The Many Variations of Herringbone Stitch


Simple herringbone ropes can be braided together to make easy and striking jewelry


Dramatic curves can be achieved in flat herringbone stitch by using different sizes of beads

Bead weaving is like magic to me. You sit down with a pile of seed beads, some thread and a needle, and after a few (enjoyable) hours you have a piece of beadwork in front of you. Even more amazing to me are the seemingly endless variations of each bead weaving stitch.  Change up the beads, add in a few different sizes or work it as a tube, and you have something completely new that might look nothing like the original stitch. For me, herringbone stitch is one of those magic bead weaving stitches that can do, well, pretty much anything you want it to.

Herringbone stitch is also known as Ndebele stitch, referring to the descendants of the Nguni Tribe of South Africa where this particular beadweaving stitch was believed to have originated.  It is used to create jewelry, personal adornments and for embellishing traditional clothing and for creating small three-dimensional objects and sculptures. At first glance, herringbone stitch resembles square stitch but upon closer inspection you notice the tiny angles at which the beads lie against each other, giving herringbone stitch its characteristic look.

I love changing the look of basic herringbone stitch. You can create curves and textures and all kinds of beautiful and intricate patterns with it with only a few sizes of beads.  It can be as simple as making a few basic herringbone tubes and then braiding them together like I did in my Iridescent Braids necklace and bracelet set, or as dramatic as the curves I made by using several sizes of seed beads in the Ode On a Grecian Urn necklace. Herringbone stitch is one of those beadweaving stitches that combines combines well with other stitches, too like in Tina Koyama's Wild Ruffle bracelet and Susan Yvette England's African Inspirations.

The thread path of herringbone stitch can be a little tricky, particularly when working in flat herringbone stitch. Like peyote stitch and right-angle weave, the thread path moves through the beads themselves as the beads are added in pairs across rows and in tubular form. If you've never tried herringbone stitch before, a good book – or even better yet, a good video – is indispensable for helping you navigate through the many nuances of this versatile and fun beadweaving stitch.


Herringbone stitch combines with other beadweaving stitches in Tina Koyama's Wild Ruffle bracelet

Susan Yvette England takes advantage of the tribal feel of herringbone stitch in her African Inspirations necklace

Never tried herringbone stitch before? No worries. If you're a visual learner (like me), sometimes it makes it easier to learn a new beadweaving stitch from a class or a video instead of from a book. And if you've always wanted to learn herringbone stitch, who better to teach the ins and outs of this beautiful beadweaving stitch than Beadwork magazine editor, author and artist Melinda Barta? In Beadwork: Herringbone Stitch, Melinda takes you through six lessons in herringbone stitch that cover the basic mechanics of this popular beadweaving stitch and then goes a step further, showing you ways to add shape and embellishment to your stitching.

The great thing about this video download is that you don't have to be particularly tech-savvy to get it on your laptop or desktop computer.  It only takes a few minutes to download the entire video before you're watching and learning wherever is most comfortable for you! It's just like taking a class with a beadwork expert, except that you don't have to travel and you can take the class any time that's convenient for you. Learning from a video also lets you learn at your own pace – you can pause and restart the video any time you need to, and the close up shots give you a front-row seat to the bead stitching action. Seeing the directions and hand movements can make it so much easier to learn a new beadweaving stitch! You get the benefits of having a classroom experience with the convenience of learning at your own pace in your own home.

Herringbone stitch really is one of those beadweaving stitches that inspires me to experiment and create with my beads. No matter how experienced I get as a beadweaving artist, I feel like herringbone stitch will always have something to teach me. Is there a beadweaving stitch that inspires you? Share it here on the blog!


Bead Happy,





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