HOW TO DO---- Traditional Native American Beading

HOW TO DO---Traditional Native American
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have
access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and
rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1,2
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Materials Needed:
Selecting a pattern
Construction supplies
Beads – everything needed to know
Chapter 2
Styles of Native American Beading:
Lazy stitch
Edging of bead work – sawtooth and rolled
Places to buy your supplies:
Crazy Crow Trading Post: Catalog
P.O. Box 847
Pottsboro, TX 75076-0847
Moscow Hide & Fur
Chapter 1
Selecting A Pattern:
When starting a project, the first thing to do is select a
pattern. There's a lot of patterns out there. Weeyaa's Designs
has a lot of patterns for anything you want to make. If this is
your first project of Native American beading, start with pattern
that's easy, small and not a lot of details.
If you are doing Native American regalia, make a list of what
you want to bead, then measure the area so that you have
square inches. This will help you buy close to the amount of
beads you will need.
Even regalia bead work can be a very simple pattern with
two or three colors of beads. You can also pick one of my more
complicated patterns (as an advanced bead artist) and have
several different colors of beads.
Once you pick your pattern and how many times you will do
this pattern (like for regalia) make copies of the pattern. Copy
machines come in really handy now.
When I first did my outfit, I got some pictures of Native
American dancers (ladies) and decided how much bead work I
I bought 5 yards of felt at a fabric store. I used butcher
paper for my pattern to be put on. The I asked everyone I knew
for “brown” grocery bags. Now you can buy brown package
shipping paper in any size rolls.
For ladies traditional bead work, make a list and as you get
it put together and ready to bead, mark it off your list.
Here is the list I made for my first set of bead work:
Eagle Barrette
2 small barrettes
2 hair ties
scarf slide
belt – 4 inches wide
side tabs to go on belt
strike purse
knife case
shawl clip or blanket strip
awl case
decoration for breastplate
dress top
See picture of completed regalia.
When doing the top of a traditional buckskin dress, do it in
pieces. See top of dress in photo.
Make sure you measure everything so you will get close to
the amount of beads that you will need.
Here is a formula to find out how many square inches you
have. Measure the width of each pattern and the length, then
multiply these numbers to get the square inches.
Patterns that are beaded will last 200 years so make sure
your pattern is what you want to see for the rest of your life.
Other dancers will remember your bead work. My pink rose dress
is almost 30 years old – yet other dancers still remember that
dress so it is a life choice, because it will follow who you are.
As a novice bead artist select an easy pattern, 1 – 2 colors
of beads that is not too large. You want something that you can
finish in a short time; a small barrette, a small pin or medallion.
Then if you want to continue beading pick a little harder
pattern each time until you are confident in doing bead work.
Construction Supplies:
To get started with your pattern and beading, you need to
purchase your supplies.
There are a few places that carry the supplies that you will
need to start your beading project: Tandy Leather, JoAnn Fabrics,
Craftsman's Warehouse, Crazy Crow Trading Post, almost any
craft supply warehouse, or Native American trading post. Some
of these places are in your town, but online you can find some
places that will mail the supplies that you will need.
You need felt for beading. For small projects you can get felt
squares from any craft place. If you are planning on Native
American regalia, go to the fabric store and buy 2 – 6 yards of
felt in the widest size they offer. Colors don't matter because you
will not see the felt.
For a small project, computer paper works well to put you
pattern on. For larger projects, such as needed for Native
American regalia; a roll of butcher paper works. I have heard it
comes in small rolls. Get the paper as wide as you can for larger
patterns. If the butcher paper is slick on one side it won't hurt it,
just as long as one side can be drawn on.
Brown wrapping paper or large brown grocery bags work
well. When doing large patterns the brown shipping paper works
the best. Get the largest in length you can. For smaller patterns
the brown grocery bags work well and these bags are free.
One of your best investments are colored markers. Sharpies
in every color are a little pricey but if you are planning on doing a
lot of beading they are well worth the investment. A fine point
and an ultra fine point are what you will need. I have bought
both point sizes in one set, all the colors, for around $40.00.
For every pattern you do, color them in with the same color
as the beads you will be using. Then if your beads gap open you
will not see white paper below. It will make your bead work look
more professional.
When buying needles, get the same size as the beads you
are going to use. If you plan on using size #10 beads, use a size
#11 or #12. Make sure you buy needles of all sizes. To sew your
pattern together you will need a heavier needle. I use a buckskin
need (also called a glover's needle) size 4. The best beading
needles are called “Sharps” sizes 10s, 11s and 12s. They are
short in length. If you are using a loom then the long beading
needles are used.
Scissors are very important to cut the beading thread; which
is cut on an angle. That way it will thread through the eye of the
needle better.
Awls and pliers are also used if you are beading on
commercial leather, which I advise against doing.
A seam ripper is used to break the beads when you have
sewn down too many beads and they are too crowded and ruffly
looking instead of laying down flat.
Of course your beads are very important, they make the
regalia. When buying beads make sure they are in a hank. Some
stores are taking the hanks apart and putting the beads in small
tubes. Another thing to look for is are the beads uniform in
roundness. Check the holes to make sure a needle can go
through them. Czech seed beads are the best and most desired
by Native Americans. Also Delica size 11 are preferred because
they are so perfect in all things, but they are expensive
compared to Czech beads. A lot of time and effort is put into
bead work, so you want your beads to look their best.
Beginning bead artists should start with size #10 beads.
They are the easiest to use. After you have beaded for awhile, try
the other sizes, even #18. When using #13, #15, or #18 size
beads you must use needles that are size #13, and thread that is
“00” in size.
If you order through a catalog like Crazy Crow; order extra,
because the dye lot often if the number stays the same.
Hanks are 24 strings (2 strings = 1 loop) and 10” long.
Size 10 beads = 130 beads per square inch
1 Hank has 3,120 beads
Size 11 beads = 187 beads per square inch
1 Hank has 4,080 beads
Size 12 beads = 228 beads per square inch
1 Hank has 4,560 beads
Size 13 beads = 273 beads per square inch
1 Hank has 5,040 beads
Size 14 beads = 298 beads per square inch
1 Hank has 5,500 beads
If you are making a large project, like Native American
regalia, buy your background beads in kilos and all other colors
in ½ kilos or hanks. The dye lot changes from time to time even
if the lot number stays the same.
To do the sawtooth edging on your project, you will need
pony beads – size 8 or size 5. They come in several different
colors. The sawtooth and rolled edging will be explained.
If you can't get Czech beads then the French seed beads and
pony beads are the next best for being nice beads.
Thread is extremely important. Use “Nymo” nylon white or
black beading thread. This thread can be burned with a lighter to
knot it. It comes in different sizes and shapes. If you are
planning on doing a lot of beading buy a cone; size A for beads
sizes #13, #14, and #15. It comes in double 0 size for tiny #18
size beads. Cones also come in sizes B & D for size 10 or 11
beads. These cones hold 115 yards for size A, 73 yards for size B,
and 62 yards for size D. Cotton thread wears out quickly and
can't be burned. You will need a lighter to knot your thread.
The cone shape white heavy duty cotton thread is what I use
to sew my patterns on the white paper, felt, and brown paper. It
comes in size #10. Beeswax will keep the thread from tangling.
Chapter 2
Lazy Stitch:
Lazy stitch is a very early technique used. The reason this
stitch was used is because deer, elk and buffalo sinew was used
to attach beads to brain tanned regalia. Some rawhide leather
was used for belts, also had bead work attached. The Native
people used awls to make a hole. The sinew was knotted then
threaded through the hole: then the beads were slid onto the
sinew and stretched out, where another hole was punched
through with the awl, the sinew went through and was knotted.
This was a line of beads and then another line of beads
measuring the same size as the first line of beads. There was no
tacking them down. It was a very primitive style of beading. The
Native American people wanted their regalia to be made as
pretty as possible with what they had.
Lazy stitch is a style all tribes accept. It covers large areas
and is fast to do.
When first beginning this style: measure out the area that
you are going to cover in the lazy stitch. Using a dress makers
pencil (white) make a straight line where you want your beads to
lay. Next put how many beads you want in each row 9 to 11
beads or less work well. Keep them inside your lines. So I do a
bead test on the thread then I decide how wide I want my rows.
If you make the rows too wide the bead will droop and make
your outfit look poorly. Although there is a way to fix this
sometimes. Lay the bead work on a folded towel, put a light
weight hand towel over the bead work. Now turn your steam iron
on and let the steam tighten the nylon threads, this will not work
on cotton thread. Don't put pressure on your iron as it will break
your beads.
Don't pull your lines of beads too tight or it will cause a
pucker in your fabric. Always double your thread and knot it.
Remember there is no tacking these lines of beads. By having
lines drawn as guidelines, your lazy stitch will look good. This is a
fast way to bead and will last 200 years.
Applique Style:
There are two kinds of applique beading. With some patterns
a two needle style works the best but one needle also works well.
With two needles, one is to lay the beads down, as you
would in lazy stitch. Then the second needle is what you put the
beads on, and stays on top of the project. The second needle
stays under the project as it is the needle you use to tack your
work down.
When using only on needle, it does all the work. You string
your beads on your needle and put them down; then take your
threaded needle and back track to talk down every 2-3 beads.
Both ways work well. It is all in how you were taught to bead.
When doing applique beading, your pattern will have a more
complicated pattern. This pattern needs to be colored and sewn
into a sandwich of white paper, felt and brown paper (sewn
Whatever your pattern is – applique means the main pattern
will stand out. Most of these patterns will be outlined or shaded
for more detail. That is what makes it stand out. The beads also
should all go in the same direction to give it depth. When doing
shading of flowers, the beads go like a shadow would. This style
of bead work can be made to look like a painting. It is also a hard
style to get the perfect look.
Rolled Edging: double your thread, start (see figure 1), end
view (see figure 2), bottom and front view (see figure 3)
figure 1
figure 2
figure 3
Sawtooth Edging: start with 3 beads, go through 3rd bead it
pulls the beads over the edge (see figure 1), next add 2 beads
going through the 2nd bead (see figure 2)
figure 1
figure 2
Lacy Edging: Is the same as sawtooth, except add to the 3
beads, 3-4 more beads, place close together, makes a lacy edge
on your work
Applique: means to fill in – in order of design – then outline with
a different color
Applique – single needle: double your thread – lay down a few
beads, then go back and tack every two or three beads down.
Applique – double needle: double thread on both needles
Lazy Stitch: double your thread - draw outlines to keep your
design straight,make 7-9 beads in a straight line (see figure 1),
do not tack the beads, not recommended to use more than 7
beads. Lay your row of beads down – make sure they lay flat. If
for some reason they seem to bunch up use your seam ripper to
break 1 bead (see figure 2)
Figure 1
Figure 2
How To Do Traditional Native American Beading
by Weeyaa Gurwell
Published by Karen Salas at Smashwords
Copyright 2014 Weeyaa Gurwell
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