You can use even-count and odd-count peyote stitch to create beadwork in all kinds of interesting flat shapes, from whimsical animal figures to elegant foliage and architectural motifs. You just need to learn how to make efficient peyote stitch increases and decreases, and get comfortable with weaving through your beadwork to reposition your needle. A good way to get started is to try stitching a small, simple shape, such as the leaf pattern in this tutorial.
1. Decide Where to Begin
With most shaped patterns, it's easiest to begin mid-way through the pattern rather than at the top or bottom. You stitch outward in one direction, and then return to your starting point and use the thread tail to stitch outward in the opposite direction. This allows you to use decreases (which are easier to make than increases) at the edges of tapered beadwork.
If your pattern is marked to show you where to begin, of course you should start there. But if it isn't marked, look to see if one part of the pattern is wider than the rest. In the leaf pattern, there are a few rows that meet this description. Place a mark, such as an asterisk or star, beside the lowest of these rows.
2. Identify the First Two Rows
Next, count the bead columns (left to right) to determine whether this portion of the pattern calls for even-count or odd-count peyote stitch. The widest part of our leaf pattern has 15 columns, which means that it uses odd-count peyote. This is important because it affects whether you begin with a high bead or with a low bead. Remember that:
- even-count peyote begins with a high bead and ends with a low bead; and
- odd-count peyote begins with a low bead and ends with a low bead.
Because we're beginning the leaf pattern with odd-count peyote, the bead next to the asterisk needs to be a low bead.
Now that you know where to begin, you can use a marker or highlighter to delineate which beads to pick up first. Recall that with peyote stitch, those are all of the beads for the first two rows. In the copy of the leaf pattern above left (please click to enlarge), I numbered each of the 15 beads in my first two rows. I also labeled the sixteenth bead for reference.
3. Begin Stitching Flat Peyote Stitch
Gather your beads, and cut a length of thread to begin stitching. The following size 11/0 Delica cylinder beads are used in the example:
- Opaque cactus luster [DB-0263]
- Metallic dark bronze [DB-0022]
- Opaque chartreuse [DB-0733]
Remember to leave an extra-long thread tail, because you'll need it to stitch the second (bottom) half of the pattern. The example in this tutorial was stitched with an arm span length of size D nylon beading thread, and the beads for the first two rows were positioned approximately half way along the thread.
Begin stitching flat peyote stitch as usual, following the pattern chart. The first decreases in the leaf pattern occur at the sixth row. The thread path I used to make my decreases is shown in the photos on the left (please click to enlarge).
4. Continue Stitching Flat Peyote Stitch
Continue stitching, working toward the top of the pattern. Keep a close eye on the edges of the pattern so that you can anticipate upcoming decreases; weave through the beadwork to reposition your needle as needed to make them. The photos on the left show the thread path I used to make the next few decreases in the pattern.
5. Complete the Top Half of the Pattern
Continue stitching, making decreases as needed, until you complete this first half of the pattern. Unless you want to string a beaded loop or join this end of the leaf with other beadwork, you can weave-in and end this end of the thread.
6. Begin Stitching the Bottom Half of the Pattern
Now flip your beadwork so that the first row that you stitched is facing up. Use the long thread tail to continue stitching the pattern from this point to the bottom of the leaf. You may find it helpful to print out the pattern and place it upside down in front of you, so that you can continue reading it bottom-to-top.