an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators


This project has become so big! It’s been a community endeavor since it began, all about collecting and sharing ideas. It’s an open-source beadworking project, meant to serve as a basis for a community library of forms, and to collect the counts and colours and maker-thoughts that went into creating them.

The two paper books I’m making are lovely, but they can’t hold the whole of the project; they’re only sparkling moments in time. The real project is so much bigger – additional patterns, photos, and videos spiral off in every direction, things both already created and yet to come.

Maria Cristina Grifone, Bangle, "Sinfonia Doppia" photo by Francesca Pavoni
Maria Cristina Grifone, “Sinfonia Doppia Bangle”, photo by Francesca Pavoni.

It’s been exciting to see the structural ideas spreading. Thousands of people (right now!) are beading some variations of the forms that danced across the pages of Volume I. People are watching our YouTube videos, or checking out our image galleries on this site (have you explored the photo bar at the lower right?)

Lots and lots of people are also digging our Facebook page. (Links to our Facebook and YouTube are in the upper right of this page, by the way, masquerading as a black and white “f” and a black and white arrow.)

Jean Disrud Fortuneteller web

Fortuneteller Bangle, Jean Disrud

I really love seeing all of the work come in from all corners of Terra, and also am excited that so many talented designers are releasing CGB-inspired patterns. Outside patterns are excellent, because people love to bead to tutorials. The more the merrier!

Admittedly, great designs can change the world. Patterns like Christina Vandervlist‘s Fortuneteller Bangle, Jean Power’s beautiful Power Puff and Caldera Bangles, and Gabriella van Diepen’s first Horned Bangles have led to many crazed explorations, all of them interesting.

Great threadpaths can also build new architecture. Our Zigged Band opened up a whole new way to think about layering Rick-Rack and Wings.

Nathalie DeLesse fortuneteller web 8

Nathalie Delesse, Winged Bangle on a Zigged Band

When Dustin Wedekind and I were diligently avoiding the peyote start, and came up with the idea of using a RAW band, and then an MRAW band to do it, we couldn’t envision the confections that would spring from that useful little train track. His idea to skip the spacer with the thread was key to its utility; such small things make such big differences.

I am equally in love with my Elegant Guide Round, which can do about ten things and do them well. It features in this piece, and can be seen in video on our Facebook page at this link.


Now that we have a solid community busy innovating, this seems like a good time to provide more, rather than less, instruction, so that we can include more beaders in the work.

Patterns, however, consume huge numbers of book pages, and leave a lot less room for ideas. I think I’ve finally landed on a plan that will be good for everyone, which is to use the help of the growing CGB Pattern Squad to make good patterns for every idea available as a special section in the digital version of the book, and to format them so that they are easy on printers, with simple illos and text. They won’t be “my” patterns, or belong to the book, but instead will be community-created and edited, and they can grow like a good library should.

Angela Wallis ZigWing Flower Ties web 1

Angela Wallis’ exciting Zig-Wing bangle, tied at her petal tips into a huge flower form

By creating a digital archive, we can upload new content when we have it, and people who want to print patterns out can do it. People who want to view them on tablets can do so at any time, from anywhere, and the press versions of the books, which I am responsible for creating (and therefore must enjoy creating) can be focused on the ideas, and of course on the photography of all of the incredible variations.

I hope that this approach will encourage everyone to participate, and will be a sensible way to allow an entire world to expand both inside and outside of our own project. It will also allow people who want patterns to support the creation of the paper books, with the knowledge that the pattern database comes with them.

Along those lines, have you pre-ordered Volume II yet?

Cate Jones Double Triple Rick Rack web

Double-Triple Rick Rack Bangle, Cate Jones

About katemckinnon

Kate McKinnon has devoted herself to the study of how things are done, and how they could be done better. Find her at or on some city street, walking fast, smiling at strangers.

9 comments on “Bead-A-Whirl

  1. Janice
    January 1, 2014

    Kate you have a beautiful and beadiful heart. I am just completed my first tri wing ring. Proud of myself. Thank you x

    • katemckinnon
      January 1, 2014

      Exciting! I remember my first Tri-Wing Ring! It was the first thing we made with our pretty MRAW Band.

  2. jennysangster
    December 29, 2013

    I am ridiculously excited by this!

    • katemckinnon
      December 29, 2013

      Me too, Jenny! I am thrilled. It solves so many problems for me… and sorts things out where they belong. When you receive your layouts, you’ll also get an email giving you the full scoop on how to contribute to and begin reviewing the Pattern Library- we are opening it to all contributors to the book in just a few weeks. It feels so… right.

  3. mary reifschneider
    December 28, 2013

    Love the double rick rack

    December 28, 2013


  5. Julie Shear
    December 28, 2013

    The digital patterns sound like a Great plan, the creativity freedom will allow will be awesome to watch and to bead. I can’t wait!!!

  6. Sally Anderson
    December 28, 2013

    Hi Kate,

    I haven’t ordered volume two and just wanted to tell you why. You know (I hope) that I’ve been a big supporter of this work since day one. But we are really restricted financially. Plus I’m sick and have gotten the “put your affairs in order” talk from my pulmonologist. So, I probably would enjoy the eye candy but not be able to bead anything in it (dammit). So, I continue to support your work but can’t financial support anything right now!

    Hugs, Sally


    • katemckinnon
      December 28, 2013

      Good grief! Well, I hope you have more time than you think to bead with us! And you know that I’ll always give the book to anyone who can’t afford it, so don’t let that stop you either. Love to you, Kate

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