I had some requests on instructions for the beadwork that my children did for our Native American studies. This activity can lend itself to a variety of ages. Some things to consider when choosing what materials might be appropriate for your child:
- The size of the loom.
- The size of the string and the beads being used
- The number of beads going across
- Whether or not to have a pattern
All these things will factor into how easier how difficult the project is. My oldest is 12. He used small, sturdy thread, small needle, and small glass beads. His piece of art was seven beads across, and he choose to bead a pattern. My youngest, who is six, used crafting or embroidery string, a smaller loom, larger beads, and a larger needle. Her piece of artwork only had three or four beads across. That should give you some idea of how to assess the project for your child
Threading Your Loom
The first thing that you want to do is find an appropriate size loom which is a cardboard box. You want to start by cutting the four flaps off of one side of a constructed box. If you’re making a bracelet you need enough string on the loom to fit around your child’s wrist and then 3 to 4 inches on each side of that to make easy tie off at the end. For my youngest the box was 7 inches wide, which was slightly too small for what we wanted. I only had a couple inches on either side to tie off which made it a little more difficult.
Next you want to cut your loom. You’re going to cut small half inch slits into the side of the box where string goes from top to the bottom. You cut one more slit than the number of beads that you plan to have across in your project. So if your project is three beads across in width, you want to cut four slits at the top and bottom of your box.
Next you thread the loom by taping a piece of string on the top of the box on one side where you cut your slits. Then slide the string through the first slit, pull it down through the first slit at the bottom, slide it through the adjacent slit at the bottom, and pull it up to the top in the next slit. Continue in this way until the string ends up back at the top, and tape that string off. It is important to make sure that each of the strings have the same amount of tension for this project to work, so check the tension on each of the string and adjust so that they’re even. You want them taunt but not pulling the box in towards itself.
Starting Your First Row
Next is to start your first row. Thread a long needle with whatever thread you’re using, and placed your first row of beads on your needle. Notice that there’s no knots. There is a loose end at the bottom. It’s really important when doing the first beads that you not pull that string all the way through. It may help to tape this with end of the sting on the loom. This is where it changes depending if you are right-handed or left-handed. One hand, the one that is not dominant, goes under the beads and gently holds them as you pulled the string through. If you are right-handed, you’ll want to hold the beads with your left hand, so you are moving the thread with your right hand from left to right. Taking the needle with the beads with your right hand and bring them underneath the loom threads. Switch hands, holding the needle with the beads on it under the strings with the left hand and make sure that each of the beads is in between two strings. Your loom threads provide guidelines for where each bead will go. Then as your left hand holds the beads in place, take your right hand and pull the thread through. Leaving your left hand in place (the beads will fall if you let go,) bring the needle back through the opposite way as your left hand gently pushes upward, making sure the needle is ABOVE the loom threads. In this way the thread used to sew the beads first goes under the loom threads and then over the loom threads locking the beads in place. If you were left-handed this process is reversed. This first row sets the direction you weave these beads for the rest of the loom,. This is more like weaving then simply stringing beads. For the first row only you’re going to go back around under the initial Loom thread and bring your needle through again and then go up over the end Loom thread and bring your needle through again. This is the only row that you do this with. So the first row the needle goes through four times. You want to make sure this row is positioned about 3 to 4 inches from the edge to give you enough string/thread to tie off your work.
Continue Working the Rows
For the subsequent rows you just go through twice. If you’ve chosen a pattern, choose the beads for the next row. Place your next row of beads onto your needle again. Use your non dominant hand to hold the beads place, while you pull the thread through those beads making sure that the string is taunt. Keep the non-dominate hand in place as you bring the thread back through again, keeping the needle over the loom threads. Pull the string slightly taunt, and do the next row. Continue in this way until you are 3 to 4 inches away from the bottom or have the desired length of beading.
After you’ve completed as many rows as you want for your project, take the needle and thread back through your last few rows, at least three of them. Trim off any strings left. Now you’re going to tie off the ends. Working on one side, release the beading project from the loom. Cut the loops and gently tie the threads off in pairs around the beads two at a time. Ideally you should have about 3 or 4 inches of thread to work with. After you finish the one side, do the same thing to the opposite side. Then you can take the several long threads and either braids or weave them, or leave them and tie the group of threads together. Do this to the other side of your project, and you’re ready to wrap it around a wrist or hang it as a decoration.