Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tutorial: Beadweaving the Peyote Stitch

What I'm writing about today is an off-loom beadweaving stitch called the Peyote stitch.  The Peyote stitch is only one of many off-loom stitches.  Off-loom beadweaving simply means that you are stitching beads together in a repetitious pattern without using a loom.
The Peyote stitch, which can also be called the Gourd stitch,  has some variations:  It can be flat, shaped, or tubular; it can be even-count or odd-count; it can be simple Peyote, two-drop Peyote, or three-drop Peyote.  The simplest form is the flat, even-count Peyote stitch and that's what I'm going to focus on here.

Before, I begin I want to address the "stop bead."  Whenever you are doing a beadweaving stitch you need to load some beads onto a thread and something needs to keep those beads from falling off the other end of the thread.  We call that a "stop bead."  It's ideal to use a bead that is a different color, shape, and size from the beads in your project, but if that's not possible, at least make it a different color.    

This stop bead is a red, 5mm triangle.  It is larger than the the beads in my project, as well as a different shape and color.   I've used black thread here so that you could see it more easily.
  1. Start by running the thread through the "stop bead," leaving about a 6-inch tail.
  2. Then run the thread through the "stop bead" again in the same direction as the first time. Here you can see the loop that was created when I ran my thread through the bead a second time.
  3. Now, simply pull on both ends of the thread so that the loop snugs up against the "stop bead" and you're ready to begin your project.  Don't forget that 6-inch tail.

Beginning the Peyote stitch can be confusing because the beads that you pick up on your thread when you start are actually the first 2 rows—you pick up both rows at the same time. What makes that more confusing (at least to me) is that although they are 2 different rows, together they make the full width of your project in a staggered design, which looks a bit like zipper teeth once you get a few rows stitched.

I laid out the beads on my bead mat to show you how 2 rows are actually created out of the first beads you pick up.  You won't really see this happen until you've finished the third row.  Remember, you are looking at rows 1 and 2.  Also, these beads are on their sides.  If they were already on the thread, you wouldn't be able to see the holes.
Because I'm doing even-count Peyote, I picked up an even number of beads.  That's it.  Even-count Peyote is simpler than odd-count.

To make it easier for you to see the rows, I'll be working with 3 different colors.  To start, I'm using 2 colors, which represent the first 2 rows.

For the longest time, I thought that if I picked up 10 beads (rows 1 and 2) my project would be 5 beads wide. That is NOT the case, as you can see in the photo above. Because the rows become staggered, the beads in the second row act like spacers between the beads in the first row. The bottom line is that your project will be exactly as wide as the number of beads that you pick up on your thread at the beginning. In other words, it will be as wide as your first two rows combined. It was a huge “aha” for me when I finally figured that out.


As you can see in this photo, I've picked up the 10 beads on my needle.   Because I'm right-handed I pick up beads from right to left.  If you're a leftie, work from left to right.  I'm going to pull the beads all the way up the thread and and snug them up against the "stop bead," which you can't see, but is on the right.  After that, I'll turn my work so that I am ready to begin the next row.

In this photo, you see that the beads are on the thread and up against the stop bead.  Notice that I've turned my work around--you can't see it, but the needle is now on the right, so that I can again pick up beads from right to left with my right hand.  This means that the white beads are going to be row 1 and the black beads are going to be row 2.

ROW 3:
When you start to work on your third row (which feels like it should be row 2, but truly is row 3), you’ll stitch into every other bead, picking up a new bead between them.  The beads that you’re stitching into are technically the second row. This third row is the most difficult to stitch, but it gets much easier after that.

This is the start of row 3.  I used pink beads for row 3.  The pattern is:  pick up 1, skip 1, run the needle through 1. 
  1. Pick up 1 pink bead for row 3.
  2. Skip the first white bead.  This is a row 1 bead.
  3. Run the needle through the (next bead) first black bead.  This is a row 2 bead.
  4. Continue until the row is complete.
  5. Turn your work around in preparation for row 4.
Repeat these steps until you have the number of rows that you want.

Here you see 3 rows are complete.  Row 1 is white, row 2 is black, and row 3 is pink.  The pink beads are the "up beads."  Notice that the thread is coming out of a bead on the left.  That tells me that the work needs to be turned around so that I can begin row 4.

NOTE:  Do you see how the white beads in row 1 look like zipper teeth, too?. When you turn your work, be careful to keep row 1 on the bottom and row 3 on the top. You don't want to accidentally start stitching into row 1 when you begin your 4th row. This is another good reason to use a different color bead for each row, at least for the first 3 rows.


After you finish the first 3 rows, stitching even-Count Peyote is a breeze. The piece will be large enough for you to hold onto with your non-dominant hand and the zipper-shaped edge becomes well-defined, which allows you to easily see where your next stitch goes. The row most recently stitched looks like zipper teeth and those beads that stick out are the newest row.  They're called “up beads.” You simply pick up a new bead, and then run your thread through the next “up bead” in the row. When the current row is finished, you turn your work around and start the next row.  Don't worry about the curve in your piece at this point.  It will straighten out as you add more rows.

You're looking at 6 completed rows here. 
Notice that the black and white beads are the same size and shape, but that the pink beads are a little wonky.  If the pink beads were more uniform in shape, all these beads would fit together better.  I'm not bothered by this as it gives it a little bit more of an open look.  Another thing to consider is that size 11/0 beads, which are smaller, would fit together more tightly because of their small size.

This piece has 10 completed rows. 
The thing that complicates the Peyote stitch, or any other beadweaving stitch for that matter, is when you have a distinct design that is made up of different colors. For example, you’re stitching a cuff bracelet that has pink hearts along its length on a background of white. That’s when you’ll need to pay attention to which row you’re on and you’ll need a graph to help you choose the right-colored bead for each stitch. Wait until you’re comfortable with the Peyote stitch before you attempt to use a pattern.


Before you begin a real project in Peyote stitch you should:

  1. Practice with larger-size seed beads to make it easier to see what you're doing, like 8/0 or 6/0.  Remember that 8/0 beads are smaller than 6/0 beads.
  2. You must use the same size beads throughout or you’ll get a 3-dimensional piece that will be difficult for a beginner to work with.
  3. Make a few small swatches—10 stitches wide by 10 rows long. You can always take the swatches apart and re-use the beads later.
  4. Use three different colors (A, B, and C) and use a different color for each row. That means that you’ll pick up alternating colors (colors A and B) onto your thread when you start. That will help you to see the difference between rows 1 and 2.   Make row 3 in color C, row 4 in color A, row 5 in color B, row 6 in color C, etc.
You'll need:
  • Seed beads in 3 different colors.
  • 1 stop bead.   
  • A beading needle.  With larger seed beads, a size 10 needle should be fine, but a (smaller) size 12 needle would be OK here.
  • Beading thread.  I would probably use 6 lb. Fireline, but there are other good beading threads. 
    *Click here and go to the bottom of the May 31, 2011 blog for a list of some of other threads. 
  1. Start by threading the needle with about 2 feet of thread. Pick up your "stop bead" and leave a 6-inch tail.  Secure the "stop bead" by running the needle through it again. 
  2. Pick up an even number of beads—10 is a good number to start with—in alternating colors A and B.
  3. Pick up a bead in color C, skip the first already-strung bead (color B) and run the needle through the second already-strung bead (color A).  Repeat until the row is finished.  This row will be difficult to manipulate.  Take your time and make sure that your stitches are snug.  The rest of the rows will be much easier.
  4. Turn your piece so that the needle is back on the right if you're right-handed or on the left if you're left-handed.  You should now see the "up beads," which look like zipper teeth.  Pick up a color A bead, run the needle through the first "up bead," and repeat until the row is finished.
  5. Turn your piece so that the needle is back at the beginning.  Add color B beads between the "up beads" in this row (repeat step 4).
  6. Continue, alternating colors, until you have done about 10 rows.
  7. Weave the thread in a zig-zag pattern through the stitched beads several times to secure it and cut the thread close to the beads.  Be very careful not to cut into the thread that is holding the beads in place.
  8. Remove the stop bead and thread the needle with the 6-inch tail you saved at the beginning.  Weave that thread through the beads in a zig-zag pattern several times to secure it and cut the thread.
Save this swatch as a reference and make several more swatches until you feel comfortable with this stitch.  After you've done it a couple of swatches with a different color in each row, try to stittch a swatch using all the same color beads.  Once you can do that, you're ready to tackle a project with an actual design on it.

© Copyright 2011 Linda's Art Barn. All rights reserved.



  1. This is a great tutorial. You really did a great job. Now you have to do odd count peyote. LOL

    I'm going to send this to the bead club to publish if you don't mind. Send me an email and let me know if that's ok.

  2. Thank you, Bonnie. Two-drop Peyote will be next. I'll get to odd-count eventually!