Beadwork can be found on baskets and bags, jewelry and dolls, leather goods from moccasins to belts. While early Native American beads were handmade by drilling holes into seeds, stones, and pieces of bone, the beadwork most familiar to contemporary collectors features glass seed (small) and pony (larger) beads, which were first introduced to indigenous North Americans by European traders in the late 17th century but were not widely used until the 19th, when indigenous peoples were forced onto reservations and had few options other than traditional art forms to earn an income.

In general, the most common application of these beads was to string them on necklaces and other examples of Native American jewelry, but beads were also woven to create prismatic bands of patterned color, or sewn individually and in strings onto all manner of clothing. To attach beads to garments and shoes, two stitches were widely used. In spot-stitch sewing, a thread would be pre-strung with a desired color or pattern of beads. The thread was then sewn to the fabric or leather, usually in short lengths, so that through repetition, panels or bands of pattern and color emerged. Although used by many Native American groups, the Ojibwe or Chippewa of the Great Lakes region were famous for the craftsmanship of their spot-stitch leather leggings, which were usually geometric in design, as well as their shoulder bags, which often featured colorful, floral beadwork.

Lazy-stitch sewing was an applique technique favored by the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Plains peoples. In a lazy stitch, the thread itself is used to attach the beads to the garment, rather than relying on a second thread to tack the bead-laden thread down, hence the name of the stitch. Like the spot stitch, the unsecured lengths of beaded thread are short, which keeps the threaded lengths of beads from dangling and flapping around too much when the wearer is moving. That said, both stitches give beaded clothing an animated feel, as the beaded designs vibrate and shake in response to the movements of the wearer.

One of several noteworthy variations on the lazy stitch is embossed beading, in which the beads applied using the stitch define the contours of padding applied to the base garment, adding another layer of dimensionality to the already dimensional beads. Another is the Crow stitch, named after the people who used it most, in which a lazy stitch is caused to turn, usually at a right angle, by a spot stitch sewn on top.

Not all beadwork techniques rely on a base to sew them to. The most important of these is netted beadwork, in which beaded thread is used to create lace-like patterns that can be worn like necklaces.

One of the most famous examples of beadwork is wampum, which was originally a shell-based form of currency, and possibly even literature, among the Native peoples of the Northeast. Wampum was traded back and forth between Colonists and Natives. Indeed, in some parts of the Colonies, wampum was legal tender, but the overproduction of the indigenous currency on the part of Colonists resulted in what could be described as wampum inflation, making the beaded bands and belts less useful as currency, even as they hung onto their ceremonial value.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

First American Art

First American Art

The companion website to First American Art: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of American Indian Art, which… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Native American Indian Washoe Or Paiute Beaded Basket 1860's Plains Indian Beaded Sheath Buffalo Rawhide Sinew SewnAntique Native American Indian Ladies Beaded Vest - Must See !!!Vintage Chunky Old Pawn Mixed Turquoise Bead Stone Bid Adjustable Necklace 83gLarge Hand Crafted Beaded Buckskin Native American Indian Dress & AccessoriesOutstanding Native American Pictorialbeaded VestNez Perce Corn Husk Bag Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Disc Graduating Godber Turquoise Necklace 61gC 1870 Antique Sioux Tipi Buffalo Fur Hide Hand Beaded Possibles Bag~with PapersOlder Native American Lavender Blue Green Beaded Tobacco Waist Pouch Bag Tlc 89)antique Native American Skunk & Padre Trade Beads Indian Artifact Oregon 1800Sioux Beaded Indian Sheath W/knifeVintage Beaded Leather Native American Indian Medicine Bag Pouch Purse Fringe Indian War Knife And Sheath 187087) Native American Light Blue Padre Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact Oregon4 Foot Long Strand Of Great Old Trade Bead Necklace Glass Beads Beautiful Colors108) Native American Melon Venetian Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact Ny103) Native American Czech Glass Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact Arizona102) Native American Czech Translucent Glass Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact AzEstate Find * Vintage Native American Indian Beaded Leather Moccasins86) Native American White Padre Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact OregonVintage Tuscarora Beaded Needle Case Niagra FallsVintage Native American Feather Fan Powwow, Peyote, Regalia, Beadwork Pheasant Native American Beaded Heart Pin Cushion Whimsy 20th CenturyNative American Beaded Heart Pin Cushion Whimsy 20th Century6 Vintage Native American Necklaces Glass Seed Beads Figure With HeaddressBeautiful C1900 Apache Beaded Pocket Watch Holder110) Antique Native American Venetian Old Trade Bead Indian Artifact Ny93) Antique Native American Venetian Old Trade Bead Indian Artifact CaLot Native American Indian Beaded Strips Belt Beadwork Lakota Various TribesVintage Chimayo Purse By GanscraftVintage Leather Indian Doll Moccasins Beaded Shoes Native American--->nevada<--trade Beads = White Hearts!!!!!!!!Native American Beaded Dance Stick Peyote Stiched Kiowa/witchita ArtistChild's Beaded Leather Vest 11/0 Beads Pow Wow Old Zuni Hand Made Deer Native American Seed Bead Fetish Animal Peyote Stitch Native American Concho Tribal Belt Vintage Beaded Medicine Buffalo - American Flag (beadwork) - Plains Style Repro1970's New Mexico Mescalero Apache Signed Crown Dancer Ceramic Swag Lamp RuidosoBlack Onyx Red Coral Sterling Silver Necklace 17" Native American Indian Beaded107) Antique Native American Venetian Melon Old Trade Bead Indian Artifact Ny95) Native American Czech Faceted Glass Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact ArizonaVintage Native American Indian Beaded Barrette Hair PinbackBeaded Little Horse (beadwork/quillwork) - Plains Style ReproductionBeaded Belt With Knife And Matching Sheath106) Native American Melon Venetian Old Trade Beads Indian Artifact Ny109) Antique Native American Venetian Melon Old Trade Bead Indian Artifact NyNative Canadian Indian Handmade Beaded PouchNative American Beaded LightercaseNative American Beaded LightercaseNative American Glass Beaded Owl1930 Apache Beadwork Wood Loom Native American Indian For Crafts Beads Seed BeadHandmade Beaded Medicine Bag Crystal Pouch Necklace Beadwork Zen Diamond PatternLarge Beaded Turtle Fetish NecklaceTraditional Beaded Bag Buffalo Coin ClosureRare Native American Red White And Blue Designed Glasstrading Beads StrungRare Native American Green Red And White Cross Glasstrading Beads Strung