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Great Beading Designs: How do you create them?

New Bead Designs, Great beading designs, Superduo Duet Bangle Pattern, bead and jewellery magazine, Katie Dean, beadflowers

If you read last week’s blog, you should now have a lovely list of Autumn-themed beading ideas. How do you know whether your list contains any great beading designs?

Well, the truth is, you probably don’t. So my advice to you is to stop worrying about trying to create ‘great beading designs’ and just create the designs you love.

Why you should stop trying to create great beading designs

This advice comes from 15 years’ experience. I’ve now published over 300 beading patterns and I still have no idea which ones are going to be the ‘great beading designs.’

Well, that’s not strictly true. Occasionally, I have a hunch that something might be really popular… But I’m not always right! Then, there are the projects that, totally out of the blue, prove to be winners.

So, now we’ve established this basis, let’s stop worrying about great beading designs. The sad truth is, you can’t predict greatness, so focus on what you can control.

I want to use this week’s blog to show you the next step in turning your idea into reality. The focus here is on creating beading designs that you will love making. If you’re passionate about them, that will shine through.

Wine o' clock Necklace Pattern and Kit, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

Turning your idea into a design: Step 1

Your first task today is to go through each item on your list of ideas and ask yourself the following questions about it. Jot down your answers as you go. Then, read on to find out how these questions will determine your design process.

  • Is this going to be a piece of jewellery or something else? If you said ‘something else’, then make a note of what you have in mind.
  • Will this design be two dimensional or three dimensional?
  • What colour(s) will it be?
  • What type of beads will you be using?
  • Will the finished size matter?
  • Which beading technique(s) are you going to use to make this item?

You don’t have to answer all the questions precisely. In fact, as I am about to explain, the answer to any one of these questions might have an impact on some of your other answers.

What this exercise will do is help to channel your thought process. It may also help you to rule out some ideas. So, you’ll see what I mean as we go through each decision.

Two or Three Dimensional?

What you decide here will have a direct impact on the techniques you can use.french beaded pear tutorial, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

If you want to create a three-dimensional object, then you are immediately going to restrict your techniques. You will need a technique that has strength and stability.

So, this could mean working with wire. Or, if you want to work with thread, you need to think about which bead-weaving technique(s) will give you that strength.

I always suggest Peyote or Brick stitch, possibly CRAW. These are the techniques that create the most ‘solid’ fabric or lend themselves to dimensional and geometric shapes.

A technique like netting or RAW will give you a ‘floppy’ fabric. So, that’s not going to help with a 3-D shape… Unless you are beading around a form, or stuffing your beaded item.Autumn Beaded Pen Pattern, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

If your idea is for something flat like a picture, then you also have options. Bead embroidery is great for creating images. So are most flat bead-weaving techniques. For example, you can draw your image on a Peyote chart and then bead it.

A two-dimensional abstract design leaves you wide open with options for pretty much any technique you choose.

Which Technique?

Since I’ve come this far, why not talk about techniques next?Parcel Beaded Boxes Pattern, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

You’ve just seen that the type of project you want to create will have an impact on your choice of technique. However, you’ve also seen just how much flexibility you still have.

So, maybe the best place to start is by asking yourself another question. Which technique(s) do you feel most comfortable using? Or which do you most enjoy?

Really and truly, coming up with a great beading design is a struggle in itself. So, do you also want to be struggling with the technique you are using? Probably not.

As an aside, if you are an aspiring designer, my top advice is to immerse yourself in learning. Learn as many different beading techniques as you can. Master all of them. Then, you have the freedom to create. So, instead of being restricted by what you know, you are free to choose what will work best.

For now, I suggest you focus on a technique that you know well. So, that probably rules out some of your ideas right now.

Choosing Beads

In a way, this is a basic decision. Are you going to be working with traditional seed beads or using shaped beads, or both?

I am of the belief that the traditional seed beads give you the greatest flexibility. However, I can come up with two scenarios in which you might be better using shaped seed beads.

  1. If you want a design that is full of texture and pattern.
  2. Perhaps your design idea includes something that has a specific shape. For example, I have used 6mm round red beads to look like cherries. Or peanut beads to look like chocolate sprinkles. So, can you make a case for using a shaped bead to represent a design element?

A third thought to bear in mind is that question of dimension. For my Pumpkin Jewellery, I actually found that using two-holed shaped seed beads gave me the shape and structure I wanted for this 3-D project.

Pumpkin Jewellery Beading Pattern, Katie Dean, Beadflowers


I only want to mention this briefly today. For now, you have a simple choice to make.

Is your design idea for an actual thing? Now, we’ve been thinking of Autumn ideas here. So, maybe you thought about making a squirrel (one of my readers does have that idea in mind, I know). Well, squirrels are traditionally red or grey. So, this decides your colour. You simply need to choose which beads are the closest colour to the real thing.

What if your design is abstract? Then you have free reign to pick any colour scheme you like. So, where do you start? You could start anywhere. So, for now, try starting with your favourite colour. Or take out your chosen beads and just see which colour you most feel like using.

Colour is a huge topic. So, I will come back to talk about colour schemes another time. If you want more tips now, then read this blog section to start understanding colour theory. I will leave you with one final thought… A good colour scheme is most definitely a key part of all great beading designs.

Fall IrisDuo Bracelet Pattern, Katie Dean, Beadflowers


Last, but not least, let’s talk about size. Does the size of your finished project matter?

Well, if it’s a piece of jewellery, then yes it does. It needs to be wearable.Raspberry Beaded Necklace, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

If you’re making something decorative or ornamental, then possibly the finished size is less important… Unless you are creating something to fit a certain space.

What will define the finished size? Well, a large part of this will be your choice of beads. Are you seeing how all these decisions are interlinked?

If you have chosen to work with shaped seed beads, they come in a specific size. So, this will dictate the size of your finished piece.

On the other hand, if you are working with traditional seed beads, you have a choice of sizes. So, you can influence the finished size by choosing your seed beads with care. Basically, using larger seed beads will automatically increase the size of a piece without you having to do extra beading.

One last tip on size. If you are developing an idea that has multiple components, then start by making the smallest component. Then scale the other components to suit. For example, in my strawberry shortcake beaded box, I started with the strawberry, then created the box size to suit it.

Strawberry Shortcake Beaded Box Pattern, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

Your task for this week…

…is to brush up on your beading techniques. So, now, go through your list of design ideas. Based on how you answered the questions above, which design are you going to focus on making?

Which technique do you need to use for this design? (If you need a good overview of all the techniques that are available, check out this blog).

Then, if you feel you need to get in a bit of practise with your technique, you can find some free tutorials right here.

Finally, just to make life easier, I’ve created a free worksheet that you can use to plan your ideas. Just click on the button to get your copy now. Then, have fun coming up with some great beading designs!

Great Beading Designs, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

Next week I’ll be back to take you through the next step…

Get part 3, the next step, here >>

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