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Thursday, September 29, 2022

30th Anniversary of White Aster of Love

Cover of White Aster of Love

So that history does not repeat itself, it is worth recalling Iryna Senyk (1926-2009), the heroine of the Ukrainian people in the struggle for the freedom of Ukraine.

We cannot allow Ukraine to roll back to the times when the communist authorities arrested conscientious people and imprisoned and/or sent them to deportation camps. Now in 2022, maniacal Putin wants to conquer Ukraine and return it to its yoke! We know from history how this looks and it must be stopped!

Young Iryna Senyk

As a political dissident, Iryna Senyk (1926-2009) endured 34 years in prisons and exile. Incredible suffering, hunger and humiliation could not break Irina's indomitable spirit, which is dramatically revealed in her poetry of that time and since 1991 in independent Ukraine. Iryna was also very fond of folk art and embroidered original miniatures using fish bone needles and threads from her kerchief. She gifted them to her cellmates.

Article about dissident stitches & Anne Cromoshuk


Christine Bolubash, a UCWLC member, met Iryna in Lviv in the summer of 1989. Pani Senyk presented her with a folder of poems and original fashion sketches decorated with her designs. Christine smuggled this gift with her to Canada at great personal risk. She proposed to her St. Demetrius branch of UCWLC, Toronto, to publish a book that combines the political dissident’s fashion sketches with embroidery and lyrical poems. Christine Borsuk translated 76 poems into English.

Christine Bolubash brings us together

This project was interesting because it was published to honour pioneer women on the centenary of the settlement of Ukrainians in Canada (1891-1991). The St. Demetrius UCWLC book committee decided to turn the sketches into fashionable clothes. 

Committee in front of St. Demetrius

Creative work began with my consultation with the 27 members of our branch. 

Maria with Iryna Senyk, 1990

Collaborations between members, many of them daughters or granddaughters of pioneers, and the new wave emerged as some ladies could sew and embroider; some embroidered for the first time in their lives. This quest brought together people of various immigrations to help the ladies finish their embroidered dresses by the winter of 1991.

Three models and sketches of the designs

The committee invited Iryna Senyk who resided in Boryslav, Ukraine, to the world premiere of "White Aster of Love". The presentation took place on September 27, 1992 at the Marriott Hotel. A multi-media presentation with the theme of the seasons combined the fashion show of the ladies modelling their embroidered clothes with a bilingual reading of poems. 

Collage of runway flowers presentation

The organizers were thrilled Iryna was able to travel to Canada for this Première. Christine Bolubash presented the deluxe bilingual ”White Aster of Love” book to its author, the indomitable Ukrainian patriot Iryna Senyk.

Iryna and Christine Bolubash at the premiere

Models with Iryna at St Demetrius

“Tribute to Iryna" - a travelling presentation of photos of ladies in embroidered dresses interspersed between an audio recording of poem readings, was shown in numerous Canadian cities and in Detroit. The audiences were better able to appreciation the values and talents of Iryna Senyk. Out of 5,000 published books, the St Demetrius UCWLC branch sent 1,000 books to Ukraine for distribution to school and local libraries. This was timely as Ukraine just became an independent nation.

Toronto Sun article Our readers are exceptional

Janice Dineen, a columnist for the Toronto Star, highlighted Iryna Senyk's philosophy of life in this way: "Material things do not matter. What I valued early in my life, I value now: my country, my religion, my family, and my art.”

Toronto Star article by Janice Dineen

Here are a few of the collages for some of the designs.

Lillian Yuryk

Bozhena Iwanusiw

Frances Hunkewich 

Christine Bolubash
Joyce Lesyk

Friday, July 29, 2022

TBS 2022 Summer Challenge —-Mad Hatter Tea Party

This summer’s Bead Challenge for the Toronto Bead Society had an interesting twist! It was topical, rather than designated color palette. To ease members into the challenge, Christina found a technicolor movie promo for the 1951 Disney “Alice in Wonderland” with five color swatches. These could be used as a color palette challenge if one ignored the Mad Hatter theme.
Movie Promo and colour palette

For a proper start, I purchased tubes of Czech 11/o in stronger and softer colors of the printed poster palette. I had a perfect pearlized yellow charlotte 11/o in my stash!
Beads for the challenge

I chose to concentrate on the “Tea Party” aspect of Lewis Carroll’s story and literally recreated the teapot from the poster in a herringbone stitch. My first free-form attempts to ‘paint’ with beads in mosaic (Peyote) and Ndebele, convinced me to chart the teapot on graph paper. Now, I had a better idea where the teapot outline and spout should be = less frog stitches! I beaded the teapot with yellow 11o charlottes to catch the light, add interest. I quickly found it would be best to add the decorative design in tiny 15/o beads last. Good decision!!
Teapot from promo and the start of my beaded teapot
Teapot Chart

Beautiful surroundings while visiting family in Michigan provided a creative workspace to start bead weaving the teapot! My sister-in-law reminded me there were talking flowers in the movie. I could relate to these! My brother streamed the 1951 Disney “Alice in Wonderland” movie for us. Sister-in-law kept wondering out loud, “What was Lewis on as he was writing Alice?”.

I decided to stick with my teapot theme, add cups and a token flower as a tribute. Curious what the other creative TBS members are going to do for the Aug 10th Reveal?
Beading in Michigan

It’s one thing to draw with coloured pencils, and quite another to bead row by row. Size 11/o seed beads are pretty large for shaping a teapot when stitched in herringbone Vs.

I added numbers on my enlarged chart print to easily count rows. Once the base was laid, it seemed easier to just unpick a row or two if the curve did not feel right. To help centre the opened teapot lid, I basted black thread from the base up on the herringbone fabric. The spout was created by color placement as I beaded row by row. A chunky 3-D handle would be added later on the right side.
Teapot in progress
Teapot ready for embellishments

Using 15/o seed beads, I added an aqua scallop below the teapot opening. Then I gently added 15/o coral seeds for the floral and aqua wisps to mirror the teapot decoration on the poster.
Testing edge finishes

Next was a 3-D mouse peaking from inside the teapot! Luckily, a 2-holed lentil bead proved ideal for the face with tiny dark seeds for eyes! An assortment of Czech shaped beads made an interesting mouse body! The 2-hole lentil bead with red thick petal shapes made a great flower with personality!
Ready to add handle

As details were added, the idea for a brooch was emerging. I stitched the herringbone fabric to a black stiff felt backing with a bit of a border for future beading. At first I thought alternating the palette colors on a diagonal would be a clever Mad Hatter theme finish. I tested a colorful three-bead finish sequence. 

After visiting the “Spirit Seed” exhibit in the Bruce County Museum, I was inspired to make a beaded frame of teacups around my teapot. Sometimes, less is more! I stitched down a single line of matte navy AB on edge around the herringbone teapot fabric. Then I stitched another line along the outside edge of my stiff felt backing.
Testing teacup border
Layout for teacups

My teacups are honeycomb-shaped Czech beads I used for sample-making to teach my Netted Honeycomb Collar. Since they have two holes, they were perfect for adding teacup handles. I played around with placement and alternating colors per palette, but again decided red handles were best with crystal AB cups. There are left and right handed cups all around! Even that required planning!
Planning the placement of the teacup handles

The teapot handle is a creative strip of 3-D beading weaving. I added 15/o seeds on the inside to retain a curve once the chunky handle was secured to the herringbone teapot and felt. Next, the red flower face was stitched in place and petals reinforced for the permanent playful square. 

Naomi Smith’s vintage brooch closure is incorporated on the back. A few stitches across the strip keeps the pin from riding too high. It is position underneath the mouse hiding under the lid so the brooch is balanced when worn.
Leatherette back and beaded front of brooch

In the end I decided to emphasize the teacup frame. I cut away the test 3-bead diagonal finish because it reminded me of a circus. I like how Jane Chong trimmed her "Hearts for Ukraine" brooches with Crystal AB beads. I tested 8/o and 10/o and found the smaller beads best for trimming my brooch. I carefully stitched a single bead edging under the matte navy AB row of beads to join the leatherette backing to the beaded front.
Beading to join back and front
Vintage brooch closure in place

With this challenge I tried new techniques and creatively solved issues as they came along. I highly recommend new quests for growth and fun!
Finished brooch

Cheers! Test-wearing my Teapot Party Brooch in Niagara on the Lake.
Enjoying an Aperol Spritzer
Enjoying the flowers

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Snowy Owl

Time once again for the Toronto Bead Society (TBS) Bag of Beads Challenge. At least one of everything in the kit has to be used in the challenge!! My first impression of the contents of the 2022 edition was hmmmm… How am I going to combine a circle of birch bark with a monster 16mm pearl ball and bugle beads?

Contents of 2022 Bag of Beads

Naomi Smith of Black Tulip Designs gleefully added a birch bark circle to her generous donation of seed and bugle beads for this year’s TBS challenge. By definition, the bark is the stumper as it does not have a hole in it. We’re a BEAD society!! A doughnut could be classified as a bead should you want to string it, but flat birch bark isn’t!

I moved on to the next challenge — the IDEA! “How could I incorporate the birch bark into my beadwork?” What is my theme? What could I embroider on the birch bark? 

Once the OWL idea popped in my head, I started searching for visual references. There were all sorts of owls out there. The most appealing one was the Snowy Owl drawing by Art by Three’s Sarah Rebekah Rachel White that had been uploaded on January 20th, 2020 to My husband traced over a print out for a line drawing and then digitally reduced the size to fit in my circle. This allowed me to trace the main outline of the owl on my birch bark for filling in with bead and porcupine quill feathers

Snow Owl inspiration


The two sizes of black bugles begged to be netted, but first I had to play around with the placement, seed bead mesh points, top edge and lower trim for a smooth netted collar. We could add beads to the challenge. By adding brown iris 10/ seed beads in between the black bugles the overall netted collar would have character and be more compatible with the birch bark. 

Testing netting ideas

Since we had two months to work on our challenges, I took along several bead options  for the netted collar with me for our circle tour visit of family and friends over Christmas and New Year’s. We had plenty of spare time in Erie, PA. A desk with a window view and good music provided a creative space for designing and beading.

Good light, a view and space to work

In my stash, I found a sample pack of drop beads in a mix of colors. What a thrill to discover to how nicely the lower net edge looks when a single drop is centered along the lower edge of graduated bead sizes. I alternated the copper, matte black, gunmetal and shinny black along the lower edge in a pattern until I ran out of the copper and gunmetal. By wearing the collar front to back, the 4-color pattern would look great at the back.

Alternating drops

Then, I alternated the remaining matte and shiny black drops equally on both sides of the 4-drop repeat until I ran out those drops. I figured, a clasp on the all black ends would be hidden under the birch medallion and the all-black drops would make a great background for my owl.

Collar and inspiration

Serendipitously, the neck circumference using two 8/ seeds along the top edge fit perfectly right at the point I ran out of the drop beads for the lower trim! Someone was looking out for me!!

Perfect fit


First of all, it helps to use an awl to pierce holes in the birch bark, but be sure to have a cork base handy to soften the punches! 

Awl and cork base

I made holes just inside the circumference for use in the very end when I add a leatherette backing for a clean finish. I used the guides on the circle template for dividing the circle as evenly as possible and was satisfied the holes were well spaced for the edging finish at the end!

Since the body was too small for my selection of beads to be properly defined, I decided to partly bead embroider the large owl wing and the face. By using porcupine quills for the owl’s body I could achieve a modelled 3-dimensional effect.

Since the birch bark is more fragile, I figured I would be able to bead embroider freely on the leatherette, cut it out closely, and then add it on top of the birch bark to make a more realistic owl.

I had ivory leatherette material handy for backing the medallion when it was finished, but first, I cut off a small a piece of leatherette for embroidering the owl face and large wing with beads.

Inspiration with birch back and leatherette

I used the time-tested trick of shading the back of my proportioned owl print with a lead pencil. Then traced the outline of the owl on the bark, as well as the leatherette, with the awl. The markings came out clearly on both surfaces!

Preparing the transfer image


I started embroidering the feathers with an assortment of bead shapes and colors. Each feather started with an ivory pearl 11/ seed, sand-lined crystal 11/seed, copper-lined cylindrical Toho, 3-cut topaz, 10/ brown iris. I staggered the feathers so they appeared long and distinct. Once the feathers were in place, I outlined the face with tinier beads. Inside I stitched around crystal AB 11/ seeds for a fluffy face and then added metallic gold “O” beads for the eyes. A tiny black seed bead holding the O in place became the pupil.

Beads for feathers

One row of feathers done

Three rows of feathers done

I trimmed the face-wing carefully not to cut any strings of feathers.

Testing fit of bead embroidered portion


By using porcupine quills, I could easily create shaded feathers. The colors are naturally there. By carefully positioning the transition of colors between the holes was like painting feathers. Thanks to a 2013 workshop with Naomi, I learned how to work with porcupine quills and had a few spares. The important thing was to soak them so the quills could be bent and folded, as needed.

Porcupine quills

Soaking quills and birch bark ready to go

A few punched holes were a good start, but I needed to add new ones as each feather dictated.The burr end and the long white ends both cooperated as I pushed and pulled them to a pleasing feather-effect. The quills had to be fully dry before trimming the excess quill points.

Using awl to pierce birch bark

Placing first few feathers

Creating a nature feather pattern

Underside of birch bark before quills are trimmed

All the quills have been trimmed

Once they were trimmed, I positioned the beaded overlay next to the quill body and proceeded to stitch down the beaded feathers. This combined the two techniques in to one 3-D owl! I added little black claws between the quills to perch my owl.


Ready to assemble

Using the bark circle as a template, I traced and cut a leatherette circle for the backing. Looking at the remaining beads in the TBS 2022 Bag, I noted which ones were still outstanding and needed to be incorporated in my creation. I tried using some of the coral pink 8/, and tried my own turquoise seed mix to tie it into the three large turquoise shapes in the bag! In the end, the best edging solution was to use two 8/ black beads along the edge anchored by the 10/ brown iris bead through every hole. Simpler is better!

Black edging in process

This was not the end because there were more beads which needed to be used!!


Again, a review of what was left over in the TBS Bag revealed metallic pink barbell- shaped beads, 8/ matte salmon pink seed beads, two large turquoise-finished beads, a single turquoise larger potato-shaped bead with headpin loop, 5 - 16mm ivory pearls, a dozen of pear-shaped ivory pearl drops. 

Stringing some of the remaining beads for the kit

At least one of every one of these beads needed to be used in the challenge. I decided to string a strap for the owl medallion ending with single round 16mm pearl on each side followed by the turquoise. I checked my stash for large-shaped black beads to fill in between the metallic barbells and matte pinks. I used my diagonally-drilled Czech cubes and had to supplement the length with interlocking V-shaped beads. I added fine metallic peacock iris seed beads for zing between the pinks and blacks. This was strung on a beading wire with crimps added to secure a lobster clasp at each end. 

Netted collar, medallion and strap


I added two soldered rings near the top of the medallion for the strap attachment. 

There still were large pear drops and the huge single turquoise on a head pin to deal with. The only place it made sense was in a fancy fringe trim of the circular medallion. I dropped down the turquoise bomb on a few seed beed in the very center below the owl. A single metallic peacock bead between black ones made a difference! I then added the pearl drops with metallic pink barbell wings on each side. Four fancy pearl drops each side of the gentle upward curve did the trick for balance and interest.

Medallion with trim and connected to strap


When trying to model my creation, I found I needed another component to make it possible to hook on the strap to my medallion. Unfortunately, the color of my spring clasp does not match the gunmetal findings., The overall look is worth this minor  finding color oversight. 

Modelling all three components together   

Here I am modelling the three views of my Snowy Owl creation: the Netted Collar, the Owl Medallion and The Ensemble. 

Netted collar

Medallion attached to strap

All three together

I really enjoyed this challenge because it made me try new things and ideas. This is the only way to grow. I look forward to seeing and hearing stories of my fellow TBS members at the February 9th Reveal meeting.