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How to read an even-count peyote pattern

Does this sound familiar? You found an adorable graphed pattern and you're dying to stitch it, but you don't have any instructions - no Word chart, no how-to, nothing but the chart. What's a beader to do? Never fear. After learning a few easy tips, you can still stitch that perfect project just by reading the graphed pattern.

Reading a pattern is much easier than it might initially seem because each bead is represented in the graph by a single cell that is shaded in the recommended color choice and if you know how to work the stitch the pattern is designed for, you should be able to create it. How you read the patterns for the different stitches will vary based on the technique that is used. As an example, I'm going to explain even-count peyote because it is the most common form of graphed patterns available.

To start even count peyote, you will always start in a corner on the top or bottom of the pattern where the “low” bead is located. The low beads are those that are indented and are not to be mistaken with “high” beads, which protrude out. I personally like to read a pattern from the bottom up. If you look at this partial pattern of a bracelet designed by Bead&Button editor Julia Gerlach, you will start reading the pattern from the lower left-hand corner, as that is where the low bead is located. 


"But wait," you might be thinking, "that low bead doesn't look like it's in row 1. Isn't it in row 2?" Yes, you're right! And this interlocking peyote alignment poses a bit of a problem, right? Since the row 2 beads are interspersed with row 1, how do you work row 1? Easy! To get started, the beads in row 1 and row 2 are all picked up at the same time. To begin Julia’s pattern, using a comfortable length of thread, pick up the 24 beads for the first two rows, which in this case (reading from the bottom left-hand corner) will be a white bead, three green beads, four white beads, seven teal beads, four white beads, and five green beads. These beads will shift to form the first two rows as row 3 is added.

Okay… we are off to a good start, but let’s pause here for a moment. If you find a graph pattern that you really like, but it excludes any clues as to the bead size or shape, here is a helpful tip: The most common size and shape of beads utilized in peyote graph patterns are 11/0 cylinder beads. This is because the shape of cylinder beads really makes them ideal for representing the pattern in the most realistic manner. Mystery solved — maybe. Of course this isn’t always the case. In reality, you can use any size bead and still get the same overall look whether you're using size 8/0 beads or size 15/0 beads, but the finished piece may be a vastly different size than what the pattern intended. And if you are anything like Goldilocks, you will want the beadwork size to be “just right,” and the size 11/0 beads will most likely give you the best results (especially if you use cylinders instead of seed beads), and of course we want nothing but the best for you and being happy is important. So when in doubt, use size 11/0 cylinder beads — they will work perfectly most of the time, and this is what Julia calls for in her design.

Julia's pattern worked up as a bracelet.

OK, now for another tip. I mentioned earlier that each cell in the pattern represents a single bead. This cell is also shaded in a color that represents that particular bead. More often than not, you will find an included bead key (like the one below for Julia’s pattern) that tells you how to interpret the color assignments. To help simplify things, Bead&Button uses letters to represent each color of bead when more than one color is used for a particular bead size. If you look in the project’s materials list, the exact identity and color of each bead represented in the bead key is listed for your bead shopping list enjoyment. Yep, we aim to please.


Now back to reading the pattern. To refresh, we have picked up the first two rows of beads in the colors indicated. Now we are ready to start row 3, which will be read in the opposite direction (right to left in this case). Since the beads in each row are offset, it can be a tad confusing trying to keep track of which beads are in which row. I feel another tip coming… If you had a dollar for every tip I’ve shared so far, you would have 3 bucks! Life is good. Anyway, use a straight edge ruler or a sticky note to keep track of the beads in each new row. This will make your life way simpler. Just adjust the sticky note after each row is completed.

In the photo below, you can see that I positioned the sticky note to cover up the beads in rows 1 and 2 on Julia’s pattern. Now we can more easily focus on the beads that are in row 3. Only the beads aligned with the edge of the ruler or sticky note should be added in this row, which in this case will be two green beads, two white beads, five teal beads, one white bead, one green bead, and one white bead. Just remember that those half beads sticking out from under the top edge of the sticky note are the beads from the previous row. Just ignore them.  


Continue reading row 4 from left to right and row 5 from right to left and so on, and bead by bead you will get it! Reposition your ruler or sticky note each time you complete a row and, of course, compare your beadwork to your pattern every once in awhile to make sure you didn't skip or repeat any rows. And next time you see a peyote pattern you want to make but there are no instructions, you'll be able to tackle it fearlessly.

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