Friday, May 28, 2010

Tubular Bead Crochet Ropes, the Easy Way!

After I opened my online store for nylon cord, originally meant for my students, I encountered many questions about bead crochet and decided to learn about it in my spare time. First I educated myself with a few books, then took a class making a necklace with single chain crochet - See my earlier blog entry. I also tried to teach myself tubular bead crochet ropes with mixed result as I could never get the first inch to look like it should, so I gave it up and planned to try again at some future time.

The solution arrived when I met a Bay Area jewelry designer and teacher who got so frustrated trying to teach tubular bead crochet to her students that she found a better way. She created a small tool to support the beginning of the crochet tube and came up with a foolproof method. Her small tool, a jig, help stabilize the first few inches of the crochet rope and it make all the difference. She has a patent pending on her jig and method. In the meantime, she gave me a jig and tutorial to try. The tutorial has over 60 closeup color photos and clear instructions.

On my first try, the sample rope was perfect. When I moved on to make a full bangle, a few times I had to undo and redo a row as I had not placed a bead in the right place. If you get careless as I did, you will see it right away as the bead does not move to the right place when working the next row. Here is my first completed bracelet!

It is best to start with 6/0 seed beads and C-Lon Bead Cord (the standard size). The 6/0s are about 4mm in diameter. I started with Miyuki beads from Caravan Beads and mixed different finishes. I worked with 5 color groups of beads, with 80 beads in each group, but had to remove some of the beads as the bracelet was too long. I recommend sizing your bangle before the final stitching of the cord and adding or removing rows if necessary. Mine still ended up a bit large for my wrist. I will size the next one better. One of the color I used is a mix, another two colors used at random to add a bit of spice. Using 5 distinct colors on the first few bracelet is best as it help keep track the crochet stitches. I used one of the new C-Lon Bead Cord color Argentum. One spool has enough yardage to make over 8 bracelets. My focal bead is a piece of coral and the bead ropes are finished with antiqued brass bead caps I got from B'Sue Boutiques.

The crochet starter jig and the tutorial on the CD teaches not only tubular bead crochet but also how to make the bangle bracelet shown above from start to finish. The pdf document on the CD can be downloaded and looked on screen with a pdf reader or it can be printed of course. You will need seed beads size 6 in 5 colors, 2 12mm end caps, a focal bead, 30 feet of 0.5mm bonded nylon cord such as C-Lon Bead Cord, Bonded Nylon #18 or Tuff bead Cord Size 5 to make the bracelet. As to tools you will need a steel crochet hook, a big eye needle to load the bead unto the thread, a mini-clip to hold the loop when taking a break or removing the crochet tube from the jig, a tapestry needle to finish the piece.

The tutorial has in addition information on measurements, optional designs such as an endless ropes, adding findings and suggestions for design changes.

Of course as soon as you master the ropes with 6/0s beads, you can move to smaller seed beads or to random patterns. Here is sample made with seed beads size 8. I used the new C-Lon Fine Weight Bead Cord Tex 135 for easy loading of the beads, and of course smaller crochet hooks. I also found out that the ropes made with Miyuki size 8 seed beads fit perfectly included in one of the silver clasp I carry. It is a 9mm sterling silver kumihimo clasp. Yes, because it is made out of solid silver, it is a bit expensive, but it would be great for a special neckpiece. I will try as soon as I have some spare time to do additional samples and will come back here to post the results. In the meantime, I will return to my usual field of expertise, knotting, micro macrame, Cavandoli knotting, braiding and cord making interspersed by a few other fiber and jewelry techniques to keep me on my toes.

The jig and tutorial is still not widely available, but Randi at StudioDax has agreed to let me offer them for sale. So get one and be on your way to learn this wonderful method to make tubular bead crochet rope, the easy way!

Order the Bead Crochet Rope Starter Jig and Tutorial at

Additional note: I do not usually work with seed beads or haven't really since I was a teenager. I played then with recycled French beads recovered from beaded flowers at cemetery after the wire decayed from exposure to the elements. At the time I made bangle bracelets using an Afghan method or I embroidered seed beads on my jeans, but of course just for fun. I have always admired the work done by beaders with seed beads and the incredible patience it requires! - Marion