How I Create My Bead Tapestries

The piece I’m working on now.

I thought I would go detail the work that goes into the making of my bead tapestries. I’ve divided the process into sections.

1. I decide on the subject. As I have said earlier, I generally do plants. I either pick a photo that I have taken, use a photo that is in the public domain or labeled Creative Commons, sketch from life, or draw in Sketchbook or Affinity Designer. Two of my favorite places to get public domain or photos with other allowable public use options are: Morguefile,  Public Domain on Flickr. The places are too numerous to mention—just put in Public Domain and you will find a bunch.  Beware of sights that are actually charging for pictures. They advertise on the free pages and its is sometimes hard to tell which is which. 

2. Then I take the chosen picture or drawing and manipulate it in Affinity Photo, or Photoshop Elements to emphasize the traits of the plant that I find interesting. I sometimes sometime even run the photo through other programs like Simply HDR or Moku Hanga. This helps change the picture to make it mine and avoid any legal problems with “fair use.” 

3. Then I dump the picture into a program that makes a grid over the top of the picture and gives me approximate bead colors to place in the grid, over the picture, matching as best can be done on a monitor screen.  The program is Beadtool, www.Beadtool.net, and I have been using it since 2007. There is one programmer that created this program and maintains it with upgrades faithfully. He is also receptive to questions. The program will pick the colors for you if you want it to do that. It comes pretty close, but cannot match the true colors of the beads. It cannot show the true finishes either. The number of colors I use is based on the size of the piece, how much I want to spend on beads, and what I think is best for the picture. So I choose each square myself. Because I’m not going to use the beads they suggest, I use colors from all the pallets they show, no matter who the maker is to replicate a picture color a close as possible. On a 20 x 20 in. piece this takes me about a month, working half a day.  

4. Then I pick the actual beads that the squares represent. I use all the beads from two makers—Miyuki and TOHO.  They are both Japanese manufacturers of glass beads and each of them makes over a thousand beads. I buy Miyuki Delicas size 11 and TOHO AIKOs and TOHO Treasures, size 11. By the way, this can be quite expense—they run about a $1.00 per gram.  Companies to order from that I find reliable are: Javalle Beads, Artbeads, and Bobby Bead. There are many others that are good.

5. After I have ordered all the beads I don’t already have, I warp the loom. I’ve mentioned my loom before. You can see the variety and prices at Mirrix Looms, https:/www.mirrixlooms.com. Warping takes me a couple of days.  

6. Then I print out the layout from the program. This gives me a series of sheets representing a diagram of the rows to be loomed. Each square is represented by a letter combination. You match the manufacturer’s color number to the bead tool letters. This will be shown on one of the pages of the printed layout. I match the colors to the printed layout and set the beads in boxes or trays. (Cookie trays or shoe box lids work well.)

7. Then I start weaving, a whole row at one time. This requires careful counting. I count each page of the diagram after I do it, but you can develop your own system. Sometimes I divide the page into thirds by ruling the column lines and then I count by each third. To see more about my weaving you can see my old video at https://www.beadtool.net/learn/LindasLoomIntro.html.  

See you again in another month.