Stitch Pro: No-ladder Herringbone Stitch Starts

A couple weeks ago, a Beading Daily reader suggested that I show how to do a no-ladder herringbone stitch starts. Great idea, Shaolingrrl!

Why love a no-ladder stitch start? Well, when you begin herringbone stitch this way, you have little to no distortion in your subsequent stitches, so that beautiful chevron pattern that the beads make emerges beautifully. With a ladder-stitched start, no matter what your tension, you’re going to have some pattern distortion.

Let’s dive in! There are a couple ways to do this technique:

Traditional Method

The first is the traditional way…in the United States, we all learned this technique from Virginia Blackelock, who described the technique in her book, Those Bad, Bad Beads. It takes a little planning, but is very effective. The only downside is that you’ll end up with half-columns on the edges of your work, but you can also use those to your advantage in certain designs.

Rows 1 and 2: Use 2 colors of beads (A and B). Add a tension bead to the end of a comfortable length of thread. String 1A, 2B, 2A, 2B, 2A, 2B, 1A for a total of 12 beads (Fig. 1, blue thread). Note: You will want to always have a multiple of 4 beads for this kind of start.

Row 3: String 1B; pass back through the last A exited. Skip the next 2B and pass back through the next A of the previous row. String 2B and pass back through the next A of the previous row, skip the next 2B and pass back through the following A of the previous row; repeat. String 1B and 1A; pass back through the last B added and the next B added in this row (Fig. 1, red thread). Pull the tail thread to tighten the beadwork along the bottom row.

Traditional Method Fig 1

Traditional Method Fig 1

Row 4: String 2A and pass down through the next B of Row 3 and up through the following B; repeat. String 1A and 1B; pass back through the A just strung and up through the second-to-last A (Fig. 2).

Traditional Method Fig 2

Traditional Method Fig 2

Rows 5 and on: Repeat Row 4 to the desired length, alternating A and B for each row.

Barta Method

This technique is described beautifully in Melinda Barta’s book, Mastering Herringbone Stitch. It’s a little easier to control and it produces neat, clean, 2-stack columns.

Rows 1 and 2: Use 2 colors of beads (A and B). Add a tension bead to the end of a comfortable length of thread. String 1B, 2A, 2B, 2A, 2B, 2A, and 1B for a total of 12 beads. Square-stitch the last B strung and the second-to-last B together. Loop the thread around the square stitch to form a turnaround and pass back through the last 1B/1A added (Fig. 3). Note: As with the first technique, you will want to always have a multiple of 4 beads with this kind of start.

Barta Method Fig 3

Barta Method Fig 3

Row 3: String 2B, pass down through the next A of the previous row and up through the following A; repeat twice. Pass down through the corner B, then square-stitch the first 2B together to tighten. Loop the thread around the square stitch to form a turnaround and pass back through the B/A/B beads along the edge of the beadwork (Fig. 4).

Barta Method Fig 4

Barta Method Fig 4

Rows 4 and on: Work across in regular flat herringbone stitch to the desired length, alternating A and B for each row.”

Shaw Method

When it comes to no-ladder herringbone starts, Beadwork magazine’s Technical Editor Meredith Steele’s favorite is by 2017 Beadwork magazine Designer of the Year Kassie Shaw. It’s easier to follow because you don’t have to string alternating bead colors to see the rows. It might seem a little fiddly with its two stop-beads, but it tends to lay the most herringbone-y at the beginning. You can also modify this stitch with a different turnaround so that your thread does not show.

Row 1: Use 2 colors of beads (A and B). Add a tension bead to the end of a comfortable length of thread. String 6B. Add another stop bead to the end of the 6B just strung, and pass back through the last B strung (Fig. 5, blue thread).

Row 2: String 2A, pass down through next B of the previous row and up through the following B; repeat. String 2A; pass down through the next B of the previous row, and up through the last A strung (Fig. 5, red thread).

Shaw Method Fig 5

Shaw Method Fig 5

Rows 3 and on: Repeat Row 2 to the desired length, alternating A and B for each row. Remove the first stop bead and remove the thread from the bottom row by pulling on the second stop bead.

Have you tried these no-ladder herringbone starts? Do you have other ways you like to begin herringbone stitch? Leave us a comment below!

Happy beading-
Jean Campbell

Updated October 30, 2018.


Practice your no-ladder herringbone skills with these great Interweave products:

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