Handy Tips For Writing Your Own Seed Bead Patterns

Mar 31, 2014

Whether you want to boost your jewelry business by selling instructions and tutorials for your own original beaded jewelry designs, or you want to submit your seed bead patterns for publication to a beading magazine (like, maybe Beadwork magazine?), you'll have to know how to translate your bead stitching into words that other people can understand and use to create their own versions of your designs. It's not as easy as it sounds, but it doesn't have to be particularly difficult, either. Ready to get started? I've got a few handy tips for writing your own seed bead patterns!

While You're Designing

Believe it or not, writing a good seed bead pattern begins before you even sit down at your computer. Tracking your progress as you stitch your initial design can help you later on as you're trying to write your final set of instructions!

  • Keep a notebook handy, and make sure you write down the type, size, and quantity of every bead you use in your design. If you're thinking of kitting your beading project, make sure you also write down the color numbers and finishes of the beads you're using.
  • Take photographs of each step as you're beading. Even if you don't use every single photo in your final set of instructions, having photos of your process can help you if you get stuck or can't remember what you did!

What Comes First -- The Words Or the Pictures?

Whether you create illustrations with computer software or you prefer to use photographs, you'll need to make sure that your seed bead patterns can be understood by someone else. Deciding what to do first -- written instructions or illustrations -- is really just a matter of preference.

One method that I find works for me, particularly when I'm dealing with a complex beading project, is to lay out each photograph in front of me in order, and then write the instructions while I'm looking at the photographs. After the words are written down, I can then go back and see which steps merit pictures or illustrations, and which ones are pretty self-explanatory.

If In Doubt, Ask a Friend

Probably the most important thing you can do when preparing  your seed bead patterns for sale or for publication is to ask a friend to look them over and do a test run of your instructions. After looking at the same words and illustrations for days on end, having a fresh pair of eyes (or two) to scan your seed bead pattern and check for mistakes, or to see if there are any steps that might need further clarification with a photograph or illustration.

What To Include In Your Seed Bead Pattern

To create a complete, easy-to-use seed bead pattern, you'll want to make sure you include the following things:

  • Materials list. Materials are the things that you use up, like seed beads, thread, jewelry findings, clasps, or glue. Be as thorough and as detailed as you can when listing the beads and other materials you used in your design. It's always appreciated when a designer includes information about bead colors and finishes, too. When estimating the quantity of seed beads, you're always better off over-estimating -- you don't want someone running out of seed beads before they finish making your design!
  • Tools list. Tools are the things like beading needles, pliers, scissors, or clamps that are used for the creation of your design.
  • Tips and hints. As you're stitching your project, you may discover a shortcut or a trick for working your favorite beading stitch. Share these in your finished seed bead pattern -- beaders love to learn new things!

A Word About Formatting Your Seed Bead Pattern

One great trick I use for formatting my seed bead patterns is to copy the style of the patterns laid out in Beadwork magazine. When listing your beads, assign each one a letter (A, B, C) and use that letter when writing your instructions. Because it's really much easier to write a set of instructions like, "String 6A, 3B, 6A, 3B, 1C, 3B, 6A, 3B, and 6A," instead of "String 6 size 11 gold beads, 3 size 15 purple beads..." Right? Simplifying your instructions also make them easier to follow when someone is working from your seed bead pattern.

Make More Seed Bead Patterns!

The best way to see what works and what doesn't work in writing your own seed bead patterns is to make up lots of different patterns and pay attention to how the instructions are written and illustrated. Make notes about what you like and don't like, and then see if you can get a couple of friends to help you test your patterns before you put them out for sale.

Take a look at all the incredible seed bead patterns in Favorite Bead Stitches 2014, available now in the Beading Daily Shop! You'll find 37 spectacular seed bead projects using 32 of your favorite beading techniques including bead crochet, peyote stitch, right-angle weave, and herringbone stitch from some of your favorite bead artists and top designers. Order your copy of Favorite Bead Stitches 2014 and find inspiration for creating your own seed bead patterns.

Do you have tips for someone just starting to write their own seed bead patterns? What do you find most helpful -- photographs or illustrations? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and ask your questions, leave a tip, or share your knowledge of writing seed bead patterns with us!

Bead Happy,

Jennifer


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Comments

beaddesign wrote
on Mar 31, 2014 10:23 AM

Very timely info Jennifer!  I find writing instructions a great challenge for organizing my beady thinking! My two cents:

I spent several hours yesterday  'cleaning up' a seed bead pattern for publication, and your hints are right on. As I'm writing it for Beadwork, I do use the magazine's acceptable format. One thing the Instruction Template doesn't tell me is the Font/Size to be used. I prefer to begin writing out my instructions completely in a WORD document of my own, edit, check, edit, check, and then Copy and Paste the (hopefully) correct text into the Beadwork Template. I'd like to set my WORD document up with the accepted Font/Size for Beadwork.

I create a second WORD document when I begin a new pattern - a two-column table for my step by step photos in the right hand column. When all the photos have been inserted I can then add in brief instructions in the left hand column for each step.

One part of my current pattern is done in circular peyote/herringbone of several rows. I did this section several times - loading the initial set of beads beginning at different points of rows one and two to see which starting point would produce the easiest written method of beading the design for other beaders when they follow the pattern.

Having a bead buddy to review the writing is helpful; it is also good to work on the instructions for a while and then put them aside for a day or two and then check them again. I find I do this two or three times before I'm sure all is correct and complete!

on Mar 31, 2014 10:41 AM

Thanks Jennifer.  Learning how to create my own seed bead pattern will have to come after I've learned to read someone else's pattern.  Can you tell me where I can find precise instructions on how to read weaving patterns?  I think I need instructions that maybe were written for a six year old.  I've been to several sites that offer instructions, but so far I've not been able to "get it".  I love peyote especially and find it therapeutic.  If I could master pattern reading I'd be having Christmas every day.  Seriously, this is something I've wanted to be able to do for as long as I can remember.  Any knowledge you can impart would be most appreciated.  Thanks again.   Lynne      

LoriF@13 wrote
on Mar 31, 2014 10:53 AM

Jen, this is great! Question...is there a piece of software most use for diagrams? I've googled and searched but can't seem to come up with anything.

handley wrote
on Mar 31, 2014 1:18 PM

I am not trying to make my own pattern, but wanted some help in how to best read them. I have done some peyote and st petersburg by watching a video. I have lots of magazines with pattern/graphs but as soon as i look at them it looks so complicated. I have set down and tried to say ok this is what graph says but i cant seem to follow/read them? help me to see if easier way.

Thank you

Debbie Handley

moontique wrote
on Apr 2, 2014 12:41 AM

Thanks Jennifer for great tips. I would like to know where I could find an illustrations software to draw diagram? I have been searching online but found nothing so far. Thanks again.

SallyM@40 wrote
on Apr 2, 2014 3:55 PM

I think knowing where to put the needle in the project is the most important.  Visual is where this seems to show you as most do not indicate up or down or how to place the direction of the needle.  Also my instructions do this and I include them in some of my kits however I do not in all of them.  If you need them then I can add them but if you have done the stitch before then it is assumed you can do the stitch and you only need to see the design placement of the beads.  I do include color and I do have kits.  I generally design for the newer beader and use larger beads to make it easier and successful for them.  I think many projects are not clear enough on instructions so I try to be detailed.  I figure out the unclear projects for myself but I been beading for many years.

SallyM@40 wrote
on Apr 2, 2014 4:01 PM

The thread and needle directions are often not clear.  I do instructions with detail on this.  I find that tips and the detail instructions with pictures are the easiest for a newer beader. I do offer kits and I do offer written instructions however not for all patterns.  I know beaders who can do a basic stitch so I make my patterns for them.  If they need more instructions they can buy a kit or request written.  I try to make something for everyone.  Being clear on needle direction is the most needed and can be the hardest to explain at times.  I design most of my patterns with large beads to help the newer beader be successful and finish the project quickly.  Being successful in designs will produce more beaders because they can follow them.

suZ@42 wrote
on Apr 5, 2014 7:42 AM

I am not ready to write patterns yet, but I have a hint for some.

When I am trying to read a pattern that I has long repeats, or I don't want to mark-up my original pattern.  I write the instructions for that area on a separate piece of paper so that I understand it.  (Example: I was beading a square box and the sides repeat 4 times.  I wrote out each row, which were all 4 sides using my codes.  In print, it cost to much for that, but it works for me.  Also, You don't feel bad about marking a piece of paper if you have to stop for that unexpected call.

on Apr 5, 2014 11:05 AM

In following a beaded strip graph/pattern (ie- peyote or loom), I find it helpful to use a post-it note to keep track of where I am.  After I've beaded each row, I move the post-it note over to cover that row.  

on Apr 5, 2014 11:05 AM

In following a beaded strip graph/pattern (ie- peyote or loom), I find it helpful to use a post-it note to keep track of where I am.  After I've beaded each row, I move the post-it note over to cover that row.  

on Apr 5, 2014 11:06 AM

In following a beaded strip graph/pattern (ie- peyote or loom), I find it helpful to use a post-it note to keep track of where I am.  After I've beaded each row, I move the post-it note over to cover that row.  

on Apr 5, 2014 11:06 AM

In following a beaded strip graph/pattern (ie- peyote or loom), I find it helpful to use a post-it note to keep track of where I am.  After I've beaded each row, I move the post-it note over to cover that row.  

on Apr 5, 2014 11:30 AM

I have also used a 2-table column for my bead instructions.  However, more recently, I've ganged all the photos together at the end of the written instructions, so I can separate my color copying out from my straight text copies.  I number each photo step.  I number each step of the text to match, ending each step with a parenthetical instruction for the beader to see that photo number.  On flatter projects, I have used my color copier to "photograph" each stage.  I'm sure the quality of my visuals are not good enough for publication; but, since all my teaching is volunteer, and I've been told that my instructions are easy to follow, this has worked well for my purposes.

tameujewelry wrote
on Apr 25, 2014 12:17 PM

I came here to ask the same thing as one of the other users. Do yo have a program to recommend for writing patterns? Like the super easy to read patterns on beads magic. The ideas I have require a blank pattern because its my ideas are more about color distribution than said pattern