In my last post I wrote about working with print fabrics, and especially symmetrical print fabrics to create ornaments, medallions, and other small bead embroideries. For beginners especially I highly recommend working with prints--you've already purchased the fabric, which suggests you really like it, and the fabric can help your design process by suggesting placement and density of beadwork and/or hand stitching to you.
If, however, you are eager to create your own designs from the fabric up, then working with solids, batiks, hand-dyes, and subtle all-over prints is the way to go. I've created 10 or 15 ornaments working with batiks, hand-dyed fabrics, and hand-painted fabrics, and I've used templates of my own design for the ornament shape.
For anyone who has seen my work, leaves and turtles won't be a surprise. I love these shapes and feel very connected to them, so they were natural for me to use in my ornament designs. For the leaf ornaments I used a maple-leaf template made by tracing a maple leaf I had collected. For the ornament in the middle with the turtle on it, I played with drawing curves on paper using several engineering templates (I knew they'd come in handy some day!) until I came up with an overall shape that appealed to me. Then I traced that onto template material to make the template.
I've found that I can use these forms again and again while still generating new ideas about how to interpret and embellish them. Even if the designs are similar, such as using a face bead with a symmetrical design surrounding it, I can vary the design enough to play with new ideas, techniques, and color combinations in each ornament. The ornaments also create great opportunities to experiment with fringe designs and to use some wonderful beads that I may have in short supply. In addition to all of that they were very popular at art fairs in which I have participated.
In the maple leaf on the left I sparsely filled the open areas with backstitched swirls of seed beads. In the maple leaf on the right I opted to draw in the leaf vein lines with backstitched seed beads. The fabric in the middle ornament is from a quilt I started making and then abandoned because it wasn't working; but parts of it were working and came in handy for this ornament. The colors reminded me of tropical water, and so I played with creating little islands of beads on this ornament.