Native American Beadwork Techniques

Published on March 13, 2014 by Amy

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Native American Beadwork Techniques
Native American Beadwork Techniques

Native American beadwork techniques traditionally used seed beads for thousands of years before European glass beads appeared in the 17th century. The new glass beads created a turning point for the practice. The beads started appearing in clothing, vessels, tools and weapons although seed beads continued to grace bags, moccasins, hair decorations and garments. By the early 1900s, Native Americans often created beaded items for the tourist market. Nowadays, techniques for Native American beadwork help craftsmen create new items while exploring the history of beadwork.

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Double- Needle Applique

The double-needle applique is a technique that requires the use of two needles while you work with two threads. One thread contains beads that are laid down on the fabric in the pattern. The second needle holds the second thread, also known as the whipping thread, which whips over and secures each bead on the beading thread. The technique is often used to create circular patterns.

Peyote Stitch

Primarily used by Plains Indians, the peyote stitch creates flat pieces of beadwork, such as those found in chokers and purses. Items created from the peyote stitch technique also include artwork used for fans, rattles, sticks and other items used in rituals. The technique is an easy, basic stitch often used by beginners. The stitch primarily involves the use of seed beads–it starts with one row of beads in which you skip a bead before adding another. You then add beads alternately to form the next row. This creates a diamond-shaped pattern in the finished beads.

Lazy Stitch

Formerly called Lazy Squaw Stitch, the technique is primarily Plains beadwork using both seed and trade beads. Today, the beadwork appears on items including moccasins and buckskin dress yokes. The technique involves laying down four to eight beads on a loop on the surface of the material. The next loop of beads gets added after you add a lock stitch to the previous loop to keep the beads from pulling loose. The end result consists a tight, flat loop of beads that can stretch for a foot or more.

Loom-woven Beadwork

To produce larger pieces of beadwork with fewer supplies, loom-woven beadwork was introduced. Some looms make larger items such as straps and pouch squares. Smaller looms make items including tassel strips, belts and hatbands. The technique creates the arm and leg bands for powwow clothing. Loom-weaving involves first anchoring both ends of two long strings, called the warp. The weaver then uses a separate string, called a weft, to add the beads.

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