Monday, August 27, 2018

Watermelon Cool Down Time

It's been a HOT summer.

But no more than usual. I did have the foresight to limit my daily yard work hours so that I finish by 11AM. It can still get hot by then though.

So guess what I've been making???

Wait....I spy a pizza. Hmm.....

None of them actually cool anybody down, but they do make you smile! You can purchase the red pendants from my Etsy shop as of now. The rest have yet to be listed, but just let me know if you want any. As of this writing, all are available.

These incredibly fun triangle motifs are indeed my actual designs. I couldn't find suitable patterns for a kaleidocycle I was attempting to make, so I just made my own! Aren't they just delectable?

Happy Beading!


P.S. Today's listening pleasure is Musical Starstreams, an old ambiance music broadcast I found playing on UNT's college radio while in DFW yesterday. So....relaxing.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tip #9: Fuze Your Photos

I recently found this tool. is a freeware (with optional upgrades) tool that can be used to make the whitest of white backgrounds for your product photographs. See? Edit. 
Photoshop Edit

I'm fairly pleased with today's experiments. The Photoshop edit is pretty decent, but I sometimes have a hard time getting a nice enough background. However, FotoFuze does a better job. Not on everything mind you, but well enough. And it's super fast too!

Typically, I use colored backgrounds to counteract the difficulty in getting clear white. That will probably change in the future after this!

Coincidentally, this necklace was just listed in my Etsy Store

The necklace, too, was an experiment in new things. I used triangle seed beads and bead quilled them together around the box chain circles. That part I'm happy with. The iridescent purple drops? Not so much. But hey, I made a thing and learned from it. :-)

Go try FotoFuze to improve your Etsy photos! It is the number 1 or 2 piece of advice you always hear. HAVE GOOD PHOTOS. I'm doing my best and going as fast as I can. One step at a time.

Happy Beading!

Tamara Allison

P.S. Today's listening: How to Steal a Dragon's Sword (Audiobook. Performed by David Tennant.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Mother Always Said Ideas Come in Waves

I remember it clearly. Two of my sisters and I were sitting down to watch the first Gremlins movie. Once again. It's great, that movie is. During the commercial break, my mom said that she'd once had the idea for almost the exact same plot. It was a couple years prior to the release date for the film, but she'd never gotten much further than thinking up the plot, and maybe scribbling it down. She'd long stopped writing stories by that point and had moved on to other forms of art.

Somebody in Hollywood hadn't passed up the idea though. And thus a classic film was born.

I'm 100% positive that there are other people out there, like my mother, who wish they'd been able to get the story out there first. I've seen it happen in beadweaving as well.

In 2008, I made this necklace out of a plumbing repair kit:

Fire Powered Plumbing. 2008.

I've also made many many other similar pieces in the years since. This one got published in Bead Magazine in 2011 I think. It was part of a Winter Sparkle Special.

Ice Circles. 2010.

And now, my brick stitched and embellished washers look more like this:

Pastel Teardrop. 2018.

Okay, so it's not a washer, but I'll bead around anything with a hole or holes in it. See:

Acrylic Beaded Fan Pendant. 2015.

Embellished Gears. 2015.

Brick Stitched Box Chain Pendant. 2016.

Button Ring Pendant. 2018.

The button piece above is closely inspired by a piece made by Leslie Rogalski, which appeared in Bead Unique in early 2009 or late 2008. However, both of us came up with very similar brick stitched and embellished washers and o rings. Coincidence? I think not. Ideas come in waves. 

The two of us have continued to create variations on a theme all this time as well. My pieces have evolved some, and so have hers I'm sure. The difference? She's been published many many times and I have not. I got one in, but I wasn't the first. And I won't be the last. Neither will I get the credit for starting that trend, because who can make a claim to that?

A simple Google search for 'beaded washers' will produce thousands of results now. At the time? Not so much. If I'd been smart, I could have busted my butt to be THE person known for it. But alas, the time for that is long gone. 

Yet, I still greatly enjoy making these pieces. Not quite as ambitions as my first few, mind you, but enjoy them I do. And so do many many other artists long after the appeal of the technique has caught on. Plenty of brick stitched circular designs exist. Because we've all been riding this wave. Some of us just caught it first. Others, like myself, didn't make it but never gave up. I enjoy the swim just as well.

What fantastic ideas have you had that passed you up?

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Farmer's Market on the Horizon

Why had I never set up at my local Farmer's Market before? Oh, I know! My sleep schedule used to be awful. The thought of waking up before the sun was not appealing. Not that it is now, either, but it is much easier now that I have a night time routine before bed. I can actually go to sleep at a reasonable hour! And wake up at unbelievable ones.....

Last week, I set up for Peach Day. I had a great time! Saw lots of friends. Sold a few things. Even had produce type things for sale. See:

Current Setup

I keep saying that I have to change out these drapes. They're just too busy. Time to spend way too much time in Hobbly Lobby again...

Orange/Blue Watermelon Pendant and Earrings

Orange/Blue Watermelon Bracelet

In Progress Loomed Peach

Square Stitched Peach Pendant

All the fun fruits! No veggies yet, but I'm working up a plum design. And I have to make peach/plum bracelets and earrings before moving on to the next edible. I probably have to make lots of red watermelon. They're selling better than I could have hoped! Thanks Wichita Falls! I love them too.

Wish me luck tomorrow. Or come say hello. Wichita Falls Farmer's Market from 7:30am-1:00pm. I'm gonna need some coffee.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Way Back Machine Internet Archive:  "Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more."

This is a strange one, I know, but it comes in handy for expired websites, and also has a function for downloading old free books. If I'm not mistaken, you can hunt for out of print magazines as well! (Creative Beading Australia, anyone?) :-)

The heck is this even?

The above example was apparently a special issue of BeadStyle. Raise your hand if you remember that magazine. I do! I also remember when it went out of print. This issue was published in November of 2007. Freshman semester in college, that. Over a decade old. And the archive preserved it in all of it's outdated layout glory!!! I love it. Might be good for a stroll through memory lane and maybe even some inspiration when I get stuck.

The good news? There are dozens! Courtesy of a profile named the Magazine Rack. Forget Google preview, this is the bomb! You can view entire books and magazines here. You can even borrow them digitally if you create an account. I will never not use this. 

As with most non-profit sites, there is the ability to donate funds for the continual upkeep of the site. 

Maybe you too can find some nostalgia inducing beading references, or even something new/old to try out.

Happy beading!

Tamara Allison

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tip #7: DMC to Delica Conversion Chart

Do you consistently come across beautiful cross-stitch patterns? Would you like to duplicate the intricate pattern into beads, present color scheme included?

Well, Caravan Beads and Fiber have created a conversion chart specifically for this purpose! Check it out. It's by no means complete, but serves as a great starting off point to help you round out the desired color set.

Now, if I could find the color chart for this beautiful Manny Calavera, I could loom him up, right?

Originally by Jsutcliffe, found on mrxstitch!

Isn't he AWESOME?!?!?! I highly recommend getting a copy and playing Grim Fandango if you haven't yet. Right now. I'll wait for your gushing comments.....

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hello all!

I've been quietly staying busy in my home studio. I think I need to get out more. Hopefully, the Dance Dance Revolution pad at my local barcade isn't still broken. *fingers crossed* DDR is a great way to get a workout and boost your coordination. I don't care how much you think you suck. Go find an arcade and play. You'll be glad you did!

On to what I've actually been doing:

New vinyl stickers from JD!
The reverse side of my suitcase got a makeover! I like them. Thanks, babe.

Embarrasingly dull booth setup. :-/

Yeesh. No wonder my day was a bust. I don't fill out 10x10 booth spaces as well as I used to. I definitely need to rethink my display. Again. The layout was comfortable for me to move around in, but didn't do me any favors in attracting.....crickets.....people to talk to. Art & Soul wasn't a very good event for me. The weather was awfully hot, but the event staff kept us very well hydrated!

In other news, I've been relearning how to consistently list pieces on Etsy. You just list stuff. Having a daily routine helps. I took these photos yesterday, uploaded two then, then just finished the third today. Yay me!

Viking Knit and Shaped Beads Cuff

Click here to purchase. This cuff was an experiment in trying to embellish viking knit. I succeeded, mostly in making it way too big for my personal taste. But it was great fun to make!

Flared Hubble Stitch Sampler Bracelet

Click here to purchase. This was my first foray into hubble stitch. I think. I'm pretty sure I've never tried it before. Anyhow, the other night I just felt like trying it out with what was left of my favorite blue/orange combo. I'm really going to miss those bead colors, but I have a nice dainty bracelet for everyday wear!

Twyla Harbick's Dragonfly Bracelet in Red and Brown

Click here to purchase. At some point last year, I was in a creative rut. The best thing to do? Make somebody else's pattern! I was flipping through the August/September issue of BEADWORK Magazine for inspiration and thought I'd give this bracelet a try. It came out...okay. It's much too big for me to wear, despite following the directions to a T. Okay, well not to a T, but close. I swapped the O beads for hematite heishis and the Delicas for 11/0s. Oh wait, that's why it's not small enough. Tamara, when will you learn? 11/0s are always bigger than Delicas, duh.

That's about all for today! It's almost time for me to head out and have an away from the house night.

Happy Beading


Friday, June 15, 2018

A Successful Collar!

Hello all! Today I'd thought I'd share with you one of my most recent large scale successes.

Lilly Pad Necklace

Available now in my Etsy shop. Here's the listing! This was last year's attempt to enter the Fashion Colorworks beading contest. I did not win, FYI. I didn't even submit pictures half as good as the one above. And this one even has some issues. The pictures I did submit were quite embarrassing, which is why I don't use my phone for product photography. But hey, I made the deadline! That counts for something.

What's more, I actually ENJOYED every single second of creating this piece! That is incredible rare for me when it comes to making large scale work. At least in recent years. Forcing myself into specific themes, materials, or color schemes simply does not work most of the time. I have learned to just give things up or set them aside if they don't come together easily. That doesn't mean every failed competition piece ends up being a waste of time; it just means I had practice developing design elements or techniques.

I did both with this necklace!

Individually embroidered components.

I think it helps that I kept the components simple, yet the same. I just alternated the colors. Each have one row of bead embroidery, brick stitched to a leather backing. Also featured are brick stitch washers with a glass button sewn down the center. There are holes in the copper disks behind each element. :-) It was quite a fun construction, which I have employed several times since.

Lucite Button Focal

The lucite button is the real reason this necklace came together. It was originally from a necklace I made about a decade ago.

Finalist: 2010 FMG Pearls, Organic Beads, and Modeling Clay

Click the link above to see Fire Mountain's photography. As much as I absolutely love the first version of this necklace, it ended up breaking. Not even my fault, that. The shank on the button became old and brittle after a few years. It crumbled right off, leaving me with just the necklace and no focal attached. At the time this happened, I had grown out of asymmetrical work and didn't have a desire to mend the necklace, so I ended up cannibalizing the entire thing into a bead soup and set it aside for a while. I also glued the button to a backing and embroidered a couple rows of light green 15/0s. Then had no clue what to do with it from there. ......until last year. It fit within the pink, green, and magenta color palette perfectly.

Here are some progress photos of the new necklace:


Gluing to bead backing.

Back stitching.

More arranging.


I am pleased as punch that this necklace worked out so well!! As I said, most of my competition specific pieces don't. Maybe I'll enter it in something soon. I think I might could manage a finalist placing for Fire Mountain's seed bead competition. Guess I'd better get a move on! The deadlines in two days. Yikes!

While I do that, how about you guys go listen to some Rob Thomas to brighten your day? He's one of those artists who I continue to love, long after his initial heyday. :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Happy Accident? I Don't Think So

Hello! I made a thing.

Look! A pretty dragonfly.

I thought I'd take a break from my budget friendly tips to tell you about my latest Fashion Colorworks Contest fail. Have you ever entered? Do you know which contest I mean? It's this one, hosted by the lovely Zoya Gutina. It's one of my life goals to be a featured winner in one of her news letters, (and hey maybe get picked up by Perlen Poesie in the process!)

For some reason, there were four different Pantone color palettes to choose from this year. As usual, I only really liked one of them (chili oil, arcadia, and meadowlark), so set about dismantling my bead stash to find compatible colors. I had plenty of the teals and yellows, but am short on browns and coppers. I just chose what was closest. I even chose to use my prize rubberized leaf shaped beads that I'd been saving for an old sketch that I never got around to making.

Initially, I was hoping to make my sketched necklace with this modified color scheme. I can't for the life of me remember where I drew it down, but here's the beginning of the piece:

Playing with beads and box chain. done the right word?

Anyway, I got the angle way wrong for a necklace. I wasn't liking it by the halfway point. And I definitely didn't like it after I finished the second side. I was, however, thrilled that my box chain embellishment worked well enough. I had to downsize my needle to fit through the gaps, which was a pain. The poor little thing got bent all sorts of bad.

So, I expressed my dissatisfaction to JD about how this thing looked. I don't normally ask for opinions unless I'm stuck, and he has decent solutions more often than not. He does the same with me, if he doesn't like the look of his drawings. Fresh eyes are usually better for troubleshooting! He mostly just started folding it into all sorts of shapes, in half, into a triangle thingy, forwards, backwards, etc. It looked better in all of those shapes than the original. 

Thanks go to JD for saying it was salvageable. I really didn't think it was and expected him to also think it was ugly. However, I was too disappointed in it at the time to continue working on it, Colorworks deadline or not. I boxed it up and let it sit out of sight for a few weeks. 

Then came June 10th, the same day of the contest deadline. By this point, I had already selected pieces that fit the other color themes and sent them off. And my art room was a complete disaster. It needed cleaning. Bad. But I found this project sitting on the side and started fiddling with it and some buttons. Then pow! JD's dragonfly suggestion came to the front of my brain and I couldn't not make it. I happily stitched up and assembled the remaining components and finished by the end of the night.

Reverse side: head, antennae, wings.

In the process of making the head, I stumbled upon a neat new way to brick stitch beads that I need to explore further. It looks like O beads may be my new best friends. We shall see...

Reverse of dragonfly.

The folded over element adds a nice design accent to the back. It's strange how that worked out. I almost wish I'd stitched the wings facing upwards, but it might have given me problems for the head placement.

Simple brick stitched buttons.

This is where I had to reign in my tendencies to go over board with embellishment. Since dragonfly tails taper in width, it would have been easy to get the proportions wrong. I settled for decreasing sizes of button of varying patters stitched with alternating colors of delicas. I think it worked perfectly!!

The Good News: I made the deadline!
The Bad News: I missed the does that work?

So, this ended up being one of those hate/hate/hate/kinda like projects. It always seems to be the case when I design for this contest. If you truly start from scratch, it's incredibly difficult to enjoy the process. And I always miss the deadline when I do. BUT, I end up with one or two quite out of the ordinary pieces each year. And hey! I ended up with two usable techniques to explore, so that's something!

Now.....what in the world am I going to do with a non-wearable dragonfly? 

TV entertainment while beading: Old episodes of the Tick cartoon. Why the heck did this not air on the channels I watched as a kid? Oh yeah, mom didn't like Fox too much. But.....puns, there were puns, mom.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tip #6: Go Google a Book

Okay, so this is amazing!

Google books acts like an in depth preview of certain books. Especially if you live in Podunk, Texas with limited selections of beading materials at your local book stores (what book stores?) and libraries. Okay, so my library is pretty great in it's selection of....everything.....beadwork included. But I can only check out the same books so many times before I want to look for inspiration elsewhere.

Go to All you have to do is type in whatever material you are looking for, and you will get multiple results of what the first sections of your favorite or soon to be favorite beading books look like. Not everything has a preview, but a fair amount do, and they give you an idea of the quality of projects and diagrams used in each book.

Screen Capture of Marcia Balonis' Lush & Layered Beadweaving

Screen Capture of Nealay Patel's Jewelry for the New Romantic

Screen Capture of Diane Fitzgerald's Shaped Beadwork

Screen Capture of Kelly Wiese's A Beaded Romance

As you can see from the ones I selected, there's quite a variety of bead artists out there. I don't currently own any of the above mentioned books. Nor have I seen any of them in person. And boy, are there more of them than I ever knew about! (I'm looking at you, Nealay. It's like you're psychic or something.)

I mostly just use the preview function of Google Books to see if I would REALLY want to spend my hard earned dollars on a new book for my collection. I've learned the hard way that covers aren't always representative of what's inside. 

And hey, if you're really hesitant to outright purchase, even after previewing, do what I do. Use the Inter Library Loan service from your local library. More often than not, some library somewhere has it. Except for Kate McKinnon's books. The one place who has those doesn't loan them out. So I bought 'em right up. My library charges $2.50 for each loan, which is a significantly lower investment. It feels a lot like renting and is much easier on my wallet if I don't enjoy something as much as I thought.

I fully realize that I can't own every beading book on the planet, and that not everybody's style is for me. But even in borrowing, I'm at least supporting my libraries around the country, and they're supporting artists by purchasing those books for their collections. I would love to support more beaders. I just can't do that without first seeing those books in my hands. This is just how I go about those purchases. I hope you found the information useful!

Happy beading.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tip #5: Indulge in Some Kandi

Kandi patterns website: 

Are you too poor to afford bead tool software? Do you not trust things to do as promised? I bought......something.....ages ago that was quite fiddly and never quite did what I asked it to. Admittedly, it was many years ago, but the experience was unfortunate and I prefer to find more affordable options when I need digital graphing tools.

Thankfully, Kandi Patterns is there for you! This is a useful website for if you're feeling nerdy and want to find a loom or peyote pattern of cute things. Or just make your own. There are tons of nostalgia inducing images here for your perusal.

Additionally, there is a handy pattern tool for color block building your own pattern, like I did for my illusion blocks bracelet. I was having a hard time finding loomed patterns for (tumbling blocks, as they're actually called). Plenty of peyote patterns abound! But, alas, looming patterns that did exist a year or two ago were not to my liking. Here are attempts #1 and #2. :-)

Ehhhh......wrong direction, but a nice try.


It took a little trial and error, but I got what I wanted. Obviously I only did a portion since this is a repeating pattern. And I'm super happy with the result:

Are you dizzy yet?

Oddly enough, I actually still own this bracelet. It seems to be the case with my absolute favorites. They tend to stick around forever. To purchase, please go to the listing in my Etsy store.

Okay, so back to Kandi Patterns. Sadly, there is no converting of photos here. It's just a simple program for when you can't find where you put your graph paper. There is, however, an option to import photos for use as a type of color palette picker.

Also, if you're into the rave scene, which I'm not, here's a handy article on the meaning of Kandi.

Oh, speaking of graph paper, does anybody know where I can find some of the small square stuff? I'm only ever able to find the standard type in person in stores. Guess I gotta go hunting online, but I'm hoping to find a nice journal type thing. I do a lot of colored pencil coloring for my hand done patterns, and always run out space because the standard squares are much too large for my liking.

Wish me luck in that hunt!

Bead Happy


Monday, June 4, 2018

Tip #4: Let the Stork Surprise You

Stork Emroidery Scissors:

Your beading projects are your babies, right? Mine too! See?

Coochie cooooo! (Hand illustrated by JD Dixon)

Most people own a pair or two of these awesome embroidery scissors. And if you don't, you should! They're perfect for snipping thread close to your beadwork and are super sharp. Bonus: your loved ones aren't likely to choose these blades to dull with paper projects. Hehehe.

Om nom nom thread.

Also pictured is my current WIP. It's a late night inspiration. Some sort of double sided beaded button pendant project. The other side will be a mossy kind of green, like the accents in the outer round here. It's a surprisingly pleasant color scheme!

Anyway, stork scissors also have a history of being used by midwives to clip umbilical cords. Nifty, eh?

Oh, and please enjoy this beautifully drawn digital image that JD made me. It's going to grace all of my tutorial materials pages from this point onwards!

Created by JD Dixon

Isn't he beautiful?! <3 <3 <3

Today's listening entertainment is Welcome to Night Vale. There was a time I never thought I'd get caught up, but now I'm hunting down the other Night Vale Presents series between episodes. It's.....uh....strange as ever.

Happy Beading!