Learn to Bead
What is beadweaving?
We think of beading as anything one can do with beads: from stringing beads into a necklace to embellishing a tassel for a curtain tie-back. Within that huge area, beadwork is the art or craft of using beads with threads or yarn. It encompasses a wide variety of traditional crafts, such as embroidery, knitting, crochet and weaving either with a needle or on a loom. It is this last – beadweaving – that we are concerned with here.
Beadweaving has a long history dating back to the Ancient Egyptians and beyond and is practiced in many countries around the world. Weaving on a beading loom generally produces flat pieces of self-supporting fabric in one stitch, whereas weaving with a needle can produce a wide variety of stitches to produce both flat and three dimensional work.
Beadweaving with a needle is an incredibly versatile craft that can produce almost anything you can imagine, from jewellery and little whimsies to the most elaborate and detailed sculptures. It is very easy to get started and the basic equipment is very reasonable.
Take a look at the Guild's gallery to see an amazing variety of beadwork.
What do I need to get started?
One of the great things about beadweaving is that it is cheap to get started, although once hooked you may spend quite a bit more on those sparkly beads!
The basic equipment includes a beading needle, beading thread, a beading mat to work on, small sharp scissors and of course beads. There are many different types of bead available on the market but the most popular beads used in beadweaving are size 11 seed beads and cylinder beads.
Where can I learn to bead?
Traditionally beadweaving skills have been passed from generation to generation, but with a resurgence of popularity in recent years there are many ways to learn these skills today. You could join a local beading group, attend workshops, take a distance learning course, learn from books or watch YouTube videos. The choice will depend on your preferred way of learning and what resources are available to you.
If you have difficulties locating sources of learning, please visit The Beadworkers Guild website where you will find a list of beading groups around the UK, beading shows that we visit where you can ask for help in person, books published by the Guild that can help you to get started and a very reasonable beginners bag that has everything you need to start your beading journey. If you become a member of the Guild you will also have access to free stitch workbooks that will teach you all you need to know about each individual stitch. www.beadworkersguild.org.uk
Below you will find an introduction to beadwork/beadweaving with lots of tips and a variety of basic stitch instructions to help you get started on your beading journey. If you are already a beader and would like to pass on your skills please feel free to use these resources for teaching.
Please note that these resources are the property of The Beadworkers Guild and are for your personal use only or for passing on your skills without profit.
IBW Ambassador: Marcia DeCoster ( California, United States)
International Beading Week! What a great thing the Beadworkers Guild has done. I know for me beading has brought a huge International presence to my life. I count as friends beaders from many different countries and it is the beadwork that unites us. Along the way I have learned so much and have come to appreciate the differences in culture and in personalities that present themselves in the many different styles of beadwork. From the whimsical, fanciful and florals of Heather Kingsley Heath to the bright colors of a Sian Nolan design, to the beautiful soft romantics of Miriam Cielo Shimon, the layered engineering that goes into a Sabine Lippert pieces, the new stitches put forward by Melanie de Miquel and the thoughtful designs that Kerrie Slade always presents, I am enamored with the body of beadwork done worldwide. And that is to to name just a few of the many talented artists that make up our community. So International Beading week is a brilliant concept and I look forward to seeing all that happens as it continues to grow.
IBW Ambassador: Heather Kingsley-Heath (UK)
Lovely to be back as an IBW ambassador. I love beading, I love our community and so enjoy travelling the world to meet and work with many beaders, it is the magical part of my job. This year I’ve designed a really easy little flower and I’ll be hopping on to facebook during IBW to show and share different ways you can use it to create some colourful accessories. IBW is such an important event, it’s not just about the free stuff, it’s about getting together to bead, welcoming newcomers, supporting our bead shops and local groups and supporting all the designers who keep us amazed with lovely new creations; all of which keeps our amazing global beady community thriving and full of energy. Make IBW the week you visit your nearest bead shop, join a class or group, or buy a pattern you’ve been thinking you’d like to try.