Freeform Peyote Stitch: Feels So Wrong, But It's So Right!

Beautiful, artistic freeform peyote stitch!

It seems that when it comes to freeform peyote stitch, there are two main schools of thought. The first is that this beadweaving technique is a fabulous, artistic and creative use of peyote stitch on a whole new artistic level. The other school of thought is, well, not as flattering. It goes something along the lines of, "If you make something and have no idea what it is, call it 'freeform' and say that it's art." I used to think that freeform peyote stitch was just for people who couldn't do "real" peyote stitch, but then seeing some of the amazing freeform work of bead artists like Vicki Star and Jeanette Cook, I totally changed my mind!

My own first attempts at freeform peyote stitch had me feeling a little confused. I wasn't used to beading without a clear direction, and it felt scary and wrong to bead without a pattern in front of me or a final design in my head!

But sometimes, what feels wrong can turn out to be oh-so-right, as in my latest freeform peyote stitch collar. This piece started out as a special order, but when the buyer changed her mind about the price, I decided to take my time and finish the piece the way I wanted to do it.

Have you ever wanted to try freeform peyote stitch? It's really not as difficult as you think. The good news is that you don't have to be a peyote stitch master to master freeform peyote stitch. As you work your piece in flat peyote stitch, you'll soon figure out all the intricacies of peyote stitch – and maybe come up with a few new innovative twists of your own!

Pick up a random assortment of beads for your first two rows of freeform peyote stitch.
As you work your freeform peyote stitch, you'll soon master the intricacies of this popular bead weaving technique.

Here are a few easy steps to starting your first freeform peyote stitch project:

  • Before you start, assemble a small palette of beads including seed beads, small glass beads, and one or two larger or focal beads. Don't go overboard, and try limiting yourself to no more than three or four tubes of seed beads in assorted colors and sizes. Or a little container of bead soup makes the perfect assortment for a beginning freeform peyote stitch project!
  • Cut a comfortable length of your favorite beading thread. (Nothing terribly long here. You can add more thread if you need it!) String on a stop bead and then pick up a random assortment of the beads you  have arranged on your work surface. Pick them up at random – you don't have to count each type or how many beads you pick up. Anything goes!
  • Pick up one more bead, make your turn, and then start working in peyote stitch.
  • As you work, you'll find that you have to stitch around larger beads or make small "bridges" over long beads by picking up enough beads to span the length that you want to bypass, then stitching into the next "up" bead in your row.
  • If you decide to include bugle beads, crystal beads or any beads with sharp edges, make sure you buffer them by stringing a seed bead before and after each bugle bead.

As you get more comfortable with working in freeform peyote stitch, you can add larger pieces like shells, drilled pieces of driftwood or large gemstone components. Don't let yourself feel confined by ordinary peyote stitch – let your imagination take flight with freeform peyote stitch!

Want to practice your peyote stitch skills and make some amazing beaded jewelry at the same time? Then you'll want to make sure you subscribe to Beadwork magazine. Every issue is packed with beautiful beaded jewelry projects using peyote stitch, right-angle weave and many more of your favorite beading techniques! And with Beadwork magazine's 15th anniversary celebration going on throughout 2012, you're sure to find inspiring and challenging beading projects all year long. Subscribe to Beadwork magazine and don't miss a single issue!

What do you think about freeform peyote stitch? Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment and tell us why!

Bead Happy,


Related Posts:


Beading Daily Blog, Peyote Stitch, Right-angle Weave
Jennifer VanBenschoten

About Jennifer VanBenschoten

Born in New Jersey in 1974, I escaped to the Adirondacks for the first time in 1995, making it my permanent home in 2000.  I have been interested in beads, buttons and making jewelry as long as I can remember.  It's probably my mother's fault - she was a fiber artist and crochet historian, and whenever she ordered supplies from one mail order source, she would order a huge bag of assorted buttons and beads for me and my sister!    

8 thoughts on “Freeform Peyote Stitch: Feels So Wrong, But It's So Right!

  1. An additional tip:

    Because freeform peyote is an abstract art form, color choice and color movement through the piece is really important. I find it helpful to think about organic structures or flow instead of “random” when stringing beads.

    cheers, Karen

  2. Its funny Jen would mention finding freeform difficult since she was used to working with patterns and direction. Ive been beading for 2 yrs and freeform is my favorite…..It is rare that I use any pattern for my “normal peyote ” work – we are all so different! Its one of the attractives of the beading world !

  3. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been contemplating doing some freeform work but | haven’t had the confidence to start. Thank you so much for your advice….watch out beads, here I come! Happy beading! Jo x

  4. I love free-form peyote. I appreciate the tip about limiting your color pallete. I tend to go over-board! I’ve seen most free-form peyote bracelets start horizontally . I like vertical starts. Which way is best?

  5. This describes MY freeform peyote: “If you make something and have no idea what it is, call it ‘freeform’ and say that it’s art.” Only I don’t say it’s art, I say “what was I thinking?”. However there are such beautiful pieces of freeform peyote available that it is quite evident that it truly is an art form. . .one I haven’t spent the time to master yet.

  6. I LOVE freeform. Color choices do matter and you can go overboard – but if you like it – who says it isn’t ‘right’. Just go with the flow and have fun.

  7. I love freeform peyote. What I love most about it is that there are no rules save one. The one unbreakable rule is neatness. If my stitches show, no matter how wonderful everything else may be about the piece, the finished project will be bad.