Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Anatomy of a Spiral

I'd like to thank everyone who complimented me on my studio reorganization!  I had comments here, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.  How sweet you all are!

Here's what Kat said:  "Good job, Traci! Looks great! Now get to work and make stuff! ;)"

She's a bit bossy (love you, Kat!) but right.  It's time to get beading.  I have an art show coming up in August, and I need to make lots of fancy-looking things so I fit in.

One stitch that gives a lot of bang for the buck is spiral rope.  Once you learn the basics, you can play with the beads used for a number of different looks.

Spiral rope at its essence consists of two parts - the core and the spiral.  The core is the part of the rope that holds everything together (hence it being the "core"), and the spiral is the fun part that dances around the core.  I tend to use neutral or muted colors for the core, and the spiral can be just about anything (within size reason, of course).

First, you need to establish the core and the spiral.  The "typical" spiral rope uses 4 size 8/0 beads for the core and a size 11/0 seed bead, a 4mm bead (fire polish beads are wonderful for this), and another size 11/0 bead.  String all of these on and slide them down the thread, leaving a fair amount for the clasp (we won't be discussing putting a clasp on here - it varies based on what clasp you have).  Insert the needle into the first bead again and up through the core.

When you pull the thread tight it looks like this:

To continue pick up ONE bead for the core and your spiral.  Stitch through the last 3 beads of the core already there plus the one new core bead.

When you pull the thread tight, push the new spiral next to the last one added.

As you work, always push the spirals in the same direction.  That's it!  Keep doing the same thing until the rope is the length you want.  Here's what it looks like after working on it for a while:

Here are a few pieces I made with just the "typical" spiral layout.  This first one uses dark green crystals along with clear seed beads so the crystals stand out:

This one uses pearls:

This one uses vintage bicone beads, and I get many compliments on it.  I say, "It's just spiral rope," and they do a double-take.  "Really?"  And then I usually fumble for the clasp (it likes to move around like clasps usually do) so my complimenter can see it up close.

The next one was made for my Mother-in-law for her birthday.  After quite a lengthy and tense discussion of colors that were appropriate for Mama (in which most of the beads I have just "wouldn't do"), he said, "These will be good."  Green cubes with a slight goldish sheen to them.  I messed around with them for a while then decided to try spiraling them with the smaller cubes as the core and the larger ones as the spiral.  Looks funky but cute:

Here's one using three peanut beads in place of the usual larger focal bead in the spiral:

For a thinner rope you can use just seed beads.  You may have to play around with how many core beads are used (3 instead of 4, for example) and how long the spiral part is.  Here are two that I did so that the rope wouldn't take away from the pendant:

And if you're extremely patient, you can do a double spiral - two spiral strands going into the same core.  My friend Judy makes these where it looks like two colors are twisted, but I haven't tried that yet.  The double spiral in this necklace doesn't look like that but looks interesting in its own right:

It got a lot of admirers but no purchasers (the price wasn't nearly as high as it should have been based on how long it took me to stitch)..... until my stepfather bought it for my Mom.  Yay, John!  Then he commissioned me to make earrings.  No double spiral there, but I was a bit anxious until I found crystal rivolis to match the pendant!

Once you're comfortable with making a spiral rope, you can add different things to give the rope more dimension.  The above instructions are from my "Divine Vine" design.  After establishing the rope I start adding leaves, flowers, and glass disks.

If you'd like the full instructions, they're available on my Etsy shop:  PDF tutorial (start working today!), or kit and printed tutorial (everything you need to create a bracelet very similar to the one pictured - the glass disks may be a bit different).

My "Falling Leaves" design (it's not on Etsy yet - let me know if you're interested, and I'll put it up right away) uses spiral strands of seed beads interspersed with ones with leaves:

So, are you ready to spiral?  I am!  Lunch first, then I'll "get to work and make stuff" as Kat said.  When I was going through my reorganization I found a bag of shell flowers with holes in the middle.  I can't wait to see how they look on a spiral rope, "Divine Vine" style!


  1. Oooooo! I love 'em all! You've done well, my productive friend! Keep the blog posts with all the fun photos coming! Very inspiring! (OK, you can rest a bit now.....)

  2. Love your blog - looks great. Instructions are beautiful and clear.
    I need to join the 2 ends to make a continuous spiral necklace to slip over my head (without a clasp).
    Could you please explain how I would join the 2 ends and have the spiral pattern continue? Can't for the life of me figue it out.
    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

    1. Hi, Anna! I don't know if you'll get notified of this response. If not, I hope you're reading my blog in general because I'm going to mention your question there. I think there might be a way to join the ends with the spiral pattern continuing. I've thought of a possible way but haven't had a chance to try it yet. Hopefully I'll be able to do that soon!