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Pondo African Circle Bead Stitch
What is Pondo Stitch?
Pondo, also known as African Circle Stitch, is a modern modification of an ancient technique used by the Mpondo people of Africa. It is a sturdy stitch even though it is somewhat lacy and light. It forms a beautiful, supple fabric suitable for bracelets, cuffs, amulet bags and many other accessories.
Each row of Pondo requires that you add beads going in one direction, then weave the thread back through the length of the row to stabilize the beads, thus starting each row on the same side or end.
Pondo stitch consists of a three bead picot at each side (or end if you prefer to work lengthwise) and as many 4 bead squares as needed for the width or length of your project. Each 4 bead square is separated by a single bead. Typically the single beads are smaller and in a contrasting or coordinating color. In the pictures, I've used size 11 and size 15 seed beads and worked the designs in using various colors.
1. Working with a comfortable length of thread, pick up 1 size 11, 1 size 15 and 3 size 11. Slide them to within 6 inches of the end of the thread.
2. Skip the last 3 size 11's and pass back through the size 15 and the first size 11 as shown. Manipulate the beads to form a 3 bead picot on the left and settle the size 15 snugly between the two base beads of the picot.
3. Pick up 3 size 11's and pass back through the size 15 and the bottom bead of the picot.
4. Pull the thread taut and manipulate the beads so the size 15 sits snugly in the center of 4 size 11's as shown. It's easier to pull everything into place if you pull the thread taut at this point than if you go on around and pull after you're in position for the next addition of beads.
5. Pass the thread on around the next two beads of the picot, the size 15 and the 2 top beads of the size 11 square.
6. Pick up 1 size 15 and 4 size 11's. Push them against the work and pass through the first two size 11/s (the top beads of the square).
7. Pull the thread taut. Note that the size 15 rides a little above the center. It will be pulled back down into place when you weave back through to the beginning.Add as many squares as you want.
8. I have a total of 4 in this illustration.
9. Pick up 1 size 15 and three size 11's.
10. Pass back through the size 15 forming a picot, and through the bottom bead of the last square. Pull the thread taut and center the size 15 as you did for the picot at the other end.
11. Pass through the other bottom bead of the square, up through the size 15 and through the 2 bottom beads of the next square. Repeat to the end, but on the last square only go through 1 bead.
Organize and Store Your Beads
Compact bead storage is a must for many beaders who have minimal space to store beads and tools. These storage trays are perfect for that. They are stackable which allows you to keep multiple trays in a drawer or on a book shelf.
12. Pull the thread taut and you will see that the size 15's pull down into the center between squares.
13. Pick up 1 size 15, 1 size11, 1 size 15 and 3 size 11's.
14. Skip the last 3 size 11's and pass back through one 15, one 11 and one 15. You've formed the beginning picot for this row. It looks a little lopsided but well straighten it up.
I'm breaking this first square into small bits so it's easier to see where you're going.
15. Pass clockwise through all four of the beads in the first square in the previous row, then pass back through the first size 15.
16. Pick up 3 size 11's and pass through the next size 15 and the bottom size 11 of the picot as shown.
17. Repeat steps 4 and 5, centering the picot and the first square in row 2.
18. Pick up 1 size 15, 1 size 11 and 1 size 15. Pass clockwise through all four of the beads in the second square in the previous row, them pass through the second 15 you picked up.
19. Pick up 3 size 11's and pass back through the size 11 you picked up in the previous step and the first size 11 you picked up in this step.
Finish: Repeat steps 18 and 19 to the last square in the row. When you've finished the last square, pick up 1 size 15 and 3 size 11's. Make a picot as in step 9 and 10. Weave your way back to the beginning and tighten up the row as in steps 11 and 12. Repeat row 2 until your work is the size desired.
Finishing: When you've worked the picot at the end of the last row and your thread is coming out between the bottom 2 size 11's in the last square, pick up 1 size 15, pass through the next size 11, up through the next size 15 and down through the next size 11.
Repeat to the end of the row. Tie off and weave in tail. Thread the start tail into a needle and finish the start end the same way.
Add a Beautiful Clasp
After you've put in all that time learning a stitch and finishing your project, it deserves a great clasp.
African Circle Stitch
Have you tried this version of Pondo Stitch?
Pondo Stitch Bracelet Pattern
This lovely "Delft Blue Tile" pondo bracelet was inspired by the old Delft blue tiles and tableware dating back to the 17 century. The pattern is available for purchase in my Craftsy Store.