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Native-American beadwork.

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 size 10/0 beads.

* 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.

Thread -- Nymo (nylon) size D for warping loom; size A or B for the weft thread. A larger size thread may be used for the weft thread; however, a thinner thread makes threading the needle easier for students. Size B thread is thicker than size A, and so on. Beading Looms -- Metal beading looms can be purchased for approximately $5, depending on quantity. Some looms come with needles and beads, but these supplies are often of poor quality. Wooden looms can be easily constructed. Recycled cardboard or wooden cigar boxes can be made into beading looms by attaching a nail or paper fastener to each end and indenting the spaces for the threads on opposite box edges.

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

Tie a know with D thread on the nail closest to you. With the spool in your hand, thread the loom by bringing the thread from nail to nail, wrapping around each nail two times until the threads number one more than the number of beads used. For beginners, a strip of seven beads wide is sufficient--eight warp threads. The selvage threads should be doubled. Quilting thread or other strong cotton thread may also be used for warping the loom.

Weft Thread

Thread the needle with a single strand of A or B thread. Rub beeswax along the warp threads and weft thread. With the weft thread, tie a knot on the left warp thread leaving a 5" (13 cm) tail. Weave under and over for two rows. To begin beading, bring needle under the warp threads. Pick up beads for the first row. Slide beads to the end of the thread following your graph pattern. Push beads up between warp threads, one in each space. The first row is the most difficult to get into place. When the beads are in their proper place, pass the needle back through the row, making sure the needle goes on top of the warp threads while going through the beads.

Adding a New Thread

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.

Ending the Beadwork

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.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:art lesson
Author:Levine, Barbara
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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