Discover the first steps you need to take to start bead weaving without a loom.
Off-loom bead weaving is a fun and addictive hobby where you literally stitch beads together using a beading needle and thread to make stunning jewelry.
You get to make wearable art that allows you to express your unique personal style. And, you don’t need bulky or expensive equipment to get started.
However, it can be overwhelming just knowing where to begin. What supplies do I need to start beading? Where do I go to learn? Can I actually do this — the jewelry looks kinda hard to make.
If you want to try your hand at bead weaving without a loom, but your head is full of questions, I’ve compiled a list of things to do when you’re just getting started.
8 First Steps To Bead Weaving Without A Loom
1. Get Some Beads
If you’re going to learn off-loom bead weaving, of course you’ll need beads. Can’t make beaded jewelry without them, right?
Here are some classic bead shapes that are used:
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- Round glass pearls
- Fire-polished beads
These beads are available in a range of sizes but 3mm, 4mm and 6mm are very commonly used in bead weaving without a loom.
You’ll also need seed beads. These are uniformly shaped beads that vary in size from less than a millimeter to several millimeters. The most popular seed bead sizes are 15/0, 11/0, 8/0 and 6/0.
In addition to the classic beads mentioned above, there are also lots of shaped beads on the market. These are usually very trendy and you’ll see them being used for a time before they fade away.
One shape that has stood the test of time (it’s also my favorite shaped bead) is SuperDuo beads. These are two-hole pressed glass Czech beads. They’re sold in a wide array of colors and finishes and are very versatile.
Before you order beads online, I definitely think it’s better to go to your local bead shop. That way, you can familiarize yourself with the shapes and sizes and know what you’re really buying when you’re ready to order online.
2. Invest in the Proper Tools
You don’t need to spend a fortune on beading tools. You can purchase just what you need to get started and then invest in more when you’re confident this is a hobby you’re really going to keep doing.
Here are some essential tools that you can’t work without and ones I highly recommend:
- Beading needles
- Beading thread
- Bead mat
- Good lighting (not necessarily a tool, but still essential — either daylight or a lamp)
Learn more about these essential tools here.
There are also some very useful tools that are great to have on hand:
- Thread burner
- Magnifying glass
- Thread conditioner
- Bead Scoop
- Pliers – I recommend purchasing a pliers set as it’s more economical and usually contains the basic pliers you need. Flat nose and Chain nose pliers come in handy.
Learn more about these useful tools here.
3. Master the Basics
No matter which of the bead weaving stitches you’re working on, there are some basic skills you should learn early on.
The first is knowing how to thread your beading needle. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, beading needle eyes are notoriously narrow and this can pose a problem when you need to pass thread through them.
Next, learn how to attach a stop bead. This is very easy to do and can be very useful when creating beadwork.
You should also know the correct way to open and close jump rings. This is an important skill to have. If a jump ring is not properly closed, beading thread can easily slip through. And, if you’ve used the jump ring to attach the clasp or another finding to your jewelry, you’re compromising the security of that piece.
Also, the improper opening and closing of jump rings may result in them being bent out of shape and ruined.
Next, you must learn how to tie knots in your beading thread securely. Learning how to do this allows you to confidently end and add new thread. This is something you’ll definitely have to do at some point while bead weaving.
The half-hitch knot is most commonly use to end and add new beading thread. Here’s a demonstration of how to tie a half-hitch knot.
Some beaders try to avoid adding thread, usually because they’re not sure how, by working with extremely long lengths. It’s not only time-consuming and tiring repeatedly pulling all that thread through your beadwork, it’s also highly likely you’ll end up with tangled beading thread.
4. Get Inspiration and Instruction
The best way to learn a new skill is by practicing it and learning how to make jewelry is no different. The easiest way is just to find bead weaving tutorials suitable for beginners and dive in.
Start with simple tutorials in Flat Even Count Peyote Stitch, Right-Angle Weave and Ladder Stitch. These are incredibly popular off-loom bead weaving techniques and they can also be used as the foundation for other stitches as well.
There’s no shortage of inspiration and beading patterns. You can find them in magazines, books, online and by taking a class at your local store.
In my biased opinion, I think joining my membership called The Bead Club Insiders is the best way to learn bead weaving without a loom. Update: The membership site has been closed and is not accepting new members at this time.
As an Insider, you’ll gain access to:
- Exclusive in-depth bead weaving classes where you learn the bead stitches and all their variations
- A library packed with gorgeous beading patterns so you’ll know how to make beautiful jewelry from start to finish
- Plus, a community where you can interact with lots of other beaders, just like you and get feedback when you’re stuck or have a question.
Having one convenient place to go that allows you, not just to learn the beading basics but also to communicate with others when you’re stuck is priceless.
5. Learn the Lingo
Every skill has its own terminology. You’ll need to know what different beading words and phrases mean e.g. what is the tail thread, what is a high bead, what does stepping up mean?
The good thing is you’ll probably pick up on the lingo as you learn various bead stitches. When you see or hear different terms, make a mental note of what they are. Soon, you’ll be fluent in bead weaving language without even thinking about it.
6. Create a Workspace
It’s really convenient when you have all your beading supplies in one place. If you have the space to set up a dedicated crafting station with a table, chair and all the necessary materials and tools, then great!
If not, at least store everything in one location and keep them organized. Having an organized space and supplies saves you time and frustration. When you sit down to create, you’ll know exactly where everything is.
Being organized also saves you money. If your supplies are scattered all over the place, you’re likely to forget what you have or you might not be able to find what you’re looking for. This means you’ll end up purchasing the lost item again.
Select an area of your home, create some sort of organizational system that works for you. It might require tweaking over time but it’s better than nothing.
Here are some smart ways to organize your beads and other jewelry-making supplies.
7. Don’t Get Discouraged
There may come a time when you try a new stitch or beading pattern and it doesn’t quite go the way you’d like. Either you just can’t seem to get the hang of it or you don’t understand the instructions.
The key is to stay motivated and give yourself a little grace. There’s a learning curve associated with every new skill. It might feel steeper for you than it seems to be for others but comparison just kills your joy. Stop looking at what others are doing and focus on you.
Get help if you can. Maybe you have a beading friend who can explain things or you can take a class. This is also where having a community of beaders comes in really handy.
It may not even be your fault that you don’t understand something. Maybe the instructions you were following just weren’t that clear. Find another tutorial and try again.
Also, you’ll get better with practice. When I first started out, my jewelry didn’t always look that great but I was still extremely proud of my work.
8. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
The best way to learn and grow is to get a little uncomfortable. Try new stitches and or change up a pattern to make it your own.
Don’t be intimidated because a piece of jewelry looks difficult. That’s one of the things I love about off-loom bead weaving. You can make pieces that are incredibly intricate and look oh so challenging to put together but they aren’t really.
You might just shock yourself and take your skills to a whole new level when you try something new.
Bead weaving without a loom is an amazing skill to learn and it’s not without its challenges. But, that’s the fun part — growing and improving and being your creative self.