All About Beadwork
Beadwork has been in existence for hundreds of years, and one look at the type of jewelry creations that can be produced will tell you why. Beading can not only be truly attractive and utterly satisfying but open up a new type of part-time business that you truly enjoy.
Not only can beadwork be truly satisfying, but custom beadwork makes really fantastic gifts for birthdays or special occasions, or merely just to say, I love you.
Sure, unless your beadwork finds itself around the neck of a celebrity such as Jennifer Lopez or Shakira, you won’t likely make a fortune, but as beading is truly relaxing as well, you probably will not mind.
Beadwork in the Native Indian Tradition, a valuable resource
Probably everyone is familiar with at least some of the styles of Native Indian beadwork.
Archaeology digs have discovered hundreds of Native American bead designs dating back hundreds of years, and Native American women were inclined to decorate anything ceremonial, including saddles, jackets, bracelets and earrings. The original Native Indian beading techniques found beads made primarily out of stone, shells, and bone, carefully, and often painstakingly shaped into beads.
Later on, many utilitarian objects such as horse gear, dwellings and clothing were adorned with beads.Early beads, because there were no metal tools, were primarily large beads, often carved through the use of abrasives, and worn around the neck or adorned on thongs.
However, as Glass beads arrived from Venice and Europe, and metal tools could be obtained as well. Native American Tribes produced the truly modern-looking, gorgeous beading that we see today, and as skilled artisans, Native American women excelled at producing the colorful designs that we see today.
Wampum ceremonial belts were actually the first currency in America, being recognized as such as far back as 1650.As the availability of glass beads spread, Native Americans extensively used beadwork to trade for valuable goods that both the Europeans and the Spanish had, and authentic Native American beadwork is still highly attractive to buyers today.
Introducing African Beadwork
African Beadwork surpasses Native American Beadwork by thousands of years. African Beadwork has been found dating back as old as 74,000 years, and the variety of colors and even the size of the beads is significantly different than Native American Beadwork.
African Beadwork was used as early as 1500 BC as currency. Like Native American Beadwork, African’s were among the first to adopt the use of glass beads, and the variety of colors was shaped by the use of glass beads. In general, Native American Beadwork tends to be comprised of smaller and more tightly knit beads, while African Beadwork tends to be larger, less intricate, but has more colors.
There are many different types of beading techniques, some easier to master and others more difficult. Here are a few of the techniques:
- #1 Using a bead loom
If you can imagine much smaller strings strung across a piano, then you can easily picture a bead loom.
Depending on the size of the beads and the width of the finished bead product, you start at one end, adding beads from top to bottom, and then insert needles and weave the beads together on the loom.
When the first group of beads is strung, you move to the next.
Using a bead loom is one of the best ways to be organized while beading.
- #2. Bead Stringing
Bead stringing can be as simple as threading beads onto a section of ribbon and tying a know.
Generally, however, sophisticated crimps and knots are used to produce a professional look.
The key to really professional-looking bead stringing is to choose the right thread for your project. Otherwise, your bead jewelry is likely to either break or to knot up into an unsightly mess.
- #3 Bead Wirework
Here, your beadwork is strung on wire, in different thicknesses (gauges) to support your beadwork.
Wire comes in round, triangular and square shapes, and according to the wire used, it has different flexibilities.
Bead wirework allows you to create even heavy, intricate bead designs, and add additional products such as turquoise to the mix.
The only problem with bead wirework is that it does take experience to learn what is the best wire to use, and you may have quite a few false starts with bead wirework before you learn the best combinations to use.
- #4. Bead Weaving
Bead weaving is probably the simplest form of beading. Using a needle and thread, you stitch different beads together, typically seed beads.
With bead weaving, you can use very small of significantly larger beads, and there are numerous knots to hold everything together.
Bead weaving is also known as off-loom weaving.
- #5. Bead embroidery
Imagine a piece of leather or stiff felt (there are actually a variety of materials that you can use) on which you penetrate a needle, slide a couple of beads on the thread, and pull it down tightly onto the fabric.
The advantage of bead embroidery is that it is very simple to learn, it has a lot of patterns available to buy, and you get a great design embroidered onto the material.
The stiff backing keeps everything tightly together and makes a great support for earrings or other decorative pieces.
- #6. Braiding with beads
Also called macrame or in Japan, kumihimo, it’s possible to create decorative bracelets and other decorative objects without beads at all, or kumihimo can be combined with beads.
When combined with beads, it’s possible to create really intricate and often subtle jewelry pieces.
- #7. Embroidery with a loop and a pattern
A very simple way to get into beading is with a loop and glass beads. The loop is of course empty, but over the loop is stretched a piece of fabric with a commercial pattern on it.
Similar to cross-stitch, you simply string the beads over the pattern with thread.
Of course, they can’t be used for jewelry, but embroidering with a loop and a pattern, perhaps a flower or group of flowers, allows you to create vivid patterns not possible with simply using thread.
- #8. Stretch chord technique
One of the simplest beading techniques is you take a set of beads and run a needle through it, then back a second time, tie a not, and use some glue as well, to secure the knot.
Provided you do not make it too tight, stretch chord bracelets are one of the simplest beading techniques to learn.
- #9. French Breading Beads
French breading beads is basically adding a 3d look to embroidered beads.
Many people use French breeding beading to create colorful hairpieces to weave into their hair.
These hairpiece stays look incredibly beautiful, and go well with not only hair but with earings.
- #10. Wire wrapped loops
Wire wrapped loops are simplicity itself. You take beads and connect them with wire. There are numerous videos on YouTube to see how to create wire-wrapped loop jewelry, and a great one if found at https://beadaholique.com/products/how-to-wire-wrap-beads-onto-an-earring-hook/
- #11. Even count peyote stitch
A popular stitch that can make a piece of jewelry looks like a watchband, an even count peyote stitch is very easy to learn and makes a great-looking bead design.
There are several tutorials on YouTube to help you get started.
- #12. Odd count peyote stitch
Somewhat more difficult than the even count stitch, an even count peyote stitch requires you have to weave in and out through the beads, although the design looks fabulous.
- #13. Ladder stitch
A very easy technique that lets you create long, dangling bead techniques, you can make a single or double ladder stitch, weaving in and out of the bead with the thread.
Ladder stitches are very easy, but still, look elegant.
- #14. Brick stitch
Somewhat like the peyote stitch, the difference is that the beads are threaded horizontally instead of vertically.
At each level of a brick stitch, there is one less bead, so brick stitches will taper into a triangle.
- #15. Square stitch
With a square stitch, the beads are threaded both vertically and horizontally.
The result of a square stitch is a flat, rectangular piece, that is unique only by the beads you string them on, but they are very strong.
- #16. Right angle weave
A rather complicated stitch, beads are presented at right angles to one another. Often two needs are involved to create the stitch.
- #17. Ndebele Herringbone Stitch
Originated in South Africa, the Ndebele Herringbone Stitch features double columns of beads that resemble a fish bone. Most beaders start with a traditional ladder stitch to make this design.
- #18. Cubic right angle weave.
The idea behind this stitch is to create a cubic, 3-d weave with your beading.
As you can imagine, this is very complicated and is not for the beginner.
- #19. Cupcake beaded box weave
Since its shaped like a cupcake, this is not for wearing but for putting little things like herbs, paperclips etc.
Another fairly advanced technique, once mastered, you will get many requests for those who see them to get one of their own.
- #20. Beaded boxes
Like the cupcake box, beaded boxes typically combine a shell of of a box, with a beaded, ornate cover.
Bead weaving is general a matter of combining seed beeds, and tying them together in a tubular shape or a flat shape.
There are any number of bead weaving stitches that can be used, but they all generally produce a flat looking, watch-band resembling bead asseibly, sometimes simple, at other times, more complex.
Q. How do I start beading?
At a minimum, most people wind up either buying a kit, which may include a video for instructions, and all essential tools needed, including the beads.
Alternatively, most people will take a class offered at a craftstore.
You can of course, just buy beads and materials online or at a craft store and watch YouTube Tutorials, but a class or kit is the better way to start.
Q. What are the typical types of beadwork?
Bead stringing, bead weaving, bead embroidery, loom and off-loom beading are the most common varieties.
Q. How do you bead weave without a loom?
You’ll need to learn the various stitches such as the peyote and brick stich techniues.
The best way to learn is to get hands on instruction in a local craft store.
Beadwork can be an incredible stress reliever and be a nice little hobby that allows you to use your creative flair.
Just go slow. The idea behind beadwork is to produce nice little objects of art and jewelry that look nice, and that you can also share with friends and family.
Be gentle on yourself as every beader has made plenty of mistakes, and just as a new person learning the piano usually starts with chopsticks and can’t expect to produce a nice song for a few months, you may have to try 4 or 5 projects before you get the hange of beading
Once you do however, watch out. Your inner beadwork fires may have been lit and you find its almost impossible to stop.