From One New Beader to Another

Although I've made strung jewelry for years, I'm pretty green when it comes to beadweaving. I've quickly fallen in love with the craft, but also hit some frustrating walls I've had to climb along the way.

I have the luxury of endless learning resources around me, but, like many new beaders, I've faced some trials and errors. During my bumps in the road, I compiled this short list of must-have and must-do advice for the beginning beader. If you're a seasoned beader, you can pass these on to friends who are just starting-or, give them to newbies as gifts!

1. Invest in a beading mat. When I first started, I tried using a tray I had from stringing necklaces. I became increasingly annoyed as tiny seed beads rolled down the crevices as I tried to string them. My editor gave me a beading mat, and it changed my life. I can't express enough how much a difference it makes. The mat holds my beads in place as I thread them onto my needle. I will never bead without one again.

2. Don't run before you walk. A mistake I've made is trying long, intricate projects before I'd completed simple ones. The minute I'd learn a new stitch, I'd practice 3 or 4 rows of it, then want to complete a whole necklace or bracelet. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to instantly create projects that beaders with years of experience were creating. Although I was able to work through such projects, I found many mistakes and spent a lot of hours correcting errors. My husband reminded me that it took other beaders years to reach that level of excellence, and I can't expect that perfect quality from myself just days into learning. While it's great to aspire toward beautiful beadwork, give yourself time and lots of practice before moving on to advanced pieces.

3. Find a mentor. I'm fortunate to have my own personal beading guru, Beadwork Editor Melinda Barta, hanging around and helping me out. Not only have I watched all her instructional DVDs, but I'm always showing her my work and asking how I can improve. Face time with her has made a significant difference to my learning curve. And I email her questions often. Recently I sent an email that said "The end of my square stitches look like herringbone. Any advice?" She quickly responded and I was able to correct my mistake right away and move on. If you don't know anyone who fits the beading-mentor bill, take a class or join a beading group. Or, invest in Melinda Barta's DVDs. They're great tools and I wouldn't have learned so quickly without them.

4. Beader's Companion. I can't live without it. This isn't a sales pitch-The Beader's Companion by Judith Durant and Jean Campbell is just what it claims: a companion. I use it nearly every day in my job and while creating projects. When I want to buy a particular shape of bead, I flip to page 13 to see what name to search for. When I'm trying to decide what stitch to use in a design, I refer to the "off-loom stitches" section. This book is one of the most valuable tools I possess. 

5. Thread conditioner. Another life-changing item. I've read online forum conversations where some participants said they don't think thread conditioner makes a difference. I'm not disputing that it's a personal preference, but I think it's beyond useful. I started beadweaving with nylon thread, which often became knotted, split, and frayed. It was especially hard to use with long pieces of working thread, and I couldn't keep it from getting messy. I started using Thread Heaven, and I wouldn't be without it now. I've since switched to FireLine thread, which I think is more workable than nylon threads, and I still use my conditioner with it sometimes. Many experienced beaders prefer beeswax, which is an equally viable option. Either way, I recommend using something to tame those wild threads.


These are just a few things I strongly recommend for beginners. I'll be sure to share my quips and new knowledge along the way as I learn.

Are there any items, tricks, or advice that has made your projects easier? We want to hear from you! Use the comment section below to share your best beading wisdom.

Happy Beading!

Kate Wilson
Project Editor


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