Not Your Average Seed Beads: Invite Unique Shapes Into Your Beadwork in this Online Workshop

With every beadweaving stitch we learn, the design possibilities expand tremendously — especially considering the variety of bead sizes, colors, and finishes available. So when we look beyond the realm of typical seed beads into the ever-growing world of shaped beads, the creative potential is simply mind-boggling.

Not sure where to start? You’re in luck: Melinda Barta is just the one to give you a comprehensive introduction to shaped beads and how to handle them. In her online workshop Beading with Shaped Beads, you’ll quickly catch Melinda’s enthusiasm for these atypical components.

seed beads

Shaped beads abound! Here are just a few: SuperDuos, Tilas, peanuts, pyramids, lentils, Rizos, daggers, triangles, and bricks.

All your favorite beading stitches will produce dramatically different looks in your beadwork when you use SuperDuos, Tilas, bricks, spikes, peanuts, and more. Though shaped beads have their pros and cons, Melinda embodies the passion that comes from having no limits on your designs, whether that means using peanuts for peyote or simply embellishing your work with a few drop beads or spikes.

seed beads

From left to right: Twins and SuperDuos, CzechMates and Tilas, and bricks.

Two-Hole Beads

Melinda starts with a host of two-hole beads, demonstrating how to use them in popular bead stitches with simple modifications of the thread paths you already know. (If you need a primer on basic stitches, look no further than Tammy Honaman’s workshops featuring peyote, herringbone, and several other must-know techniques.)

seed beads

The thread path diagrams in this workshop make it easy to get started. I enjoyed watching my SuperDuos stack up with size15 seed beads.

SuperDuos and Twins both taper slightly on the ends, lending themselves to unique effects with a wide range of stitches. Melinda shows how to use them exclusively, as well as how to combine them with standard seed beads for structured, stacking beadwork.

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Two-holed tile beads form a pleasing pattern with right-angle weave, but don’t forget to add a supportive border.

CzechMates and Tilas are two versions of beautiful tile beads. Though CzechMates are thinner, both bead types stack up nicely with flat peyote and herringbone thread paths. Melinda also demonstrates square stitch, ladder stitch, and right-angle weave with tiles. To firm up the edges of designs made with right-angle weave, she suggests adding a border along the outside beads. In addition to being supportive, the embellishment looks great!

Melinda also showcases beads with two vertical holes: bricks and Rullas. Bricks are slightly larger with straight sides, while Rullas are more cylindrical. Melinda goes through several stitches with these beads and shows inspirational examples.

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Gumdrops (left) and spikes (right) are sure to make a statement when used to embellish your beadwork.

Spikes and More

In the next section of this workshop, you’re ready to meet another cast of creative characters. These striking beads will be sure to make a piece of beadwork memorable. Melinda demonstrates circular and tubular stitch to encircle spikes, gumdrops, and other unique shapes, and she shows examples of using spikes as embellishments on beaded surfaces and edges.

She also dedicates time to peanut beads, the fun single-holed bead with two bulbous ends. The parade continues as she presents a variety of other beads not to be forgotten: drop beads, magatama drops, lentils, pyramids, bugles, daggers, triangles, and many, many more.

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Carole Rodgers’ Peanut Pinwheels Bracelet (left) and Heather Kahn’s Moroccan Tiles Bracelet (right) are two examples celebrating the possibilities of shaped beads.

Melinda’s Top 5 Tips for Using Shaped Beads

Melinda has as many tips as there are types of beads, and then some. Here are just a few!

1. Find your balance.

The tapered shape of SuperDuos and Twins creates unique challenges with herringbone stitch. By adding a pair of regular size 15 seed beads between each of the two-hole beads, you can offset the gaps created by the tapered ends. This method creates a firm structure by making the beads stack up better. (See image above.)

2. Keep tile beads in line.

Two-holed tile beads can look beautiful in peyote stitch, but they can be unruly and tend to have sharp holes. For best results, keep tight tension, wax and double your thread, and weave through the beads of previous rows to strengthen your work.

3. Secure spikes and gumdrops.

When stitching spikes and gumdrops onto flat beadwork, not only will some thread will be exposed, but the beads can easily fall on their sides. To remedy these problems, add a ring of seed beads around the base of the spike. If you want to embellish the edge of the beadwork with spikes, use seed beads to cover the exposed thread.

4. Play around with peanuts.

When you string peanut beads, they will click together in an interlocking pattern. However, if you follow a regular peyote stitch path, the beads will align, with the long ends running parallel to each other. The peanuts will form a thick, sturdy structure.

5. Add drama with drops.

Glass drop beads can be added to almost any design, and they come in all kinds of variations. Drops can be used to embellish the ends of a design or incorporated inside your bead weaving.

In this workshop, you’ll find all the content from her original video, plus written notes, interactive activities, and a discussion board to connect with other students. Get started Beading with Shaped Beads and see what you come up with.

Want a bargain? Subscribe to Interweave’s online workshops and tackle beading and jewelry-making techniques without even leaving the house. For $9.99 a month, you can binge-watch to your heart’s content. Watch videos from great instructors, download supporting materials like guides and patterns, and interact with other students via our chat boards. You can even share images of your work and gain inspiration from others.

Go be creative!
Tamara Kula
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group

Featured Image: Like people, beads come in all shapes and sizes. From peanuts to spikes, Melinda Barta provides a comprehensive look at a range of options just waiting for you to try them out.

Bead Stitches + Beads Shapes = Infinite Possibilities. Stock up at!


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