Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How I got started with beading!

Every now and then I am asked, “how did you get started in beading?” It turns out to be a long story involving love of crafts (especially needle and thread work), a motivational home economics class in school (the stichin’ part, not the stirrin’), and time to focus on creative projects.

One such time, in the early 80’s, found my husband, son, and me at Alden Farm Camps, a turn-of-the-last-century fishing camp in the Belgrade Lakes region of Maine; we were vacationing with my husband’s parents and sister. We stayed in amenities and facilities-challenged cabins (known as camps in Maine) at the water’s edge; indoor plumbing was the most cutting edge technology on the premises, and the septic system would have been considered emergent technology. The cabins did include the wilderness beauty of a northwoods view across the lake, the plaintiff calls of loons, and frequent evening aurora light shows. The rustic dining hall was the communal gathering place for meals, cribbage and bridge games, and conversations amid the mounted fish, and trappings of a bygone era. The food rivaled any five star restaurant anywhere. Aldens was the most nostalgic location on the planet for my husband’s family, and our son represented the fourth generation of the family to gather here. Camp activities included fishing, eating, reading, sleeping and more fishing, which brings be back to my original focus – “how did I get started in beading?”

As I don’t fish (I do eat, sleep, and read some), I had some time to spend while the rest of the camp was occupied. After finding a supply of beads in town, my sister-in-law and I prevailed upon one of the cabin boys to build us small looms. For a week, we sat on the cabin porch and made woven beaded bracelets. From this vantage point, we could watch our son and his friends playing along the lake and at the beach, and we could see the comings and goings of the boats and fishermen. Although the equipment was crude, and the materials were not uniform, our bracelets turned out very well and they were admired by the whole camp. When I got home to PA, I gave the bracelet that I made to my mother who was thrilled with it. She wore it to her next hair appointment and explained to her hairdresser that her daughter had just come back from camp where she had made the bracelet, where upon her hairdresser asked, “how old is your daughter?”

Since those days, I have come to love beadwork and Maine, and I look for every opportunity to bead in Maine at our own camp (with amenities and facilities) while my husband goes fishing. The equipment is very different now, the techniques are more sophisticated, and the supplies are the far more elegant and uniform, SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS and Delicas, but the love of the craft, and the excitement of creativity is the same.

The moral of the story is that it really doesn’t matter how old you are when you first go to camp and learn arts and crafts.

Our Camp in Maine

Alden Camps


  1. What a beautiful bracelet. If I could make one of these I think I could do anything? This is gorgeous!
    How many hours did it take to make this?


    1. Hi Cindy, So sorry for the delay in my reply. You are the first comment I have received on my blog, I'll have to check back much more frequently. I assume you are referring to the bangle on the opening page of my blog, Kaibab Bangle. Once the pattern was designed, I probably have 15 - 20 hours into this bracelet. It is just circular peyote stitch, not hard. Will you be attending Bead Fest Phila next weekend? I have the sample with me and hope to teach it next year. Thanks for you kind words. Diane