Some Peyote Stitch
Peyote stitch has been around as a beadwork technique for a
long, long time. Adding one bead at a time, the stitch produces a fabric of
beads arranged like brick paving, one bead up and one bead down, in columns.
Variations include two-drop peyote stitch, three-drop peyote stitch, sculptural
peyote stitch, and freeform peyote stitch.
There are several names for peyote stitch: twill stitch,
diagonal weave, and gourd stitch; however, the terms twill stitch or diagonal
stitch are not usually used in describing contemporary beadwork. The term gourd
stitch is used by Native American beadworkers and describes a specific use for
peyote stitch. According to David Dean in his article "Is it Peyote or
Beadweaving?" (Beadwork magazine, Summer
1999), gourd stitch is used by the Tiah Pia (Kiowa) Native Americans to cover
items such as the rattles and fans used in their gourd dances. Peyote stitch is
used to describe beadwork done for ceremonial and religious purposes within the
Native American Church. Purely for practical purposes, and without disrespecting
Native American beadworkers, most contemporary beadworkers use the term peyote
stitch simply to describe the technique, with no religious or cultural
The History of Beads
by Lois Sherr Dubin features a photograph of a winged scarab done in what looks
like two-drop peyote stitch. The piece dates back to Old Kingdom Egypt, 2686-2181
B.C., and it makes us - and, indeed, many historians - wonder about the path
that peyote stitch has tken through time, becoming part of Native American and
West African cultures, appearing in Victorian England, and now gaining so much
favor with contemporary artisans.
Modern Peyote Stitch Beadwork
Beadwork has come in and out of vogue through history. In
the 1960s it was popular with hippies, but not taken seriously by the general
public. Not until the early 1980s did peyote stitch beadwork become popular in
America, and now it has snowballed into the huge resurgence we are currently
Today, beadwork is considered art in American, and peyote
stitch is one of the most popular techniques employed. Peyote stitch is one of
the most versatile off-loom beadweaving methods known, and contemporary bead
artists are doing amazing things with this stitch!
Different Types of Peyote Stitch
Basic Even-Count Flat Peyote Stitch
This method of peyote stitch calls for one size of seed
bead, and it may be used to create squares for earrings or a brooch, or to make
a long, narrow strip for a neck chain. A one-by-seven inch rectangle made with
even-count flat peyote stitch makes a great bracelet. Sew six squares together
for a box or connect two large rectangles for a small beaded purse.
Basic Odd-Count Flat Peyote Stitch
If you want to bead a design with a centerline using peyote
stitch, you'll need to use this method. It is worked basically the same as
even-count flat peyote stitch, except that on one edge of the work you'll have
to make a different kind of turn, and anchor your thread a little differently.
Two-Drop Flat Peyote
This is also called double-bead peyote stitch, and by using
a combination of bead sizes and shapes, or three or four or more bead sets
(three-drop, four-drop, etc.), you can create a multitude of textural effects.
You may also use two-drop peyote to make a transition to bugle or larger beads.
Tubular Peyote Stitch
Tubular peyote stitch is a variation of peyote stitch that
forms a hollow, cylindrical shape. The tube may consist of an even or odd
number of beads in each row, and you can use it to cover things such as
crystals, dowels, bottles, and jars, to make hollow vessels, to bead bands for
hats or wine glasses, or to create a "rope" of beads. A short tube makes a
perfect nestlike setting for a larger bead. A small tube is a bead. A long skinny tube can be a bracelet; an even longer
tube makes a necklace. If you make a really big tube, squash it flat, and sew
up the bottom: it's a purse.
Tubular peyote is used extensively for making pictorial
amulet bags. We've seen patterns of animals, nature, classic artwork, and even
renditions of photographs of pets and kids. Anything you can scan or photocopy
can be turned into a pattern for peyote stitch.
If you have an even number of beads, you'll have to step up
through two beads to begin each row. Every row has a definite beginning and
If you have an odd number of beads, you'll be able to just
keep going, adding one bead at a time and passing through the next "up" bead.
You are actually making one long row that spirals around and around. If you're
beading a design with different colored beads, you'll have to pay attention to
where each row starts so your pattern will be even.
For a spiral design, start by alternating two beads of each
color, then make sure each bead you add in subsequent rows is the same color as
the bead you just passed through. To reverse the spiral, add the same color
bead as the one you will be passing through.
Circular peyote stitch is a variation that produces a flat
circle or disk of beadwork. Use this technique to cover the bottom of a bottle
or the top of its lid, or to make the bottom of a bowl or vessel, or use it
simply to make a circle for any purpose.
Source: Beading with Peyote Stitch by Jeannette Cook and Vicki Star, Interweave Press, 2000