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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Sunflower Mask

The Toronto Bead Society’s Mask Challenge for an Aug 12, 2020 Zoom meeting and a request for a “fantasy piece” for an upcoming bead exhibit at the Ukrainian museum converged into this Sunflower Mask!

The Ukrainian Museum of Canada Ontario Branch and our neighbours at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto are planning a co-produced exhibit titled The Spirit of Beads: Sharing our Stories.

What could be more Ukrainian than sunflowers?? They are Ukraine’s national flower and represent the warmth and power of the sun, which was worshiped by pre-Christian Slavs.

Inspiration photo and bracelet

My husband found this photo of a vibrant rich field of sunflowers. A netted bracelet with a beaded sunflower on top by Ulana Bobyk from Lviv inspired my freeform flowers.

I wanted my sunflowers against a bright blue sky. Jo-Ann gave me the perfect piece of ultra-suede for the background and cotton fabric to match at a time when stores with non-essentials were closed. I was determined the sky should be smooth all across the top. No seams! Just a pinch at the bottom and gentle pleats were acceptable.

Next, for beading my "fantasy" mask and one based on regional beadwork for the museum, I wanted to expand my color palette and use charlottes, a seed bead with a cut which reflects light and makes the bead embroidery sparkle. Naomi Smith, Black Tulip Beads, came to my rescue and Charles even delivered the beads, and more beads, in two lots!

For the sunflower seed center, I started with a circle of six brown beads. I kept changing the color and type of bead for every rotation. Sometimes, I used one, or two beads in between those of the previous row. The seedy center grew and then I’d start stringing an assortment of yellow beads for each petal.

2 of 3 flowers pinned in place

I found it best to start with a yellow-orange or two beads first; then vary the finishes to a picot turn around. On my way down, I’d improvise with the mosaic stitch and color of beads. Then I'd anchor the petal and move on to string another combo for the next petal.

Testing the placement

There was a lot of trial and error. With safety pins securing my beaded sunflowers, I tried to see how many more I needed to bead, where to position them. Coincidentally, my calendar featured a sunflower mural for August, so it’s like this was meant to be! The extra fingers belong to my husband, the photographer.

Starting a leaf

I netted the leaves in many shades of green. I sketched the first row and kept playing with color placement and shaping the leaves into more realistic shapes. I repeated it a few times, but each leaf is a bit different as it is in nature.

Shading and shaping

The final layout

Once I had my components, came the “positioning the sunflowers” fittings. Here we see them stitched onto the flat ultra-suede. I trimmed away the corner to allow for shaping on my face and stitched the outline of the dart for the bottom of my mask. Then I positioned my leaves and stitched them down. 

Preparing the layers

I cut the cotton fabric a bit larger than the ultra-suede. I started off with the folded down edge along the top and lined it up with the straight mask edge. I back-stitched a dart in both fabrics and used a quilting technique to make the seam as flat as possible. 

Stitching it together 

The top was finger-pressed one way, the lining dart was pressed the other way. There was no bulk along the bottom edge when I tucked under the excess lining fabric. The sides were pleated last.

Detail of  3-bead edge

I decided to used a 3-bead finish to join the front and lining together in a single stitch. Once I figured out how to do the stitch and sequence of colors, I bead-finished the top edge. I chose to use lively warm Hutsul-colors of yellow-orange, orange and green. Once the top was stitched, I did the bottom and sides. I’m pleased the diagonal pattern worked out perfectly all around. 

Twisted cord ties

For ties I used DMC Mouline floss in matching traditional colors. There were several attempts to twist the thread like I used to with my mother. The twisted cord with three colors was quite thick when it was folded in half and twisted further upon itself. I felt it appropriate for tying on my mask since it’s the way finish of embroidered ‘sorochky’ (chemises) or beaded necklace for wearing.

Finished and ready for Zoom meeting

The Toronto Bead Society Mask Challenge Reveal meeting was right when we were on vacation in Kingston, ON. I finished each chord end with a tassel in the motel. Thank goodness I was able to participate in the Zoom meeting through my iPhone.

TBS Zoom meeting

This is my favorite kind on meeting, because we get hear everyone’s stories. The ideas behind their design and their creative process.

It was amazing to see the great variety of masks.