Beading How To: Lazy Stitch

In great detail and in vivid color…Michael demonstrates the Lazy Stitch beadwork technique.

Let's start here with the Lazy Stitch (I don't know how it got the name "Lazy" because its certainly not for lazy people).

Here's a bag that's totally made up of lanes of Lazy Stitch (little beaded rows that make up each lane). See, these beads are bigger, these are smaller [Referring to the bag's beadwork, Michael points out the different sized beads used on this bag]. Because the color/size of the beads doesn't change within the row (the different sized bead rows are just butted up against each other) the size of the beads doesn't matter as much.

I did this bag using older Italian glass beads, except for these newer beads here[Michael points to the navy strips on the back of the bag] - you can tell because the older Italians just have a beautiful soft, rich quality to them.

[Referring to the design on the bag] You can graph out this design if you like…or if the design is really complicated, like those on a lot of older Lakota pieces (where the geometric design forks and goes out and keeps forking repeatedly), start in the middle of the design and work up one way and then go back to the middle and work down the other way…and that's how you get those really complicated designs - start in the middle and work out.

Now, for the demo...
[He's already taken his needle and has come up from the back of his leather and dips his needle into his bowl of loose beads] I'm going to scoop some beads on…I think about 8 of these beads is going to make a good row.

[He slides the beads down to the leather surface and pulling them horizontally, across the surface of the hide, he clamps down with his thumb] Now I'm using my thumb to wedge that together (keep them in place) and then I'm going to take my needle and nick the hide (right under the thread), come back up a bead's width away, and pull it snug - I'm just nicking the leather, I'm not going all the way through.

[Showing the backside, Michael shows his initial knot is not visible from the back, but not his stitch] Here's my knot, but there's no stitch.

I like to do this stitch away from myself. Some people like to do it to the side - if you're doing it this way, you want to do it from right to left.

[Michael loads his needle up with 8 more beads and proceeds to make another stitch] Now, we're going to lay this in…now, if you just keep track of your beads and make sure your rows are even, you really don't have to draw lines (some people try to draw lines on their beading material to keep their rows straight…something Michael doesn't recommend), it'll just kinda happen on its own…and whatever way you point your needle, that's the way the stitches are going to go.

[Getting ready for another stitch, Michael shows how to nick the hide again] Go in right there, come out right there. Just rely on your stitch length…don't worry about measuring, just make sure you have the right number of beads each time.

I personally think Lazy Stitch is a little cumbersome just because you have to do all that fussing with counting your beads if you want it to look right…but I like to use it for borders and some smaller things, its a good fill in stitch. It's certainly traditional for Lakota people, Cheyenne people, Arapaho people, and lots of other people…they usually used this or an overlay (applique) stitch…that's how it pretty much breaks down if tribes go with stylistic differences in their respective arts.

[Continuing to add rows to his hide] See, I'm just getting a nice little row. Going in there, nicking the hide, not going through. [He pulls his latest rows tight and holds up his leather with a few finished rows] There you have it…it just kinda keeps on going.

[He turns it over and shows the initial knot and lack of stitches on the backside of the leather]. There's just that one knot, no stitching, it's just nicked [he demonstrates how to nick the hide with the needle]. The hides just nicked, just under the surface…just enough so its not going to tear out. Commercial leather, sadly, is not going to cooperate with you as well in that way [referring to the nicking].

With the Lazy Stitch, a lot of times, I drape the hide over my finger [to get it in and out of the hide just right…he demonstrates]. I hold the hide between my fingers like this, load my needle and thread up with beads, and while nicking the hide, I fold the material back…and that helps me make that stitch (and also helps everything kind of nest together).

It's pretty basic. [Adding more beads to his needle and thread for another row] It's pretty relaxing…except for all that counting.

We kind of hitting this again [doing another demo on Lazy Stitch] so people can see more detail and get better insight into just how you do it. [Taking another stitch] I'm kinda folding it (the leather) back, just relying on my stitch length…its all a visual thing. [Finishing the stitch] So there you have it, you're on your way…you just serially repeat that a few thousand times, and, by gosh, you'll have something!

I'll show you what I do to tie off.
[Adding more beads to his needle and thread, he adds another row to his lane] Using my thumb nails to steady it on there (the hide), I'm going to take my needle and go through all the way to the back this time.

There's a few schools of thought on this, how to tie it off and finish it…some people just like to make a series of back stitches (just 3 or 4 nicked stitches) and then snip it and its done. I'm not one of those people…I like to take a back stitch (by nicking, not going all the way through) and then tying a little knot [he takes the stitch and leaves a loop for the needle to pass thought before pulling it tight]…just one little knot is all it takes. Snip it off…and there you have the start of your lane.

I use Lazy Stitch for borders [he shows some examples]. Lazy Stitch has kind of a cushy feel and look to it…you can see the parallel lanes and the designs made up within the rows. It's a nice stitch.