Check out this beading glossary packed full of common beadweaving words and phrases you need to know so you’ll never be confused again.
Any time you’re learning a new skill, you’re bound to come across some terms that may be unfamiliar to you. Here’s a beading glossary packed full of common beadwork terms so you’ll know exactly what they mean when you encounter them.
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Accent Bead: Adds contrast to a piece of jewelry through size, shape or colour.
Add thread: To secure a new piece of thread in the beadwork where the old working thread ended so you can continue stitching.
Applique: The art of sewing beads onto fabric leather.
Aught: A unit of measure for seed beads that corresponds to the number of beads per inch. It is usually denoted by a number followed by /0 or °. To learn more, read A Useful Overview of Seed Bead Sizes.
Awl: This useful tool is great for creating knotted designs, untying knots, clearing blocked holes in beads e.g. SuperDuos and more.
Base Metal: Any metal other than silver, gold or platinum — which are Precious Metals — e.g. nickel, brass, copper.
Beading Needle: A very fine piece of metal with a narrow eye that allows it to fit through bead holes.
Core Beads: The central beads in a Spiral Stitch that the other beads spiral around.
Decrease: Adding fewer beads or stitches to a row than the previous row.
Delica Beads: Japanese cylindrical seed beads which are known for their consistency in size, shape and colour.
Eye Pin: A short length of wire with a loop at one end. Add beads on to the wire and then use the loop to attach other findings or components.
End the Thread: To secure the working thread in the beadwork and trim the excess.
Findings: Typically metal components that connect or complete jewelry e.g. earring hooks, clasps, eye pins etc.
Focal Bead: An eye-catching bead often used as a centrepiece. It’s usually larger and more decorative than other beads used in the same piece of jewelry or can be used alone.
Foil-backed: A silver, gold or coloured coating that covers the back face of a transparent or translucent stone in an effort to enhance the colour by reflecting more light.
Fringe: An ornamental border often added along the edges of jewelry, clothing, bags and more.
Gauge: The American unit of measure for the thickness of wire. The higher the number, the thinner the wire. Wire produced in the UK is measured in millimetres e.g. 18 gauge = 1.02 mm.
Gemstone: Beads made using semi-precious or precious stones.
GSP Thread: Gel-spun polyethylene — a strong synthetic beading thread e.g. Fireline, Wildfire.
Half-hitch Knot: A simple overhand knot used to secure beading thread when making jewelry.
Hank: A bundle of 10-12 bead strands, but this varies according to the manufacturer.
Head Pin: A short length of wire with a “head” similar to a nail that prevents beads from falling off. Most commonly, the head is flat but you can find more decorative styles. Once beads are placed on the head pin, it can then be attached to a piece of jewelry.
High Bead: A bead added in the previous row that sticks out above adjacent beads. This term is commonly used in Peyote Stitch and is the bead you’ll need to pass your needle through when adding a new row.
Increase: Adding more beads or stitches to a row than the previous row.
Jump Ring: Circles of wire used to connect jewelry components. There are two types of these. Open jump rings have a split in the diameter so they can be opened with pliers, then closed again. Closed jump rings are soldered closed and can not be opened so they are more secure.
Karat: A measure of the purity of gold. It indicates the proportion of gold in an alloy out of 24 parts. Pure gold is 24K while 20K gold is 20/24 parts gold.
Lobster Clasp: This is a popular secure metal clasp that resembles a lobster claw. See other popular types of jewelry clasps.
Nylon Thread: A strong beading thread that drapes well and is available in a wide range of colours.
Pass back through: Make a U-turn and go through the end of the bead that the threaded needle exited.
Pass through: Enter the same end of the bead, in the same direction, as when it was picked up
Pendant: An ornament that hangs from a chain or necklace.
Pick Up: Put one or more bead(s) on a threaded beading needle.
Picot: A decorative trim created by adding 1-3 beads and sewing through the next bead. Learn how to make a picot edge.
Reamer: A tool used to clean and enlarge the holes of beads so they will fit onto your wire or beading thread.
Rocaille: Used as a generic term for seed beads.
Step Up: Pass through the first bead of the last row added to put you in position to start a new row.
Stop Bead: A bead that is added to beadwork to prevent beads from falling off the thread. It is not part of your finished beadwork and will be removed later.
Tail: A piece of beading thread left free at the beginning of your beadwork or when adding a new piece of beading thread, that will be secured and removed later or can be used to attach findings e.g. a clasp.
Thread Bridge: The thread connecting two beads that are stitched together.
Thread Conditioner: Prevents beading thread from tangling and can make the thread stronger e.g. Beeswax. Click here for thread conditioner.
Wingspan: The distance between your outstretched arms when your hands are held as far apart as possible. This length of thread allows you to pull the thread through the beads simply by extending your arms. This reduces the amount of time spent pulling thread through beads and decreases the chance of the thread becoming knotted or fraying.
Working Thread: The end of the beading thread that’s attached to the beading needle.
Zip Up: To connect two sides of peyote stitch beadwork by sewing through the high beads at each end.
Refer back to this Beading glossary next time you need to check up on some beading terminology. This list is by no means exhaustive as there are lots of words and phrases you’ll learn. However, these are very commonly used terms.
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