What is Right Angle Weave?
If you have already learned other bead-weaving techniques, RAW is very different. With most stitches, you are working along a straight line, whatever combination of beads you are picking up and whichever bead you are passing through to attach them. For RAW, each stitch creates a little square, so this means your thread path is constantly moving round in a circular fashion (in fact a sort of figure of eight), rather than along a straight line. This can be rather confusing for the brain to compute at first, so you should know that it is very, very common for people to struggle with RAW. If this is you, then don’t feel bad – you’re in excellent company!
Whereas most bead-weaving techniques talk about adding a stitch, when you are adding each bead, RAW usually refers to ‘units’.
For basic RAW, each ‘unit’ is made up of 4 beads that sit at right angles to one another to form a square (although as you will see from the photo above, it can be hard to distinguish each ‘square’ if the beads are not sitting uniformly). Each unit has a top, a bottom and two sides. Depending on the pattern and the teacher, you may hear these referred to in the language of a ‘house’, so each unit having a ‘floor’, ‘ceiling’ and two ‘walls’. I have also seen it taught in terms of points of the compass, so each bead in the unit is referred to as ‘North’, ‘South’, ‘East’ or ‘West’. Personally, I think this terminology can cause more confusion, so don’t get bogged down in it – just play with the beads and find a language that makes sense to you. If you do find the house analogy or the compass analogy helpful, then use it, but if not, ignore it.
Every time you add extra beads, you should be thinking of trying to add a new square onto your beadwork, whichever direction you are working. As with other stitches, you will usually start by creating a straight row, then build additional rows on top of that, moving up or down.
Tubular and Cubic Right Angle Weave
As with the other major bead-weaving techniques, Right Angle Weave can be stitched flat (as the photo above shows), or it can be shaped, or worked in a tubular variation. This stitch also has a lot of three-dimensional possibilities. It can be used to make round multi-sided beaded beads, like the crystal beads shown in the photo below. You may also have come across the term CRAW, or Cubic Right Angle Weave. This is a variation that a lot of people find tricky to master, and it often gets confused with tubular RAW as it can look similar. In fact, it works by creating individual units in three dimensions, a bit like little boxes, so the resulting structure is very firm and can be used to create strong three-dimensional work. Tubular Right Angle Weave just builds extra rows on top of a base tube and is easiest when worked around an object like a knitting needle or mandrel (depending on the size of your tube). The finished tube is very floppy, so probably needs some kind of piping or similar material threaded through to give it some structure, but it makes a great base for embellishing.
Depending on the beads you are using and the variation of the stitch, you can find that Right Angle Weave leaves a lot of thread showing, so some patterns will use a tiny (usually size 11 or size 15) seed bead to cover the thread. These beads are worked in each unit, but ignored for the purposes of adding new units. Once you get used to the idea that this bead is just a thread cover, you can look beyond it to focus on the main beads when you are identifying each unit. The sample of Cubic Right Angle Weave photographed above actually uses little green size 15 beads as thread covers for the main peanut bead units and, as you can see, the end result is very attractive.
Right Angle Weave can also have different numbers of beads in each unit. The sample you have been looking at is the standard four sided variation with a single bead making up each side. However, each side could be made from two or three beads – you would just treat each little group of two or three as a single bead. You may also come across Triangular Right Angle Weave (TRAW) which has just three sides to each unit. This is the variation that is used to make the little round beaded beads pictured above. If you fancy having a go at that, the pattern is available here. You may also find patterns that work with five or six-sided units. They are still Right Angle Weave because of that circular thread path that adds beads in units rather than single stitches. Of course, the more sides you add, the more confusing it becomes to compute – this is definitely a stitch that you will enjoy if you have a logical, mathematical brain!
My top tip for mastering Right Angle Weave is to just keep practising until you can really see and understand the four sides of each unit and the figure of eight thread path. Once your brain is reading the beads in that way, you will wonder how you ever found it so mystifying! To start with, it’s a great idea to use different colours to help you learn and the end results can be very attractive, as my beginner’s bow bracelet pattern for a bracelet shows!
If you want to learn this technique, I have a free beginners pattern available for basic Right Angle Weave here and a free beginners pattern for Cubic Right Angle Weave here. I recommend that you make sure you are very comfortable with basic Right Angle Weave before you start to try and work on CRAW.
Right Angle Weave for Bezelling Cabochons
You will frequently find Right Angle Weave used to create an easy bezel around a Rivoli or other type of Cabochon. The flexible fabric that RAW creates makes it great for shaping around a stone. I use it a lot with semi-precious and natural cabochons that may not have a regular shape. You will use the RAW to create a tube to fit around the outside edge of the stone, then transfer to working in Peyote stitch to pull the edges in around the stone on the front and back. This is quite straightforward to do, but if you want an even quicker cheat, try working in Modified Right Angle Weave. This basically uses a thread path that adds in the first Peyote stitch row at the same time as you are creating the first row of RAW. The thread path is very easy to follow as your circles all travel in the same direction, not clockwise, then anti-clockwise. It also means you will be able to check on the fit properly because the Peyote part will be pulling the stitching inwards along one edge, so you can check that this fits your circle before you join the flat RAW piece into a tube.
You can find the MRAW technique explained in this free tutorial. If you want to have a go at using the technique yourself, then this earring project is a great place to start – it’s quick and easy, but will let you try out the MRAW. Once you have mastered this you will be using it to bead around all your Cabochons and stones, so if you want a few more ideas, try the book, ‘Bead Embellished Cabochons‘.