How to Read Beadwork

This week I've been editing projects for our upcoming issue of Quick + Easy Beadwork, and I can't wait for you all to see the exciting pieces that you can whip up over the course of an afternoon or while watching a movie! These projects are accessible so new beaders can learn to make them and seasoned beaders can enjoy a fast project to make in a day. Working on this issue always gets me thinking about how best to explain jewelry instructions to new beaders so they can pick up the magazine and make any piece within its pages. Every magazine has its own style, and we've developed specific language that we use in Beadwork and its special issues to indicate specific actions so our readers know that "pass back through," for instance, always means the same thing.

Whether you're new to Beadwork or have been reading for years, here's a few things to help you navigate our project pages:

Pass through: Move the needle through a bead in the same direction it was first strung.

Pass back through: Move the needle through a bead in the opposite direction from which it was first strung.

Repeat Step 1: Everything that is listed under this subheading and before the next subheading (numbered 2) is considered "Step 1." If the instructions say to repeat Step 1, the entire section of instructions is to be repeated. We indicate a "step" with bold font and a number, so it looks like this: 

1) Base. Use square stitch to form the base:    



String 1A and pass through the next B of the previous row; repeat.: When there is a semicolon and the word "repeat," it means to repeat everything in the sentence before the semicolon just once. If the action is to be repeated more than once, it will be indicated ("repeat twice" or "repeat twelve times").

The fifth B of Row 2: Oftentimes, the instructions will indicate to pass through or back through beads of previous rows or rounds–for instance, the "fifth B of Row 2." This means you literally need to find the fifth bead added in that row.

Repeat the thread path to reinforce: Use the needle and thread to pass again through all the beads in that section to make the stitches stronger. Basically, you are retracing your steps.

Secure the thread and trim: This means to tie off the thread by making an overhand knot around previous threads between beads. Weave through a few beads to hide the knot, and trim the thread close to the work. Sometimes the instructions will say "Secure the working thread and trim." This indicates that only the working thread should be tied off and finished, but the tail thread should remain in tact. If the instructions say to "Secure the threads and trim," ("threads" being plural), then tie off and finish both the working and tail threads. Note: If the instructions don't specifically indicate to do something with the tail thread, it's safe to assume you can secure and trim it.


In addition to the above language, be on the lookout for Artist's Tips and Options, both of which you may find on project pages. Artist's Tips are–you guessed it–tips from the artist about how to make the piece or how to make a variation of it. Options may show other colorways, other bead shapes, or alternate stitches used for a slightly different look in the jewelry.

What beading advice do you have for newbie beaders? Do you have questions about the language in Beadwork or Quick + Easy Beadwork? Share in the comments section below and I'll do my best to address your questions about how to read Beadwork!


Bead chic,

Kate Wilson
Project Editor

Jewelry Stringing
Quick + Easy Beadwork

101 Bracelets, Necklaces, and Earrings



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