Category Archives: BeadCreatorPro

Photo to Pattern: Sneak Peek

I’ve now finished two small portraits of Squib, one for  the WeaveWith project and one which was inspired by a poem I wrote myself. I’m planning on doing them both again — along with the larger “Feline Masterpiece” — after Christmas. I’ve got the makings of a “substitute for black” list of Delica colors, which I’m hoping will simplify the photo to design conversion process.

I don’t have time to write it all up right now, but I have a sequence of images that illustrates how the tapestry looks at different stages of the editing.

Here’s the original photo:

Squib SleepingI used Photoshop to enhance the color of the picture. As black cat pictures go, this one has a lot of visible detail that will ease the pain of converting to a pattern.  [There’s so much artistic and intellectual pain involved that every little bit of ease helps a lot, ugh.] The adjustment I made in Photoshop makes the photo’s colors look more like they would if you were looking at the subject outdoors, in sunlight. This improves the level of detail in the image.

Next, I imported the picture into Bead Creator Pro (BCP). My custom palette includes transparent Delicas with no coatings except glazed; matte Delicas including most of the special finishes; and metallic Delicas that exist in nature. It’s about a third of the complete Delica range, and I much prefer how my photos convert when I’m using this set. [One entry in the “photo to pattern” posts will show how I came to this conclusion. Stay tuned.] Here’s what BCP did as it imported my image:

SquibSleeping-BCP-rawIt used 95 colors, most of which are in the background of the picture (our bedspread). I used BCP’s “Use Only XX Colors” function to reduce the number of colors to 40:

SquibSleeping-40colorsThere have been relatively small changes in Squib herself; most of the colors that were eliminated were in the background, which is exactly what I want.

This was as much processing as I could  let BCP do. When I tried to go from 40 to 35 colors, I started losing significant details in Squib’s fur. So the rest of the processing is manual.

I gleefully threw out all the background and replaced it with stripes of green and lavender, mostly because I’d just gotten my hands on the gorgeous DB-1053, matte lavender/olive, yum. The only thing I did to Squib’s image was to clean things up around her left ear (she often had mucky ears, and has apparently carried that with her into her afterlife). The final-for-now pattern uses 28 colors.

SquibSleeping-FinalForNowAnd here is the woven beaded tapestry, taken off my loom about an hour ago:

Hot Off the LoomThe large black areas are woven with DBC-0010 — the hex cut version of DB-0010, for non-Delica geeks. It’s got a bit more sparkle thanks to the cut, and I think it’s sufficiently different that I’ll be able to use it for highlights on areas filled with DB-0010.

The grey shades look a lot lighter in beads than they did on the chart. I completely missed that Squib’s whiskers are visible in the raw version of the chart. They got smoothed out during the color reduction and I should have edited them back in manually. I’m going to revise the pattern by using darker beads than the original greys; using hex cut black Delicas as a highlight color (that gets rid of at least one metal, which will help naturalize things); and fiddling with the background some more.

WeaveWith Week 3: Maybe I should have made a bracelet

My week has been filled with much activity and very little progress. [There was a technology problem developing which gets a chunk of blame but the other half is/was me fiddling with the pattern. See below.]

I have set up my own palette for Bead Creator Pro that avoids the issues I had with too many shiny beads. Since then it’s gotten a lot closer to plug-and-play, at least (and it’s an important qualification) if I’m designing large patterns. Say 8×8″ on up.

When you’re creating a smaller pattern — one that will fit on a Lani, let’s say — you don’t have enough beads to cram in all the details. BCP can’t tell the difference between an important detail and a distracting detail, so it crams them all in there.

Squib as rendered by BCPIt is literally true that there are that many different colors going on in Squib’s fur, but the software can’t account for the fact that the human eye perceives her as a mostly black cat. (Happens all the time when you use the flash on your camera – your picture has more detail than you can see. Makes telescopes work, too. Not so good for portraits.)

Hence my restart before, where I revised the pattern to get a better balance between detail and perception. Worked great until I got to the whiskers.

Monday: whiskers. First three colors I tried completely vanished into the background. Next couple of colors contrasted nicely, but I couldn’t tell the difference between facial-detail-I’d-left-on-in-first-revision and whisker. After much testing, much unweaving and much frustration, I used the hex version of DB507. It’s an odd color for me — pink with 24kt gold iris — but it’s not overwhelmingly pink, and the differences due to the slight changes in color and cut work nicely. That gets me to Monday night.

I spent the rest of the week – ugh – weaving and unweaving to try to get Squib’s face right. I have been steadily reducing the amount of detail and darkening the bead colors, but I finally decided last night that I needed to go back and mostly-manually redraw Squib’s face the way I did below her chin.

Here’s the last revision before I decided to completely redraw her face – that appalling orange color is how BCP displays DB507 — no clue why.

Sphinx v5[Revision 1 worked great for the body but wasn’t strict enough for the face.] I’m still working on that today.

The tech problem: my monitor was dying, and I didn’t know it until it was totally dead. Until Thursday, it was pushing everything it displayed to the red end of the spectrum, so what I was seeing in the software and what the software thought it was showing were much much different than usual (which is saying a lot). Thursday night the monitor gave it up and David let me use one of his (computer artists have lots of monitors), so it wasn’t truly until Friday that I was able to work on the design and get consistent results.

I think I’ve figured out how to revamp the facial detail. Once that’s done it will only take a day or two to finish the portrait, and then I can get back to the Christmas present I’m working on, and “Hope” (the cardinal).

Word for the week: argh!

The Kardiac Kitten: A Feline Masterpiece

In December 2008, I met a small sickly kitten who would become my constant companion and my unfailing friend during the time when my mother died from cancer.

Mom lived with my sister Julie, and Julie never met a cat she didn’t like (it runs in the family). Julie had adopted a couple of kittens from a litter of barn cats. Sierra looks like a purebred Siamese. Chevy looked like a weedy little scrap of a thing. I met them at Christmas 2008. Mom’s last Christmas.

Squib December 2008I was in Indiana for most of 2009, spending time with Mom (who was going downhill in stops and starts) and helping Julie, who was working full time and has two kids. Chevy quickly adopted me as the human who was most likely to save her from the various dangers in her new life. Mostly the kids, because they were too young to tell the difference between toys and live animals.

It became clear that Chevy was going back to Texas with me, an arrangement that suited all of us. She’d be better off in a quieter home. And in 2009, she had health problems — mostly asthma at that point — that could be fixed. I could help Chevy feel better, when none of us could really do anything to help Mom.

[In addition to a new home and new friends, Chevy got a new name when she came to Texas. My husband David started calling her Squib. A squib is a small firecracker, and that suited her far better than her original name.]

Squib was scrappy and smart and reckless. She was the top cat, even though our other four cats were much larger — she had cat voodoo. She loved road trips. She slept on my pillow and was always with me when I needed another soul to touch, especially when Mom died. Her ideal weight, according to our fabulous vet, was 7 pounds. She never got there. My friend Jenny refers to her as a perma-kitten.

Squib and ISquib had a number of health problems, most significantly an immune-system condition that gave her horrific gum disease (we were able to fix that) and a congenital heart condition (not fixable). She was the Kardiac Kitten. She survived a number of health crises, but we finally had to let her go in February 2014.

I’d had four years with the most important cat ever.

I’ve lost friends and family and other animal companions. Losing Squib has been like losing Mom, and I’m massively frustrated because I don’t know how to explain it to people. I can write. [Looky here, I’m writing.] But “my cat died” either gets blank looks (from folks who aren’t into animals) or condolences (from people who do share their lives with animals, and understand what losing a companion is like).

I don’t have words for the difference between losing other cats that I loved a lot, and losing Squib. It’s vastly larger and harder, even more than most humans I’ve lost, no insult intended to the people.

Worse, no one realizes that they don’t understand what I mean. “My cat died” seems pretty straightforward, and there really aren’t a whole lot of other ways to say it.

After Squib died, I made a scrapbook. It’s way bigger than she was, and it’s got pictures and poetry and yes, beadwork, all in the attempt to capture what was special about my cat, and why I was so devastated. The scrapbook does that, but I found that I hadn’t gotten the need to express my loss out of my system.

So 2014 has become my year of the cat, as far as jewelry making is concerned. I’ll be starting a gallery of the pieces I’ve already done (and eventually, even stuff that’s not related to cats at all).

Right now, I’m working on the largest piece of beadwork I’ve ever tackled, called A Feline Masterpiece. The title quotes Leonardo da Vinci, who said “Even the smallest feline is a masterpiece.” Well, she was.

It’s been slow going. I don’t have a lot of great pictures of Squib because we just didn’t expect her to die so soon. The picture I wanted to use needed a lot of love and attention in Photoshop, which my husband David generously provided. Converting the pattern to a beadwork design involved a program called Bead Creator Pro, which is by no means “plug and play” – I spent about 40 hours tweaking the pattern into something that captured Squib’s expression and personality. (I’ll write up what I’ve learned about making the best pattern possible, at least with BCP, in a later post.)Cover page from loom patternIn addition to designing a pattern I liked, I had to figure out ways to handle such a large piece. The finished picture will be about 9″ by 9″, and is built out of 23,940 beads.

There’s remarkably little advice out there for bead weavers who want to make large tapestries. I’m making it up as I go, somewhat desperately. I knock containers of beads off my table and I can’t keep track of the number of warp threads I’ve added, and we have kittens who don’t understand about staying off the desk, and… well, you get the idea. I can’t just whip out a few vials of Delicas and get to it.

I’m hoping that what I try will be useful to other beaders, both those doing loomwork and those looking for ideas about how to “organize their process.” It’s under so much construction that my readers should be wearing hard hats.

If I’m really lucky, the experts will leave comments that will help all of us.

I began weaving on 13 June 2014. You can track my progress in the upper right hand corner of this page, and I’m posting photos here on the blog.

As of this post, I’ve finished about 20% of the work. It’s going to be a couple of days before I can dive back into it – I changed one of my background colors and ran out of beads. Argh. Waiting for beads. Again. [I suppose I can start the edging on the left side….]

Progress 16 June 2014My hope is that the emotional significance I can’t put into words will be communicated, or at least implied, by the time and effort it takes to weave this picture. I will always have feline companions. But there will never be another Squib, because the unique combination of circumstances and personality and time spent together can’t ever happen again.

If you’ve made it all the way through this absurdly long post, I’m very very grateful for your attention, and I hope that as I add bead-related content to this blog it will be useful for you.