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It was Christmas morning, my first Christmas as a married woman. My husband and I giddily anticipated sharing the gifts we had purchased for each other. The passing of time has dulled the memory of what I gave him that Christmas, but I definitely remember what he gave me!

It was a square stand, with four rows of five drawers each – each drawer containing removable dividers – and a small mountain of beads in little baggies inside!

I was flabbergasted!

“Where… how… this is amazing! But… like… what gave you the idea?” I sputtered as I opened all the drawers and found more treasures inside.

“You told me that you used to love beading as a kid, and sometimes wish you could pick it back up again. Well, now you can!”

For the record, I have absolutely no recollection of this conversation, which is really surprising (people who know me tell me I have the memory of an elephant). But clearly some conversation somewhere spun this totally amazing idea into my (then) husband’s brain, and he took it and ran!

Neither of us had any idea about beads, tools, wire, or anything, really. I was back to stringing seed beads on wire, but I needed tools! Luckily, there was a local bead shop in my area, and when I told them to talk to me like I knew nothing – which, well, I did – I got outfitted with a mini plier kit, a pair of scissors, another spool of beading wire, and some well wishes for my next project.

My table-top case for beads was great! But it was far from portable. At that time, I traveled a lot in order to train and compete in a sport called goalball. This often had me on buses and trains, and I needed something to do with the hours I was sitting on my backside en route from one place to another. I went to a local craft shop, grabbed a travel organizer, filled it with beads, and boarded a plane.

I should’ve known something was wrong when there were beads in the bottom of my bag. Not only was this container sending seed beads tumbling out the tiny opening in the back… but all the dividers were movable, sliding ever so slightly up and down as the plane hit turbulence. I came back from my trip with a very colourful – and very disorganized – travel case. My husband spent weeks with a rounded bead retriever, painstakingly sorting through all of those beads, getting 90% of it done, only to have our new kitten decide that the tray would be fun to go digging in… And – with the patience of a saint – he did it all over again! We remember you fondly, Dasher!

I learned to bead by just doing. This was before Youtube tutorials were everywhere, and most of what was available wasn’t in accessible formats. I was able to get my hands on a “for dummies” book on the subject, which provided decent enough descriptions that I could figure a bunch of things out without seeing the pictures. But I definitely had a few false starts along the way.

I remember with fondness the first piece I made for someone else. She had worked very hard to graduate from University, and as part of my graduation gift, I made her a chain necklace with multi-coloured cubes that hung at various points around the chain. I loved the finished result – and so did she – but I couldn’t say I was crazy about working with chain. This was before I had a tactile measuring tape, so I had to use the spacing of my fingers to ensure an even look. But my friend loved what I had done, and I felt a sense of accomplishment, and wanted to make more.

But I still didn’t know what I was doing! I knew what I didn’t like – chain was annoying and finicky – and seed beads were proving to be frustrating for myself and my husband. I needed a travel case, and maybe some more tools… so what was a budding beadsmith to do?