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Beading Tutorials: Herringbone Weave

Updated on September 9, 2011

Create Beautiful Beadwork with Ndebele Herringbone

Herringbone weave is one of the most popular stitches used in bead weaving. There are many variations and it's great for all types of beads. The easy to follow tutorials below will show you how to create some basic herringbone beadwork. You will also find patterns and project variations for jewelry and more.

These tutorials do not include the wire wrapping technique also referred to as herringbone weave.

Eni Oken tutorials are highly recommened for wirework projects.

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About Herringbone Weave

Herringbone weave is sometimes referred to as Ndebele - pronounced en-de-bee-lee. It is named for a tribe in Africa, where the stitch was developed.

The herringbone term refers to the way that the beads lay at angles to each other, similar to the knitting technique of the same name. Because of this criss-cross style, herrinbone beadwork often looks like knitting or fabric, though this can depend on the bead types and patterns used.

"Ndebele Women Doing Beadwork"

The most common way to begin herringbone weave is with a bead ladder. The following tutorials will use this technique. Seed beads are recommended for learning this stitch, but almost any type of bead can be used to create flat or tubular beadwork with herringbone stitch.

To Create a Bead Ladder:

1) Pick up two beads and slide them down until you have a 6 inch tail.

2) Hold the beads in place with one hand, and use the other to stitch back up through both beads. Pull tight.

3) Make sure that the beads are sitting side-by-side and the threads are snug. Pick up one bead. Stitch down through the bead that the working thread is exiting, and pull tight.

4) Hold the first two beads securely with one hand and make sure that all the threads are snug. Stitch up into the bead just added and pull tight.

5) Pick up one bead, and stitch through the last bead added, following the thread path as before. Pull snug, and stitch down into the new bead.

6) Continue adding beads in this manner until he chain is the desired length. Tuck the tail thread into the next bead so that it is exiting opposite the working thread.

You are now ready to begin

stitching with herringbone weave.

These directions are intended for right-handed weaving. You many wish to reverse the direction of the stitching if you find it more comfortable to work from left to right.

Materials Needed:

Seed beads

Beading Thread

Needle

Stitching:

1) Create a bead ladder with an even number of beads, at least four beads across.

2) Flip the ladder so that the working thread is exiting the last bead on the right, and pick up two beads. Stitch down through the next bead to the left.

3) Stitch up through the next bead to the left and pull snug. Make sure that the last two beads added are side-by-side and there is no excess thread.

4) Pick up two beads and stitch down into the next bead in the ladder. Stitch up into the following bead. Continue adding two beads until the second row is complete.

5) When the last two beads have been added, stitch up through the ladder bead to the right of the working thread and pull snug. Stitch up through the last bead of the second row and pull tight. This is called a step-up.

6) Flip the work over and begin adding a new row of beads. Pick up two beads, and stitch down through the next bead in the previous row. Stitch up through the adjacent bead. Step-up at the end of the row.

7) When the bead work is the desired length, finish the final row by stepping-up into the second-to-last bead. Stitch down through the third bead, and up through the fourth, pulling tight with each pass. Continue 'zipping up' across the row until each bead is secure.

Adding and ending thread:

Try to finish threads at the end of a row. Instead of stepping-up, continue down the side of the bead work, and secure the thread with knots every 4 to 6 beads. Attach a stop-bead to new thread and stitch into the second-to-last bead, three rows down from where you left off stitching. Exit the last bead in the top row and resume stitching.

Variation Ideas:

Use bugle beads and seed beads together for more open, netting-like beadwork. (Fireline is recommended for use with sharp beads such as bugles and crystals.) Try different seed bead sizes and shapes in the same piece. Experiment with pattern variations. Don't just stick to vertical or horizontal rows. Have fun with it!

Tension and form is important for this stitch. If you have trouble getting the beadwork to form a tube, try starting with a bead ladder that is 3 beads high. This will create a sturdier base to begin with.

Materials Needed:

Seed beads

Beading Thread

Needle

Stitching:

1) Create a bead ladder with an even number of beads, at least six beads across.

2) Sew the ladder into a ring by stitching up through the first bead and back down through the last bead. Pull tight. Stitch through the first bead again, then through the second to secure the ring.

3) Pick up two beads, and sew down through the next bead in the ring. Stitch up through the following bead and pull tight.

4) Continue adding two beads at a time around the ring, using herringbone stitch.

5) At the end of the round, step-up through the ladder and first bead added in the round and pull tight. You may wish to steady your work with a pencil or dowel until the tube begins to take shape.

6) Continue adding rounds of herringbone stitch, stepping up through two beads at the end of each round.

7) When the bead work is the desired length, finish the final round by stepping-up into the second-to-last bead. Stitch down through the third bead, and up through the fourth, pulling tight with each pass. Continue zipping up the tube until each bead stack is secure.

Adding and ending thread:

When the working thread is approximately 4 inches long, finish a round and step-up to begin the next round. Do not pick up any beads. Stitch down into the adjacent stack of beads and exit after 4 to 6 beads. Do not secure the tail until your new thread has been added (this will help to keep your place in the beadwork).

Secure a stop-bead to your new thread, and stitch up into the appropriate stack of beads, at least 3 beads down. Exit at the top of the bead work and continue stitching normally.

Variation Ideas:

Gradually increase and decrease the bead sizes for an undulating effect.

Experiment with different patterns within the bead stacks, or use blocks of color for random amounts of rows.

This variation of tubular herringbone has a spiralling quality that is great for necklaces and other roped beadwork.

Materials Needed:

Seed beads

Beading Thread

Needle

Stitching:

1) Create a bead ladder and complete three rounds of tubular herringbone.

2) At the end of the third round, step-up by stitching up through two beads in the adjacent stack.

3) Pick up two beads, sew down through the next bead, and up through two beads in the next stack. Continue around the ring.

4) To step-up at the end of the round, stitch up through 3 beads. You will begin to see a twist after about 6 rounds.

5) Continue adding rounds of herringbone in this manner until the rope is the desired length.

6) Finish the final round by stepping-up into the second-to-last bead. Stitch down through the third bead, and up through the fourth, pulling tight with each pass. Continue zipping up the tube until each bead is secure.

Adding and ending thread:

When the working thread is approximately 4 inches long, finish a round and step-up to begin the next round. Do not pick up any beads. Stitch down into the adjacent stack of beads and exit after 4 to 6 beads. Do not secure the tail until your new thread has been added (this will help to keep your place in the beadwork).

Secure a stop-bead to your new thread, and stitch up into the appropriate stack of beads, at least 3 beads down. Exit at the top of the bead work and continue stitching normally.

Variation Ideas:

Try using beads of different sizes for on or more stacks of the herringbone rope.

You can also increase tubular herringbone using the ladder technique.

Herringbone Seed Beads

These geometric beads are wonderful to use with the herringbone stitches. Their angular shapes stand out with the zig-zag pattern of the beadwork.

Other faceted seed beads such as charlottes are also wonderful with herringbone.


In laddered herringbone, rows of beads connect the stitches, creating a bridge or ladder effect. This technique can be done with both flat and tubular herringbone, and by using a variety of beads, many different looks can be created.

These instructions will use flat herringbone with 4 base stitches (two-bead groups), and a ladder in the centre. Two bead colors are used to show the separate areas of beadwork.

Materials Needed:

Seed beads in 2 colors (A, B)

Beading thread

Beading needle

Stitching:

Step One) Begin with a bead ladder that is 8 beads long, using color A beads. Add 4 rows of basic flat herringbone weave.

Step Two) Step up to begin the fifth row, and add the first two herringbone stitches.

Step Three) Pick up one color B bead and step up through the next A bead from row 4. Complete two more herringbone stitches as usual.

Step Four) Step up to begin row six and add two herringbone stitches.

Step Five) Pick up two color B beads and step up through the next color A bead from row 5. Add two more herringbone stitches to finish the row.

Continue adding one bead per row to the ladder until it is six beads across.

Step Six) Pick up six beads for the ladder in each row until the band reaches the desired length, minus one inch.


Step Seven) Reduce the number of beads in the ladder by one in each row. Add four rows of basic flat herringbone to complete the band.

Finish the ends as desired, secure the tail threads and trim.

Variations:

To create a ladder with spaces, you can skip every other row. Simply stitch through the ladder beads from the previous row and step up through two beads to complete the herringbone stitches.

When using bugle beads, you will need to add seed beads at the start of the band until the ladder is as wide as your bugles. You may also want to add seed beads on either side of the bugles as bumpers to protect the thread.

Herringbone Cube Bracelet

This video tutorial by Auntie's Beads demonstrates using herringbone weave to create a bracelet with different bead sizes and shapes. It also includes an alternative to the initial 'Step-up' to begin the second row of beadwork.

The completion of the bracelet pattern is shown in Part 2 of Cubed Herringbone Bracelet.

See Video 3 for details on zipping up the ends of flat herringbone weave, and adding a toggle clasp.

Mastering Beadwork

Herringbone Patterns

Beaders and crafters may use these free herringbone patterns for personal use. To save or print, just right click on the pattern you like.

Pencil or Crayon Pattern

Designer Herringbone Projects

Try out some of these fun variations of herringbone weave. There are hundreds of different ways to use this versatile stitch for jewelry and more!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very nice website. Very informative and lots of good instructions. Thank You!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Herringbone has been my favorite stitch since I started learning beading, and now I can learn so many new variations thanks to your lens. Thank you!

    • Grandma-Marilyn profile image

      Grandma-Marilyn 4 years ago

      I just recently learned to do herringbone and it is a fun stitch. You've been hit by Cupid!

    • profile image

      whaleriders6 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens!

    • BusyMOM LM profile image

      BusyMOM LM 5 years ago

      Another beautiful lens. Very clear directions. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is my first time on this site and I simply love it. I'm learning so much and you make it so simple. Thanks for this wonderful site. I have you in my favorites.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very nice Lens, great instructions, beautiful beading!

    • Kitty Levee profile image

      Kitty Levee 6 years ago

      I have always found herringbone confusing. Your directions are very good, very clear! Thanks 8))

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      I love the way you make a detailed craft look simple, by simply giving detailed instructions! Angel Blessed and featured on Squid Angel Mouse Tracks in Crafts.

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 8 years ago

      Really great lens, detail is excellent. I am amazed by the intricacy, Loved the video made it more clear.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Great lens. I know I could enjoy making something like this. But like everything I do, once I start... everything else will be pushed aside.