Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Beadwork Netting - and a Tutorial

It's no secret, netting is one of my favorite beadwork stitches. For someone with super tight tension (like myself), sometimes it's hard to stitch up a supple fabric of beads! Netting is my go to stitch when I need something drapey with delicious texture. Being a quintessentially lazy beader, I also love that it works up FAST! Because you pick up multiple beads each stitch, and the shape of the stitch creates space between each row, whatever you decide to make will take less time than most other stitches.
Left - glass pearl collar, possibly from the 1950's, Russian type netting with a ruffly edge
Right - seed beaded collar, 1920'2-60's, vertical netting worked off of a daisy chain base.
Netting has long been one of the go to methods for creating large articles of self supported beadwork. The Egyptians, Japanese, African, Victorians - you name it, if there was beadwork going on, there was netting in some variation. Every time I encounter a broken piece of netted jewelry in my thrift/fleamarket/antiquing adventures I buy it to decode the old stitches.
Showcase of a few of the ways I use netting reguarly - amulet bags, Mobius strip bracelets, freeform, flat foundation for freeform embellishment, and so much more. Imagination is the only limit!
Netting has become a generic beadwork term for several different but similar looking stitches.
Clockwise from large picture, top left: horizontal netting (3, 5, 7 counts), vertical netting (3, 5, 7 counts), vertical netting with a 3 bead drop as the shared bead, Russian (brick stitch style) netting, "Ogallala Butterfly" otherwise known as netting where the bead count increases in each subsequent row, horizontal netting with a different count turnaround on each edge. 
Horizontal netting is stitched from left to right across the piece of beadwork. Vertical netting is worked up and down across the beadwork. Admittedly most of the time the difference between horizontal and vertical netting is just in the semantics. Either way, a stitch of netting will include a bridge of beads - usually an odd number (3, 5, 7, etc). The center bead in the stitch is called the shared bead - because you will pass through that bead on your next row, hence it is shared between two rows. In most of the above samples, the shared bead is a contrasting color from the rest of the bridge beads. There are endless variations and combinations of horizontal and vertical netting. You might have heard of Russian netting or seen super wide netted collars - this stitch is worked more similarly to brick stitch in that each row loops over the thread from the previous row, rather than passing through a bead. You can stitch regular flat netting, increasing to make ruffles, tubular (ropes and bags), circular, and so much more.

Now, I love doing all kinds of netting - they each have their place in my work. When the two-holed seed beads started coming out a few years ago, guess what the first stitch I played with was? That's right - netting! Without further ado, please share my fanaticism with this Two-Hole Bead Netting tutorial!

2-Hole Bead Netting Bracelet with button and loop closure 
These instructions are for use with the Czech twin beads. Bead count and size may need to be adjusted for different 2-hole beads, such as the Japanese Tilas.


Twin Beads
Size 11 seed beads
Size 15 seed beads
Drop seed beads, Czech drops or daggers

Matching thread, about 2 yards
Tread conditioner (optional)
String a stop bead (leave an 8” to 10” tail for later use) and your first row of beads – repeat 1 twin, 3 size 11, 1 twin, 3 size 11 until you achieve the desired width. String 1 extra twin, 2 size 15, 1 drop, 2 size 15, and pass the needle through the second empty hole in the last twin bead you strung. Tighten up the previous stitch so there is no slack between the last twin and the stop bead.
For the second row, the 15-drop-15 sequence that you just stitched is both the turn around and step up to the next row. The working thread should be coming out of the second hole of the twin bead now. Simply string an 11, a twin and another 11, and pass the needle through the empty hole of the next twin bead. Repeat until you reach the last twin bead of the previous row. When your needle is coming out of the second hole of the last twin bead, string an 11, a twin, 2 size 15, 1 drop, and 2 size 15. Pass the needle through the second empty hole of the last twin strung – tighten up the stitch. Now you’re ready for the next row again.

Repeat the two previous steps until the bracelet is about 1” shorter than you want the finished product to be – some of the length will be made up in the clasp, and some will be recovered due to the stretchy nature of netting.

Stitch the final row exactly like the first, by omitting the twin beads and picking up 3 size 11 instead.

When the last row is stitched, pass through a few of the previous rows, tying half hitches every few beads. Bring your thread back to the last row in preparation for making the clasp loop. DO NOT CUT THE THREAD.
Button Attachment: remove your stop bead from the tail end of the thread and transfer your needle to it. Work your needle back a few rows and attach a button/flat bead/captured cab/other object you would like to incorporate into the closure. It is best that this object sits a few rows from the end of the strip so that when it is on the arm it lays nice and flat. Stitch through the button hole several times, as much as you feel necessary for it to be secure. Weave in the tail of the thread and trim. This side is done.

Loop Closure: return the needle to the other end of the thread. String enough 11’s to create a loop at the end of the bracelet, just large enough to accommodate the button on the other end – keep in mind that the loop will become tighter with the addition of the second row of beads, so it is better to make it a little bit loose. Once you have enough beads, pass the needle through the last bead of the first row, opposite of where your thread is coming out. Pass the needle back through all of the beads of the last row of the bracelet and exit from the first bead of the loop. Stitch one row of peyote stitch using the 11’s, all the way around the loop. ***At this point, double check the loop for fit with the button. If it’s too tight, remove the needle and backtrack until you can add some beads to your initial loop. Too loose, it can be fixed by adding some 15’s to the interior of the loop until it’s tight enough. *** When the fit has been verified, circle the needle around the last row of the bracelet again, so you’re exiting the first up bead of the loop. Stitch another row of peyote stitch, this time using drops. This is your final row of the loop. When this row is finished, work the thread back into the bracelet and tie it off. Trim the thread, wear the bracelet!
Variations with (left to right) vintage 2-hole dimes, Czech Tiles, Japanese Tilas, vintage 1 hole triangles.
You can use this technique for any two holed bead, including the new shapes that have been all the rage lately. Sometimes you will encounter a need to vary the count or type of bridge beads or turn around beads, in order to accommodate a new shape - give it a whirl!  (Word of caution...the Japanese Tila variation pulls arm hair...(not my favorite!))
Button variations (left to right) crystal AB vintage glass, pink and sapphire vintage glass, artisan fused glass, Green Girl Studios pewter frog.
One of the things I love about this project is getting to use some of the fantastic small buttons that I've been hoarding, but you can also use your preferred type of clasp - it's all up to you!

Please share pictures of your latest netting project, or your version's of this bracelet! We would love to see what you come up with!


  1. What a great post, Lindsay! I love all that great seed bead netting!

  2. These are great ideas, especially those for the "new-fangled" shaped beads and for using up your button stash. Thanks so much!


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