When Beads Direct asked me to create something for the theme of Midnight Celebrations, my immediate thoughts were monochrome and sparkly. I wanted to create something extra special, really different and original. I love Fantasy and Mystical Themes, so my design just had to be a ‘Night Owl’.
Next came the real challenge, how was I going to bead an owl?
About a year ago I was very inspired by Kleshna and her fabulous Soutache demonstrations on TV. I thought that beaded embroidery and Soutache would be perfect. Using this technique you can be quite free with the design and there is no complex 3D bead weaving involved. I am a Soutache beginner. Apart from a couple of simple braided pendants, this is only my second ever full embroidered Soutache piece. There was quite a lot of ‘unbeading’ involved while I worked out the design for you – tee hee. I like a challenge!
This is not a quick project. Please just take your time and have fun. If you don’t like a section, just undo it. You could adapt the design too – do whatever you think looks good. Embroidery is more free style than counted weaving techniques so there is no such thing as ‘wrong’ with this one.
I hope that you like him and if any of you decide to make it, please do upload it to Beads Direct Facebook page. I would simply love to see your version.
Happy Beading, Anne x.
Nymo Beading Thread Size D Black x1 TC127
Rayon Soutache Cord Black x2 TC903
Rayon Soutache Cord Silver Grey x1 TC902
Rayon Soutache Cord Smog x1 TC893
Beading Foundation Black x1 ST1122
Beading Felt Foundation Black x1 ST205
Sparkly Resin Large Oval Cabochon Black Diamond x1 pack BA62
Preciosa Seed Bead Mix Monochrome x1 MONOCHROMEMEDLEY
Seed Bead Mix Silver Cloud x1 SILVERCLOUD
Toho Size 15 Seed beads Silver Lined Grey x1 15TR29B
Zamak Toggle Clasp Antique Silver x1 F0138
Beadalon 7 Strand Beading Wire 0.012in Bright x1 W73
Crimp Beads 2mm Silver Plated x1 FCR1
Fabri-Tac Adhesive x1 W370
Order all your materials from the project gallery HERE.
GENERAL TIPS FOR STITCHING:
Drawing Tools: You may find a soft white pencil handy for drawing some guidelines on the beading foundation. Some scrap lined or graph paper is also useful for working out the placement of elements while building the design, so that you get them symmetrically placed.
Needles: I have used a fine sharp embroidery needle for stitching. You could use a beading needle if preferred but check that your needle and thread will pass through a size 15 seed bead twice.
Beads: I have chosen a couple of bead mixes to use in the project as they are so versatile, giving a good range of sizes and colours. Consequently I don’t know the exact bead sizes of them all but have tried to indicate the sizes used at each step. Don’t worry too much. If a particular bead looks OK then it will be OK, even if it is not the same as I have used.
Starting and ending a thread: When starting a new thread to sew on beads or braid, knot the thread end and hide the knot on the back of the foundation or between braid layers. Then make a couple of small stitches to fully secure the knot and prevent it slipping and working its way through the felt or braid with time. End a thread by securing with 2 or 3 small stitches and trim close. It doesn’t matter how messy the back becomes as it will be covered with felt at the end.
Sewing on beads using Backstitch: Bring the needle up through the foundation, add on 2 beads, pass needle back down through foundation so that the beads lie next to each other. Next bring the needle back up close to the first bead added, pass the thread through the 2 beads just added, add the next 2 beads and repeat.
Sewing on beads using Couching: Bring the needle up through the foundation, add on all the beads needed for a row. Pass the needle back down through foundation so that the beads lie next to each other and make an anchor stitch. Next sew back down the row making small stitches between the beads, stitching down and anchoring the thread between them. Work the next row.
Tramming your bead rows: After stitching on rows of beads, pass the thread back through all of the beads. Gently pull the thread and secure with a couple of stitches to hold. Your beads will all line up nicely and give a much neater finish.
Stitching the Soutache: The braid is stitched in place by laying on its edge and making small stitches at right angles through the central groove. If you are a beginner it is easier to stitch layers of braid one at a time. I find that dressmakers pins can be useful to help hold the braid and tension it in place as I work around a shape. Add a tiny drop of Fabri-Tac to the cut ends of the Soutache braid. This will dry clear and prevent the ends from fraying.
Note: Some braids have a slightly different look depending on which edge you look at, a smooth edge and a slightly textured looking edge. Look carefully at your braid and use the same edges to match the left and right sides of the design. I didn’t realise this until I was half way though my project so I have mixed mine up a bit – told you that I was a beginner! Don’t worry too much, only a Soutache expert would ever notice.
Stitching beads between braids: Pass the thread through the centre of the braid, through the bead (or beads), then through the next braid. Take a small stich and go back through both braids and beads.
Step 1 (of 18)
Take one sheet of bead foundation (approx. 11 X 14cm). Trim into two pieces of approx. 5.5 X 7cm, which will make the body and head pieces; and 4 pieces of approx. 2.75 X 3.5cm which will make the wing pieces. Glue on the cabochons and leave to fully set, preferably overnight. Tip: Lightly scratch the back of the cabochons to give a key for the glue (do not do this if you are using transparent or special coated crystals), apply a small drop of glue, press down onto the bead foundation and hold for a few seconds. I have found that this method ensures that the cabochons stay strongly secured.
Step 2 (of 18)
Sew on the eye centres using a 4mm white bead and size 10 black bead. Space them 1cm up from the foundation edge and 1.5cm apart. Stitch through the white bead, thread on the black bead, and then go back down through the white. Repeat a couple of times to ensure strongly secured.
Backstitch circles of beads around the eyes using approx. 12 grey size 10, followed by approx. 18 silver lined grey size 10 beads. Tram the beads to align neatly.
Stitch on 6mm bugles adding a size 15 bead on each end. Bugles have sharp edges and the smaller beads help protect the thread from being frayed or cut by the bugles. The bugles are touching near the eye and slightly splayed on the outer edge. Stitch extra size 15 beads between the bugles on the outer edge (to fill little gaps).
Next work 4 rows of beads working from the eye up. Add 3 size 10 and 2 size 15 on each side. On the lower edge stitch 1 size 10 and a size 15, then 1 size 10, then 1 size 15 bead. On the upper edge stitch 2 size 10 and a size 15, then 2 more rows with 1 size 10 and a size 15. This creates a smooth teardrop shape with a flat top.
Step 3 (of 18)
Cut 2 lengths of silver grey braid 10cm in length. Seal one end thoroughly with Fabri-Tac glue and make into a small tight spiral and stitch through the sides to hold firmly. Stitch down to the tip of the eye area. Continue stitching the braid all the way around the teardrop shape, and just over the tip. Do not worry about the black stitches showing, these will be covered in the next step.
Trim the foundation back around the sides and bottom, leaving a small section between the eyes to attach the beak. Tuck the braid ends under to the back and secure.
Cut a 30cm length of black braid and fold in half. Create the beak by stitching rows of size 10 white beads between the braid fold using 1, 2, 3, 2 then 1 beads. Secure and stitch in place between the eyes. It will slightly overhang the foundation.
Step 4 (of 18)
Wrap and stitch the black braid all the way around the eyes and ears, and secure at the beak. Next turn the braid back on itself and stitch the jaw line adding approx. 7 size 8 light grey beads between the braids. Finish the row with a smaller size 10 bead to taper. Curl the braid around the last bead and secure to the back.
Next lay rows of size 10 white beads with couching to create the forehead. Starting from the bottom gently curve the rows as you work. It is better to leave small gaps between the beads than to cram in one too many.
Trim back the foundation leaving a small margin at the top of the head. Cut a 5cm length each of smog and black braid and stitch to the top edge of the head. Curl the braid around to the back and secure.
Step 5(of 18)
Working on the body piece, stitch a row of size 8 gunmetal grey beads around the cabochon using backstitch. Tram the beads to align neatly.
Stitch 3 layers of braid around the body; silver grey, smog and black on the outside. Secure the braids together at the top. These braid ends will give support to the head so don’t trim back too far.
Next stitch a group of three size 8 light grey beads to start the legs (at positions 7 and 5 O’clock). Cut a length of 20cm silver grey braid and start stitching in place from the middle of the braid length at the body base. Shape the braid around the beads and create a spiral fold before working up the sides. Stop and secure at the 10 and 2 O’clock positions. The leg pieces protrude approx. 2cm from the line of black braid. Don’t worry if they are not exactly symmetrical – mine aren’t!
Stitch rows of 3 size 8 beads in black and white at right angles to the body up the sides. Try and place the stripes at the same positions each side. Stop at the 10 and 2 O’clock positions.
Next stitch on beads for the tail base by couching. Anchor the beads through the braid at the top. Start with 6 or 7 size 8 gunmetal grey beads placed centrally. Now fill in each side with alternate rows of size 10 milky and silver lined grey beads. Try and work an equal number of rows each side of the middle. The exact number of beads per row will depend on the size of your space. Mine are not exactly symmetrical – I have wonky legs – tee hee. Don’t worry. The idea is to create a smooth pointed tail base.
Step 6 (of 18)
Trim the foundation to within a couple of mm around the outside edge. Leave the area at the top edge intact for attaching the wings and head.
Cut 30cm lengths of braid, 2 in black and 1 in silver grey. Sandwich the silver grey between the blacks and start stitching in place from the middle of the braid at the point of the tail. Tram through the beads to align and reinforce.
At the leg section curl the braid around and add a 5mm black bead and a smaller size 8 grey bead. I find that dressmakers pins help here.
Stitch the braids up the sides to the shoulders. Tram through the black and white bead rows to align and reinforce. Finally add 3 little claws to the feet by coming through the braid, adding on 2 size 10 silver lined grey and a black bead, then passing back through the 2 silver lined beads. Secure firmly into the braid.
Step 7 (of 18)
Stitch 3 size 8 beads to the top of the shoulders maintaining the stripe pattern. Trim the silver grey braid and create a tight coil to fit into the gap and secure well. Remember to seal the braid end to prevent fraying. This area will be partially hidden when the head is attached.
Curl the 3 outer braids around a 5mm black and 4mm white bead, stitching down through the centre of the beads and braid. Curl the braid to the back and secure.
Step 8 (of 18)
Create the tail fringe by adding size 10 whites, followed by the same sequence of beads on the bottom; 3 milky size 10, 3 black size 10, 1 white size 10, 2 more black, a bugle, a 4mm milky bead and 3 size 15 silver lined grey. Work back up starting at the larger bead so that the size 15 beads create a little picot. Secure well into the braid at the top. Take care not to pull up the beads too tightly – you want them to swish. The number of white beads used depends on how long you would like the fringe. The number of tassels might vary slightly depending on your space between the feet. I used 8 white beads in the centre, followed by 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 beads.
Step 9 (of 18)
Stitch size 8 white beads around the cabochons on the wing pieces using backstitch. Tram to align the beads and trim the foundation to within a couple of mm.
Step 10 (of 18)
Cut 4 lengths of 25cm each of silver grey and black braid. Stitch two braids around each of the beaded cabochons with the black outermost. Complete 2 such that the braids emerge at the top at 12 O’clock. These will make the upper wing sections. On the other cabochons complete 1 to finish at 10 O’clock and the other at 2 O’clock. These should be a mirror image of each other. Tip: To check alignment lay the cabochons back to back to help match them up.
Step 11 (of 18)
Working on the uppermost wing sections curl 2 of the braids back and over a 5mm black, 4mm white and a size 6 black bead. Stitch in place through the beads and braid, matching them up so that they are a mirror image of each other. Now curl the braid back again over another 5mm black bead, stitch and pass the braid under to the back and secure.
Attach the lower wing pieces to the outer corners of the shoulders using 2 of the braids. Stitch the braids along the shoulder to the neck and secure.
Pass a thread down through the 4 braids at the junction of the shoulder. Add 2 size 8 black and 1 size 6 clear bead. Now tension the 2 loose braids to wrap around the beads and butt onto the shoulder edge. Make adjustments such that the angle of the lower wings matches on each side. Use some lined paper to help. Then pass the thread through the braids to anchor the beads into the gap. Pass back through the beads and stitch the braids securely together at the shoulder. Curl the braid ends back under the foundation and secure. Secure everything together well here so that the lower wings don’t wiggle around too much.
Step 12 (of 18)
Fold under and secure the loose braids at the neck.
Attach the upper wing pieces to the lower by aligning the 4mm white bead approx. in the centre of the lower wing edge. Stitch through the beads and braids to secure. Use lined paper to help check alignment of left & right sides.
Sew the 2 loose braids along the top, around the lower wing and along to the neck. As you stitch, fill the gap between the upper and lower wing with 2 or 3 graduated beads to further stabilise the join. I used a size 6, 8 and 10 bead. There will now be 4 braids running along the top of the shoulders. Again secure everything together well here. All the connections should now be quite solid.
Step 13 (of 18)
Hold the necklace onto your neck, at the height that you would like to wear it, and decide where you would like the necklace ‘cords’ to be attached on the wing tip. Cut 2 lengths of 30cm each of smog and black braid.
Pair a smog and black braid, and thread on a large 7.5mm clear bead. This will be used to attach beading wires for the necklace. Ensuring that you leave enough braid to run along the top edge of the wings, stitch and attach the braid (black braid outermost) through a size 8 black bead on either side of the large clear bead. Stitch through several times to reinforce.
Attach braids along the upper wing edges stitching through size 8 black beads as you work. Stop about mid-way along the lower wing cabochon. Secure the braids to the back.
Next stitch through the braids attaching 5mm black beads along the lower edges of the wings, 5 on each of the wing sections. Dressmakers pins are very useful here to evenly space the beads and hold sections together. Tuck the ends to the back at the end of the bead row and secure.
Fold under and secure the loose braids at the neck.
Step 14 (of 18)
Sew back through all the braids and the 5mm black beads on the lower wing edges, adding a 4mm white bead and size 6 black bead on the outside edge. Before going back down the beads add on 3 silver lined grey size 10 beads to make a little picot tip. Stitch through each bead set twice to reinforce. The two middle bead stacks either side of the dip have a shared picot tip. Stitch the first bead set as usual, then sew on the next white and black bead and go through the size 10 bead at the side of the previous stack before going back down the beads.
Step 15 (of 18)
Overlap the head onto the shoulders and body and stitch in place where you can. Ensure that the sides of the head are not gaping, and that it is well secured through the bead foundation layers.
Step 16 (of 18)
The back will look a mess but don’t worry. Lay the piece onto some scrap paper and roughly draw around the shape. Trim the paper to make yourself a template for the felt backing. You need one whole piece for the body, head and lower wing sections and 2 ovals to cover the backs of the upper wing cabochons.
Cut some scrap felt pieces and fill the hollow at the back of the head. You don’t have to be precise, just even out the level at the back so that there are no big dips. Stitch them down to secure.
Step 17 (of 18)
Use the paper template to cut out the felt backing. I found it easiest to cut the large irregular piece slightly larger than needed. I then pinned in place and trimmed back sections more accurately as I stitched. Secure in place by stitching through the groove in the braid and out through the edge of the felt. Keep checking from the front to ensure that your stitching is not obvious or distorting the braids.
Step 18 (of 18)
Cut 4 lengths of bead cable approx. 60cm each. This is more than needed but some length is taken up with braiding and twisting the strands. Make a random mix of all the smaller beads and bugles i.e. sizes 15, 10, 8 and 6.
Pass 2 strands through the clear bead on the wing tip and pull through evenly so that you are working on 4 strands. Thread on 5 or 6 beads onto a double strand on either side of the base. Pass all 4 strands though a crimp and squash flat with pliers. Add a stack with a 6.5mm white, 5mm black and a 4mm white bead. The large white bead covers the crimp.
Now randomly bead each of the 4 strands for 5 or 6cm length. Randomly twist and plait the strands together. The aim is a random organic look. Add on a size 6 black, 4mm white and another black bringing all 4 strands together. Continue randomly beading onto 4 separate strands for another 5 or 6cm. Now check for fit allowing approx. 6cm for the ending beads and clasp, and adjust the length as required. Twist the strands and bring together with a size 6 black, 4mm white and another black bead. Crimp together and trim off 2 of the wires. Next add a 6.5mm white bead. This will help cover the crimp and wire ends and prevent them scratching.
Finally add another crimp bead but leave open. Pass the two wires through the toggle loop, and back through the crimp. Secure the crimp and trim the wires. Repeat on the T-bar side but add on a few smaller beads before attaching to the clasp. This makes it easier to pull the T-bar through the toggle when using the clasp.
Phew ……. and ……. breathe x.