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Starry Night…making a cigar box handbag

My inspiration picture

My friend Dee recently asked me about cigar box purses, so I thought I’d dig this one out! Starry Night started out as an old cardboard cigar box. I considered several different techniques for creating beaded pictures on it before I settled on my old favorite method, but with a new twist: the beads are embroidered directly on the box, using wire and a couching technique.

Materials and tools:

Black gesso
Black acrylic paint
Foam paint brushes
Awl or nail
24 gauge silver-colored wire
Wire cutters
Chain nosed pliers
Lightweight paper (like tracing paper) and pen (optional)
Beads in appropriate colors and sizes for your design
18 gauge silver wire
Interfacing or quilt batting to line the box
Fabric for the lining
1 Coat the entire box, inside and out with black gesso. Let it dry. Apply two thin coats of black acrylic paint. Let it dry overnight.

2 If you want to have a pattern for your work, cut a piece of very lightweight paper to the size of each side you plan to bead. The paper must be able to tear away easily. Sketch your pattern in as much detail as you need. As you begin to bead, set the pattern in place and work right through it. Your first few stitches will hold the paper in place.

3 Cut off a few dozen 2 inch sections of wire. These will be used to couch your work in place. Bend each piece in half.

4 String your selected beads onto the end of your spool of wire. I keep the spool in a small baggie to keep it from unrolling completely as I work.

5 Using a small awl or a nail, poke a hole every few inches along the pathway that your beading will take. Make them closer together on the curves. Anchor the beaded wire in one of the holes by bending it tight to the inside. Begin to lay out your beadwork, securing it as you come to each hole with one of the 2 inch couching wires you cut in step 3. Make more as you need them. Tear away your paper pattern as you finish each section.

6 Create a handle out of heavier 18 gauge silver wire. Wire on a loop and large bead for a closure.

7 When you have finished embroidering the entire box, you’ll have a lot of wire ends to hide on the inside! Cut a piece of interfacing or quilt batting slightly smaller than each side. Cut a piece of lining fabric (I used shiny black) larger than each piece of interfacing. Wrap each piece around the interfacing and glue the edges to the back. Let them dry. Glue each piece of liner inside the box.

Copyright 2008 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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