6 Tips for Working Big Peyote Projects

Today I received a great question on the blog from Glenda: How in the world do you set your table up for so many colors??? That’s a great question, so I wanted to share my experience creating a seed bead tapestry of “Reveille” (the official mascot of Texas A&M). She ended up being 4X6 inches with 25 different colors. It took me awhile to get down my method for doing these big projects, and here are my top 6 tips:

  1. Keep track of where you are-When there are many colors, it can get confusing. I like to print out the entire pattern and carefully tape it together. As I work, I cross off each “bead” on the pattern with a pencil. If I get interrupted, I always know where I stopped. This works for loom, peyote, and word chart patterns.
  2. Create a “bead-only” space– Find a space where you can leave your beading supplies out where they won’t be disturbed. When you have that much beading going on, you don’t want to move it or pick up the beads everyday. I took over our coffee table in our apartment living room for an entire summer.
  3. Sit Comfortably and Move Around– I switched back and forth from sitting on the couch to sitting on the floor. I was sitting for long periods of time, and it can only be comfortable for so long. Choose a comfy chair or cushion, and set a timer to stand up and stretch a bit every hour. We beaders know you can look up from your work and 3 hours have passed by!
  4. Separate the beads– Sometimes the beads are very similar in color, and it is important to keep them all separated. I used 2 bead trays with 6 indentations each, as well as the lids. Some of the colors I was not using very often, so I put those in the lids. Another idea is to use deviled egg trays.
  5. Label the beads– It’s important to know which colors are which. I placed each bag marked with the coordinating Delica number in the tray with the beads to “label it.” You can also use a label maker or small sticky notes to label them.
  6. Dealing with the dreaded 4th row– When you begin peyote, rows 1 and 2 are put on at the same time. After you add row 3 of peyote, it can twist on you because the piece is so long. It can be easy to add a bead on the wrong side without knowing it. I like to put a piece of wire through the first row of beads to keep them straight. It makes row 4 so easy to peyote! Note: If all 4 rows are all the same color, this isn’t necessary.

I beaded day and night for a summer to finish Rev, and it was very satisfying. She now sits on a shelf in our entryway to greet our guests. I hope these tips help you on your next big project, and thanks to Glenda for the question!

What do you think? How did you set up your table for a big project? If you’ve been intimidated by a big project before, are you ready to give it a try? Please share with us in the comments!

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • avatar Glenda January 31, 2011, 1:09 pm

    Thanks so much for the advice, it was very helpful!! I did check out the bead site for delicas. That was wonderful! I am so happy to find this website.

    I also wanted to let you know I love Austin! We live in Madisonville, which is half way between Houston and Dallas. Our late son, Josh, was going to Seton Medical for a heart transplant and we spent a lot of time there!

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth January 31, 2011, 5:05 pm

    I’m so glad it was helpful! I know of Madisonville b/c that’s where my grandparents stayed when we went to the Aggie football games together, hehe. I love Austin and miss it, but my mom still lives there so I can always visit : )

  • avatar lexi February 3, 2011, 5:32 pm

    A couple other tips. I was crazy and did a 95 color piece (I did say I was crazy). I used those water color palettes. I used expo markers to write the code of the color and the number on it. I could wipe them off afterwards.

    Also pull your next row of beads, count them, and make sure you’ve got them all there. It’s really annoying to get to the end and realize you’re short one. Also by pulling them, and then beading, you are only concentrating on one thing at a time.


  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth February 3, 2011, 7:16 pm

    Those are great tips, Lexi! Pulling the beads in advance helps a lot, because I did get to the end and was short one! Thanks for sharing : )

  • avatar Glenda February 4, 2011, 9:27 am

    Great ideas, thanks ladies! I have pulled a line of beads before and it definitely makes a big difference! I am anxious to get started but have to raise the money for all those delicas first!! LOL!

  • avatar Glenda February 6, 2011, 8:08 pm

    What size beads did you use and is it peyote on Rev?

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth February 6, 2011, 8:26 pm

    I used size 11 delicas and yes, its peyote : )

  • avatar Glenda February 6, 2011, 9:57 pm

    Okay, I am trying to conquer the brick stitch but not having a lot of luck. My bead program showed it better in brick than peyote. I get confused trying to follow a pattern using the peyote stitch. Ugh, don’t know if I will ever get to do this pic! I’m am waiting to get more efficient at the stitch before I order the beads! Thanks for your help! By the way, I am in Austin for a couple of days doing chair massages for a teacher’s conference!

  • avatar Jacqueline Davis February 9, 2011, 10:57 am

    Great wonderful tips and comments. What gauge wire are you using through that first row?

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth February 9, 2011, 12:26 pm

    I couldn’t remember, but I just checked and 24 gauge wire should do nicely. Thanks for the question, Jacqueline!

  • avatar Rebecca February 13, 2011, 10:33 pm

    I labeled the bead hanks with a color number assigned on the chart. (that way, if I needed more – I had the color number/store at hand). I used small amounts of each of the bead colors in plastic paint well trays with lids with the color number taped on the lids. This made the project portable. I placed one row of beads on the mat and counted them before sewing them into the design.

  • avatar Susie February 17, 2011, 7:05 pm

    I just finished a piece that had 15,00 beads in it. It was a hydrangea pattern by Suzanne Wester. Now have started another piece that has 57,000 beads and 50 colors. I have a small tv type tray setup and cut address labels with the bead number written on them. Layed them out and placed a few beads under each number in numerical order.
    I am beginning to wonder if this project may take a year or more to finish.

  • avatar Glenda February 17, 2011, 11:07 pm

    Wow, Susie!! I’m fretting a 17 color pic! I am waiting on my beads now. My next question to all of you: Do you prefer working by a graft of the picture, or by the written instructions for such a major project?

  • avatar Glenda February 28, 2011, 6:56 pm

    What beading programs does everyone use to create their beading projects? I need a good one where you can scan a photo into your computer and upload it to your beading program. I am not at all happy with my picture of my son that I am beading. It recommended all these shiny sparkley beads and it is really hard to see him in it.

  • avatar Kathy November 18, 2011, 11:58 am

    I’m going to be doing a very large project – it will be 18″ wide x 20″ high and uses 100 colors. Do you have any tips of how to manage to keep the tension and work with 18″ wide?
    Mine is word chart which will be very easy to keep you place – 90 pages.
    Never done a project this large before. any tips, hints, suggestions etc. etc. etc. would be so appreciated.

  • avatar Lori C. January 5, 2012, 8:49 am

    I HIGHLY recommend the beading trays from i-bead.com. Amy has just gotten in a new order and they are more than fabulous! The trays have small wells that can be easily labeled and you can put up to 36 colors in each tray. I actually had a co-worker make me a larger tray with 100 wells in it to work my large tapestries. This however, makes it non-portable, but I take smaller projects on the road. I now have 3 trays from Amy and may have to get another one!

    I also recommend a word chart when working large tapestries like Kathy is going to do. I would then suggest getting a magnetic board and using that to keep your place so that you never have to guess where you are when you look back to the chart. One thing that I have learned is to take a small safety pin and pin the last bead in the word chart row (I typically bead two rows at a time from the word chart). I count the number of beads I should have then the actual number of beads I have put in. That way you are not at the end of the row and one or two beads short. I had to try several safety pins, but I found quite a few that will fit nicely through the Delica’s and then I take out my “row markers” before I start beading the next row.

    I have also started using Deb Moffett-Hall’s Quick Start Peyote which I absolutely love (http://patternstobead.com). I have quite a few of these little gems and taped them together to start my last tapestry. The piece I’m working on now is small, 8X12, but it was a breeze starting with QSP and I didn’t have to worry about twisting the thread, getting the right numbers of beads in the first few rows, etc.

    Also, I have found Joan Painter of Painters Art Gallery (http://painterartbeads.com) to have the best prices on Declica’s. You can purchase anywhere from 1gm to 100+gms. She charges actual shipping and is “no frills”. She also carries every color of size 11 and size 15 Delica. She also carries the other sizes, but I’m not sure if she has all the colors in those sizes too.

    As far as tension goes on a large piece, I recommend just to pay attention to what you are doing and do not change your stitch habits. What I mean by this is: if you always put on two beads before pulling your thread through, then continue to bead that way throughout the entire piece. If you put on one bead at a time and pull your thread through, then stitch that way through the entire piece. Changing the way you put the beads on will affect your tension but you won’t notice it until you are further along in the piece. Also, the different types of thread will affect the tension and “feel” of the piece, but that is a an entirely different story that I won’t get into here! So, don’t change the thread type in the middle of a piece.

    Hope this helps!

  • avatar Kathy April 2, 2013, 10:16 am

    Hi Mandi, do you know of anyone who does large peyote pieces that has information on how to mount large pieces for framing them. Have touched base with Lori already. Was just wondering if you know of any blogs you are aware of that there speciality and passion is large peyote tapestries as in 18″ wide and bigger? Would love to find other people who do large peyote pieces. Having great difficulty finding these people, would love to exchange knowledge, advice, challenges, type of threads,needles, etc. That they use for there large projects and ideas of displaying these pieces.

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth April 2, 2013, 11:23 am

    I don’t know anyone, but I can mention it on the podcast and see what turns up. Thanks for the great question, and I’m sure we can find someone for you :)

Leave a Comment