Peyote Stitch Instructions: Help From Nancy Cain

Nancy Cain came to the Interweave offices recently and filmed a few new videos. Creating Self-Supporting Beadwork is a great addition to Nancy’s already wonderful collection of peyote bead weaving patterns and instructions. To make it easy to get all of Nancy’s wonderful peyote instructions in one place, we created a new collection: “Creating Self-Supporting Beadwork with Nancy Cain.” Check out this collection and take in all that Nancy has shared with us.

In addition to her new videos, Nancy has also offered help with peyote stitch instructions, with an answer to this question:
Q: Why do I have trouble with the first couple rounds of peyote and why can’t I create strong tension?

NC: This is a common question and to tackle it, I like to review what the role Rounds 1-6 play in peyote. Understanding the structure of the stitch will help. It’s difficult to build a structure if you don’t have a solid foundation… much like architecture.

The Design
Rounds 1 – 2: This round highlights the importance of math, bead shape, finish and size in deciding what you want to make. I say let the beads do the work!

Deciding what you want your size and shape to be will be the factor in deciding what beads to use and what math numbers are appropriate. Use 15/0 or 11/0 seed beads for rounded areas and cylinder beads like Delicas, Treasures or Aikos for flat areas. String the beads needed for your project, then needle through all the beads again, plus two more. You now have a direct line from your tail to needle thread. Notice we are not using a knot at this point!

Nancy Cain peyote stitch instrucitons, help for structural peyote designs

The Tension
Round 3: This round determines the tension of the piece.

Work this round flat like circular peyote, keeping equal and tight tension between the needle and tail threads. You can make it too tight, especially working with matte beads. Adjust tension as needed maintaining thread tensions throughout this round.
Nancy Cain peyote stitch instructions, help for structural peyote designs
If you have difficulty making tight stitches, try waxing the tail rather than the working thread. If round 3 beads flip or twist inward, you have needled through or under the existing threads in rounds 1 and 2.
Nancy Cain peyote stitch instructions, help for structural peyote designsMatch it
Round 4: This round matches the tension set in round 3 and makes a tube.

The perimeter high beads will have more space between them than the inside beads. Stitching this round tight with equal back-tail tension will cause it to reduce the perimeter spacing, pulling into a tube. After three stitches pull equally with the needle and tail thread, then pinch the stitches in place with your thumb and index finger. You are matching the tension you have set in round 3. At the end of round 4, pull on tail and needle thread simultaneously then do not let go until you have worked through round 5.
Nancy Cain peyote stitch instructions, help for structural peyote designsStabilize it
Round 5: This round stabilizes the tension.

If you did not have control in round 4, round 5 can stitch too tight, causing a bulge on the sides. You can tell if you have equal tension between rounds 3 and 4 if round 5 results in straight sidewalls.

The tension is set for the rest of the piece.
Nancy Cain peyote stitch instructions, help for structural peyote designsSculpt it
Rounds 6 and beyond: The following rounds create your sculpture.

From here on out, you are in control of creating the shape. You may use increases, decreases; or none at all, as well as adjusting your tension plus any other technique in your bead box. Your shape is entirely what you want it to be.

Enjoy exploring sculptural peyote with Nancy’s expert guidance and peyote stitch instructions. Nancy Cain’s Structural Peyote Stitch Bundle puts it all together for you in one easy-to-use resource.

Have you explored Nancy’s sculptural techniques or have a tip or design to share? Please post an image or leave a comment at

Yours in creativity,blue_tammy


  1. Jodie P at 3:26 pm June 21, 2017

    I feel the response Nancy provided to question 1 didn’t really address or answer the question. Yes, understanding/knowing the size and shape of your bead and the math involved is important. But determining that all comes “before” you begin to actually bead your piece. Once you determine all that then you can begin beading. It is at this point that the questioner is asking. Getting the first two rows to lay properly and have the proper tension is challenging and there is a certain technique or skill to completing the first two rows. If you don’t have the first two rows properly stitched by row three, which is when Nancy says to pay attention to the tension, it is almost too late. The foundation needs to begin right away to getting the proper tension and layment. I have been beading for a few years and peyote is my favorite go to stitch. While I am no expert like Nancy, I do know peyote well enough to understand that I need to pay attention to the skill of the first two rows in order to bead a successful design. After all the projects I have made using peyote I still struggle with the first two rows. There are artists out there who offer strategies and techniques for starting peyote that helps with getting the beadwork started. And there are tools available on the market from bead suppliers that help with starting peyote as well. I am surprised that Nancy didn’t mention any of those details in her response. There is a Facebook group called Seedbeaders (its a private group you need to request joining) that has documents in their file section that address the specific question asked and has provided simple-to-make-at-home tools to help.

  2. Nancy C at 11:51 am December 16, 2017

    Dear Jodie P,
    Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I think we have a miscommunication as to what constitutes round 2 and round 3. Rounds 1 and 2 are the base rounds of what you are designing. The first round of peyote that you stitch is Round 3 and not Round 2 as you mention. The first two rounds, which you string on at the start are affected by how you stitch round 3.

    It is not too late at round 3, since that is the first round you have to stitch. This is the ‘key’ round for peyote.

    The tools and techniques out there to compensate for the inherent issues with starting peyote are not addressing why it happens in the first place. My methodology is to correct the the technique and prevent the problems in the first place.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to write to me. Feel free to respond if you would like.
    Best, Nancy

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