The Five Main Stitches in the Art of Beading

Our school day history and social studies books reveal some of the first images many of us see of beads and the art of beading. Images of Native Amercians who accesorized elaborately with beaded leather clothes are usually in every child’s school days history book. Other images may include the use of beads as currency and ledgers made of knots.

Beading today is extremely popular among hobbist. It is not a new hobby at all. The art of beading has a rich long term history. The incas in Peru used knot tying to help keep records. The practice is still common in some villages the year of 2014. They are called “quipus.” A quipus is one main cord with various colored strings with knots. Most usually each color represents an item and each knot represents a number.

In the United States we can find the art of beading on clothing, various containers, wall hangings, furniture, curtains, pillow throws, jewelry and the list goes on.

Five beading stitches are most common. They are: (1) the peyote or gourd stitch; (2) the brick stitch; (3) the square stitch; (4)the herringbone stitch; and the (5)Pondo stitch.

The peyote stitch is also known as the gourd stitch. It is named for its use in making decorations for peyote ceremonies or to hold gourds. The peyote stitch is quite popular. The technique involves using either an odd or even number of beads per row. The peyote stitch is also used to weave flat srips into round or tubular shapes. Today we see the peyote stitch in many ring, cuff and earring bead designs.

The brick stitch name is derived from what looks like layering bricks on a wall. The beads are layered resembling bricks on a wall. This stitch is similar to the peyote stitch with a shift of 90 degrees. The brick stitch is also called the Cheyenne or Comanche shift seen in African artifacts as well as artifacts in Guatemala.

One of the strongest stitches in the art of beading is the “square stitch.” Each bead is connected to the four that surround it creating an extremely strong piece of work. Square stitching is similar to loomed bead work. It is commonly seen in clothes, belts and cuffs.

The herringbone stitch is also very popular among beading artisans. It is used mainly to connect clusters of beads tightly and securely. We see the herringbone stitch a lot in necklaces, bracelets and coin purse designs. The stitch enables a bead artisan to create patterns within patterns of different shapes and objects. Every bead jewelry artisan should master the skill of the herringbone stitch. It is quite beautiful.

The Pondo stitch, sometimes called the African circle stitch is common in modern bead jewelry designs. The stitch is usually made of two colors and looks like bead weaving. An African bead artisan may design ornaments and jewelry using light blue as the prominent color for adults. Orange and red beads are used for children. The stitch is named for Pondo in South Africa where it is still very popular.

Bead weaving and/or stitching in jewelry designs is always very eye catching. It is a valuable and enjoyable hobby to learn ensuring your jewelry designs are always unique and eye catching. It is an art that has stood the test of time and will most likely never go out of style, will always be in fashion, and be around for many more years to come.

Written by: Connie Limon, Bead Jewelry Artisan

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