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How to Use a Needlework Pattern as a Beading Pattern

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With a little effort, many needlework patterns can be adapted for use as square stitch or loom beadwork patterns. Here's a look at how the process works.

1. Locate an Appropriate Needlework Pattern

An Antique Filet Crochet Pattern
©1912 Cora Kirchmaier. Image: Creative Commons license granted by The Antique Pattern Gallery.

The first step is to find a needlework pattern that can be converted into a beading pattern. Typically, that means the pattern must have a blocky design that is laid out on a grid. Fine details, such as thin tendrils and swirls, may be difficult.

If you like antique and vintage designs, you can search online for old needlework patterns that have lapsed into the public domain — which means that the term of their copyright protection has expired.

For my example in this tutorial, I selected a public domain filet chrochet pattern from an old booklet available through the Antique Pattern Gallery. As you can see in the image on the left (click the image for a larger view), the original has only two colors: black and white.

2. Outline Your Pattern Chart

The Pattern Ouline Drawn on Graph Paper
©Chris Franchetti Michaels

Next, use the pattern to lay out your beading pattern chart. You can do this manually with beading graph paper, or on your computer using bead pattern design software.

For this example, I used a printout of Fire Mountain Gem's free Square or Loom Work Graph.

Begin by drawing an outline around an area of the graph that contains the same number of columns and rows as your needlework pattern. The example pattern has ten columns and 37 rows. I outlined them with a green felt-tip marker.

3. Mark Out the Design

The Beading Pattern Being Marked Out
©Chris Franchetti Michaels

Now mark out the basic pattern on your graph paper. I did this by drawing an "X" through each cell that is empty (white) in the needlework pattern. (If you use a cross stitch needlework pattern, it may have its own X's, rather than black and white squares.) However you make your marks, keep them thin and light so that you can color over them later.

To keep from making a mistake, try transferring the design one row at a time. This is the same way you read a beading pattern when stitching a design. In the image on the left, I used an orange sheet of card stock to keep my place on the needlework pattern.

 

4. Optional: Print Copies of Your Graph Pattern

Printed Copies of the Marked Graph Pattern
©Chris Franchetti Michaels

Optionally, you can scan and print out some copies of your graph pattern before you color it in. This gives you some backup copies in case you'd like to try a few different color combinations.

5. Color Your Pattern

The Colored Graph Pattern
©Chris Franchetti Michaels

Think about the bead colors you'd like to use for your pattern. If this is the first pattern you've colored, keep it simple. Remember that beadwork can look stunning even with very simple color palettes.

For the example, I decided to use a blue-green, a yellow-green, and a peachy-topaz color, to match the following size 11/0 Delica cylinder beads that I happen to have in my stash:

  • Sparkling beige-lined charteuse; DB-0908
  • Lined topaz AB; DB-0065
  • Sparkling turqoise-green-lined topaz; DB-0917

Color your graph pattern with colored pencils or markers. (This is where copies come in handy if you make a mistake or don't like your initial results.)

6. Stitch Up Your Pattern

The Stitched Bead Pattern
©Chris Franchetti Michaels

You're now ready to stitch your new pattern using either square stitch or a loom. To stitch a band that is longer than your pattern, look for a row toward the end of the pattern than matches up with the first row in the pattern, and start again there. (Needlework patterns are not always drawn to have their first and last rows match up.)

Tip: Because cylinder beads and round seed beads tend to be slightly rectangular, your completed design will have slightly different proportions than the needlework pattern.

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