Leather cuff beading is a versatile technique that can be used to create attractive handmade jewelry.
About Native American Jewelry
When most people think of leather cuff beading, they think of the intricate designs featured on Native American jewelry. In Native American cultures, beaded jewelry has been used to show connection to a particular group or as part of ritual ceremonies. In some cases, beads were even used as a form of currency.
The beads used on Native American bracelets were traditionally made from turquoise, amber, ivory, shells, animal bones, or teeth. However, glass beads were later introduced into Native American beadwork by European travelers.
As a tough, durable, and readily-available material, leather seems like a natural choice for Native American jewelry. Of course, the same skills used to create beaded leather jewelry can be used to decorate moccasins and leather clothing items.
Examples of techniques used in Native American jewelry include:
- Overlay Stitch: A stitch done with two threaded needs and used to cover a large area with beads.
- Lane Stitching: A technique that uses "lanes" of beads to create regular rows.
- Transmontane or Crow Stitch: A special type of lane stitch in which different elements of the pattern are beaded as distinctly separate units joined by an outline composed of a single row of beads.
- Woven or Loom Work: Beaded designs created by using small seed beads and a loom.
A detailed explanation of the bead weaving techniques used in creating Native American jewelry can be found on the Native Tech website.
For additional information on Native American jewelry, check out the following websites:
- The History of American Indian Jewelry
- Sacred Seeds and Native American Beadwork
- Beads and Pendants in Native American Life
Supplies for Making Leather Jewelry
Many of the supplies you need for making Native-American inspired beaded leather jewelry can be found at your local craft store or bead store. However, if you prefer to shop online, you can buy beads from these retailers:
Leather can be purchased online at:
Leather Cuff Beading Tips
As you're completing your leather beading project, remember the following tips:
- You can make a "knotless" knot by making three stitches perpendicular to each other in the same place.
- You can hide knots by placing them in the path of the covering beadwork.
- If you've added too many beads to your design, use a pair of pliers to squeeze and snap the bead. This eliminates the need to take out stitches, but you'll want to wear appropriate eye protection in case the beads pieces scatter.
- Rubbing candle wax along your thread reduces fraying and tearing during the beadwork process.
Other Beaded Leather Projects
Once you've discovered how much fun leather cuff beading can be, you may find yourself wondering what other projects you can make by combining beads and leather. For example:
For general information about working with leather to create designer style jewelry, check out these helpful reference books:
- Craft Workshop: Leatherwork by Mary Maguire
- Leather Braiding by B. Grant
- Leatherwork: A Manual of Techniques by Geoffrey West