Peyote Starter Strip

This is an idea from Suzanne Cooper's website that I consider an essential tool for starting flat peyote pieces. The first three rows of peyote are enough to frustrate even the most dedicated beader, but with this starter strip it's as if the first few rows are done for you. All you need to do is start your piece in such a way that you'll be able to remove it easily from the strip.

Making the Strip

If the prospect of making a very long piece of peyote from scratch is unappealing, the good news is you don't have to make it with peyote. If you know brick stitch, that's actually a much easier way to construct the strip. Look at the picture above, and imagine it turned 90 degrees. Voila - brick stitch!

* For some excellent tutorials on brick stitch, visit Kimberly Chapman's how-to page.

I used a 6-bead row and worked straight brick stitch with no increases or decreases. The strip's color scheme helps me keep track of length in terms of both bead count and inches. The blocks of light blue and light green are each 10 rows wide. The dark blue beads act as a ruler; 16 beads across make an inch when using Matsuno seed beads (my weaving beads of choice). The lines mark off full, half, and quarter inches. (In case you're wondering, I started the full-inch markers - the longest lines - half an inch from the ends because I find it easier to start my new pieces in the middle of the strip rather than the ends.)

For a graphed pattern of my strip design, click here. You should be able to print it out on one page. (Check the print preview.)

* If beads other than Matsunos are used, the size will vary slightly, so the 16 beads per inch standard may not be accurate. You can weave a test swatch to check, and adjust the ruler lines in the pattern to make up for any discrepancy.

Using the Strip

Here's where it gets slightly tricky. You'll want to be able to easily remove the new piece from the strip without disturbing the thread holding it together, so starting the new piece must be done carefully.

For the first row, use a short scrap thread to weave the beads onto the starter strip. Just fill in the gaps on the edge of the strip, as if you're continuing a peyote piece with a new design (i.e. the pattern you're following). Use a stop bead on each end to keep tension, or loop the thread through adjacent beads on the starter strip.

Then, use the working thread (the thread for the new piece) to add the second row, weaving through the first-row beads.
*Important detail alert* If you're working in even-count peyote, it's critical to start the second row on the correct end. If you start on the wrong end you'll have to work odd-count-style turns at the end of each row, which is possibly even more annoying than having a twisty first three rows.

The diagram below shows which end is the correct end for starting the second row. You'll have to use a stop bead on the working thread, and you'll string the first bead of the row before you weave through any beads already woven. Those two beads (the stop bead and the first bead in the row) will stick out kind of weirdly, but that's okay. Just keep your tension tight enough to unify the piece. Continue weaving the rest of the pattern as usual.

After you have several rows woven, you can remove the new piece from the strip. Simply remove the stop beads from the scrap thread (but not the working thread) and gently pull apart the two pieces, starting at either end. If you need to, you can cut the scrap thread, but you shouldn't have any problem working the thread out.

* The rule about not splitting the thread with the needle is especially applicable here, as the scrap thread must be free to be pulled out.

Once the two pieces are separated and the scrap thread is removed, give the remaining tail a good tug to restore tension to the first few rows. You can weave the tail in once there's enough bead fabric to secure the thread, or wait until the piece is finished (in case you need it to add more rows, attach a clasp, etc.).

Another Method for Starting Peyote

A piece of thin wire or a long needle can also help make starting peyote less difficult. After stringing the first two rows against the stop bead, put the wire through all the beads that belong to the first row. This will make every other bead pop out - these are the beads from the second row that you'll weave through to add the third row. The wire keeps the beads in place and helps you identify the first row - which is good once the third row is in place and the beads want to twist.

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Theresa Olin, 2004-2009