Experience the Joy of Herringbone Stitch with Melinda Barta (and Don’t Miss Her Top Tips)

I had no idea how easy it would be to get swept up in the wonderful whirlwind of herringbone stitch. It started with my involvement in coordinating the launch of Melinda Barta’s online workshop Herringbone Stitch: Basics and Beyond, which is based on her popular video. Of course, as most of you probably already know, once you glimpse the world of herringbone, there’s no turning back. After spending the majority of my weekend amusing myself with herringbone variations, consider me initiated!

Herringbone stitch

This fun flaring effect in Melinda’s Spiny Herringbone Spacers is created by using simple increases.

I love how Melinda’s demonstrations make herringbone so approachable. An extremely popular stitch among beaders, herringbone is stitched two beads at a time—a feature I love. Naturally, Melinda starts with the basics: materials, terms to know, and the fundamentals of herringbone stitch. She then teaches how to modify flat herringbone to create tubular and circular variations, including how to make a gorgeous spiraling tube with a surprisingly simple maneuver.

Herringbone stitch

Did you know? You can make tubular herringbone start to twist simply by taking the needle down through one bead and up through multiple. It’s that easy!

Before you can even comprehend the tools you’ve just been handed for creating your own designs, Melinda launches into four fabulous embellishments to mix it up even more. This is where the floodgates of creativity open. She shows how to add beads between columns, within columns, at turnarounds, and on top in the form of picot. These embellishments, combined with the different formats already presented, are enough to make anyone rush for their bead stash.

A Herringbone Sampler

In her introductory clip, Melinda shows a “sampler” necklace she made to display a variety of unique designs that can be created with herringbone. I immediately loved this idea, as it encompassed the spirit of play and experimentation without the pressure of making a coherent, finished piece. For my first attempt at herringbone, I took a page from Melinda’s book and opted to make a sampler of my own.

I started with a tiny row of ladder stitch and joined the ends to form a ring, giving me three pairs of different-colored beads for a total of six. I calculated that this pattern would allow me to see my herringbone columns easily. I was right—it was easy to add pairs of beads to my color-coordinated columns. After a few quick rounds, I took the plunge into spiral herringbone. Wanting a very visible twist, I took my needle down one bead deep each time, but up through three beads. Since my tube consisted of just three columns, my tube grew quickly and the spiral was evident almost immediately. Success!

Herringbone stitch

By using simple increases and decreases in your herringbone tube, you can create beaded beads.

After spiraling along for several inches, I was ready to tackle embellishments. Following Melinda’s tip of adding beads between columns, I watched in satisfaction as the beaded tube gradually ballooned out. To keep it from collapsing on itself, I inserted an improvised ball of foil before using decreases to gradually narrow the beadwork again.

herringbone stitch

By the time my beaded rope was a foot long, I had experimented with varying sizes and colors of beaded beads, adding embellishments within columns, and strengthening the spiral even more. My third-grade son was most impressed, offering me what he considered a great compliment: that my rope looked like a snake in the process of digesting multiple rats. While that wasn’t exactly the look I was going for, I do see the comparison. Nevertheless, the result was a very fun and enjoyable sampler piece. (And I have plans for future projects!)

Melinda’s Top 5 Tips for Herringbone Stitch

I can’t leave you without some wisdom from Melinda. Check out these expert tips from this workshop!

1. Climbing the ladder

Ladder stitch is a quick and easy way to build a foundation for your herringbone designs. Make sure your ladder stitch row has an even number of beads because herringbone is always worked in pairs.

2. Let’s talk tubular

To create tubular herringbone, connect your initial row of ladder stitch into a ring. As you add rows of herringbone to this base, you’ll see the beadwork start to cup. If your work starts to collapse, try inserting a dowel or other structure for support while you bead.

3. Sassy spiral

Take your tubular beadwork for a spin by adding a bit of twist. Control the look of the spiral by adapting how many beads deep you take your needle, how tightly you keep your thread tension, and which direction you stitch.

4. Fancy flourishes

Herringbone stitch has so many options for embellishment. Try adding beads between columns for a flaring effect. Experiment with increases, decreases, beads within columns, beads at turnarounds, and picot finishes for endless variations!

5. Secure finishes

To finish off your herringbone designs, weave through the final row again using the thread path of a ladder stitch.

Go be creative!
Tamara Kula
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group

Featured Image: With Melinda Barta’s expert guidance, you’ll learn all kinds of fascinating design options like these Spiny Herringbone Spacers.

Don’t stop now! Delve into more ideas and other stitches:


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