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Beadweaving for Beginners

Updated on September 8, 2011

Discover a Passion for Beading

Beadweaving is an art form that grows in popularity every year. There are dozens of different styles and techniques of beadwork that one can master and apply to fashion, home décor, and more. In this introduction to beading, we will discuss the origins of this art form, and some of the best ways to get started with seed bead crafts.

This guide will highlight some of the best beads, beading materials, and tools, as well as sources for excellent beading tutorials for beginners.

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About Beading

Beading Basics

Beading is one of the world's oldest art forms, dating back as far as 100,000 years. The people of pre-history are known to have adorned themselves with decorative objects made from readily available materials such as bone, shells, and precious stones. Those primitive types of jewelry have since evolved, and beadwork is practiced in many different styles all over the world.

In North America, the most common types of beadwork are: stringing; loom weaving; off-loom weaving or stitching; bead knitting and crochet; and embroidery. These methods can be used to make anything from jewelry and clothing to home décor. Beads made from all types of materials are used by artists from all manner of backgrounds. The results are often stunning and always beautiful.

Other types of beadwork include wire wrapping, sculpture, and decopage. One can even create their own custom wall art, or highlight a favorite piece of art with beads.

Who Can Bead

The answer is quite simple: Anyone! The only prerequisite to creating fine beadwork is patience. Some techniques require a lot of practice, but all of the hard work is worth it in the end.

Some assets to have when you take on beading are a love of color and a bold imagination. Creativity can be key; however, a strictly mathematic approach can also be the start of some amazing beaded art. Many forms of bead weaving incorporate geometry to achieve the desired effect.

Why Try Beading

The art of bead work appeals to people in many ways. One of the most common motives is to create jewelry and accessories that are a unique statement of one's personal style. Beading can be a relaxing past time, a fun family activity, even a small business.

Whatever the motivation, most serious beaders agree that their artwork is a source of joy. Creating something beautiful can be very therapeutic.

Where Do I Start?

For the novice beader, a jumping off point can be a matter of preference. Making jewelry with the stringing method is a good introduction to working with beads, color, and patterns. Try a multi-strand necklace project to get started.

The next step in beading is often off-loom weaving or embroidery. Some techniques can be vexing: a basic knowledge of sewing or needlework is an asset, as well as a steady hand and lots of patience. Although peyote stitch is the most common technique used, it is also one of the most difficult to learn. For absolute beginners, spiral rope is recommended to gain an understanding of tension and thread use, followed by flat herringbone weave for its simple start up.

Beading can be frustrating at first, but with plenty of practice, it can almost become second nature. If you're struggling with a new technique, don't be discouraged. Take a break, and perhaps seek out some encouragement from fellow beaders. Keep getting back on the horse, and you'll be rewarded with a fabulous new skill.

Top Stitches for Beginners - Master these stitches to begin your beading journey

Learning new off-loom stitches is essential for creating unique beaded items, but even more important are the basic techniques that will make your pieces stunning and professional.

Finding a comfortable thread length, maintaining tension and selecting appropriate beads are just a few skills that every beader needs. Mastering these stitches will help to perfect your beading repertoire.

  1. Classic Daisy Chain

    The stitch that started it all for many beaders, and a perfect introduction to using seed beads.

  2. Spiral Rope

    Great for needle and thread basics, as well as bead selection.

  3. Flat Herringbone Weave

    A good introduction to flat weaving with easy tension.

  4. Two-drop Peyote Stitch

    An easy introduction to the classic peyote stitch technique.

Tools for Beading - A starter package of tools for your beading studio

There are a lot of gadgets out there for creating different types of beaded jewellery and artwork. To get started, pick up these essential items for your toolbox.

  • Beading Needles

    Most beaders use special needles (size 12 is the favorite), but any sewing needle with small eyes will do. Select needles with long shafts, so you will have plenty of space to pick up beads.


  • Pincushion

    You will need this for holding needles, stop-beads, and pins (used in embroidery).


  • Scissors

    Any type of scissors (except safety scissors) will do, as long as they are fairly sharp. If you plan to sell or showcase your bead work, you may want to invest in some good quality scissors to ensure that trimmed threads are cut cleanly.


  • Bead cups or trays

    Small containers for holding the beads you use in each project make it easier to pick up beads. Try coffee coasters, container lids, or pinch bowls.


  • Pliers

    Most wirework can be done with needle-nose pliers and chain-nose pliers. If you use crimp beads, you will also need crimping pliers.


  • Wire cutters

    If you use wire, eye-pins, or head-pins, you will need heavy duty snips to trim excess wire. You may also want safety glasses to go with them.


  • Ruler

    An ordinary wood or plastic ruler is handy for measuring your beadwork, or you can make or print a paper ruler and tape it to your work surface for easy reference.


Beading Threads

Materials for beadwork

There are many options for beading thread and stringing material, each with different advantages. Synthetic materials are best for long lasting, durable beadwork, but natural fibers can be an environmentally friendly alternative.

Nymo and C-Lon

These threads are made specifically for beading, and are available in a variety of colors. It is recommended that the threads be prepared with beeswax or a thread conditioner like Thread Heaven, to stiffen the fibers and protect them from fraying. Used primarily for stitching, these threads are available from most bead and hobby stores.

Kevlar Thread

This super strong thread is more expensive than traditional materials, but is popular among many beaders for it's durability. It is available from fabric stores, and shops that specialize in fly tying materials.

Sewing Thread

Cotton or polyester sewing thread is a great medium for beginners. It is inexpensive, and comes in a variety of colors. To protect and stiffen the fibers, clear craft glue can be used as a thread conditioner. Coat comfortable lengths of thread evenly with glue and allow to dry.

Braided Fishing Line

There are several brands of fishing line appropriate for beading, including Fireline, Spiderwire and Powerpro. Popular for stitching, they come in a variety of diameters, though 6lb test is most commonly used for it's strength and ability to pass through beads several times. No stretching or conditioning is required to prepare it as a thread, but color selection is limited to white, black, and neon green.

Fishing line is available at tackle shops and sporting goods stores, as well as department stores that carry fishing gear. To save on cost and packaging, some retailers can order bulk spools of several hundred yards.

Monofilament

Most often used as a stringing material, this plastic fishing line is available in a variety of diameters, from 2lb to 80lb test. Although it is strong and flexible, monofilament is susceptible to wear over time, and does not hold up well against heat and sunlight.

Shopping for Beads

Where to shop for beads and supplies

Your local bead store (or LBS) is the best place to shop for materials, tools and supplies for bead work. You'll be able to browse their selection of beads and findings with ease, and ask for advice. The staff may be able to make recommendations if you're not sure what to purchase. Best of all, you'll be supporting a business in your own community.

If an LBS isn't available in your area, craft and hobby stores may also have a good selection of beading materials and friendly advice. You can also find items in the craft aisle of most department stores, and even dollar stores and dime stores carry beads and findings. Be aware when you shop of where products are manufactured, and what quality you are getting. Not all beads are created the same.

Flea-markets are a great source for beads. You can find vintage and costume jewelry ready to be re-made, loose beads and buttons, as well as everyday items to be beaded such as handbags and bottles. Also check out thrift stores and yard sales. Not only are the sellers grateful for your business, but you're sure to find great bargains as well.

"Yarn and Beads at a Flea Market"

Finally, if you're unable to find what you need in your area, online shops are a good source for anything and everything a beader needs. Shop around for the best prices, quality and shipping terms to get the most for your money. As with any online activity, one should be aware of possible risks, and it's a good idea to get a second opinion before buying from any online store.

To find quality beads that are handmade by experienced artists, try searching Etsy.com's Supplies category for "handmade bead". Some other great shops to try are: Artbeads.com and AuntiesBeads.com.

Types of Seed Beads

Glass seed beads from Czech are some of the most commonly used beads in stitching and jewelry making. They come in a variety of sizes, and shapes vary slightly depending on where and when they were made. Sizes are labeled by the number of beads per inch, so the smallest beads - 15o - are 15 per inch. Other sizes include 11o, 10o, 8o and 6o. Some manufacterers also make size 4o Czech beads, which are sometimes referred to as 'E beads'.

Czech seed beads are suitable for most types of weaving, although different styles can vary in shape, and not all are suitable for structured stitches like peyote and right angle weave. The best uses for Czech beads are spiral rope, flat herringbone weave, flat or spiral netting, and multi-strand.

Many types of quality seed beads are sold on strands called hanks. It's easy to transfer beads from the hank to thread or wire for stringing and crochet projects. Just tie one end of the bead strand to your thread or wire, and slide the beads on. It's that easy!

Like Czech glass beads, Japanese seed beads are sized by beads per inch. Different sizes are available from different manufacturers. Regular seed beads are barrel-shaped, and unlike Czech beads, they are very uniform in size. These beads are ideal for structured stitches, and result in more even beadwork.

Japanese Delicas are even more precise in size and shape, and are perfect for patterned bead work, where pictures will be constructed with beads. They are tube shaped, with plenty of thread space, which makes them excellent for complex beadwork when multiple thread passes are necessary.

By shopping around you can learn where to buy quality beads online with great prices and selection. Every store has it's own selection of colors and styles to choose from. To learn more about seed bead sizes and finishes, see the Bead Handbook for Jewelry and Crafts.

Beadweaving Guides

Take beading advice, ideas and inspiration wherever you go with a great book or magazine! You can learn new stitches and other techniques with tried and tested projects and step-by-step instructions. A good beading guide can help you learn about beading from experienced artists, and take your beadwork from ordinary to extraordinary.

Getting Started with Seed Beads (Getting Started series)
Getting Started with Seed Beads (Getting Started series)

Renowned bead artist and Beadwork Magazine contributor, Dustin Wedekind, offers up over 20 seed bead projects that will allow crafters of any skill level to submerge themselves in the world of seed beads.

This full color guide includes step by step projects, and a guide to materials and tools for new beaders.

 

Beading Resources and Tutorials - Great Places to Learn, Shop and More

These fantastic websites and communities have helped countless beaders to learn new techniques, find inspiration, and share their art with the world.

Beading Basics

Sometimes it helps to have your beading advice right at hand with a great book or magazine. Learn new techniques; find inspiration and step-by-step projects. With a beginner's guide to beading, you can discover the power of color and texture, and enjoy a wealth of design ideas for all your jewelry and beading needs!

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    • profile image

      sultan 18 months ago

      yah, I can see fireline is best fishing line. Because it is listed over dozons of fishing line review website like: http://bestfishinglines.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have been looking for bracelet design, not having any luck finding it. The bracelet is made with memory wire with seed beads. It is braided together and attached to a wire on the end on both sides. I found one pattern but I just can't manage to get the braiding to look right. If you know where I can find these directions I would be willing to pay for the pattern. Please help! Donna

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great Lens, I love beads!

    • AbigailsCrafts LM profile image

      AbigailsCrafts LM 6 years ago

      Very informative, thanks!

    • Kitty Levee profile image

      Kitty Levee 6 years ago

      Well written!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Awesome lens! Blessed by a squidoo angel on 1/5/2011. Have a great day!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      A great resource for beginning beaders. Thanks for putting this together!

    • WickedlyWired profile image

      WickedlyWired 7 years ago

      such great info. well put together. Nice job!

    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      Hum....interesting stuff.

      Well done.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      But this is just exactly what I was looking for!

    • JudyDunn profile image

      JudyDunn 8 years ago

      [in reply to Mortira] Good to know. Thank you for putting the warning into context for me!

    • Mortira profile image
      Author

      Mortira 8 years ago

      [in reply to JudyDunn]

      In most cases, products the have lead warnings do not actually contain lead. They may just be stored or made in facilities that also make lead products. We have a saying in the sporting goods industry that all fishing gear is toxic, but only in California!

    • JudyDunn profile image

      JudyDunn 8 years ago

      Terrific lens! I love to bead, although I don't have too much time for pure beading these days. One thing to watch out for with the fishing line is that it often contains lead. I was surprised to find this, and stopped using it for any sort of beading once I saw it on the package.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you for featuring my Bullying lens in your Bead of the month for November. What a brilliant beading resource this is. 5 gold beads for you!

    • gmarlett lm profile image

      gmarlett lm 8 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Welcome to theSquidoo AllStars Group

    • CraftyLiason profile image

      CraftyLiason 8 years ago

      Excellent lens! I've been beading for a couple of years now and it's always good to find a nice resource page like this one. The beautiful images you used in this lens are a nice touch too. 5 stars!

    • VBright profile image

      VBright 8 years ago

      What beautiful beads. I like to go to the reservation and dig for antique beads! Great lens

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens. I love the colors here :)

    • JudyDunn profile image

      JudyDunn 8 years ago

      What a great lens!

    • MatCauthon profile image

      MatCauthon 8 years ago

      Great... just great. 5*

    • profile image

      WhippetTalk 8 years ago

      There are so many beautiful beads out there. What fun and a such a personal touch to make beaded items and give them as gifts. 5*s.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      that's really fantastic and fashion!

    • thelonebeader profile image

      Diana Grygo 9 years ago from Boston, MA

      Great lens!! Also, thanks for your comment on mine! I was just talkin about the possibility of doing a city skyline the other day! Next, I have to decide which one! :D

    • profile image

      rhelena lm 9 years ago

      Very nice lens, lots of good information

    • CrypticFragment1 profile image

      Tammy Winand 9 years ago from McleodGanj HP India

      WOW! I am a beader of a very different type, using chunky ethnic and antique beads, and I collect ethnic jewelry (all of which I have lens about btw)...

      Great job, 5*

    • starlitparlit profile image

      starlitparlit 9 years ago

      Thank you for visiting my Fruits Basket Anime Series lens. This is a very interesting lens you had here. Who knew that you could do so much with beads.

    • profile image

      darlkay52 9 years ago

      Very informative lens. I'm fascinated by beading - would love to give it a try sometime!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 9 years ago from Covington, LA

      Great lens. 5*'s I look forward to studying it in depth after Gustav does his thing. I've been beading since I was a teenager.

    • Bradshaw LM profile image

      Bradshaw LM 9 years ago

      Very informative. Nice choice of colorful pictures too. 5 stars from me

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Wow. This is a lot of great information for beaders. 5*

    • profile image

      spiritartist 9 years ago

      Nice Lens! 5 stars from me! Thanks for your nice comments about mine!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 9 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I'm not a beader, not artistic, but I sure do love your beads - and your lens. Well done!

    • profile image

      gods_grace_notes 9 years ago

      What a great lens...You truly are a sage when it comes to bead rattling!

      Your photos are fabulous, and I love that interactive color wheel. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Glad to have you at Connie's Craft-a-Holics Club Group HQ!

    • Sheryl Westleigh profile image

      Sheryl Westleigh 9 years ago from Maine

      Wonderful lens! So much great information. 5 stars!

    • profile image

      roysumit 9 years ago

      Great lens, and the pictures so attractive and gorgeous. Five star to you.

    • profile image

      kemengr 9 years ago

      Very good effort and excellent result. You make this stuff interesting to the ignorant too!

    • profile image

      Tarra99 9 years ago

      great pics!

    • profile image

      SusanShaw 9 years ago

      Thanks for visiting my lens! You've got a great one yourself--lots of helpful information. :-)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Beading is fun! I wish I had more time to do it.

      5*

      Lizzy

    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      Very nice lens! Keep up the good work. :)