4 Fringe Techniques Inspired by Zulu Beadwork

Inspired by Diane Fitzgerald

I was at Diane Fitzgerald’s studio recently. I’ve been there before—she’s a home girl (lives in Minneapolis, too), and we get together for lunch now and then. But this time my visit was a little different. This time I was bowled over by the sheer amount of Diane’s beadwork. I swear there was double the stuff than was there before. On stands…on the walls…in progress. And all of it beautiful, finely made, and intriguing in its design. Where in the heck does she find the time? Does she employ elves? The visit gave me the distinct sense that I should go home and either a) put my beading rear into high gear; or b) tidy up my studio and hold tightly onto my day job. Luckily, Diane is so enthusiastic about beading that she’d never want anyone to give up, so I’ve been doing my best to follow Route A. 

I like Diane—she’s one of those beaders’ beaders. She’ll do things like scour flea market stands in London’s Piccadilly Square or a Moroccan souk to find samples of antique beadwork. Then she’ll bring the items home to figure out how they were made, sometimes dissecting a piece to unlock the mystery. Lucky for us, she often sits down and writes a book about her findings.

I was recently poring over one of her latest books called Zulu Inspired Beadwork and was struck by just how many ways there are to manipulate seed beads. With each turn of the page you discover a new way. And I’m not just talking the standards like peyote, brick, and square stitch. There are crazy stitches in this book that most people have never even seen, let alone tried. For that reason alone you should consider adding Zulu Inspired Beadwork to your library.

Fringe Turnaround Techniques

Paging through the book I realized how many Zulu techniques incorporate fringe not only for embellishment, but as part of the stitch’s structure. For example, one technique shows making a fringe at the start of every peyote-stitched row, which is a great way to hide the unsightly thread that shows at the edge of flat peyote stitch. This got me thinking about how some techniques like herringbone stitch, which involves tricky thread looping at each row’s turnaround to keep the thread hidden, might benefit from a little Zulu-style fringe action. Let me show you what I’m talking about:

Here’s the end of a first row of herringbone stitch. I could pass the thread up through the last bead added to step up to the next row, but that’s not very pro since the thread will show on the outside of the beads;  

Or I can loop the thread between beads to make the turnaround, creating a flat edge with no thread showing; 

OR, to be really cool, I could add a simple picot fringe instead of looping the thread; 

Or how about an even more ornate fringe?

Now that I’m all hyped up on fringe turnarounds, maybe I’ll be able to bead as fast and furiously as Diane. A girl can dream.

Do you have some tips to share about fringed or other quick turnarounds for common off-loom stitches? Share them on the website!

This is your last chance to enter the Beaded Book Competition.  There's still time to bead Cinderella's shoe, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, or another book-inspired piece! Photos are due next week–December 18, 2008.  Don't miss your chance to be featured in Beadwork magazine and at the Bead Fest shows.

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Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks! 

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