Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad RAW?

Jan 19, 2011

Jean Campbell is the senior editor of Beadwork and a
contributing editor to Beading Daily
Spacer 10x10 pixels Who's afraid of the Big, Bad RAW? Right-Angle Weave, that is. Well, to be honest, I was pretty afraid of it for a long time. I meet many beaders who have the same fear, too; they love the look but have a block when it comes to learning it. Even some teachers I know shudder when they come up with a complicated right-angle-weave project because trying to explain how to do it with words can be a big task.
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As I mentioned, I used to be a bit skittish around RAW, but not anymore! It's one of my favorite stitches now. I can credit Marcia DeCoster for curing me of my doubts. As I edited many of her projects, she showed me, through her clean and clever construction, that right-angle weave can be as simple (or as complicated, for that matter) as just about any stitch, and it actually provides more versatility than most.
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Are you one of those folks who have a RAW block? Well, since we're all visual people, maybe some visual clues will help. I put together these little sketches so you can think about one of these images while you're stitching:

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Apartment Units

Lots of beaders find comfort in learning right-angle weave this way: think of the four sides of each stitch as an apartment unit. There's a floor, two walls, and a ceiling. As you add a new stitch in a right-angle-weave strip, you're adding the floor, one wall, and the ceiling of an adjoining floor unit. When you work the second row, you're adding the walls and ceiling of the second floor of apartment units. So, when you make units with more than one bead on any one side, just think of it as a taller or wider apartment.

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The Compass

It makes sense to others to stitch right-angle weave by keeping the directions in mind: North, South, East, and West. Since the beads form a cross, it's easy to picture the lowest bead of each unit as South, the left bead as West, the right bead as East, and the highest bead as North. Note that when you think of your stitches this way, the compass changes as you rotate your beadwork.

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  Tops and Bottoms

I've seen most beadwork instructions written these days using a simple Top/Bottom/Sides strategy. The bead pointing up is the "top." The beads to the left and right are the "sides," and the bead that points down is the "bottom." For this one, keep in mind that a bead that is the top bead of one unit may be the bottom bead of another one.

Do these visual guides help? If so, waste no more time and exercise your newfound confidence! Dive into the absolutely gorgeous right-angle-weave projects offered in Best of Beadwork: 12 Right-Angle Weave Projects. There are all levels of RAW projects in this offering, including four projects by the aforementioned Mistress of RAW, Marcia DeCoster.

Happy beading-

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MimiM@7 wrote
on Jan 19, 2011 9:19 AM

Jean, did you cut your hair!!!!????

Question about RAW:  I have tinkered with it and rather like it but have trouble keeping the "walls" straight.  They tend to tip right and left and actually have the look of herringbone stitich when they do.  But the only way I can keep them straight is by physically straightening them after I'm done and they don't like to stay that way.

Have you got any hints?

Thanks for a great column!


on Jan 19, 2011 11:27 AM

Yep, chopped it all off this summer, Mimi! Felt great at the time, but I'm sure it'll be long again by the end of the year. So fickle about the hairdo.

Anyway, yes, it helps to keep your RAW stitches straight by not only manipulating each unit as its made, but also keeping a tight tension and using the appropriate-weight thread (sometimes floppy RAW units means your thread isn't thick enough--doubled thread is often the solution!)

Good luck!

on Jan 20, 2011 11:08 AM

Right Angle Weave is the last bead weaving stitch that I learned. At first it made me dizzy and definitely was not my favorite goingf around and around in circles. A friend helped me when she noticed what I was doing wrong.  It wasn't the shape it was that I was picking up the next bead and then trying to get my needle in position.  RAW is the only beadweaving stitch where you get your needle in position and then pick up a bead, all others you pick up a bead and then weave thru.  That is the point that I have never heard anyone say.

RebeccaE@12 wrote
on Jan 21, 2011 12:01 PM

RAW was the first bead weave I learned and I taught myself.  I used 2 threads and clamped both ends, then just used the thread ends for clasps on either end.  I am getting more experienced at it now but I do have a problem sometines with a piece curling up as I weave.  Any ideas?