What are beading patterns?
This may sound like a blindingly obvious question, so I hope the answer won’t surprise you. Beading patterns are the instructions for making a project using beads. This could be a piece of jewellery or something more practical or ornamental.
Every designer and magazine has their own style of presenting these instructions, but there are some common elements in all beading patterns.
When you are starting out with any new craft, the instructions can take a bit of getting used to. If you are a real beginner, then it is worth checking out some of the more common beading terms that you are going to come across in your beading patterns. Beyond that, I want to offer you three handy hints that will help you get the most out of any beading pattern.
Beading Patterns: Handy Hint 1
Before you start beading, make a photocopy of your pattern. This applies whether it’s from a book, a magazine or a pattern you bought direct from a designer. Hang on a minute, I hear you say, doesn’t that contravene copyright laws? Well, yes it would if you then passed that pattern on to someone else to use, but you’re not going to do that.
Why You Should Photocopy Your Beading Patterns
The reason it’s a good idea to create a photocopy of all your beading patterns before you use them is so you can scribble notes on them. I guarantee that the first time you make a project from a new pattern, however experienced you are, you will find something in there that causes you a tiny problem. You will probably solve the problem, but you will most likely want to make a little note to yourself about what you did. Then, next time you come to make the project you won’t make the same mistake again.
Secondly, unless you happen to be making a project that you can complete in a single session, you will find yourself walking away from the pattern part way through. So, you want to mark the point you reached when you left. Maybe you also make a note or two about what you need to do next. Even if your break is only for a few minutes, it’s amazing how quickly you lose the train of thought you were following as you worked …Or at least I do!… So, a handy little note will help you pick up where you left off.
As you can imagine, once you’ve scribbled all over your beading patterns, you may come back to them and wish you hadn’t! Some notes you made when you started out may become obsolete when you are more advanced. The little notes that you made to tell you where to start next time will just be confusing second time around. So, if you only scribbled on a copy, you can just recycle this and start over next time around. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I was brought up never to write in books!
Beading Patterns: Handy Hint 2
Always read the pattern. Well, it’s hardly rocket science is it? Actually, you might be surprised! A very large number of mistakes are made by people not reading the instructions properly. We all do it. In our anxiety to get the next row or the next bead in place, we read half an instruction and assume we know the rest! So, remember that old saying, ‘more haste, less speed’? – it’s very true.
The First Reading
When you take your beading pattern out to start, read the entire pattern all the way through before you’ve even taken out your beads. It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Well, maybe not, but it will save you a whole host of potential pitfalls along the way.
Now don’t expect to follow everything as you do this first read-through. Unless you have a brilliant three-dimensional mind, or it’s a very simple pattern, or it’s a technique that you know inside out and back to front already, you’re probably going to get lost part way through. This is fine: this initial read-through is all about spotting the big things.
So, don’t worry about the details of which bead goes where and how you’re going to turn around and so on. You just want to be looking at the big picture. Is there a component that you’re going to be making over and over again? Is this component the same each time? Or are you going to be told to do something different with some of them? Are there hints and tips that might be useful for you to know at the outset? Does the pattern tell you to use your tail thread later on?
You’d be surprised how many people finish off their tail thread after a couple of rows, as it’s getting in the way. Then they reach step 20 and read the immortal words, ‘now return to your tail thread and use it to…’ Oops: what tail thread would that be?…ah, the one I cut off in step 2!
A Tale of Woe to Learn a Lesson
I once had a lady contact me to tell me how frustrated she had been with a pattern of mine that had been published in a magazine. It had involved making individual components. However, as you made additional components, you had to join them to one another. This join was incorporated into the final row of each new component. The lady had just read the first couple of steps and assumed she knew what she was doing. So, she carried on and made all her components. She finished each one off neatly, then read that she should have joined them together!
I can understand her frustration and it brought me no joy to hear about it, but it is a great lesson in the importance of that initial read through!
Beading Words and Pictures
As you work with your beading patterns, remember to use all the information provided. A good pattern will offer clear written instructions and clear photos or diagrams to accompany these. We all have a natural tendency to prefer words or images. So, the way in which we follow a pattern will often reflect that.
If you love putting together flat-pack furniture just following those little diagrams, you’ll probably want to treat your beading patterns the same way. If you get a kick out of reading an instruction manual through from cover to cover, you may try the same when you are beading.
Unfortunately, both of these techniques are going to cause you a problem at some point. It is a simple fact that some beading techniques are really complicated to explain in words, although very simple to actually do. Some techniques are difficult to draw in diagrams or photos. So, they need some sort of written explanation to illuminate what the image is trying to show.
So, when you are following beading patterns, you need to make sure you use both the words and the diagrams/photos together. If one element is unclear to you, then the chances are the other element will provide the detail that clarifies everything.
Beading Patterns: Handy Hint 3
Different beading patterns may approach things differently. Some will give each of your beads a label (eg letter (A), (B), etc). Other patterns will use a shorthand code. So, size 11 seed bead in red might become 11R. A few designers will write everything out long-hand, but this makes for a tedious process and it actually makes things very difficult to read. Compare the two alternatives in the image and see what I mean!
How to Beat Memory Loss!
Any pattern that uses shorthand will give you some clue to the shorthand labels at the outset. I don’t know about you, but I have a real problem remembering that my (A) beads are the size 15 blue, my (B) the size 11 red, my (C) were the crystals, my (D) were the pearls etc. I can maybe cope with a couple of labels. More than that, and I need to keep referring back to the materials list to check which bead is which.
Well, happily, there is a very simple way to get around this problem. Arrange all your beads in little piles on the beading mat and label each pile with the shorthand code. Then as you are reading ‘Pick up 2(A) and pass through the next (C)’ you will immediately be able to see which are your (A) beads and pick them up from the right pile. A quick glance to your (C) pile will also allow you to confirm that you are about to pass through a (C) bead. So, all you have to concentrate on is following the thread path.
Keep Fit While Beading!
Similarly, if you have all your tools to hand to start with, it makes it easier to grab things as you need them whilst you follow the pattern. ..Although I probably should be advising you to keep getting up and walking around, not encouraging you to sit still! It is certainly true that you should make sure you take regular breaks. This stops your body cramping up and also to allows your eyes and brain to take a rest.
So, armed with these handy hints, you’re ready to go ahead and enjoy all those wonderful beading patterns! If you’ve found this article useful, please share it with all your beading buddies. If you want to get more helpful beading advice, then please follow my blog.