How to Learn Beading

So you want to learn beading! Are you an impatient learner? I am often extremely impatient with myself when I want to learn something new. I want to jump in and create something that has never been seen before. . . using techniques with which I am only vaguely familiar. You may not be surprised to hear that I spend a lot of time ripping out my mistakes. . . .

The fact is, most of us learn a new thing best when we follow a procedure. Like my dad used to say, "When all else fail, follow instructions."

If you want to learn a new type of bead weaving, then you may want to start with its simplest form. Don't start your experience with a new stitch by trying to make a life-size, three-dimensional replica of your cat with it. . . .

Plan A: Learn Beading by Experience and Experiments

Try easy steps such as these:

1. Make a small, flat, squarish sample of the stitch in its simplest form.

2. Make a small, flat, squarish sample, but add a pattern to it (someone else's or your own). Okay, make that sample big enough to be a brooch or a barrette or a bracelet if you wish.

3. If it makes sense for the stitch you are learning and the work you want to do with it, make a flat circle with it and/or a tubular shape.

4. Make another flat sample, and experiment with different directions to your stitching instead of all in tidy rows -- or -- work on making a three-dimensional form, perhaps shaping your work over some object, or maybe just curving it in your fingers.

5. Take on a bigger project of your choosing!

Plan B: Learn Beading by Following Instructions

If you don't want to follow Plan A, Try Plan B. Use a published set of instructions or a kit with good instructions. Follow the instructions exactly. If all the materials didn't come in a kit, get exactly the materials and tools that are specified. You can be pretty darn sure that if you use the same tools and materials and follow a competent set of instructions that you will get a result that looks amazingly like the teacher's sample.

If you are using published instructions or a kit after you are already good at the technique, feel free to substitute materials or improvise a bit, but if you are just starting out and you have a low tolerance for messing up, just follow the instructions until you are really pretty confident.

Feel free to do as many patterns or kits as you need in order to learn a new beading technique. And if you enjoy doing beadwork from patterns you find in books, in magazines, or on the web, it is fine to keep doing that forever.

Designing beadwork is a different set of skills and activities from making beadwork. You may enjoy one more that the other. You might like doing both activities, designing a piece and then making it. You may also enjoy beginning a piece with only the germ of an idea and making it up as you go along.

Plan C: Learn Beading with Hands-On Help

Find a teacher. Try your local Bead Society if you are lucky enough to have one near you. Check your local bead store. Some bead shows also have classes. Talk to your friends and find out who knows how to do what you want to learn. Ask for help. You might be interested in this article about what you can expect in a beading class. There is no single answer about how to learn beading. There are lots of ways to do it. Only you can decide which are the best ways for you!

Use the Resources That Are Available to You

Seed Bead University Online

Seed Bead University is a growing part of this website. There are lessons on the basics of a beading technique plus further learning and projects to use a newly-learned technique. There are also projects that give you experience using color and creating original artwork in beads. Take a look!

6 Ways to Learn from Coffee Table Books of Bead Art

Learning from coffee table books of bead art. Looking at beadwork in the real world is a wonderful way to both be inspired and to learn. Whenever you can, look for exhibits of beadwork, historical or contemporary. Study the works and try to figure out why the beader made the decisions she did about how to construct the piece. Look at the use of color and of different bead finishes. If it is an old piece, notice how well the beads and construction have (or have not) stood the tests of time. If you read my article on learning from exhibitions in book form, you know that I love an opportunity to go back and look at stuff again and again. If I can see a piece both in person and in print form, I am one happy beader.

Bead Societies

Bead Societies are an amazing resource, both for total beginners and for those with lots of knowledge and experience. This article tells you more about bead societies and how to connect with them.

Should You Buy a Beading Kit?

A beading kit can make it easy to learn a new beading skill and will sometimes be the cheapest way to complete a complicated project. Here are some thoughts to help you decide.

What About Beading Classes?

What Happens in a Beading Class? Learn more about what happens in a beading class. We'll cover both full-day or multi-day classes, and also the one-evening classes you may find at your local bead store.

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