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.