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Friday, July 14, 2023

Secret Garden - 2023 TBS Summer Challenge

This Summer’s Toronto Bead Society (TBS) Challenge is “Secret Garden”. It could be an original  theme-based creation inspired by the book or movie. Or one could use the colors from the inspiration picture palette and have fun.

Secret Garden image and palette
Since the Secret Garden image was a really nice, I decided to literally recreate it by “painting with beads” in  a 3-bead net. It’ll be interesting to see all the other original interpretation by my fellow beaders at the August 9th Reveal online. 

This image was used in a book cover for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, published by Sovereign. Gillian found the picture and was able to extract color palette chips suitable for use in our challenge where one can choose to bead something non-pictorial, but within the Summer Challenge rules.

Dayak netted skirt trimmed with nassa shells (Textile Museum)

I have long admired pictorial netted beadwork of the Dayak tribes in Indonesia. The intricate symbols and designs seen in panels hung in doorways or inserted in baby carriers are netted a few beads at a time over a printed or drawn image. This technique was a practical solution to getting the basic layout for my garden to match the inspiration.


I was determined to use beads in my stash and really shocked how many variations of green seed beads I amassed! There were silver-lined (s/l) variations, opaques, yellow-lined, grape-lined bottle green and an aquamarine mix which needed to be separated to reveal the teal, emerald, spring green beads I needed for my foliage. The most effective beads from my stash were the Czech 8/o frosted beads with light green stripes because they closely matched the distant sky in the image. They were so magnificent, they determined the scale of my SECRET GARDEN!

Frosted green striped beads to start

The advantage of using mid-sized 8/o seed beads was the entire scene could be beaded quicker than finer Czech 10/o or 11/o seeds! I tested my 3-bead net idea using my lightest spring green AB 10/o beads for a few rows. The technical concept would work well, but the bright color was garish! At this point I rooted through my collection of size 8/o seed beads. Because they came from many sources, there were nuances in color, finishes, donut-shapes (some thinner than others), a boxy Japanese grape-lined bottle green. All diversity was perfect for “painting” my secret garden. The beads reminded me of mosaic bits of glass and empowered me to throw in an odd bits of color here and there to make my garden more alive.

Assortment of green beads

Note how I started off my garden in the same size as my printed photo, but netting tends to “shrink” because of the very nature of the way it is created. Since this was an artistic interpretation Summer Challenge, no worries!

First two rows
3-bead netting 

In netting, deciding on how many beads to string for the first row is a challenge because you need to visualize your turn around for the next row. Netting 3-beads horizontally is easy in Row 2 and establishes the start of the netted bead fabric. I started with a 5 bead turn on the right and 4 beads on the left. Later, I settled on four beads on each side. Sounds simple, but tricky when you’re actually beading! (This is when the push pin breaking-a-bead comes in handy for the edges of the top three right rows once they are already netted!)

Starting row 5
The photographs does not truly convey all the nuances in color. Wish I had translucent dark forest greens for the left side, but mixing s/l dark olive, bottle green with a bit of metallic seeds had to do! Did you ever notice all the different colors which come in a pack of navy iris or green iris? So many hues and shades to choose from one bead at a time!

Starting the light in the tower

Laying beadwork on top of image

The upper portion in between was light and frosted. The tower on the right started off heavy at the top, but was later replaced so there would be a single peak. The lights in the two windows was clever color placement within two 3-bead nets. Lots of trial and error as I was bead painting along!

Added point to tower

Then I remembered I had some 8/o opaque beads. BINGO! Teal green, green and an olivey color would be perfect for adding in foliage magic!

Opaque green beads to the rescue

The blossoming trees presented a bit of a challenge. How do I convey the sun-kissed lightness in the distance? Since I had very few coral pink 8/o beads in my stash, I discovered coral-lined 11/o would work well for the airy top. With a 5-bead string I could start the flowering tree, as the center bead would be a natural spot to transition back to my 3-bead net in medium-sized beads. This trick worked well! 

Adding coral-lined 11/o for the top of the blossom

Testing against the image 

I got carried away with netting in my hand and was visually “painting" with three beads at a time. The beauty and danger is the beaded fabric is reversible so each side looks great! As I netted in the right-handed direction, I flipped my Secret Garden over every time I came to the turnaround. Without referring to the inspirational image, I was improvising the blossoming tree, the distant lighter green centre, the darker trees. The first tree grew very large before I noticed it is time to complete it and start the top of the next tree in 8/o seeds. This part of creating my secret garden was liberating and fun. By having some elements established I could freely play off them free-hand.

Top blossom in progress

The reverse side

Slowly, I made my way down to the light path on the right and several trees in bloom on the lower left side.

Beading in hand

My pictorial section was finished, but not complete.

Pictorial netting done

Trim and loops

Since this was shaping up to be a banner, I trimmed it was a mix of two different shades and sizes of green daggers. A tiny fuchsia seed on either side give then zing because all the greenness would be too boring!

Adding daggers

Showing off daggers

To add even more zip, I added a huge fuchsia-lined lt. topaz 2/o bead on top of each dagger grouping.

Adding fuchsia zing

This way the FRONT was well defined. The reverse is nice, but the front is complete with a 3-D pop of flowers.

Front and back once the fuchsia beads were in place

Banners need loops to thread a rod through. My Secret Garden was begging for a natural material, not a skewer. Pussy willows from Palm Sunday blessing to the rescue! I found one with a reddish tone and cut a twig willow from the bottom.

Willow twig for hanging

The frosted green-striped beads were the innate choice for bead loops. A single-bead ladder stitch with one needle was the solution vs. stringing bead loops. 

Ladder stitching the first loop

I started by square stitching the first bead to the center ‘anchor’ of the string of beads. Then, I ladder-stitched on eight more seeds for a nine-bead tab. I created a loop by attaching the last ladder bead to underneath side of the center bead. 

Adding second loop

I reinforced it by stitching through the loop end and anchor bead and continued through the beads to the next string of beads. 

Securing the loop
This is where I was grateful for the well-defined banner Front and Back.

More than half of the loops done

The loops were large enough to carefully wiggle in the willow twig without disturbing the beads.

Sliding the loops onto the twig

Now, how to display my Secret Garden? Because it is two-sided, it could be hung in the window as a sun catcher, though it would be a speck in my fifth floor condo window.

In the bright light on my balcony

Better to place it in a shadow box frame as ‘art’. 

Shadow box frame ready to go

I like the canvas-foam base which comes ready with glass-ball pins to hang the artwork. A centering quilting ruler came in handy to figure out the spacing from the top of my netted banner and the sides of the beadwoven art. In went the two pins at an angle for the twig holder to rest on.

Quilting ruler to help center banner

Voilà! The different colors and finishes of glass seed beads remind me of mosaic tiles. This fact gave me the courage to pick up odd-colored beads and weave them in a seemingly random fashion. In my opinion, this is what make great art so wonderful!


Banner hanging against canvas

While the glass of the shadow box protects artwork, it distorts the view because of glare.

All framed up

Nothing beats outdoor lighting when doing a photo shot!

Presenting my SECRET GARDEN.

On the balcony


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