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Learning to Loosen Up

October 24, 2010

I added a new feature to the latest jacket I made — beading — and this new feature, of course added insight to mind. I have no hesitation when it comes to doing something new, and even jumping into it with little practice — this can be considered either good or detrimental, but it is what I do. That was the case with this accent I knew was the perfect fit for the jacket I was finishing. Three little matching lines of hand sewn seed beads to accent the pleats were the perfect touch. I knew they would  be included, I knew what I needed, and this meant I was going to learn how to apply beading to a garment.I mentioned doing this with little practice, but considering I removed and replaced the first set of beading six times until I got it right, I guess I did get some practice.

I did a little online research to see how beading is done and read up on a couple of wonderful artists while viewing their very intricate work. The instructions I chose were those from a person who does beautiful beadwork in the style of one of the American Indian tribes. It covers complete garments and must take ions to complete. It reminded me of the intricacy and dedication required to do large cross stitch pieces that end up looking like paintings with the detail and tiny stitches. I only wanted to apply six short, straight lines, but this was the place to learn how to do it correctly.

I learned a couple of things that were not in the instructions. To apply the beads, they must fit over the needle first. And it’s good to be able to see and hold that tiny needle once it is identified. These are some tiny beads! I got over that unexpected hurdle and began to work on a test piece. I took my stitch, threaded some beads, came back and began to stitch over the stringing thread to form the design just as the diagrams indicated. I secured them well — and hated the finished product. Start over. Come up, thread the beads, stitch under and pull taut. As I began again and again to stitch the beads into place with the same dissatisfaction, it occurs to me that this is a delicate project and I should be using a delicate hand. Start over, but this time with enthusiasm.

As I took the securing stitch for the line of beads I watched them carefully to see how they responded to my stitching. When they were perfect, I stopped. I like it. Now to continue with the securing stitches. Again I watch the beads and realize after a few tries that the ones I like the best are those with some room. I adjust my stitches and begin to enjoy the process of hand stitching as I normally do. I realize that the beads need room to dance in order to act the way I want them to, and my first attempts were cramping their style. My mind wanders to a conversation I once had with an art instructor critiquing my work. She said I was talented. <smiling now>. Then she told me I could be really happy with my work if I just loosened up and let it happen. <I thought I was>. She described my work as tight. Hmm. That’s the problem I began with here.

I started all over one last time, and this time I let the beads dance. I used the described technique to apply them, but did so with a measured hand. I love the result. It occurs to me that this same notion applies to many things in life. I can do the right process, but tightly controlling everything never allows the ideal results. This is the case in so many of my projects. Stitching something in place with taut stitches leaves you with puckers and less than desirable finishes. Loosen up and use the techniques to full advantage, but don’t forget to let the fabric, or anything with which you’re working, dance. That’s why we’re here in first place, right?

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