Tips to help with working from charts

Whether you're working from a picture chart or a word chart, I'm afraid there is no 'magic bullet' to ensure you bead without mistakes. But I do have some simple tips that will really help you.

The problem you're always going to face is accidentally adding the wrong bead(s) because you got lost as you were following the chart.

So, whichever chart type you are using, you will need to mark which row you are working on. The easiest ways to do this are:

  • use a ruler or a piece of paper and just slide this up or down the chart so it is marking the row that you are trying to follow
  • if you have a magnetic board, you can place the chart on that, then use a magnet to hold a piece of paper in position on your chart
  • or, you can use sticky notes to mark the position

All these methods work in the same way. But you must be careful not to accidentally knock your marker out of place as you're working. So, you will still need to check that the beads you are adding are creating the pattern you expect to see. If your pattern is looking odd, then you might be accidentally reading the wrong row.


What happens if you spot a mistake?

The best way to deal with this is to un-thread your needle and remove all your beads back to the position where you went wrong - or started to go 'off chart'. Usually, you'll notice a mistake quite quickly - when you come to bead the next row, you'll find the beads through which you're passing aren't the beads you expect to see.

But do take care. Before you start removing beads, check whether you actually went wrong, or whether you're just reading the wrong row in the chart!

That's where it is helpful to understand how to count your rows in Peyote. That way, you can count which row you are on in your work, then check that matches the row number you're following on the chart.


What if your mistake is several rows back?

Now, removing loads of rows of beadwork can be pretty soul-destroying. So, if you spot a mistake way, way back in your work, I have two suggestions for you.

  1. Treat it as a spirit bead... Yes, just live with it and let it be a healthy reminder that nothing in life is perfect. It simply adds character to your work and makes your piece completely unique. In fact, on the rare occasions that I sell jewellery, I deliberately include a spirit bead, to mark the piece as a 'Katie Dean original'. If a customer is paying a premium price for a hand-crafted item, they deserve some way of knowing that it is 'original'.
  2. If you really can't live with the mistake, it is possible to carefully break the rogue bead. Then, join a new thread nearby and replace it. However, this is tricky to do. Plus, when you replace the bead, you'll end up with your old thread sitting across one side of it. That's fine if your piece has a 'back' that will never be seen (eg on a pen wrap). But not ideal if you made a bracelet and you might end up wearing it with the thread showing!

So, really, my best advice is to keep comparing your beadwork to the pattern as you work. Then you should pick up mistakes quite quickly and it won't be too bad to rectify them.


What about changing thread mid-project?

Any large (maybe even some smaller) pattern will require you to join new thread at some point.

This is another place at which it's easy to lose your way. With a patterned piece, it is imperative that you start your new thread at exactly the same place as you finished the old thread. So, the first bead you add on the new thread must be the bead immediately after the last bead you added with the old thread.

With a flat piece, this isn't difficult. You will always have only one choice of starting position.

But with a tubular or circular piece, you have the option to start at any point in your completed row. So, how do you remember which bead you added last?

Well, my tip is to make sure you always change thread in the MIDDLE of a row. Never change thread when you've just finished a row. If you change it in the middle, then you can see where your final bead is sitting. If you change it at the end, you're going to have to work out which would have been the first bead in your row. That is the point from which you would start. But I know from experience, this can take some calculation. So, save yourself the trouble!

You also need to make sure you keep beading in the same direction around your circle/tube. So, that's where the chart annotations I've just taught you in this course, come in handy. That tells you which direction you're beading, so just check that and apply it to your beadwork.


Dealing with interruptions

It's impossible to bead without some kind of interruption. Whether it's the phone ringing, someone at your door, someone coming into the beading room, or just you deciding you need to take a break.

This is the point where you're most likely to make mistakes. You come back to the work and you're not sure where you left it. So, you try to work it out, but end up mis-calculating.

Happily, I have a very simple way to help avoid this. Remember that piece of paper or sticky note you're using to mark your place? Well, just scribble a note on it to tell you which row you're working on. If you're in the middle of a row, just write which row. If you've just finished a row, make a note to tell you which row you just finished or which row you're about to start.

Then, when you come back, read the note, cross it off (you don't want to try using it again next time!) and resume beading. It only takes a second to jot down that note, so even if the phone is ringing, you can still do that before you answer.


Be kind to yourself

We all want quick fixes to help us get things right first time around. It's only natural: it saves time and frustration. But unfortunately, there are no truly quick fixes. You might be looking at a fellow beader who has no problem with Peyote charts and comparing yourself to them. Wondering what their trick is. Well, I'm pretty sure their only 'trick' has been practice and perseverance.

If you're struggling to read Peyote patterns, it's perfectly normal. So, actually, the best 'fix' of all is the mindset you use.

If you approach the pattern with negative thoughts like, 'I'm rubbish at reading Peyote patterns', or 'I've never been able to read Peyote patterns', then you're going to struggle.

If you're fairly new to beading, or fairly new to reading patterns then it's almost guaranteed that you're going to find this difficult and make a lot of mistakes. But think back to when you learned things as a child. Did you just get up and walk right away? Of course you didn't. You went through that process of tottering around, falling over, etc. But you got there in the end. I'm pretty certain that no 18 month old starts thinking, 'I'm rubbish at walking. I've never been able to walk and I never will.' They don't think about it: they just keep trying and, with every attempt, they learn a bit more and improve.

So, get yourself back into the child's frame of mind. Forget the idea that things are impossible - that's something we're taught as adults and it's simply not true. It may be 'impossible' for you to follow a pattern correctly on your first attempt. But it's not impossible for you to follow a Peyote pattern EVER.

So, watch out for any negative thoughts and replace them with something like this: 'I got this.' Or, 'OK, so that wasn't right, but never mind, I can see where I went wrong, so that's progress. I'll get there in the end.'

If you feel like you've been struggling for years to do this, ask yourself, how many times have you really sat and tried? Have you always approached this with a positive mindset?

And, above all, just accept that every beading session is different. Every time we sit at the beading mat, we have 'stuff' going on around us. It might be actual distractions, or it might be that we've had a bad day. So, there are always going to be days when this feels harder. It's not a reflection of your skill or ability, just a sign you need to take a rest and come back another day with a fresh perspective.

Now you've started learning the skills you need. So, it's up to you to keep using this any way you need and just keep practising until Peyote charts feel a little easier to follow.

I've summarised the tricks I talked about, so you can print out the download below and keep that as a reference if you will find it helpful.

Download