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Little boxes, on a hillside…

The final assignment for my writing class was to do a book review. I opted to review a beading book – a choice that was strongly influenced by the fact that I haven’t had very much time to play with my beads since school began, and I’m really starting to miss them!

Despite my interest (ok, obsession) with beads and beadwork, I don’t own very many bead books. I think that’s because most of the beading books I’ve seen are pattern oriented, and I typically work freeform or design my own patterns. Because of this, most “how to” bead books hold little appeal for me. One exception to this is Little Boxes by Julia S. Pretl, which is one of my all time favorite beading books.

I’ll admit that I am probably somewhat biased, because the author is my friend (full disclosure here, people!). I’ve had the pleasure of watching her go from a nervous first time author, publishing – and printing, and binding – out of her basement, to a full time/professional author and illustrator with several successful books under her belt. However, I would love this book even if I didn’t love Julia. Here’s why:

Julia S. Pretl published her first book, “Little Boxes” in 2002. The book showcases her original methods for creating beaded boxes using variations of “peyote stitch”, a traditional bead weaving technique which utilizes only beads, needle and thread. She features a variety of projects for three dimensional vessels, ranging from simple squares and triangles to more advanced polygonal shapes. The detailed directions include excellent diagrams, pattern graphs and beautiful color photos to guide crafters of all skill levels through the process of creating these adorable boxes.

One of the most notable aspects of this book is the high quality diagrams. I have often fumbled to understand clumsy illustrations that don’t convey where the needle goes or how the project should look during construction. Thankfully, Pretl’s ample diagrams are distinct and easy to read. The large 3-D images provide optimal clarity, the bead rows are well marked to help you keep your place as you follow along, and the thread path is always visible. It is no wonder that the author has been commissioned to illustrate so many popular beading books since writing this one!

The written instructions are equally clear. While the methods used are somewhat advanced, and working knowledge of peyote stitch is advised, the directions are so precise that a beginner could follow them. The intricate projects are broken down into simple steps, with the text placed adjacent to the corresponding diagram. This easy reference makes these techniques very comprehensive, despite their complexity.

Following these thorough instructions are a series of color graphs which will enable readers to duplicate the color schemes shown in the samples. For those who prefer to design their own patterns, there are blank graphs for each box shape. This is yet another example of how the author makes this book interesting and accessible to beginners and advanced bead workers alike.

If you bought the first edition of the book, you may be disappointed by the lack of color photos. In fact, the only photos included in the original printing are the samples on the cover. This is understandable, given that the first edition books were published, printed and bound by the author. Still, it was a sad omission as Julia Pretl is an award winning bead artist, and her work is exceptionally beautiful. Fortunately, this book was republished by Creative Publishing in 2006 under the title “Little Bead Boxes”. The second edition includes additional box designs, updated techniques and gorgeous color photos for each project.

This classic book has taught bead enthusiasts around the world how to create these adorable little boxes. It has also served as a springboard for some of the more advanced geometric bead designs taught by nationally known designers. Whether you consider yourself an amateur or professional beader, it is a must-have for your collection! It is competitively priced at $21.95, and is available at most major book retailers or at the author’s website.

2 thoughts on “Little boxes, on a hillside…

  1. HOOO! another book to my collection. Your friend’s work look amazing and yes I prefer books with delicious pictures, rather “do this” with poor pictures and equally poor diagrams rote books. The delicious books inspire me more.
    Hope you good a good mark for your book review as has worked on me

  2. Jacqui, I think you’ll love this book. One of the things that I like best is that it not only outlines the project at hand, but teaches you techniques that you can really build off of to create your own stuff 🙂

    And thanks for the good wishes for my grade! I did get a good mark on the paper … decided to post it here as a way to plug my friend AND practice blogging.

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