Beadwork is the art or craft of attaching beads to one another or to cloth, usually by the use of a needle and thread or soft, flexible wire. Most beadwork takes the form of jewelry or other personal adornment, but beads are also used in wall hangings and sculpture.
Beadwork techniques are broadly divided into loom and off-loom weaving, stringing, bead embroidery, bead crochet, and bead knitting.
Most cultures have employed beads for personal adornment. Archaeological records show that people made and used beads as long as 5,000 years ago. Beads have also been used for religious purposes, as good luck talismans, and as curative agents.
Modern beadwork is often used as a creative hobby to create jewelry, purses, coasters, and dozens of other crafts. Beads are available in many different designs, sizes, colors, and materials, allowing much variation among bead artisans and projects. Simple projects can be created in less than an hour by novice beaders, while complex beadwork may take weeks of meticulous work with specialized tools and equipment.
3D beading is less common than 2D beading, largely because free 3D beading patterns are not well distributed on the internet. Resources are scarce and difficult to find. It is mainly an oriental art form, and most 3D beading resources are written in oriental languages, such as Japanese and Chinese, further impeding wide access to English-speaking countries. 3D beading is also associated with the stigma of being "too complex" for most beaders to manage, although this sentiment is largely due to the apparent complexity of many oriental beading diagrams. It is a challenge for beading pattern designers to create 2D beading patterns that portray 3D beaded objects. However, there are resources available that facilitate this process by offering free instructions on how to draw a 3D beading diagram using free software available from inkscape.org, in the hopes that clearer beading diagrams will allow easier access to 3D beading patterns.
3D beading generally uses the techniques of bead weaving, which can be further divided into right angle weave and peyote stitch. Most 3D beading patterns are done in right angle weave, but sometimes both techniques are combined in the same piece. Both stitches are done using either fishing line (most popular brand: fireline) or nylon thread (most popular brand: nymo). Fishing line lends itself better to right angle weave because it is stiffer than nylon thread, so holds the beads in a tighter arrangement and does not easily break when tugged upon. On the other hand, nylon thread is more suited to peyote stitch because it is softer and more pliable than fishing line, which permits the beads of the stitch to sit straight without undue tension bending the arrangement out of place. Right angle weave is done using both ends of the fishing line, in which beads are strung in repeated circular arrangements, and the fishing line is pulled tight after each bead circle is made. Peyote stitch is stitched using only one end of the nylon thread. The other end of the string is left dangling at the beginning of the piece, while the first end of the thread progresses through the stitch. In peyote stitch, beads are woven into the piece in a very similar fashion to knitting or cross stitching. In fact, it is not uncommon for cross stitch patterns to be beaded in peyote stitch technique. Peyote stitch patterns are very easy to depict diagrammatically because they are typically stitched flat and then later incorporated into the piece or left as a flat tapestry. Right angle weave lends itself better as a technique to 3D beading, but peyote stitch offers the advantage of more tightly knit beads, which is sometimes necessary to properly portray an object in 3 dimensions.
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