Making Mistakes: How to Correct Five Common Mistakes in Your Beadwork

When I was learning how to bead, I made loads of mistakes. Nobody's perfect, right? And that goes double for me, especially when it comes to my beading. Now that I've been beading for many, many years, I'd like to say that I make fewer mistakes. I'd like to say that, but I can't. Mistakes still happen, no matter how good you are at beading, but I've learned that it's not the mistakes you make when you're learning how to bead that matter — it's how you correct them!

If you need to tear out some stitches, always remove your needle from your beading thread before ripping out stitches. Don't stitch back through the beadwork to undo your stitching!

Correcting your mistakes properly when you're learning how to bead can make all the difference between creating a durable piece of beadwork and creating a piece of beadwork that falls apart when you least expect it.

1. Splitting your beading thread. It doesn't seem like a big deal, particularly when you are learning how to bead, but splitting your thread can create a whole lot of problems with your beadwork. If you prefer to use nylon beading threads like Nymo or Silamide (and I still love my Nymo for bead embroidery!), you should always pay attention to avoid splitting your thread with your needle, even if you condition your beading thread before you start beading.

If you do split your thread, the best thing to do is to remove your beading stitches until you come to the place in the beadwork where the split thread occurred. Leave a thread tail long enough to weave in, trim your thread, and end it there. It's better to start a new thread than to continue weaving with a thread that's been weakened by a split. A split thread can show up weeks or months later as a hole in your precious beadwork!

2. Using the wrong color (or type or size) of bead. This was a biggie for me when I first started learning how to bead, and it still is to some extent. It happens to everyone, and sometimes you don't even notice it until you're finished with your beading project. To correct this mistake in beading, you always have the option of tearing out the beadwork, removing the bead, and replacing it with the correct bead.

If that's not an option, you can always just leave the bead in there and call it a Spirit Bead in the Native American tradition. (Native American beadwork usually contains one bead of the wrong color placed somewhere in the beadwork on purpose to remind of the fact that nothing made by human hands can ever be perfect!)

3. Removing a knot from your beading thread. Knots in your beading thread are just no fun at all. Knots in your beading thread are relatively easy to remove if you are using a gel-spun thread like Fireline or Wildfire, but can take a little extra effort if you're using a nylon thread like Nymo, Silamide or S-Lon.

To remove a knot from your beading thread, insert a beading needle or beading awl into the center of the knot and wiggle it until you feel the knot loosen. You can continue to work the knot loose with your beading awl or beading needle. When you discover a knot in your beading thread, never EVER yank on it! Pulling on the knot will only tighten it and make it even harder to remove the knot from your beading thread!

When loosening a knot in your beading thread, take care not to split your thread if you're using a nylon beading thread.

If you need to break a bead to remove it from your beading project, don't grasp it around the middle with your pliers. You might also cut your stringing material or beading thread!
To break a bead, grasp it around the outside edges and squeeze gently. Don't forget to wear your safety glasses to prevent glass from flying into your eyes!

4. How to properly break a bead. If you find that you need to remove a bead from your beadwork or from your bead crochet project, you can easily smash the bead with a pair of pliers and remove it. The trick to crushing a bead with a pair of pliers and not cutting your thread is all in which direction you break the bead. To avoid cutting your thread, position the pliers so that they are on the top and bottom outside edge of the bead, and then squeeze the pliers gently. Don't put the pliers around the center of the bead — the crushing of the bead will most likely cut your thread as well!

5. Tearing out stitches. Most of us are familiar with "frog stitch", or "rip it, rip it" when we have to tear out a few stitches or a few rows of our beadwork. And did you know that there's a right way and a wrong way to tear out your beading stitches?

I used to bead with a woman who, once she had her beading needle threaded, would not remove it for any reason that did not include blood or fire. When she made a mistake in her bead-weaving, she would stitch back through the beads until she came to the mistake and then remove it. Unfortunately, this method for correcting mistakes in your beadwork can lead to split threads, broken beads, and knots in your beading thread.

Instead, it's always better to remove your needle from your beading thread and then gently pull out each of the beads and beading stitches until you reach the mistake. Yes, this means you have to thread your needle again, but in the long run, it means that your beadwork will be stronger and more durable.

Are you ready to make picture-perfect jewelry? Need some inspiration? Check out Bead Star 2011, now on sale in the Beading Daily Shop! Every year, the Bead Star competition draws some of today's most talented bead artist and jewelry makers, and our special issue Bead Star 2011 is a collection of the best entries. You'll find new beading and jewelry making techniques, great ideas for beaded jewelry and lots of inspiration for your own beaded jewelry designs. Get your copy of Bead Star 2011 and see just how brightly our 2011 Bead Stars shine!

What's your favorite tip for correcting your mistakes in your beadwork? Do you fix every single mistake in your beadwork, or do you just leave some alone? Leave a comment on the blog and share your thoughts with us!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer

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