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

Bangles vs. Flat Bracelets II

I was interested in the result of presenting the previous entry without using the words “odd and even count” to discuss turning around at the edges of a peyote fabric.  I’ve been curious to see how people responded. I always seem to be an outlier in any sampling, so it’s helpful to me to find out what people’s default assumptions are.  A huge “thank you” to everyone who responded.

Pagoda Underskirts

Pagoda Bangle, Kate McKinnon 

In the geometric work, as we usually aren’t working in flat strips, whether we start odd or even (or happen to be at odd or even in any particular piece of my bangle) isn’t always how we finish. It’s quite easy to alter the bead count as one tailors pieces for attitude or fit.  So my responses to threadpath challenges are situational: all sorts of circumstances arise where I find myself needing to change directions, whether at an edge or not, whether even or odd count.

My job as a maker is to know that I can find a simple, low-thread mechanism to get my needle where it needs to be, and if possible, to do it without disrupting the natural weave of my design. Ideally, I prefer to avoid knots in the thread, or taking loops around existing thread that might tug against the weave. I also want to avoid over-filling beads, or creating an edge that is thicker than the body of the piece (as a Figure 8 Turnaround), as any of those can lead to break points- places where the beads or the thread are under more strain than their neighbors.

In the best of circumstances, the fabric of the thread is a mirror and a complement of the piece, and when the woven fabric of thread inside the beads smoothly flows in a friendly way with that of the beads, the “hand” of the beadwork is finer. It’s not always something one can see, but it’s definitely something that can be felt.  All of this leads me to focus more on emphasizing an awareness of structure and intention (what comes next?) and minimizing the number of passes per bead than to count beads. So, if people wanted tips about how to turn around an an odd edge, or in a dicey spot, I’d ask questions like these:

Will you be going back into your edge to add more beadwork, or a clasp?  If so, you will want to avoid knots and overfilled beads at your edges. Have you planned your clasp? I rarely do until my piece is finished. If you’ve got it all planned out, you may as well finish all of your edges as you go. If not, take it easy on the edges, and perhaps try the Simple Square Stitch Step-Up, shown here.

Do you take a finish lap around the outside edge of your beadwork, once your piece is complete? If so, there is no need to over-reinforce in the turnaround, and either the Wandering Step-Up (Mikki Ferrugiaro shows it here, starting at 11:15 in the video) or the Simple Square-Stitch Step-Up is perfect.

Are you working a complex pattern?  If so, the Wandering Step-Up may confuse you, working as you must in several rows at once.

Do you have very soft tension?  If so, you will probably want to avoid knots, thread loops, and uneven bulk at the edges, or at any point in your piece.

Are you using thread that holds, like Nymo, or thread that slips and slides? You may find knots very helpful for holding tension if you have slippery thread.

Do you bead very stiffly? If so, then anything that works works. No knot, loop, or thread path will have much effect on the fabric of your finished beadwork, unless it’s badly placed or not well-reinforced enough.

For Volume II, and the soon-to-be-opening Pattern Library, we’ll show the edge finishes known as The Figure 8,  The Wandering Step-Up, and The Simple Square Stitch Step-Up, with thanks to all who have contributed.

Ingrid Wangsvik web 12

Snap-fastened bracelet with edging, Ingrid Wangsvik 



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.

5 comments on “Bangles vs. Flat Bracelets II

  1. Ingrid Wangsvik
    April 1, 2014

    What a genious feature, just what I need. The bracelet you so kindly included , oh gosh what a struggle on the ends and the turns. …. This will certainly be a big help for future projects. Thank you!

    • katemckinnon
      April 1, 2014

      Oh, good! May I ask which part you found most helpful? The Simple Square Stitch Step-Up? The Wandering Step-Up? Something else?

      • Ingrid Wangsvik
        April 4, 2014

        I found the Simple Square Stitch Step-Up very helpful, I will give it a try in my next project. I think I´ll try the Wandering Step-Up with a calmer pattern. Finally Odd number peyote is an alternative for me, too. Always wanted to use it, but found it too slow and difficult.

  2. Gerlinde Lenz
    April 1, 2014

    In the wandering step down / step up, you only switch between two rows, no more. Mikki’s video demonstrates that beautifully.

    • katemckinnon
      April 1, 2014

      It is still enough to confuse people who are working an intricate pattern, as Mikki points out. Especially if they aren’t working from a pre-made grid, but instead, trying to visualize the design.

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This entry was posted on March 31, 2014 by .
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