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

Illustrated Word Charts?

One of our last jobs before we print is to choose a final format for our word charts, so we’ll be spending the next 12 weeks refining them. Our goal is to chart absolutely everything. Some of the charts will just be the information, but I feel that we need some to also be formatted to be helpful for people who don’t thrive reading patterns and graphs. I want to have a sturdy public library of patterns available to all, for free, so that all of our forms and fundamental pattern designs are accessible.

I’d like to go back, as we have time, and also chart the pieces from the first two books. Wouldn’t that be something!

As a person who has never used a word chart in my life, it has been a soulful journey for me to recognize their integral beauty and meaning, and to see them as priceless architectural codes, each stripe of symbols and letters containing the information to allow a shape or a form to spring to life. It has occurred to me, in a practical way, that some information is alive in this way… simply uttering it will allow that which has the ears to hear to create an energetic form.

The photographs, the words, the illustrated graphs, and the word charts are each ways to access the ideas presented, and ideally each one of them should have continuity, simplicity, and emphasize what is fundamental and ordinary vs. what is original, unique or particularly important to notice. These last few months before we print will be an intensive time of running this information through all of you, to see if we have done our best.

I’ve been working to develop an illustrated word chart that even I could read, and this is an example of where I am at currently. I would appreciate it if those of you who create, use and rely on word charts can comment, critique, and share any helpful tips about standardizing notation, or how to be more clear. What can be improved, removed, or clarified?

The illustrated charts are intended to be viewed as a spread in the book, so that the full information is available to the eye at once. However, for printing convenience, the PDF is in single pages (view or download it here or click at the bottom of the page).

I’m particularly interested in the visual interpretations of the lines, as seen on the second page. I feel that if I had this colour bar integrated in each line of my word charts, I could fly. Charts like this are significantly more work to create, but the idea seems like a real gift. I really have no way to quickly check my work in real time when I am following lines of code; I end up in a distracted mess trying to check the photo, the piles of beads, and the chart and it isn’t any fun. But with the colour blocks, I’m golden.

What about you? Please leave comments.

About katemckinnon

Kate McKinnon has devoted herself to the study of how things are done, and how they could be done better.

75 comments on “Illustrated Word Charts?

  1. phorbit
    January 23, 2022

    When writing word charts (page one), I always end a row with a “bead count” (up beads for peyote). Even following step by step, we can sometimes forget a step up, or just skip a bead. I would rather discover my mistake at the end of a row instead the end of the triangle.

  2. kmatth7621
    January 8, 2022

    I prefer charts written with increases in parenthesis or brackets, then the number of each color as it progresses, with single beads just having the letter, like this: (AC) 2C, 3B, C etc. My brain works best with the numbers before letter. For charts done in a format that’s difficult for me to follow, I just copy it to a text file and rework it so it’s easier for me to follow. It’s relaxing, kind of like sorting a pile of beads after frogging something. I very much like your idea of making the increase beads in a different ink color. It really makes them stand out more. I’m getting excited thinking about the book coming out soon.

  3. Betsi Newbury
    January 4, 2022

    Thanks for asking for input on the word charts. I like the color block idea, however, I don’t like the actual instruction lines shown at all. I would take too much time counting the number of individual beads of one type to add if I had to use a chart like this one. I much prefer the bead identifier followed by the number of beads in parentheses, e.g, A(1), B(1), C(3), etc.

    • katemckinnon
      January 4, 2022

      Oh sure, we agree. We are going to format and typeset them all according to the standards that you all prefer, and that is agreed on by all. The individual beads are more… placeholders for me at this point. Thanks much for your comment.

  4. Kathleen Katerra
    January 3, 2022

    I love word charts so this is exciting. A couple of comments, seeing the beads in color would be helpful only if I was using the same color way. Also, I would much rather see the rows written 4a instead of aaaa. I’d have to stop and count the individual a’s instead of just seeing 4a.
    Looking forward to the new material.
    Thank you for all your work.

  5. Deirdre Rose
    January 3, 2022

    Really, really interesting how we all approach this SO differently. I use the word chart every time. The graph becomes a meaningless jumble for me. The idea of a colour block underneath is intriguing and I could see would be very helpful. In fact just having the colour blocks at the top of the word chart is also very useful. I often mix the colours up and just having a visual block that tells me A = blue for example is great (even if for me I have changed it to red). Hope this makes sense. You have brought such joy to my life

    • katemckinnon
      January 3, 2022

      Aw that last line of your comment. (getting a Kleenex)

  6. Jane Tyson
    January 2, 2022

    If there is a simple colour selection, then the colour blocks would certainly work for me. I really like the colour block idea and perhaps if you could incorporate a notation within the colour block, you might get the best of both worlds. E.g. for 2 yellow beads, have a yellow coloured block with 2Y inside it. I have problems following number/letter charts. I am not good with detail and miss things. As mentioned in a previous post though, if you have trouble with differentiating colours, coloured blocks could be a problem. I imagine the best way is to give as much information as possible to give people a mental image/pattern so that they have a good idea where they are going. Much the way a jigsaw puzzle works. Have you ever seen Was Jig puzzles? These jigsaw puzzles do not show you a picture of the completed puzzle, you have to work out what the puzzle might look like from the description. While seeing an image of the completed piece is very useful, if you can get a better feel for the shifts in colour and design, as they progress, you can ensure fewer mistakes are made. In the end, it is probably not practical to be all things to all people even though the effort would probably not be wasted. I admire you Kate, for encouraging us beaders to stretch our boundaries and try new things. I have been beading for over thirty years after I decided to focus on beading to the exclusion of all other craft activities. I have not regretted this decision and still find myself as passionate and interested in things I can do with beads as I ever have been.

    • katemckinnon
      January 3, 2022

      I love the things you say! Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jane, and I agree with you, beads fill me completely and have become my practice as well as my entertainment, my art and my craft.

  7. Diane Schroer
    January 2, 2022

    I like working from a word chart with photos to confirm. I also compare my work to a graph when available.

    The color blocks are good where the colors are listed with amounts needed. However I feel they are not necessary for each line item. Plus the colors being used will often differ from the pattern colors. Maybe the basic patterns for beginners should be this way.

    Including the number off beads per row is helpful as is printing the corner beads in color or bolded as well as in parentheses.

  8. sjmarlega
    January 2, 2022

    Kate — The Charts are Gorgeous! and the animated video is brilliant! Many thanks! And Happy New Year.

  9. Tom & Sally Daft
    January 2, 2022

    The color blocks seem a wonderful solution. Really nice. Great job.

  10. Claudia+White
    January 2, 2022

    I feel similarly to most of the comments. I have been writing out word charts for ideas that I have made color maps of. I also agree that seeing a bunch of letters running together can be dizzying. As a former math teacher, written charts could say (Line 12 from above)
    [CB] B x 10 [BA] A x 10 [AC] Cx10
    Somehow, beaders (both beginning and advanced) can figure your notation out. Thanks for all you continue to do. Looking forward to having the publication in my hands.

  11. Cynthia Salkowski
    January 2, 2022

    Thank you for this Kate. I prefer a word chart over a graph. I like the idea of a word chart as stated by Daria Tittenger above with the addition of adding color to each of the respective color letters.

    [CB] 2B [BA] 2A [AC] 2C


  12. phorbit
    January 2, 2022

    When I write word charts, I include a bead count (up beads) at the end of each row. It’s better to find a missed bead, or stepup at the end of the row than at the end of the triangle.

  13. Capitola Bradshaw
    January 2, 2022

    I think page two of the examples is by far the easiest to follow! I have used several different types of word charts and this is the easiest for me. I have used, for example , Julia Pretl, Barbara Briggs, Diane Dennis, Heather Collins and Laura McCabe and more. In general, Laura McCabe gives the clearest instructions and pictures! Your page two is easier to follow than one. Hope this helps! Stay well!

  14. Friderike Strassmann
    January 2, 2022

    Oh my Kate, so many work goes into these different methods and i can understand the necessity of these different views for people.
    I always tried to keep it simple to me and i do like basically to work best with diagrams, showing the colors. This way i can keep an overview of the pattern and the aimed piece or shape.
    But, they need to have a certain size, because the challenge can be, to know where i am in the rows, i know.

  15. Sonja Hofer
    January 2, 2022

    It is fantastic what you are doing!

  16. suzikatz
    January 2, 2022

    I’m particularly interested in the visual interpretations of the lines, as seen on the second page. I feel that if I had this colour bar integrated in each line of my word charts, I could fly.

    I think I understand what you are asking and YES, a color bar on the second page in each line would help.  I’m 95% visual learner but for whatever reason, I have found the flat visual pattern examples very hard to translate into 3-d in my head.  I’m better off to just follow the word chart carefully rather than trying to do both.  Color bars would help BUT…I very much like to create my own colors (see photo above) and this bead separator has been a life-saver.  What about a color bar page and a blank color bar page so one might create their own color bars?

    Check out my 

  17. Jane Marie Griffin
    January 2, 2022

    Hi KateAttached are a few proofing and layout suggestions. I put them in a pdf as I thought it might be helpful to have a visual. I’m sure you have been inundated with suggestions, hope it’s not been too overwhelming and that you find this useful, but totally understand too if you want to just ignore my suggestions. Your doing a fabulous job and it’s very exciting to hear all the news.  best wishes

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      I’ll email you to get your PDF, thank you! Input is always welcome on stuff like this, because it’s meant to be useful to a wide variety of beaders.

  18. janet1kennedy
    January 2, 2022

    I find the format very easy to follow. An alternative would be to put “1 C 8 times” rather than “C,C,C,C,C,C,C,C”. I would use that rather than “8 C”. I can see someone new wondering if they are to string 8 C altogether.

  19. Jane Marie Griffin
    January 2, 2022

    Hi Kate, I had a few proofing and layout suggestions but put it in a pdf, which I don’t seem to be able to attach here, so I’ll email it to you.

  20. Deb Bridge
    January 2, 2022

    Kate, the colour blocks are totally BRILLIANT—so much easier (for me, at least) than a line of letters!
    I’m working a larger two-drop tapestry, and the only way I can manage the word chart is to cross out each pair of letters as I work across a row; I put the pattern in a plastic sleeve so I’m not marking the chart itself (in case I want to work it again, which is unlikely, but…).
    I also need to print word charts rather than try to follow them on a computer screen, and this tapestry will use something like 19 sheets of paper; with a colour block pattern, though, I could work it from the screen and save paper—I like that!

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      My friend Nico uses a bar on his computer screen, but of course a lot of people use those sliding knitting chart tools. I would love to see your tapestry!

  21. Lynda
    January 2, 2022

    Hi Kate, found your draft fascinating. I work word charts for peyote rows and your presentation was very exciting to actually see a pattern show up. WOW! In agreement with many comment suggestions. No matter what decisions result, I commend you for finding a way to present the material from as many angles as possible so everyone has a chance to take their shot. Thanks for all your efforts.

  22. Summer Wintemberg
    January 2, 2022

    I’m delighted with the word charts you’ve provided so far. (Thank you thank you thank you!). My approach (back to the “scatter” pattern I referenced in a previous comment) has been to lay out my bead containers and little piles of beads in alphabetical order, A to G in this case. In this way I can make color changes, and work only with the bead positions in the word charts. I love it. If I were working with an amorphous pile of beads, I would be cuckoo. So thank you again for all the hard work in your efforts to make this information accessible. You are a treasure!

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Thank you, Summer! I know that some beaders use little markers or tiles for their bead piles, that’s useful too!

  23. Cynthia
    January 2, 2022

    These look great. I agree with the comment from Estelle and others that if more than one bead is sewn on at the same time, put them in brackets, (AA), as you have done. But for “normal” peyote, when there is a stretch of beads of the same color, instead of A, A, A, A, A, it’s better to say 5A so we don’t have to count the As. Great work!

  24. Carol A
    January 2, 2022

    I like the idea of colors and letters. I learned on charts & hadn’t heard of word charts. When I first used word charts I had a hard time trusting them since I was ‘blindly’ following them & hoping they were right. I’ve beaded form many different notations and I do like Cheryl Bryan’s (Hookin to the Beat) use of colors and letters in one box. The letters in the box help when the colors are close together & color alone wouldn’t work. Of course it only works when you are using the colors called for. Having the colors separate makes my eyes loose track of where I am. As you say there are sections that are mainly to help beginners, but then other sections can and should be different for more experienced beaders.

  25. Sharon Marchant
    January 2, 2022

    These charts are a great way to go, allowing for complexity to be more easily and correctly beaded the first time! Your charts have been a great addition.

    I would concur with many of the comments provided. I never used to use word charts but have evolved into loving them.
    – the red color for increases does not work, because the brain thinks you should be using a red bead.
    The bold does work.
    – a version of number and alpha letters works better because your eyes can ‘see double’ or have vision tricks with multiple same, letters in a row, especial as you exceed 3 (same) letters. This issue increases with age and eye issues.
    – there are many versions of word charts out there and well experienced, Thread a Bead, DiMarca and many others including other bead book publishers- seeking their input may be helpful.
    – Iv have overall loved this journey and encourage you in this continued journey.

    • Janet Sherman
      January 2, 2022

      I totally agree with the comment about letters and numbers.
      If I am using a word chart I count out beads as I go.
      5 A makes a lot more sense than A A A A A.
      I lose track, especially if I am working with a digital version.

  26. leslieready
    January 2, 2022

    I think that this is the most precise set of instructions that I have seen. I would say that a beginner would have no problems following them. As an advanced beader I can use the parts that best fit my learning style. Great job!

    On Sun, Jan 2, 2022 at 4:28 AM CONTEMPORARY GEOMETRIC BEADWORK wrote:

    > katemckinnon posted: ” One of our last jobs before we print is to choose a > final format for our word charts, so we’ll be spending the next 12 weeks > refining them. Our goal is to chart absolutely everything. Some of the > charts will just be the information, but I feel that we ne” >

  27. Lori Finney
    January 2, 2022

    I use charts frequently, and agree with most of the comments already noted ESP the comment re a change of colours if you are not using the same colours as the chart. It would be mind boggling, and A; B; C etc. work much better. The other thing that I find EXTREMELY helpful is Jean Power’s habit of noting the total beads required for a row, so that you can count them out in advance and know right away if you have made an error, at the end of a row.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Oh, I like that, the total beads per row or round, that is very nice. I will need to go look at a JP chart to see it. Excellent. Thank you, Lori!

    • Fiona White
      January 2, 2022

      Yes, that is so helpful. Jean’s “total beads” has meant that I’ve picked up mistakes sooner than I would have done. Ah, mistakes! Great work with the charts, Kate.

  28. Laura B.
    January 2, 2022

    I am not at all a word chart person, and actually think it stifles creativity as people get so bound to it that they can’t “see” what they are doing. I do LOVE your blocking idea! So easily mentally translatable and would be so much easier and quicker to bead. Would I use it instead of a graph? I don’t know, but can see where transitioning would be very easy.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Right it is interesting to kind of “blindly” bead a form with a word chart, but also amazing (like a 3-D printer). It’s all astonishing and ideally I would like to provide information all four ways (words, graphs, code and visual code) so that we can all hit the finish line.

      • katemckinnon
        January 2, 2022

        Oh, Laura, I also want to show you a couple of gorgeous progressive graph sets that Karen Beningfield made, I will put them in the next post!

  29. Sheryl Harrison Lamarand
    January 2, 2022

    Looks terrific to me. I love the brackets and changing color bars with the illustration rows!

  30. Pam Bunkley
    January 2, 2022

    Looking at the new charts and excited for the new book! My only suggestion is that on the triangle chart, it would be helpful to put a red dot or some other mark to indicate exactly where the round starts. I had trouble following the drawn line as the starting point is very difficult to determine.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Thanks, Pam! Those drawings are just my mock-ups, and we will do them professionally now that we are happy with the idea.

  31. Linda Wahl
    January 2, 2022

    I don’t use word charts but later today I will bead from yours (which seems easy to use) and see if I can easily bead the triangle from the chart.

  32. Estelle Mazurkiewicz
    January 2, 2022

    When there are seven of the same color use 7A not A,A, etc.

    January 2, 2022

    I love the addition of color.
    The link to download did not work for me but I’m on a phone today…
    In the future I envisioned this charts to be interactive where one can touch the bead symbol and make them the color with which they are working.
    These are beautiful!

  34. Vivian st john
    January 2, 2022

    I prefer word charts and appreciate you providing them.

  35. Erin Peña
    January 2, 2022

    I think the color blocking is a really cool idea. I don’t personally use word charts hardly ever anymore, but I can definitely see the appeal of the color blocking. It’s almost like reading music more than reading code.

  36. Renee Good
    January 2, 2022

    I’m so used to working with word charts that they aren’t a problem for me. However, your new method would certainly make mistakes visible more quickly provided that the colours aren’t too similar. Having to count letters also makes me bleary-eyed so would prefer to work with “formulas”. I’m not sure how many of CGB followers are “beginner beaders” so maybe this time consuming method will not help too many – or maybe it will encourage beginners to use it.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      I can certainly say “10 A beads” but I hesitate to make it look like an equation in the beginning charts. There is an interesting story about Facebook AI, and one of their experimental versions that refused to ask for 3 apples, instead it wanted to ask for “apple, apple, apple” in order to be precise. I admit I think a bit like AI!

  37. Marilyn Earhart
    January 2, 2022

    This is very similar to the charts I’ve used from Thread-A-Bead in the UK. I found them simple and straight-forward. The full explanation for utilizing the chart was with each pattern, therefore making the actual chart a simple straight line per row or round. Your dedication to making this the new format is admirable and hopefully will set a new standard in the art of beading.Thank you for the time and talent in this endeavor. Marilyn

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Oh, how interesting, I will certainly find them and look at their work! Thank you for the pointer. I often find myself re-inventing wheels which is not always the best thing to do.

  38. Joan Degen
    January 2, 2022

    B C A A A A A B C
    I think the chart would be easier and quicker to read if the above was coded as follows:
    B C (5)A B C
    Trying to count a long string of the same letter may lead to errors.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      I hear and agree with this in principle, but when it is written like that it is more like an equation, and less easy for non-professional word chart users to read. I think we will need to have two bins of word charts, as I mentioned, those that are illustrated, for beginners (or chart beginners) and those that are just lines of code, for those at your level.

      What do you think about that? You would basically never be interacting with these charts, as they would all be for very fundamental patterns, shapes, forms, etc.

  39. Janet Maney
    January 2, 2022

    Continuing previous post – coloured notation would not work well for complex, graduated patterns, especially if you were trying to physically print the pattern.

    Feel free to delete this bit – I’ve worked triangles, warped squares and pentagons from several different designers – the best format I’ve come across is by Marca Smit at DiMarca Online.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Oh, I love Marca. She and her family are so dear to me. It’s good to find someone whose style works for you.

  40. ursula
    January 2, 2022

    Yes, I am with Chris and Ruth. Also if you have colors that are close together the letters are easier to follow. But I would prefer to have one row for one round.

  41. Janet Maney
    January 2, 2022

    Came in here to comment exactly the same as Chris and Ruth above. Colour blocked letters don’t work if you have changed the colour scheme & long runs of the same letter make you cross eyed!

  42. SK Denny
    January 2, 2022

    Similar colors, such as the black and gray in your illustration, are confusing to those with vision issues. It would be helpful if you would choose dissimilar color combinations, e.g. blue, red, yellow OR red, lime, purple.
    Thank you for considering this change.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      Definitely! I just started with a triangle in blue, grey and black, which was not perhaps the most useful. Thanks for your comment.

  43. Penelope Pearce
    January 2, 2022

    Oh, Kate, what have you done! A lot of work to produce this type of chart, but so much easier to use. There is significantly less chance of making mistakes. OMG I love this!!!

  44. Pamela Derra
    January 2, 2022

    The colors underneath are a bit “busy”. As long as the “letter” word chart is there , I’m happy.

    • katemckinnon
      January 2, 2022

      And I envy you… but for those of us who can’t seem to check our work easily when using lines of code, I need to find a visually clear way to do it. I think we can work with the placement of colour, line, etc. for each chart to make it sing.

      Thank you for your comment- is there anything else you would recommend?

  45. Chris
    January 2, 2022

    I would not write every single bead as a standalone, if it is the same color, but every side of the component in a single row (and maybe the beads drawn next to it)

    For example for row 12 of your triangle:
    12. [CB], 10B,
    [BA], 10A,
    [AC], 10C

    • Ruth McQuinn
      January 2, 2022

      Yes, Chris, this is exactly what I was thinking. Having to count each of those letters makes my eyes go wonky! If a pattern, then, for example,
      [CB] 2B, 2A, 2C, 2A, 2B
      [BA] 2A, 2B, 2C, 2B, 2A
      [AC] C, B, A, B, C, A, B, A, B, C

      I like knowing how many up/turret beads to a side, to make sure I’ve got my step up.

      I see what you are saying Kate about the coloured notation on the 2nd page. It works well if you are following a pattern precisely, but as soon as you change colours, to go off piste, then it’s going to fry some brains – the letters work much better at this point.

      • SK Denny
        January 2, 2022

        Thank you, Ruth, for increasing my vocabulary, as I had to look up the meaning of piste! After checking the meaning, I clicked on images of the word and saw some beautiful scenery. Back to beading…

        I agree with you and Chris about the word chart. I use BeadTool 4 for making patterns, and it uses a similar process for word charts.

      • katemckinnon
        January 2, 2022

        Thank you, Ruth! Yes, I am only thinking of this method for the very first rows, on the very fundamental patterns. While I wish I could illustrate every round of every word chart on Earth, I am only aiming for the short, simple, follow-the-pattern starter charts.

        • Daria Tittenberger
          January 2, 2022

          It might be useful to extend the visual interpretation of the word chart beyond round 3 for one or two more rounds on page 2 in order to show how multiple beads of the same colour would be charted. For example, rounds 4 and 5 of the illustrated word chart would look like:
          [CB] 2B [BA] 2A [AC] 2C
          [ [][] ] [][] [ [][] ] [][] [ [][] ] [][]

          [CB] 3B [BA] 3A [AC] 3C
          [ [][] ] [][][] [ [][] ] [][][] [ [][] ] [][][]

          *I didn’t know how to add colour to my visual 🙂

          • katemckinnon
            January 2, 2022

            Yes, I would like to think about doing an entire word chart this way, for sure! In this case I just want to help people get started, as this triangle is one of those pieces that are so easy to do once you get past the start. But I can easily see a chart for each row of any kind of piece that was visually intuitive and I would like to work toward that. We can still provide traditional word charts as well but it would be good to have a visual option too.

            This is really my last hope and dream for CGB, is to make a new kind of understanding with the beautiful ‘information of creation’.

            So nice to hear from you, Daria!

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January 2022
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