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For my second post for International Crochet Day, I’m writing about a jewelry technique that includes crochet. Bert and Dana Freed are a mother-daughter team who recently wrote Bead Crochet Jewelry: An Inspired Journey Through 27 Designs. I’ve known for a while that some jewelry making methods incorporate crochet techniques, but this is the most comprehensive book I’ve seen about bead crochet jewelry.
In addition to being authors, Bert and Dana have their own line of jewelry, Chicken and Egg Designs, and can also be found online through their other company, The Well Done Experience, and their Etsy shop. After the interview, I’ll also review Bead Crochet Jewelry and also offer a giveaway of my review copy, courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. Photos from the book are used with permission of St. Martin’s Press.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Bert and Dana: We both began crocheting at a very young age. Bert learned from a family friend when she was about 5 years old, and Dana learned from Bert at around the same age.
UC: How did you begin creating bead crochet jewelry?
Bert and Dana: We had been taking seed bead weaving classes together for a number of years and really enjoyed the techniques we learned, but when bead crochet was introduced, we became totally obsessed! The technique combines our common love of fiber, crochet, and beads, yielding unique results for color and texture.
UC: What was your original inspiration for designing bead crochet jewelry?
Bert and Dana: Bead crochet is a technique that has existed for a long time. When we learned the technique, we noticed that most people approached it in the same way: they use tiny beads and often incorporate intricate patterning using color pallets that didn’t excite us. Our motivation has always been to modernize and even reinvent bead crochet, using unusual and unexpected materials and combinations.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Bert and Dana: We believe that inspiration is everywhere! We look at everything from trends in fashion to some garbage on the street that catches our eye. At this point, I don’t think we look at anything without the filter of “can we make this art?”
UC: Do your experiences teaching bead crochet influence your designing and personal crafting? If so, how?
Bert and Dana: For us, there is nothing better than a group of students who (at first) feel like they can never “get” the technique and then leave the classroom feeling successful, excited, and proud of themselves. Our students constantly inspire us; we have a lot to teach them, but they in turn always have something to teach us. Regularly, students will use color in an interesting combination, or choose beads we would not have thought would “work” together. Their ideas are added to our list of endless inspiration. We have met the most wonderful people through teaching, and have continued relationships with many of them. We are fueled by their constant support and enthusiasm every day.
UC: I think it is fair to say that many women who love their mothers (or daughters) would have a hard time working together. What are some of your tips for success in blending your careers with your family life?
Bert and Dana: We realize how lucky we are to work together. We share the same goals and values, and have complete trust in each other, which is the key to a successful partnership.
I think the most important thing we try to remember is that our mother-daughter relationship and our business relationship are two separate entities. As you can imagine, we have (on occasion) had a personal argument just minutes before teaching a class; the second we walk into the classroom we change “hats” and immediately interact professionally.
Ultimately, we always know that we’re are a team and are both working hard to achieve the same results.
UC: Bead Crochet Jewelry includes projects and step-by-step tutorials for the different techniques used in the projects. What was the design process like for this book?
Bert and Dana: We had the best time designing for the book! We started with a few key pieces that we knew we wanted to share, and then thought about the kinds of designs that we needed to ensure there was something for everyone. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to show at least two versions of every piece so that readers could envision how different a final product could look using the same instructions. Because we have such individual aesthetics (Bert tends to like muted colors and an earthy, organic feeling; Dana likes brighter colors and bling) we each designed pieces and then asked the other to make other versions.
UC: One of the things that has always intimidated me about beading crafts is buying the supplies. Can you share some supply buying suggestions for newbies and tell us about your kits?
Bert and Dana: We tried very hard to provide a thorough materials list in the book because we know how overwhelming it can be to choose supplies for the first time. Some basics that you need for bead crochet are: C-Lon Bead Cord (don’t use cotton or silk! Natural fibers deteriorate, stretch, and tear); a size 4 steel crochet hook; evenly shaped beads with decent sized holes like 4mm fire polish crystal or 6/0 seed beads.
We designed our kits to be fool-proof so that beginners can avoid the challenge of buying the essential materials for the first time.
Our most popular kit, The Confetti Chain Stitch Necklace, includes everything you need to complete a necklace, with enough left over thread to make several more. The bead mix is similar in every kit (a beautiful random combination of vintage and specialty glass beads, mostly from the Czech Republic and some from Japan). But the great part is that you can chose your own thread color (the thread is very visible) so your final product can be tailored to your taste.
In addition to our other kits, we custom create kits for the projects in the book.
Thanks for taking the time out for an interview, Bert and Dana!
Bead Crochet Jewelry by Bert and Dana Freed aims to walk a newbie to beaded crochet jewelry through all the steps necessary to become advanced. The book is organized into seven sections (Materials and Tools; Getting Started; Chain Stitch Projects; Beginner Circular Crochet Projects; Intermediate Circular Crochet Projects; Advanced Circular Crochet Projects; and Advanced Tips and Tricks). The book is written in a friendly and conversational, clear tone, and, as you can tell from the interview, Bert and Dana speak with “one voice” so the book doesn’t seem to switch back and forth between authors.
The chapters are progressively organized, and Bert and Dana recommend that you complete at least one project from each section before moving to the next section so you can master the necessary skills. If you already have some bead crochet experience, each project includes a “Next time…” note with suggestions for altering the project when you make another version.
The projects are attractive and the book layout is very inviting. Instead of showing the jewelry on a bunch of necks (which usually look pretty similar), the backgrounds are changed regularly to create visual interest. The projects include detailed instructions, especially at the beginning, as well as photos when necessary to illustrate a technique or process. There are tips peppered throughout the book to help you create projects, and Bert and Dana even encourage pulling out projects and reworking them if you aren’t satisfied with your end result.
I would have liked to see alternatives to synthetic threads discussed in more detail. Bert and Dana immediately resist the use of natural fibers (explaining that “we hope that our work will outlive us by centuries” just pages after referring to ancient beadwork) and don’t seriously discuss alternatives to synthetic threads for those who may have environmental (or other) concerns. I’m sure that the nylon will outlast us for centuries, but surely there is a natural fiber substitute that is workable for 5 years? This is also a paperback book, so it is difficult to read and bead at the same time. However, there are cover flaps to help you mark your place when you are working. And finally, Bert and Dana have a similar design aesthetic (represented in the photos I’ve shared from the book) and primarily teach through the creation of projects. If you don’t like the projects, it will be harder to pull out the lessons from each chapter.
Overall, I think this is a really interesting introduction to a technique which makes some lovely jewelry. If you’ve been wanting to pull out those steel crochet hooks, this book just might give you the inspiration you need to make some wonderful projects!
Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.
Giveaway Thanks to the generous folks at St. Martin’s Press, I’ll be giving away my review copy of Bead Crochet Jewelry: An Inspired Journey Through 27 Designs. This giveaway is open to all readers with a U.S. mailing address. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, September 19, 2012.