Making the Twisty Bits

The tall twisty bits are actually just giant herringbone stitches.  Pick up an EVEN number of beads, we usually used 50, but it can be any number.  One very helpful hint – to make things easier, make the two center beads easily identifiable.  If you are using 50 total, that would be beads 25 and 26.  We usually made them the same color, with 3 or 4 beads of another color on each side.

 This is the first two “stacks” of our twisty section.  You sew them exactly the same way you do the regular rows, they’re just very tall.  See the flat blue-green beads between the yellowish ones in the middle of the loop at the bottom of the picture?  That’s our center marker beads. (NOTE!  on the other two loops shown below, we used the yellow ones as markers.  Not really on purpose, but because I forgot what I had started in the heat of the photographic moment.)

 Here we have finished all three stacks, and have done our step up row, just like we do at the end of all herringbone rows.  Notice that we’re coming out the top of one of our center-of-the-stack marker beads.  Pick up two more beads and go down through the other marker bead on the stack, just like a normal herringbone stitch.

  Twist the stack you are working on (where your thread is coming out) two or three times, then twist the NEXT stack the same number of times in the same direction.  Be careful to watch where everything is going, and keep them twisted.  (It’s PERFECTLY legit to tape the suckers together in the correct positions if you feel the need or if they’re fighting it.)  The picture above shows your needle going into the top of that next stack, ready to add two beads and go back down the next beed. 

 And this is where it gets even more fiddly.  We’ve finished adding the two beads (next herringbone stitch) to the second loop, and we need to twist that third loop the same number of times and direction as the other two.  Then we go up through the marker bead in the third loop, add two beads, and back down through the other marker bead.

Work your step-up by going through the top two beads in the top of the first stack (marker and one on top) and you have completed your first twisty!

Don’t worry if one stack is twisted more or less than the others, it won’t be noticeable.  The important thing is that the herringbone tube after this returns to normal.

If you want to reinforce the twists, work another pass of thread through them while you’re weaving in your ends.  Doing it now might make you crazy.

Attaching Leaves

Leaf 1
Leaf Attachment 1

This is one end of the lariat, ready to attach the leaves.  We call the decrease points, where the 2-bead stacks split off (or the end stacks) the “twiggy” bits.  These are the main leaf attachment points.

  Put the needle on the long tail of a leaf (remember we said Don’t weave in both tails?)  Pick up a few beads, shading from the leaf color to the lariat color.  You can have long leaf stems or short ones.  We did both on our samples, depending on the mood of the day.
 Go up through three or four beads of the “twiggy bit” attachment point of your choice and pull it tight.  Weave the tail in through some of the beads next to the ones your needle went through, and go back down all the way through the stem back to the leaf.  Secure the thread by looping it around the threads running across the top of the leaf, and then go back through the stem and bottom of the lariat again.  Two or three passes of thread through the stem of the leaf make it much stronger.
If you end your thread in the leaf, you can trim the tail immediately.  If you end it on the lariat side, leave about an inch of thread untrimmed until you finish all the leaves on the side.  Otherwise, when you’re weaving other leaves in, you might pull the tail out accidentally.
  Here we have attached a leaf to the lariat in a place that isn’t a twiggy attachment point.  Work it the same way, going back through the stem and weaving your tails.  Nature isn’t always tidy.
 This is how it looks with the first two leaves attached. 
When attaching leaves and deciding how long to make the stems, consider how they will hang.  You don’t want them all clumped together at the same level when you’re wearing your lariat, so adjust by changing the number of beads in your stem.  You can attach more than one leaf to a twiggy bit, or you can attach them to the main stem. 
 Note how the top two leaves (orange and pinky) are attached to the main part of the lariat, not to the split off twigs.  The bottom two gold leaves are coming off a twig, side by side, although their stems are crossed.  (Better picture coming soon.) 

About Making Leaves

We don’t give you specific patterns to follow when making the leaves, but you can look at the detail photographs and figure out what we did. We used one color of main leaf bead, one or two accent bead colors, and sometimes a different leaf vein color. You DO NOT have to copy our leaves if you want to use other color arrangements. Make your leaves the way YOU want your leaves to be. You can change the main leaf colors from side to side, you can mix up several colors. You can make solid color leaves if you want. Or striped ones! Your choice!

And if you find that you’ve made a leaf you’re not in love with, try weaving larger bright accent beads to some of the accent points.  Or cut it apart and pair those beads with others.

Here are a few helpful hints to save you time, though.

  • Do NOT weave in or trim the last left-over long tail of leaf thread, use it to attach the leaf to the end of the lariat.
  • Large accent beads (like drops or 8 rounds or bigger) tend to work better when used only on the outside of the leaf, because when they’re on the inside they can make it difficult to flatten and shape. Use smaller beads (like you would for the vein) on the inside.
  • Vein beads can match the main leaf color, but it’s more interesting if they don’t. 
  • Small triangle beads make a very textured leaf, which usually seems to be longer and narrower than you might expect.
  • Don’t worry about making parts of your leaves match.  Play with the colors in your kit, try to make contrasty leaves for more pop.
  • You can use more than one bead as an accent on the outside, especially if you use the 15 rounds or charlottes.  (11’s will work too, though!)  If they seem too floppy, weave a thread through the outside accents all the way around.    
  • The larger a leaf is, the more it needs the veins to help stabilize the shape. Using doubled thread, or going back through most of the vein beads, will also help keep it tidy.
  • Control the length and width of the leaf by varying the number of beads you use for the center vein. (I know, it seems obvious, but sometimes people end up with a lot of short wide (or tall skinny) leaves until they make that connection.)
  • Please don’t weave in or trim the last left-over long tail of leaf thread, use it to attach to the end of the lariat if it’s long enough.  (Sorry to harp on it, but it’s a huge timesaver if you leave that last tail and don’t weave it in.)

About the Thread

Each Dancing Leaves kit contains two spools of size D C-lon beading thread.  Use which ever color you like.  Using darker thread will darken the appearance of transparent beads, lighter thread will make them look lighter.  You can switch thread partway through a color segment to blend bead colors better.  Or not.  Don’t worry about it if you switch colors in the middle, it will add more interest.

If you have to add thread, leave yourself 4-5 inches of tail, and weave it in circles through 3 or 4 beads to lock it in place.  You can make half-hitch knots around the thread, and then go through another few beads.  Start a new thread by weaving circles through 2 or three beads and come out ready to add your new beads.

If you absolutely MUST tie a knot, try the magic invisible knot we use:

  1. Make a slip-knot loop at the end of the new thread, leaving a free tail of 4 inches or so.  The loop must shrink when you pull the LONG working end, not the short end.  This is hugely important.
  2. Poke the old tail up through the slip-knot loop.  Pull (or hold) all three threads at the same time. 
  3. When the loop gets tight enough, you will hear a teensy “pop!” that signals the knot is good. Sometimes you can’t see it because it slides down inside a bead.
  4. You can tug GENTLY on the long working thread to make sure it’s locked.  If not, slide it off and do it again.
  5. Pulling hard on either of the short tails will UNLOCK the knot, and the new thread can pull off.  (Don’t worry, we’ve never had this happen once the tails were woven in.)
  6. After working a few stitches with the new thread, you can weave in the tails gently, being careful not to pull too hard in the beginning.
  7. If you use a thread lubricator (Thread Heaven, beeswax, etc.), do not coat the slip-knot end of the new thread.  Lubricated thread doesn’t hold the knot as well.

If you are a Fireline person, feel free to use it instead of the included thread.  It will make everything just a bit stiffer, which is probably why you use Fireline in the first place.  Use the 4lb for best results, as some of the beads get several passes through.

About the Needles

Each Dancing Leaves kit contains a small colored folder with three needles taped inside.  There are two size 10 needles and one size 12.  Use the size 12 needle (the smaller one) when you want to work with the size 15’s, or with the Czech beads if your kit contains some.  All three of your needles have been “decapitated” for you – we cut the sharp points off.  This makes it easier to avoid catching and splitting the thread.

Don’t worry if your needle ends up looking a bit twisted.  You can straighten them out several times, if the curves make it harder to work with.  Most of us end up with “noodle needles” eventually, and keep using them till the bitter end.  Even when one breaks in half, you can use it to weave in tail threads.

About the Beads

Each Dancing Leaves kit contains one packet of 7 colors of size 11 round seed beads, labeled 1 through 7.  Most are Japanese, made by either Miyuki, Matsuno, or Toho.  Some kits contain vintage (late 1960’s) Czech seed beads, which may still be on thread.  Czech beads tend to have smaller holes, so if some of these look especially small, or the needle doesn’t fit, either throw them away or save them for another project or a leaf.  We have included enough beads to make the lariat nearly 40” long, so you should be in no danger of running out.

 The other bead packet contains several different sizes and shapes of seed beads, from 15 rounds or hex beads to size 8 triangles and 6 rounds.  Separate the larger beads (especially drops) to be used as accents on the leaves.  You may also want to use the 15’s as accents as well, the choice is yours.   You don’t have to use all of the colors if you don’t like some, and feel free to mix in any others that you have.  There are also packets with more of the 11 round beads used in the lariat, in case you want to mix them to make a really big leaf.