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Herringbone or Ndebele Beadweaving Technique: Versatility, Patterns, and More

Updated on January 27, 2014
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Seed Bead Bracelet, Herringbone, Stripes, Purple, Lavender, Iris, Plum
Seed Bead Bracelet, Herringbone, Stripes, Purple, Lavender, Iris, Plum | Source

My right angle weave hub has done so well that I decided to write one about my new favorite beadweaving technique: herringbone or Ndebele. To get a general overview of the herringbone pattern, check this out. Please note that this hub is devoted to beadwork, not wire wrapping. For great herringbone wire wrapping tutorials, check out Eni Oken's site. It comes highly recommended.

To give you a brief background of the beadweaving technique, it is named for the Ndebele tribe in Africa, which is where it was developed. It is also referred to as herringbone because of the way that the beads mimic the knit herringbone design. The beadwork sometimes closely resembles a knit pattern, although it depends on specific design and the beads used.

Like right angle weave, one of the things that immediately drew me into the herringbone technique was its versatility. Even though I don't have nearly as much experience with it yet as I do with right angle weave, I can already see that it has so many possibilities for my style of jewelry making. Once you master the basic technique, you'll be off running in a number of different directions, too. Happy beading!

If you're just starting out with herringbone, I highly recommend this free tutorial as well as this amazing Squidoo about herringbone. It's ideal to start with flat herringbone, particularly if you have limited experience with beadweaving. I actually started with tubular so don't feel limited by the recommendation to start with flat if that's not what's really calling you.

Beadwork Herringbone Bracelet, Bronze, Beaded Bracelet
Beadwork Herringbone Bracelet, Bronze, Beaded Bracelet | Source
Beadwoven Hoops in Green and Pink
Beadwoven Hoops in Green and Pink | Source

There are several ways to work the herringbone stitch.

Flat: This is the standard method for working herringbone. It is best to get the feel for the stitch with a single size of uniformly shaped seed beads, such as size 11 Miyuki delicas. Variations include increasing/decreasing rows and combining different types of beads.

Tubular: Tubular herringbone creates a beaded rope. Personally I think that tubular is even more versatile than flat. These beaded ropes can be used for bracelets or necklaces by themselves or they can be components for larger pieces. Variations include combining different sized beads to create an undulating effect and using the twisted tubular technique (see link below for a free pattern).

Both flat and tubular styles can have increases/decreases with the ladder technique.

Circular: I've included several examples of circular herringbone in this hub. I can't find any patterns/tutorials for circular online. If anyone knows of one in a book or magazine, let me know. If you've worked other circular stitches, such as circular peyote, you will most likely be able to work circular herringbone once you're comfortable with the basic herringbone stitch.

Over the Moon Necklace: MaryLou uses different sized seed beads as well as lamp work focals to create this stunning necklace.
Over the Moon Necklace: MaryLou uses different sized seed beads as well as lamp work focals to create this stunning necklace. | Source
Colourful Bricks Herringbone Bracelet: Cube beads in bright shades of yellow and green are the perfect accent against the black.
Colourful Bricks Herringbone Bracelet: Cube beads in bright shades of yellow and green are the perfect accent against the black. | Source
Colourful herringbone necklace with a silver heart: This necklaces contains different sized seed beads as well as a silver heart focal.
Colourful herringbone necklace with a silver heart: This necklaces contains different sized seed beads as well as a silver heart focal. | Source

As mentioned above, there are numerous variations for herringbone when you combine different sized beads. Consider combining different sizes of the same beads, such as different sized seed beads, as well as beads in different shapes, such as the bracelet above which pairs square beads with seed beads. Herringbone is also a wonderful base for any number of accent or focal beads. You can use larger accent beads within a rope or you can attach a focal bead separately.

Herringbone Bracelet in Sherberts with Cute Button Closure
Herringbone Bracelet in Sherberts with Cute Button Closure | Source
Coppery Brown Bracelet Herringbone Stitch
Coppery Brown Bracelet Herringbone Stitch | Source

One of the many things that I love about most offloom beadweaving stitches is that simple designs can make stunning jewelry pieces. Herringbone is no exception. It is fun to use different types of beads or add other embellishments, but you certainly don't have to for beautiful pieces. I chose to show two tubular pieces here, but simple flat or circular pieces are just as striking. Don't be afraid to explore the "less is more" concept when it comes to beading.

Cherries and Lime Ndbele Fringe Bracelet
Cherries and Lime Ndbele Fringe Bracelet | Source
Navy Teardrop Pendant Necklace with Swarovski Crystals
Navy Teardrop Pendant Necklace with Swarovski Crystals | Source

With that being said, don't be afraid to explore possibilities for embellishments and fringe, too, especially as you become more comfortable with herringbone. If you've been following my jewelry making or my jewelry hubs for even a couple months, you probably already know that I like experimenting with embellishments and fringe. I have mainly explored these techniques with right angle weave and peyote stitches thus far, but I am currently making my first embellished herringbone piece.

Snowdrop Necklace: This necklace combines a peyote flower with a herringbone rope.
Snowdrop Necklace: This necklace combines a peyote flower with a herringbone rope. | Source
Spiral Herringbone Necklace With Cherry Creek Jasper Pendant: Lori uses a twisted tubular herringbone rope with a peyote beaded cabochon.
Spiral Herringbone Necklace With Cherry Creek Jasper Pendant: Lori uses a twisted tubular herringbone rope with a peyote beaded cabochon. | Source

Another awesome aspect of offloom beadweaving is that once you have become comfortable with multiple stitches, you can pair different stitches to make a single piece. Both of the examples above have herringbone ropes with peyote components. There are numerous combinations for multiple stitches. You can also combine herringbone with other jewelry techniques such as wire wrapping. For example, a herringbone rope could make an excellent base for wire wrapped charms.

Twisted Caramel Ndebele Necklace
Twisted Caramel Ndebele Necklace | Source
Beaded Rope Wrap in Eggplant: This piece can be wore as a necklace or wrapped as a bracelet.
Beaded Rope Wrap in Eggplant: This piece can be wore as a necklace or wrapped as a bracelet. | Source

Many herringbone designs can be converted from bracelets into necklaces or vice versa. Many designs can also work well as both, particularly tubular herringbone designs. The first example above is a necklace with a gemstone focal. This design could easily be converted into a bracelet with the same focal. The second example above is shown as a necklace in the photo but is long enough that is can also be wrapped as a bracelet. Many people enjoy the flexibility both of the patterns and of the jewelry pieces themselves.

Aqua Pink Ring. Magenta Shell Coin in a Handmade Beaded Turquoise Blue Herringbone Band
Aqua Pink Ring. Magenta Shell Coin in a Handmade Beaded Turquoise Blue Herringbone Band | Source
Turquoise blue sea star herringbone earrings
Turquoise blue sea star herringbone earrings | Source

I have primarily shown examples in this hub of bracelets and necklaces. Herringbone is a wonderful technique for rings and earrings as well. To create a ring from a flat or tubular technique, "zip up" the herringbone to join the two ends. This video details how to zip up flat herringbone. Many people choose to use circular herringbone to create any number of shapes for earrings, but do not feel limited by this.

Beaded Herringbone Flower Bracelet
Beaded Herringbone Flower Bracelet | Source
beaded Herringbone bracelet in brass, turquoise and blue
beaded Herringbone bracelet in brass, turquoise and blue | Source
Hand woven Herringbone (Ndebele) Bracelet made from Japanese Seed beads
Hand woven Herringbone (Ndebele) Bracelet made from Japanese Seed beads | Source

Awesome Herringbone Beadweaving Books

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    • randomcreative profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Cloverleaf!

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 

      7 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hi randomcreative, this is an awesome technique, I love the patterns and descriptions you've provided here - thumbs up!

    • randomcreative profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks Deb! :)

    • profile image

      storybeader 

      7 years ago

      I love beadweaving and can appreciate the time and energy it take. Cuffs are a favorite bracelet of mine; necklaces the rope! Great descriptions {:-D

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