Hurray for Herringbone: Free Project & Technique Tips

Getting Started with Herringbone Stitch

Almost all the instructions I'd seen for flat herringbone stitch projects started with a base row of another stitch, usually ladder stitch.  So when I saw today's free project, I was momentarily flummoxed.  Begin herringbone without ladder stitch?  I felt like the Peanuts character Linus must have felt when he lost his security blanket!

Method #1:  Baseless Herringbone Stitch

You can find illustrated instructions for this method in today's free project and in Beading with Herringbone Stitch by Vicki Star.  For me, the challenging part of this method is that you can't actually see the herringbone pattern for the first few rows.  As a result, my tension was not quite right for my first few pieces.  In the second piece (on the right), I also experimented with a turnaround method that left the thread on the outside of the bead.  I didn't like that at all.  While I'm happy to have learned another method for starting herringbone and I like the scalloped edge at the bottom, I'm not convinced that this replaces my first choice:

Method #2:  Herringbone Stitch with a Ladder Stitch Start

Step by Step Beads editor Leslie Rogalski recommends beginning with a row of 2-bead ladder stitch because it's easier to hold onto than a single ladder.  In this method, the herringbone pattern is evident right away.  Leslie shared these terrific step-by-step photos for this method:

1.  Start with a 2-beads-at-a-time ladder.  (See the ladder stitch illustration if you need help with this step.)  Exit out of the end bead in Row 1.

2.  Pass through the second bead from the end of Row 1 through the end bead of Row 2.  Now your needle is facing the correct way to begin Step 3.  
3.  Add pairs of beads for your first row of herringbone.  String 2 beads, pass down through the second bead from the end, and up through the third bead.  Add 2 more pairs of beads to finish the row.

4.  At the end of each row, pass through the end bead in the row below, up through the second bead from the end, and then up through the end bead of the top row.  Now you are ready to start another row of herringbone stitch.

So tell me–Which method do you prefer?  Which do you use?  Which would you teach a beginner?  Share your tips on the website.

New Free Project

Herringbone Weave Coaster
Beadwork staff

Use this home decor project from the Winter 1998 issue of Beadwork to learn flat herringbone stitch, also sometimes known as Ndebele stitch.   This project uses baseless herringbone stitch, meaning that it does not start with another stitch like ladder stitch or peyote stitch.  If you'd prefer something wearable (but still easy enough for a beginner), check out the Colorblock Cuff by Perie Brown or Tina Koyama's Diagonal Tweed.  Both of those patterns begin with a ladder stitch start.  

Michelle Recommends:  For a handy stitch guide to tote while you're traveling this summer, check out The Beader's Companion by Judith Durant and Jean Campbell (yes, the same Jean Campbell who writes here every Wednesday!).  It includes illustrations and beaded samples of all the stitches, so it's easy to get a quick refresher any time.  It also has bead size charts, a quick guide to common gemstones, types of bead finishes, different types of knots, lists of stringing materials and tools . . . pretty much anything you can think of that's bead-related.  It's the reference book I use most when I'm writing for Beading Daily!

Remember–Voting for Bead Star ends May 30, 2009.  Help choose the winners who will appear in the next issue of Bead Star!

Related Posts:


Beading Daily Blog, Herringbone Stitch
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!

6 thoughts on “Hurray for Herringbone: Free Project & Technique Tips

  1. I don’t really have a comment about herringbone stitch, but I do want you (Interweave) to know your book, The Beaders Companion is the one book I recommend over all others to my students as a great “go to” reference book. I refer to it as “the Joy of Cooking for Beaders”, to analogize it’s usefulness. Thanks for all the years of great beading instruction, advice, and inspiration!

  2. I love Herringbone Stitch! It gives a beautiful texture even to flat beadwork that Peyote lacks. I don’t like starting with Ladder stitch, and have had problems with tension. I solve this by either using a very tightly attached stop bead (make sure your slip knot does not pull out on the working thread side) or really cheating and pulling out the first couple rows later. The larger the beads you’re working with, the harder it is to get tight tension.

  3. Joining the chorus: I love herringbone! My major problem with it was always the start, not liking the rigid edge of ladder stitch but hating the baseless start for many, many reasons. Then I stumbled across what I now call “easy start,” and I can’t find my note on who invented it or where I got it. I wish I could draw it out:
    1. Tie a ring of 4 beads to make 2 stacks of 2; pass needle up thru the first 2
    2. Pick up 4 beads, go back down thru the first 2 and up thru the last 2. Repeat as needed for your pattern.
    You just have to hold the beads so they lay flat next to each other, adjusting the tension as you go. You can follow your pattern as you go too, instead of having to count out the whole first 2 rows. And now thanks [so much!] to Leslie Rogalski’s hidden-thread turnaround I don’t have to tolerate that at the end of the row either.
    Hope this comes in handy for someone struggling with the old 2-row start.

  4. Herringbone is definitely one of my favorites as well. However, I never saw that hidden-thread turnaround and always either have the thread showing or use a 15/0 on the edge. Thanks for the great tips!

  5. I love herringbone, its so quick and easy, but I also love peyote. When I teach beading I always teach ladder stitch first. The reson is because ladder stitch is the base row of a lot of patterns therefore its important that you know how to do it. Regina

  6. WaHoo! for This wonderful picture of how to do the Herringbone stitch. I love the idea of the “Ladder Stitch”Starter. I have to try this, mine ususally looks like it survived a tornado.:) I end up cutting it apart and tossing it in the “bead soup bag”.Thank you so much for the tips and Free coaster pattern.Mary B