Beading How To: Beadwork Basics

What's the best way to hold your leather as you bead? What's the easiest way to work with loose beads? How do you load your needle with hanked beads? Do you have any recommendations for needle sizes?...Michael answers some of your most frequently asked questions in this Beading How To: Beadwork Basics.

How to hold your material
One of the best things you can do for yourself to make beading easier is to figure out how you're going to hold what you're going to bead on - I usually stretch the material between my index finger and my thumb on the top, supported by my middle and ring fingers on the back.

Focus on direction
You also want to think about the direction in which you bead. I'm right handed, so I'm going to show you how I bead comfortably right handed.

For those of you who are left handed - I have taught beading classes for quite a few years, and have worked with some people who are comfortable just doing it exactly opposite (of how you would do this right handed) and some people try to curl their hand around and bead as if they were right handed (similar to how some people twist their writs clockwise, so they're writing from above)…it just depends on your own technique [and what you feel most comfortable doing].

It's really important to figure out…I've spent a lot of time working on a project before realizing that I was holding it wrong and beading in the wrong direction. It's all about improving your technique by doing something and making it easier instead of a chore…and that just something that comes with practice.

Let's begin...
Here's a little scrap of brain tanned leather. [Taking his threaded needle, he starts on the backside of his material and explains] I'm going to come up through the hide and then get some beads.

Adding beads to your sewing thread
I'm going to show you how to load your beading thread using both loose and hanked beads:

Loose Beads: If your beads are loose (these will be many of our old stock Venetian glass beads), just put them in a bowl and then just scoop them up with your needle. If you have more than one color of bead, you will want to have more than one bowl (one bowl per color). I've seen people mix all their beads together and then try to pick out particular colors…that can get really time consuming.

Hanked Beads: If you're going to take beads off a hank (like many of our Czech glass beads), just loosen one strand, slide your needle in beside the hank string, and gently pull…the beads should just slide right off.

I use size 12 beading needles. The great thing about them is that they're pretty small and narrow and can fit through just about anything…so if I make a mistake, I can easily back the needle out (of the leather or material I'm working on) and then start over. It's really nice to be able to do that if you need to fix a mistake.