Purple Iris – Bead Embroidery Japanese-Style

6th July 2018

Earlier this year we mentioned that the colour purple was chosen as the 2018 Pantone® colour of the year. Ultra Violet 18-3838 to be precise.

In keeping with that theme, this week we’re helping you tap into your inner purple by featuring ‘Purple Iris’ by Margaret Lee.

The projects in Margaret’s book ‘The Art of Bead Embroidery Japanese-Style’ are ordered in level of difficulty, starting with the easiest moving through to the most complex. Purple Iris appears in position 6 out of 9 which is a pretty good indicator as to how challenging the project is. A step up from the beginner level, this design is perfect for someone who is looking to take on a slightly more challenging project.

The first thing you notice about Purple Iris is how the light interacts with the finished surface. This gorgeous beaded evening bag starts off dark and moody, then when tilted ever so slightly towards light, the beads burst into dance and the metallic surfaces glint and shimmer through an array of purple hues to tones of blue, grey, silver, green and even pink.

It is such a mesmerising design, we asked Margaret where the idea for the pattern came from.

‘When I design projects from scratch (as opposed to embellishing pre-printed fabric) it is usually for a specific person/application, or as a teaching purpose. Purple Iris belongs to the latter category, so I was looking for a design that I could incorporate some particular beading disciplines.

I usually start with a principal focal motif and develop my ideas from there. My inspiration can come from a multitude of sources – motifs, subjects of interest that may have caught my eye in the past. 

 In the instance of Purple Iris, the design draws from two completely different patterns and combines them into one integrated motif.

 The first is the focal element which is derived from the pattern of a feather, with its angled lines radiating outwards to form arches.’

‘The second is the background motif that was inspired from the pattern of an old tree trunk I came across while walking with my husband David in the Clare Valley, north of Adelaide.’

It’s interesting to think about how we perceived the design before Margaret told us about her feather and tree bark inspiration, now that she has mentioned it, one can’t help but see the beads assembled in formation to re-create the feathers and bark, yet before it somehow seemed less obvious.

Margaret also explained the specific techniques she teaches when using Purple Iris as her reference:

I created this design to help the following learning objectives: 

  • Understanding couching techniques and how to deal with odd shapes and spaces.
  • Understanding the visual implications of each technique used and how to select, combine and apply these to achieve flow and balance in the overall design.
  • How to plan the embroidery sequence to achieve best visual aesthetics.
  • Selecting bead types to enhance the design.
  • A study in how a single colour, used in conjunction with technique and bead type selection, can create effective design outcomes.

Finally, we asked Margaret the obvious question – where did the name, Purple Iris come from? –  we know it’s a flower but can’t see floral emblems anywhere in this design…

‘Ah! That’s an easy one, the project is named ‘Purple Iris’ after the colour name given to the TOHO beads.’

‘In fact, at Beating Around the Bush this year, I will be offering participants different colour choices of ‘Green Iris’ and ‘Blue Iris’.

 Well there you go, a little bit of insight for you as to how the stunning evening bag Purple Iris came to be. We always enjoy learning something new from Margaret, she is such a wealth of expertise in her field. In fact, she has been asked to submit an article for the Routledge Encyclopaedia of traditional Chinese Culture as an authority on Chinese Embroidery, which is a huge honour.

As her renown increases, so too do Margaret’s teaching commitments. She is off to the ANZEG Biennial Conference in New Zealand, and for the first time, Margaret is running a class on her remarkable double-sided Chinese Embroidery project in Nantes, France in November.

‘Lotus Bud’ double-sided Chinese Embroidery by Margaret Lee

Double-sided Chinese Embroidery!? Wow… we look forward to hearing more about that from Margaret in the near future. In the meantime, to see more of Margaret’s amazing work and keep up-to-date with her teaching schedule, visit her website HERE.

Make Your Own Purple Iris

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Purple Iris by Margaret Lee from The Art of Bead Embroidery Japanese-Style is a stunning beaded evening bag with a repeating feathered motif created using only metallic purple coloured glass beads.

Printed Books

The Art of Bead Embroidery Japanese-Style

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Purple Iris includes everything you need to re-create this stunning monochromatic beaded evening bag: Fabrics (unprinted), purse frame, wadding, interfacing, threads and beads.


Purple Iris – Bead Embroidery Japanese-Style Kit

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