Beadwork teachers, I need your input!

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brightcircle wrote
on May 21, 2009 12:37 PM

Who here teaches beading? I've thought about getting back into teaching but with stitching instead of wirework. I did a 'practice run', teaching a free class on one of my simpler stitching projects, and oh my, how do you guys do this on a regular basis?

My main questions are:

1: How do you write clear instructions? I'm a visual learner, no good with words, so I can try writing out general instructions but have no idea how comprehensible they are, but they are intended more for the students retrying the project at home after learning it, than as step-by-step instructions.

2: How do you deal with the different needs of all the class participants? Say there are fifteen or so attendees, some needing to be taught row-by-row and some needing to be taught nearly stitch-by-stitch, so I basically have to give each of them one-on-one attention the entire class long. Is it that people of the wrong skill level are taking my classes?

I'll post more questions as I think of them.

Handmade jewelry, beaded beads and more available at my NEW location,

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LoisB@23 wrote
on May 21, 2009 3:20 PM

 Wow! good questions! I don't even DO the beadstitches, much less teach them, but I want to make sure this thread doesnt' get burried! I'm sure someone will be along to answer (holliday weekend though!) If no one answers you, call us back to it, k?


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Chibimimi wrote
on May 21, 2009 6:01 PM

I've taught only a few classes, so I'm not a real expert, but here's what I do.

First, the materials list:  This is important!  Make sure you include everything.  You may be dealing with very inexperienced beaders; don't assume they know you need to wax some beading threads or what size needle fits what size bead.  Be as specific as possible.

There really should be a good picture of the finished piece.  I use either a scanner or a copier; believe it or not, they work really well.  The picture should be as large as possible.  I use mine as the cover of the instructions.

Next, I make a "dry run" of the piece.  As I complete every action, I write down exactly what I did.  The actions are broken into logical steps, such as one line of peyote or completion of a single motif.  Each new idea merits a step of its own ... for example, adding the first bead in the third row of peyote -- you know, the one that actually starts making the beads fall into place.  The next step would be to complete the rest of the row in the same way.  I keep the steps rather short and number them, to help the student keep her/his place. and I make the type LARGE!  At the same time, if there is a section of instructions that will be done repeatedly while making the piece, I try to keep all the steps for it on one page.

If the piece is composed of separate sections, I break the instructions with a headlines marking the beginning and end of each section.


The instructions are for the BASIC piece.  Any variations, augmentations, furbelows, fripperies, design considerations, are dealt with at the end of the instructions.

I illustrate every step, showing thread path and labeling beads.  Mine are drawn by hand, and you can probably do it, too, because you don't need to be a graphic artist to make basoc. clear drawings, but if you don't relate well to pens and pencils, I think there are computer programs that could help you.  Make the illustrations large, simple, and clear.

When the instructions are complete, I make another dry run piece, this time following the instructions exactly.  Lots of problems will become obvious here.

MOST IMPORTANT STEP OF ALL:  When I've made all the corrections, I ask a friend (or firends) to beta-test the instructions.  This is especially important with a more complex piece.  Inevitably they find a problem I've missed or make a good suggestion to improve the clarity of the instructions.

So far, so good!  I make one copy of the corrected instructions for each student in the class, plus a few extras.  I also keep a copy of the instructions with me while I'm teaching, so if students discover weak areas or make suggestions, I can make a note of them and make changes for the next class.

By the way, if you're dealing with inexperienced beaders, fifteen is definitely too large a class!  At least when you are first starting out, cut the class size to about half that, unless you know all the attendees are intermediate or better beaders.

I hope this helps!



on May 22, 2009 1:11 AM

Good points, and thanks for posting that!  I offer a beginning bead stringing/repair class but I've had a few people ask if I can teach bead stitching, so I've been pondering how best to write up instructions for it.  Now I just need to get busy and do it!


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Kokopelli wrote
on May 22, 2009 4:06 AM

Thanks, Mary, for posting this. I'm going to teach my first class in December and you made some very good points.

What came to my mind at once was the fact, that 15 is a too big class for beading. Mine will be around 8-10 and I'll teach some beaded angels. I have step-by-step instructions with my own pics in them. In January I'm going to teach a Viking Knit class. I'm really looking forward to this.

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John Winter wrote
on May 22, 2009 9:08 AM

Hi all;

First, I would not recommend teaching for Interweave at all....due to a series of problems that were not of my causing at their show in Santa Fe,( another teacher was responsible for obtaining torches, which arrived late) I was penalised a portion of my teaching fees, and my classes at the PA show were cancelled. That they even sent me this link addresed to Interweave teachers is evidence that their system is faulty. If you decide to teach for them, read your contract VERY carefully, and realise that their priority is to make money for Interweave...there are no warm fuzzys anymore.



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on May 22, 2009 9:21 AM

Lots of good answers to your question here. I teach seed beading all the time, it's my "thing!" I like to have diagrams with the beads numbered so I can refer to them in each step, as in "string beads 1-6, go through bead 1 again."

Also, keep your class to a single skill level--trying to teach to multi-levels is frustrating for students and teacher alike.

If you want to teach you must learn how to write instructions and explain clearly. I think students should take away a hand-out. 

Another way to learn to be a beadwork teacher is to take a beading class--like the one I am teaching at Bead Fest Philadelphia on Friday August 21! Check it out:

Modern Romance by Leslie Rogalski


Leslie, editor in chief, Step by Step beads, Bead Star and Creative Jewelry






Modern Romance pendant by Leslie Rogalski: cubic right angle weave with embellishment and brass filigree.

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MarciaD@9 wrote
on May 22, 2009 9:37 AM

 Hi Brightcircle,

A few thoughts on the subject of teaching:

In my view good directions are an integral part of the value of the class.  As you point out, many are visual learners and they need to be able to see each step of the project in beads.  If you do not have illustration skills, another method is to step out the project using photos.  This does require making a second sample, but is something that should be done anyways, to refine your skills in making the piece and provide additional color ways for the students to explore.

If you do want to learn illustration you can make simple beads and thread paths using the drawing tools in a  word processor application.  Depending on how involved you want to get, a drawing program like adobe illustrator will give you many more options, but is expensive and has a steeper learning curve.  If you are very neat, handdrawn illustrations can be effective as well.

As far as making time for everyone in a class, you need to set the expectation for the skill level and possibly adjust class size accordingly.  If you are intending to teach beginners then a smaller class size is in order.  If the project requires certain skills to already be known, then this needs to be made clear at sign up.  Sometimes I will provide a one or two page handout with the sign up as a primer in learning the required stitch.

Managing you student interaction is another area where a good set of instructions will help you. Visual learners in class will be able to move on unassisted if they can follow the instruction, freeing you up to assist others who need to learn through hands on demonstration. However I think it is still appropriate to make sure everyone in class gets some of your attention.

Having a whiteboard or flipchart in the classroom is also helpful to preview some of the major components of the project to the class as a whole.  For some having you give that verbal instruction  will be enough for them to work through the steps on their own.  Make sure you break the verbal/whiteboard instruction into manageable steps.  Too much information at once becomes overwhelming.

Good luck with your endeavor.

Marcia DeCoster


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CristinaA3 wrote
on May 22, 2009 10:00 AM

I also think that your class was way too big. I know from experience, that 15 people (and I had early teens as students Surprise ) will not be able to follow you at the same pace because there is always those who need to be taught stich by stitch and those who are trying to get ahead of where you are in the project.


As someone already stated, starting with very clear materials list is important. Handouts make your students go home happy that they do not need to have memorized every little thing to recreate the project at home.

It's a smart move to "teach" someone close to you to test your teaching techniques and if the project is suitable for that skill level.

And the best way to get better at teaching is to teach and teach and teach some more! You will learn lots from your students as well.

Happy Jewelry Making (and teaching!),


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Connie@134 wrote
on May 22, 2009 10:12 AM

1.  Writing clear instructions is often a challenge.  I make the project and take photos as I work step by step. . I also write down the directions as I am working step by step. This is a slow process, but worth it in the end.  I try to make my instructions as clear as possible useful for teaching a class or adding to a kit to be used for someone not taking a class.  I will make a project straight from my directions or ask a fellow beader to make the project using my directions.

2, When you teach a class make sure you specify whether the class is for beginners, intermediate or advanced students. If you have a student or 2 that are struggling with the class you can offer them some extra help outside of the class time.  It is not fair to the other students in the class to spend all of your time with one or two students.  I truly enjoy teaching, find it very fullfilling and enjoyable, and I learn a lot from my students.  

I have been teaching beadweaving and wireworking for about 8 years at bead shops and shows and will be teaching 3 classes at Bead Fest Portland in September, I am very excited about that.  You can see my work at

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MelanieS@19 wrote
on May 22, 2009 10:40 AM

I like your idea of offering a free class while you are working out the details in your teaching.  You might also try a class of beading friends to help you "edit" or refine your instructions; experienced, test beaders can provide you with helpful feedback. 

Keep beginner classes small, my limit is 10.  You need to be able to provide more help and support at this level.  Break information down into  steps.  Make sure you tell them, show them and have them do it, that way you address all learning styles - auditory, visual and kinesthetic.  Repeat yourself, it may seem redudnant to you, but when you are explaining new concepts, I think it helps students to hear it more than once.

Ask "what questions do you have" since questions are expected from students.  This more conducive to really finding out what they need then asking "do you have any questions".

Teaching something you love and watching the lights come on for others is very rewarding.  Like life, some days and some classes are better than others.  If you have done your homework, try to take the challenges in stride and see what you can learn from them.

Enjoy this new endeavor.

Melanie Schow,


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BarbS@39 wrote
on May 22, 2009 4:00 PM

I am a visual learner, too. I either illustrate or shoot step-by-step photos for my handouts. The first time I make a class project, it becomes my guide to writing a class description, supply list and pre-requisites.

The second time I make a design, I write down all measurements and a brief description of each step. If I feel that a photo or is needed, I make a note describing what should be shown in the picture.

I make the project a third time while I shoot the photos. For some reason, the third project is magic! My familiarity with the project is solid, so if there are engineering or materials issues, this is when "glitches" become apparent and can be worked out.

Think about how difficult it will be to teach both the stitch and the project and whether that is a reasonable goal for one class. If not, require that students have prior experience with the stitch or technique. Be specific so that students have the necessary skills to successfully learn the project during class time.

Start by teaching no more than 10 people. Once you are more familiar with the dynamic of teaching a project, you can increase your maximum number. I never teach more than 16, and it took me six years before I was comfortable with more than 12 students.

I also produce instructions for other teachers. I test, edit text, shoot photos and illustrate. Although it costs a little extra, it is worth hiring a graphics professional. In my experience, everyone has one friend who can do graphics, and it never hurts to ask someone you know for help or trade a nice piece of jewelry for a set of instructions! Smile

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miatagrrl wrote
on May 25, 2009 11:39 AM


A lot of great advice has already been posted here, so I'll try not to repeat much -- just wanted to reiterate a few points that I think are really important. First, I think there are lots of different types of learners -- those who like to read instructions, those who need demos, those who need personal attention, etc., and a good instructor has to be prepared to provide information in as many ways as possible to meet the needs of all those different learning styles.

Second, the written instructions are critical. They have to be clearly written as well as include good diagrams and/or photos. A good way to receive feedback is to give the instructions to a beader of the level you expect to be in the class and ask her to make the piece on her own using the instructions only. She'll be able to tell you pretty quickly if the instructions are lacking. In addition to the several samples I make to refine a design, I usually make at least 2 or 3 more samples just to write the instructions: I make one while writing the first draft; make a second one while revising the draft; then a third one pretending I don't know how to make it and use the instructions as my guide.

Good luck!

-- Tina Koyama

(BeadFest and local bead shop instructor)

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on May 25, 2009 3:38 PM

I agree with the suggestions made already. It is evident that we all agree it is important to have step by step instructions.

Planning the class is critical. Make sure you have estimated correctly how long it will take for the students to learn the project is really important. One way to make the class run smoothly is to set the stage of the class:  explain what the students can expect to complete, how the class will be run and that you will get to each student. Demonstrations followed by floating the room ---to assist students will help you identify those people who need more help. If your instructions are clearly written, students who are ready to move on to following steps can proceed-- freeing you to help those who need it. I do plan the class time in advance and watch my timing--so I can cover the necessary material. Avoid giving critical information in the last 30 minutes of the class. 

Happy teaching!

Leslee Frumin      (BeadFest Philly teacher)

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Dcoghill wrote
on May 27, 2009 7:39 AM

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Great question!.

I teach at many of the Interweave shows, Bead & Button and for stores and Bead Societies.  I got much of my groundwork while I was still in the corporate world writing Operations Manuals and putting on Training Seminars, but the basic rules are the same no matter what audience you are writing for. 

Keep it simple - write for the beginner (even if it is an advanced project) and do as many diagrams as possible.

During class I will go a group demo - then walk around to the individual tables to be sure they have it correct as they are working on it.

Also, if possible, have another beader either proof your instructions or act as a pattern tester. 

Hope to see some of you in Milwaukee, King of Prussia or Portland - stop by and say hello

Doris Coghill / Dee's Place, LLC



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