Beading Basics

If you're a craftsperson. you may already have much of the equipment that you would need in order to do the beading in this book. If so, this first section could be used as a checklist, to see if there is anything new that you haven't yet heard about or anything you needed for other crafts and might want to have ready If not, here are my shopping suggestions.


Needles: I recommend that you use the best English beading needles, they are available anywhere I use a size 10 most often, but you might need a finer one if the holes in your beads are on the small side. Some people suggest using fine short needles, such as sharps, for working peyote or brick stitches, but I like the long beading needles. as I find I can pick up the beads more easily. They tend to bend after a short time but, once you get the hang of it. this can actually be an advantage, You will also need a mattress needle, which is long enough to reach through the hole in the tassel mold to pull the cord through with a sling.

Thread: Beading thread needs to be strong enough not to break when you jerk it I like Nymo thread, a specialist beading thread, because it is flat and goes through the long eye of a beading needle more easily. Other beading threads are round and you may need to flatten them with your teeth before they will go through the needle's eye. Use a darker color thread than your beads and it will look like a shadow—a paler thread shows up too much. You will also need button thread, or a fine strong linen thread, with which to stitch the skirts.

Beeswax: If the thread you are using continually knots, you can use beeswax or a silicon jelly to coat the thread and solve the problem. 1 don't usually bother. Scissors: Use a small scissors for cutting the thread. If tiny ends still stick out above the beads, you can burn them off at any time with a flame.

Pliers: You will need long-nosed pliers, flat and ridged on the inside, to grab and pull your needle through tight places.

Velvet or chamois leather: I find a piece of velvet or chamois glued or laced to a piece of thick card about five or six inches square quite handy Use a white one for most beads and a black one for pale colors. Spill out your beads onto this platform and you will find it much easier to pick them up. If the beads are in a dish or tin lid. you need to use a finger to scoop them onto the needle, which wastes time I hold the needle parallel to the velvet board, and the beads just "tip" right onto it. Lap tray: My lap tray has a large cushion underneath, filled with tiny polystyrene balls, so I can adjust its angle When you are sitting on a sofa, a lap tray can keep the beads just where you want them and at a comfortable working level.

Beading equipment: needles, thread, pliers, scissors, glue, rods, velvet-covered card

Lighting: I find that having a floor lamp at the work area, with a donut-shaped fluorescent bulb surrounding a magnifying glass handy, is perfect for working with beads. I myself don't have need of a magnifying glass yet; but no doubt the time will come Having a daylight bulb in the floor lamp removes some of the glare and makes it easier to choose the bead colors, whereas using a fluorescent bulb cuts down on the heat when doing close work.

Comb: If you can believe it, a dog comb is perfect for combing yarn skirts!

Cord winder: An actual winder is better for making cords than using a pencil and door handle. It's also much quicker If you can't find one, you can also use a two-way drill and a cup hook

Dowel rods: Gather a selection of dowels, chopsticks, round pencils, bamboo knitting needles and wooden skewers as "supports" for your beading. Glues: I use thick, tacky PVA glue for rolling gimp, yarn, and beads onto wooden molds, and also for attaching beaded braids. You may prefer other glues, so just try them

Wooden tassel molds: These molds are easier to find than they used to be, with wood turners now producing them in bulk for the crafts trade You might persuade a wood turner you know to make a few or several for you You can also substitute cardboard or plastic cylinders from the inside spools of thread or tape, drawer knobs (you'll need to drill holes through them), large wooden beads, or even small wooden candle holders or egg cups.

Skirt boards: These are usually made of wood, but you can make your own by gluing two strong pieces of stiff card together Make two, measuring 5 by 7 inches and 6 by 8 inches, to start off with, then more as you need them

Beading equipment: needles, thread, pliers, scissors, glue, rods, velvet-covered card


The best yarn to use for beaded tassels is fairly fine Thick yarn looks clumsy with beads, and also tends to be uncontrollable You should also consider what the cut ends look like, because they can split and separate. The kind of yarn fiber to use depends on the look you want: wool is springy and bouncy, cotton is heavy and a bit lanky, acrylic is fluffy, and so on. Metallic yarns are usually too stiff, and embroidery threads are too expensive. Silk is always the best, but it does cost a fortune.

My preference is a fine rayon, either twisted or spun (it looks like wool and sometimes comes mixed with a bit of acrylic). Chainette, fine-knitted tubing used for fringes and tassels, and folded twisted rayon yarns hang beautifully and never seem to get untidy or tangled Buy these from weaving suppliers rather than at knitting shops. I always go for the finest Chainette I can find, and the 200/2 rayon; I recommend that you do. too I have sometimes used unsuitable yarns for tassel skirts and then covered them with a vertical netting It's a vast improvement, but such tassels still hang rather stiffly—without the "movement" that's so important to a tassel.

Yarns of rayon, silk, linen, and metallic fibers, and two tassels made from mixing different fibers together.


When I first started using beads for embroidery, there weren't very many different colors or types available to choose from—although there were always plenty of different shapes and sizes So crafters would spend time dyeing or painting beads; but we found that the color sometimes faded—was not always lightfast—which was disappointing. Now there are many different surface finishes and the color range is enormous This is absolutely wonderful in theory, but it makes your choice extremely difficult If you're like me. when you cannot decide which one to have, you buy both! Then, of course, you have the further problem of storing them and in such a way that you can easily and quickly find the color you want when you want it

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