Niki.Tasha – Lesson 10 – A Tube and Tension

Well, Niki, I finally gave up my efforts to decipher my designing software.  Okay, not really ‘gave up;’  I’ll continue in my discoveries with the software but for now I did the work freehand.  Please excuse my work when you find minor differences in spacing and alignment;  my work is a representation of my human-ness:  imperfect.


This graphic assumes your are right handed.  If you are like me, a leftie, you already have the skills to read a graph ‘backwards.’

The stop bead seems to flip sides a lot:  once you’ve joined the length of beads to make a tube, the stop bead stops changing sides.

At the very bottom of the graphic, Niki, is what your beads will look like and the direction of travel shows with the arrows.  This is a ‘1 drop’ Peyote technique.  

Step 1, Niki, is at the bottom of the graphic.  It really has 2 parts to it:  the way the beads look and the thread travels is at the very bottom.  You will tighten up the thread as you work across and that will cause the 1st line of beads, the pinks, to bunch up.  That is the 2nd part of Step 1.

The Peyote technique, no matter how you do it, has the beads running in a diagonal direction.  A new bead is picked up by the needle, skip a bead, and the thread then goes through the next bead.  Once the first 2 rows are done, it will appear as if you have done 3 rows – count on the diagonal. 

When you have completed these 2 rows you must join the ends to make a tube.  Your 2nd row will be a different tension than the 1st row and now is the time to make sure those grey beads are sitting properly on the pinks below, the thread has not been caught on a previous bead and corrections to the tension are made.  It gets easier with practise, Niki.  No really, it does.

The thread has gone through the grey bead and through the last pink bead.  If you wish, you can make a knot with the tail that has the stop bead on it;  but don’t make it a bulky knot.   

Step 2:  Now it goes through the 1st pink bead, the next diagonal pink and the 1st grey bead.  This movement of your needle and thread will occur on every row as the tube gets longer.  A mistake here will change your pattern which is designed for a 1-drop Peyote technique.

Step 3has you adding the next set of beads; in the graphic it shows up in orange.  I’ve shown only the 1 bead just to keep things tidy on my bee-oo-T-ful picture.

Notes on Tension

I took several classes from Marion Scoular many years ago:  she is a very talented embroiderer and has published several booklets and she teaches at national embroidery seminars.  Marion taught us that there are 4 kinds of tension:  loose, gracious, taut, and tight.  The difference of each tension can be seen by the way the threads of the fabric move.

The same can be said about beading:  there is loose, gracious, taut, and tight here, too. 

Loose –   ‘Hand’ or texture refers to the way a fabric feels in your hand.  The thread can be seen and the beads make a ‘cloth’ that wiggles and wobbles; its ‘hand’ is soft and drapes well.    You could probably hear the beads knocking against each other.  Laid on a table, the beads will lay flat:  hold it at the edge of a table and the beads will bend and flow over the side.

Gracious – The ‘hand’ of a cloth of beads sewn graciously is still soft but with more body:  the threads won’t be seen and, when laid on a table, it will lay flat.  At the edge of the table, the graciously sewn beads will dip a bit but remain flat:  no flowing over the side for this tension.

Taut – The beads are decidedly side by side and a fold would be needed to see the threads.  The needle now has less space to operate and that makes the cloth of beads is stiff.  You can stand it up and it will remain upright but with very little sagging.  Great for use in peyote ruffles.

Tight – Broken beads.  The needle needs to be small and pointy but even then there is a bigger chance to break the beads.  The tight hand is hard:  there is no room for movement.  If you want a line of beading to stand erect – or proud – then tight is the way to go.

My preference is a gracious tension:  tidy but with a bit of give.

NEVER bead when you are angry.  There is chemistry between beads and your emotions and if you are angry, muscles tense, clenching your jaw, the very same thing will happen in your beading.  Something that started its life as a gracious length of beading will suddenly turn nasty and you find the needle doesn’t move as nicely and you have either broken a bead or two or the eye of your needle snaps, or both.  Go off and have a relaxing bath:  your beads will thank you.

Do I bead when I am anxious?  You bet.  And I break needles.  I’ve had thread snap and I have had to sew in beads where there are broken ones.

Should you cut back to where you began to tighten the beads?  Unless it is really bad and will badly mar the look of the finished piece, I would say leave the tight bits in.  They will add a degree of originality and may enhance the texture of the finished piece. 

Some of the greatest discoveries started life as a mistake.  Before ripping anything out;   whether with beads, or clothing design, or almost any embroidery technique, consider how you can make that mistake work for you.

As always, Niki, all your comments and questions help to tailor this apprenticeship for you. 

The same holds true for everybody reading along:  please, add your comments, questions, and observations.

Copyright © 2008 Helene Turnbull All rights reserved.  No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author.


Niki.Tasha – Lesson 7 – Peyote Stitch

Peyote Lesson 7 - Art Deco Design

Peyote Lesson 7 - Art Deco Design

There are many good books that can give you the instructions of the Peyote Stitch.  My favourite is a small, spiral bound book by Judith Durant & Jean Campbell:  ‘The Beader’sCompanion” , printed by Interweave Press, Inc. ISBN 1-883010-56-X.  Here is a link to where you can pick up this great little book and at a reasonable cost to yourself. .  There is also the ‘New Beader’s Companion’ at this same site.

In this and the next lesson, Niki, I will give you 2 different ways to start the peyote stitch tube:  the generally accepted way and then my way.  You can try both and decide for yourself which you prefer; you may even make a 3rd method which would be the Niki.Tasha way.

1. Cut a length of thread 2 yards long.  Thread your needle and pull both needle and thread through the Thread Heaven® or beeswax a couple of times.  Then, stretch the thread as you run the needle and thread through one hand several times.  Believe me, this really helps cut down the kinks and knots as you are stitching.

2. Put 1 bead on the thread a tail of about 12 inches from the end and run the needle through the bead a 2nd time.  This is the ‘stop bead’ which will help keep all your beads on the thread.

3. String 84 beads on the thread.   Check and double check your count.  This tube is an even number peyote pattern and these 84 beads make the first 2 rows.  The beads must be held loosely on the thread.  The slack will be taken up in the next step.

NOTE:  You must ensure the beads have lots of room because they will shift as you add the next row.  Calculating how much space to give these beads comes with practice and I admit I have never been able to figure out just how much slack is needed.

4. Run your needle through the 1st two beads, from right to left, beside the stop bead to create a tube.  … If you are right handed, Niki, you will be working from right to left.  But, if you are a leftie like me, your needle and ‘working thread’ will move from left to right.  …  Add a bead on your needle, skip a bead on your tube and run your needle through the next bead.   Add another  bead on your needle and skip a bead, and run the needle through the next bead.  Continue in this way, adding a bead and running your working thread through every 2nd bead, until you return to the beginning.   Slip your needle through the first 2 beads of the row just finished. 

Niki, you may now remove the stop bead if you wish:  I prefer to keep it because it will indicate the beginning and ending of the original row.  That helps when working your pattern.  It also acts as a weight on that 12 inches of tail thread which helps keep it out of the way of your working thread.

5.  You have now recognized that the Peyote technique is an offset pattern.  Following either of the 2 patterns offered on the last post, only 1 portion of the design has been graphed.  It is up to you whether or not you repeat the design on the backside.  Your stress level will be lower if you work the back in one solid colour.  Once you get the hang of things, you can add a 2nd full design on the backside or mix things up any way you like.

Ending and Beginning a Working Thread:

6.  Don’t work your design until you have run out of thread.  Allow at least 4 inches of working thread to use in ending the thread.  Run your needle through beads, one at a time, in a downward diagonal line.  Every 3 beads run the needle through the bead immediately above the bead your needle has just exited.  One at a time again, run the needle through another 2 or 3 beads.  Double back as before until a) you run out of working thread, or b) you are satisfied that the thread will not work its way loose. 

NOTE:  Some beaders add a discreet knot or 2 during their finishing a thread.  A small dab of glue is added by some beaderswith steady hands.  I have had great success with my method without the knots and the glue (my hands shake too much).

7.  Your 2nd and all other threads need not be nearly as long as the first one.  I like to use a thread 3 ft in length.  Leaving a tail of about 3 inches long, run the needle through your beads in an upward diagonal manner exactly the way you did to finish a thread.  You will double back several times and check to ensure the thread is not going to work its way free … tug on the working thread.  Bring your needle up in the exact same spot as where you ended.

8.  Continue working until you run out of pattern.  The last row must be even all around – don’t end in the middle of the row.  If you have lots of thread left in your needle, don’t end and cut the thread off.  Jump to Lesson 8 – Bottom’s Up.

6.  The designs I listed in Lesson 6 have no colour notations.  It is your choice what colours to use.  As mentioned, if you add your favourite colour as the basic, you will enjoy the process a whole lot more.  Keep a balance of bright shiny beads and flat matte beads.  The play of light on the different bead finishes adds to the design.  But, a little goes a long way. 

I hope you enjoy your first project, Niki.


Tubular Peyote Stitch:  A technique in which a hollow tube is created by adding a bead in the space between 2 beads of the previous round.

Stop Bead:  A bead through which the needle passes twice  to keep all the beads on the thread.  After the first 3 rows it acts as a weight to help identify  and keep the long tail away from the working thread.

Working Thread:  The thread going from a bead and through the eye of the needle.  It becomes evident once some beads are added.  ‘Working Thread’ becomes a helpful shorter term when describing complicated needle movement.

Copyright © 2008 Helene Turnbull.  All rights reserved.  No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproducted or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without written permission of the author.