Beading How To: Materials & Patterns

Our Beading How To this episode, Michael talks about the best materials to bead on and shares a few tried and true tips for choosing/using beading patterns.

What to bead on
Leather & Felt: I'm showing you how to bead on brain tanned leather, because its just the best thing to bead on…it's easy to bead through…the needle will easily go right through it.

Leather and felt are 2 things that are easy to bead on because the edges don't ravel…most cloth (when you cut it) is going to fray. To keep it from fraying, you can use Fray Check or you can bind the edges, but leather or felt is good.

Crib Liners: Another thing that people around here use - a lot of Indian people (when they are making outfits) really like to cut up crib liner (this is a rubbery material that has flocking on both sides). They love to bead on this because it is thick enough to hold your stitches and it does not fray…people really, really like that. [To get this material, you just have to go and buy actual crib liners…some places you can buy it by the yard.]

Beading patterns
Graph paper: A lot of people do use graph paper…we supply a one size here at the store (I think its size 11/0 because that's the most popular size of bead). You can certainly allow and extrapolate for the size difference in your beads by using the one size of paper.

A lot of different bead books and pattern books will also have graph paper (or transparencies) in the back, and you can just photocopy them and certainly use that as well.

Graph paper works well for Lane/Lazy Stitch, Loom Beading, and they also make Peyote graph paper, too…but these will not work for the Applique Stitch since its way more free-form and you just have to work off a sketch or draw some guidelines (but, I would draw as little as you could on your material).

Photocopies: [Holding a paper copy of a beaded design, Michael explains] This is a way for a person to have a pattern (its a real traditional way). I just copied the image from an exhibit catalog - its a flap for a belt bag…and with the miracle of photocopying, I was able to enlarge it to the bead size I needed, then just basted that copy onto my leather, and sewed right through the paper…and because it is a picture of a beaded bag, it's like bead by number.

You can apply this to almost anything…(for instance) you can draw your own pattern, use a photograph and bead over that…you can do just about anything with this.

Also, if you're leather's a little thin, the paper helps to stiffen it a little bit since the paper that you're beading on is there (it stays on the piece) and then when you're going to do the background (once the design is done), then all you do is tear it off (it will become serrated from the stitching) and then bead the background (the paper pattern should be used only for the detail).

Its a very old and traditional technique (I ignored it for years, but now I wish I would have tried it a long time ago). Using the paper pattern technique, you don't have to draw on your piece of leather - you should never draw with pencil or ink on your leather.

Drawing on Leather (not recommended): I know a lot of people are in the habit of drawing lines to do Lazy/Lane Stitch, but what I encourage people to do is work on their technique and not do that (draw on the hide) because the lines made with a pencil or a pen will never come out. If you're going to do that, if that's your habit, its better to use a colored pencil the color of the leather (yellow or gold) or your background. The Schwan brand is pretty heavily pigmented and you can just brush it off when you're done (and it kind of disappears).

Another product you can use is the disappearing ink that people use for quilting. It will also work because you put it on and it just vanishes (allegedly)…sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't depending what you put it on.