an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators

Zigged Band thoughts…

I’ve been working on samples for the Zigged Band tutorial for the Volume I updates, and the soon-to-come Pattern Library.

I’m paying close attention to the process, and noting the points of choice, the places that people go wrong… the counts, the sizes. Huge amounts of noticing has gone into Zigging and Zagging over the past year, as people all over the world have contributed their sizing and experience. It’s been fun. And I can’t wait to show you the wonderful sizing chart that Cath Thomas put together.

Zigged Flower

Here are a few peeks of my samples.

See the short threads left in my piece in progress, below?  People have many different preferences for handling thread tails, thread lengths and thread changes. But it’s really just common sense- be smooth, be secure, and don’t use trashed thread.

MRAW Zigged Band, Kate McKinnon

For me, when it comes to thread length, I try to be practical. I do a lot of work with my hands- every extra thread pull counts against the cumulative toll on my shoulders, wrists, and my hardest-working hand. Excessively long threads use a lot of extra energy to handle, pull, and untangle. So I never use a thread longer than a meter, which is the space between my lap and my hand, extended into the air. One long pull, or two shorter ones.

And for me, leaving long tails simply leaves thread in the path of my current stitches, and I waste energy and motion teasing them out of my loops. And, because I use shorter threads, and so have more join points, cutting the tails too early leaves vulnerable structural spots that can no longer be seen.

I weave in well to start and stop, and then cut my tails to about a half inch as soon as I have the next round or two well-established. I leave those little short pieces in place until I’m ready for a photograph or until the piece is finished. They are markers for me- they tell me where not to anchor new structure and where not to start new threads (try not to overlap thread changes in one area, or you might get a lumpy spot).

Zigged Band As A Young Star

Sorting the Zigged Band into the bundle shape makes sense, because everything is going in the ultimately desired direction, and it makes it simple to keep the elbows turned correctly. If you hold the work like an open star as you bead, it can be sprawly, and difficult to be sure that all of the angles are turned correctly. And after a certain point of decrease, they won’t turn back the right way.

In light of this, I actually do most of my Zigged Band and Rick-Rack work with the beads held in gather form, and the piece lets me know when it’s outgrown the concept- like when a Rick-Rack Bangle is suddenly a circular thing. It tells you.

Long, straight pieces are easy to bundle.

ZIgged Band Neckpiece

I tied a little thread around this one for the photo, but I don’t keep it tied when I work. I just hold it gently, like a little accordion.

Zigged Band Neckpiece bundled

The bundle on this one has a form that reminds me of Asian rooflines, very elegant.

Bundles are easy to hold, and it’s easy to expose only the “wing” that’s being worked. Increases sit neatly on top of their partners, and the beads take up as much thread and as much space as they will in reality; this makes it really easy to make decisions about tailoring, tension, and thread pulls. This hold also helps me avoid missed spaces, night-loops, and twisted increases.

But it’s just what works for me. The best answers about thread length, tail length and how to hold beadwork are always about what’s best for you. Experiment!

(beadwork in this post by Kate McKinnon, click any photo to enlarge)

About katemckinnon

Kate McKinnon, globe-trotting writer and metalsmith, has devoted herself to the study of how things are done, and how they could be done better. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, and loves warm weather, nice people, rides in the car, and good books.

16 comments on “Zigged Band thoughts…

  1. Jennifer Lane
    January 30, 2014

    Thank you so much for this advice, Kate. I am a beader living in regional north Australia (yes we have just had a cyclone pass nearby and may have another one next week, lots of rain which we need desperately.) We don’t have any beading shops (for Australian readers, we do have a Spotlight and a Lincraft but that hardly suffices for the loss of our beading shops) and I feel very solitary in my beading, so I really appreciate your generous sharing spirit.

  2. Ruth Bernstein
    January 24, 2014

    Your teaching style is awesome! I appreciate it so much as it is deliciously detailed. It is rare for anyone to communicate in that way as they haven’t analyzed each step, nor do they consider their students to the degree that you have done. From the get go when I first read your first blog umpteen years ago, I fell in love with your communication style. Many thanks.

  3. parkwaysmom
    January 23, 2014

    This was terrific info. Thanks!!

  4. Elizabeth White
    January 23, 2014

    I am relieved to find support for short threads. My long arms mean that up to about 1.5 metres is comfortable for me – and feasible even with arthritic shoulders. I have resisted ‘experts’ insistence on 2 to 3 metres. Apart from the extra effort involved, I find that very long threads tend to tangle and then I end up with a lot of short threads and too many joins.

    I prefer finishing threads as I work – long ends gets in the way – and your suggestion of ‘marking’ thread change points with a short thread end is great. Thanks.

    I’ve only just started reading your blog but it looks as if it will be very educational as well as interesting

    Liz White on Arran

    • katemckinnon
      January 24, 2014

      People do have strong feelings about thread length, but they may not be thinking things through at this level of detail. Honestly, a lot of them just hate to change thread, and I find that often that aversion is more about re-threading the needle than weaving in and out- it’s really hard for some people to see the eye of the needle. I try to keep extra reading glasses around when I teach.

      I like to teach people to needle the thread, instead of threading the needle, it works better.

      One of the reasons I love working with cylinder beads is that there is so much room inside the beads that I can use a #10 needle, which is easier to thread than a #12 (which is what I use for seed beading).

      I’m grateful to be able to see my needle really well, so threading doesn’t bother me. Tangles and trashed thread, though, no fun for me.

      • BarbaraBriggsDesigns
        January 24, 2014

        I know that thread is a personal choice, but one huge factor in my decision to switch from Nymo to Fireline is the ease with which Fireline threads through a needle. It has a firmness that allows the end to be flattened and glide through the eye like butter! It also does not tangle as easily as Nymo and has the ability to better resist wear that can be caused by sharp-edged crystals.

  5. Dorothy
    January 23, 2014

    Very helpful! I especially like the advice about the thread tails – I find myself trying to weave in ends over previous woven areas and it gets awfully tight. By leaving a short tail sticking out I’ll be able to avoid these areas in future.

    • katemckinnon
      January 23, 2014

      Yes, you can just snip them closely when the piece is finished. Glad it was helpful!

  6. Judy Drew
    January 23, 2014

    Thanks for the great suggestions. I like the sharing that is going on in the community. Everybody can draw on others’ ideas and not have to re-invent the wheel themselves.

  7. dbednarek
    January 23, 2014

    Wow ! Your attention to details and making things clear is beyond amazing. I love the bundles concept and have sort of figured that out for myself but you clarified everything for anyone who reads this, beginner or advanced. Excellent job once more!

    • katemckinnon
      January 23, 2014

      Thanks, Deb! I was struck early on in life by something I read in All Things Bright And Beautiful- about how the country vets would work on the wild farm cats- they would catch them and swiftly wrap them into little hissing bundles, with only the part that needed attention sticking out.

      That stayed with me, and it’s definitely my approach to beadwork. It will be fun to finish the whole series of videos, and show the ways I hold everything.

  8. Amy Norris
    January 23, 2014

    Holy mackerel! This post alone is worth the price of the admission! I firmly buy into the “experiment” philosophy in general, but as a relatively new beader, some of these ideas about how to hold beadwork while working on it, etc., just don’t occur to me. Thank you for sharing this incredibly practical knowledge. Along with your incredibly inspiring beadwork, of course.

  9. BarbaraBriggsDesigns
    January 23, 2014

    Great advice, Kate! And I love the vibrant colors of the zigged piece shown above!

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