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As I have already said I have been designing and sharing work as ThreadABead for over 14 years. However, I have actually been beading since I was 6 years old. My parents were jewellers and part of the service they offered was a pearl necklace re-threading service. This is something my mother had learnt as a young girl working for a prominent jeweller in her home town. So beading was never new to me but rather something that was always in the background of my life.
Although my mother did teach me how to rethread pearls in the traditional way, it was never something I wanted to pursue. I found knotting between each bead a little boring (I am still not partial to knots to this day, she however loves tatting!).
However, my mother did have a box of odd beads from old necklaces to use as spares, which I loved to play with. I was particularly taken with the colourful tiny seed beads, some of which were from beadwork obtained via family connections.
At the start I did not know how to bead with seed beads other than making one or two strand necklaces and bracelets. That was until I was given a beaded Native American doll necklace made from the same sort of seed beads. I was absolutely fascinated with it. I wore it a lot until one day a school friend broke him. I just couldn’t work out how to mend it - neither could my mother. So, he sat on her beading trays for years in the hope one day we could figure it out.
One day years later, after probably yet another request from me, my mother decided to have another go at fixing him and this time succeeded. I had my little doll necklace back! From then on, I wanted to learn more about this sort of beading and gradually over time (there was no internet or beading books in the library (I am that old)), I learnt and figured out more and more about bead weaving. I can safely say I am confident I could now easily repair my little doll myself.
However, my bead journey didn’t stop with seed beads. One day, while I was still at university, I saw an ornament in the window of a bead shop and it was the most beautiful, beaded thing I had ever seen. An intricate image had been created within in the beadwork. I learnt the ornament was made with Miyuki Delica beads.
Delica beads were way out of my student budget. Not to be put off, I tried to make the ornament with the resources I had, sorting through all my stash of seed beads with my brother finding the most regular sized ones we could.
I proceeded to bead the ornament, which turned out…… as experienced beaders will know, a little wonky. However, I was proud of it, and I gave it to my mother for Christmas. She loved it and it is still displayed each Christmas.
Over time, as money was short, I built up a tiny stash of Delicas which I found were so superior to seed beads that I stopped using regular seed beads all together (I still have a draw of them untouched for about 15 years!).
Once I got a job, I started to have a little free money and the internet was finally easily available. This meant I could now look up information about beadwork, patterns and stitches and that’s when I discovered there was so much more to beading than I ever thought possible. There were so many different types of beading like bead weaving, embroidery, French wire … I tried it all.
Each year I would make gifts and presents for people. I never remembered who I gave what to, which was ok as I didn’t much like beading the same thing over and over. This meant that each year I had to find different patterns to make gifts for people. One year at Christmas I couldn’t find anything I liked, so I was stuck. This forced me to get out a piece of paper and try to design something myself.
Now remember this was 15 years ago and I didn’t have much experience, but I designed a band for a candle stick and I was pretty pleased with it.
I said to my partner, now husband, if I saw this I would buy it – so he said “OK let’s design you a website and you can see what happens” … and that was the start of ThreadABead…
Well, let me introduce you to David, my husband. I can honestly say that there would be no ThreadABead without him. He has been involved every step of the way in ThreadABead's journey. Right from the start he insisted that we do everything to the best of our ability and that only the best would do for our customers. That is something that I think people do appreciate.
From thinking up the name ThreadABead and creating the very first website, David has been quietly working away in the background ensuring everything is running as it should. He makes sure customers are replied to, you get same day shipments, he keeps the website running and ensures accounts and bills are sorted out. Basically doing everything he can to help but the beading (although he does know how to bead, don't let him tell you otherwise!).
I am the type of person that doesn't like to put myself out there, preferring to just keep my head down, create designs and work on making ThreadABead the best little business I can. I have always preferred my designs to do the talking for me.... I rarely tell people I am even a bead designer. David however is so proud of ThreadABead and always has been, if it was not for him believing in it, I doubt it would have grown as it has.
When we created ThreadABead though neither of us thought that ThreadABead would become as popular, it amazes us that so many people enjoy my designs. In our first month I made £3 in sales and when I think back from then to now it is quite amazing how it has grown.
That was almost 15 years ago now and we still have so many plans for ThreadABead, its exciting for us to see what the future will hold.
I get asked this a lot, and the simple answer is I don't know! As I am finishing off one design I start thinking about the next and mulling over in my mind what it will be, what I think would be fun to bead.
Over the years I have learnt that I really need to bead what I am in the mood to bead. I find if I bead something for the sake of it, because it will appeal to customers, its difficult to stay motivated. As a result I try to design things that I like, without having any idea if I can sell the end result. I have been lucky so far that many beaders do like my designs but it is never something I take for granted. I will spend 3 evenings working on one tiny piece of the design until I am happy and I think its the best it can be. I do always ask for a second opinion from my husband if I am unsure, and he has this saying ... "Well its not really ThreadABead is it", which is his way of saying that's not good enough do it again (he is usually right).
Sometimes even I look back and think how on earth did I get the idea to do that ... an octopus sitting on a box? A cute Dracula waving in his coffin? A fairy trapped in a bottle? lol I don't know, but they all seemed like good ideas at the time!
I don't always get time to bead every crazy idea I come up with, so the designs I don't feel like beading straight away, or I am not sure how to do I draw in my beading book for later. It is literally a treasure trove of ideas for when that dreaded beaders block hits.
There are usually 3 methods I use when I am designing. The first is working the pattern out on paper before I even pick up a bead. I use this one the least ... its very hard to do and only really works if I am confident in the construction of the design. In beading, especially my sort of beading where everything is quite individual, there is always something to trip you up. For instance in theory I may be able to attach one piece of beadwork to another, in reality there is not enough space to get my needle into the gap easily - that makes for a bad design and not something I would want to put my name too.
The second method is creating a drawing first. This gives me a great guide to the proportions I am aiming for and I can offer my beadwork up to the drawing constantly to check I am on the right path. This does involve a lot of undoing and re doing of beadwork until I get things just right.
And the final method, which I probably use the most, is just sitting down and beading. I play with the beadwork until it resembles the design I am aiming for. I am a type of beader who likes every bead to sit neatly so for me its the most frustrating, stressful and usually has a high failure rate (my bead graveyard of half finished but once fantastic ideas will attest to that!). However its also the method which will actually allow me to discover new techniques and processes. Quite frankly some of my designs would not have been possible with out the stress of trying 20 different thread paths until you hit the one that works perfectly. I really should try doing method 2 more often though, its a bit less stressful!
International Beading Week is a time to celebrate in all things beading and typically happens at the end of July each year. This week is run by the Beadworkers Guild, a UK based charity that supports and promotes the art of beadweaving.
In 2021 I was invited to be a guest ambassador for International Beading Week and was interviewed by Chloe Menage as part of that role. You can view the interview below:
ThreadABead patterns are registered with the UK Copyright Service Reg No: 289163.