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

momentum: a project update

Greetings! This update finds me in Boston, where I’m in the final stages of laying out the CGB Pattern Book and the companion Colouring Book (which is going to be a fantastic toolbook, not to be missed).

The work is exciting; discoveries have come at an incredible rate since we published CGB Volume II, and we have a massive (and interconnected) library of new work to show. Have a drool over this open Kaleidocycle from Marie New, for example. Yum. And it’s a working Machine of math and physics.

Marie New Open Cycle 2016 web

If you are interested in these books, don’t miss the pre-order Bundle special. It’s an amazing deal, the two books together for $65. This is at least $20 off the final publication price.

This is one of our first Casting Models from the new books (beaded by Dustin) and one of its little babies. You can make anything from a model like this, really anything at all. Now I’m using an even simpler model, one I can wear like a small beaded bead on a chain, and I show it in the Pattern Book.

Family portrait Casting Model web

I thought we would be finished with the new books by now, but then I always plan for one year, and it always takes longer. I can only shake my head in wonder at the flood of discoveries we’ve had just in the time since I last posted an update.

Three beautiful new paths of Deconstruction have led to completely new ways of making, and they immediately (and dramatically) solved the problems of teaching sizing and starting in one beautiful maneuver. Finding the juiciest one at MIT this January was a game over moment, and we can now teach a complete beginner (and through the making of only one peyote triangle or Warped Square) good solid starts for any beaded bangle or form from either of our books. This is a magnificent thing to be able to do.

Carole G Pierced Arrow start

Above, Deconstruction and Edge Cloning in action, making a start for Kim Van Antwerp’s Pierced Arrow design. The Arrow will be shown in the new book set, but the complete instructions for this piece (including the deconstructed Flying V slot closure) were also released earlier this year as a stand-alone Pattern Dive in our shop.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 10.27.42 AM

So what about these new discoveries?

These new ways of Deconstruction led us rapidly to new ways of studying Edge Cloning, and one day I realized with a shock that even the most intense and variant Rick-Rack (a piece that is very complex to predict sizing for) can be sketched onto anything (even my skirt) and lifted off intact, to size, and in either a flat or bangle format. This was revolutionary; starting zigged pieces has always been a big deal. Not any more.

This is a piece that was easily cloned (and perfectly to size) off of an existing Rick Rack Casting Model, and then, after a few rounds, the Rick-Rack was converted to an All-Wing and bingo, I was off and running with a piece that would evolve, but never really change the basic sizing (unless I changed the architecture).  Holy moly.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 11.08.57 AM

Nothing is complicated anymore. Can you imagine the rewriting? Basically, almost everything I ever learned about starting and sizing beadwork can be thrown out of the window, except for a few basic truths about hand-sewing with needles and threads.

Happily (and entirely because they weren’t pattern books) the new discoveries didn’t make the technique-based findings in Volumes I and II obsolete – instead, they forged new and more direct paths to the goals. For example, the MRAW Band is still an engineering marvel, it’s just no longer the most efficient start, and now we only make it inline, like any old round, to add potential, lightspace, movement, or easy layering.

Sarah Loudon process

Above, you can see an MRAW Band being added inline in a Winged bangle in process by Sarah Loudon. It adds in easily, piece a’cake. So a person writing patterns, well. I don’t want my book to be obsolete in two years. This takes deep thinking about what is really going on when we make complex forms. Recipes for assembled components are always going to be better than twenty-page assembly instructions.

So I figured out how to clone all of our juts and Wings and Horns and shapes and forms in simple elements and components, and how to cast each one of them off of my little Casting Model, the beaded bead that Dustin named the Podcast.

Also, Machines. OMG. Just when we thought we understood our new work well enough to finalize the Pattern Book, what should happen but Susannah Thomson made a Kaleidocycle done with opposing perpendicular hinges, and we loved it, and we began to make all sorts of machines of mathematics and physics.  Below, a Kaleidocycle by Kim Van Antwerp.

kim-machine with dinos

We made Warped Square contraptions that seemed like the fabric of spacetime, we made Hexaflexagons (<- don’t miss this video by Vi Hart if you don’t know about the first explorations of these forms…)  and cycles, kaleido- and otherwise, fit for Feynman. In general, we are using the “flexa” terms for flat forms (usually made of paper) and “cycle” terms for dimensional forms. There are a lot of flexies and cycles; many of them can be expressed in beadwork.

This Warped Square Machine below (made by Kim and I) moves like the Kaleidocycles, but takes up almost zero space in spacetime. Unless it is flexed out. Otherwise, it stores like a stack of bow-ties in your collar drawer, and then, when you need to tesser to Mars, you just unpack it. SPROING.Whole Enchilada

Things that move take real joinery, and they should be vital and resilient, and we’re here to figure out the best ways to put things together. It took some time to reduce the process, to make things simple. I think we’ve done a good job, and our instructions will be easy and straightforward, with several neat variations.

The piece below by Daria Tittenberger (beading from Canada) uses ten butterfly-like Warped Squares, and is not a machine. But it can be made into a much more complex (and foldable) set of forms; it can have layers that fold up and down, or can be removed or wrapped or wired so it flows down your collarbones and curls around your upper arm.

Really, if we had more time…

Daria Tittenberger Warped Squares.jpg

So, while I feel confident now to publish our joinery, it will take another month or so to finalize the layouts, and move through peer review. Making things simple takes time. I am frequently reminded, in long-winded updates such as this, of the literary apology from one writer to another. It went something like, “I regret the length of this letter, but I lacked the time to make it shorter.”

I find that most work has its own depth, and its own timespace, and I have been surprised again and again by the sheer scope of each in this project. I feel as if the ideas are infinite, both in time and in number, and that they are deeply related to the structure of our universe. This Many-Wing by Pat Verrier (beading from England, and inspired by Vee Pretorius, beading from Scotland) is a good example: structure, form, technique, and a lovely model of so many kinds of Thing and process in nature and the cosmos.

Pat Verrier copy

As a team, we’ve done a really good job solving the handful of fundamental problems that we came to the table with. The weaknesses of the peyote start are solved by Deconstruction, and the unravelly nature of peyote stitch itself is neatly handled by our spiffy Lockstitch. We’ve demystified the zig-zag, sizing, and starting, made layering a snap, and our project now has over 100,000 people beading and following along with us. It’s been amazing.

The three books on our layout table now may be the last three books in the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork series, but these techniques will live on, and be taught forward, and it’s been an amazing privilege to bring these ideas, sparked all over the world and through thousands of hands, to the table. What we publish will last; it will speak for us, and five years of our lives, of our deepest work.

Laurel Kubby Klingnon Horned ZigZag

Above, an early Horned Bangle by Laurel Kubby, still a source of study and inspiration.

Thank you again to those of you who have supported our work over the years through your pre-orders, and also to those of you who also supported our open-source approach. The new discoveries never (and I mean never) could have happened in such a tumble otherwise.

By the way, speaking of Warped Squares (and we were) Kim and Dustin did an AMAZING and very fun earring kit.  You get two full sets of earring findings (and they are our favorite wires and swivels) and a bunch of patterns, including Erik Demaine’s paper folding instructions for turning our beading templates into origami versions. It’s a beautiful packet, comes from Kim’s studio, and can be found here:

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 11.53.54 AM

I’ll be back with you soon, with a video on Machine techniques, and a visual update of the new discoveries from the CGB project, and what to expect in the next few months as we move to press with the new books. We plan to release the digital downloads for the new books as soon as we sign the press proofs, and actually hope to do that in App form.

We’ll see how much we can accomplish in the next month.

Please subscribe to this blog if you are the sort of person who likes regular updates on our timeline. The Follow Box is in the right sidebar, up top. Enter your email address, answer the confirming email, and you won’t miss a minute when we hit the press.

Beady hugs,
Kate and the CGB Team

Kate McKinnon SkyOffice Green Building MIT13083356_835830309860249_8149297741520540211_n

About katemckinnon

Kate McKinnon has devoted herself to the study of how things are done, and how they could be done better. Find her at or on some city street, walking fast, smiling at strangers.

16 comments on “momentum: a project update

  1. Ginger
    August 2, 2016

    I also cannot see this being the last book – too many fabulous discoveries waiting to be described and inspire!

  2. Capitola Bradshaw
    August 1, 2016

    I can hardly contain my excitement waiting for the new books. I have enjoyed beading more since I received Volume I and II. I am constantly being stopped by people admiring my bracelets, in fact, they often drag other people with them to show them the one I am wearing. Not only are they beautiful, but thoroughly fun to make! I thank you for making this all possible! Cappy

  3. janetgunther
    July 28, 2016

    The good news is I have finally found the right amount to start out with in my size 10 beads. But Can you make your rick rack too too large? I have a RR bangle that has initially decreased in size but now it seems like no matter how many rows I add it stays the same size. I have seen some RR bangle photos that look quite wide.
    So is there a place when the Rick rack stops decreasing?

    • janetgunther
      July 28, 2016

      I understand what you were saying above about cloning an existing RR bangle. But still curious about the decreases as you add more rows.

      • katemckinnon
        July 28, 2016

        There is no real way to decrease a Rick-Rack, and it doesn’t really get smaller past the point where it is locked in place, it simply gets TALLER, which makes for a tighter fit. Just like a wide ring.

        The only way to size down a RR that can’t fit small enough by getting tall enough is to add a layer to the inside. A photo of your piece would be helpful, and email is the place.

  4. Capitola Bradshaw
    July 27, 2016

    Can hardly contain my excitement waiting for all the news! How do you order the earring kits?

  5. Renée Good
    July 27, 2016

    I am so looking forward to the new books, but please, please, please don’t say that they are the last. The photos in your project update are phenomenal and I can’t wait to try all the new techniques. Meantime, I have had only one disappointing project so far. It was the wrap bracelet, and I think that the memory wire I used is just too big for my wrist. It doesn’t cling at all and looks OK off, but not so good on. Oh well, on to the next project.

    Thanks for everything and lots of love to you all.


    __ Reneé Good Sent from my iPad


    • katemckinnon
      July 27, 2016

      Ah, but there will be so much material in those five books… it will outlast me for sure.
      Thank you for your kind words.

      And you know, you can add another round to your wrappie, and put another curl of memory wire in THAT new round… make that ring-sized wire if need be. You are not limited to just one wire.

  6. Teri F
    July 26, 2016

    Good gracious it seems like forever. GO GO GO GO GO! You can do it! We are all so excited!

  7. maryy
    July 26, 2016

    Toutes ces créations sont superbes ! Félicitations !

  8. Maryanne Gross
    July 26, 2016

    I’m very excited about your new discoveries, Kate! I just finished my first Kaleidocycle and had a blast making it! I made Kim’s Pierced Arrow from the dive you posted and I’m thrilled with it. Can’t wait to try some of your new things! Looking forward to hearing more about all your progress and seeing the new books in person!

    • katemckinnon
      July 28, 2016

      A W E S O M E, Thanks, Maryanne. It’s great to hear from you. Can you email me pix of your cycle?

  9. Jane
    July 26, 2016

    Are there any blank triangle graphs, 3 put together available yet?

  10. Lisa
    July 26, 2016

    Kate – I’m so excited to read about your collective discoveries and I’ll be even more excited when the books come out. Wahoo! Do you have any plans to teach any of this in person in the coming year? I’d love to schedule another beading vacation if you are! Also, we’re heading to Tucson the Saturday after Thanksgiving day. (Thats where you sometimes live, right?) It would be fun to see you for lunch, tea or dinner if you’ll be around. If I recall, you don’t plan too far in advance so I can get in touch close to that time. Hope all else is going well for you. Best, Lisa (Brenner)

    Sent from my iPhone


    • katemckinnon
      July 26, 2016

      Lisa! You doll!
      No more classes for me on the horizon, but Kim Van Antwerp and Dustin Wedekind will be rocking it forward across the West Coast this Fall. I’ll post on the site when their dates are final.

      I have seriously no idea where I will be in November… but if I am in Tucson, I would love to see you.

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