Easy Knotting Between Beads?

Well, yes, there is an easy to knot between beads, especially the ones that aren’t pearls and so have rather large holes.

Are you ready? OK.

Pick a silk size that will go through the beads twice with just a little slidey room. You don’t want to have to shove hard to get the second pass through, but there shouldn’t be room for a third strand either. If you are making a fairly short necklace, you can use two passes of one long strand. If you are making a looooong swingy necklace, you might want to use two packets. We’re going to assume one strand of around 6 meters and a choker length for this. If the kinks in the silk bother you, wet the silk cord and drape it over a door with a folded towel on top. Hang weights on the ends (hair clippies do nicely) and let it dry overnight.

Give yourself a nice long tail on the strand, like 8 to 10 inches, depending on the length. (It doesn’t really have to be precise, you just DON’T want to have it too short.) Put on a bead stopper and start stringing beads. String enough to make the length you want, less one or two. This whole thing is kind of “fuzzy,” because the actual length of the finished piece depends on how large the silk is, how big the beads are, how big the knots are, and how many knots there are. This is why we’re not attaching the knot covers or french wire and clasp at first. To me, the ease of getting all the knots perfect and close makes up for the annoying part of attaching the clamshell afterward.

After you have strung what seems to be enough beads, making sure your tail is ample, slide on a clamshell/knot cover, tie a knot, and go back through the hole. Loop the thread and make a knot around the original stringing thread with the needle. Pay attention to how you do this, because it’s important to make all of the knots the same way. Go through the bead and knot around the thread for each space between beads. If it’s easier for you, use an awl or darning needle to move the knot close to the bead. Or slide the knot by shoving it with the next bead.

Keep a reasonable tension on the second thread, but don’t stress yourself worrying about it. Pull on the tail occasionally to shove the beads and knots close together. When you are close to the end, test the length and remove beads if necessary. Tie the last knot around, put both the needle end and the tail end through a clamshell and tie the two ends together. Drop a dot of glue and let dry, then cut the ends and close. Attach the clasp.


Cheating!!? What? You would rather use a knotting tool? That’s fine. But sometime when you realize you have one hour to finish a knotted necklace for your sister-in-law, you’ll thank us.

About Spiral Rope

Let’s talk a bit about Spiral Rope, OK?  We’ve had a couple of people asking about it lately, and since it’s such a nice versatile stitch, maybe it’s time we have a little lesson.

The most important thing in spiral rope is this:  The core beads must have holes large enough for all the passes of the thread.  Remember that.  There might be a test later.

The second most important thing is this:  You can use any size, shape, or number of beads for the outside stacks, and you can change them at any time while you’re working.  I know, confusing.  It would help if we had a nice graphic, but my skills in that area are less than zero.

So let’s just start doing it, trust me and follow along.  Grab a couple of colors of size 8 rounds and let’s do this.  (Calm down!!!  You can change beads later, this is just so you can learn how to do it!)

Step 1.  Start with a nice long wingspan of your favorite thread, this stitch uses up quite a bit of it and we want to be able to get a bit done before we run out.  You don’t really need a stop bead, either.  Just wrap the 5-6 inch tail around a finger.  The tail end is the bottom. 

Step 2.  Decide which color is your core color.  Pick up 4 beads.  Pick up 4 of the other color too. 

Step 3.  Put the needle through the 4 core beads again, the same way you did the first time, (bottom to top) so that the 4 outside beads form a loop beside the core.  Push the outside beads to the left.  (OK, you can do it either direction, but be consistent.)

Step 4.  Pick up one core bead and 4 outside beads. 

Step 5.  Put the needle through the TOP 4 core beads and pull it tight, so that the outside beads form a loop again.  Push the loop toward the first stack.   Yes, you skip the bottom core bead this time. 

Repeat steps 4 and 5 until your rope is as long as you want it to be.  Make sure you keep each new outside stack from getting caught in the previous outside stacks.  It’s easy to fix if you catch it before the next stitch.  To get the needle in between the core beads, bend the core over your finger. 

It’s pretty hard to pull the thread too tight with this stitch, and it has to be really loose before it causes problems, so tension isn’t a big worry here.  If your outside stacks are taller than your core, you get a big floppy loop around the outside.  If your outside stacks are shorter than the core, when you pull it tight the core begins to twist around, and shows more.  They are totally different looks.  Experiment.  Use 11 rounds and triangles on the outside.  You can use 11’s on the core for a more delicate look,  or cubes in the core. 

To change thread, you can tie a knot in the middle of an outside stack and later weave in the tails.  Do NOT let the knot end up in the core, it will make it difficult or impossible to get the needle through. 

Any other stitches you want to hear about?

Travelling with Beads?

We probably should’ve addressed this earlier this summer, but at least we’ll have it out here for the holiday season and next summer, right?

OK, taking your beading with you when you travel can be a bit of a challenge.  The best travel beading is probably bead crochet, because your beads are all strung on the cord and safely contained.  Crochet needles are usually allowed on public transportation and planes with no problems.  You don’t have to add thread, so scissors or cutters can be in checked luggage.  Win-win, right? 

Unless you wait till your’re moving to start the project.  Starting a bead crochet project is the most challenging part of the whole thing, and it isn’t unusual to rip it out a few times before you are happy with it.  Your life will be far more pleasant if you work the first 2 or 3 inches at home.

Travelling with bead weaving can be more complicated, but can be done with a bit of planning.  First, you want a beading surface that will keep your beads contained, separated, and relatively easy to reach.  And that can get past security easily.  Thin plastic “pencil boxes” sold with school supplies are nice, especially with the vellux bead mats stuck in place.  I’ve seen them with two layers of mat on the bottom glued together, with circles cut out of the top one to make little pits to hold the beads on one side.  Putting one or two layers of mat on top and closing the lid will keep them safe and separated.  You can also include your work in process if it fits, along with pre-threaded needles.  Keep most of your beads in little plastic bags or plastic tubes in your purse, so if something happens, you’re not frantically scrabbling to recover 7 grams of Delicas from the seat and carpet.

One word of advice – get the “book strap” wide elastic bands and wrap one around the whole thing to keep it closed tight.  Those little latches will pop open at the worst possible time.

Take your own beading style into account before choosing a project for the road.  If you like to sightsee or talk to seatmates, peyote patterns might not be a good choice.  Coral-type fringe, tubular herringbone, and spiral ropes are usually good travel projects. 

And when beading poolside or on the beach, always remember that more than 3 umbrella-drinks can have disasterous effects on your tension.  Or good effects, depending. 

Have fun!!

“Just getting started…”

We had a woman in the store this week who said she was “just getting started in this beading stuff” and wanted help picking out some beads to go with some she already had.  She pulled out a ziplock bag with 8 or 10 large glass beads, that had three colors on each. 

I go through the “what kind of beads” litany.  Do you want to emphasize any of the colors in particular?  No…  Do you want to add some sparkle or tone it down?  I don’t know…  Is there a particular outfit you plan to wear it with? 

And then she drops the bomb:  “I don’t really like them, they’re from a broken necklace I bought for a quarter at a garage sale.  I don’t know what I”m doing, so it makes no sense to spend any money on it.”

Wait just a minute!!!  Let’s think this through carefully.  If you don’t like the main components, you aren’t going to like or enjoy the finished piece, are you?  If you ever do wear it, and somebody notices it, you’re likely to say “I made it, but it’s not any good.”  And you decide that you can’t make jewelry, because the first thing you made wasn’t anything you could be proud of.


Everybody’s heard the computer adage “Garbage in, garbage out” right?  And you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as Granny used to say.  These are cliches because they’re nearly always true.  The final product is still what the ingredients were.

So what if you’re just learning?  If you want to make something you’ll be proud of and want to wear, do it with materials that you like!  You don’t have to spend $300 on sapphires to make something beautiful, we have plenty of beads that are absolutely wonderful for any budget.  Yes, ANY budget! 

How about a $20 necklace?  Or $5 earrings?  You’d pay that much in any store, or even more.  And for that much, you can pick out beads that you like, spacers and accents to make it pop, and all the rest.  And then when somebody compliments it, you can say “Thanks!  I made it!” with pride! 

So what if the finishing isn’t quite perfect?  Nobody but you will ever notice that the crimping isn’t exactly straight.  Nobody will care that the clasp is a bit boring.  Have you looked at store-bought jewelry?  Those crimps are a mess!  The clasps are always the cheapest thing they could find! 

And if you decide later that you made some critical mistake, or that it needs something else, cut it apart and use those beads you love all over again.  Those beads can be used over and over, you know.  The holes are still there!

Bead Stash Management

If you love beads, you will eventually end up with Stash Issues.  Beads aren’t the most difficult things to store, certainly.  You don’t have to worry about moths or humidity very much.  But they’re heavy.  You need to keep that in mind when reviewing your storage options.

The perfect stash management system for most of us will keep our beads safe, visible, and easy to find and use.  For most of us, having our stash nicely tucked away in a closet is not a good option.  You can’t tell what you have, or what might go together if it’s all in boxes on shelves in the dark.  My solution was to hang up my favorites, like this:


Arranged somewhat by color or texture, they hang on one of those wire grids from “organization” stores.  I use shower curtain hooks, because they can easily hold multiple strands securely and you can easily remove one particular strand.  Be sure to use enough wall anchor type screws to hold the weight when you do this!  Ask the guy at the hardware store how many to use.  This rack has nearly 300 pounds hanging on it.   Screws put directly into drywall will fall out!  And it’s very exciting when it happens, but good beads die in the process.  (Please don’t ask how I know this.  It was very upsetting to me and the cats, and I lost 4 large agate leaves.)  (And for the record, having a colored wall behind it isn’t a good idea – it can throw off the colors.  I put heavy white paper behind it sometimes.)

For glass, I’ve used plastic boxes for several years.  Beads are arranged by color or by type, such as “Flowers and Leaves” or “Fake Stone glass.”   This is “Blues – Aqua and Cobalt.”


I keep these boxes on the heavy wire shelving, stacked 2 or 3 high, usually.  Remember, each shelf can only hold so much weight, keep in mind what it says on the box when you buy the shelves.  For more fragile beads, I use the boxes that have the little movable dividers to keep them separate. 

I don’t like the hard plastic (brittle cracky) boxes that they sell in the Craft section most of the time.  I get my storage from the fishing section of sporting goods stores or discount stores.   For some reason, a box with a brown label that says something about fishing on it costs a lot less than the exact same box with a pink or purple label that says craft storage on it!

Some people like to use the flip-top boxes to keep each bead type separate.  They can be put into trays or small plastic boxes made just for them.  They’re handy for Swarovski crystals, for example, because you can tap out as many as you need and be sure the cats can’t scatter the rest all over the room.  (Although the boxes to make wonderful Cat-hockey pucks, and they love the noise, it’s not a good idea.)  Flip-tops also work well for crimps, clamshells, jump rings, etc.

And how to store focal beads?  Get a branch from a bush, one with a nice arrangement of smaller branches.   (Crepe myrtle and photinia work well.)  Let it dry for a couple of months, then rub (or sand) off the bark.  Trim it into shape as necessary.  If it is big enough around, you can nail it to a base, or you can hang it up on the wall using wire and a couple of picture hooks.  Hang your focal beads, pendants, big clasps, and other really cool finds on the branches using bits of ribbon, embroidery floss, and yarn.   Make sure they’re all hanging at different lengths. 

The important thing is that you can find what you’re looking for easily, (to avoid the “I know I have this at home, but I’m buying  another because I JUST can’t find it!” syndrome)  and your beads are stored safely.  Some famous bead artists keep all their stash in large shallow bowls scattered all around the studio, so they are both inspiration and easily accessible storage.   Do anything that works for you, and feel free to ask us about management options!

p.s. – what’s your favorite storage solution?  Please share in the comments!!

The Importance of a Good Bead Stash

Every day here in the stores, we hear people say “I just absolutely love this, but I don’t need any new jewelry just now”  or “This is really wonderful, but it doesn’t go with any of my shirts.” 

And then they come back in two weeks saying “I need those beads, my sister gave me a sweater that they match perfectly!”  And they’re gone.  They walked out the door with someone else the week before.  So Customer says “When will you get more in?” and we have to tell her, “Maybe never.  Those were really unusual, we bought all they had.” 

Because stones that aren’t “normal round beads” don’t always get cut that way again.  Maybe it was a new design that the cutters realized caused too much waste stone, or took too much time.   Or the vein in the mine that produced those amazing colors is worked out.  For whatever reason, they don’t get made again any time soon.  This can even be true of glass beads, sometimes one batch was spectacular, and the others are just very pretty.

So, if you really love any beads you find, and you can afford them, get them and put them in your stash until their true purpose becomes evident. 

A good bead stash is like always having flour in the house.  You may not always need it, but if you want to make gravy, you have to have it.  A bead stash will have several different colors and sizes of the spacer bead types that are your favorites, like your own personal bead store!  For some of us, spacers are metals of various styles and types.  For others, a particular stone shape, or glass is our favorite. 

And spacers don’t have to be small!  Any kind of accent can qualify as a “spacer.”  (There are no bead police, remember.  You can do anything you want.  Really!  I’ve never heard of an arrest for Lack of Symmetry in a Necklace, or for Improper Usage of a Focal Bead, either.) 

Having a decent selection of beads lets you add variety and richness to your pieces, you don’t have to use every bead on a strand on a necklace to “use them all up.”   Save the one or two that really aren’t needed, they will come in handy sometime later.  

Later we’ll give you some advice on Managing Your Bead Stash!

Knitting Markers

While hanging around in a local knitting shop, I saw some lovely beaded knitting markers.  (You know, those things that slide over needles to mark a specific place in the pattern or to count a block of stitches.)  Then I saw the prices, and noticed that for me, at least, they weren’t quite tough enough.  And I thought “Well, heck!  I can do better than that!” and came home and figured it out.  Total cost for 25 markers, 15 dollars, but I used expensive beads.

Materials:  8mm-12mm glass beads, 18 gauge wire (I used copper) (20 gauge will also work, or even 22 for small needle markers)
Tools:  Round-nose pliers, wire cutter, big fat marker or knitting needle or something else to wrap around


  • Cut around 4″ of wire, and make as teeny a loop on one end as possible.  (Hammering the end flat to widen it also holds the bead, but snags yarn unless you have a good way to smooth the wire.)


  • Slide on a bead, bend the wire 90 degrees to start your wrapped loop.  Wrap the wire around the big fat marker, or large knitting needle, or whatever template you’re using.  (The wire looks twisted, but that’s just the picture.  It’s NOT twisted.)


  • Wrap the wire two or three times around the “neck” of the wire above the bead.  I find it easier to leave the loop over the template while wrapping.


  • Cut the tail off and use your chain-nose (flat) pliers to squash any leftover bit into the coil.


I made some with two beads, to mark the centers on my kntting.  There will be some samples at the store after Friday.