Beadwork objects, Polyhedra, Tutorials

The Saturn Box Tutorial

There is now a standalone tutorial available for the Saturn Box!

The Saturn Box is a beaded geometric box I designed in 2020 for the Beadworkers Guild Journal. The tutorial originally appeared in issues 87 to 90 of the journal between 2020 and 2021.

At the time the Saturn Box was the most complicated piece I’d ever designed (or written instructions for!). It was during lockdown and I was really focussing on beadwork as a distraction. I’d never made a beaded box before, so wanted to try something new for the journal.

It combined a few different ideas I had been playing around with and thinking of how to incorporate into a bigger design – the ring of half-stars and the half-diamond finish to the edges of the bowl in particular. It’s also one of the few of my pieces that includes crystals as well. I tend to keep geometric pieces to purely peyote stitch and Delicas, but the inside of the bowl was just missing something, and that something was crystal bicones!

Of course, as soon as I included them Swarovski announced they were going to stop selling crystals to beaders – typical! Fortunately I found Preciosa made a bicone in a similar (and possibly slightly better!) colour to accent the Delicas.

The original idea for the box started off with a near-miss Johnson solid. These are polyhedra that don’t quite have regular polygon faces, so aren’t one of the 92 Johnson solids, but are so close to being so you can make them pretty well with regular polygons. Some of the known near-miss Johnson solids have unusual patterns of polygons on their surfaces which offer lots of design possibilities! The particular shape I decided to base the box on is a near-miss discovered by Robert Webb:

Image of a near-miss Johnson solid consisting of hexagons, triangles and pentagons.

This polyhedron has hexagons at the top and bottom, and a ring of triangles in the middle of upper and lower rings of pentagons. This shaped seemed ideal to base a box on, as it has a clear top and bottom and could be split along the central ring of triangles to make the lid and base.

The ring of triangles would also allow me to incorporate the half-star idea I’d been playing around with into the design to form a ring around the box. I used to be an astrophysicist, and studied planets in particular, so that led me immediately to thinking about Saturn! That in turn led me to my colour inspiration – the false colour images of the aurora on Saturn:

Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, A. Simon (GSFC) & OPAL Team, J. DePasquale (STScI) & L. Lamy (Obs. Paris).

These images were taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2017, and show the aurora at the North Pole of Saturn. These aurora mostly emit ultraviolet light, rather than visible light like the aurora on Earth. The image above is actually a composite image – a visible light photograph of Saturn from Hubble combined with a false colour representation of observations of the ultraviolet light captured using one of Hubble’s spectrographs. The false colour representation shows the ultraviolet light emitted by the aurora in blue, and I just love this representation of the physics and had to include it in the box design, with silver-lined beads doing their best to bring to mind this image!

After a lot of engineering and even inventing a new component I ended up with the final design! The lid of the box sits on the ring of half-stars, standing on six “spikes” formed by the points of the blue stars on the lid. I was really happy with the final design!

I’ve been meaning to write a standalone tutorial for this piece for a while – the size and complexity of the project was a bit daunting though! I finally convinced myself to sit down and start it before Christmas, and I’m really glad to now have it available in my Etsy shop.

I’m also really grateful to the small army of pattern testers who stuck with me while I tried to get this all written down in a reasonable size document the last few months!

If you decide to try making the box I hope you will enjoy it – although it is a lot of work, it’s also a varied piece with lots of different types of peyote shapes combined together. There are triangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons and some others you may not be familiar and some new ones invented just for this piece!

Although it was challenge to design and document this piece it’s a challenge I’d gladly undertake again – in fact I’m thinking of doing a few more planetary-inspired boxes!

Beadwork, Beadwork objects, Polyhedra


Update: a tutorial for this piece is now in my etsy shop! Thanks to Sue Harle for permission to use her original diagonal tubular peyote technique in the tutorial!

I don’t seem to have had much time for beadwork recently, but a few months ago I did manage to finish a new piece: a sunburst dodecahedron!


It uses Sue Harle’s tubular diagonal peyote technique, which is just fantastic for geometric work like this as it’s beautifully flexible, but still strong enough to hold the shape together.

I’ve been playing with this idea for about a year but couldn’t really get it to click, I think mostly as I wasn’t sure that it would work (a feeling that stayed with me all the way up until it was finished!). There was also a bit of hasty re-engineering of my initial idea half way through (I might have forgotten how many edges a dodecahedron has…), but it did work in the end and I’m very happy with how it turned out. Its only downside is that it’s really hard to photograph!


I really want to try taking this idea further by trying a similar approach with other shapes – although I’m not sure yet if the angles will work out for other polyhedra. It’d also be fun to try two nested shapes, maybe a dodecahedron and an icosahedron, or two dodecahedrons, but I’m still contemplating how to join them together so they stay centered.


I also really like these metallic yellow delicas. I don’t often use yellow in my designs (you might have noticed that blue is my go-to colour!) but I’m glad I tried venturing out if my colour comfort zone to try this.


I have started writing a tutorial for this shape too! I’m still a bit apprehensive about drawing the diagrams for it at the moment, as it’s very 3 dimensional and hard to show on a flat page – need to spend some time thinking back to maths lessons about 3D projections!

Beadwork, Beadwork objects

Spring spirals

It’s been fairly chilly here the last few months and apparently delicas break pretty easily when they’re cold, so I haven’t been able to get much beadwork done. While I wait for spring (maybe further off than I thought as I sit here watching the hail outside!) I’ve been trying to organise my “in-progress” beadwork… a large proportion of which is half-finished test pieces that I don’t want to take apart, but aren’t really anything useful and seem destined to sit in a box forever.

Occasionally however I do manage to make a test piece into an actual object – if only to feel like I’ve achieved something! This one is a small trinket pot I made out of a test piece for an idea about cellini horns a couple of years ago:


The spikes are just Contemporary Geometric Beadwork half-horns – that is, a side incease (wing) that then gets stitched together along its top, instead of decreasing back to the main work like you would for a horn. The spirals all meet at the right place on the join, but don’t quite line up how I’d like where the half-horn meets the rest of the beadwork – if I ever make these again I need to sit down and work out how to get the counts completely correct so there’s a smooth transition to the rest of the work.


It started out like a very small CGB bangle, a plain tubular piece of peyote from a MRAW start. The transition from circular at the base to square at the top is entirely the result of the cellini spirals changing the shape of the beadwork!

I made it into a trinket pot by just adding a few rows of size 11 and 15 seed beads to the MRAW start at the bottom (like the back of a bezel), as well as a row of 15s at the top. I then cut out a piece of card the right size and stuck some grey suede to either side to make the base:


I’m not sure that cellini horns have much of a future as a bangle idea, but a thinner piece could make a pretty interesting pendant!


It is unfortunately a bit lopsided. I probably wouldn’t use matte beads for the sides again, they seem to result in a fabric which doesn’t have much flexibility – a bit of a problem since the cellini horns cause the beadwork to warp significantly! Still, I think it looks pretty neat:


It’s also a nice spring colour – like green shoots emerging from the winter ground!