Reading patterns incorporate a couple different learning techinques and everyone approaches a pattern differently. Do not get discouraged on reading your first pattern, as it requires a lot of practice to get efficient at reading patterns.
First techinque I use is visual, and I zero in on the illustrations of a pattern first to attempt to figure out where the thread starts, where it needs to go and how it ends. I find the patterns all over the place; books, website forums, magazines, and photos. If I come across a pattern that is complicated and the illustrations are not clear enough, I will search other publications and the web to find clearer illustrations.
Second learning techinque I use is verbal. I will read the instructions for the pattern several times, as I almost always do not understand completely on the first read through. When I am having a tough time understanding what the instructions are saying, I will then break out with the beads, thread and use the third technique of learning called kinestics.
Kinestics is a fancy way of saying, do the pattern as you go. I will mark the pattern with a pencil as I move through each step in the instructions and my work resembles the illustration. Do not despair, you are not the only one who has had to tear out the work done because you missed a small step in the beginning.
The most difficult patterns to read for me are peyote stitch because row one and two are done at the same time and you can not see a difference until you are in row 3. Peyote patterns do not always have a row count next to the pattern so I will write one in for myself and I will use a needle to go through the beads on previous row so I can see clearly where the next set of beads need to go. I also mark off each bead in each row so I know where I am at in the pattern.
I have used both of these mediums to create pieces and I will have to say that fireline wins for me. However, both of these mediums can be used successfully to create jewelry and it is simply a matter of preference of which one you use for your work. Nymo is typically available in bead stores, and craft department stores and I am not sure if it is available in fabric shops or not. Fireline is available in bead shops, and anywhere fishing supplies are sold.
Good things about Nymo are:
1. Variety of colors to choose from and you can match the bead colors so closely that you don't see any of the stitches.
2. Less tangling than fireline
3. Works better with some of the smaller drilled beads
Not such good things about Nymo are:
1. Wears quicker than fireline - same wear issues you have with sewn on buttons
2. You have to wax it before you can use it.
Good things about Fireline are:
1. Readily available from bead shops, fish and tackle shops, and any sport related department store.
2. Easier to manuever with the knots
3. Appears to hold up better than thread
Not such good things about Fireline are:
1. Tangles alot
2. Harder to thread through needle
3. Little rougher on the fingers
Now I suggest then when a person has decided to give stitching a try, try both mediums and see which one is their preference.
Sometimes the eye of the needle is difficult to find and it seems like it is taking forever to get that fireline through there, so here is what I do when I am finding it particularly difficult. First, I recut the end of the fireline so there is a clean edge of the line because sometimes you have a little piece that is hard to see and you're missing it when you try to get it through the needle. If that doesn't work than I take my needlenose pliers and I squish the end of the fireline and by doing this it makes the edge flat so I can see it better and then I thread it.
These two steps usually gets the job done but if you are still having trouble, I would suggest a threader or an open needle.
A threader is that little weird looking wire thing in your sewing box (you know the one that you always wondered what it was used for), it is usually attached to a small foil or cardboard square and has a flexible wire diamond attached.
An open needle is one that allows you to open it up to and put the thread or fireline through. The difficulty with open eye needles, it is sometimes difficult to get the needle through small drilled beads.
Now if you are new to stitching jewelry, you are wondering why in the world you have to pay for beading needles when you have perfectly good needles sitting your sewing room collecting dust. Well, let me tell you I thought the same thing until I tried using them and they kept getting stuck inside beads. Beading needles are created with a narrower shaft and eye so they fit through beads that are drilled with a 1/4" diameter.
Now when I started stitching I didn't know the first thing about the beading needle sizes or what types to buy so when salespeople would give me a packet of needles I just said "ok". Since then I have learned a thing or two, so I'll share with you.
Commonly beading needles are sold in a packet with a variety of sizes, usually ranging from size 10 to 13. Size 10 is has the thickest shaft and size 13 has a narrower shaft. There are smaller sizes - size 15 and size 16 and these are even more narrow. I haven't seen too many of the size 15 and 16 available so if you manage to find one I would hold on to it with care. The size 12 and 13 are the two I most commonly use because when you are creating a piece you usually have to make several passes through a bead and the narrower shaft of these two sizes allows you to do that without too much grief. Size 15 and 16 are designed with seed beads in mind so they are able to make more passes through then size 12 and 13 however for most pieces size 12 and 13 are sufficient.
There are multiple manufacturers of beading needles and the ones I find hold up the best are John James English beading needles. For me needles normally start very straight and as I do more work they become curved and I find the English needles hold up the best to this abuse. I have used other needles and have encountered a lot of breakage. I know, weird to think that you can actually snap a needle but you can.
If you are like me, sometimes you just can't seem to hold on to the needles, little buggers, and you drop them. The best solution for this is a magnet - it does pretty good at finding them in the carpet.
When I am working with multiple needles on a project, I find the safest course is to plant them into the bead mat when I am not using them so they are not knocked to floor where my feet find them later.
I also use a needle case when I have to take needles with me anywhere. Needle cases can come in a variety of materials and are cool to decorate with beads. The ones I find that hold up the best are made of wood and you can get them for a nominal price. The plastic containers work to but for me they break ( and its usually when you don't want it to) where the cap comes together.
When I have project that must travel with me, I put the project into a plastic baggy and stick the needle through the plastic bag so it doesn't poke me when I retrieve the project.
Eventually, you will have to tie on new thread when the piece has needed more thread then you thought.
First, you can not tie the new thread to your old thread. You would think this would work but it doesn't. The two pieces will pull apart from one another as soon as you apply any tension to the new thread.
Second, you can not cut the old thread once you have tied on the new thread. The old thread must be sewn into the piece and knotted somewhere along the line, otherwise the sections you completed around where that thread ended will be weaker and more likely to break.
Third, the new piece of thread must be tied into the piece away from where the old thread ended. Keep the old thread in place until you have worked the new thread around the work until it is coming out of the same bead as the old thread.
Some people do not reinforce their work, they simply tie knots and cut off their excess thread. You can do this if you like but I am a firm believer in reinforcing your work. I don't want to take all that time putting together a piece only to have it fall apart the first time someone wearing it catches it on something. When you are reinforcing your work remember the diameter of the bead hole is only so big so it will take only so many passes before the thread can actually snap the bead in half.
The beads that have snapped on me the most are seed beads. When you are reinforcing the idea is to make just enough passes through the beads so the there is no wiggle room for the thread and tighten up the piece. With size 15 seed beads, they typically can only 3 - 4 passes before they snap. With size 11 seed beads, they typically can handle about 6 - 10 passes before they snap, dependent on whether they are Japanese, Czech or Indian seed beads.
When you encounter the problem of getting the needle all the way through a bead, use your needle nose pliers very gently to pull the needle through and then go around that bead because it probably won't be able to handle another pass.
When you are reinforcing your work put half hitch knots in often. These knots help hold together the threads you have already taken through the beads and if the piece does get caught on something it is likely to damage a small portion not the entire piece of work.
Once you have completed the reinforcing stage of a piece you'll find the piece feels sturdier and tighter. Remember to keep the tension when you are creating the piece to begin with and even more so when you are reinforcing it.