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Woven Together: A Story Of Family & Friendship

by Dana Freed Fiddes

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t crafting. My mother, a master stitcher, fiber artist and designer, imparted her knowledge to me at a young age. My happiest memories are of needlepointing with my mom, crocheting doll clothes and blankets with my grandmother, and building dioramas with my uncle. Making was in my heart.

Though she’s a talented technician, my mother’s true strength is her unique sense of color. She taught me early on to use my gut instincts instead of hard and fast rules. She never wanted me to lose that childlike lack of inhibition when it came to designing. Her philosophy has always been this: Color theory can be taught, but ultimately you have to feel it. There’s no right or wrong. Use what feels right to you.

As I got older I pursued academics, but never stopped making. I worked in knitting stores, discovered a love of teaching others how to craft, and continued learning. In the early 2000s, when I was still in college, my mom and I took a course in beadwork that launched nearly a decade of study. We learned Native American, African, European and Asian techniques in seed bead weaving, using needles, thread and tiny seed beads. It was during this time we discovered bead crochet.

We had never heard of bead crochet before, but were immediately intrigued since it combined beadwork with our love of crochet. We learned that the technique had become popular in the Victorian era, but probably originated earlier. It has roots in France and Turkey, but very little is known about its history.

Once we learned the technique, we became completely obsessed, both with making it and the fascinating outcome. 

First, all the beads needed for a project are strung onto sturdy thread. This means that any patterning or color changes must be planned before you begin crocheting. Once the beads are strung, they are stitched together one at a time with a tiny crochet hook in a continuous spiral. When the crocheted piece is complete, the two ends can be joined together with an invisible seam.

The result is a flexible, colorful, and intriguing cord perfect for bracelets and necklaces. Its dimensionality allows for more substantial pieces of jewelry that really highlight the beauty of the beads; unlike a single strand, the rope-like construction accentuates the beads’ richness in color, brilliance and sparkle.

Once we mastered bead crochet, my mom and I literally turned it into our life’s work. We started our own business focused around teaching the technique to others. There was so little information available on the subject at the time, so we wrote a How-To book that included everything we knew from beginner instructions to advanced troubleshooting. We were invited to teach globally, from Sedona, Arizona to Tokyo, Japan. It was a dream come true.

We met Laura at one of our book signings at Kinokuniya bookstore in New York City. She had come with a mutual friend who thought that, because Laura was also a jewelry designer with a passion for color, we might hit it off. She was right.

Makers know what it’s like to find others like us; connecting with people who “speak your language” always sparks an undeniable energy. It’s like living in a foreign place and meeting someone from home. That’s what it felt like when we met Laura. 

We had so much in common that we forged a strong friendship. Like me, Laura is a lifelong Manhattanite. Like both my mom and myself, she is a passionate maker—sewing, quilting, needlepoint, photography and drawing were cornerstones of her childhood that she pursued throughout her life. Laura’s incredible eye for design, color and composition led her naturally to a career in graphic design. And perhaps most importantly, we all have an innate need to share what we make with other people, in hopes of bringing a little more beauty and happiness to the world.

One afternoon, the three of us had a life-changing conversation over cafe lattes and Earl Grey teas in a coffee shop in Manhattan. We knew we could combine our passion and talents to create something meaningful and fulfilling. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the moment Park & Lex was born.