Arms Twill Beadwork


Twill beadwork, also commonly known as peyote beadwork, is a style of beadwork in which beads are laced together into a two-dimensional sheet. This sheet can be left flat or shaped, such as into a tube.

Twill beadwork is sometimes mistaken for woven beadwork, but it differs in distinct ways. While woven beadwork aligns the beads in horizontal and vertical rows, twill beadwork arranges the beads in an offset pattern, like bricks. Because of the strong diagonal 'grain' lines formed in twill beadwork (hence its name) the resulting 'fabric' is much more flexible. Additionally, woven beadwork is formed by attaching the beads to warp threads held on a loom. In contrast, twill beadwork is formed only with a single needle and thread, held in your hands. This difference makes twill beadwork more easily portable. Also, it results in a piece of beadwork that has less thread. This has the dual advantage of fewer thread ends to tie off, and less visible thread in the finished piece.

Woven Beadwork
Twill Beadwork

Historic Examples

While it is commonly known that twill/peyote beadwork was practiced by Native Americans, it has also been practiced by different cultures throughout history. I have collected several examples. Click on the thumbnails to view the images at full size in a new window.

Scarab Egyptian Winged Scarab beadwork
British Museum, London
The History of Beads: From 30,000 B.C. to the Present - Lois Sherr Dubin
page 42, plate 26
Bib Peruvian Bib
A.D. 1000-1470
American Museum of Natural History, New York
The History of Beads: From 30,000 B.C. to the Present - Lois Sherr Dubin
page 257, plate 266
Beauty Fashionable Beauty (Detail: St. Dorothy)
c. 1500
Master of the Rottal Epitaph
Old Gallery of the Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz
1995 Medieval Woman calendar - Workman Publishing
January plate
Flowers Beadwork Flowers for a Basket
second half of the 17th Century
Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery - John L. Nevinson
plate 72

© 1999–2000 Jessica I. Clark
Permission to print a copy for your own use freely given. Please contact me for permission to reprint or distribute.
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