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Tip #2: Find Your Comfort Zone

This may sound silly, but stick with me. Lace your fingers together. Which thumb is on top? Left or right? Now switch it around so the other one is on top. Does that feel weird?

It does for me. I’m a right thumb on top person and although not uncomfortable it just doesn’t feel natural to me if my left thumb is on top.

Of course, there’s no correct way to lace your fingers together. You just do it however feels natural.

This is true of many of our postures and hand positions when beading. There’s no one right way to do it, but some positions will feel better for you than others.

Check out this 2 minute video to learn about different ways to hold your beads when doing peyote stitch. You’ll have more fun and work more efficiently when you hold the beads in the way that is most comfortable for you.

Happy beading!

Rebecca Combs

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Tip #1: Practice Makes Perfect

One of the biggest frustrations with learning a new skill is not catching on as fast as you expect. You’re so good at so many things! Why is this new beading skill so challenging?

Think about something you’re really good at. Maybe you can make the perfect sugar dusted bunt cake. Perhaps you can knit self-striping socks in your sleep. Or I don’t know… it might be that you truly shine when programming robots.

Whatever it is, think about the very first time you tried it. Remember all the different steps that you can now do on autopilot that you had to really concentrate on. Remember the times that things didn’t go as planned… you burned the cake, the self-striping socks had polka dots, and the robot ran away.

So what came in between those early mishaps and today’s triumphs?


It’s the same way with the new beading skills you want to learn. Give yourself some breathing room and permission to make mistakes along the way, but keep at it.

We’ll help you along the way with classes and online tips & videos, but it’s practice that will make your new skills second nature.

Happy beading!

Rebecca Combs

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Happy Halloween

Why I love Halloween!

Like many of you, I moved to Tucson to escape the winter and enjoy the land of eternal summer, but without the annual snowfall I find myself losing track of the passage of time. Years easily blend from one to the next. Surely my age is partly to blame for this acceleration of time, but the evergreen saguaros and palo verdes that make up our desert landscape don’t help.

Holidays are becoming increasingly important to me as a way not only to mark the seasons, but to connect to my traditions and my community. My mom made Halloween costumes for my brother and me when we were little and then taught us how to make them ourselves as we grew up. As a community we come together at Halloween to embrace the DIY spirit in our homemade costumes and festive holiday attire.

I love Halloween because I adore playing dress up and this is my socially sanctioned opportunity to be as goofy, or silly, or scary as I want to be. Also, it lets me get a jump start on No-Shave November.

Happy Halloween to all of my ghoulfriends!

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2-Day Intensive Marudai Workshop

Are you ready to take your kumihimo to the next level? Maybe you’re a disk braider and you’ve been curious about the marudai. You love kumihimo, but you’re just not sure why everyone is so excited about a big wooden stand…

Let me tell you what the fuss is all about. Everything you can do on the disk, you can do on the marudai 2 – 3 times faster! And, there are lots of cool techniques you can do on the marudai that you really can’t do on a disk!

If you’re excited to give it a try and want to experience a wide variety of techniques over two amazing days, this workshop is for you!

If you have some previous marudai experience and want to become a more efficient and confident braider, this workshop is for you, too! Focus on improving your form and gain a better understanding of the point-of-braiding. You don’t really know a braid, until you can unbraid it!

On the first day you’ll make a sampler braid using four different braid structures – including two that can’t be done on a disk. Then you’ll make a beaded rope bracelet and be amazed at how one simple motion easily and quickly locks the beads in place!

On the second day you’ll finish up your beaded bracelet and begin planning your own necklace design. Will it be fiber focused or bead focused? Are you including a tassel or pendant? What braid structure will you use? All of these design choices are up to you! I’ll help with the kumihimo math and walk you through the design process. You’ll braid in the afternoon and soon you’ll be wearing your necklace or bracelet.

The tuition for this fantastic two-day event is just $250. This workshop is limited to only ten students, so please call 520-209-1900 right away to sign up.

I hope you can join me for my Two-Day Intensive Marudai Workshop at Design & Adorn in Tucson.

Who should attend this workshop? There are no prerequisites to take this workshop, but we will be covering a lot of material in only 2 days. This course is recommended for highly motivated beginners and experienced braiders looking to take their skills to the next level.

On the first day of class, we’ll make a sampler braid using four colors of rattail. New braiders will focus on tama management and learning the braiding sequences. More experienced braiders will focus on improved braiding posture, form, and tension. In the afternoon we’ll learn how to drop beads into the kongoh gumi braid structure (this is the basic round braid most people first learn on the disk) and make a beaded bracelet. You’ll have the option of adding a focal bead to the braid.

On the second day of class, each student will design and braid a work of wearable art using the skills learned on the first day. The complexity of this piece will depend upon your comfort level as a braider. The design can be fiber or bead focused.

Design & Adorn
4630 E. Grant Road
Tucson, AZ 85712

Instructor: Rebecca Combs

Minimum number of students: 4

Maximum number of students: 7

Tuition Fee: $250

The following tools are provided for your use during the workshop:

  • Western-height Marudai with 10″ mirror
  • 70gram tama
  • chopstick
  • Counter-Weights
  • Bead Spinners and Bead Spinner Needles

Students will learn the following essential skills of marudai braiding:

  • Care & feeding of a marudai
  • Tama management including using lead cords and slip knots
  • Five different 8-warp braid structures: Kongoh Gumi, Edo Yatsu, Kaku Yatsu, Kusuri-Tsunagi, Hira Yatsu
  • Dropping beads to make bead ropes in the Kongoh Gumi braid structure
  • Kumihimo math as it pertains to estimating materials required and planning a design

Continue reading 2-Day Intensive Marudai Workshop

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Color Context

Alex made a stunning Rock Climber kumihimo necklace for her aunt using an usual dyed pink stone. Her aunt loved the necklace, but then requested matching earrings. Oh no! All of the pink stones were used in the necklace!

With no stones beads left for the earrings and slim odds of finding more, what did Alex do? Cut apart the necklace and start over? Dedicate the rest of her life to the search for matching beads? Check out this two minute video to find out.

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Highlight from Breckenridge

Richard is front-left. I'm front-right. Richard's cousin Matt is behind me.

Swanborg Family Reunion – Breckenridge, Colorado – August 2013

This was meant to be an outdoorsy vacation, but of course I packed beads just in case. I packed all sorts of stuff for soutach bead embroidery and picked up some cute things visiting a miniatures shop and two bead shops, but didn’t get a chance to sit and bead. Too busy adrenaline chasing. Continue reading Highlight from Breckenridge

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Rebecca’s Bead & Button Adventure 2013

Friday, May 31st

6:40 AM
Well, I’m off for my 10 day teaching/learning/visiting/vacationing adventure in Milwaukee. The class kits and tools were shipped last week and have already arrived at the hotel. The instructions are printed and packed (over 600 pages!). My bags are checked and I made it through airport security without incident.

Thanks to Joanna’s tip about the quiet corner workstations, I’m now comfortably camped out in the Tucson airport waiting for my 9:05 AM flight to LAX.

7:43 AM
Of course there are other things I should/could be working on (like the July class schedule), but I was updating my 6-page adventure itinerary and noticed that Miranda (my best friend) is leaving Friday afternoon. My mom is taking Richard’s class Friday evening and that gives me a three hour block of free time! Hmm what to do with three hours to myself? I suppose I could take a nap and lounge around. Or I could take another class! And so now I’m browsing the show catalog looking for class with open seats that doesn’t have a tool list that exceed the contents of my suitcase. Soutache is looking good, but I’m already taking one Soutache class with Miranda on Wednesday. Hmmm…

Cast of Characters
That’s me in the hat. I’m Rebecca Combs. I’m flying to the Bead & Button Show to teach 6 kumihimo classes and to promote my upcoming kumihimo book.

The handsome guy with me is my husband, Richard Swanborg. For the last five years we been working our growing our “Life Less Ordinary” together. He’s flying to Wisconsin later in the week and he’ll be teaching a chain maille class.

I’ve enlisted the help of my best friend, Miranda Methven, to help me at the show. She’s flying in from Maryland. That’s us at Camp Stonybrook (circa 1998). I’m on the far right and she’s 2nd from the right. It was at Girl Scout camp that we really honed our crafting abilities. Miranda, I promise we’ll get an updated picture on this trip!

These are my parents, Alice and Marcus Combs. They’re partners with Richard and me in Design & Adorn. My mom is flying in from South Carolina to help us with the show. My dad’s staying home to watch their variety store in Loris. My mom taught me arts & crafts since I was a baby. In fact she’s the one who turned me one to kumihimo.

8:09 PM (Wisconsin Time)
Even though is says eleven times on my itinerary to “Wear wrist watch every day!” I forgot to acquire a watch last night while I was packing. Luckily the airport gift shop in Tucson had some cute ones and so sporting my mother-of-pearl and gold leather wrist watch I confidently know when I am without consulting my cell phone.

My flights were uneventful (just like I like them!) and I arrived at the hotel as planned. My book editor, Mary Wohlgemuth, met me at my room to “loan” me my necklaces so I can play with them in my photography class tomorrow as well as display them in my classes. It was great to finally meet her in person. All this time we’ve just talked on the phone or sent emails. As a surprise, she brought me a rough early layout of my book. It still has a long way to go before November, but it’s exciting to see it take shape!

Saturday, June 1st

9:00 AM – 5:30 PM Light And Shadow: The Art of Photographing Jewelry and Glass
Instructor: Doug Baldwin

This is the third photography class I’ve taken this year(The other two were with Sun Street Studio in Tucson), but I still learned a lot! We went over the three main things you can fiddle with on your camera: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. This was review for me, but it was helpful hearing it described from another perspective. The focus of the class was product photography intended to generate sales of the product, not the photograph itself. We toured some Etsy sites and critiqued the photos. Then it was on to practice.

Doug designed the lights we used in class and they are great! Far easier to use than the light tents with fixed lights that you see advertised on the internet. I used to have two of those, but got so fed up with the awkwardness that I pitched them. I ordered three of Doug’s lights and they should arrive in a couple of weeks.

The last time I really studied photography was back in high school and we shot everything on film. It was really nice to be able to ask “stupid” questions about my digital camera without being made to feel stupid. For example, “Where did my light meter go?!” Answer: “Your camera went to sleep.”

The Show Stopper - new photo, black acrylic background
Original Show Stopper class catalog photo

So here’s a photo a took of my Show Stopper necklace. What do you think? Should it be the new picture for the catalog? I like it, but I also took a few on white and grey backgrounds. I think I’ll have fun playing with this!

The class was well organized and fun! I would for sure take another class with Doug Baldwin. If 8 or so of you Tucsonans are interested maybe we can organize a class here at the shop.

Class photo with self timer. Doug Baldwin is the tall guy in the middle.

Mom arrived in the afternoon during my class and Miranda shortly after class let out. Everybody was hungry so we mosied over to Mader’s German Restaurant for dinner.

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Rebecca’s Bead & Button Adventure

Saturday, June 2nd
After an uneventful day of flying, I arrived in Milwaukee. The Hilton was buzzing with beaders (easily identified by the intricate necklaces they wear.) After settling in my room, in was off to the Hyatt to check in to the show. I was worried there’d be a long line, but there were several stations and the wait was short. I got my show badge, will-call class tickets, and a bag of swag. Nearby there’s an open beading area set-up and two “last minute” supply booths in case you forgot something you need for class. The actually bead show doesn’t start until Thursday night. After quickly browsing the both booths (Knot Just Beads & Eclectica), it was time to hit the streets of Milwaukee to see what I could see. Continue reading Rebecca’s Bead & Button Adventure

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Kumihimo in the Pines

Richard and I snuck off to Flagstaff to escape the heat for a few days over the 4th of July holiday. We left early Sunday morning and stopped in Chandler to have breakfast with Richard’s sister, Carolyn. After that we hopped on 17 and headed North.

For lunch we stopped in Jerome. If you haven’t been there, make it a point to go. It’s a former mining town turned ghost town turned artist colony. Perched precariously on the side of a mountain, its quirkiness is visible from a distance. Brave the switchbacks to get a closer look at this charming town of 378 residents.
Continue reading Kumihimo in the Pines