Monday, August 3, 2009

Fragments of Beauty


I've been on the hunt for tiny beads. I mean really tiny...like size 20/0 -- 22/0. And I found some at Beadcats...but they're very expensive when you want a lot of them. Luckily, a few weeks ago, I found this imperfect, magnificent remnant on Ebay. It's a bead-knitted cloche-style purse -- well, it was, in it's day. Now, the fibers are so dry rotted that it falls apart when you blow on it...


So, I'm using it for beads. But, I must send out a big thank you to three of my dear stitching friends, Bobbi, Carolyn and Mary, who reminded me to take pictures of the remnants before I proceeded to salvage the beads! Thank God for friends who save me from myself!

I've even thought of saving just one rose and framing it as a fragment...but I'm not sure the thread will hold up to that either...


OK, ever since I shared with you that antique button a few weeks ago, I haven't been able to get it out of my head. And I need tiny beads to make an attempt at a reproduction.

Meanwhile, I've been working on charm school for tomorrow and studying my Berlinwork book with relish. Berlinwork was petit point embroidery done mostly in wool but the patterns....oh, my friends....the patterns, many of which were hand-painted, are simply stunning. So, why not use one of the patterns from the book to try to re-create that lovely button -- only this week, it will be a charm.

Due to copyright laws, I cannot share the patterns in my book. But, lucky for us, the ever-generous Pam Kellogg of Kitty and Me Designs posted three patterns from her personal collection here back in 2006!


And this excerpt from Needlework Through History, which is available online at Google Books, gives a good synopsis of Berlin work:

Berlin work patterns were made by a printer in Germany as early as 1804. Printed on paper in black and white and then hand-colored, they quickly were improved when done on charted paper, much like cross-stitch patterns today. The graph paper made the patterns easier to follow, and with the patterns published as single sheets, Berlin work was affordable to the masses. Exported throughout the world, it is estimated that 14,000 different designs were published between 1810 and 1840. Eventually, the patterns were painted or printed onto the canvas itself. Berlin wool work was primarily done in tent and cross stitch and embellished with silk thread, chenille yarn, and beadwork. It gained more attention when Berlin work was exhibited in England’s Great Exhibition of 1851.

So stay tuned tomorrow to see what happens. I'm not even sure yet though I do expect to post later in the day so don't look for me too early.

And another thank you to Bobbi, Carolyn and Mary for the pictures you see here today.

I hope they've inspired you too.

P.S. Does anyone know why the bead companies won't make beads smaller than 15/0? Won't anyone ever make these tiny 20/0-22/0 beads again? ***sigh

Note: I'm including an excerpt from a comment made by bead artist Robin Atkins for everyone's information:

I love seeing this old beadwork!!!! Having tried to crochet with size 12 pearl cotton and size 15 seed beads, I am filled with admiration and respect for women who worked complex pattern with even smaller micro beads (sizes 20 and 22) and extremely fine thread!

The method was to string the pattern on the thread first (following a chart) and then crochet (or knit), slipping one bead into each stitch. The hook (or knitting needles) must have been so small it would be difficult to hold. Drop a stitch or make mistakes stringing the pattern and it could take hours to make it right. I wish I had a first-hand diary or other account from someone who made one of these bags!

It's such a pity to see these works disintegrate as the thread rots. And they do get to a point where they can not be restored. If you have a bag like this in good condition, be sure you store it in archival (acid and dye-free) wrapping paper and box!

PS. When I was in the Czech Republic, I was told they would never make beads smaller than 13s (similar to Japanese 15s) again. The technology is lost, they said.

10 comments:

Robin said...

I love seeing this old beadwork!!!! Having tried to crochet with size 12 pearl cotton and size 15 seed beads, I am filled with admiration and respect for women who worked complex pattern with even smaller micro beads (sizes 20 and 22) and extremely fine thread!

The method was to string the pattern on the thread first (following a chart) and then crochet (or knit), slipping one bead into each stitch. The hook (or knitting needles) must have been so small it would be difficult to hold. Drop a stitch or make mistakes stringing the pattern and it could take hours to make it right. I wish I had a first-hand diary or other account from someone who made one of these bags!

It's such a pitty to see these works disintegrate as the thread rots. And they do get to a point where they can not be restored. If you have a bag like this in good condition, be sure you store it in archival (acid and dye-free) wrapping paper and box!

Sorry about this long-winded comment, Susan... I'm working up to encouraging you to save one of the roses! I love your idea of framing it. If you like, I have some suggestions for doing that.

As for adding the remaining beads to your stash... you go girl!!! Can't wait to see how you will use them...

If you ever need those tiny beads in a specific color, let me know... I have quite a stash of them... finds in the antique stores in the Czech Republic.

To B, C and M ~ Good thinking about the pictures! To S ~ Good taking note and following through!

Hugs, Robin

PS. When I was in the Czech Republic, I was told they would never make beads smaller than 13s (similar to Japanese 15s) again. The technology is lost, they said.

Allison Ann Aller said...

Informative post and also Robin's comment!
I have a little Dover book of these designs...it may still be in print?
Their sumptuousness just blew me away.

"Bead dust"! Leave a miniaturist like you to hunt it down... ;-)

paulahewitt said...

well i was thinking that they stopped making such small beads because they make clumsy people with big hands like me cry. But Robin's comment is probably more accurate. I think you should frame one rose - esp if robin has some tips on how to do it - it would look lovely

Trouvais said...

I just wish there was a chemical fixative that could be applied/sprayed to the back side to fill in the fibers and arrest the deterioration.The pattern..the thought...the work... was conceived over a hundred year ago. Why isn't there a way to preserve it? PS you'll never guess who was at the Alameda (near San Francisco) flea market yesterday...the owner of Tinsel Trading. Gorgeous stuff. Will post later this week about it...thanks for telling me about them! Trish

Nicole Belolan said...

Greetings -- I just wrote my MA thesis on Berlin work. I am so glad that you like it! Believe it or not, there are not many people around who find it worthy of study.

Nicole

Ati. Norway. said...

Hi Susan, my heart made a jump when I saw those photos from the antique purse. As you said it is too old to repair. But if you will save a piece of it, sew it carefully on very thin muslin.
I am a bead-knitter myself, have knitted several purses( there are a few photos on my Flickr in the album Other hobbies, it is 20 years ago and I didn't make photos from al the work I made at that time) We knit with DMC crochet 30 or 40 and on 5 needles 1 millimeter thick.I still can do it! The small beads on this remnants are unique, you can't buy them anymore.
I followed the methode Robin described.

pam T said...

Ha! I bought some of those teeny tiny seeds you are talking about, yep, from Beadcats! Mine are all in green, I think I have 23/0 and 24/0, I bought them several years ago - are they ridiculously tiny or WHAT! You just kinda stab at them hoping you get them on those teeny tiny-thin needles! I had used mine to make teeny-tiny leaves for a necklace, and they did turn out spectacular, I must say. But after that I threw them all in a bag and they are in my stash. hmmmm. maybe I will have to haul them out again! Gorgeous pics of the beadwork. wow. Can't wait to see what you do with the teeny-tinies! I remember reading too that they won't make those beads anymore...

coral-seas said...

What a treasure! I could not bare to take it apart however fragile. I don't think that you are wrong to do so, I just know that I couldn't.

I once watched a documentary about opening a newly discovered tomb in Eygpt. The mummy was drapped in this wonderful beaded (? - I don't know what to call it). The thread was completely rotted away but because the sarcophagus had never been moved the bead remained completely in place. Problem was, they were removing the mummy from the sarcophagus so it would be distroyed and they seems not to care about that :-O

I hope you will find away to preserve one of the roses. I know that you will create something new and wonderful from the beads you salvedge.

TattingChic said...

That old piece is a beauty! I'm glad you took photos of it.

flyingbeader said...

LOVE that old vintage piece of bead work. I was thinking that possibly you can get one of the roses to be preserved & matted. How about trying this on a wee piece to see if it works. Take some WonderUnder & adhere it to a piece of 100% wool felt. Then press the vintage piece to this. The glues should help tack it down. Then take a piece of either netting or some sheer fabric so you can still see the design through it. Carefully, carefully, heat set all the pieces together by taking a low temperature iron with either a heat resistant craft sheet or some freezer paper. Pull up to see if it has "set" into the wool. Then probably you'll have to hand stitch tiny couching to keep some of it in place. Sew the netting or fabric onto the wool felt & embellish the pieces that do not hold the treasured bead work. Then frame it making sure it is always down so gravity doesn't pull the beads & further cause it to fall away from the rotting threads.

It might work. Let me know as I'm going to go looking now for other vintage bead work purses I've seen in the Dayton area's antique malls.

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