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Enjoy peyote stitch's designs and history
Bethany Waldrop Keiper
"A stitch in time saves nine." - American Proverb
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
In a previous column, we learned about bead weaving on a loom. This month, we'll look at a method of bead weaving that I find much more challenging and even a little daunting: peyote stitch. I'm not sure what it is about the stitch - maybe it is the fact that there is no loom for guidance, or the fact that some of the designs you can make with this stitch are so complicated and intricate, but very beautiful.
Peyote stitch has a history that is interesting and varied, much like the stitch itself. Many cultures have produced artwork with this stitch. Pieces of peyote beadwork have even been found in the artifacts of Ancient Egypt.
As you might already know, peyote stitch gets its name from a small cactus that was used in Native American ceremonies long ago. The beaded stitch was used to make decorations for the items used in the religious ceremonies surrounding the peyote cactus. It is also called gourd stitch, for it was also used to make decorations for gourds. I have also read that the stitch was used by African cultures many years ago as well. When these different cultures first discovered and started using the stitch we'll never really know. And it's important to note that while information about the history of the stitch varies, one thing remains the same - it is a beautiful stitch, and one we can all learn to enjoy.
Just as there is more than one name for the stitch, there is more than one variety of the stitch to learn.
According to beadage.net there are five commonly used variations to peyote stitch: even count flat, odd count flat, even count tubular, odd count tubular, and flat round. With all of these, you can cover beads and bottles; make wide, intricately designed cuff bracelets; create settings for cabochons; construct shimmering amulet bags; or weave just about anything you desire.
Perhaps it is this variety of stitch styles that makes it such a popular stitch. When looking online, or through beading books, peyote patterns are some of the most easily found. The complexity of the patterns and placement of the beads are better for making round shapes look more natural. This makes peyote a better choice for many pattern objects such as fruits, flowers or faces.
To learn how to master this complex stitch, there are many videos and picture tutorials available online. There are even instructions on this website on the following page: Peyote Stitch. Fortunately, I have read that mastering this stitch is easier than it looks! Once you have the stitch "under wraps," a fabulous new world of bead weaving will become available to you, with a wide variety of patterns available!
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