Beading for beginners
At Bead&Button headquarters, we have a joke among the staff that our friends and families aren’t sure what we do for a living. They don’t know what we mean when we say that we test projects and refine instructions, and they may be confused about what we do with beads at all.
The Bead&Button staff is not alone. From time to time, this topic shows up on our Forum. From requests to make jewelry to other remarks, you’ve probably encountered the same sort of feedback that we have.
I am always pleasantly surprised when I meet someone who shows an interest in my work. This weekend, for example, I met a very nice friend of a friend who was astonished to learn that I made a necklace I was wearing. Then she said the magic words: “I’ve always wanted to do that, but I don’t have the skills.”
What a perfect opportunity to bring a new beader on board! I told her that one of the great things about starting beading is that you don’t have to have any skills at all. What beading mostly requires is persistence (mixed with a healthy dose of desire). Of course, the more you practice, the more skills you pick up and hone.
Take a look at any of our projects. Some of them may look complicated to you, and others look easy. Now show them to one of your beading friends. Does she think the same projects are easy? With beading, there is something for everybody at every skill level. And every project has an entry point: They are all worked one bead at a time.
One of the reasons we don’t apply skill levels to our projects, for instance, is that it is hard to determine what one person will find to be simple or challenging. Some people excel at wirework, others at chain maille. Some do well with peyote but struggle with herringbone.
When I first started beading, I just picked up needle, thread, and beads, and started playing around. I didn’t care that I didn’t know any of the stitches. I just worked through it by trial and error.
When I was ready to make something that would actually look nice, I paged through an issue of Bead&Button and found a project I wanted to make. I wasn’t afraid that it was done almost entirely in what I thought of as complicated stitching with terminology I didn’t understand. I’d never known the names of stitches before, but I knew I had to start somewhere. With the help of the illustrations and reading the instructions one step at a time, I got through it. Eventually, I picked up more and more information until I felt confident with the techniques.
Even after beading for years, I sometimes came across instructions that looked scary. They went on for pages and pages! The more I worked with them step by step, however, the more I learned. I also came to understand that the instructions are thorough for a reason: They include every part of every step you need to successfully complete the project. Once I’d learned how to accomplish a technique, I found it easier to skim the instructions and skip ahead to the parts where I needed help. With enough practice, the beginning beader will soon find that she’s intermediate or advanced, too.
If you know someone who is curious about beading, share some of your knowledge and encouragement with her. Help her learn by telling her how you got there. And if you’re interested in doing a project, but it looks too hard, go ahead and give it a try. You might find that you’re more ready to move to the next step than you thought you were!
Image: This complicated-looking piece of beadwork from Bead Dreams 2008 is by Sherry Serafini.
Filed under: forum, patterns, peyote stitch, Bead&, Button Magazine, beaded jewelry, wirework, beading, learning new skills, learn to bead, beginning beader, chain maille
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