Confusing Beading Terms Explained for Beginners


A few days ago, I shared a photo of a project I’ve just completed. Now, I happened to mention that the project had involved a lot of ‘frogging’. So, I ended up with a few comments on the photo to ask what I meant by ‘frogging’. Which led me to consider how many confusing beading terms we have. Once you’ve been beading for a while, they become common phrases that you’ll find yourself using. But as a beginner, this can all seem rather weird. So, I thought I’d enlighten you…

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Which confusing beading terms are we talking about here?

I’m sure, if you’re a beginner, you’ll find plenty of beading terms to confuse you. So, that’s why I wrote this handy blog post to explain some of the terms you’ll find within your beading patterns.

But what about all those confusing beading terms that you see popping up on social media posts? I’m thinking of WIPs, UFOs, Frogging, PHDs. Like any community, beaders have their ‘in-jokes’ and ‘slang terms’. But to an outsider, or a new member of the community, these can be absolutely mystifying.

So, let me enlighten you and then you can feel part of the ‘in-crowd’ too!

What is frogging?

Since I started with that term, let’s begin the explanation here.

The image I had shared was of my beaded camels. As you might imagine, they proved to be quite a challenge to design. So, I happened to mention that they required a lot of ‘frogging’.

Basically, I found myself beading a few rows, thinking, ‘that doesn’t look right’, and then ripping out those same rows of beads…

‘Rip it, rip it, rip it.’

That’s the noise a frog makes, right?

Hence, the slang term ‘frogging’. This could also be ‘un-beading’. Basically, just a term to explain what we all do (a lot!)…remove beads when we’ve gone wrong.

The project I was talking about was the camel beaded box design from my beaded Nativity.

What is a PHD?

You could be forgiven for seeing someone using this rather confusing beading term, and believing them to be a very clever individual with a high qualification.

But, when I’m using the term PHD in a beading context, I’m usually referring to a ‘Project Half Done’, not to my doctoral degree!

What is UFO?

Surely nothing confusing about this term? UFOs are unidentified objects seen flying through the sky, right?

Not if you’re a beader. When it comes to beading, a UFO is actually an ‘Un-Finished Object’. So, I think the former term might be a better acronym, but if it’s in a beading context, it will be referring to something uncompleted.

(I started making an arrangement of beaded carnations in a vase, back in 2018…it’s still a UFO!…But, if you want to do better than me, you can find the carnation pattern here.)

How about a WIP?

Are you starting to get the hang of these confusing beading terms yet? Could you hazard a guess at what beaders mean by WIPs?

That’s right… ‘Work In Progress’.

What’s the difference?

So, PHDs, UFOs and WIPs…what’s the difference between them?

I don’t know that there is one. Or at least, every beader you talk to might have a different view of this.

To me, a WIP suggests something that I’m actively working on. Whereas a PHD or UFO would be a project that I put to one side and forgot about. Maybe because I got stuck, or I lost interest in it, or I ran out of beads, put it away and then forgot to come back and finish it.

Some people have whole boxes of UFOs and PHDs. And, actually, they can be a nice challenge. If you’re stuck for a new project, then it can be great to turn to something half-finished and focus on ticking it off your to-do list.

(These lantern patterns give plenty of scope for spirit beads. So, if you want to try the pattern, click here).

How about spirit beads?

Is this a term you’ve come across? I actually wrote an entire blog post about spirit beads, which you can find right here. So, let me just give you a quick definition.

A spirit bead is a bead that’s in the wrong place. For example, you’re beading a peyote pattern, and accidentally add a blue bead in a stitch that should have been a green bead. You only notice it later on when something looks a little odd in the finished picture. So, do you take everything apart and replace it with the correct bead, or do you just leave it?…

…check out that blog post to find out what I recommend!


No, I’m not talking about the Australian animal here. This is in fact, an acronym for Waste Of Money Beads And Time. So, I hope you don’t end up with too many wombats over your beading career!


This is one that a lot of us probably have lying around… A project that is Not Even STarted Yet.

Beaded Clasps, Katie Dean


Are you guilty of this one? I know I am!

This a term to describe any of you who bead a necklace or bracelet, then put it to one side BEFORE you’ve attached the clasp. Because, let’s face it, attaching clasps can be a bit of a chore, and we’d all rather get on with the next fun, shiny project…

Do you have anything to add?

So, now I’ve explained those common, yet confusing beading terms, did I miss any? Have you come across any other terms that you don’t understand? Or do you have any terms that I’ve left out, but which you can share with us?

Leave a comment down below and let’s start on an unofficial dictionary of confusing beading terms!

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4 Responses


    Do you know what SABLE means in bead terminology?

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