Freeform Beading: Tutorial


Freeform beaded purse by Carla Barrett

Freeform beaded purse by Carla Barrett

Freeform Work in progress by Carla Barrett

Freeform Work in progress by Carla Barrett


Since I’m still in a beading mood, I decided to share with you one of my favorite tutorials- Freeform Beading, which features the freeform peyote stitch. It is very easy to do, and extremely versatile. You may combine it with quilting and fiber art- like I have shown in my iPhone purse, shown above.  You may also create  freeform beading as a focal jewelry piece.  Recently, I started the freeform beaded piece shown on the left, which will eventually be a necklace.  Please note it is still a work in progress.

Below is a bridal necklace I made a few years ago:

Here is another work-in-progress:

Here is the final necklace once the strap was added:

wavesffHow did I do this?  It was actually pretty easy, so I thought I would share the how-to with you.  I often will just start beading, then change and keep adding on and working the piece.  However, in working with beginning students, I have found the following method works as a good starting point to learn this technique.

Supply List:

Fireline, Beading needles, beads in various shapes, sizes, finishes and colors to match your palette.

To Begin: collect beads in various sizes and colors that blend well together.  Pick a focal piece or pieces as well to give your piece visual interest.  Below, I have created a bead soup palette that I used for the Waves of Color necklace, shown above:


To begin, take a 2 yard piece of FIRELINE (a braided beading thread by The Beadsmith) and string about a 5-6 inch base row of various beads, taking care to mix sizes and colors:

Next, build off of your first row using any stitch you have learned.  In the example below, I used peyote stitch and ladder stitch:

Here is a tutorial for how to do a Ladder Stitch (click to enlarge):

And here is a tutorial for how to do peyote stitch, even count:

Get creative!  Just keep building and beading until it starts to flow for you.  I still have a way to go, but here is another work-in-progress, followed by the finished piece:

freeform beaded necklace by Carla Barrett

freeform beaded necklace by Carla Barrett

As you can see by the bottom photo, I felt the first draft was rather boring and needed a bit of bling.  That is the beauty of freeform, if you do not like something, just keep going!  In this case, I added a tubular Right Angle Weave (RAW) strap and a beaded bezel for the crystal focal point.  The end result was much more successful.

Here is another small freeform quilted bag in a different colorway:

If anyone tries this mini tutorial, please send me a picture of your finished project. I would love to see your work!

Back to quilting now…   Hugs, Carla

22 thoughts on “Freeform Beading: Tutorial

  1. Hi…I’m off today as Austin is not feeling the greatest…he could have gone to school but I’m using it as an excuse to get more school work completed before I head for MQX on Thursday! Anyway, I had to look up peyote stitch for beading. Looks interesting. I just love your color sense. I wish I possessed it with ease.

    This makes me want to start another hobby…but I just simply cannot at this point. I’ll just dream and live vicariously through you!

    Have a good one.

    Karen A.

  2. Love the new header!

    As to the beading, great tutorial carla! i’ve only beaded on quilts and postcards to this point…never tried freeform beading for jewelry..or anything else for that matter…might need to try it!

  3. Love your freeform! I’m struggling with the concept and have done some ok things, my crazy quilt necklace was the best as it was my first piece but I’m still not comfortable.

    But then….I had a hard time learning to mix my fabrics for Crazy Quilting. Needless to say, once I got past all the taboos, I’ve had a ball throwing caution to the wind and make the most wonderfully wild and happy baby quilts for charity. Now, if only I can do that with beads………

    Thanks for the inspiration, Carla!

    Happy Creating!

  4. Hi Carla

    I disovered your blog a couple of weeks ago and have tried some free form beading based on your tutorial. I made a bracelet and it was so much fun. I plan to make some more.

    Thank you for sharing this exciting beading method.

    Love your blog and your Carla bird. She would be fun to digitize for machine embroidery.

    Veronica – Perth Western Australia

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  9. All your beaded jewelry are so beautiful. I have to ask what stitch is your bead base on Flicker photos?

  10. Carla – I enjoyed your mini-tutorial on the free form bracelet. You make it sound so simple! I have been a beader for some time, but mostly loomed projects. I have thousands of beads to use, so I’d best get busy! Thanks for being so generous as to share your knowledge. Roberta L. Phoenix, Arizona USA

  11. I’m about to go on vacation and wondered how easy thus would be to do “on the move”? Love the project can’t wait to try it . I’m a glass bead maker so this will fit right in for me!
    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth, Yes, this can be a take -a- long project for a trip. I have a travel case – which is basically a foam plastic gun case. Pre-select your beads and color palette. Lucky you- I have always wanted to learn glass beadmaking! Do share photos when you are done. Have a good trip! Carla

  12. Dear Carla, I discovered your blog today and I want to thank you for sharing all your beautifull creations and all your knowledge.
    While reading your tutorials I got so inspired to start something, especially one of the freeform projects. Thank you so much again!
    Laura, The Netherlands

  13. Hi – I am a member of the Wild West Bead Society. We meet in Arlington, TX and have members from the Dallas/Ft Worth area.

    I am going to teach a free-form peyote bracelet class for the bead society. Would you allow me to print your tutorial and use it to teach? I would definitely give you the credit, and refer folks to your website. We meet at night, and generally just have about an hour or so to teach. Your tutorial has great instructions and pictures which would enable the members to take it home and finish a bracelet!

    I appreciate your consideration,

    Thanks – Jill Fabian

  14. Wonderful work! Very new to beading just learned basic stitches this week square stitch and the peyote even and odd. I love the free form work, and that’s how I found your site. ( fyi, I searched for varied size seed bead peyote stitch). As I said I’m a beginner, with that I will ask is the ladder stitch the same as square? It seems like the stitch I used on my first bracelet, though the tut. I followed called it square. When time allows for me to do more I will post you what you inspired me via your freeform tutorial! Thanks kindly for sharing your knowledge. We are all teachers the same as we are all students! Peace

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