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

May BeadALong, Cycling Machines

Hello all!

The Cycles chapters are the last to finish now in the CGB book series, and we are just now working Open Source-style with a couple of them, the Kaleidocycle and the BatCycle. As always, we’ll include some of the most striking and original work in the books. It’s how we do things globally, and it makes for a very strong project and idea base.

•  •  •

As it turned out, the Kaleidocycle was only the beginning of the story of Machines. We have come to find, discover or invent (those words are all so confusing) hundreds of them.

Claudia cycle 3

Kaleidocyle, Claudia Furthner, Austria  (24 Flat Peyote Triangles)

These forms seem intimidating, but many of them turn out to be simple. This one is just 24 little triangles.

As it turns out, so much of the enjoyment (or chaos) of Machine-making is simply about craftsmanship. Small triangles are easy to learn to make perfectly, because each one only takes 10-15 minutes to make. We can just start over if things go badly wrong.

Each element in the Machines is small enough to make with only one thread and make well. But leaving the working threads attached to the elements (as most beaders are taught to do) means a lot of thread in your way when it comes time to do the joins.

When working with clean pieces, joinery becomes a pleasure, not a chore. There are definitely times to leave thread ends exposed or to remember where they are (as in Deconstruction, for example) but not for these projects.

This is my worktable for our May beadalong – different flower patterns in the Triangle faces, each Triangle finished neatly, and then tied together in the middle by a little piece of string. I can play with them, but they stay together.

May Beadalong worktable.jpg

In the photo, there are a few Butterfly Assemblies (each one of these is a Mirror BatHedra unit, and three of these fold to make a BatCycle, like the photo below).

Joke van Biesen Unicycle Web

BatCycle, Joke van Biesen, the Netherlands  (Warped Hexes and Triangles)

Making components with clean edges is easy to do, and (to tempt those of you who don’t like hiding your threads) if you craft each element to stand alone we can make and take apart a lot of different Machines quite easily, without doing damage to our beadwork.

The Warped Hexes alone can make about 45 cool combinations, with and without Triangles and Warped Squares and Warped Hexagons… so consider making them neat and clean?

The first true Kaleidocycle I saw was engineered from a folding net pattern by Susannah Thomson, and it was captivating. It prompted us to track down the lineage of kinematic linkages. We saw that the folding net left two edges unjoined, and provided no hinges.

Susannah Thomson cycle (from a folding net)

Kaleidocycle from a net, Susannah Thomson

Many beaders went on to make cycles from paper folding patterns, and they were lovely, but not all of them turned well, or lasted well from the turning. I wanted to spend some time learning the linkages before we released a pattern.

Kim Van Antwerp and Dustin Wedekind made a very nice draft pattern for the books (available for free in our Pattern Library) that focused on the Tetrahedra, and I love it – we will show a couple of different assembly methods in the books, and that will surely be one of them. But I think that more people can relate to a net layout, so that’s what we are leading with.

The Jellyfish assembly is my favorite, as it gives a nice net look and feel, but also offers the engineering strength and flexibility of a linkage. And each set of Mirror Tetrahedra is just a natural result of folding the little Jellies up.

Jellyfish Net Assembly illustrations Karen Beningfield

See in the photo below how easily it folds into Mirror Tetras? There is no question if the triangles are in the right place or in the correct orientation – once you fold them up with your fingers, either the sides match up, or they don’t.

Jellyfish Net Claudia Furthner Kate McKinnon

Kaleidocycle made with Jellyfish sections, except sewn into a long snake.
Contributions by Cath Thomas, Dustin Wedekind, Kim Van Antwerp, Claudia Furthner, Joke Van Biesen, Kate McKinnon.

•  •  •

Here is a dorky video I made yesterday to show the May pieces in process. I’ll be doing close up videos of all of the Machine joins, including making the beautiful Butterflies, designed by Claudia Furthner, the CGB Team, and soon you, when you make your own and send us a photo.

•  •  •

My next post will have links to many patterns for Triangles, Hypars, and Warped Hexes, along with blank coloring graphs. We are uploading them all to the Free Resources section (link on left side of this blog).

•  •  •


There is a “Follow” box at the end of this post, and on the lower right of our main page. Put in your email address, and then reply to the confirmation request you receive. If you don’t get one, check your Spam folder (and add us to your Contacts!).

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.59.31 AM.png


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.

10 comments on “May BeadALong, Cycling Machines

  1. Sherris Marsell
    May 30, 2018

    I’m so blessed to have found CGB. PLease keep me posted of any new information ,videos, and books. THank you!

  2. K
    May 2, 2018

    Thank you these are so cool and mind boggling at the same time

  3. Deborah Apodaca
    May 2, 2018

    Thank you so much for this monthly beadalong! I am so excited to take my beading 3D 🙂

  4. April
    May 2, 2018

    Just want to double check… I sure don’t want to miss out on this one! To join the BeadALong, we just need to follow here on the blog, correct? Or do we need to join something elsewhere, like FaceBook or something?

  5. Claudia White
    May 2, 2018

    Kate, my mind is exploding with all of the possibilities. I wish I had more time in the day to bead! Have you posted information about the end of July Boston gathering?

    • katemckinnon
      May 2, 2018

      SOON! Thanks, Claudia, I hope to see you then! I’m really excited about it.

  6. Leslie Russell
    May 2, 2018

    Kate thank you very, very much for sharing so much of your knowledge, talent and time. I’ve learned so many new beading ‘things’ since discovering CBG and hope to continue on this exciting and fun journey. You are one awesome human being!!!

  7. annemariebeads
    May 2, 2018

    Hi kateI am just curious will there still be a paperbook? It seems like there was a plan not long ago that mentioned getting packages together for a mailing. I am very interested in having the actual books and wondering if that has changed?? 

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    • katemckinnon
      May 2, 2018

      Yes of course! Three paper books, actually – the Pattern Book (full of charts and patterns) the Colouring Book (lots of blank charts and elements and ideas for colourways) and CGB Volume III, the photographic compilation of all of our new work, with commentary. I am finishing all three at once. This is our last BeadALong – then the Cycles chapters will be finished.

      Join us, and maybe bead a flower face or a Butterfly assembly we can add to our patterns in the book!

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