Thursday, July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Willow’s Love Beads

It’s interesting to look back at how much jewelry trends changed over just two decades - from the big, gaudy, plastic and neon pieces of the 80’s, to the subtle and delicate favorites of the 90’s. Gigantic brooches and hot pink hoop earrings were replaced by the Y necklace and helix piercings (upper ear cartilage).

I don’t recall a huge upswing in beaded jewelry in the late 1990‘s, but if there was, it might have been partly due to the collection of daisy chain and love bead style jewelry of Willow Rosenberg - a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During the early seasons, she could often be spotted in import-shop style chokers with a familiar 1970’s combination of simple beadwork and opaque color palettes.

Willow Rosenberg's Beaded Jewelry

The first necklace looks like 8-bead daisy chain, and the others are most likely Potawatomi chain.

What’s your favorite jewelry trend of the past?

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Work in Progress: Ancient Roman Glass

I had been drooling over Ancient Roman glass beads for over a year when I finally got lucky enough to spot a big sale on a fresh haul, while I had enough room in my bead budget to shop. The least expensive strands are always the first to go, so it's a race to snap them up in time. It was so exciting to finally get my hands on a strand of 900 year old glass! This week I've been experimenting with the unusual pieces for a necklace or two.

Ancient Roman Glass Necklace in Progress

What’s interesting about Ancient Roman glass is the variations in color. Some are perfectly clear, while others have strange patterns in varying shades of brown and white. Many of them look matte, but in fact the surface is very smooth - the “flaws” are within the glass, not on the outside. I decided to use this as an advantage, and I started by sorting out my beads by color, then matched palettes to each group. So far I’m loving how they look with simple beadwork.

What are you making this week?

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Moon Inspirations

Last week’s bead giveaway for summery silver and green vintage beads has come to a close. Congratulations to our winner, and thank you very much to everyone who entered! This month I asked about your favorite colors for evening wear jewelry designs. As always, the answers were varied and inspiring!

The winning comment, from Here Bead Dragons, nominated silver and turquoise for elegant jewelry designs. This combination makes a great palette for all kinds of themes to grow from: Western, aquatic, fantasy and many more. With the addition of a little black and some summer fantasy elements, it’s perfect for a dreamy evening.

Summer Moon Treasury

What’s your favorite way to use silver and turquoise?

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading and Friends
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Favorite Techniques: Soutache Embroidery

Tigress Necklace by French Mermaid Collection

The beautiful organic patterns and shapes created with soutache and bead embroidery are always a wonder to behold. The combination of unique focals and exciting color palettes used by Suzanne of French Mermaid Collection perfectly showcase the potential of this lovely technique.

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite technique?

Suzanne: I specialize in Hand-Embroidered Soutache Jewelry. I first became enchanted by soutache jewelry when I first saw "Helen of Troy" by Anneta Valious. It reminded me of the beautiful fine hand stitching that I learned from my grandmother in France when I was very young. She was a true artist with needle and thread.

I start with an idea in my minds eye and apply fine hand stitching. The creative process takes over as beads are lovingly cradled within more layers of soutache braids. I never know what the finished product will look like, but I'm always pleased with the results.

Inspirational Beading: How did you first learn to do soutache embroidery?

Suzanne: Actually my love of embroidery and beadwork were a natural. I had been doing both for so many years that when I saw the possibility of melding the two, it all came together.

Inspirational Beading: Of all the creations you've made with this technique, which one is your favorite?

Suzanne: “Sunset” is one of my favorites. The sea shells are a beautiful natural orange coral in color of Florida sea scallops that I've only seen on the near-by beaches of Marco Island, Florida. They work so well as focals enhanced with Swarovski pearls and crystals, complimentary soutache braid and copper-tone metallic braid and beads.

Sunset Soutache Jewelry Set by French Mermaid Collection Harem Peacock Necklace by French Mermaid Collection

Inspirational Beading: Can you share any tips for getting started with soutache embroidery?

Suzanne: Find someone who is skilled in fine needlework and take lessons until you are comfortable with the results. Start with small things like hankies, pillow cases, tea towels, etc. Or, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer check out embroidery books and YouTube tutorials.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite material or color to use it with?

Sahara Necklace by French Mermaid Collection

Suzanne: Since I specialize in Hand-Embroidered Soutache Jewelry, soutache braid is an integral and essential part of my materials list. Though I use a wide pallet of colors, metallic gold is dear to my heart.

Inspirational Beading: If someone had to choose to learn only one technique, would you recommend this one?

Suzanne: Only if they have a strong background in fine stitching such as embroidery and lots of patience. I personally love this technique. It has a very calming effect for me.

Inspirational Beading: What is your least favorite thing about soutache embroidery?

Suzanne: Only one thing: holding several of the narrow soutache braids in alignment while trying to keep them smoothly together as I begin stitching can be extremely challenging.

Inspirational Beading: Do you use any variations? Which one is your favorite?

Suzanne: I use a variety of focals or center cabochons: Imported hand-carved cameo’s, semi-precious stones, glass covered ephemera cabochons (that I make myself), found sea shells and sand dollars, any lovely and unique item that catches my attention that well incorporates with my design.

To see more gorgeous soutache jewelry designs, check out Suzanne’s blog French Mermaid Collection.

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading and Suzanne C. Suber
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Bead Giveaway: Summer Silver

Combining metallics and jewel tones will always be a great method for giving a classic look to jewelry designs. It can also create a bit of magic in a piece. This month’s giveaway features beads that would look just right at a midnight fairy festival for summer solstice.

These collections of vintage acrylic and lucite beads are all handpicked, with a few fun surprises in each. The green set includes metallic emerald rounds and 6mm faceted rounds, organic shapes in mossy and lemony greens, olive ovals, and jade green coins. The silver set features beautiful silver-toned 10 mm rounds and shiny metallic spacers.

Vintage Silver-tone Bead Giveaway Vintage Greens Bead Giveaway

How to Enter

For a chance to win all of the beads shown, leave a comment on this post that answers the following question:

What is your favorite bead palette for evening wear jewelry designs?

One lucky winner will be draw on Tuesday, July 29th. This giveaway is open to international readers.

Important: Comments must be posted here on Inspirational Beading to qualify, but no log-in is required. Please make sure to leave a contact method in your comment if you do not have a profile with a public email address. For security, you can type your email like so: username AT yourmail DOT com. Incomplete or duplicate entries will not be included in the draw.

Good luck, and happy beading!

Update: This giveaway has closed.

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Bead Embroidery

Way, way back in January of 2009, Inspirational Beading was just five months old, and I was just starting to find my creative groove. One of my favorite posts from that month was an embroidery project featuring freeform flowers. It was one of the first pieces of bead embroidery that I had done in years, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

I still look back on that piece with a little bit of pride, although the beadwork was rather clumsy. I loved how the overall design turned out, and only wished that I had had more colors to work with. I've used the same flower shape since then, and the concentric circles are still a great way to play with bead embroidery without taking too many risks.

Freeform Flowers Bead Embroidery Spring Pharaoh Pendant

Getting back into bead embroidery on a regular basis has been a lot of fun, especially since I’ve found a way to get my helper to join me in the process. I’ve changed techniques and improved my approach since that first flowery piece. I’ve also found a lot of satisfaction in working with small pendants. There’s very little commitment to time and beads, and making things in miniature is always appealing.

Do you remember your first embroidery project? How did it turn out?

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Work in Progress: Egyptian Stripe Cuff

There are lots of new things happening on the bead tray this week, including another totally open and not at all secret project. I’m finishing up my little creative break with a simple herringbone cuff using a classic Egyptian pattern. Then I’ll be moving on to some classified experiments with Ancient Roman glass!

It took a while to find the right color palette for the new cuff. Originally I had wanted to do blue and red with gold, but I didn’t have any transparent red Czech seed beads. Then I thought two different blues would look nice, but the other shades of transparent blue I had are all really small and I didn’t want to go crazy culling them. Finally I decided on blue and green, which actually looks great with the medium topaz.

Egyptian Stripe Cuff Bracelet in Progress

I’ve also got a new pincushion, which I am totally loving. As much as I adored my grim-faced “Don’t Poke Me” pincushion, I really needed to find something that took up less room in my workspace. I don’t have time right now to craft a little bottle cap pincushion, so I borrowed a handmade felt mushroom house from my craft collection. It’s not heavy enough on the bottom and occasionally topples over, but otherwise it works great and makes the bead tray look a lot happier. It’s a nice change of pace.

Egyptian Embroidery Medallions

Last week’s neon medallion is trimmed and ready to string. I was surprised by the last minute addition of aqua to the palette, but it turned out fabulous. I really like to do several sliding knot projects all at once, so I’ll probably wait until we have at least one more finished medallion before finishing these and adding them to the collection.

What are you working on this week?

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Bead Shops: Spirit Bear Beads

Grapes on the Vine Custom Seed Bead Mix by Spirit Bear Beads

Nothing beats an indie bead shop when you’re looking for unique supplies. One of my favorite shops to browse is Spirit Bear Beads, which specializes in custom seed bead mixes and gorgeous Zuni bear gemstone fetishes. Shop owner and bead soup chef Mia offers a wonderful selection of supplies that you can’t find anywhere else.

Inspirational Beading: How did you get into the business of jewelry supplies?

Mia: My Mom..... We went to a bead store one day to restring a necklace of hers. I wandered around fascinated by the beads, picked some out and made a bracelet. We were both hooked! Soon we were traveling to bead shows, shopping catalogs and online. Suddenly I had more beads than I knew what to do with. Selling the extra online was a logical step.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite material, color, or bead style to keep in stock?

Mia: My favorite and mainstay are the size 6/0 Czech seed beads, I create my own mixes and keep the best in stock.

Inspirational Beading: What kind of criteria do you use when selecting new products to carry?

Mia: First and foremost it has to appeal to the Artist in ME! 2nd I want to be able to use that product in a new and exciting way that no one else has thought of, and finally, will it sell? What customer am I appealing to with the item?

Inspirational Beading: What makes your bead selection stand out from other craft supplies shops?

Mia: Well, I have been told, many times, that my unique and original bead mixes are what customers love, and keep coming back for. I also stock, what I believe to be, the largest selection of Zuni Bear Beads on the internet.

Witch's Brew Custom Seed Bead Mix by Spirit Bear Beads Colorado Morning Custom Seed Bead Mix by Spirit Bear Beads

Inspirational Beading: Many beaders are familiar with the emotion that comes from selling a finished design. How does it feel when you sell something that will become a beautiful work of art?

Mia: All too seldom do I see the finished product. I have several customers whose work I am familiar with and it does make me very proud to see one of my unique bead mixes in a finished product.

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite thing to make (or see others make) with your beads?

Mia: I love to make earrings! I literally have hundreds of pairs of earrings!

Inspirational Beading: Baggies, tubes or strands? Which is your favorite?

Tiger Eye Zuni Bear Gemstone Beads from Spirit Bear Beads

Mia: Baggies for the seed beads I sell, I weigh my seed beads so that works the best for me. My personal stash is stored in Tic Tac boxes!

Inspirational Beading: In your opinion, what’s the best thing about small supplies shops vs. the big bead retailers?

Mia: Personal service and attention to detail. Customers like to be considered special, I often have requests for quantities, colors or a certain type of bead. I enjoy filling those custom requests, you don't get that kind of service from the 'big box store" type of retailer.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have any plans for new products this year?

Mia: I always have plans! I have this muse that wakes me up out of a dead sleep with ideas! I never know when her inspiration will strike!

You can find current bead mixes and other unique bead selections at Spirit Bear Beads on Etsy and ArtFire. Mia also sells gemstone jewelry and Southwestern accessories at Spirit Bear West. For updates and inspiration, follow along with Spirit Bear Beads on Facebook.

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading and Spirit Bear Beads
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Work in Progress: Netting Experiment

This week I’m taking a short break from my top secret project, which means that I can actually show you what I’m working on - a new netting pattern idea. I’ve been wanting to experiment with different styles of collar, incorporating accent beads and nets in different ways for new pattern possibilities. The stitches I have so far aren’t quite what I want, so I’m scrapping this piece and starting again. Once I’ve worked out the pattern I like with just this simple palette, I can hopefully move on to some interesting variations.

Netted Collar in Progress

We’re nearly finished with the new pharaoh pendant in hot pink - all it needs is trim. It will be interesting to see how it all looks once the felt is cleared away, allowing the green beadwork to stand out a little more. Next I think we'll try out some dove beads!

What are you working on this week?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mood Board: Pina Colada

It wouldn’t be summer on Inspirational Beading without a little pina colada inspiration. I suppose I could be a little obsessed with pineapple and coconut, but there’s just something about tropical yellow and blue that makes for irresistible summer palettes.

For today’s mood board I combined fruity elements with shades of yellow, blue, and cream - and a little cherry on top. I had hoped to find lots of natural bead jewelry with coconut wood, acai and the like. I did find a really fun coconut statement necklace, and an abundance of pineapple inspired jewelry. Although transparent blues would really enhance the tropical feel, I had to settle for fabrics this time around - the do pair up nicely with creams and browns.

Pina Colada

The pina colada bead selections include some matte accents with natural coconut shell and coconut wood, plus lovely transparent seed beads. Though the hybrid seed beads don't fit with the transparent theme, they do make a great stand-in for fresh coconut! I went with a matte finish in yellow to get that really fruity look, and the blue seed beads are ocean waves all the way.

Pina Colada Bead Mood Board

1. Flower Coconut Shell Button from
2. Round Coconut Wood Beads from Happy Mango Beads
3. Lampwork Glass Pineapple Beads from Fire Mountain Gems

4. Matte Transparent Yellow Seed Beads from Auntie’s Beads
5. Sparkly Light Sea Foam Seed Beads from
6. Light Beige Apollo Seed Beads from Lima Beads

What’s your favorite tropical color palette?

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Bead Color Ideas: Aqua Picasso

Subtle bead colors can often be the most difficult to find palettes for, as they can look washed out and forgotten next to more exciting colors. The trick is to find contrasts and complements that enhance the existing colors to make them stand out, blend in, or shine in just the right way.

I recently added some pretty Czech glass coins to my stash of accent beads. The translucent, pale sea foam shade is delicate and airy, requiring just the right colors to make the coins ideal focals in beadwork. The Picasso finish helps a little allowing for a little more play with a two-tone finish.

Surf Bead Color Idea

First I started with seed beads in the same colors as the coins, but with very different shades. Transparent dark amethyst plays up the Picasso finish, making it much more obvious and adding to its beauty. Meanwhile, cobalt complements the pale blue, and washes out some of the green tinge. Although the blue is so much stronger than in the coins, the colors work well together with the rich brown backing them up. Surf would look great in a multi-strand piece, or a design where the coins stand out dramatically from the beadwork.

Sprout Bead Color Idea

Next I wanted to experiment with more organic colors, to highlight the greens in the finish. I started with dark pearl cream, bringing to mind harvest vegetables or fields of grain. Next I tried out some opaque apple green, but it looked much too busy next to the sophisticated Picasso finish and the shimmer of the pearl seed beads. Instead I found that transparent rainbow lime adds a lot of personality, without being too bold. Sprout would be really fun with light stitches such as daisy chain, or designs with lots of fringe.

Splash Bead Color Idea

Finally, I wanted to include a neutral. Starting with some turquoise iris, I considered both black and white seed beads to complete the palette, and found white to be a better match for the delicate nature of the coins. Rather than go with a stark opaque, I used a custom mixture that includes opalescent cream and white AB. Not only does the mixture look great with the shimmer of the turquoise beads, but it has a playful look that provides a nice backdrop for the pale Picasso. Splash could work in both cool summer designs, and frosty winter ones.

Do you like to use soft bead colors in your work? What’s your favorite?

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Work in Progress: Ocean Ombre

Is there anything more lovely than a bunch of seed bead hanks all in a row? This week I’m starting a new blue-green ombre project, this time with all transparent colors. It was a little tricky putting the palette together, because I wanted seed beads of the same make, and I was under a bit of a timeline for sourcing the supplies. I’ve had to make up the palette with only 8 colors, although I would have preferred at least ten. In any case, I’ll be able to create a pattern that flows seamlessly back and forth from blue to green, and that will do just fine.

Ombre Seed Bead Jewelry in Progress

The new pharaoh pendant way in the background is a few rounds in. After all the fussing we had over making sure to save enough hot pink seed beads, they might not have ended up in the design at all if I hadn’t given a little nudge. Sometimes it’s difficult not to give any input on my helper’s choices, because I have to take the overall design into consideration - how well the beads will fit in smaller curves, or how many more rounds a design can take before getting too large. We’re both pretty happy with this design so far, even if it’s a lot different from what we imagined in the beginning.

What are you working on this week?

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading
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Monday, July 7, 2014

July Bead Stash Favorites

Nothing beats trying out new beads for the first time. This month I’ve got my eye on a couple of new things, and I can’t wait to try them out. I’ve also got a new favorite seed bead color, one that might just replace transparent cobalt for my go-to blue.

These pretty little Czech glass bird ovals arrived just this morning. I purchased them on a whim while stocking up on other Czech glass essentials at Bead and Ribbon. It was the first time I’d seen them, and of course I couldn’t resist the Picasso finish. They will definitely be a welcome addition to medallion pendants. I’m curious if the design will look best with the beads resting vertically or horizontally, although I don’t mind experimenting with new embroidery shapes if we decided to go width-wise.

Spring Mint Czech Dove Ovals

My camera can’t quite capture the amazing color of these transparent sea blue seed beads. They are intense and tropical, and I’ve already used up half a hank. I've actually had these beads for quite awhile, and I find that I’m turning to them any time a project calls for blue, and at the same time I’m reluctant to use them because I like them so much.

Transparent Sea Blue Czech Seed Beads

Finally, I recently added some new baroque pearls to my stash, this time in lovely green. I had such a great time doing some freeform embroidery with the culled beads from a previous strand, and I’m looking forward to adding some new variations. The pearls with flush holes will also look great in some necklace designs. These pearls are still on the strand, and need a bit of a rinse before I separate them into piles for stringing or embroidery.

Forest Green Baroque Freshwater Pearls

Are you trying out any new bead styles right now?

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Work in Progress: Starfish and Hieroglyphs

Once again I’m juggling several projects in my workspace this week. I’m just getting started on a new secret starfish necklace, and I can’t wait to see how the new palette looks when it’s all together. The mixture of black, purple and blue is quite a bit different from the original design.

We’re also starting a new medallion pendant. Ever since I received some lovely hot pink seed beads from The Best Beads, my helper has been begging to use them in a design. He was so terrified that my first project would use up all the beads that he hovered over me nervously through much of the work. Luckily, we had enough to make a new Egyptian pendant with a pharaoh cabochon.

Starfish and Egyptian Necklaces in Progress

Last week’s medallion is just about finished. I had actually added the bail, but forgot to check for symmetry before reinforcing the stitches. By the time I realized that it needed to be redone, the thread was hopelessly incorporated and I ended up having to cut it and start again.

What are you working on this week?

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Inspired Beader: Osofree Jewellery

Pastel Statement Necklace by Osofree Jewellery

There are so many ways in which we can define our own signature jewelry styles, from materials, techniques, and colors, to the way that we combine them. One jewelry artist whose designs really make in impact is Arnaz of Osofree Jewelry. Her one of a kind combinations of gemstones, faux leather, chain and beads are stunning and memorable.

Inspriational Beading: When did you first get started with jewelry design?

Arnaz: I started showing interest in jewelry design way back in 2004 after acquiring my degree in fine art, and so I took a course in fine jewelry design at GIA California. I later decided to launch my own line of fashion jewelry.

Inspriational Beading: Do you remember your first piece? Where is it today?

Arnaz: The first piece I designed and fabricated was a necklace made up of glued bits of an old chunky fashion ring back when I was in college. I don't know where it is today but I sure did get a lot of compliments for it!

Inspriational Beading: What kinds of beads do you like to use the most?

Arnaz: My favorites are gemstone beads, the varieties and colors available today just amaze me.

Inspriational Beading: Where do you look for your favorite inspiration?

Arnaz: My best source of inspiration is Mother nature and all her gorgeous creations!

Inspriational Beading: What’s the most interesting or unique thing about your design process?

Arnaz: I just go with the flow and try to do things as uniquely as possible. I rarely have a plan when I work and am always surprised at the outcome!

Unusual Mint Earrings by Osofree Jewellery Chunky Gemstone Necklace by Osofree Jewellery

Inspriational Beading: Do you have a favorite color to work with?

Arnaz: No real favourite color really but I like bright vibrant hues.

Folk Bib Necklace by Osofree Jewellery

Inspriational Beading: What are some of your other favorite materials?

Arnaz: I love shell, wood, cotton cord and other natural materials.

Inspriational Beading: What is the most exciting design in your shop right now? What makes it special?

Arnaz: This piece - Folk Bib Necklace - excites me the most! I really wanted to achieve something that was quirky and ugly cute and was thrilled with what I came up with!

Inspriational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?

Arnaz: I hope to inspire any designer or artist who wants to be unique and not be bound or restricted with specific materials or styles, thus the name "Osofree"!

You can see more gorgeous handmade jewelry at Osofree on Etsy. Following along with Arnaz on Facebook and Twitter to see her latest designs and inspirations.

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading and Osofree Jewellery
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beading Tutorial: Triangle Weave

Seed Bead Triangle Weave

Beading techniques that offer naturally occurring geometric patterns can make for wonderfully intricate and deceptively simple beadwork. One of the most interesting - but unfortunately lesser used - techniques is triangle weave. Similar in many ways to right angle weave, this stitch can be worked with a variety of bead combinations - from a single bead in each segment to multiple seed beads and everything in between.

Just like RAW, triangle weave uses a lot of thread, and requires multiple passes through each bead or segment. It also incorporates a looping thread path, but with three segments per grouping, instead of four. For this tutorial, I’ve used 4 seed beads for each segment, alternating from blue to yellow for clarity.

How to Stitch Triangle Weave

Attach a stop bead to a comfortable length of thread, and pick up 12 seed beads. You can also knot your thread, if preferred, after sliding the beads down to the end. Pass through the first 4 seed beads again and pull snug.

Triangle Weave Tutorial Triangle Weave Chain

Pass through the following 4 beads. Pick up 8 seed beads, and pass through the same 4 beads again to form the next triangle. Pass through all of the beads just added.

Pick up 8 seed beads, and stitch through the same 4 bead segment that your thread is exiting. Pass through all of the beads just added. Repeat to create a chain of the desired length.

To add a new layer to the beadwork, exit from the first segment at the bottom of the triangle chain. Pick up 8 beads and pass through the same segment again. Pass through all of the beads just added.

At this point, it may feel natural to weave into the next segment of the upper chain, as you would with right angle weave. However, you will need to add a new triangle to complete the pattern. As you work and get used to the pattern, refer to the chain above for help.

How to Add a Row to Triangle Weave

Pick up 8 seed beads, and pass through the segment that your thread is exiting. Pass through the next 4 beads.

Pick up 4 seed beads, and pass through the closest segment in the chain above, and the segment that your thread is exiting. Pass through the 4 beads just added.

Circular Triangle Weave

Continue adding new triangles to your chain as desired. You can increase or decrease to create interesting geometric shapes, and add additional triangles in any direction from an existing one.

The structure of triangle weave is ideal for floral patterns. You can even work it in rounds - instead of adding segments in a straight line, move in a circle pattern and connect the first and last stitches together. Think of it like a pie with six slices.

Have you tried triangle weave? How do you like to use it?

Triangle Weave with Shell Flower Pattern

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