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Tips to help left-handers stitch with success

Southwest Sunrise
The twist in Alice Korach's Southwest Sunrise bracelet formed counterclockwise as she stitched. 

When Bead&Button asked me to write about beading left-handed, I was happy to oblige, as it is a topic dear to my heart.

I am left-handed. As a child, I taught myself to knit from drawings in a magazine, only to find that I was knitting my purl stitches in reverse, which crossed the stitches, allowing them more give and causing my sweater to stretch out. Once I understood the problem, I learned to wrap the yarn correctly.

My first beading projects at age 8 were made from symmetrical loomwork patterns, which can be read from either direction. I tied the weft to the right-most warp thread, and sewed through the beads from left to right. I read the patterns from left to right.

Direction of spirals

It wasn’t until I became interested in lacy crocheted doilies in my 20s that I discovered the difference between the finished work of lefties and righties. Because lefties progress around a ring in the opposite direction from righties, all my doilies spiraled in the opposite direction from the pictured doilies. I learned to love my “backward” lace, which solved this problem.

When my ex-husband and I started Bead&Button, I was aware of the confusion left-handed photos could cause, so we flopped the pictures of my hands. I still flop my how-to photos for articles, books, and instructions.

Mirror images

If you’re left-handed, you are probably accustomed to making mental photo flops. Sometimes, however, lefties need a little help envisioning a process performed in the opposite direction. The easiest way to “reverse” a photo is to place a mirror at a right angle to it and look at the image in the mirror; it will be “left-handed.”

As far as reading instructions, read the entire article first to determine how the project is made. Then use a pencil to change every reference to work done with the right hand to the left hand, and vice versa. These simple suggestions will solve most of the problems you encounter.

Twisted herringbone

Now that you’re beading happily in a comfortable direction, you might think about two other things. Remember my doilies? Lefties’ spirals go in the opposite direction from those made by right-handed beaders. If you’re working twisted tubular herringbone, hold the tube in your right hand with the top row tipped toward you, and bead around it in a clockwise direction (from left to right, working the stitch furthest from your body and turning the tube so the stitch you’re working is away from you). The twist forms counterclockwise, as in my Southwest Sunrise bracelet (shown above).

To work twisted tubular herringbone in the opposite direction, hold the tube with the top row pointing away from you, and work around it in a counterclockwise direction (from left to right, but working the stitch closest to your body). This tube will twist clockwise.

Challenging charts

The second serious issue for left-handed beaders comes with pattern charts that aren’t symmetrical. For example, you may work tubular peyote stitch the same way you work tubular herringbone: clockwise, left to right along the back edge. But if you’re in the habit of reading charts from left to right, your pattern will be flopped. The best solution is to get into the habit of reading charts from right to left.

I’m glad that I’m left-handed. It creates challenges that have forced me to become much more analytical. The result is that I understand what I am doing more completely than I would if I weren’t challenged. Besides, ripping is an important part of beading!

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