Bead Crochet

bead crochet with polymer clay focal beadWhen I did a trunk show recently at the Gahanna Bead Studio in Ohio, there was a class in bead crochet going on at the same time. I love peeking and seeing what others are doing with beads!

The instructor, Hannah, had some beautiful work displayed and going on with her students, and I really liked the weight and feel of the bead ropes they were creating.

When I got back to Colorado, I was offered the opportunity to take a bead crochet class at our local bead store with some very creative friends, and we spent several hours with our incredibly patient instructor Toni learning how to choose the right thread, put our beads on to it (gotta LOVE those Big Eye needles!) and then crochet tubes while adding one bead with each stitch.

Once you get the hang of it, you do it over and over to create beautiful ropes. The patterns are determined by the way the beads are originally strung onto the thread.

We learned using a simple ABABAB pattern with two colors of beads. I picked bronze and black, and added gold as I hadn’t brought enough bronze, and I just alternated them as throughout. I never was very good at following directions without changing them some!

bead crochet necklaceIt took the entire class time to get an inch or two made, but by the end, we all had the hang of it. I went home and spent the next week stringing up smaller sections with different patterns to see how they turned out, and to practice what I’d learned. After a week of putting in several hours every day, I got my speed up and can go much further in an hour now–and I want to keep improving, too.

I tried AABBAA, ABBBBB…lots of different patterns, including a long time fave beadstringing pattern–mostly random. I do like throwing in some of everything but the kitchen sink. Because the beads are pre-loaded onto the thread, projects are easily portable, and great for doing in waiting rooms or while listening to television or conversations with people.

You have to pay attention to it, but not every second, especially once you get going.  (Although, when a stitch gets lost or an extra picked up, sometimes you have to stop, undo, and then go on again, and I do like noticing that as soon as possible!)

I also started looking at bead crochet books from the library, and at images online of gorgeous pieces that others have done. On Pinterest, I found patterns graphed out that showed how the final rope would look and also counted out the order and number of the beads involved in making it.

The central section of the necklace shown at left, with the golden diamond pattern on black, was my first attempt at following a pattern like that. It took several attempts to get things to line up right, but once I got going, I loved the way it turned out!I took all the trisampler bead tubes and strung them together on Beadalon cord, with bronze endcaps and a clasp I made in my metals class recently, and lampworked beads that I was given as a thank-you gift in the 2011 miniature mask swap (but that’s another story!)

bead crochet pattern The first bead crochet sections that I finished after class were paired with more bronze, and a polymer clay bead that I made several years ago that has always been waiting for something heftier than a single strand necklace to showcase her.

I like the idea of creating my own patterns, and the idea of the computer doing the counting of what colors go where in the design, so I followed some of the pattern images to find out what software was being used. Turns out that it was a free download for beaders called db-bead, and it has been updated recently and now works with Windows, Linux, and Macs.

Click here to find out more and download j-bead.

Here’s the first pattern I designed and tried using it. The hardest part in using it correctly was remembering to start with 8 beads in the chain, not 6 as I had been doing. Once I did that, all was good!

bead crochet pieces with polymer clay face and bead embroidery

The first sample shows the blue and black pattern as designed, with 8 beads in every row. The second sample is done with two fewer beads per row, and different colors, and adding a third color to the mix as well.

I love learning new ways of doing something, and saying, “well, what if I do THIS?” Sometimes it’s great, sometimes, not so much. I always learn something, though, and mistakes can sometimes be new techniques.

I’ve got two more necklaces ready to string up, and more in mind to make. Here is a peek at the next one to be strung up. I have to file the edges on a few more beadcaps to put it all together. Bronze wire eyepins will¬† sewn into each section using the leftover cord ends and more beads from my stash used to hook everything together. I did some bead embroidery around one of my polymer clay face cabochons.This summer, I vowed to make up samples using my components that I sell at shows, so people can see how they can work up.

I’m having a wonderful time with the new skill I’ve learned this summer, and I will add more pics to the page here as I finish up more necklaces.

This is fun! I highly recommend taking a class, as I already knew how to crochet, had looked at many books on bead crochet, and still didn’t “Get It” without Toni’s patient displays of the technique and help when I got lost.

(click the images to see larger versions)