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

Exploding Sets

In celebration of the 10,000th follower on the CGB Facebook page this week, I thought it might be nice to release one of our beautiful new ideas from the upcoming CGB Pattern Book into the wild.

This technique features the Exploding Round, which made its debut in the Basics section of Volume II. (You can download this section with our compliments and encouragement in the CGB Pattern Library if you don’t have the book.) There is also a helpful YouTube video showing the threadpath.

Exploding Round by Kate McKinnon

The Exploding Round is an extremely useful one-pass peyote threadpath that can be used to separate sections of beadwork instantly and cleanly, either for ease of starting a new piece, or to clone an existing piece for size or form. It can be done on any of our structures.

The idea that I’d like to show you today, however, is a bit deeper than just peyote starting or size cloning. The whole design team (including the participants of the last Seed Bead Summit) have gone back to the basic Basics for the Pattern Book, and brought the advanced ideas we’ve been working toward for the past four years full circle, applying them to the task, the challenge, the contemplation of starting open forms.

Peyote and  MRAW bangle starts are very time-consuming, and it’s easy for beginners to make errors in their counts or their starts that compromise their pieces before they really have a chance to understand what’s wrong. A twisted peyote start, a bad count, a Night Loop, uneven tension… these are all common beginner issues that can ruin hours of work, and this puts some percentage of people off from attempting sophisticated beadwork, closed bangles, etc.

What if there was a way to teach people open starts and cloning at the same time that you taught them how to make simple flat shapes?

Well, guess what? Our upcoming patterns for Exploding Sets will do exactly that – they start with flat shapes such as a Peyote Triangle, a Warped Square, or a Warped Pentagon. After the basic shape is made, new sections are added, each one beginning with an Exploding Round.

For example, if a person makes this simple Warped Square start:

Warped Square Demo

And then adds three sections, separated by Exploding Rounds:

Warped Square with Exploding Round

It comes apart cleanly, and leaves them with THIS amazing handful of open forms, each of them ready to become something fantastic. A person can add as many segments as they like; this warped square filled my hand by the time I cut it apart, and I worked it held like a taco.

Exploded Warped Square Kate McKinnon web

There is so much more to tell you. But that’s the starting story. And, because it’s how we roll, the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork project is giving away all three patterns, along with a teaching guide, as soon as they are finished. You can start teaching them before the Pattern Book even comes out. Why do we do nutty things like this?

It’s simple. We want to celebrate your interpretation of our structural ideas in the book. When we show the world what can be done with them, your ideas will be considered right along with those of our Design Team, and we will photograph the work from the community to illustrate the potential of the patterns. Everyone wins.

Here is a nice illustration from Karen Beningfield for the Warped Square shown above. Click to enlarge.

warped square 7a

There are a few things to know about using the Exploding Round in series like this, and they are important. If you want to get started playing with this before the patterns come out, here are a few basics.

Make your starter shape.

I chose a 14-bead per side Warped Square for this Exploded Set, but if you want more segments, you might want to start smaller. Take a ziggy pass through the last two rounds to make sure it’s a strong finished edge. Weave your thread and your tail in, and cut them cleanly. There is no need to have those threads in your way.

Start the new segment with a 3-4 meter long thread. Don’t weave it into the work – use a stop bead if your thread is very slippery, and just begin sewing. Your tail will be lost, so don’t worry about leaving a long one.

Place an Exploding Round, leaving Detonation Points every seventh bead or so. After that round, step up and do normal peyote stitch for 6 or more rounds (make whatever width of sections you want) and then add another Exploding Round, bead until you have another section, repeat until you are ready to stop and cut. As you are building new sections, remember not to add a new thread at a section edge- change threads in the middle of a section if you think it’s going to run out too close to a vulnerable section edge.

After you’ve beaded what you want, cut the threads between the Detonation Points. The square-stitched beads will fall off. Gently separate the peyote sections. Small short threads will come out of the work (the first round’s thread, in inch-long segments) but no beads will fall off, as they are all held onto the new section by the second round of beads. Here is what is left after one section is Exploded off of the Warped Square:
Exploded Section from a Warped Square, Kate McKinnon

Remember that each edge of an Exploded Section only has one thread running through it, so if the section is going to be a finished piece, reinforce the edges by taking a pass through each edge.

There are so many possibilities for these Exploded pieces; using them as starts, components, adding MRAW Bands to them, more increases, doing partial Exploded sections for connected pieces… we have more ideas than we can count. And so will you.

Here is a triangular Exploding Set that was built off of a 12-bead per side Flat Peyote Triangle, which was removed. Each set of white beads is a Detonation Point, and I’ve begun cutting them off. After they are all removed, I will gently separate the five sections, and make the last two into bangle starts.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 7.12.02 PM

Patterns in progress!

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.

8 comments on “Exploding Sets

  1. Maryanne Gross
    September 11, 2015

    Hi Kate,

    I’m beyond thrilled that there will be another CGB book! I followed along with this idea of a warped square (a favorite of mine) and an exploded round. In my opinion the Exploding Round is a brilliant idea! I was so excited when I removed the round from the warped square! I decided to make a pendant out of the warped squares and their “exploded” parts. I’ve attached a photo for you to see.

    Thank you for so many fabulous ideas for creating beadwork that is original and different. It continues to excite me and keep me beading!


  2. ArLynn
    August 15, 2015

    FANTASTIC KATE. You open a whole new ‘worlk’…….

  3. Michelle Smith
    August 15, 2015

    OMG OMG I get it now. Can’t wait to start this new adventure. Already composing structures in my beady mind. Thanks, Kate and everyone else involved.

  4. jmklous
    August 15, 2015

    You did say you were taping the talk and posting it on YouTube for us who can’t come and want to see you wonderful ideas correct?

  5. Cheryl
    August 15, 2015

    Woohoo! Methinks I just got a glimpse of tomorrow’s lecture. Can’t wait

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