How to make a beading loom

Beadwork has long been associated with the colorful art that adorns Native American clothing and accessories. Surprisingly, many of these beautiful creations are made on a simple bead loom. Depending on the difficulty of the project, bead looming is something that can be easy enough for a child or challenging enough for a seasoned artist. It is a relatively inexpensive hobby that only requires a loom, a beading needle, thread, a good work area, and of course, beads. By following these simple instructions, beginners of any age will soon be on their way to making all kinds of jewelry and accessories.

The first step is to acquire the necessary tools. Bead looming is inexpensive, but quality materials are important, especially the loom itself. The right loom makes all the difference; metal looms become loose and inconsistent, while plastic looms can warp or stretch. Wooden looms are the best choice, as they are sturdy and maintain their integrity.

When choosing beads for your project, it helps to know that bead sizes are a bit backward: the larger the number, the smaller the bead size. There are many types and styles of beads, but Czech seed beads are common, easy to find, and relatively easy to handle. Size 6 is quite large, 10 and 11 are mid-range, and 13 is tiny and very tedious to work with. I suggest size 10 for this project.

For beginners, it is best to choose a simple pattern for your bracelet. You might want to try choosing two or three colors that can be alternated, or one solid color is fine. Of course, if you want to get creative right off the bat, feel free. There are books and Internet sites that have beautiful patterns-from simple to very intricate-or you can plot your own original pattern on a piece of graph paper using crayons or colored pencils. No matter how you choose your beads, make sure you have enough.

The bracelet in these instructions will be 8 inches long and 8 beads wide. For an 8-inch, 8-strand bracelet, you will need between 300 and 400 size 10 beads, which means if you’re doing two colors, you’ll want 200 beads in each color. It’s always a good idea to get more than enough so you won’t run out before your project is finished.

After choosing your bead size and colors, you’ll need a needle and thread. As with everything else, there are many to choose from, but as a rule of thumb, choose a nylon beading thread, and avoid cotton. Nymo is a popular thread because of its strength and flexibility. When choosing a beading needle, size is important. The needle should be one size smaller than the bead size. And remember, the larger the number, the smaller the size. The rule with needles is the same as with beads. When using a size 10 bead, choose a size 11 needle.

Your work area is as critical as your tools. It must be well-lit, comfortable, and have a steady surface. It’s best if it can be free of bumps or jolts (like cats that might jump up and scatter your beads!). It is helpful to use some type of cloth, placemat, towel, or even a cloth diaper on your worktable. This way, if you drop beads on your work surface, they won’t bounce and scatter. A smooth, hard surface is asking for trouble!

Now you are ready to begin. Thread your loom with 9 pieces of thread, to accommodate the 8-bead project width. Once the loom is threaded securely, cut a piece of working thread about 2-3 feet long, thread your beading needle, and tie the thread to the end of one of the outside loom threads. Before you string your beads, first weave your working thread back and forth a few times through the loom threads for reinforcement.

Next comes the fun part. Choose the color bead you’ll be working with first, and string 8 of those beads onto your thread, pushing them all the way down to the end. Bring your working thread, beads and all, beneath the loom threads, and position it up against them, pushing the 8 beads between each loom thread. Hold them in place with your finger, pushing them slightly up between the threads, and as you do, bring your needle and thread back through the same 8 beads in the other direction. This time, make sure your needle is above the loom threads. This way, the beads will be strung both below and above the loom threads, thus holding them securely in place.

Then, start again with your next set of beads. Depending on your pattern, it may be a new color. String the next 8 beads onto your working thread, bring them down around and under your loom, push them into place with your finger, and re-thread them again back the other way, keeping the thread above the loom threads.

As you go, make sure you keep your working thread tight, and keep watching to see that the beads stay in place. Continue this pattern until your bracelet is the desired length. If you find that part of the way through your project your working thread is not long enough, simply tie a new piece of thread to the end, knot it, re-string your needle, and keep going. The thread is thin, and a knot will either be hidden inside a bead or wedged between two beads.

When you come to the end of the project, simply string the beads back through the second time, and then as you did at the beginning, weave your thread through the loom threads, back and forth, a few times. This will keep the beads in place once the project is taken off the loom, again, reinforcing your work. Tie your working thread off to the outside loom thread where you stop. At this point, it is time to take your project off the loom. Cut the loom threads with plenty of room to spare, and then tie them off, two or three at a time.

Some artists use cloth tape to tape the string ends under the finished project. Another way to do this is to put a dab of glue on the knots. Metal clasps can be attached to both ends, or the strings from each end can all be knotted together respectively, for a slip-on bracelet. Congratulations on a job well done!

Some artists

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