Tag Archives: Kate Mckinnon

Still Chugging

You could be forgiven for thinking that I’d fallen off the grid, it has, after all been five weeks since my last post. I promise, I have been here, chugging along in the background. Those of you who follow me on Facebook, will know that I’ve been working on a new Harlequin Bangle and tutorial. Those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, shame on you!

I kid, of course, I still love you.


The bangle is now done, but the tutorial still has a fair bit of work, plus proofing, left to be done. It’s been the most challenging tutorial I’ve taken on, but I think I’ve managed to convey the ideas clearly. I’ve also learned some new tricks in Inkscape which will come in handy in future tutorials. I’m indebted to Kate McKinnon (yes, her again, I know I’m a ridiculous fan-girl), for giving me the all-clear to shamelessly plagiarise her techniques. It’s this generosity and collective-brain ideal that has turned CGB in to an almost sentient beast.


Being part of the CGB readership is almost like being a part of a hive-mind. There’s so many ideas in my head, I couldn’t possibly try them all;  but then I don’t need to, because every time I think “what if I done this?” I see that someone has already tried it. We have become a community. We learn from each others mistakes and successes. We encourage each other to try new things. We freely share our ideas without the guarded jealously to prevalent in the art world. When comments such as “I’m going to try this” are left under images of our work, we don’t bellow “Copyright Infringement!!”, we say “Yes!! Here are some tips and a list of the colours I used.”

It’s been a wonderful ride, long may it continue.


What’s the point of MRAW?

“Is there any point to an MRAW band in Geometric Beadwork?” This was a search term that someone used to get to my blog. This question refers to Kate McKinnon’s genius Modified Right Angle Weave Bellyband as seen in her Contemporary Geometric Beadwork book series. The simple answer is “ABSOLUTELY!”, but I will elaborate…

The MRAW band is used as a starting point for many of the structures in CGB. It is, in simple terms, a right angle weave strip with a row of peyote added in a single pass. It is a time consuming element, and if one was uncomfortable with it, there is no reason one couldn’t simply make a band of RAW and add the peyote row afterwards, or even eliminate the RAW section and just do a peyote start – however there is a definite advantage to using MRAW instead: structural integrity. mrawThis wonderful thread path, locks the peyote teeth in place and ensures a much more even distribution of your RAW beads. But it’s so much more than that.

MRAW vs Peyote start
A peyote start can be tricky at the best of times. It involves stringing on all of the beads of your first two rows, then adding the third row in an alternating pattern to pull the beads into the staggered, ‘toothed’ pattern we are familiar with. This start creates a problem with tension; the first rows will be tighter that the rest of the work. In smaller scale pieces, this tension difference may be so slight, that it will go unnoticed. However, the larger the width of peyote, the more compounded this problem will be. Many of the pieces in CGB are hundreds of beads wide, if you manage a peyote start without breaking beads towards the end of the third row, the tension variation will still create unsightly undulations of your “fabric”, instead of a sleek, smooth surface.

Progress photos highlighting the important role the the MRAW Belly-band in a Fortuneteller

Progress photos highlighting the important role of the MRAW Belly-band in a Fortuneteller

An MRAW band start ensures a gentle tension right from the get-go, as it creates the teeth of the first peyote row for you. It also gives you extra options as to how to build off it, whether you add it as a design feature in the middle of a cuff, or as a functional base for a layered piece, adding strength and structure to your design. In some of your designs, you may not wish to include the MRAW Belly-Band, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still use it to your full advantage. Let me direct you to Kate’s ingenious “Exploding Round”. I can’t tell you how much I love this concept, I used it in my Harlequin Bangles because I wanted an uninterrupted flowing pattern. The best part is the same Belly-Band can be used again and again for an easy start.


Harlequin Bangles, worked off the same Removable MRAW Belly-Band

So while the MRAW start may not be the only way to start, it is the only start I’d recommend to someone working on Rick-Racks, Fortunetellers and their Winged and Horned friends.

Wonder Woman in the Sky on Acid

Today I’m unveiling my new CGB piece, this time a horned bangle.  While I was making it, it reminded me of Wonder Woman’s outfit. She always wore plain gold gauntlets, but if
Wonder Woman dropped a whole lot more acid, she might prefer something with wings and horns. This one started with 90 units of gold MRAW, a blue bead-soup background, 10 golden horns and then I tried my hand at Kate’s Elegant Guide Round. I used black Nymo D thread this time, which I found ideal for this project, and so much easier than my mystery thread from my last project, which tangled and frayed if I so much as looked at it side-ways. I’m still not thrilled with my tension, which I intentionally tried to make soft (perhaps too soft for me), but gradually tightened up as I got to the shape-work.

Wonderwoman (2)

My first guide round grew into something a little bit experimental. I had an idea to have these flappy little triangles, adorned with 15/0 gold seeds and matte blue drops in their valleys. I realised too late, that it wasn’t really practical – at least not the way I was doing it. But I was already committed, being several rounds in with lots of backwards and forwards thread-paths locking it in place.  I managed to make it work, but it does need refining. I’m certain that there is a better way to achieve a similar idea, but that will have to wait for another day.

Wonderwoman (1)

My second guide round was an internal one, a red petticoat under a blue skirt, both with gold-tipped flared wings.  These worked brilliantly and I love the way they nestle together. Wonder Woman in the Sky on Acid is available to purchase here.

The Secrets of the Fortune Keeper

fortunekeeper (10)

In bead work, as in life, things often take unexpected turns and end up very different to how you imagined. My Fortune Teller is a Fortune Teller no more. I was expecting to be working on it for another week, but last night as I began decreasing the horns, it abruptly informed me that it was headed in a different direction. I obliged, because I believe that creativity is all about giving in to whims and seeing where they take you.

fortunekeeper (1) fortunekeeper (3) fortunekeeper (4) fortunekeeper (5)

The resulting object is a little mysterious. I don’t quite know what it is. It’s not jewellery, so I guess it must be art. I can not call it a Fortune Teller, because it’s simply not. So I’m calling it a Fortune Keeper, as it is a secretive creature. For the moment it is poised on my dresser, looking like a menacing spiked sea-star and intimidating my blown-glass perfume bottle. Soon, I will turn it over so it can mimic a great big daisy, and let the neon yellow petals brighten up this gloomy foggy excuse for a summers day.

Fortuneteller Addiction


Being utterly in love with my first Fortune Teller I did something completely outrageous for someone with my short attention span: I started another.  Of course doing the same thing twice is dreadfully dull so I had to make some changes.

My first change would be my thread choice.  I am usually faithful to Fireline,  it’s robust and foolproof and can deal with the abuse of my high tension. I had intended to experiment with different threads several moons ago when I purchased some very cute little bobbins of nylon thread. The trouble is, I can no longer remember just what thread it is. I had thought that it was Silamide,  but it would seem that Silamide isn’t sold on bobbins like this. My next best bet is C-Lon; I know that it’s not Nymo as I’ve worked with it before .  However, because C-Lon purportedly has “almost no stretch”, I remain flummoxed.  To me, this mystery thread has plenty of stretch.  I guess elasticity is a matter of perception,  I have after all,  been working exclusively with a zero – stretch product.

A close-up of the famous MRAW band.

A close-up of the famous MRAW band.

I’m now 16 hours in to my second, much larger Fortune Teller. Progress is slow as I adjust to the delicate nature of nylon thread, a much softer tension and the extra length I have added to each peak.  One thing that I can say for certain, I’m missing using Patrick Duggan’s miracle Fireline joining technique,  it is a huge time-saver but it can’t be done with this thread. It’s difficult to tell just how the changes will affect the finished piece this early on, but I’m expecting it to be a vastly different result.

Kina Ice-cream

I have just completed my first ever Fortuneteller Bangle, a design introduced to myself and many others from Kate McKinnon’s Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Volume I. I said I was going to try to stay true to the pattern, rather than deviate off on to my usual tangents but alas, there is one very small change. I accidentally began my mini-horn increases one notch further down into the valleys. This did not affect the overall design significantly – just slightly smaller horns.

My version has been compared to a sea urchin (which we in New Zealand call ‘kina’) and the colours make me think of ice-cream, so I named the piece ‘Kina Ice-cream’ – which sounds absolutely wretched, so I like the irony of giving the name to such a pretty thing.  I won’t clutter up this post with any more words, I will simply share my photos with you all.

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Fortune Teller


Big projects. They’re both the bane of, and reason for my existence. Painfully slow, but oh so rewarding. I’ve been pining for a big project for a while and have several floating around in my brain at any one time, which frankly, makes choosing one very difficult. Among the embryonic ideas are a peyote portrait of Alice Cooper, a snakeskin inspired armband, a CRAW necklace and a bunch of unidentified trinkets. But one the thing that’s been playing on my mind more than anything, is my very own Fortune Teller bangle.

The original Fortune Teller was designed by Christina Vandervlist and featured in Kate McKinnon’s book Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Vol I. I have made a few pieces using the techniques in this amazing book, but nothing quite so intriguing as this gem. I have been looking forward to it for sometime and with the release of CGB Vol II looming ever nearer, now is a good time to get some more of these sculptural concepts under my belt.


The original fortune teller. Artwork and photography by Christina Vandervlist. Genius!

My struggle will be following the pattern, not because I find the instructions difficult to read, but because of the constant temptation to experiment. Now I know that Kate herself would encourage me to do this, “go forth and create,” she would say “expand on our ideas and turn our world upside down!” But just this once I will restrain myself. I want to have a completed, original, Fortune Teller in my hands to inspect. I want to have a tangible three dimensional model that I can hold as I envision what other possibilities it holds. My creative license will be in the colour choice and pattern. I can’t wait to see it finished but first I must endure a few weeks of alternating tedium and delight as I watch it grow.

This vague shape took me 6 hours. I need to work with better lighting.

This vague shape took me 6 hours. I need to work with better lighting.