Twisted bead fringe is a variety of loop bead fringe that wraps around itself to form a spiral column of beads. The effect is a lot like twisting a loop of string or wire – but, of course, it is more interesting with beads since you can vary the size, color and pattern.
It is not a style of fringe that you see very frequently, but I think that’s a shame – so I’ll show you how to make it and try to change that!
If you’re wondering what made me want to make this type of fringe, it’s because of these beautiful antique steel beaded purses that I like to collect.
My beaded purses are from the late 1800’s to probably 1920’s, and they have gorgeous beads and fringe (when it survives). Unfortunately, these purses don’t hold up well to time, because they use steel cut metal beads – which are heavy and pull the bag apart. I’m hoping to figure out how to restore mine eventually, so there will be a future post on that, as well as articles on the other types of fringe based on these beaded bags. I really like the look of the twisted fringe, so it’s the first one I decided to tackle.
In addition to referring to my beaded purse example, I found a twisted fringe video tutorial on YouTube by Jamie Cloud Eakin that was helpful and also purchased a kindle version of her book Bead Play with Fringe: Techniques, design and projects as research on the topic.
I tried her technique, which uses a double strand of thread, to make this strand of twisted fringe. Eventually, I found that I prefer to use single thread and I didn’t need to use the doubled thread to get the twist. I added the links to her technique above for your reference if you want to explore using doubled thread. The advantage to using a double thread is that it is easier to control the amount of twist and to push the twist into the beads.
The twisted bead fringe technique is a little tricky to make at first.
You’ll need to secure the project to a base so it doesn’t untwist, remember which direction you twisted if you want each fringe to twist the same way, make the twist on the thread, push the twist down the thread into the beads, hold the twist in place, untwist the needle portion of the thread and make sure it doesn’t get knotted, then stitch into your beadwork while holding the twist, and finally release and pull tight but not too tight because then it will untwist – so once you’ve got all that down, it’s easy!
Hopefully, that didn’t discourage you, because in reality it’s no more difficult than learning to make wrapped loops in wire work or learning odd count peyote turns. It’s just learning the technique and then practice.
Here’s a step by step to making twisted bead fringe. I’ve done several experiments with twisted fringe altering types of beads, thread type and number of beads in the fringe, so I’ll document materials use in my experiments after the basic technique.
Start with a base that you will secure the twisted fringe to. This can be lots of different things, but for this sample it’s 8 columns of 2 bead high ladder stitch.
Tape your bead base to a rock.
Just kidding – but you do need to secure the beadwork to a base, or as you twist the thread, your beadwork will flip and untwist the thread. Putting something heavy on top of your project works too.
Add the beads for your fringe on to the thread.
When I say a fringe is 15 beads long, that is the hanging length. It actually takes 30 beads (2 sides 15 long) to make the twisted fringe.
Hold the thread near the end of the fringe beads and twist. It helps to have something that provides friction to make the twist – like my pink finger protector.
As you twist the thread, use the other hand to pinch the thread and push the twist into the fringe beads. Holding the twist in place by pinching the thread beneath the beads, use your other hand to slide your fingers down the other side of the thread to remove the twist on the needle side of the thread.
It needs to be untwisted to prevent knots in your thread and because it will untwist the twist you are holding inside the beads.
Stitch down through the next beads in the base.
Pull the thread through as much as you can before releasing where you are holding the twist in place. You are basically trying to get some pressure on the thread to keep it from untwisting as you pull the fringe tight.
Once you pull the thread all the way through, you should have your twist. You may need to pull on the end of the fringe to get it to hang evenly.
Repeat for the next fringe.
Until you’ve made all your fringe.
Here are some sample projects, in the order that I made them with details on each below.
First test is a single strand of twisted fringe (i.e. one looped fringe twisted). It is 30 beads long (60 beads total for the twisted fringe) on a 2×2 ladder stitch base and a 7 bead hanging loop. Color is silver lined lime green. Total length is a tad over 2 inches including the hanging loop. Made with a doubled thread – it has a hearty twist.
My second test is three strands of twisted fringe made on a 2×6 brick base on a 20 gauge piece of wire that is shaped around a turquoise drop after the fringe is complete. The fringe is 20 beads long and slightly over 1 3/8 inches long. Made on a single strand of KO thread – I didn’t get a good twist on all of the strands. I think this was problem with me knowing how to make the twists instead of it coming loose.
Used two similar colors – opaque luster turquoise and opaque luster lagoon – changing color on the halfway of each strand looking to get a shadow effect. Overall it’s a good idea – but I think the twisted fringe will be better shorter (15 beads) for a design like this with the drop and it was too loose.
Materials for this pair are:
– unknown brand size 11 beads in Opaque Matte Light Rose
– KO white thread (single)
There are 4 strands of twisted fringe, each side of the fringe loop is 15 beads long (30 beads total for 1 fringe), 2 drop brick stitch triangle top. The fringe is soft, but the earrings are a little short. I added a charm dangle (daisy) on the earring wire just to make them a little more interesting. These seem ‘stubby’ in a single color, but they look cute on, so probably just need more pattern (thus why I tried adding the charm).
Toho round size 11 beads in same pink as above and Toho permafinish galvanized starlight (gold). Switched to Nymo size D in tan.
Same fringe as above (15 long) but made last 3 beads on each side of the fringe gold. The fringe is supple with swing. These earrings look better on than off.
Toho size 11 round beads in opaque frost shrimp, Toho permafinish galvanized sweet blush (rose gold). Nymo size D in tan. Same configuration as above.
I ran out of thread on the second earring because I kept forgetting which way to twist the fringe and cut off the first section I worked on. That hurts… but I’ll add more thread and finish these.
For some reason I have a lot of size 11 round opaque pink beads. Just using what I have…
This last earring is the same design but uses size 15 beads and has 5 strands of twisted fringe 25 bead long (2×10 ladder stitch base). KO thread in white, toho round size 15 in transparent light French rose and Ceylon innocent pink on top triangle and fringe ends. Nice supple fringe.
I like the size 15 fringe but might try it on a size 11 brick base. Or on a wire frame like below.
Last design uses size 11 delica beads in Grey Denim which is a grey color with an iridescent finish. Here I’m getting pretty fancy. I added a 22 gauge rose gold wire frame to a crescent moon bead. I shaped the frame to the outline of the bead. Then using Nymo size D in tan, added 10 rows of 2 drop brick stitch as a base for the fringe.
I started with the shortest fringe first – which is 10 beads long and then added 3 beads on each fringe length so they are 10, 13, 16, 19 and 22 beads long. (remember the total beads for each fringe is double that – that is the length of the fringe hang). Finished them by adding a hanging loop and 20 gauge rose gold earring hook.
All of the fringe are a bit stiff and the cylinder beads make them choppy. Might try this again with size 15 round beads and KO thread (which has a softer drape).
If you made it this far – congratulations! You must be interested in twisted fringe.