Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Herringbone Stitch Tutorial

Herringbone is the last of the major off-loom beadwork stitches. Sometimes known as Ndebele, it's a very old stitch, and it's a popular way to create a beaded strip or swatch of beaded 'fabric'. Like the herringbone stitches you see in knitting or other crafts, beaded herringbone consists of a series of beaded columns that tilt towards one another, creating a slight zigzag effect. It's a beautiful stitch, very versatile, and particularly effective in its tubular form.

As with all of my tutorials so far, I'm going to be teaching the basic flat, rectangular version of the stitch.
There are several ways to start off a piece of Herringbone work, but perhaps the best one to begin with is the brick stitch method. It gives you a nice, solid foundation to build up from. And the good news is that the very first row is the hardest. From there, you will be surprised at how quickly and easily Herringbone weave flows.

You will need:
A needle
Beads (size 8 seed beads are used in this tutorial, but I usually use size 11 seed beads)

On to the tutorial!

As per usual, thread your needle. String on a tension bead: that is, string on a bead and then pass through it again going the same direction.
I usually leave enough of a tail on to grasp as I work, but exactly how much string you leave on at the end is up to you (and what your project instructions say!).

Brick Stitch Beginning (just the first row: every other row is different!)
(Row One)
Pick up two beads.

Hold the beads so that the tension bead is at the top, then bring the needle downwards through the first bead you strung.

Take the needle up through the second bead.

This creates a two-bead loop, where both beads are laying parallel with their edges touching. You're done with the first stitch in the brick stitch base.

Add one new bead.

Bring the needle upwards through the second bead.

Bring the needle down through the new (third) bead.

Add a new bead.

Take the needle back down through the third bead,

and then up through the fourth bead.

String a new bead.

Add it onto the line of beads the exact same way you added the third bead: pass back up through the bead before it, and then down through the new bead.

String one more bead.

Add it on the same way you added the fourth bead: pass back down through the bead before it, and then up through the new bead.

That's it for the brick stitch portion: here's the loopy path the thread takes through that first row.

Okay! You're done with the first row!

And do you want to know the awesome thing about Herringbone? That first row was six stitches, (one stitch for each new bead,) right? For the next row, and for every row after that, you'll only have to do three stitches. It's pretty great.

The Herringbone Portion (the rest of the piece)

(Row Two)
Herringbone is worked in two columns per stitch. So, for each stitch, you will add two new beads.
So pick up two beads,

and take the needle down through the second to last bead in the first row.

That's one stitch!

Easy, right? Now you need to prepare for the next stitch, so take the needle back up through the fourth bead (the third to last bead) in the first row.

Add two more beads.

Take the needle down through the third bead.

Take the needle up through the second bead.

Add two beads.

Take the needle down through the first bead.

You're done with the second row of the project-- the first row of actual herringbone stitch! Super-simple, right?

But... we have a problem, don't we?

How do we get the needle back up to the top of the work so we can put on row 3?

If we could keep following the pattern so far, we would take the needle up through the next bead... but there is no next bead. We can't take it up through the previous bead, because then we'd have to start the next row in the middle of the row (and that would be a real mess!). Also, we can't just pass back upwards through the first bead: the thread would just pull right out and undo our last stitch!

The solution lies in the thread connecting the bottoms of the first two beads in the first row. If you loop your working thread around it, then you can just pass back up through the first bead and start your next row!

So bring your needle behind the work, and pull it through to the front in the little space between the first two beads of row one, right above the connecting thread. That should catch your working thread on that little bit of thread from the beginning of the project, thus anchoring it in place.

Bring your needle back up through the first bead of row one and the last added bead of row two:

and you're all set to start row three!

(Row Three)
Add two new beads.

Bring the needle down through the second to last bead you added in row 2, but be careful to not take it down through the bead underneath it as well. It should only be going through one bead.

Bring the needle up through the third to last bead you added in row two (the third from the left).

Add two new beads. Take the needle down through fourth from the left bead in row 2 (again, being careful not to also pass through the bead below it in row 1),

and bring the needle up through the fifth from the left bead in row two.

Add two more beads. Take the needle down through the rightmost bead in row 2.

OK, you're done with row three!

Now we need to prepare for row 4. Remember the trick we used last time, of catching the thread loop on our working thread to secure our work? Let's use it again! But this time, we need to catch the thread that connects the bottom of the rightmost two beads of row 2.

Cool, now take your needle back up through the rightmost bead of row two AND the rightmost bead of row 3.

You're all set up for row 4! Work row 4 (and every row after it) using the same pattern you saw in row 3: add two beads, go down through one bead, and up through the next one. When you get to the end of the row, use the trick to catch the thread and then bring the needle up and start the next row.

Here's a finished swatch of Herringbone weave:

And here's the thread path:

Also, here are some examples of what you can do with this versatile stitch:


  1. Hello.... thanks a lot for sharing it!!! congratulations for you....greeting from Chile

  2. Hi Maritza! Thank you for the comment. I'm glad you liked my tutorial. Hugs from America! :)

  3. Thanks a million for this tutorial - especially those drawn lines were so informal! XO from Finland (it's so nice, every time, to see how people are All over the world and look at same things :) )

    1. Hi Elina!
      I'm so glad you liked my tutorial!
      It feels really good to receive a compliment about the drawn lines-- it took me a long time to figure out how to make them look right, and I'm really glad they helped. :)
      Hugs from California! :D

  4. I found your blog and I liked it very much!! Thanks a lot for all the tutorials you have!! I will follow you!! Your work is fantastic!! Best regards from Greece!!

    1. Hi Mania!

      Thank you very much for your kind words! I'm really glad that my tutorials are helpful. :)

      Sending you a big smile from California! :D

  5. Hi! Just saw your tutorial. Great! Explicit, for dummies like me :-) and sooo helpful, Thanks a million.