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Beading – using a loom

Leather-workers also need to know how to use beading looms as they are often called upon to supply the beaded toe plugs for moccasins, not to mention beaded strips for belt trimmings and hatbands, also on occasion, beadwork for dream catchers, and beaded fringe strips.

Loom Work:- Beading looms are incredibly easy to use and are usually made of wood or metal. The smaller metal looms available in any craft are fine for short, narrow projects.  Wooden looms are usually larger and adjustable, and better for longer or wider projects.  They are a bit more expensive. For loom work, any cross stitch or knitting pattern will work well. Count the number of rows in the width of the pattern and then add one more to it. This is the number of warp threads that you need to load onto your loom.

Threading up the loom:- The loom is strung in width according to the number of beads used. This is called the warp. You will need one more warp thread than the number of beads. Outside threads are double for extra strength.

Knot the warp thread over a fixed peg. Hold the spool and allowing a steady feed of thread lay it thread into a groove in the threaded rod, bringing the thread across the loom to the corresponding groove at the other end, and wrapping it around the peg at that end. Lay the thread into the next groove on each rod and bring it back to the starting point. Continue wrapping around the pegs back and forth until you have one warp thread more than the number of beads in the widest row of your design (e.g.: 9 beads across = 10 warp threads). The threads have to be of equal tension. If they twang, they are too tight; if they slump unevenly, they are too loose. Make your adjustments before tying off the thread around a peg. The threaded rod will space 18 threads to the inch, ideal for regular size Delica beads. If you are working with 11/0 or larger seed beads, you may need to skip 1 to 2 grooves per inch. It is better to have the warp threads spread apart than have the beads squeezed into an arc. Run wax up and down the warp threads to strengthen them.

The weft thread holds the beads, weaving back and forth in a horizontal path around the vertical warp threads. Cut a length of thread 24 36 and knot it onto an outside warp thread leaving a 6 inch tail. Slip the other end of the weft thread into a beading needle. If you are right-handed, tie onto the left warp, passing the thread under the warps to pick up beads for a row. If you are left-handed, tie onto the right warp. Be sure to string the beads in the same direction as the weft thread. Read a chart from left to right for right-handers; read right to left for left-handers.

Beading on the loom:- Aside from the Czech beads, today there is the expanding selection in beads from Japan. Japanese seed beads are available in sizes 11 to 15 (Czech size 14), including two-cuts (faceted) in 11 and hex cuts in 15. The seed beads are more uniform in size, need less culling, and are blessed with a larger hole plus a slightly more square profile than Czech beads. Loom-work in these beads provides a uniform, slightly textured surface. The more costly Japanese Miyuki Delica and Toho Antique beads are cylindrical in shape (square profile), with thin walls and large holes, allowing many passes of the thread. They come in two sizes,  regular and large, comparable to Czech sizes 12 and 8. Weaving with Delicas is positively delicious, providing a very smooth fabric. Seed beads have been around for many centuries, being the beads that the English and French used as currency trading with native-Americans. Most today are imported from either the Czech Republic or Japan, in many sizes from 22/0 to 1/0. The size most often used for bead-weaving is 11/0. This number refers to how many beads to the inch when laid flat. Beginners should select a slightly larger size, 10/0. The holes are bigger so you will have less trouble passing your needle through them.

Delicas are a recent addition to the bead world, a small cylinder bead that is as tall as it is wide.  They are from Japan and are more expensive than seed beads, but by using them you don't have the width design problem you have with seed beads and by using a cross stitch pattern your piece will come out closely in proportion to the pattern.

If you are now ready to begin beading choose beads that are uniform in size. The best method is to work from a bead box that has a working tray that keeps the colours separate.

String the number of beads required for a row onto the weft thread. Make certain that the thread is under the warp threads before pushing the beads up to the first outside warp. Press the beads up with your finger so there is one bead between two warp threads across the row.

Holding the beads in place, pass the weft thread back through all the beads over the warp threads. Repeat these two steps for each row.

The most common mistake is passing the needle under one or more warp threads. The beads will drop beneath the rest of the row. If you catch it right away, undo the weft thread back to the mistake and rethread, reweaving to correct the mistake. If you discover it several rows later, you may thread a needle with weft thread and pass through two beads before the beads affected, and two beads after, making sure that the needle passes over the warp threads. Weave the ends into the surrounding beads.

Taking beading off the loom:- While the finished work is still on the loom, cut strips of tape for each end of it. Sandwich the end threads between the pieces of tape, making sure the tape butts up against the end beads, then cut off outside threads.  Fold tape behind beaded piece. Conceal tape and threads by following instructions for attaching backing to woven projects. Beading needles vary in length from 1" to 3", with sizes #10 (the largest), #12, #13, and #15. The accepted practice is to use the longer needles for loom-work, but be aware that they bend easily in the nervous fingers of beginners. It is preferable to use the standard beading #12 of about 2" length for weaving the piece, with the shorter #12 sharp for weaving off threads. To avoid piercing the warp threads, some people will blunt the tip of the needle with an emery board, but keep an eye out for a short #10 blunt tip tapestry needle, just now becoming available, this is ideal for beginners weaving a narrow first piece with 11 beads or larger.

Option 1: Cut end threads, leaving a 2" - 3" tail, and weave each one back into your beadwork (or if you wish, use them to attach fringe or embellishments).

Option 2: Cut end threads, leaving tails long enough to tie together in pairs behind the beadwork, then attach backing.

Option 3: If the warp was done with beading wire, cut end wires with wire cutters, leaving a 1" - 2" tail, then twist them together in pairs up against the beads, then bend behind beadwork.  Trim off excess wire.

Joining new thread:- When adding a new length of thread to the weft thread, join with a weavers knot (some there are who will insist there is only one, namely, the sheet bend). Be that as it may, just as there are more ways than one of skinning a cat so there are of  tying "weaver's knots" and I've shown two such examples below. During beading the knot should end up inside a row of beads. Trim off excess thread.

To more easily read your graph, draw a line through the rows of your pattern as you complete them.

When you weave the final row of your pattern, tie a knot and pull it down until it is closely against the last bead, then take your thread and weave it back through your work a few times, coming up in the middle and cutting it close to the surface. 

To finish the product, take a bit of tape and secure the warp threads with it close to each end of your piece.  Cut the finished piece off your loom, leaving several inches on each side.  Fold the warp threads under the loom work and then glue them (a jeweller's cement is a good choice) to a backing material such as leather, or another equally sturdy. When using the glue take care that it does not ooze through the beads, ruining your work.

There you have it, your first bead-woven piece.  Remember, bead-weaving takes time and patience to learn.  Your first piece may be a disappointment, but with practice your work will improve!


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