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How to Make a Peyote Stitch Bead Cuff Bracelet: Basics of Beaded Cuffs

Native American beadwork

Native American beadwork

Peyote-stitch cuffs are pieces that are easy to create, they can be adapted for nearly any type of bead, and the sky truly is the limit in design potential. For hundreds of years, peyote-stitched pieces were used by the Native Americans for protective talismans, ceremonial elements, or to bestow particular honors on deserving individuals. Skip forward to modern day, where this ancient stitch is now used in countless contemporary designs. The popularity of cuffs stem from the fact that they have such a huge design potential, they are easy to make, and they can easily be adapted for either females or males to wear. These cuffs also have extreme durability, some have been known to last decades or even longer, and if only quality beads are used then they will never fade or discolor.

Selecting Beads for Your Cuff

First, you must choose your beads, the type of thread you’re going to use, and select or create the desired pattern. The most common beads are size 11 seed beads because their size makes them easy to work with, and they are also readily available in a wide range of colors and finishes. On average, the beads are about 2mm each, which makes them easy to use in very detailed smaller projects, yet still large enough to make them easy enough to work with for anyone with decent eyesight or with a floor lamp with a magnifier attachment.

Head to Amazon for a great Delica selection for your beaded cuffs

Alternatively, the bead of choice for maximum uniformity in more contemporary patterns (they don’t necessarily work well with traditional Native American patterns because of their manufactured look) are Delica cylinder beads. With amazing uniformity, hundreds of different colors and shades, and dozens of different in-demand finishes, Delicas are truly an all-purpose modern bead-weaving bead.

Delica beads are a bit more expensive than other types of similar beads, but the discard rate is very minimal thanks to their superior manufacturing. For some of the best beads for Native American projects, Czech seed beads such as the ones from the bead maker Ornela are an excellent choice, and come in all of the traditional colors plus several dozen more.

Not really clear on the different types of seed beads? Check out this great video

Beading Threads

Next comes the thread. Never use cotton sewing thread for beading; it tangles easily, it’s not particularly durable, and bead edges can easily saw through it. Instead, opt for a high-quality monofilament or nylon thread. Some of the top choices include Nymo (readily available at most bead stores) and Fireline. This latter is available in most sporting goods stores in with the fishing line – that’s right, this is actually an exceptionally strong and pliable type of fishing line, and 2lb test is the ultimate line to use for beaded jewelry. Bear in mind that Fireline packages are labeled with the comparable size in other fishing lines, and you do not want the one labeled, “The same diameter as 2lb test of other brands.” This is Fireline’s 6lb test, and it’s too big for the average beading needle.

Options for a Beaded Cuff Base

The base for your cuff is a critical decision, since this will go a long way to determining the overall look, feel, and shape of your finished piece. Alternatively, you can choose to make the cuff without a base, but the resulting piece will be flexible and more prone to wear and tear on the threads. That said, using high-quality beads and the proper thread minimizes the risk of the thread being cut – Fireline is virtually impossible to saw through, though is considerably more expensive per yard than Nymo or similar alternatives.

The most common bases are metal, buckskin, felt, or simple cloth. These can be beaded on one side only or on both. Beading on both sides does preclude having to worry about what will keep the beadwork on the base since it will simply tie into itself, though stitching or gluing single-sided beadwork to a beading base is not difficult and takes very little extra time. That said, should you choose to glue it, it is important to use industrial-strength glue specifically formulated for this type of application (such as E6000). All pieces sewn to the base should be done with thread that is not used in the beadwork itself, allowing the beaded piece to be removed without damage if the base ever has to be replaced due to damage or wear.

You don't have to stick with just cuffs

The same techniques used for a peyote stitch beaded cuff bracelet can also be used to create other jewelry and accessories like this barrette. This has a peyote face and felt backing for a smooth, durable finish.

The same techniques used for a peyote stitch beaded cuff bracelet can also be used to create other jewelry and accessories like this barrette. This has a peyote face and felt backing for a smooth, durable finish.

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Preparation and Beading

Cut about a 3’ length of Fireline or thread (or what’s comfortable for your arm length). Nylon threads and some monofilaments have to be stretched prior to beading, as these do have a lot of give in them and will eventually relax, leaving beadwork loose if this preliminary step isn’t done. Run a bead onto the thread and pass the needle through it three or four times, until it no longer moves, leaving a 4”-5” tail at the end. A bead that clearly contrasts your work is ideal, as this will be removed later and should be easy to see – this is your stop bead. Most beadwork does not have knots, and the stop bead keeps the work tight and in place until there’s enough structure for the beadwork to hold itself together. At this point, the bead is removed and the tail is woven into the work.

Love the results you can get with basic peyote?

Traditional peyote stitch starts with the first two rows of your pattern combined together as you string them onto the thread. Turn the work, thread the first bead of the third row on to your needle, and then pass the needle through the second bead from the thread. Continue with each bead in the third row, turn for the fourth row, and so on until the end of the pattern. Circular peyote is identical except that there is no turning, but rather the ends of each row are joined in a circle. Two-drop and three-drop peyote are similar, but multiple beads are skipped at a time instead of only one. Tie off when there are a few inches of thread left and weave in.

Easier to watch? Here's a basic peyote stitch

Don’t forget to be creative! This basic stitch is a staple of many different patterns, but it doesn’t have to be done with beads that are all the same size and shape, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in neat little rows, and it can be adapted to fit virtually any type of base. Take a chance and veer away from any planned pattern and see what just playing with your bead collection can do, or add in non-bead embellishment such as buttons, rhinestones, polymer clay components, and more. This one simple bead stitch really does open up limitless options for your creative beadwork.

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annasmom on November 07, 2015:

Great hub!!!! Love my beads! I am currently making Cab earrings, but now I may have to try this!

Jacobb9205 on February 12, 2015:

Looks awesome, thank you for the tutorial!

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