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African Helix Beaded Necklace

Beautiful Beaded Cord

close up of african helix

I learned this neat beading stitch from Carol Wilcox Wells' book Creative Bead Weaving but I believe that it was first described in the book "Those Bad Bad Beads." by Virginia Blakelock. These are both excellent books, must-haves for any beadwork library.

The stitch is unique in that it's the only one I know in which the beads are only gone through once, when you first pick them up. All the actual weaving is done by looping over the thread. This makes for a very flexible, comfy tube that makes a wonderful necklace embellished or plain. I'll include some links to examples of work done using this stitch at the bottom of this article so you can get a better idea of what it looks like and what can be done with it.

First of all you'll need a support to work around. A regular old pencil should be the perfect size for the number of beads we'll be using. Now choose two colors of size 11 seed beads that look nice together. One for the "spines" (the solid lines that spiral around the outside of the helix) and one for the background color. I used a matte dark green for the spines and red-lined green for the background. The dark green beads turned black in the scan and they actually look better that way.

String on 4 repeats of 3 background color and 1 spine color for a total of 16 beads. Tie the beads in a circle and roll the circle of beads onto a pencil. It should be pretty tight because the first row is smaller than all the others and if it isn't tight it won't give much support for the subsequent rows. Make sure you align your beads on the pencil as shown in the illustration, with the color sequence going from right to left.

Pick up 3 background color beads and 2 spine beads. Take your needle and slide it down behind the thread between the 4th and 5th beads in the base row. Make sure you always go down behind the thread from top to bottom, it doesn't work the other way around. Hold the stitch down with your thumb while you pull your thread through. Your tension should be kept very firm throughout. Ideally it should be tight enough that you can feel the thread pop into place between the beads.

The white dot marks the first bead in the base row. Complete the second row by adding 3 more stitches in the same manner, picking up 3 background beads, 2 spine beads and going under the thread between each 4th and 5th bead.

This next illustration shows the completed 2nd row and the first stitch of the 3rd row. The white dots mark the first beads in the 1st and 2nd rows. I turned the pencil a bit so that you can see the first stitch of the 3rd row clearly. Pick up 3 background beads and 2 spine beads. Go down behind the thread between the 3rd background color bead and the 1st spine bead in the stitch to the left of your thread.

Again, pick up 3 background beads and 2 spine beads and go down behind the thread between the 3rd background color bead and the first spine bead in the next stitch to the left. Continue adding stitches in this manner until your helix reaches the required length. Some people take the tube off of the support after a couple of inches but this didn't work for me at all. I kept it on the pencil the whole time and just pushed it up to make room as I went along.

To finish the end to match the beginning, add a final round of 4 stitches using only 3 background beads and one spine bead in each stitch. Then run through the four final stitches and tighten. Then weave back into the work to secure. You may wish to run thread through each spine from end to end to strengthen the tube. To join the two ends to make a continuous loop you need to first remove the first row of sixteen beads you added (do not finish add the extra row of 4 bead stitches if you plan to do this). You will probably need to remove more than the first row to get enough thread to work with. Try to remove stitches in groups of four at a time.

Then you must match up the spines then weave the ends together. This is much easier to do if you put both ends on your support. Use a short pencil for this. If the ends don't match up correctly, you may need to add another stitch or two. When you have the spines lined up, come out of the end of one of the spines and go down into the end of the corresponding spine. Then use a group of 3 background beads to cross to the next spine and go up through the end of it and into the end of the spine on the other side. Continue doing this until all the spines are connected.

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