Learning How to Bead / Working with Beads

If you’re new to beadwork, and don’t know how to bead, you needn’t worry.  The mechanics of beading are simple.  You will discover, however, that although learning how to bead is a skill that can be mastered in minutes, the artistry involved in designing and executing a pattern can be complex, and it is this aspect of learning how to bead that leads to the endless variety in the hobby.  Before we begin discussing the finer points of beadwork, let’s get the mechanics of how to bead out of the way quickly.

Simply put, if you can string popcorn to dress a Christmas Tree, you can learn how to bead.

Same steps.

Same mechanics in learning how to bead, except that the beads are less pliable and already have holes.

All you need to get started is a supply of beads equal to the project you have in mind, and something to string them on.   Most commonly, silk thread is used when stringing beads, but if you’d like to start learning how to bead quickly, and don’t have any silk thread, fishing line will work well for many purposes.  If you’re just learning, and don’t have a brick and mortar shop nearby, check out Beads Online for some sourcing ideas.

The finer points of beading and mastering precisely how to bead lie primarily in three additional disciplines, and they are:

Patterning – The human eye is trained to recognize patterns.  Our minds tend to parse information into small chunks.  Thus, the reason our phone and social security numbers are written in piecemeal format (555-1212 as opposed to one long string of numbers like:  5551212).

And while it is true that beauty is subjective, there is evidence that an identifiable pattern is more readily accepted and better received than pure randomness.  All that to say that pattern is important if your goal is to create an attractive, compelling design, and learning to create interesting patterns is one of the keys to learning how to bead.

The patterns can be as simple or complex as you like, but if you’re new to the hobby and just learning how to bead, I’d recommend sticking with something both simple and elegant.  As you gain more experience in learning the finer points of how to bead, the natural progression and comfort with what you’re doing will tend to lead you down more intricate and complex paths, but don’t rush it.  Start simply and as you learn more about how to bead, add layers of complexity as you feel comfortable.

Color Selection – Of all the aspects of learning how to bead, this one is the most challenging for me personally.  Many women might smile ruefully at this and make some comment to the effect that men are simply at a genetic disadvantage when it comes to coordinating colors and there may be some truth to this.  Be that as it may, the goal is one of two things:

If you’re going for an elegant, “classic” look, then you probably want complimentary colors in your design.  If your goal is to create a zany, extravagant design, then contrasting colors may be the key to providing the “look and feel” you have in mind.  If you have taken art classes, or have a natural artistic flair, then you probably already know all about complimentary colors, but if not then this resource might serve you well.  In any case, color selection is a crucial skill in learning how to bead well.

Medium Selection – Beads come in all shapes, sizes, colors and materials, ranging from plastic, glass, metal, wood, and semi-precious or precious stones, so choosing the right medium for your design is of paramount importance, and again, if you want to learn not just how to bead, but how to bead well then proper selection and mixing of mediums is key!

One thing you probably don’t want to do much of is single-medium design.  It’s entirely possible, and the results can be attractive, but you get a much more dynamic look by mixing mediums, and even someone who is just learning how to bead will likely tire quickly of doing single-medium work, so mix it up a little (semi-precious stones and metal).  Don’t be afraid to experiment here as you learn more about how to bead, but keep in mind that certain mediums don’t mix well.  You probably wouldn’t want to mix plastic beads with your semi-precious stones!

For the beginner, just learning how to bead, I would recommend two-mediums at the start.  Design a few pieces, get comfortable with bead craft as a hobby, and when you feel that you’ve learned how to bead in a two-medium environment, begin branching out more into multi-medium mixed designs.

Remember that especially in the beginning when you’re first learning how to bead, it’s probably best to keep your patterns simple.  Too many medium competing for a place in your pattern can quickly turn a potentially attractive piece into an eyesore, not what you’re trying to accomplish when learning how to bead! If you’re having trouble settling on some initial projects to work on while you’re learning the basics of how to bead, check out the article entitled Bead Craft for ideas, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for there, try More Beading Ideas.

If you’re not quite ready to tackle any project just yet, take a look at the basic Jewelry Making Instructions on this site as a bit of further preparation!

Practice!  That’s the real key to learning how to bead!