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!

Ouch: Four rows in four hours

I wish that was a typo.

I spent this afternoon & evening trying to find a Delica color that would work for Squib’s whiskers. I know black cats are hard to illustrate in any medium. “Black” –> detail is obscured. “Detail” is what makes a picture into a portrait. But Squib adds an extra little pain to the challenge. Her whiskers are black. Black whiskers against a black cat. Ouch.

I’ve used 24 shades of grey to weave the contours of Squib’s body.¬† The whiskers can’t be any of those shades because they will get lost in the details of her body. I knew this. I thought I had a solution — I tried DB925, clear crystal lined in black. In the right pattern, this color almost looks like it’s floating, because the color is on the inside of the bead (not extending to the surface). Unfortunately, when I wove them into the bead tapestry with all their neighbors, the nifty sorta-3D effect got lost.

I tried silk-satin¬† finished greys. I tried silvery beads in iris and in gold luster. I won’t use white, because Squib did not have white whiskers.

By the time I got back to it after dinner, i was about ready to use some of the neon Delicas, but thankfully I don’t have any (yet). I ended up with DB507, 24kt pink gold iris, hex cut. There’s no pink anywhere else in the pattern, so that attracts the eye. Squib’s left side whiskers show up very clearly because they’re against a black background. There’s lots more contouring on the right side of Squib’s face, so the whiskers are harder to spot. I’m hoping that when all the whiskers are woven, the clarity of whiskers-against-black makes it easier to see whiskers-against-greys.

Two new bead tapestries in progress

I am so fixated on writing helpful posts that I forget one other use of a blog: to keep track of what I’m working on. Duh. Here goes:

A couple of weeks ago I started working on one of the Christmas presents I’m weaving. The pattern is based on an old black-and-white portrait of ******** (in the unlikely event that he/she/they read this before Christmas 2014). The process of getting from an old photo to a new pattern was trickier than I expected, and I will post a separate article about what I did. Soon.

The second piece is for the “WeaveWith” event hosted by Mirrix Looms. It’s a riff on an Internet favorite, the *-along, where * could be knitting, crochet, weaving, etc. In their traditional form, the *-alongs involve a group of people all working on the same design at the same time. I have a great time with them because there’s always someone to talk to about what I’m doing (or where I’m at, or what I can’t figure out), and because there’s so many ways to interpret any given design.

Mirrix has sponsored a number of weave-alongs but I’ve never participated in one, mostly because I’m completely focused on whatever design I’m doing (which hasn’t been and isn’t likely to be what the group is working on). But a couple of weeks ago, Sara Figal (a member of the Mirrix Facebook group) posted pictures of her in-progress tapestry, which was inspired by a Robert Frost poem. The tapestry is gorgeous, and the combination of the two art forms works really really well.

The odds of getting a group of weavers to agree on a single poem didn’t seem very good. This led to the WeaveWith concept, in which the organizer picks a general theme, and participants then pick their own design to play along.

[As it turns out, a couple of participants are using the same poem — Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, and there’s a lot of Emily Dickinson.]

Overkill being my middle name, I have patterns for three different poems now, but I’m guessing I’ll only get one or two of them done (see “Christmas Present” above). First up on the list is another portrait of Squib, set to a poem called “The Cat,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from The Great Cat: poems about cats, edited by Emily Fragos for Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets.

This is the photo I chose:

The Sphinx….from which this pattern was designed:

Sphinx Pattern…to illustrate this poem:


The Cat

The cat
licks its paw and
lies down in
the bookshelf nook
can lie in a
sphinx position
without moving for so
many hours
and then turn her head
to me and
rise and stretch
and turn
her back to me and
lick her paw again as if
no real time had passed
It hasn’t
and she is the sphinx with
all the time in the world
in the desert of her time
The cat
knows where flies die
sees ghosts in motes of air
and shadows in sunbeams
She hears
the music of the spheres and
the hum in the wires of houses
and the hum of the universe
in interstellar spaces
prefers domestic places
and the hum of the heater.


The tapestry will be 4-ish inches by 6-ish inches. I passed the 25% mark last night — here’s where it’s at now:

The first quarter of the Sphinx bead tapestryI’ve got two additional poems and patterns worked up, but as this post is now ridiculously long, I will introduce them when I start working on them.