent influence on beadwork I can sense, but haven’t yet been able to work out; nor have I ever seen it taken to what I sense may be its highest potential).

I’ve tried kumihimo (a Japanese braiding method) and found it required more patience than I had at the time; though if I could get the weaving to work with beads…basically just requiring a lot more practice…it could be something in my hands. The major issue with kumihimo lies in the terminations, which may call into use my metalworking skills. Maybe. If I ever get into it. Most terminations right now depend upon adhesive and possibly a physical connection (wire loop or metal teeth). I was taught in silversmithing class never to depend upon adhesive for stone mounting; I would extend that to terminations which have to be relied upon.

Prior to macrame and tatting, I specialized in beadweaving, and I have solid basic wireworking skills. I am not by any stretch of the imagination all that into wirework — although I have considered filigree and cloisonné. Mostly, from having seen other people do it excellently. I know that’s not a great reason, but there was a little bit of inspiration there.

The original reason I got into beadweaving, in turn: I realized that if I wanted to make a living out of this, I should know how to do more than just stringing. That was when I was in my early teen years. There are…for those of you not into beadweaving, there are numerous different ways of attaching beads to each other (by this I mean thread paths) using thread or cord. That’s basically what I’m focusing on, right now.

I know that to reach my fullest potential, it would help to achieve mastery of all the beadweaving stitches I know of (or at least, the ones I care about: I question whether I really need to know Cubic Right-Angle Weave). Once I’ve mastered the stitches, I can break away from other peoples’ patterns.

The fact is that in beadweaving, at least: structurally speaking, things boil down to only two ways to anchor a thread: through a bead (as in Peyote Stitch), or around another thread (as in African Helix). These can be combined in the same piece. An easy example is Brick Stitch, which incorporates both: one goes through a new bead, then hooks the thread below it, then comes back out that same bead. When the thread is tightened, the bead locks into place.

In practicality, however, this is normally just considered, “around another thread.”

When you get into micro-macrame, knots are also a way to anchor — and move — a cord, whereas knots can’t always be relied upon in beadweaving (FireLine in particular is known for being difficult to knot; for this material, we have to rely on tail friction to stop unravelling). Knots are rarely a design element in beadweaving; whereas they can even be a dominant element in beaded micro-macramé. There are also a number of different basic knots to use in macramé…and I’m not certain if I’ll need the more obscure ones. Right now, I’m looking at the possibilities of using Double Half Hitches extensively…because they just look, clean.

I began this post with a clear idea: that I would want to allocate time to the design phase — specifically to the design phase — though I suppose I’ve been unconsciously there more often than not, for most of the time I’ve been working (especially on the Bee earrings). I am also thinking about assigning projects — by other designers — to myself on a regular basis, and recording what I learn from them. This would give me seed material to actually know something about the usefulness of the books I’m hoping to review on this site in the future.

I kind of feel like what I’m doing — trying to design without using patterns at all — is akin to trying to write, without reading. Without knowing the full alphabet, even.

It should also make it easier to start work in the morning, knowing that I don’t have to figure everything out myself. Then maybe, the latter hours of the day can be used in working on and refining my original creations. The new type of bracelet I’m making, only takes a few hours of dedicated work; and it’s getting shorter — and easier — with every repeated attempt.

I should say, though: I am trying to get this work organized. I’m at the very beginning stages of it right now, and haven’t yet worked out a good routine. I know that making the transition from, “just rolled out of bed,” to, “full-fledged designer,” is difficult for me. But I need to do it, if I want to do this as a business. It took me hours to wake up, not so long ago, but I can’t remember if that was yesterday, or the day before.

What I know is that it’s well within my comfort zone, to write. Not so much, to bead…though I know that’s kind of a useless thing to be gauging myself on. Unless I’m trying to ease myself into doing something that matters, and I’m afraid to do something that matters, for whatever reason. Makes it too real, maybe?

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). They are now pondering whether a career in Academia is viable or desirable, given the current situation.

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