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Free(form) Spirit

I loved freeform beading the moment I first saw it.  I love the artiness of it, I love the visual rollercoaster of it, I love the texture of it.  So, finally, here is my first foray into freeform peyote.  The inspiration behind this bracelet was our new Picasso Tila beads in cobalt, orange and light olive.  I wanted to use these three colours together, so I built my bead choices around them.  I used Karen Williams’ book, FreeForm Peyote Beading: Design and Creation of Original Wearable Art Jewelry, as my guide to get started.

 Freeform peyote bracelet using Bead Stampede beads

The first thing I discovered is that “freeform” is not a synonym for “haphazard”, and that a certain amount of planning, balance and judicious choosing of beads is in order.  I started by selecting a larger range of beads than Karen recommends in her helpful chart relating to same, but as I stitched, I wound up not using all of them.  Less may not be more when it comes to freeform beadwork, but knowing when enough is enough certainly is.  It wasn’t deliberate, but I used six different types of bead for each colour, everything from 6/0s to 15/0s, and I threw in the Tilas and some 4mm Czech fire-polished beads for good measure.  It’s also important not just to mix sizes, but bead finishes, too.  Beads ranged from silver-lined, colour-lined, matte, opaque, transparent, lustered, and Ceylon to Picasso.

I admit that I broke a couple of rules that I’d read elsewhere (I’d broken them before I read about them, so I can’t claim to be an artistic visionary).  One was to avoid a stripe-y effect.  Yeah, well, so much for that – big, fat stripes galore here.  The other was not to transition from larger beads to much smaller beads too quickly.  Transitioning from larger to smaller beads meant that there was a certain laciness in the surrounding area, and it also meant that I got those wonderful bumps and ridges that freeform peyote is known for.  So, that was one “rule” I was happy to ignore. 

By the time I got two rows in, I realised that I had no idea what I was doing, but I’ve never let a little thing like that stop me, so I just kept going.  One of the things that I noticed about freeform beadwork is that it takes a lot more time than “regular” beadwork, which is largely down to the fact that at least every couple of rows or so (if not every row), you have to make a decision about which beads you’re going to use next, and consider what impact they might have on the overall design.  You can spend ages sitting there, staring at your work and wondering what to do next.

I used C-Lon size D thread for the bracelet, changing colours as I changed sections.  I toyed with the idea of using FireLine, but FireLine can be a bit stiff and C-Lon/S-Lon threads have such a lovely drape.  I wouldn’t rule out using FireLine in a future project, though.  The choice would depend on the weight of the beads and the overall effect I wanted. 

I found this project wildly fulfilling.  I loved every bit of making it, and the finished bracelet is much more striking than the attached photos show.  Freeform peyote may well become my favourite type of beadwork. 

Before I switch over to the list of beads that I used, I’d like to say a bit more about Karen’s book:  there is very little information out there about freeform beadwork, which makes it difficult for a newcomer to know where to start.  Karen’s book is a small-ish one, but provides a lot of useful information for getting started.  It's not a project book, it's a technique book.  I’ve cobbled together bits of info about freeform peyote from many websites, so there’s still more that could be said about the topic.  Nevertheless, if you want to take the freeform plunge and don’t know where to begin, take a look at Karen’s book, linked above, and her blog at


Closeup orange segment of Freeform peyote bracelet

The beads used in the orange segment are:

11-0008F Matte Silver-Lined Orange - Miyuki 11/0 Seed Beads

11-0138F Matte Transparent Orange - Miyuki 11/0 Seed Beads

6-0138 Transparent Orange - Miyuki 6/0 Seed Beads

TL-4520 Opaque Orange Picasso Miyuki Tila Beads

8-PF2112 Perma Finish Silver-Lined Ceylon Sunset Orange - Toho 8/0 Seed Beads

Orange Picasso - 4mm Czech Fire-Polished Beads

Orange C-Lon Size D Thread


Closeup of blue segment of Freeform peyote bracelet using beads from


The beads used in the blue segment are:

11-0019F Matte Silver-Lined Sapphire - Miyuki 11/0 Seed Beads

6-0020F Matte Silver-lined Cobalt Blue - Miyuki 6/0 Seed Beads

8-4242 Duracoat Dyed Silver-Lined Powder Blue - Miyuki 8/0 Seed Beads

TL-4518 Opaque Cobalt Picasso Miyuki Tila Beads

11-0028 Silver-Lined Cobalt - Toho 11/0 Seed Beads

15-0003B Transparent Aquamarine Blue - Toho 15/0 Seed Beads

Royal Blue C-Lon Size D Thread


Closeup of green segment of Freeform peyote bracelet using beads from


The beads used in the green segment are:

11-0014F Matte Silver-Lined Chartreuse - Miyuki 11/0 Seed Beads

6-0143 Transparent Pale Lime Green - Miyuki 6/0 Seed Beads

TL-4519 Opaque Light Olive Picasso Miyuki Tila Beads

11-0246 Opaque Yellow-Lined Luster Black Diamond - Toho 11/0 Seed Beads

8-0457 Gold-Lustered Green Tea - Toho 8/0 Seed Beads

Chartreuse (Acid Green) - 4mm Czech Fire-Polished Beads

Chartreuse C-Lon Size D Thread