Peyote stitch is a common and very popular bead-weaving technique. Like many of these traditional techniques, its precise origins and history is a mystery.
As far as I know, the oldest sample of beadwork that looks like Peyote stitch, is Ancient Egyptian.
Today, Peyote stitch is perhaps most commonly associated with Native American Indian beadwork. It’s name, pronounced ‘Pay-o-tee’, is Native American. The stitch is traditionally associated with objects made for religious purposes. Native Americans refer to the same stitch as ‘Gourd stitch’ when it has been used for non-religious objects.
Recognising Peyote Stitch
In practical terms, Peyote stitch is recognisable by its ‘up bead’, ‘down bead’ pattern.
Different teachers will refer to this in different terms. Some might refer to ‘teeth’ as the pattern is rather like the teeth of a zipper. Others may use ‘turrets’ as it can also resemble the turrets on a castle. The terminology is simply there to help you understand the stitch and thread path. So, if you can remember it more easily in a different way, then that’s fine.
Styles of Peyote
Like most other bead-weaving techniques, Peyote stitch comes in a variety of different forms.
The basic Peyote stitch is a flat strip that can be stitched in ‘odd count’ or ‘even count’. This refers to the number of beads you use to start the stitch.
If you begin with an even number of beads, you will be following the simplest form of the technique. This has a nice easy turn around at the end of each row. If you begin with an odd number of beads, the turnaround becomes a little more complicated.
Any strip of peyote stitch starts with a string of beads. These will form the first two rows of your beadwork. This confuses people until they come to understand that the ‘up’ and ‘down’ bead pattern of Peyote stitch defines how the rows are perceived.
A single row is formed from the beads that are sticking up. So, in reality, this appears to be every other bead. You achieve this pattern by starting with your initial string of beads, then adding a new bead between every other bead in the string.
So, if you pick up a new bead and pass your needle back through the last but one bead in your string, this will pull that bead upwards a little. The new bead will force the ‘last bead’ from your string to sit downwards, creating the turret pattern that you can see in the photo at the top. You can of course add patterns to your peyote stitch strip.
Peyote stitch diagrams in a tutorial will look something like the photo below. You can see the threads linking the ‘up’ and ‘down’ beads and you can also make out how you might turn around at the end of each row.
So, you will work back and forth along the strip, adding the rows bead by bead, one at a time. If you would like to learn the different Peyote stitch techniques, then you can find a blog on each in the ‘Learn Peyote Stitch’ section.
A simple idea to try – Zipping Up!
You can create simple jewellery from beaded beads. Start by stitching a strip of even count Peyote – 10-12 rows long.
Now, see where the ‘teeth’ metaphor comes in handy. If you have an even number of rows, you will find that the two ends of your strip will fit together like the teeth of a zipper. So, you would fold your strip over and join your first row onto your final row by ‘zipping up’.
This term, ‘zipping up’, simply means stitching back and forth from one row to the other to join two pieces. As you can see from the photo (above), these very simple beaded beads actually make very effective jewellery.
If you notice, the ends of the beaded bead (or peyote tube) are flat. So, now let me tell you about another development of peyote stitch, the tubular variation.
This still creates a tube, but the beads will sit the other way around. So, your up and down beads are at the ends of the tube.
The difference comes from the way in which you build Tubular peyote. It starts from a circle of beads instead of a straight line.
You will still be working in rows in the same way. But instead of working back and forth, you will work round and round the tube, building it upwards. Each row starts and finishes with a ‘step up’ a tricky, but clever little manoeuvre that enables you to distinguish one row from another.
If you want to try a basic tubular peyote stitch project, the peyote stitch bangles pictured are a great starter project. They use some clever colouring to help you to master the technique.
You can also shape Peyote stitch by increasing and decreasing beads within a row. The same technique applies whether you are shaping a flat strip or a tube.
If you try adding shaping to a tube, then you can make a circle. Instead of adding single beads in each stitch, you will add pairs of beads in certain places to create the shape you want.
You can vary this shaping to create triangles, hexagons, pentagons and squares, either in their flat or three-dimensional forms. This is what makes peyote stitch such a versatile technique. It is certainly one of my favourites and a stitch that I return to use time and time again. If you want to have a go at shaping, then the bracelet pattern pictured above is a great way to learn how to increase and decrease.
The three-dimensional charms bracelet is a nice gentle introduction to creating dimensional beadwork. Again, it uses colouring that is aimed to help beginners to understand the technique.
You can also shape flat Peyote by increasing or decreasing at the ends of the row. Again, you have different ways of doing this, so if you want to learn more, pop over to the ‘Learn Peyote Stitch’ section and follow the blog in there.
If you’re ready to try a project, then the Dahlia beaded beads (below) will give you an easy introduction to creating flat diamond shapes.
Over to You!
If you’re ready to start learning the basics, then follow this link… That will give you the basic tools. Then, you can start exploring. Peyote stitch is one of the most commonly used techniques. So, you will find thousands of fabulous projects and patterns to try.
When you feel confident with the stitch using traditional seed beads, you can start to play with the shaped seed beads, like Superduos… The possibilities are literally endless, so have fun!
If you like this article and want to read more, you can buy the Focus on Peyote edition of My World of Beads in magazine format. This will give you three projects. Plus, articles on pricing your work and basic technique tips.
Take a look at the preview pages below. Then place your order by clicking on the shopping cart icon underneath.