The Fabulous Brick Stitch Butterflies of Karen Parker

From Jennifer: One of the reasons I love my local farmer's market is that I can always find a huge variety of local, handmade fine crafts alongside the great vegetables, baked goods, and other local delicacies. (Don't even get me started on the organic wood-fired pizza from the portable pizza truck!) But a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover jewelry artist Karen Parker there with a display of beautiful, intricately detailed seed bead butterflies. I stopped to chat with her and admire her work, and I asked what beading stitch she used to make these beaded butterflies. Imagine my surprise and delight when she told me that they were all made with brick stitch!

Brick stitch was the first off-loom bead-weaving stitch that I taught myself when I began learning how to bead many years ago, and I'm happy to see it being used in so many creative and innovative ways in the beading community. Read on to find out more about Karen's brick stitch butterflies!

How Karen Got Started With Seed Beading

I'd always been interested in sewing, primarily garment construction, and had also taken a few classes in weaving with fibers. I liked beads, but used them primarily as an adornment for my finished garments. Then I purchased Creative Bead Weaving by Carol Wilcox Wells in 1996, and that was when I became more interested in bead-weaving. I was very attracted to those amazing sculptural pieces, and I loved how you can create something substantial out of tiny glass beads and thread using just a simple bead-weaving stitch!

Discovering the Connection Between Beads and Butterflies

As a biologist, I have always been inspired by microscopic images of butterfly wings. The colors of each wing come from millions of tiny scales, and as I looked more closely, I realized that those scales resembled tiny cylinder and seed beads! That was where the idea came to me to re-create these natural phenomena using seed beads. Like many beaders, the first bead-weaving stitch I learned was peyote stitch, but it turned out that brick stitch is ideal for creating the irregular edges of the butterfly wings, so I taught myself brick stitch. 

Inspiration From Nature

I never run out of inspiration for my beaded brick stitch butterfly designs, thanks to my husband (also a biologist) who introduced me to the Butterflies of America website. There are thousands of images of butterflies there, all of them identified by species, from which I can create patterns to bead up into different types of beaded jewelry.  When I create a new pattern for a beaded butterfly, I want to show as much detail as possible in the patterns and colors of the wings, so I prefer to use pinned specimens — they allow me to see more detail in each wing. 

Do you enjoy finding inspiration in unexpected places? I love getting the stories behind each beading project in the pages of Beadwork magazine. There's always a bit of inspiration to be found in the Designer of the Year projects, like the Ambassador Bridge Bracelet by Leslee Frumin.

Did you know that you can also get a digital subscription to Beadwork magazine? No matter what your preferred platform or preferred device for reading digital magazines, you can take Beadwork with you wherever you go! Make sure that you subscribe to Beadwork magazine so that you don't miss out on a single issue!

Bead Happy,


You can see more of Karen's beaded butterflies on her website, Wizard Island Designs, or purchase tutorials and finished jewelry from her Etsy Shop

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