4 ways to use bead soup

Posted by Mortira vanPelt
on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ladybug Soup Double Spiral Necklace.

Ombre Multistrand Bead Soup Necklace.

Pre-made bead soups and seed bead blends are a fantastic way to add exciting color palettes to your beadwork, and making your own can be even more fun. Mixing together several different bead colors and styles into a coordinated blend creates a sense of whimsy, or an organic flair that can’t be achieved any other way. It’s also a great way to use up leftovers or add new life to a color that’s been forgotten in your stash for awhile.

One of the most popular ways to use bead soups is in freeform beadwork. The combination of random stitches with equally wild bead selections can make for some truly gorgeous designs. Although freeform beadwork is wonderful to look at, the actual stitching is a bit of an acquired taste. If you prefer to stick to the rules when beading, here are some great ways to incorporate bead soups into your designs.

1. Spiral Rope - The outer rows of a spiral rope are the perfect place for random beads to shine, because each row is independent from the rest of the beadwork, and uniformity is not required. Whether you’re working with single or double spiral rope, or even the more complicated Dutch spiral, bead soups look gorgeous with this stitch. Limit the size of accents to a few sizes up from your seed beads, or make the spirals at the center of your rope extra long to fit beads larger than 4mm. Try this spiral rope project.

2. Fringe - Because simple fringe requires only stringing, it’s a great way to add some bead mixes to your work. Try adding some long and luxurious strands to the ends of your favorite rope stitch for a boho lariat, or embellish your favorite beadwork pendant with a spray of color. Combinations of any size and shape will work with fringe, so long as you choose a thread that can hold them and anchor it well.

3. Multistrand - When you just want to let the beads shine on their own, nothing beats multistrand jewelry. Bracelet or necklace, long or short, 3 strands or 30, there is always something instantly appealing about strands of beads that you can wear. Bead soups of all shapes and styles work well with this technique, and the best part is that you can save time by using a bead spinner to pick up beads with true randomness. To really make your necklace pop, whip up some beaded cones with brick stitch to cover your threads in a color that complements or contrasts your bead soup. If you're a Bead&Button subscriber, try these beaded cones with brick stitch.

4. Ombre Blends - Whatever technique you choose, adding a bit of color blending to your bead soup designs gives it a whole new level of “Wow!”. To make an ombre bead soup blend, start by mixing two soups in analogous colors (side-by-side on the color wheel) or two shades of the same color. Next, scoop or pour out equal amounts of each mix, and combine these portions in a separate mixture. Use your new blend to transition from one soup color to the next for a gradual change in color.

Have you ever tried bead soups and mixes? How do you like to use them? 

Mortira is a full-time bead lover with a passion for seed beads and ancient elements in beadwork. She shares her favorite color ideas, bead finds, and projects every week on her blog, Inspirational Beading.

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