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Tubular peyote fish charm

There's no limit to fishing when you're catching these seed bead charmers!
Tubular peyote fish_hero

An article on hollow peyote-stitch beads was the starting point for these charming peyote-stitch beaded fish.

To make your own, start by using the chart (below). After that, make your own fish to suit your taste. You can shape them to look like real fish or use fun beads for the fins, tails, and eyes to make them as fantastic as you like. After you’ve made a few fish, you’ll learn why fish travel in large schools—because it’s impossible to make just one.

Head and tail diagram


  • size 14/0 or Japanese cylinder beads in one color for body background
  • 3-5 colors size 11/0 seed beads, in various textures and finishes
  • beading needles, #12-13 or sharps
  • Nymo D, B, or O beading thread to fit through beads chosen
  • beeswax or Thread Heaven
  • fins—pressed glass daggers, pucca shells, seeds, stones, etc.
  • eyes—pucca shells, disks, flowers, heishis, tiny teardrops, etc.



Photo A

1. Start with 1-2 yd. (.9-1.8m) of single thread and string 34 beads for rows 1 and 2. String in order from bead #1 to the left of the “eye” pattern. The first seven beads comprise the fish’s back. Then there are nine for the right side, nine for the belly, and nine for the left side. Because you’re using smaller beads for the background, the beads will puff out around the sides.

Tie the 34 beads into a ring with a surgeon’s knot, leaving about one bead’s worth of slack, and go through bead #1 to begin row 3, working toward the head. There will be a step-up at the end of each row (when you’ve added the last bead, go through the next two beads—PHOTO A.)

Work the ten body rows toward the head with a firm tension so your fish body has body.

2. On row 11, put two thin seed beads (green beads at chart edges) on each side of the center belly. This makes the decrease on the next row go smoothly.

Photo b
Photo c
1. On row 12, put thin beads on each side of the point on the side patterns and the center top bead (PHOTO B). You also work the first decrease on the belly on row 12: add three belly background stitches, go through both thin beads at the center as if they were one bead (PHOTO C, see also the two green beads at the top of PHOTO B), and complete the other three belly background stitches.
Photo d
Photo E

2. Instead of beginning row 13 with a step up, begin with a decrease by going through both thin seed beads on each side of the point on the side pattern (PHOTO D). Work similar decreases on the other side pattern and the two seed beads on the center of the back. 

3. When you get to the decrease on the belly, place one background bead in the space where you went through the two seed beads (PHOTO E).

Photo F
Photo g

End row 13 by going through the same two seed beads that you passed through to begin the row and step up through the first background bead added (PHOTO F) —13 background beads added on row 13.

4. The Es on row 14 indicate eye placement.Work them in the fourth seed bead color to make the location clear later—13 beads added on row 14. 

5. On row 15, work two thin seed beads on each side of the point bead on both sides. Decrease them on row 16—11 beads added on row 16. 

6. Start the fish lips at the center top of row 18 with a seed bead. Start a matching bottom lip at the center bottom of row 19.

7. After adding the first top lip bead on row 20, go through the row 19, 18, and 19 lip beads (PHOTO G) and add the last top lip bead.
8. The step up comes just after adding the third bead on the lower lip. Bring your needle through the existing beads on row 20 without adding beads until you reach the place where you need to add the last two lower lip beads. Add them.
9. If plenty of thread remains, work it through the body so it exits bead #1 in the direction of the thread tail (the opposite direction from the way you were working).


1. Go through the last seed bead on row 2 (#34) and work the remaining seven body rows. When you work the seventh row, be sure to put thin seed beads on each side of the point beads.

2. The rear half of the fish has three spaced decreases around the body, the two on the sides that you started in row 7 and one on the center belly that you start on row 8. Place two thin seed beads on the belly in line with the thin beads on the front belly decrease.

3. Start another pair of side decreases on row 10 by adding thin seed beads on each side of the point on both sides. Finish these two decreases on row 11.

4. Start another pair of aligned side decreases on row 13. Work through row 15—ten stitches remain.


Photo h
Photo i

1. To weave the ten tail beads together, fold the tail opening so that it is vertical. Sew through the beads on the last row until you reach the top or the bottom. Then alternately sew through an “up” bead on one side and an “up” bead on the other (PHOTO H) until you’ve zipped the tail opening closed.

2. Finish the tail by sewing on fringe, dagger beads, or any kind of tail shaped beads. Then end the thread in the beadwork.

3. Sew loops of beads or fin-shaped beads on both sides in the four places marked with an F on the pattern as well as along the center back for the top fin (PHOTO I).

4. Finish with small buttons, heishis, tiny teardrops, or rings of small beads for the eyes.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Have fun with your fish— and the many more that will follow!

  • Since the fish body is hollow, you may want to stuff it lightly with a little fiberfill or ballast it with some larger leftover seed beads or pressed-glass beads.
  • It’s a good idea to prepare for a decrease on the row before by using two thin beads on the two stitches that will become the decrease.
  • Make the head end first. That way, if you don’t like the shape the mouth is taking, you can turn it into the tail and work the head at the other end. If you’re going to need to add thread, try to stop the old thread after adding the last bead before the “step up.” This way the next row can start anywhere on the circle.
  • To start a new thread, tie a stop bead on the end of the thread with a square knot and then singe the thread up to the knot. To start beading, bring the needle up from inside the fish. If you don’t like the result, just cut off the stop bead and pull out the thread. Starting work with a stop bead rather than a knot also allows you to adjust the tension from both ends.
  • If your needle resists passing through a bead, try turning the needle a quarter turn. If it still won’t go through, pull out a row of beads to replace the small holed one. A broken bead later on is more trouble than a row that needs redoing now.
FIND MORE: loomwork , peyote , seed beads

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