Peyote Stitch: Everything You Need to Know
Millions of seed beaders consider peyote stitch to be one of the most gratifying and versatile bead weaving techniques in existence. In fact, it’s the stitch that most beginners start with — flat even-count peyote is the easiest to learn and works up quicker than many other stitches. And it’s very versatile — all of the samples shown here are made using flat peyote stitch.
(BONUS! For instructions on how to make all of the projects shown, download the Best of Beadwork: 12 Flat Peyote-Stitch Projects eBook.)
And once you’re comfortable with the basic stitch, you can learn every variation! For example, circular peyote stitch, worked flat, creates circles that can be used as medallions or other components. Tubular peyote, on the other hand, can be used to create beaded ropes and the beautiful cellini spiral variation. Then there’s diagonal peyote stitch, two-drop peyote, and peyote-stitch bezels!
I’ve found so many helpful tips and tricks on peyote stitch in The Peyote Stitch Companion by my friend and former Beadwork editor, Melinda Barta. It’s such a valuable resource for every beader, from beginners looking to learn peyote stitch for the first time, and seasoned beaders looking for expert advice to improve their skills.
Here, Melinda shares a few of her must-have tricks for beading with peyote stitch.
Holding your work and forming the first stitches:
Since the first two or three rows (or rounds) of peyote stitch can be the most challenging, here are a few tips you may find helpful when starting out with peyote stitch:
- Start with large beads and a stiffer thread (such as FireLine) instead of nylon thread. Peyote-stitched strips worked with nylon thread tend to be flexible and more difficult to hold. Wax your thread to keep the beads from sliding around.
- String an even or odd number of beads, alternating colors if desired to help better see the pattern emerge. Pull the beads to about 4 to 6 feet from the end of the thread.
- Hold on to the tail thread with your nondominant hand so the beads don’t slide off the end. Many people like to work with a long tail wrapped around their pinky or several fingers—find what’s most comfortable for you.
- Use the thumb of your nondominant hand to hold the strand so it drapes over the top of your index finger (see illustration). The needle and working thread will come toward your thumb.
Creating durable beadwork:
- Never stitch with damaged thread. If you see a thread fray, replace it immediately to avoid weak spots.
- Wax can help prevent fraying, but if your thread is synthetic, be sure to inquire about its archival quality with the manufacturer.
- Keep the work flexible. Beads can break easily when pieces made with too tight tension are manipulated. After every two or three rows or rounds worked, very gently twist and turn the beadwork to keep it a bit malleable.
- Always prestretch nylon threads. Otherwise, the thread will stretch after you finish, resulting in loose beads.
- End your thread after completing intricate components and before starting clasps. If a thread does break between components or at a connection point, you’ll be left with an easy repair.
- Double your thread when stitching crystals and other sharp-holed beads so that if one thread breaks, you’ll have time to repair the damage before the second thread breaks and you lose the bead.
- Never trim a thread next to a knot; it will always find a way to come undone. Instead, weave back through several beads after tying the knot and before ending the thread.
Counting Your Rows:
When counting the number of rows in a piece, don’t count the beads along one edge. Use one of these methods instead:
On the diagonal, in a zigzag pattern, or each column.
A Handy Reference Guide:
I recently chatted with Melinda about her motivation behind The Peyote Stitch Companion, and here’s what she had to say:
“One of the things that excited me most about the opportunity to write this book is the book’s format. When working on my degree in fiber arts, The Weaver’s Companion was a must-have book; I loved that it fit on top of my loom. Years later, I learned to knit from The Knitter’s Companion and Jean Campbell and Judith Durant’s Beader’s Companion was an essential resource on my road to becoming a beader. I feel the Companion series is a part of Interweave’s history, and I’m proud to be part of that legacy.
“The book is small so it fits on even the messiest worktables and it opens flat, thanks to the spiral binding. The hard cover folds over to protect the spiral, so you don’t have to worry about it getting smashed in your bag on your way to a retreat or class. And better yet — it’s printed! This frees up your tablet for watching movies, or allows for often-needed screen-free time.
“By being able to focus on just one technique — peyote stitch — I was able to include everything you need to know about this much-loved stitch. You’ll find everything from how to hold your beads for the very first time peyote-stitching to more advanced spirals.”
Melinda has covered everything from the very basics, like how to overcome first-timer frustrations and troubleshooting problems (what happens when you miss a stitch or break a bead?), to techniques for combining peyote-stitched beadwork with herringbone, right-angle weave, netting, square, and brick stitches. She also includes a section on using peyote stitch with shaped beads.
If you’ve always wanted to try peyote stitch, or have been beading for years and are looking to improve your bead weaving skills, I urge you to pick up your own copy of The Peyote Stitch Companion.
Debbie Blair, Editor
Find the Peyote Stitch Companion and other great resources by Melinda Barta in our shop: