How to Stitch an Easy Spiral Rope Like a Pro

The Beader’s Handshake

You know about the beader’s handshake, right? That’s when you walk up to another beadecked beader (maybe someone you don’t even know), stare at her chest, freely pick up the focal piece on the necklace she’s wearing, get a goofy “wow” look on your face, look into their eyes, and then finally say “Hello!” There’s really no other place on earth where this is acceptable behavior. Just imagine doing that at, say, an Oscar’s party or board meeting! The plain reality is that you’d probably get slapped.
Colorful Beaded Spiral Ropes
For me, though, the beader’s handshake has signified the beginning many wonderful friendships, and I can’t even count the number of fantastic necklaces I’ve ogled. The focal piece is always the draw, of course, but I try to make a point at examining the straps, too. I inevitably learn something new just from looking.

In the absence of a roomful of beaders, you’ll find plenty of inspiration and beading designs in the beadworked necklaces in the online store. Take special note of the unique straps on some of these pieces, and you’ll soon find out that stringing a bunch of beads to finish a necklace strap is just one option to complete your piece.

One beading technique I’ve seen utilized often for necklace straps is the spiral rope. You can bead spiral ropes with all kinds of different stitches, but the one I’m talking about has a center core with looped fringe along its length. A long time ago people used to call this technique “Internet Stitch” because it gained a big following on the web when contemporary beading was just gaining steam. People were really hungry for new patterns, and there just weren’t that many around. Some good beader posted this pattern and it went viral.

This is an incredibly versatile, fast stitch that can be done with varying degrees of imagination and innovation. You can see what I’m talking about when you look at Janel Gradowski’s undulating Holiday Swirl or her playful Jester’s Folly Bracelet. Both employ spiral stitch, but they couldn’t look any different from one another. The creative manipulation of bead size and bead counts make each one completely unique.

How to Bead a Spiral Rope

I’ll show you how to make a spiral rope using size 8° seed beads as my core beads and size 11°s as my outside beads, but you can also do it using all one-sized bead, varying the outside bead count, changing the number of core beads you pass up through, adding accent beads to the outside loops, etc.

  1. Tie on a tension bead. String 3 core beads and 5 outside beads.
    Beading Spiral Ropes Step 1
  2. Pass up through the first 3 core beads just strung and pull tight.
  3. Beading Spiral Ropes Step 2
  4. String 1 core bead and 5 outside beads. Pass up through the previous 2 core beads added. Pull tight.
  5. Beading Spiral Ropes Step 3
  6. Pass through the core bead last strung and pull tight, flipping the loop of outside beads to the right.
  7. Beading Spiral Ropes Step 4
  8. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 to your desired length.
  9. Beading Spiral Ropes Step 5
Isn’t that the easiest? What other types of beaded cords work well for you? Share them on the website.

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website.
Jean Campbell, contributing editor to Beading Daily.

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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

39 thoughts on “How to Stitch an Easy Spiral Rope Like a Pro

  1. Hi Jean,

    I like your instructions for an easy spiral rope. They certainly are easy! I will be teaching beaded spiral rope to members of my spinning & weaving guild in May. Would you mind if I used your instructions, citing you as the author & with a link to your blog post?


  2. The knitters’ recognition sign is similar: You walk up to someone and stroke their sweater, probably in an embarassingl area. As long as you’re in a roomful of knitters, no one calls the police! I’m guilty of both. Isn’t that how most people make friends????

  3. I love the easy spiral rope instructions. I have a question, though. How do I determine how much thread to use so that I don’t run out of thread before the spiral rope is finished?

  4. I love the instructions, you make it look like I might actually be able to do it! I’m not a beadweaver, but I’d love to learn the basics, I see so many beautiful designs that seem so far out of my reach – can you point me in the direction of other instructors that make the actual construction look possible?

  5. I have been doing spiral ropes for about 3 1/2 years, almost to the exclusion of anything else. I had just learned the technique with 11s and brought them to Oregon on a visit to my mom, as something easy to transport. When she wanted a red necklace, I had to go to the bead store. When I walked into Planet Bead in Hillsboro, there was a gorgeous necklace for sale using different sizes of beads for the loop and #5 triangles for the core. I walked out of there with enough red beads to make necklaces for the women on my dad’s side of the family. Last Saturday at my mom’s memorial service (she was 91), her necklace adorned her picture, and my sister, niece, sister-in-law, and I wore ours.
    You can work spiral rope from either direction, so I start in the middle of 3-4 yards of thread, usually Fireline. I also use SoNo, but don’t like it as well for this. My method of adding thread is to tie a surgeon’s knot and fish the ends back through the core in the direction they came from, with an occasional half hitch. Make it long enough to go over your head and you can join the ends the same way, plus a few loops in the remaining core beads ( loops = core count minus one). Carol Wilcox Wells’ 2nd book tells you how to inset large beads into the rope. Have fun!! — Lyrl

  6. About spiral rope – I can’t remember how to twist my work when finished. I think you go from the core to one bead but it’s not clear. Could you help me and refresh my mind

  7. The spiral rope using two colors of bugle beads (and matching seed beads) shown at the top of the article was printed in one of the beading magazines a few years ago. I’ve made it with an extra section of spiral rope at the bottom and a large button added where the sections join. I think it was a Beadwork magazine but I don’t have time to look for it right now. If you look at it from one side, it looks one color but the other color shows from the other side. I’ve also made it using shiny and matte finishes of the same color. Will write again when I find the directions.

  8. Just wanted to answer a couple questions… Patricia: You start new thread in spiral rope by tying a knot around threads between beads and weaving through beads in the same thread path until you exit from the place you want to begin. Tie off an old thread the same way. Nadine: The cool thing about spiral rope is that the spiral is built in–no need to twist! Just be sure to push the loops over to the right (or left) side every time, otherwise you’ll just get a jumbled rope, which is fine, too–just not spirally.

  9. I found the magazine, aided by post-it notes that mark patterns I want to go back to. The project is called Ribbon Spiral by Alexi Rossi and it is in Beadwork, February/March 2004, Page 30. You can use other sizes of bugle beads if you can’t find size 5 and can substitute for the other bead sizes. I recommend making a chart showing their bead colors and sizes on one side and yours on the other for easy reference while working.
    Does anyone have a good system for finding directions/patterns in their magazine collection? I looked for one pattern for years by methodically checking the Table of Contents of every magazine I had. Unfortunately, the picture in the Table of Contents magnified one part of the necklace so I almost missed it.

  10. Hi RPKK. I have (had) a lot of craft magazines for a variety of crafts from beading to crochet to weaving etc. And the only way I found to keep projects and instructions accessible and under control was to deconstruct them. By that I mean using a razor and cutting the pages at the binder and clipping any continued parts(which I tape or paste to a sheet of printer paper). Then I would put the article into an inexpensive sleeve and file it in a ring binder.( I usually stock up on these items at the back to school sales every year.) You can also do this for any resources listed in the fronts or backs of magazines, and even for just saving pictures of things that inspired you or that you liked. How you file them is up to you. By magazine, type of project, material, even color. Whatever makes sense to you. Then I use the little colored page markers to label them on the edge with the name of the project, ie; bi color spiral rope etc. This works pretty well for me. And it keeps my craft room neater and takes up less space than piles of magazines. I hope this helps.

  11. RPKK, I usually pull out the pages from my beading magazines of the projects that spark my interest.

    I put them in page protectors and put them in a large binder that is sorted by the type of project it is (bracelet, necklace, earrings, etc.)

    It’s a system that has worked for me and it also cuts down on my stack of magazines. I give those to another friend that likes to bead, also.

  12. Rosemary I tried you spiral rope and i have a question? step 3 and step 4 what is the difference in stringing the last two core beads then stringing the last core bead, why cant you just string all 3 at one time. I could not get mine to twist as in the picture. and i followed the instrustions to a t. please help.

  13. Rosemary: Remember that you’re only stringing 1 core bead and 5 outside beads every time you pick up beads. You make the stitch by passing up through the last 2 core beads on the strand and THEN the core bead you just added to complete the stitch. It’s really important to push the outside beads to the right or your beads won’t spiral. Also note that it takes about 1 1/2 inches of stitching before the spiral becomes evident.

  14. I love this stitch, I have made quite a few bracelets this way. I do like the effect you get if you use size 8/o beads for the core then a 15/o, 11/o, 6/o, 11/o, 15/o string pattern for the outer beads, it gives a real depth to your twist.

  15. Jean, love your instructions. They are so easy to follow. I just made my first spiral rope and it was beautiful. However, by the time I had added the clasp I no longer had a beautiful spiral, just a jumble of beads. Where did I go wrong? Lou

  16. Lou-If you pushed your outside beads to the right with each stitch, your spiral should still be intact. Messing around with adding the clasp might have made the spiral a little jumbled, though–just manipulate the beads a little bit, gently twisting the rope, and hopefully you’ll be able to whip it back into shape. -J

  17. Thanks Jean, You were right; just a repositioning of the beads did the trick and I have a new favorite stitich!
    Tricastine, Your english is just fine. How’s your beading? : )

  18. I have made a double spiral rope to put on an omega, however I do not know how to end it. It will slip on the omega but I need something that looks nice. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  19. this is very frustrating. your instructions are easy to follow, and i keep repositioning my beads to the right, but they still end up jumbled. i’m more than an inch and a half into the spiral and it looks like one but not as neat as the tutorial. ugh.

  20. I have made spiral ropes but cannot seem to figure out how to make one using bugle beads. The one that was talked about in an old Beadwork magazine sounded interesting. Would anyone happen to have a picture and instructions they could share?

  21. Hi Jean, You have given detail instructions on how to make a spiral rope and i like the fact that you did it in two diffirent colors for those who don’t know the sticth fine it more easy. However, i would love to learn the double spiral and would also hope you have it in detail.

  22. Jean,
    Help! I followed your directions of always putting the beads to the right, but I too have it unspiraling when I lift it up to put the clasp on. Do I need to twist and “lock” it in the spiral with the clasp at the end? What type of clasp should be used? It was a beautiful spiral while on my beading board and I can hold it up and twist the strands back into a spiral, but I can’t let go of the end beads.

  23. Jean,
    Your instructions were very well written & I appreciate that your sample was in different colors. Makes it very easy to follow – but I do need some help.
    I’ve done several double spiral necklaces & other pieces using different spiral stitches & the twists all stay in place. When I found the single spiral instructions I had no problems working up a necklace, & the twist is built in as expected (tho’ I did push my series of 5 to the left rather than the right) – but I’m having the same problem as PeggyT@16. How do I keep the twist in place once I have the clasp on? I have the piece laying on my work board (with the twist) but can’t pick up it up without the twist coming undone.

  24. Hi Jean, I not only like your instruction but the way in which you have taken the time to show specifically how it is done, i also would like to ask you if you can show how to do double spiral i have yet to learn how to do this.

  25. Nice tutorial. It’s easy to understand and the diagram is wow. Please can I get a tutorial on double spiral necklace that is as nice as this that is not pdf. I will be grateful. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  26. Hi Jean I want to bead your spiral rope I have done one with all size 8 beads but it hasn’t come out as the picture, if I use all size 8 beads how many core beads do I use and how many do I pass through. I have beaded one with size 8 and 11 but it comes out very small. Your advice will help. Thank you Fay

  27. Hi Jean I want to bead your spiral rope I have done one with all size 8 beads but it hasn’t come out as the picture, if I use all size 8 beads how many core beads do I use and how many do I pass through. I have beaded one with size 8 and 11 but it comes out very small. Your advice will help. Thank you Fay