Expert Advice on Beading for Beginners
A few years ago, we asked a handful of contributing designers to Beadwork magazine to share advice on beading for beginners. The feedback from these ladies is spectacular! Whether you’re just beginning at bead weaving or you’re a teacher or mentor, you won’t want to miss the expert advice they shared. You’re guaranteed to find some tips to boost your own beading experience or to strengthen your role as a guide on other beaders’ journeys.
ABOVE: Green with Envy Bracelet by Dana M. Bakke (Quick + Easy 2016)
Bead Weaving Advice for Beginners
“Familiarize yourself with basic color theory. The same color combinations you use to decorate your home also apply when choosing your bead combinations. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box and try something different. A variety of color and shape will give your design texture and interest. As a designer, try to keep your work creative and original.” –Regina Atkins
“Take a class from a teacher whose work you admire and ask for help and guidance; most teachers are generous with their advice and time. I am always happy to ‘mentor’ an eager student.” –Arlene Baker
“Start by making some of the simpler projects from beading books and magazines. Making projects devised by more experienced beaders will help familiarize you with different stitches and techniques. Plus, you’ll be rewarded with a new piece of jewelry.” –Hannah Benninger
“Pick up The Beader’s Companion (Interweave, 2005), then use opaque size 8° or size 6° seed beads and brightly colored thread to make small samples of a few of the stitches that catch your eye. Save these samples in a tiny Ziploc bag, label them with the stitch name, and pin them to your bulletin board. You’ll refer to them again and again.” –Jean (Cox) Campbell
“When using seed beads, do not be afraid of color! I think some people spend too much time overthinking their color choices. I suggest first selecting one color you simply cannot live without. Use that color as your ‘main highway’ and then take ‘color detours’ from there. Give yourself permission to take the ‘color road’ less traveled — it just might make all the difference. And my final two cents regarding color . . . when in doubt, use bronze!” –Jeanne Barta Craine
“Build your stitch repertoire. Depending on your learning style: sit with a good book, sign up for a local class, or download an Internet class. Then practice by making a simple project or two in that stitch before moving on. Soon you’ll have mastered the basics.” –Marcia DeCoster
“Create a beader’s environment. Set up your workspace with a comfortable chair for good posture, good lighting, and your favorite music on in the background. Start the project with large seed beads and master the stitch. Once you have the pattern down, you can use smaller beads and it won’t be as much of a challenge. If you still have trouble, ask your local bead store for help!” –Laina Goodman
“Be prepared to practice, practice, practice! Everything about beading, from tension in seed-bead work to perfecting wire-wrapped loops, can be improved with practice. With any new beading technique that you attempt to learn, if you’re patient and don’t let a few messy test pieces get to you, you’ll be a pro in no time.” –Jamie Hogsett
“Learn the different types of bead stitches, their advantages in use, and their limitations. By understanding these attributes, one can more easily combine different stitches for additional design options, creating intricate texture, depth, and structure. Start with the basics. If a stitch looks overwhelming because a pattern calls for smaller beads than you are used to, just bump up the size. Remember ‘less is more.’ Lastly, I always recommend that designers carry a notebook wherever they go. Writing or sketching out ideas gives life to a possible new design. Here’s to your next masterpiece.” –Lisa Kan
“When I started out beading, I got a lot of insight from more experienced beaders on jewelry forums like Beading Daily. This is a great outlet for beginners because they can share their first designs and get advice on trying new techniques and stitches. To the beginning beader: don’t give up! All of us have first works that start out like a little blob of beads and tangles — it takes practice and patience for our beadwork to evolve into something beautiful.” –Scarlett Lanson
“Always use your common sense about design and try to make things as long-wearing as you can. Tight thread doesn’t always equal sturdy work because sometimes, tight things break. Use your judgment about what might benefit from being supple instead of stiff. Remember also that the bead holes are not the only place to go with your needle — when you are bead weaving, you are making a matrix of thread, and you can access this thread between the beads or at the edge of your work to navigate, embellish, or anchor to. Also, use color with joy, and make what you love.” –Kate McKinnon
Apply This Advice to Your Life
Each piece of advice above, shared by an expert who once stood in beginner shoes, is so invaluable. In particular, I love Hannah Benninger’s advice: start by stitching simple projects designed by professionals. This tactic strikes a chord with me because this is how my own beading journey began.
The very first bead weaving project I ever made was the Brick Tracks Bracelet designed by Marjorie Schwartz in Quick + Easy Beadwork 2014. I had just started working for Beadwork, and I wanted to impress my experienced teammates by stitching a project on my own. Believe it or not, I was actually able to do it! I took home my copy of Quick + Easy over a weekend, bought all the beads at my local bead shop (Bead Cache in Fort Collins), and successfully — not at all painfully — stitched this cute bracelet.
Because of this experience, my favorite resource for the beginning beader is our annual special issue, Quick + Easy Beadwork. Each year I look forward to the new collection of 30+ fun designs, so I was excited to hear that we’re now offering a bundle of the first four Quick + Easy issues, which totals 143 amazingly approachable projects for the beginning beader. With tips from designers in each project, instructions you can trust to be easy to follow, and a variety of styles and types of projects, you’ll find the perfect project to open the door to the beading world.
Updated on October 4, 2018.
Get these must-have resources for the beginning beader.