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Bead Weaving with Gail Gondek

I enjoyed making inkle woven collars for my dog, Fog, and for Rescue Dog Auctions; they were an easy, affordable, portable project, but I was disappointed when I realized that the colorful 5/2 pearl cotton that I had been using was fading after about a year of heavy use.

I began experimenting with other materials, such as plastic lacing, and colored fishing line. I have previous experience in knitting and embroidering with beads and including beads in woven transparency. Beads are a great material to work with, they come in a very wide color palette, and don't fade. I use size 11/0 beads, The biggest challenge is threading the weft thread needle!

My first bead woven dog collar copied an American Flag design I had inkle woven. It was easy to do because the pattern was so repetitive, I didn't need to refer carefully to a chart, and the design only had a few colors, so managing the beads was simple. Purchasing only 3 colors of beads also made the item very economical.

For my next bead weaving, I turned to Etsy, where there are many beautiful bead woven designs that are created for bracelets. I chose an irregular design that had about a dozen colors. I needed to follow the graph of the pattern, which was very time consuming, I used a divided plastic box to manage all the colors of beads. The final project was beautiful, but I thought that I'd never finish. I sent a photo of the finished collar to the designer of the beading pattern, and she was so thrilled with it that she used it in her Etsy store to market the design.

Following this project, I became interested in Navajo weaving, and have invested some time in looking at images of Navajo weaving, but also those of geometric designs of beaded hatbands and hitched horsehair belts. Coincidentally, I took a trip to see my sister and brother-in-law in Jackson Hole, WY, where she is pursuing her passion for Western rodeo. She asked me to make His and Her beaded hatbands for their cowboy hats.

While I was in Jackson Hole, I had the opportunity to see some authentic Western hatbands and belts, and study how the hatbands are joined. As you might expect, I did some research at the rodeo! I presented her with a selection of designs and she chose the ones that she liked best. His is on the left, Hers on the right:

My most recent piece is another dog collar, but instead of mounting the bead weaving onto nylon webbing and using a plastic buckle, I'd like to mount this one onto a hand tooled leather band, and close it with a Western buckle.

Bead loom weaving is fun and easy to learn, it requires few materials, and the sparkle of the materials make it feel special. Inexpensive bead looms are available online, and there are instructional videos and written instructions online, also. I've gotten many compliments on my dog collars, which is also rewarding. I'd encourage weavers to give it a try, it's a fun novelty craft.


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