Create an Easy Ladder Stitch Bracelet

Jan 9, 2009

Getting Started with Ladder Stitch

Ladder stitch is one of those stitches that rarely gets any attention in its own right.  Instead, it's used mainly as a foundation for other stitches.  Many brick stitch patterns begin with a row of ladder stitch, as do some herringbone stitch patterns.  In Mastering Beadwork author Carol Huber Cypher uses ladder stitch to join daisy chain units, while in  Beadwork Catherine B. Benecke combines ladder stitch with peyote stitch in her Cube Bead Bracelet.  It's definitely a useful stitch to know and the good news is that it's one of the easiest to learn.

A Common Problem

When I did a demo of ladder stitch at Bead Fest Philadelphia last summer, the most common problem I noticed was loose or uneven tension which made the row look like this:

herringbone-stitch

instead of a neat row like this: 

herringbone-stitch

What can you do to fix this problem?

Ladder Stitch Tips

If you're new at ladder stitch, grab a copy of Getting Started with Seed Beads by Dustin Wedekind.  Not only does Dustin explain the stitch, but he also shows you how to begin with clear step-by-step illustrations which he drew himself.  You'll also learn how to use ladder stitch to create simple jewelry and beaded beads, how ladder stitch differs from right-angle weave, and how to use ladder stitch as the basis for brick stitch and herringbone stitch projects.  (Plus, it's 25% off through January 12th, since it's one of our "top 10" bestsellers of 2008!)

In the meantime, here are a couple of tricks to try:herringbone-stitch

  • Start with certain types of beads.  Bugle beads or other beads with long sides are the easiest to use for ladder stitch.  Cube beads (like the ones shown in this week's free project) are also easier to grasp and hold in position while you stitch.
  • Try stacking short, round beads in twos or threes rather than stitching them singly.  
  • Make sure your beads are the same size.  This sounds obvious, but it's all too easy when working with seed beads to let a stray oversized or undersized bead ruin your lovely, even ladder.  (Read Jean Campbell's article on culling seed beads if you want tips on seed bead sorting.)
  • Pass your thread through the beads a second time in order to tighten the tension.  (Or begin with a thicker thread or fishing line that better fits the size of the holes.) 

What other tips for ladder stitch do you have?  Share your tips on the website.

herringbone-stitch


New Project
Glitter Cubed
Bonnie Clewans

The base of this sparkly bracelet is constructed with ladder stitch using cube-shaped beads.  This free bracelet pattern from Step by Step Beads magazine was available free through January 23, 2009.

The free period has ended.   Project instructions are for sale in the store.


Current Reader Survey:  Please take a moment to fill out our current reader survey.  This will help us plan the articles and free projects on Beading Daily for 2009.  What do you like about Beading Daily?  What would you change?  Tell us!


Michelle Mach shares free projects every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website. 



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Comments

DorrieS wrote
on Jan 9, 2009 11:42 AM
Hi. Just wanted to post a bit about starting ladder stitch. This is the easiest way I learned. Start by placing on a stop bead. Add the number of beads times 2 that are needed for your base. (This will make your first and second row.) Bring needle up through the 4th and 3rd bead from needle and pull to bring the last 4 beads together into 2 columns. Then repeat this process of going through the 4th and 3rd bead from the needle to the end of your piece. I wish I could draw the diagrams, but am not able to at this point. Hope this helps. Any questions, I will try to answer or lead you to a link. Dorrie
DorrieS wrote
on Jan 9, 2009 11:48 AM
I suppose I should add that you could use this method for even the single row ladder by going to the second bead from needle and up just one bead. Dorrie
my3 wrote
on Jan 9, 2009 2:03 PM
this is so cool
patschar wrote
on Jan 9, 2009 3:05 PM
I filled out the survey and forgot to say-- Your free patterns are certainly NOT a waste of time!! Please keep them coming! I often do really complicated patterns but I loved to see this pretty bracelet that is made so simply.
BobR@3 wrote
on Jan 9, 2009 4:30 PM
This might be a guy thing, with our big hands, but to start a row of ladder stitch for a brick stitch pattern (11/0 beaded earrings), I had to develop my own technique, so for the first time, here it is...Take a small block of wood, about the size of a popsicle stick. Thickness doesn't matter. Put a piece of double back tape on the block. Lay a strip of beads side-by-side, until you have the desired number. This will allow you to do the first row without holding the beads. After the first row, I'm good to go, by just lifting the beads off the stick. It works for me. Bob in WA.
BarbaraB@151 wrote
on Jan 9, 2009 5:40 PM
Yay, BobR!!! I second that process. I have very small hands, but with the onset of arthritis it is getting increasingly difficult to grasp small objects as my fingers no longer bend. I came up with the same idea and it works every time. Also agree that I look forward to your free patterns. I buy scads of patterns, magazines, etc., so getting these good quality little gems on your site is such a pleasure (big smile). Phx Fan
Kimmrg wrote
on Jan 10, 2009 9:51 AM
Ok, Maybe I am the only one. I get the first row, but how do you get to the second??? I'm visual and most instructions only give the first row. Thank Kim
SheraM wrote
on Jan 11, 2009 7:07 PM
I learned to do ladder stitch with 2 needles, one on either end of the thread. Pick up your first bead with either needle and move it to the center of the thread. Pick up the second bead with the needle on the right going through the second bead from right to left. Snug it down near the first bead. Lay the first needle down. With the left-hand needle, go through the second bead from the opposite direction, from left to right. Pull both ends of the thread and the second bead will be where it belongs, right up against the first bead. Lay the second needle down and pick up the other needle. Add the third bead, repeating alternating the needles through each bead. It doesn't really matter from which direction you start, as long as you go through each bead from opposite directions. This results in fewer threads going through each bead, which is nice if you want to go through them again to add embellishments.
IrinaS wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 12:13 PM
We use ladder stitch as base for all kinds of projects, and one thing I've noticed is that, especially with bugle beads, the thread frequently breaks soon after the piece is done, because there is a lot of tension on it. So, my tip is: make sure you don't have sharp edges close to the thread, so it won't have any chance to get sawed through.
BobR@3 wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 5:30 PM
Ok, Maybe I am the only one. I get the first row, but how do you get to the second??? I'm visual and most instructions only give the first row. Thank Kim Kim: The reason that the second row is usually not included is that it is different and somewhat difficult to explain in text. Your best bet would be to find a diagram and practice it a bit. In this case, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Bob in WA.
DeonD wrote
on Jan 13, 2009 1:30 PM
I am a great fan of brick stitch. It is the stitch I started with 40 years ago that led to my beading career. I have written four books on brick stitch techniques. When you are using bugle beads for the ladder section always make sure that they are not broken or chipped on the ends. I have even taken time to use a nail file to smooth both ends (especially on vintage beads). Another tip is to pull the thread straight through the bugle beads, rather than across the top at an angle. This will help prevent the thread from fraying by touching the edge of the bugle. I have made entire brick stitch pieces using bugle beads exclusively and have never had a problelm, as long as I used this technique. After you complete adding the number of beads required for the ladder section, pass you needle and thread through the beads working across to the starting position. This will reinforce the beads and make them lay side-by-side. The tension should be tight enough to be snug, but not so tight that the beads tend to buckle. With practice you will be able to "feel" the tension needed. Use thread thin enough to allow for additional thread passes as you bead, but thick enough to hold the beads from turning on the thread, thus wearing the thread and cutting it eventually. Hope this is helpful. Happy Beading! Deon DeLange