Make Tension Your Friend When Stitching Beaded Rope Patterns
I don’t know what it is that I love about beaded ropes, but when I need a beading project to keep my hands busy during a long trip or when I’m in-between beading projects, beaded ropes are what I do. Beaded ropes are so versatile, they can be used to create beaded necklaces, as an accent for hanging a beaded pendant or bead embroidered cabochon, or even to make a fun beaded bracelet or lariat.
Maybe the reason I love making beaded rope patterns so much is that you can use just about any off-loom bead-weaving stitch for them. All of the tubular variations of your favorite beading stitches can be used to make beaded ropes! Working these beading stitches in tubular form requires a few adjustments to your tension so that your beaded ropes drape nicely, instead of turning out stiff and uncomfortable when worn.
And, in no particular order, here are my top 3 favorite beading stitches for creating beaded ropes, along with a couple of tips for tension!
1. Tubular herringbone rope.
Twisted tubular herringbone was one of those beading stitches that I struggled with, until I learned a fabulously easy way to start my twisted herringbone ropes from the very talented Leslie Frazier, and now, I’m hooked. I love the way you can create twisted herringbone ropes that look like ribbons or cords by just mixing up the size and type of seed beads you use in each rope! Twisted herringbone ropes are my favorite way to use up all those size 8 seed beads that I just had to buy.
Tubular herringbone tension tip: Tubular herringbone stitch works best as a beaded rope if you keep your tension moderately tight. Test your beadwork often by draping it across your wrist to see how it feels. You’ll need to pull snugly on each stitch to make sure that the beads line up correctly as you go around your tube, but don’t pull it too tight, or you may actually snap a bead, or worse yet, your beading thread.
2. Tubular right-angle weave. Right-angle weave is another favorite beading stitch of mine, even in tubular form, because of its potential for embellishment! You can add just about anything to a base of right-angle weave: pearls, crystals, glass beads, or even layers of other beading stitches. Working right-angle weave in tubular form to create a rope gives your beadwork a whole new dimension, and it’s a great exercise for breaking through creative blocks.
Tubular right-angle weave tension tip: Tubular right-angle weave is one of those beading stitches that will always require some kind of support inside of the beading, or else it’ll collapse into a slinky mesh. (If you’re after a slinky mesh-like feeling, just stitch your tubular right-angle weave around a wooden dowel of the desired size, and then slide it off as you go.) My preferred material for supporting tubular right-angle weave is clear plastic tubing, found at any hardware store. Use it in 18-inch lengths for a full necklace, or chop it up into smaller pieces using craft scissors for smaller beaded elements. When you’re working your tubular right-angle weave around your form, think about what kinds of embellishment you want to add, and keep your tension relatively loose to allow for multiple passes of thread and needle through the beads.
3. Tubular peyote stitch. Tubular peyote stitch was all the rage when I first learned how to bead — everyone was using it to make beaded amulet bags! These days, I prefer to play with Cellini spiral when I work a beaded rope using peyote stitch. I think it must be my beading attention deficit disorder, but sometimes I get really bored really fast when I’m stitching a plain peyote stitch rope using beads of all the same size. Cellini spiral, the ultimate peyote stitch beaded rope pattern, uses a variety of bead sizes, and it makes me want to mix it up with my color palettes, too!
Tubular peyote stitch tension tip: If you’re making a peyote stitch rope for a necklace using beads all the same size, keep your tension loose so that your rope doesn’t get too tight and snap or crack. Keeping your tension tighter when working in tubular peyote stitch will make a fabulous beaded bangle bracelet, however. For the Cellini spiral, keep a nice, even tension on the tight side to create a beaded rope that’s entirely self-supporting.
Do you need a few beaded rope patterns to get you back to your beads? Check out all the beautiful options available as instant downloads in the Beading Daily Shop. For a limited time, all project downloads are 30% off, so you can stock up and immerse yourself in your favorite beading stitches.
Do you have a tip or technique to share for stitching beaded ropes? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share it with us!
For more great tension tips, check out this blog by Beadwork magazine editor Melinda Barta!