Learn Ladder Stitch and Two Bead Ladder Stitch
Ladder stitch is often used to join beads together in a base row that is then added to with other beadwork stitches such as herringbone stitch or brick stitch. Ladder stitch on its own can be used to make simple and beautiful beaded jewelry like those at the end of this article.
The basic ladder stitch, covered in this tutorial, is single needle ladder stitch. There is also a variation that is done with two needles, appropriately named two needle ladder stitch.
How to Start Ladder Stitch
Ladder stitch can be done with any type of seed beads, but it will be most even if you use consistently sized beads like Japanese cylinder beads. You can use any type of beading thread, such as Nymo, Wildfire, or Fireline, but your beadwork will always come out best if you use the right size needle and beadwork thread for the beads you are using.
On a comfortable length of thread (no longer than 5'), pick up 2 beads. Slide them to the end of the thread, leaving at least a 4 to 6-inch tail. This will leave you room to thread back on a needle and weave in the tail later. Put the needle through the first seed bead in the same direction as you did originally, moving away from the tail thread.
Make a Ladder Stitch
Pull the thread taut.
Your tail thread will be coming out of one side of the bead and the bead with the needle will be coming out of the other side of the bead.
Line the beads up so they are side by side.
Make a Ladder Stitch
To complete the first stitch, stitch down through the second bead. Tighten the thread and make sure the beads are sitting side by side. This is easy with cylinder beads, but with round beads, you will need to make sure you don't pull too tight on the thread or one bead may slide on top of the other.
When this stitch is complete, the tail thread and needle thread will both be coming out of the same sides of the beads—the tail in the first bead and the working thread in the second bead.
Make the Second Ladder Stitch
To add the next bead: pick up a bead and stitch back down through the second bead. Make sure you go in the same direction as the last stitch. Each ladder stitch is making a small circle through the center of the beads to join them together.
Pull on the thread so that the sides of the beads line up against each other.
Complete the Ladder Stitch
A complete ladder stitch goes through each pair of beads one and half times. The first pass through joins the beads together and the second tightens them and puts the thread into position for the next stitch.
To complete the ladder stitch, put the needle back up through the bead you just added. You are now in a position to add the next bead.
Reinforcing Ladder Stitch
Continue adding beads until your beadwork ladder is the right length. Our ladder stitch chain is ten beads long. The beads in the ladder may still feel loose at this point and they may not sit straight next to each other. Whether or not that will be a problem depends on how you will be using the ladder of beads. If you are using it as a base for other bead stitches like brick stitch, the row will probably straighten out as you add the next row of beads.
To tighten and reinforce the ladder stitch, pass the needle and thread up one bead and down the bead next to it until you come back to the beginning of the row. The beads will sit more closely together and the ladder will be straighter and stronger.
Ladder Stitch Variations
Ladder stitch can also be made with more than one bead in each ladder stitch. Some projects, such as brick stitch earrings, may call for a two bead ladder stitch.
A two bead ladder stitch follows the same thread path through the beads, but you will use twice as many beads for each step.
Making Two Bead Ladder Stitch
To start two bead ladder stitch, you will pick up four beads and pass back through the first two beads. To make each stitch, you will pick up two beads and pass back through the last ladder of two beads.
Stabilizing Two Bead Ladder Stitch
Continue until your two bead ladder stitch until the ladder is as long as the project calls for.
Keeping the beads sitting neatly side by side can be even more difficult with two bead ladder stitch. If they are not sitting correctly, remember to stitch back through the ladder to stabilize the beads and help align them.
Don't limit yourself to two beads though! You can also make ladder stitch with three, four, five or more beads. Ladder stitch can also have increases and decreases simply by having more or less beads in each stitch.
Ladder Stitch Jewelry Projects
Most people tend to think of ladder stitch as a base stitch that is used to add other stitches too. Don't overlook the fact that ladder stitch is a very easy and fast way to join beads and can be used to make beautiful jewelry, all on its own!
By using three bead ladder stitch and joining the ends into a circle, you can make small beads or bead links to make a bracelet or necklace.
You can also make a ladder stitch bracelet with three bead ladder stitch. The finished bracelet is durable but feels soft and slinky.