Knowing how to read beading patterns is essential if you want to create beaded jewelry. They give you all the instructions you need. Some include photos, while others have step-by-step diagrams.
If you struggle to read beading patterns, know that you’re not alone! Lots of people have this same problem.
I want to give you a few tips that can help make it a little easier.
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Understanding Beading Patterns
1. Know yourself
Are written patterns even right for you?
If you’re a very visual person, you may find you understand things better when someone shows you how to do them.
In that case, you might follow video tutorials way better than you do written ones.
There are several places where you can find video tutorials:
2. Find out if the instructions are clear
Of course, this one may be a bit tricky to determine but there are ways to figure it out:
- Was the pattern created by someone you’re familiar with? Do you usually understand their tutorials?
- Are there reviews? Places like Etsy are great to shop for patterns because you can benefit from other people’s experiences before you buy. Two of my favourite Etsy shops for comprehensive tutorials are Ellad and Simple Bead Patterns.
- Read the details—Are there step-by-step photos or diagrams illustrating what you need to do? Which one do you usually understand better?
Do a little research and see if the pattern will be right for you.
3. Use suggested materials
All patterns should have a list of required materials. Some of them may have specific details that you should adhere to.
For example, if 11/0 Delicas are listed instead of 11/0 seed beads, make sure you use Delica beads. Substitutions may give your finished piece a very different look to what you expect. When you change the design, you may find it challenging to follow the tutorial.
If you can’t source a particular type of bead, don’t be afraid to ask the designer. They may not know for sure but they may be able to recommend another bead you can try or, at the very least, where you can purchase the materials.
4. Orientation is important
Now, this is one mistake I’ve seen many beginners make in classes I’ve taught over the years.
If you’re trying a new pattern, hold your beadwork in the same orientation as shown in the photo or diagram. Also, take your needle through the beads in the same direction as demonstrated.
Doing this small thing can eliminate so much confusion and frustration. The instructions will make a lot more sense if you’re following them to the letter.
5. Know your skill level
Are you a beginner or do you have lots of experience with different stitches?
Take a look at the skill level required to complete the pattern. If it’s not provided, ask a question.
If you have just begun learning, stay away from intermediate to advanced patterns. Sometimes, the creator will assume you have prior knowledge of a stitch and will not delve into the basics you need to know.
6. Learn the Basics
There are some terms that you may encounter while reading beading patterns. Learn the definition of these so that when you stumble across them, you will understand the instructions.
Also, make sure you learn the basics of various beading techniques. I did this when I started making jewelry and it made my life a whole lot simpler. Beading was much more fun because I was comfortable with beginner stitches before attempting more complicated beading patterns.
I highly recommend using the book, Mastering Beadwork by Carol Huber Cypher. It’s an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone. There’s a beadwork glossary that explains the meaning of commonly-used terms, as well as an introduction to techniques like how to add thread and make knots. Of course, the book is chock-full of beading patterns too.
Understanding written tutorials takes practice but as long as you follow the tips I have given you here, you’ll find the process a lot easier!
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