Tubular Bead Crochet
Some Tips to Get You Started
Suitable for Beginners
Tubular Bead Crochet Tutorial
If you can crochet already with normal yarn, you shouldn’t have too much trouble adapting to crocheting with beads. If you have never crocheted at all then I suggest you head off to You-tube and watch a few vids that will teach you the basics of how to handle the yarn and hook, to make something! Get yourself some 4 ply sock yarn and a 3.25 hook (Clover Amour is best) and play until you are comfortable holding the yarn and making stitches.
So, now for the tubular bead crochet rope. Again there are some excellent videos on how to do this, and I totally recommend that you watch them to see it in action dynamically. I watched them and tried to do it but I just couldn’t get the hang of it at all. But there are better ones available these days.
After about ten goes at trying and giving up, my friend Marnie gave me a couple of clues and the rest I worked out for myself. I’ve tried to break down the steps here to make it a bit easier to start a rope if you are getting confused.
I always use a mandrel to support the beadwork. It makes it so much easier to see where to put the hook, gives me something firm to hold onto instead of a wriggly, awkward rope, and makes it easier to keep a check that I have not missed a stitch or added an extra one.
There are some key details to keep in mind that I will show you - how you put the hook into the loop containing the bead from the row before – where that bead must sit in relation to the hook, and the path of the thread as you pull it up over the beads and bring another bead down prior to the yarn over. If you get that bit right you will be off and running and it will be easy-peasy.
You will need:
Beads. I suggest you use size 8 seed beads – Japanese or Czech. For your first rope select 6 different colours and arrange them in neat piles on your bead mat. You will need up to 100 beads of each colour to make a rope suitable for a bracelet (600 beads will give you a rope of about 21 cm). Alternatively, you could use 3mm druks/rounds/fake pearls 90-100 each of 6 colours.
Yarn/Thread. It has to be strong and with a twist. Sewing cotton won’t do, neither will fireline or nymo. Best to start with a good quality crochet cotton such as DMC in size 8, 10 or 12 (later on you might like to try bootmakers strong polyester thread in size 20, or if you end up crocheting size 15s you might need upholstery thread or size 40).
Needle. Get yourself a Big Eye Needle – about 11-12 cms long. It is incredibly easy to thread and nice and flexible for picking up the beads. Alternatively you can use a crewel needle or tapestry needle – it will have to be thin enough to go through your beads easily.
Crochet hook. The best hook I have used is a Clover Amour 2mm. It slides under those loops better than the others. Alternatively, use a steel crochet hook around 2 mm.
Knitting needle. This will be the mandrel. For 6 in the round, size 8 seed beads I suggest about a 3 mm double pointed steel knitting needle. You can nearly always find these in charity shops like Vinnies. For 3mm round beads you might need a 4 mm needle.
Pick up the beads in order 1-6. Over and over, and over again until they are all on the yarn. This will take a while. Nice and rhythmical, very zen etc. Don’t make a mistake!
You can take the Big Eye Needle off now. Now for the fiddly bit!
Starting the Rope
There are a few ways to start this off. There are already tutorials out there suggesting that you make a ladder stitch tube with six stitches in the round, and several rounds high, say 2-3 cm long. If you leave a bit of slack in the stitches in the top row you can get your crochet hook under them and build your rope of it. The nice part of this technique is that you can use it time and again, if you always want the same number of stitches in the round.
A few years ago I started doing mine this way:
Firstly cast on a few stitches, as if you are knitting. Any method works so long as they are nice and firm. This will help anchor your beadwork on the mandrel so it won’t fall out in the first few fiddly rows, and stop the beads sliding round and round so you won’t need to pull your hair out quite as much.
Then you need to stick your crochet hook through the upper loop and yarn over, pull the yarn through both loops on the hook, pull tight. Then do 1 or 2 plain chain stitches, pulling quite tight.
Then pull down a bead close to the hook, yarn over and pull the yarn through both loops on the hook, so that the bead is captured by the chain stitch.
Repeat this with the next 5 beads – gives a total of 6 beaded chain stitches i.e. one of each colour. They should look like this:
Now - looking down on the end of the mandrel – twirl it clockwise so these beaded chains wrap around the mandrel
Then you need to stick your hook through the loop with the first beaded chain.
But not just any old how!
Align from the inside of the circle/tube towards the outer. Hold your hook in a knife grip and face the actual hook to the floor. Choose the part of the loop closest to you so that the bead is on the side away from you. This is crucial! Flick that bead over there to the far side of the loop and the hook, if it isn’t already there. Got it? Okay. Should look like this:
Slide the next bead down close to the hook, yarn over, pull the yarn through both loops. Should look something like this:
Pull it firm. Phew! You have joined it into a tube. Now for the rest of the ultra fiddly first row.
Push your hook through the next beaded chain loop. Make sure that bead is pushed across toward the rear/right side/ away from you. Like this:
Notice the working yarn position, coming out behind all the beadwork.
Pull the yarn up and over the beadwork toward you, so that it is sitting across the space between the bead you previously added and the bead on the loop that your hook is in (again this is crucial, and the misalignment at this point is why most people end up with a rickety mess of beads that make no sense).
Then pull a new bead down close to the hook – it will be the same colour as the one on the loop your hook is in.
Yarn over. Pull yarn through both loops on the hook.
Voila! Second stitch done.
Stick your hook in the next loop in the same way. Remember to push the bead over to the back/right/away from you.
Pull the yarn up over and towards you, between the last beaded stitch and the bead on the loop you have your hook in.
Pull another bead down close to the hook.
Yarn over. Pull yarn through both loops on the hook.
Keep repeating until you run out of beads, or the rope is as long as you need.
You will need to gently push all the strung beads further along the yarn as you work. Be gentle! You don’t want to break the yarn.
You can keep the string of unworked beads on a bead mat in front of you or you can put it all in a lunch box or bowl so you can take your project elsewhere to work on. It will take you quite a few hours to do your first rope! If the beads try to tangle – don’t yank on the strand! Put it up on a table, get your magnifying glass and gently prise the knots apart. If you use a yarn that is not too thin for the holes in the beads, then I don’t find that I get many tangles.
To finish off - just push the hook into the next loop in the same way as before, yarn over and pull both loops on the hook – i.e. a plain slip-stitch with no bead. Repeat that all the way around, and then slip stitch into the first plain stitch of the round. Then you can cut the thread and pull the cut-end through the loop and pull tight.
You need this last beadless row to make the last row of beads sit properly. You can see in the photo below how the last row sits differently – the beads are at right angles to the previously worked rows. That little trick of how you stick your hook in the side of the loop closest to you, and push the bead away from you to the back/right, is when this change in orientation happens.
As you work the rope just keep moving the mandrel upwards so it always sticks out the working end.
Those cast-on stitches at the beginning are easily undone. The rope will be quite flexible. The yarn and stitches will be mostly hidden in the tube, but you will get a glimpse of the yarn colour between the beads. You can use this as a design feature. The thicker your yarn, the more it will be obvious. But if the yarn is too thin to fill up the bead holes then the beads will not sit as nicely and the rope will look a bit untidy.
There are internet sites that discuss how to join the ends together seamlessly if that is what you would like.
If you want to put on a clasp, I would not use the crochet yarn to make that join. Sew the ends of the yarn down into the tube. Find some fireline or Nymo and anchor it a couple of cm back from the end by sewing through the stitches. Bring the thread up through the tube and add on beadcaps or whatever you want on the end such as a loop to attach a clasp to it. Or you could sew the clasp directly to the rope.
Here is the method with a single colour, and bigger beads. Put the hook through the next loop with a bead on it. Make sure to slide the bead across to the far side of the loop, so the hook is between you and the bead. The easiest way is to hold the hook in a knife grip with the hook turned downwards and aim at the bit of yarn on your side of the loop (I know the photo has the tip of the hook facing you but that is wrong, okay, I should have composed the photo better, lol).
Now pull the yarn up and over the beadwork towards you. It is sitting just to the right of that bead on the loop your hook is in.
Pull a bead down close to the hook. Sort of use your fingers to hold it in the right place, while you do a yarn over and pull the yarn through both loops on the hook.
It’s fiddly, I know, but you will work out how to hold your fingers and thumbs and eventually, probably before you finish your 600 beads, you will get quite good at it! Truly!
The thread here is not thick enough for these beads, so you can see that they don’t sit as nicely.
With 5-7 beads in the round you probably won’t need to put anything in the tube – it won’t collapse. If you are using smaller beads, and therefore more beads per round, it might be necessary to fill the tube with some sort of cord to stop it collapsing. In fact, you can make quite large calibre tubes, say 5 cm across, that you can thread onto a scarf, for a very interesting effect.
And, no, I’m not doing any photos to show where my hands go, cos, that would require some magic manicuring skills.
You don’t have to do this my way! I put this here as a suggestion, particularly if you are struggling with it starting out. Here are some links to see how others do it.
Naztazia.com does a very nice video so you can see how it looks as it is being worked.
Danysska does a very detailed tutorial and you can see how to hold the hook in the knife grip, and how she pulls the bead down to the hook. Plus she shows a neat way to finish the necklace
Ann Bensen on Beads East had a really good video with animations and short real life clips and she explains it beautifully
For me - I have the hook in my right hand, and wrap the yarn around my left little finger a couple of times, then bring it up between my ring and middle finger, and across the back of my middle and index finger. I tend to hold the beadwork tube between the tip of my thumb and middle finger. As I push the hook through the bead loops my thumb is right there to hold it steady. At the moment that I pull the thread up and over, and bring a bead down close, I tend to hold the end of the mandrel with my right index and thumb to steady it. Anyway, your hands are all different sizes, shapes and dexterity, so you can figure that out for yourselves.
Things to try:
JBead Computer program for designing patterns
Any of the patterns in the book - Crafting Conundrums by Ellie Baker and Susan Goldstine. They also have a series of 6 You Tube videos, which are excellent. They have a FB page but it isn’t very active https://www.facebook.com/craftingconundrums/
Patterns on Etsy
Use different bead sizes to give a 3 dimensional rope shape.
Single colours of Czech size 8 knitting beads. Purchase in a hank – so easy to transfer onto the rope and these beads are made for this! Just beautiful.
Using single or double crochet instead of slip-stitch.
Do a tube of larger diameter.
Bead Soup! Gives interesting marled effects and is great for designing neckalces to match specific fabrics.
When you get really good you can make those amazing necklaces that you see on Pinterest with 22 beads in the round and elaborate patterns! Go for it!
Fringe beads! (and a way to finish the ends)
Clear beads, multi-coloured crochet cotton - great effects!
Happy Beading! Have a go at this lovely technique and enjoy!
Copyright Gaye Townley 2020