Spirit Beads: why you should love them!


If you’re new to beading (or even if you’re not), you might be wondering what spirit beads are. So, let me start by explaining that, then tell you why you should love, not fear them.

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What are spirit beads?

Basically, a sprit bead is any bead that is sitting in the wrong place.

We find them a lot in Peyote stitch patterns. For example, you might be following a pattern chart, accidentally mis-read it, and end up adding the wrong colour of bead in your stitch. (If you have difficulty in following Peyote pattern charts, this brilliant online course will make you an expert in no time!)

You might not notice the mistake at first. But when you sit back and look at the pattern, you might suddenly see that the colouring is looking a little odd. Or, you might just find on the next row that your bead is different from what you were expecting.

Now, when this happens, most people want to take out the offending bead and replace it with the right one. In a second, I’m going to give you three reasons NOT to do this.

Before I do that, let me just clarify. Spirit beads are not restricted to Peyote stitch. They can appear in any bead-weaving technique. It’s always possible to add the wrong colour (maybe even the wrong size?!) accidentally in a stitch.

Can you spot the spirit bead in this Cubic Right Angle Weave project?

Spirit beads: why you should love them! Katie Dean, My World of Beads

How do you get spirit beads?

Sometimes it is just human error. If you’re beading while tired, or beading in poor light, you can accidentally pick up the wrong bead and not notice.

On other occasions, I like to blame the beads… Sometimes the wrong bead jumps onto the needle and you don’t notice! (They can be sneaky like that!)

So, this isn’t something that only happens to beginners. No matter how long you’ve been beading, or how experienced you are, you’re still going to make mistakes.

Why you should embrace these beads…

Your instinct may be to immediately rip out your work and correct the mistake. Now, that’s fine if you spot it early on. But what happens if you don’t notice the mistake until several rows later, or even after you’ve completed the project?

How do you correct it then?

Well, you can un-do hours of work to take you back to the spirit bead. Then, replace it. You might know of a few tricks to replace beads too. But I’m going to suggest you actually do nothing…Just leave the spirit bead in place.

And, I’ll give you three reasons why you should follow my advice…

The first reason to leave your spirit bead alone

Ask yourself this: did you spot the spirit bead in the photo above? How long did it take you to find it? And did you fall prey to my little trick? – there are actually two spirit beads in the sample, not just one!

My point is, your ‘wrong’ bead might be very obvious to you. We are all hyper-aware of our own mistakes. But other people frequently don’t even notice them.

So, maybe nobody else will be any the wiser…

The second reason

I actually deliberately put spirit beads into the work I’m going to sell. I choose a spot that’s not going to be too obvious, then deliberately add the wrong colour of bead.

Why would I do this?

Well, it marks the piece out as mine. Other people might make the same or a similar design, but mine will always be original because of my spirit bead. Think of it as a trademark if you will.

I include a note for my customer so they will know where to find this identifying mark. But it won’t be obvious to anyone else. You can see in this necklace, there’s no sign of the spirit bead from the front, but it is there…

Superduo duet cellini spiral flower necklace pattern, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

(If you like that necklace, click here to get the beading pattern)

The most important reason to leave your spirit bead in place

Unless you’ve come across this before, you’re probably wondering why I keep referring to these as ‘spirit beads’ and not just ‘mistakes’.

Well, the ‘spirit bead’ isn’t just a beading term. Nor is it something I made up. It is actually an ancient symbol of luck. Throughout the ages, and across all the continents, tribes and civilisations have used this term.

It might relate to beading, or it might relate to another craft or art. It’s also found in architecture.

This ancient belief states that only the Divine is capable of creating perfection. So, for a human to attempt to create something perfect, means they are challenging the Divine power. This would be profoundly unlucky. So, everyone is encouraged to make a deliberate mistake by way of acknowledging human imperfection. By acknowledging your humility before the Divine, the Gods (or the Universe, if you prefer) will smile upon you.

So, next time you’re contemplating spending hours ripping out your work, why not just leave the mistake in there? It’s going to save you precious time, which you can use on another project. And it will make sure you always have a good store of luck on your side.

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6 Responses

  1. Katherine Chelini says:

    It’s really hard to read your newsletter when the font color isn’t black or a similarly high contrast color. While I will admit that the grey is attractive and esthetically pleasing, I struggle to understand the text. Please consider function over form. Thanks!

  2. Kim says:

    In ceramics, it’s wabi-sabi; finding the beauty in imperfection. I consider it to be a very important part of what gives any piece its individual character, no matter the materials or technique used. I’m also a long-time believer that if you keep your mouth (or fingers) quiet, no one will know you goofed. Another good post, thanks.

    • beadflowers says:

      Thank you, Kim. It’s great to hear the details of this in other crafts. I know the idea is shared across a lot of different arts and crafts – even into architecture, I believe. And you’re absolutely right…nobody will notice unless you point out the problem!

  3. Cathy says:

    Hi Katie – I have many projects that have “spirit” imperfections! Not that I’ve deliberately done them, although I love that idea, but that I’ve found after a project is finished or almost finished. I just say the “God’s are happy” that it’s not perfect! And it leaves room for me to be better next time. My sister cross-stitched a piece for me, had it framed, and then saw a “mistake”. She told me about it & it took me forever to find it! So I agree…it’s kind of fun to look for it! Take care & happy beading!

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