Monday, December 09, 2013

In Loving Memory

Nelson Mandela was Thembu, a native of South Africa who spoke the rich language of Xhosa and wore ceremonial #beadwork as was the custom of his native lands. Join South Africa in honoring the life of a legendary man.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Favorite Tool For Your Favorite Beader

I've been looking for a way to sew leather without having to buy a leather sewing machine. I've been looking for a long time. I considered the SailRite sewing machine ($800) and visited our local commercial sewing machine dealer to learn all about professional behemoths; I researched Singer machines (The 95K is the one to get, IF you can find it); I even purchased an old Singer with the hopes that it's little engine would do the trick (works for ultrasuede but not leather). And then one day - recently - I resigned myself to using an awl to sew up my leather. It has the benefit of saving a lot of money, not to mention space... So I googled awls and......that's when I discovered the Speedy Stitcher.

In the video below, you can see how the tool is used. If you have a hard leather body to sew (such as attaching beadwork to a belt), you might consider using this nifty tool to do it. But beware - those needles are very, very sharp!

If you're looking for a Speedy Stitcher online, you can purchase one from or directly from the vendor:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alleged Copyright Theft Goes Viral

If you've ever had your designs ripped off, then you know what it feels like. Lisa Congdon did and she isn't going to take it anymore. To read more about what happened and what she's doing about it, click on the title above or copy and paste the following links into your browser:

To see some of the products companies like Cody Foster rip off (they've removed their items from general internet viewing), be sure to check out this link:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pondo Stitch

   Free Beading Tutorial
Mpondo Neckpiece; Xhosa Headband   Photo: Nick Kap
      My good friend, Nick Kap, is from South Africa and has been collecting and studying #beadwork from the indigenous people there since the 1970s. During his early days of collecting he noticed an unusual looking stitch in photographs of Mpondo tribesmen wearing tribal beadwork. A few years into our friendship, Nick shared with me an image of this stitch and I encouraged him to share it with beaders by publishing an article in one of the popular beading magazines in the U.S. He agreed and we embarked on a long journey of vetting the stitch and setting it into an ethnographically based context in order to properly credit its origins and uses. To make sure we were absolutely accurate, we collected additional beadwork and Nick researched every publication he could get his hands on (including his own collection of out of print books, photographs, and personal communications with his friend, Stephen Long - the recognized expert in the field). Nick verified the pathway by unraveling a damaged headband in his collection from the Herschell area of the Eastern Cape. I created a sample project based on a traditional piece I purchased online. When we were finished, we sent the manuscript and project off to Beadwork magazine who had expressed great interest in publishing it. That was in 2005.

The Bead Book, June 2007
Photo: Sue Mandel
      The article was not published until April of 2007. Suffice it to say, the project that was eventually published was a bracelet which was not entirely accurate in its pathway as a result of editorial license that altered the way we had originally woven it. All references to the historical and technical aspects of the work were also dropped. On the bright side, Nick had recently met the editor of The Bead Book, a South African beading magazine, who agreed to publish an article on our behalf. Nick and I set about customizing our work for that market and submitted that piece for a publication date of June 2007. 

Pondo Stitch: Is It African Circle Stitch?

      After the April 2007 Beadwork issue hit the stands, we were contacted by #DianeFitzgerald who was working on her book on Zulu beadwork which was scheduled to be published by Interweave Press in the Fall of 2007. Diane wrote to us asking about a pathway she had derived from work done by her two friends, Stephany Hornblow and Vera Grey. They had found a neckpiece with this stitch at a museum in England and had deciphered it from a photograph and published it in their bead society newsletter. Diane had recognized a redundancy in their pathway, corrected it, and wanted to include this stitch in her book. Since she did not have a physical example of the work to unravel, she queried if we'd actually verified the stitch, which we had done. We explained to her the differences between the traditional weave and what appeared in the magazine:

"The stitch was popular with the Mpondo and since we identified it first in an Mpondo artifact, we named it accordingly. For the magazine article we modified the stitch by adding a picot edging and the editors re-oriented the bracelet pattern to match the orientation of the flower. The original pattern was woven horizontally."

 The name they had given the stitch was African Circle Stitch.

Unravelling the Herschell Headband
Photo: Nick Kap
      Since that time there have been many questions regarding this stitch. Pondo Stitch and African Circle Stitch are two names used to describe the same technique. While there is evidence the Zulu occasionally used this stitch in their earlier work (Mid 19th century to early 20th century), it appears to have disappeared from their repertoire after that. It was however still in use as late as the 1960's amongst some of the Xhosa-speaking people of the Eastern Cape, most notably the Mpondo tribe. As far as being related to right angle weave - it is unlikely. It is a lovely netting stitch which we know from having done a comparative trial of similar stitches from the region. Pondo is also not traditionally woven using a four bead picot edging - that was a design variation we added to the #Beadwork project. It is also typically woven horizontally and not vertically, as noted above. 

Variations On A Theme

Stitch Comparison   Photo: Sue Mandel
A number of variations of #PondoStitch have cropped up online since our original publication. We have found them equally interesting and disheartening because many are nothing like the stitch. Notably is a version in which a long path is taken to secure each new addition of beads to the prior row and a second pass is added for stability. We recognize that the adaptations, while very creative, are due to an incomplete working knowledge of the stitch - specifically, that proper tension must be held to secure the beads; that a doubled waxed thread should be used to replace the traditional sinew that was once used; and that the leading edge was often stabilized by attaching it to another material. It should also be noted that no variation in bead sizing was traditionally used - again, that was a design adaptation created to appeal to magazine subscribers. Because incorrect "free versions" of this pathway are now being offered online under the heading of "Pondo Stitch", we have decided to counter by posting the accurate pathway as was first described in our original manuscript. We hope this will clear up any confusion as to what Pondo stitch actually is.

Modern Nguni Neckpiece
Photo: Sue Mandel
And so... the link to the Pondo Stitch tutorial is below. If you want to know anything about the historical and ethnographic aspect of this stitch, you can contact Nick by leaving a comment in the comments section and I will make sure he gets it.  He did a beautiful job researching this stitch and writing it up - particularly with respect to the South African beadwork heritage.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

FREE Guide to Bead Weaving!

Beadwork Magazine is offering a FREE eBook for readers to download:   If you are interested in exploring various beading techniques, #BeadingDaily  has put together the perfect eBook just for you! 
Begin a beading journey full of surprises with these five, free beading-weaving patterns. Good luck deciding which beauty to start with! Part of the beauty of it is that there are so many different beading stitches to be used, nothing is impossible. Whether you love to do peyote stitch, right-angle weave, brick stitch, herringbone stitch, or even if you use a loom to do your beadweaving, chances are that you can find just the right combination of beading techniques to create whatever your heart desires.

Click on the title to this post and you will be redirected to Beadwork magazine's website where you can download your own copy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


The wait is over. Here are the finalists who won ribbons is this year's Bead Dreams competition.
Thank you to our sponors. #BeadDreams awards will be gift certificates from the underwriting companies unless otherwise stated. No cash awards will be issued.
Best in Show sponsored by Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, $1,000 gift certificate
Carpet "Anastasia" by Tatiana Fitzpatrick
Best in Show runner up sponsored by Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, $500 gift certificate
Mira by Sarah Thompson, Wash.
The People's Choice Award sponsored by Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, $500 gift certificate
The voting will take place at the show on June 7-8 and online until 4:00 pm CST on Thursay, June 6. The winner's name will be posted on or around June 12.
Lampwork/Glass sponsored by Soft Flex Company
1st Place - Floral Wedding Set by Barbara Caraway, AK, $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - Winter Dreams by Susan Matych-Hager, $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Bee Hive by Stephanie White, Ga., $100 gift certificate
Polymer Clay sponsored by Fire Mountain Gems and Beads
1st Place - Reggae Necklace by Melanie Muir, United Kingdom, $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - Gigantical Fantastical Spider Ring by Kathleen Bingaman, Mich., $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Les Fleurs de Paradis by Lynne Ann Schwarzenberg, Conn., $100 gift certificate
Crystal Jewelry sponsored by Swarovski Elements. Winners will be awarded a gift product package equal to or greater than the amount stated.
1st Place - Crystal Waterfall by Alla Maslennikova, $450
2nd Place - Mukades by Guzialia Reed, $200
3rd Place - Tattered by Diane Hyde, $100
Metal Clay sponsored by Art Clay World USA
1st Place - The Ruins by Christie Anderson, Ariz., $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - Growth by Julia Rai, $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Mokume Gane Tortoise by Cindy Pankopf, Calif., $100 gift certificate
Wirework sponsored by Beaducation
1st Place - Mira by Sarah Thompson, Wash., $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - Phoenix Jacket by Vanessa Walilko, Ill., $200 gift certificate
3rd Place  - Penny Pincher by Omniobadiah Mee, $100 gift certificate
Handmade Buttons or Beads sponsored by Artful Success
1st Place - Robot Party by Joan Miller, Fla., $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - Dragonflies by Joan Miller, Fla., $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Tuscany Flowers by Vladislav Ivanov and Kremena Ivanova, $100 gift certificate
Finished Jewelry sponsored by Rio Grande
1st Place - Demon of Screamin' a Dedication by Sherry Serafini, Pa., $450 gift certificate
2nd Place - Angel Armor by Heidi Kummli, Colo., $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Jurassic by Anneta Valious, $100 gift certificate
Seed Bead Jewelry sponsored by Beadalon
1st Place - Blue Feather by Andrea Grzabka, Calif., $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - Picnic in May on Lilac Way by Marsha Wiest-Hines, $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Violet Blossoms by  Gabriela Mendez Fernandez, Spain, $100 gift certificate
Objects or Accessories sponsored by Rings & Things
1st Place - Carpet "Anastasia" by Tatiana Fitzpatrick, $300 gift certificate
2nd Place - "Peep Show" Beaded Corset by Laura McCabe, $200 gift certificate
3rd Place - Baas by Gabriella Van Diepen, $100 gift certificate
Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2013 Bead Dreams competition. We look forward to seeing new and original designs from you next year. The 2014 online application will be available on or around December 1 at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#Tambour: It's Not Just For Haute Couture!

I have long been interested in Tambour beading. It's the technique of choice for Francois Lesage and is considered the most economical form of embroidery - whether using threads, sequins, or beads. We haven't seen this technique take hold amongst beadweavers yet, but I suspect we're on the verge.

Take a moment to be inspired by these three videos on the form and if you're interested, check out the links I've attached below. (Please note: Since the production of the first video below (2009), Francois Lesage has passed away. I've included it because it is an excellent overview of his craft).

To learn more about this technique, visit the following websites:
Ecole Atalier Broderie:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pinterest: Now Showing on eBay!

Sadly, all good and beautiful and unique things must come to an end. eBay, the global internet giant, has adopted Pinterest's layout for it's front page. Check it out yourself. While it might make the browsing interesting and fun (sign in to see what they have selected for you), it also hits a nerve with me: that nothing online is sacred.

I love Pinterest. If you don't know about it, it's a lovely website where you can create design boards of your favorite images across the web. It's great for beading because it draws inspiration from all over the globe. I have a small board on Pinterest which you can check out here:

What I don't love is when another company tries to cash in on someone else's product. Without going in to detail here, it's rather rampant in the jewelry industry (ever notice how, if someone comes up with a great idea - such as using eyeballs for jewelry - it suddenly appears everywhere?). But it's worse when the very companies who dominate the global internet experience run off with some small enterprise's great idea. Yah, that's not progress. That's ripping off the little guy. At least in my book.

So yah, eBay has enriched everyone's shopping experience by copying Pinterest. At least in my eyes. Maybe I am wrong. Go look. And feel free to tell me what you think.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Favorites on Etsy

Happy Valentines Day to All!!!

I thought I'd share some beautiful shops and items I've found recently on Etsy - no beadwork here, just eye candy. I hope you enjoy seeing these little pockets of talent from all over the world :)  Have a great day - be sure to click on the links to see them!

Mary, from Dublin, Ireland: Queen of Cuffs
Tanya, from the Ukraine: Lovely Kitty Scarf
Dana, from Riga, Latvia: Fine Dolly Lolly
Cheryl, from California: Garden Decor
For My Darling, Finland: Everything Owl
Cielapiu, Poland: Fox de Luxe
Ant, from Wales: Carpet Bags