Friday, February 3, 2017

What Is Brick Stitch Beading?

In this lesson, you will learn what Brick Stitch Beading is and a brief history of it:

101: What is Brick Stitch Beading?

Brick Stitch Beading is an off-loom technique where the beads are arranged to look like a brick wall, with the beads connected by loops of thread.  They are stacked, horizontally, either above or below a Foundation Row, also called a Base Row.

Illustrative comparison of a brick wall and brick stitch.
Brick Wall VS. Brick Stitch

The Brick Stitch style of beadwork has been around for centuries.  No one really knows for sure where and when it originated.  It is closely related to the Peyote and Gourd stitches; but is more challenging to learn.  However, Brick Stitch is just as versatile, if not more so, than the Peyote and Gourd.  The results of the more stiff, firmer finish work of Brick Stitch makes it ideal for 3-D and shaped patterns.  Brick Stitch can be worked from Left to Right, Right to Left, Top to Bottom, Bottom to Top, Increased, Decreased, Skipped, Stacked, Layered, Worked in the Round, Worked in Tube, and when combined with the popular Foundation Row stitch, called the Ladder Stitch, can become nearly any shape imaginable.

Native American woman teaching daughter to bead.
Brick Stitch was popularized in the U.S.A. by the beautiful Native American Plains Indians’ beadwork.  Brick Stitch is also known a the Cheyenne Stitch and the Comanche Stitch due to
their noted use of this technique. Though the Brick Stitch style is largely associated with Native American beadwork, they were not the creators of this beading stitch.  There is seemingly little evidence that the Great Plains tribes used the Brick Stitch technique before pioneering tradesmen introduced European glass beads to them.  Their beadwork previous to the explorations of Columbus primarily consisted of shells, seeds, bones, and rocks.

African brick stitch beadwork neck ornament.
Arts of Africa collection
Gift of Mrs. Herman Eggers
Attribution: Brooklyn Museum
Brick Stitch was also used in South America, the Middle East, and in Africa.  It is in Africa
where we can find the most prolific and very creative use of this technique.  The Zulu women embraced the Brick Stitch style of beading, using it to create their own visual language through beadwork.  Their structurally intricate beaded jewelry conveys social rank, stages of courtship, where they live, and much more.

San Eggshell Brick Stitch Necklace
The David Draper Dayton Fund
The San of the Kalahari Desert in Africa, also know as the Bushmen, may have used the Brick Stitch technique far earlier than the Zulu, though.  Early beadwork of the San was created with handmade ostrich eggshell beads and the Brick Stitch technique.  When trade beads were introduced, they simply transferred their skills with Brick Stitch from the ostrich eggshell beads to the newly available
glass beads. 
The Brick Stitch technique probably flowed out of Africa as the bead trade grew, into the Middle East, then carried to the Native Americans of both North and South America through trade expansion.

Learn how to brick stitch with Brick Stitch Beading University by Brick Stitch Bead Patterns Journal where all lessons and tutorials are free!

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