Jewelry artists can be known for a certain style they have developed, and this often means they have a favorite go-to technique. For those who incorporate bead weaving into their skill set, the possibilities for creativity–and a signature style–becomes even more fun!
Some of these specialty stitches have been featured on the blog A Beaded Life, such as herringbone stitch, peyote stitch, and Danielle Wickes’ great tutorial on Looming. Brickstitch, though many might not know it by this name, has become wildly popular via the new trend in gorgeous fringe earrings.
Right angle weave certainly deserves mention, or RAW, the acronym it is commonly known by. It sounds more like a geometrical exercise, right? Or a math problem? Or the preferred way to eat vegetables?
RAW is a bead weaving technique that involves stitching beads into a unique thread path that makes the beads sit at right angles to each other. So, a circle of beads is turned into a square, and that square, like a building block, can be added to—top, bottom, or sides—becoming as dimensional and dynamic as the bead artist desires.
QUICK STATS on RAW:
Right angle weave is known as RAW, but many variations are out there!
CRAW (cubic right angle weave)
PRAW (prismatic right angle weave)
LRAW (layered right angle weave)
MRAW (modified right angle weave)
TRAW (tubular right angle weave)
DRAW (diagonal right angle weave)
One of the reasons RAW techniques look so elegant is that crystals—such as Swarovski bicones—lend themselves exceedingly well to the flow of this stitch. In fact, it is recommended that those just learning this type of beadweaving begin by using these angled crystals, as they nestle together so nicely. You can see this from the diagram below.
RAW is most typically used with glass beads; they are preferred over gemstones, for the simple reason that gemstone holes are very tiny, and the method of RAW often necessitates multiple passes with the bulk of both thread and needle. Attempting to use small gemstones or pearls in the past has led to frustration. Recently, I’ve been seeing more large hole gemstones and pearls in the market, and the first thing I thought of was right angle weave possibilities!
The holes of these beautiful quartz gemstone beads have been drilled larger than usual, enabling me to make two styles of RAW cuff bracelets. The other aspect of RAW pictured here is the differing thread path, clearly evident through the quartz. The top is classic RAW, and the bottom bracelet is diagonal right angle weave.
RAW is not often embraced by those who love a carefree, boho style of jewelry. In spite of what the acronym might suggest, RAW is about following a specific thread path, and creating orderly structures. This aspect of organized beauty and the mathematical symmetry of RAW design is associated more with elegance and a reputation for being finicky. But RAW is not a difficult skill to master, and once you understand it, the potential for creativity and beauty is boundless.
What fascinates me about RAW is that it is more structural than other types of bead weaving, (although peyote artisans might disagree!) You can make a tube, bezel a stone, make a beaded bead or dimensional pendant, create fantasy-scapes and wearable art, create an intricate matrix in which to showcase larger stones or pearls, and the list goes on.
Below is an example of how you can use RAW to bezel a stone (in this case one that doesn’t have any drill holes). The classic way to do this is with peyote stitch, but RAW offers another lovely and slightly different method that is also easy to embellish endlessly if you wish to. Here I’ve used silver coated glass beads, to surround a slightly uneven slice of druzy agate. The process, in just a few pictures, is illustrated below. The result has a simple, natural look, that would wear well both with elegant attire or something more casual.
For me, I love RAW and have used it often, but I tend to keep it simple. As shown above, I also wanted to experiment and see if a more earthy, boho vibe could be brought to this sometimes exacting technique.
For instance, I was happy with the deep cuff look of this bracelet, but felt like it needed a soft, easy style for the closure. Since I love the texture of soft leather lacing, this simple macrame closure did the trick. Add a tassel, a funky letter charm, like “P” for personality–(or dare I say perpendicularity??) and you’re done!
I’m all about soft, easy style, but in this quartz cuff bracelet, worked in RAW stitch, one of the things I loved was the cold weight of the gemstones. It was like they had presence; a stature. To balance the “feel’ as I wore it, I again wanted something soft to close it, and to give it more of an earthy mood. Just a simple knotted length of supple suede on each side served the purpose. No metal clasp needed. This bracelet feels so good to wear!
As I worked on these projects I wondered, what are artists doing with it today, and is it any easier to learn than when I first started teaching myself this technique?
The good news is that it is much easier to learn than before, particularly if you are a visual learner. Many resources are out there—videos, yay!— to learn and master this lovely kind of bead weaving. As the name might suggest, right angle weave uses a unique thread path, and once you take your needle and thread for a stroll down that path a few times, you’ve got it!
The other good news is that jewelry designers are doing amazingly beautiful things with right angle weave. At the bottom of this article you’ll find some of my favorites, and perhaps this will inspire you to try it for yourself in case you haven’t had the pleasure of being introduced!
For example, one of my favorite bead weaving designers that I’ve discovered through Instagram is NewFangledNorth. She uses time honored techniques (such as RAW and variations of it) but infuses a stylish and fresh boho charm into her designs.
Sam Wescott, of Wescott Designs, is a talented jewelry designer and teacher who often incorporates RAW into her designs. Visit her website to see more examples, and even better, follow links to download the patterns!
Jill Wiseman’s youtube videos are so well done, and she makes right angle weave so do-able for the beginner!
These are just a few of the resources out there. Other favorite designers include Rachel Nelson-Smith, Sabine Lippert, and Kelly Wiese, all of whom create fabulous designs with right angle weave.
I hope this has given you some inspiration if you are new to this stitch and all its variations. I don’t consider myself an expert, by any means, but just the basic elements that I’ve learned convinced me this is a fun technique I will be returning to again and again.