Bead Experiment: The Best Way to Stitch Cubic Right-Angle Weave

Over the last few years, cubic right-angle weave has become more and more popular. At first, it seemed that cubic right-angle weave (CRAW), like most other bead weaving stitches, was done a certain way. It became apparent, as people developed their own techniques, that this was not the case! I teamed up with 2019 Designer of the Year Susan Sassoon to compare the two most common methods of stitching CRAW. Let’s find out which is better!

The Experimenters

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

Susan Sassoon is an architect and a beader who loves fitting together shapes of all sizes. She is a member of the Beadsmith Inspiration Squad, a 2018 Beadwork Designer of the Year, and sells her tutorials at www.sosassybysusansassoon.com and on Etsy. She can be reached on Facebook at So Sassy By Susan Sassoon.

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 sewing, weaving, beading, photography, and exploring the gorgeous natural landscape of the Rocky Mountains with her husband.

The Stitches

Well, technically, it’s only one stitch, but it can be worked in a variety of ways. We’ve even heard about a two-needle method! For this experiment we focused on the two most common ways to build CRAW: face-built and base-built.

Face-built CRAW is when you add beads to form a new face from the previous face.

Bottom: Use 5′ of thread to string 4A, leaving a 5″ tail. Pass through the beads again to form a tight circle; pass through the first A strung (Fig. 1, orange thread).

Face 1: String 3A; pass through the last A exited and the next A just added (Fig. 1, pink thread).

Face 2: String 2A; pass back through the nearest A of the bottom of the unit, up through the last A exited on the previous face, through the 2A just added, and the next A of the bottom of the unit (Fig. 1, purple thread).

Face 3: String 2A; pass down through the nearest A of the previous face, through the last A exited at the bottom of the unit, and up through the first A just added (Fig. 1, green thread).

Face 4 and Top: String 1A; pass down through the nearest A of the first face in this unit, back through the next A at the bottom of this unit, and up through the last A exited of the previous face of this unit (Fig. 1, blue thread). Pass through the 4A at the top of this unit to close the top, then pass through the first A added in this unit (Fig. 1, red thread).

Repeat Faces 1–4 and Top to your desired length.

face built CRAW

Figure 1

Base-built CRAW is when you add beads to form a new face from the base.

Bottom: Use 5′ of thread to string 4A, leaving a 5″ tail. Pass through the beads again to form a tight circle; pass through the first A strung (Fig. 2, pink thread).

Face 1: String 3A; pass through the last A exited and the next A at the bottom of this cube (Fig. 2, purple thread).

Faces 2 and 3: String 2A; pass down through the nearest A of the previous face and pass through the last A exited at the bottom of this cube and the next A. Repeat from the beginning of this face (Fig. 2, green thread).

Face 4 and Top: Pass through the nearest A of the first face of this unit. String 1A; pass down through the nearest A of the previous face, pass through the last A exited at the bottom of this cube, and pass up through the next A of the first face in this cube (Fig. 2, blue thread). Pass through the 4 beads at the top of this cube to close the top, then pass through the first A added in this unit (Fig. 2, red thread).

Repeat Faces 1–4 and Top to your desired length.

base built CRAW

Figure 2

Let’s Get Science-y!

In order to compare and contrast the two stitches, Susan and I enlisted the good old Scientific Method 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 samples to the same length. All other materials and tools will remain exactly the same and serve as the controls in the experiment.

Susan’s Hypothesis:

  • How will the stitches be different, visually? There won’t be a noticeable difference.
  • Which stitch will be more flexible? Both will be the same.
  • Which stitch will be stronger? Both will be the same.
  • Which stitch will take longer to create and why? The face-built method may take longer for me because I’m not used to beading it that way.
  • Which stitch will be superior and why? I believe the only advantage to the method where you each stitch begins from the base row is that it’s easier to teach and learn that way.

Meredith’s Hypothesis:

  • How will the stitches be different, visually? Other than mostly undetectable thread paths, I don’t think there will be a visual difference.
  • Which stitch will be more flexible? I think the base-built will be more flexible, because there is less thread through the faces of the cubes.
  • Which stitch will be stronger? I think the face-built will be stronger, as there will be more thread along the edges/faces.
  • Which stitch will take longer to create and why? I think the face-built will take longer to stitch because there’s more weaving around.
  • Which stitch will be superior and why? I think the base-built will be superior because it’ll be faster.

The Experiment

Susan and I both used a wingspan (for me it was 50″) of 6lb FireLine braided beading thread and used our normal tension. We both used size 11° Miyuki Japanese seed beads. We each prepared our materials, started a stopwatch, and began 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

Susan and Meredith's cubic right-angle weave CRAW experiment results

Cubic right-angle weave is a thread-sucker! Neither Susan nor I had enough thread to finish a 3″ sample of each stitch, but we did end up with the same number of units completed.

CRAW experiment results

Susan and Meredith’s finished stitch samples.

Our Conclusions

Visually, the two stitches look fairly identical. Our base-built samples ended up being about half a unit longer than the face-built samples. So, for longer ropes, base-building may be a better choice as you’ll “get there” sooner.

Susan and I agree that our base-built samples are more flexible. We think it’s because the faces all have equal passes of thread – the face-built method has more thread on one of the faces of each cube.

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. Strength-wise, CRAW is a good one, whichever way you stitch it.

The time difference it took to create our face-built and base-built samples averaged out to only about 2 minutes—with base-building being the faster method. I can see how quickly that time would add up if you were creating a long rope.

Susan thinks that the difference between the two stitches is even less than she expected and was unable to say if one was “better” than the other. However, I think that base-built CRAW is the superior stitch, because of the data we collected in our experiment. Base-built CRAW worked up faster, and had the added bonus of a little bit of extra length—without sacrificing strength or any noticeable visual difference. We agree that it’s easier to follow the thread paths of the base-build method, and that makes it easier to learn and teach. Beaders, I think we have a winner!

Try Cubic Right-Angle Weave

Have you tried CRAW? Let us know in the comments if you learned face-built or base-built and if you have a favorite.

A great big thank you to Susan Sassoon for doing this cubic right-angle weave experiment with me. I am looking forward to seeing how you use CRAW in your future designs!

Meredith Steele
Technical Editor, Beadwork magazine


Explore cubic right-angle weave (CRAW) with these resources in the shop!

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