Getting Started with Bead Loom Weaving
OK, so you’re thinking of getting started with bead loom weaving… What do you need to think about? What tools and materials should you be buying? If this is you, then Caroline French has got you covered! Here is her beginner’s guide to getting started with bead loom weaving…
What bead loom should I buy?
This is probably the one question I am asked the most. It can be a daunting prospect if you are new to weaving with beads. There are so many different varieties on the market that range from as little as £15 up to £150+. So where do you start?
I started out with one of the little wire looms that are available in most craft stores. They are okay for children to mess about with but, (and this is only my opinion), I think they are too restrictive for a true idea of what bead loom weaving is about. I would always recommend that a new weaver gets a loom that is sturdier and has adjustable tension.
You do not need to spend out a lot of money, a wooden ‘sleigh loom’ is a perfect starter loom. (Sleigh refers to the shape, like Santa’s sleigh) You can pick them up for around £20.
I know there are big brand names out there but until you are certain that bead loom weaving is for you I would not suggest that you lay out mega bucks on a bead loom that may end up decorating the inside of a cupboard for years. Once you have decided you are going to pursue your new hobby then yes by all means invest a few pennies for a fancy brand if you want to. I have some very expensive bead looms that I have been very fortunate to be gifted with but I still love my little wooden sleigh loom and use it often when making smaller items.
What thread is best when you are getting started with bead loom weaving?
Now this is where you get a huge divide in opinion. I would say use what you are used to with your ordinary off loom weaving. If you use fireline bear in mind it can work out expensive so you may want to rethink. Fireline will also give a stiffer piece of beadwork.
Personally I love the larger spools and cones of Nymo D. It makes for a really supple piece of bead work and is much cheaper. The tiny spools of nymo can be used but the thread is very prone to stretching and can cause your loom work to distort when removed from the loom. It really is a case of experimenting and finding what you like.
Bead loom needles
This is very much personal choice, use whatever you are comfortable with. If you want to try out longer needles then go for it. My needle of choice is a Size 10 or 12 long needle. I always use a new needle with each piece as they are lovely and straight and make it so much easier to thread through a line of beadwork.
Patterns for Bead Loom Weaving
There are so many options out there you can easily get lost in a sea of images. I have been lost in the void of Pinterest on many an occasion. If you google ‘free bead loom patterns’ you will have a huge choice pop up.
To start with I would recommend you keep your pieces relatively small in size, maybe 15 – 20 beads wide. As you pick up a whole row at a time the beads usually sit on the needle easily.
When you are more experienced you can go for wider pieces and test your newly found skills. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking “yeah yeah I’ve got this”, only to find you struggle with the size of your loom piece and toss it to one side in frustration.
There is beading software out there such as Beadtool4 that you can use to make your own patterns. This is good for when you are a little more confident. I started out with graph paper and coloured pencils (yes, I am that old).
I will be sharing a free pattern with you in the next blog post so don’t worry if you are at a loss as to what to make first.
Can you use cross stitch patterns?
You can, but be aware that cross stitch patterns use half stitches and single threads to define areas of the pattern. So, you may want to start with a simple design first. Also beads are a different shape to a regular ‘cross stitch’, so the beadwork may come out a slightly different size than you would expect.
Again, I would recommend that you experiment and see if you like the results. Personally, I have not really used cross stitch patterns very much as I like to make my own designs.
So, hopefully Caroline’s advice has given you everything you need to start getting set up. Stay tuned for your next step…
And don’t forget to check out Caroline’s Facebook page dedicated to Bead Loom Weaving!