Stitching Durable Beadwork: How to Create and Care for Lasting Jewelry

In today's blog I share one of my favorite sidebars from my book Mastering Peyote Stitch, plus a few extra tips and techniques that aren't included in the book.

Follow these simple stitching tips and care guidelines to keep the jewelry you devoted hours into making looking brand new. Don't forget to share this information with any non-beaders you gift or sell your work to; they might not be as familiar with the amazing yet often delicate architecture behind beadwoven jewelry.

–Never stitch with a damaged thread. If you see a thread fray, replace it immediately to avoid weak spots. Wax and thread conditioner can help prevent fraying, but be sure to inquire about its archival quality with its manufacturer.

–Keep the work flexible. Beads can break easily when pieces made with too tight tension are manipulated. After every two or three rows or rounds worked, very gently twist and turn the beadwork to keep it a bit malleable.

–End your thread after completing intricate components and before starting clasps. If a thread does break between components or at a connection point, you'll be left with an easy repair.

–Store pieces flat or rested on neck forms. Hanging a beaded rope or strap on a small jewelry hook can stretch the thread that joins the beads beyond repair. Resist the urge to keep all of your beautiful beadwork on display. Instead, keep them dust free in a drawer or in a nice jewelry roll like the one shown here from Etsy. Or, better yet, splurge for a glass china cabinet.

–When wearing your jewelry remember, "last thing on, first thing off" to keep makeup, perfume, and hairspray off the beads.

–Always prestretch nylon threads. Otherwise, the thread will stretch after you finish, resulting in loose beads.

–Double your thread when stitching crystals and other sharp-holed beads. This way, if one thread breaks, you'll have a little more time to repair the damage before the second breaks and you lose your bead(s).

–Reinforce, reinforce, and reinforce areas joined by magnets so they can withstand repetitive pulling.

–Avoid glue. Even the best glues can become brittle, discolor, or deteriorate over time. Almost all beadwoven pieces can be made with just a needle and thread.

–There are two theories when it comes to thread length: 1) Use long thread to reduce the number of knots in the work; knots can create weak points. 2) Use short length of threads to cut down on tangling and the wear and tear caused by passing through beads multiple times. Personally, I'm in the second camp, but please find what works for you.

–Diligently cull your beads. Sharp-edged beads lead to thread breakage so it's best to avoid them.

–Never trim a thread next to a knot; it will always find a way to come undone. Instead, weave back through several beads after tying the knot and before ending the thread.

–When stitching crystals, work the first pass with light tension with the goal of setting the beads in place. Then, work a second round, securely stitching them in place. Always pull the thread straight away from the bead to avoid cutting it on the side of the hole.

–Exposed threads=weak points. Consider working picots (as shown here; see Beadwork magazine for more how-tos) or other embellishments along the edges of flat peyote to conceal and protect exposed threads.

–Be sure your thread size is appropriate for the job at hand. Thin threads may break too easily. Thick thread may make your work rigid or fill your beads too quickly, which prevents you from making multiple passes.

–When zipping together two peyote edges, pull the entire length of the thread through the work after passing through just two or three beads. If you make small stitches down the entire edge and then try to pull the rest of the thread through, you'll put unneeded strain on the remaining thread.

What other great techniques do you use for protecting your jewelry for future generations?

Have fun!
Melinda Barta
Editor, Beadwork magazine

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