If you have never taught Native-American beadwork, you're in for a treat, but be careful, loom-beading can be habit-forming. For me, addiction began after a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where beadwork and bead shops abound. Initially, I was skeptical about teaching a technique that required individualized instruction to large groups of students, but my own interest in the process encouraged me to give it a try.

To my pleasant surprise, beading was a bigger success than I could ever imagine. Not only were my students capable of mastering the technique; they created patterns influenced by Native-American geometric designs. They were excited, engrossed and challenged. After we finished the lesson, the students bought their own beading supplies to continue their beadwork at home.

While I work primarily at the high school level, students as young as nine or ten years will be able to learn this technique. The following suggestions may be helpful:

* Use a large grid for the pattern.

* Limit color choices to black and white plus no more than five opaque colors.

* When creating the pattern, the colored pencils or markers that are the same colors as the beads.

* Have students bring in their own shallow box to hold their beads, (e.g., a 1/2" deep, cardboard jewelry box).

The Necessities Seed Beads -- The higher the number; the smaller the bead. Seed beads are sold in sizes 10/0 to 16/0.

Needles -- Long beading needles will be required for loom-beading. These are sold by numbers that correspond to the bead size (i.e., a size 10 needle would be used for 10/0 beads). It is also advisable to have size 12 needles.

Beeswax -- Warp and weft threads can be waxed for added strength. This also prevents the threads from tangling.

Clear Nail Polish -- Good for sealing knots.

Graph Paper -- Special graph paper for beadweaving is available. Regular graph paper in 1/2" grids is better for beginners. Use colored pencils to create the pattern.

You will also need scissors and adhesive tape to end the warp.

Warping the Loom

When the thread gets too short to comfortably pick up the beads, it is time to add a new thread. Start a new thread four rows up from the last completed row. Sew through these four finished rows (in the same direction as the original thread) ending at the point where the thread was short. Then carefully cut the remaining short thread close to the beadword. Continue working with the new thread.

When the desired length of beadwork is reached, go back through at least four rows of beads under the weft threads. The entire strip can be reinforced by threading in and out through all the rows. Then cut the beadwork off the loom. Immediately, place adhesive tape on each end of warp threads. Wrap tape around warp threads, making it slightly smaller in width than the beadwork.

The beaded strip may be used for a barrette, sewn onto clothing or made into a wristband. For wristbands, attach work to felt or leather. Turn taped ends under the beadwork. Sew with an overhand stitch, catching the double warp selvage ends with sewing thread. Cut wristband to each student's wrist size. Close with button and buttonhole or Velcro.