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Beading, or the process of weaving together strings of beads, is a practice that has been around for centuries. Beads were originally used as currency between nations and adornment on clothing and accessories. They held a great amount of value because not everyone knew how to produce them. Beadwork probably holds its closest ties to the Native Americans, who have used beads in their rituals and culture for centuries. Modern beading is a popular hobby that requires skill, patience, and attention to master. Beading projects range from the very simple to incredibly intricate and complex, making it a welcoming hobby for beginners. Read on to find out more about the history of beading, how to get started, and how to find a beading society in your area.
Dating back to 8800 BCE in Egypt, beading has a long and storied history-beads have been used in trade, as a symbol of wealth and power, as fashion accessories, and for prayer and religious services. Some Native American tribes used story beads, which were necklaces featuring carved beads that parents would use as story illustrations. Wampum beads were sometimes used to symbolize political status and were frequently used during ceremonies. Beaded jewelry was also given to young people during or after a rite of passage. Bone, wood, semi-precious stones (like quartz and turquoise), and shells were very popular in Native American beading. Early beading tools were made of wood and stone, and dye was created from berries, grass, and clay. They usually used dried sinew-- tendons from buffalo, elk, or deer-- as a cord for the beads.
In the mid-16th century, traders from Europe brought glass beads to Native Americans tribes. Glass beads originated in Venice and were valued because of their scarcity. The most popular beads in the early days were "pony beads," named as such because the traders brought them in on ponies. Seed beads were introduced in the 19th century and remain one of the most popular types of bead for jewelry making. Trade beads were particularly popular between Europe and Africa since glass beads were quite sought-after in non-European areas. In the 15th century, glass beads were a major currency between the two continents and were used as a cheap and easy way of importing African resources. Portuguese traders exchanged beads for slaves, ivory, gold, and palm oil, among other things. As the popularity of glass beads grew, Holland and other areas of Europe began to create them as well. Today, beadwork is still popular among Native American tribes, and hand-beaded jewelry, bags, and clothing are very desirable.
These days, beading is a fun, easy-to-learn hobby that is rewarding to those who practice it. Beads are still used to create jewelry and adorn garments, handbags, and other accessories. To get started, all you need are a few jewelry-making tools, enough beads for your chosen project, and some sort of string, embroidery floss, or thread. Beading beginners will want to learn a few basic stitches. Peyote, Brick, Square, and Tubular are a few of the more popular beading techniques. Many patterns require only the use of Peyote or Brick stitch, so it's easy to dive into a project without having to learn any advanced stitching and techniques.
Many beading patterns and tutorials can be found online for free. The links below include a few basic tutorials for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, as well as instructions for learning how to bead and string. Because the beading community is very large, widespread, and welcome, it is easy to find a society or organization in your area. Check out the bead societies at the end of this article-they're a great way to meet new friends who share your interests and learn new tips, tricks, and techniques in person.