Bead Experiment: PRAW versus tubular RAW with Michelle Leonardo

While we were in the last stages of editing Michelle Leonardo’s Queen’s Heart Necklace and Earrings project for the February/March 2019 issue of Beadwork magazine, Michelle was talking with one of her bead colleagues about the beaded chain she used in the project. Her friend mentioned that she likes to do tubular right-angle weave differently than Michelle does—and they realized the stitch she was doing was actually prismatic right-angle weave. Michelle and I got to contemplating which stitch is better and why, and we decided we needed to apply some science to the matter and suss out the answer! So, which stitch is better—prismatic (PRAW) or tubular RAW?

The Experimenters

Let’s take a minute to introduce ourselves, your willing and able experimenters!

Michelle Leonardo is a passionate designer, and the author of the illustrious Dragon Scale Cuff and Ouroboros Cuff bracelets from August/September 2018 Beadwork magazine. Her high-fashion jewelry collection is inspired by her travels, particularly her love of the ocean. With an award-winning career in advertising and graphic design behind her—plus several recent features in publications—she launched Michelle Leonardo Design to sell her jewelry and patterns. Contact Michelle through her website, www.michelleleonardodesign.com, or connect with her on Facebook at Michelle Leonardo Design.

Meredith Steele is the technical editor of Beadwork magazine. She’s been stitching beads professionally since 2004, writing patterns and teaching classes at bead stores (including her own brick-and-mortar shop that was open until 2018) in her home state of Wisconsin. The call of the West landed her in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she happily engages in writing, beading, photography, and exploring the gorgeous natural landscape of the Rocky Mountains with her husband.

The Stitches

The first thing you need to know about these two stitches is how they are worked! They are actually almost identical. Both of these stitches can be worked with as many sides as you wish—and a 4-sided PRAW is known as cubic right-angle weave (CRAW). The only difference between working the stitches is that at the end of working a unit of PRAW, you stitch around that unit’s top beads before adding the next unit (PRAW, red thread). Whereas with tubular RAW, you simply work your way up to that unit’s top bead before adding the next unit (Tubular RAW, blue thread). See these two illustrations to show the difference:

PRAW versus tubular RAW

Let’s Get Sciencey!

In order to compare and contrast the two stitches, Michelle and I enlisted the good old Scientific Method to capture all the stitches’ fine nuances in a controlled way. The independent variable in the experiment, or the thing that changes to be tested, will be the stitches themselves. They will be used to create two separate beaded tubes to the same length. All other materials and tools will remain exactly the same and serve as the controls in the experiment.

Michelle’s Hypothesis:
I believe the two stitches may be difficult to even tell apart from the untrained eye. I think it will take longer to create a similar length strip of PRAW than tubular RAW because of the extra pass of thread you need to do around the ceiling beads of each PRAW unit. I also think that pass will stiffen the PRAW strip so it won’t be as flexible. My experience with CRAW strips is that they can be very stiff depending on tension. I therefore think that tubular RAW will be the superior stitch since it will be quicker to create with very little visual difference.

Meredith’s Hypothesis:
Visually, I think that the two chains will be identical. Strength-wise, I think that the PRAW will be stronger. Flexibility-wise, I think that the tubular RAW will be more flexible and almost “floppy” feeling. I also think that the tubular RAW will take less time to create. I believe that the PRAW will be the superior stitch as I tend to prefer a tighter, stronger-feeling chain.


PRAW versus tubular RAW: The Experiment

Michelle and I both used a wingspan (for me it was 50″) of 6lb FireLine braided beading thread (affiliate link) and size 11 Tulip beading needles (affiliate link). Michelle used silver Miyuki size 11° seed beads; I used gold Miyuki size 11° seed beads. We both used our usual, medium tension to create a 3-sided 3″ tube of beadwork in each stitch, leaving a 5″ tail. We each prepared our materials, started a stopwatch, and started beading! Afterwards we compared the number of total stitch units in the length, the amount of time it took to stitch 3″ of each, the amount of thread left over, the visual difference, the flexibility and any other similarities and differences between the two stitches.

The Results

Michelle’s Results Michelle’s Results Meredith’s Results Meredith’s Results
PRAW Tubular RAW PRAW Tubular RAW
Number of units: 25 Number of units: 25 Number of units: 23 Number of units: 23
Time: 29:38 Time: 29:45 Time: 18:47 Time: 16:29
Thread left: 10 inches Thread left: 15 inches Thread left: 2.5 inches Thread left: 9 inches
Wider, more triangular Narrower, rounder Wider, more triangular Narrower, rounder
Slightly stiffer Slightly softer Minimally stiffer Minimally softer
More even Less even More even Less even

Both samples used the same amount of beads to reach 3″. Both samples had the same gram weight.

I also did a strength test where I tried to break each sample by pulling as hard as I could for 10 seconds on each end of the rope. Neither one broke, and the stretch difference between the two was negligible. If you tend to weave more loosely, I could see how the tubular RAW would have more stretch over time because it does not have that extra pass of thread to hold it all together.

PRAW versus tubular RAW

Michelle’s samples in silver on the left. Meredith’s samples in gold on the right. We tested the samples by inspecting them visually, bending them into hairpin curves, and shaping them into s-curves.

Our Conclusions

Michelle’s ropes had more of a flexibility difference than mine did. Once I cut the threads off of my samples, I had a hard time keeping track of which was which, and had to look closely for the thread path to tell them apart.

Michelle and I agree that the time difference is smaller than we thought it would be—though hers is a lot closer of a call than mine was. We also agree that PRAW uses more thread than we thought—it doesn’t seem like just a simple extra pass through three beads would make such a difference, but it adds up over time! It didn’t, however, add any weight to the 3″ samples to the tenth of a gram.

We determined that stitch has its advantages. Tubular RAW uses less thread and less time. But—if we had to choose between the two based on craftsmanship, we would choose PRAW. I do not consider the use of thread or a few extra minutes of my time a good enough reason to sacrifice craftsmanship!

Michelle’s go-to stitch before this experiment was tubular RAW because it was what she was used to doing and feels more natural to her while creating long chains. She had assumed PRAW would take way longer so she never even tried it. But, because of the findings of this experiment, she says that the next time she designs a project she may have to rethink which stitch to use. I hope this experiment helps you decide which one to use, too!

A great big thank you to Michelle Leonardo for her help and doing this experiment with me! I am looking forward to seeing how you use PRAW in your future designs.

Meredith Steele
Technical Editor, Beadwork magazine


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2 Comments

  1. Susan S at 2:02 pm January 4, 2019

    Great experiment! Thanks for doing this!

  2. Darlene W at 7:17 am January 10, 2019

    Interesting experiment and results. Thank you.

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