Monday, 6 January 2014

Focus on ... Beadweaving

I have been doing a LOT of bead weaving recently.  It was partly spurred on by a book - Creative Seed Bead Connections by Teresa Meister.  It shows you how to make little beaded components to add to wire and chain and create some beautiful jewellery.  I'll show you what I've been making in a future post, but I thought I'd give you the low down on bead weaving for those who've never tried it.

I was put off for a long time as I thought that bead weaving would take forever.  It doesn't at all. OK, so an entirely beaded necklace with an intricate pattern would, but these components and simple pieces of jewellery are really quick.

Now, I'm no expert in bead weaving, not by a long shot, but I've learnt a lot so far.  Any expert beaders who wish to leave me and my readers any tips, hints or must-see links, please feel free!  This article will focus on off-loom weaving, so you don't need a bead loom.  (If you are interested in bead loom weaving, I wrote about it here).

You don't need much to start bead weaving, and it's all really cheap, so there's no excuse not to give it a go, it won't break the bank if you don't enjoy it.  You need:

Beading needles.  These come in sizes from 10-15 and are usually sold in a mixed lot for £1 or so for 5 needles.  Start with one pack and if you enjoy it, buy in bulk, these things snap really easily!  They are very thin and have a very thin eye.  You can see how curved they are, this happens as soon as you use them and actually helps, until they become too curved.  If you struggle to thread the needle, you can buy ones with a very large collapsible eye - easy to thread and then easy to get through the bead.  The size you need depends on the size of the bead.

Thread.  3d beading often uses wire to give it structure, but bead weaving usually uses one of the threads below.  On the left is Fireline, it's a clear, strong nylon thread, usually used for fishing I believe.  On the right is Nymo thread.  It comes in a range of colours as well as black or white and is stronger than sewing thread.  If you use Nymo, be sure to give it a stretch before you begin as it will stretch slightly with use.  It comes in more than one size but I've only ever seen size D so I use that.

Optional extras.  I'd recommend using Thread Heaven or beeswax on Nymo just to give it a bit more strength and help prevent tangles.  The gadget on the right is my thread zapper.  You can, of course, use scissors, but this lets me zap the thread right down close to the bead, it has a battery inside and I just press the button, the element heats up and zap!  The thread is cut.

The beads
Seed beads.  This can be a confusing and overwhelming shopping trip!  There are many types and sizes of seed beads.  Let's start with size.  Basically, the higher the number, the smaller the bead.  You can see the different sizes that I have in my collection from left to right below.  You can also get size 6 and size 3 but I don't have any.  I haven't seen the other sizes though I think there is an even smaller bead.

I can't imagine how tiny that would be, see the photo below for a sense of scale!  When buying seed beads online, the sizes are often written 11/0 for a size 11, 9/0 for a size 9 etc.  Which size bead you use will have an effect on the final project.  Most tutorials and books will tell you which size to use, then when you have some confidence, you can feel free to experiment.  One thing to keep in mind is that the smaller beads also have smaller holes, this restricts the number of times the thread can pass through the bead.

There are also different brands of seed beads.  I've used Miyuki and Toho and they are excellent quality and of a very uniform size and shape.  Cheaper beads can differ in size.  Again, this is only a problem depending on the project, I quite like the more organic and natural look of the cheaper beads.  

Another kind of seed bead to note is Delicas.  The seed beads above are pretty round, slightly flatter on the ends with the holes.  Delicas are a cylinder bead as I've tried to show in the photo below.  These beads are excellent for making a tightly woven "fabric" from beads and also for making 3d items.  Remember the beaded box I made?  That needed Delicas to give it the smooth sides.

You can also get square, triangular and hexagon seed beads, bugle beads which are long and thin and twin beads which have two holes.  

The stitches
There are several stitches that you come across again and again in beadweaving.  Most can be done flat, tubular or in the round.

I've picked out the main ones and found tutorials for those particular stitches, I'd recommend having a look to see how easy it is!

RAW - Right Angle Weave
This is the first stitch learned, you can read about it here.

This is the bracelet I made.  Fancy a go?

Basic Right Angle Weave Row Three
Start with this tutorial for the basic stitch.

Covering Ring with Right-angle Weave Finished
Beading Daily has a tutorial for covering a ring with RAW

Bead and Button has tons of free tutorials including this one for a RAW bracelet.  You will need to register, but it's free.

Peyote stitch is a bit like the way bricks are laid, if you look closely at the image below, you can see that the beads are staggered so where there is a join in the first row, there is a bead sitting on that join in the second row.
free peyote stitch beading pattern
This image is from Imaginesque who regularly posts free tutorials for Peyote stitch jewellery, she has lots more if you like this.  

You can find a tutorial for peyote stitch at Uzume's Crafty Goodness.

Netting stitch
Another staple and one I recently used - I'll be posting about it soon.  It makes an open weave which resembles a net and can be used as a basis for all kinds of embellishment, or used as it is.
Black Garnet Netted Collar
This tutorial is for a netting stitch necklace which looks beautiful without embellishment.

Tubular Beading Tutorial
Knotty Knits wrote a tutorial for this tubular netting technique.


This flat herringbone tutorial is written by Beejang who has loads and loads of free tutorials and patterns on her blog.

You can have a go at twisted herringbone with this free tutorial at Beading Daily.  It's a lot easier than it looks!

Brick Stitch
Brick stitch is often worked around a circular core.  I've used brick stitch to make jewellery in the past, weaving around a solid connector.

 You can read my post about this necklace here

The free tutorial for this beaded brooch is available at Beading Daily which is a great resource for bead weavers.

There are of course many more stitches and techniques and once you've mastered the basics, you can have a go at free-form bead weaving.

More resources

If I've whetted your interest, take a look at my Jewellery - Beadweaving board on Pinterest for 578 ideas or shots of inspiration (disclaimer: this number is likely to increase).  You can also have a go at 3d beading, or creating items which are not jewellery.  See my beading board for ideas.

I have a few books in my collection, all can be found on Amazon if you're interested:

3d beading:
100 Beaded Flowers, Trinkets & Charms - Amanda Brooke Murr-Hinson
Beaded Flowers and Wedding Bouquets - Katie Dean (e-book) 
Beaded Miniature Menagerie
Little Beaded Boxes - Julia S. Pretle
Spellbound Festive Beading - Julie Ashford
The Art of French Beaded Flowers - Carol Brenner Doelp
The World of Beads - Mitsuko Muto and Tomoko Ishizauka

Beading for jewellery:
Creative Seed Bead Connections - Teresa Meister
Seed Bead Stitching - Beth Stone
The Beadworker's Guild Introduction to Beadwork - Bracelets

Adding beading to objects
Simple Glass Beading
The Beaded Edge 2 - Midori Nishida

Check out my Craft Book Challenge page if you want to see what else is in my collection!

I hope you've enjoyed this little article.  I was thinking of writing some more on various other crafts, what do you think?


JoJo said...

Great post!!! I have shied away from seed bead work for awhile b/c i just don't have the patience or eye sight for it. I can do peyote around an object but fail at flat peyote. And after investing hundreds of dollars in hanks of Czech 11o seed beads, the Japanese ones hit the market and I was forced to re-purchase a lot of colours. I haven't even touched my Czech seed beads in years.

Star speckles said...

Fab post! Not something I'd have a go at myself any time soon, but I love the explanations as they help me to appreciate even more the work that goes into your pieces


margaret said...

can see you are well advanced in bead work, not something I have done much of but do use the odd one on my crazy work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wendy, this is a good, clear introduction to bead work, and all the links will save us all time searching the web.

Joy McD said...

Wow, lots of great info here! Thanks for that, hopefully it will inspire me to get back into beading when my stuff arrives... xxx

ACBeads said...

Thank you, Wendy, for this great introduction to beadweaving. I'll be checking out this post a lot.

Celtic Thistle said...

Great post Wendy, more please!

Carrie P. said...

it is amazing what can be done with beads. I have looked at some of the beading magazines and I stand in awe.

Jane Galley said...

great article, I've never seen a thread zapper before

Anonymous said...

I love delicas and I love triangle beads - only for crazy quilting! Your beading projects look interesting, though, and I know bead stores depend more on people like you, than people like me. So thanks for keeping them open for me! =)

Pookledo said...

I've started using KO thread instead of nymo as it is prewaxed and pre stretched. I'm so lazy!