Whistle While You Work and Brick Stitch Beaded Butterflies

Flipping through just a few pages of Brick-Stitching Nature: Charts for Beaded Butterflies, Dragonflies, and a Honeybee was all it took to convince me it was time to perfect my brick stitch. Being somewhat of an insect nerd, these beautiful brick stitch patterns of actual butterfly species, created by biologist and beader Karen Parker, called out to me.

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Brick stitch beaded emerald swallowtail, by Karen Parker, from Brick-Stitching Nature: Charts for Beaded Butterflies, Dragonflies, and a Honeybee

I was perusing this eBook because, to the delight of everyone at Interweave, Karen had written a second book featuring 12 new patterns: Brick-Stitch Beaded Butterflies.

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To prepare for the launch of Karen’s new book, I was invited to participate in a promotional video. Since I already had my heart set on making the emerald swallowtail from the first book, I was ready to jump in.

I love anything crafty, but I have to admit that I had never tried seed beading prior to working at Interweave. Therefore, shortly after starting, I initiated myself into this insanely tiny art form by watching Tammy Honaman’s comprehensive online workshop, Learn These Stitches: Peyote, Brick, Square, Daisy Chain, and RAW. I loved her reassuring wisdom: You’re in control! You can make those beads do what you want!

Having just that bit of brick stitch under my belt, the butterfly was challenging at first. My rows were uneven, I had to backtrack to fix mistakes, and worst of all, I kept stabbing myself in the thumb knuckle. After false starts and a couple of hours, I had but a few rows to show for my efforts. But what rows they were! I could start to see the pattern emerging. And it’s true what they say—there’s something relaxing about the methodical process of beading.

I took my swallowtail home to continue working on it, where I could spread out my Delicas on the kitchen table. Naturally, as soon I started to work, the two freckled faces of my boys appeared beside me, watching intently. Then came the declaration I had been expecting: “I want to make one!”

My kids (seen above) are no strangers to arts and crafts; after all, my 6th grader (right) taught himself to knit a few years ago with nothing but YouTube and a pair of sharpened chopsticks. And my 2nd grader (left) can spend hours mixing up his own unique hues of watercolors.

I had a sudden idea: I ran to the basement and returned triumphantly with pony beads. Their eyes traveled from the plastic, all-black pony beads to the sparkly, size 11 seed beads. As you can probably guess, the pony beads were relegated back to the realm of the basement. My older son quickly learned the pattern and successfully brick-stitched a few rows of a dragonfly. For my younger son, catching the tiny threads between beads was tricky, so I started him on a peyote stitch practice piece instead. Imagine my husband’s surprise when he walked in and saw the three of us working with miniscule beads at the kitchen table!

Eventually, my older son went off to play a video game. After an agonizing moment of indecision, my younger son chose to continue beading a bit longer. Stopping to untangle his thread slowed my own progress, but it was nice to have his company. And even after both boys had moved on to new activities, they continued to check in on me to “ooh” and “ahh” over the growing butterfly, feeling its smooth rows with their fingers. (Don’t you love doing that?)

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By the time the video shoot rolled around, I was feeling pretty good about doing a brief demonstration of brick stitching a butterfly wing. Those wickedly bright studio lights turned out to be amazing for beading. The beads popped into place, stacking up with satisfying precision with just a slight tug to remind them who was in control.

The only thing I hadn’t accounted for was how tricky it would be to manipulate 26-gauge wire into perfect antennae with tiny beads at the tips. Luckily, our videographer Andrew had infinite patience with me. As his reward, I posed him with beaded butterflies balanced precariously all over him.

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The best part of the shoot was simply gazing at Karen Parker’s collection of finished butterflies. With the light playing on their wings, they appeared to come magically to life. If you’re a bug fan like me, or even just a butterfly fan, you’ll love these brick-stitch patterns that mimic the natural world.

—Tamara Kula
Producer for Bead & Jewelry

Can’t get enough beaded critters? Check out this fun beaded pets article.

Add to or start your butterfly collection, today!

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