Avoid These Mistakes Made by Beginning Beaders

Beading can be a fun, relaxing, and wonderfully creative outlet with lots of possibilities — if you get started on the right track. To help you move in that direction, I've put together the following list of common beading mistakes, along with some tips on how to avoid them.

  • 01 of 05

    Using the Wrong Beads for a Project

    Seed Beads Versus Cylinder Beads in Beadwork
    Both of these swatches use the same stitch and follow the same pattern; but the beadwork on the right uses size 11/0 green seed beads instead of the recommended 11/0 green cylinder beads, which are used on the left. ©Chris Franchetti Michaels

    When you're just starting out, it is tempting to jump into a beading project or tackle a pattern using whatever beads you have on hand. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it may not. The beadwork may not lie flat or hold its intended shape, beads may appear to be spaced incorrectly, or your completed design simply may not look right and you can't figure out why. 

    One example is loom beadwork which will always look more uniform when it is done with Japanese cylinder beads.

    Before you chalk...MORE this up to faulty technique, consider whether the real culprit is your beads. If you use beads that are even slightly different from those called for by a project's instructions, in size, shape, or even manufacturer, your beadwork is bound to look different from the example. That's because minor variations in bead geometry are compounded by the large number of beads in most beadwork. For instance,using a larger bead size than called for in the project instructions can have a big impact on the thread tension of the proejct.

    With experience, you'll learn to select appropriate substitute beads for the projects and patterns you encounter. In the meantime, stick to project instructions as closely as possible, or make substitutions only when the project suggests other types of beads.

  • 02 of 05

    Beading With Too Much Thread

    Tangled Beading Thread
    Tangling and knotting in a long length of beading thread. ©Chris Franchetti Michaels

    One thing that annoys beginning beaders the most is the thought of having to stop multiple times mid-project to add new beading thread.

    To avoid this, you might try stitching with an extra long length of thread that will last a long time. Unfortunately, long thread has its own set of drawbacks.

    First, it can snag on just about anything, from your shoelaces to the corner of your work table. Second, long thread is more likely to tangle than shorter thread. The time you spend teasing apart tangles...MORE and picking at knots can quickly exceed the time you save by switching thread less often.

    Another problem with extra-long thread is that it makes each stitch require more work, at least initially. When you pass through a bead in your beadwork, you need to pull the thread, stop, pull the thread some more, stop, and maybe even pull some more — just to complete one stitch. When you work with shorter thread, you can get away with just one or two pulls with each stitch, which means your project gets completed faster. 

    And last, but not least, the longer thread is subjected to more wear while it is pulled through the beads and it can cause it to break either while you are beading or after you have completed the project.

    The solution? Start out by pulling an arm span of thread at a time. And be patient about adding new thread; you'll get comfortable with it over time.

  • 03 of 05

    Beading with Incorrect Thread Tension

    Russian Spiral Rope Requiring Tight Thread Tension
    To minimize the amount of thread that shows through between beads, this Russian spiral rope requires tight thread tension. ©Chris Franchetti Michaels

    Thread tension affects how your beadwork drapes. When tension is too tight, beadwork curls or puckers, and when it's too loose, beadwork is floppy and may appear to have holes.

    There's no getting around the fact that it takes practice to achieve perfect thread tension. However, you can expedite the process by picking up some good habits early on. Most importantly, learn to give the thread a gentle tug after completing every stitch. You can make that a hard tug for projects that call for...MORE "tight" tension.

    Also notice how the way you handle your beadwork affects thread tension. For example, you might find that if you pause and set down your beadwork, the tension loosens. Be sure to give the thread a few tugs before you begin stitching again, to avoid leaving a loose area with gaps between beads.

    Although overly tight thread tension is permanent, it's often possible to correct tension that's too loose.

  • 04 of 05

    Splitting Your Beading Thread

    Split Beading Thread
    The upper right bead in this swatch is crooked because the thread beneath it was split. ©Chris Franchetti Michaels

    Thread splitting occurs when you inadvertently pass your beading needle through the thread in your beadwork. It can cause the last bead stitched to twist, rather than snapping into place and lying flat. Split thread also creates weak spots in you beadwork and makes it more difficult to tear out beadwork to correct a mistake.

    Fortunately, most beads used for beadweaving have large holes that allow for multiple, clean passes of thread. You can avoid splitting thread by positioning your needle as...MORE far away as possible from existing thread within each bead.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Being Afraid to Try New Beadwork Stitches

    A Centered Odd-Count Peyote Stitch Pattern
    Odd-count peyote stitch allows this geometric pattern to be centered on the bracelet band. ©Chris Franchetti Michaels

    There are so many beadweaving stitches and techniques to learn, and not all of them will become your favorites. But try not to limit yourself by developing stitch phobias, where you avoid a beadweaving stitch because you think it will be difficult to learn.

    A common beginner stitch phobia involves odd-count flat peyote stitch. Some people think that weaving around through the beadwork to reposition the needle is going to be much more difficult, especially compared to the ease of stitching even-cou...MOREnt flat peyote. However, odd-count flat peyote gives you some interesting design possibilities that otherwise are difficult or impossible to achieve — such as centering motifs and making shaped beadwork. If you avoid this stitch, you'll limit your creativity drastically.

    Select the stitches that you'd like to learn based on their end results. If you like what a stitch can do, you should pursue it. Just be patient, and keep in mind that all of the beadweaving stitches are doable. And even the more complicated techniques will become easier with practice.  

    Know that when you first start a new stitch, you should make a practice piece instead of expecting a perfect piece of beaded jewelry.

    Edited by Lisa Yang