So let’s start off with what they are. As you can see from the photo, Infinity beads take their name from their shape – they look just like the mathematical ‘infinity’ symbol. Infinity beads are essentially another variety of two-holed seed beads. They come in two different sizes, so watch that carefully when you are buying these beads or using tutorials. The pink beads shown in the photo are 4x8mm and the black beads are 3x6mm. The difference in size will mean that not all patterns will work with these beads interchangeably, so watch out!
What is special about Infinity beads?
You may have read this far and now be groaning…what do I want with yet another two-holed seed bead? Aren’t these just the same as Superduos? Well, these are perfectly valid questions. There are an awful lot of new bead shapes being launched to the market at the moment and if you’ve always been happy working with rocailles or cylinder beads then you may be wondering what is the point of these new shapes. In my view, they are taking beading designs to a new level: they make it very easy to add shape, pattern and texture into a beading design without needing to use complex techniques. You are likely to find that a lot of the beading patterns that use some of these new shaped beads are in essence doing little more than stringing in patterns. The fact that you have two or even four holes to play with means you can just string a selection of different beads, working with the different holes in different orders and you immediately have a design that looks very complex, but is in fact very easy to achieve. This is great news for beginners: it is possible to make sensational looking jewellery without needing to spend weeks learning the different variations of all those traditional bead-weaving techniques. That’s not to say that the shaped beads can’t be used with traditional bead-weaving stitches: they often are to great effect. They have simply opened up a wealth of new design possibilities.
So, back to the second question, why do you need Infinity beads when you already have Superduos? Well, take a look at the photo and you will see that when you make a direct comparison, Infinity beads are vastly different to Superduos. For starters, there is a difference in size: the standard Superduos are usually about 2.5x5mm, so although the width to length ratio of the beads is the same, they are slightly smaller than the smallest Infinity Beads. 0.5-1mm may not sound like much of a difference in size, but when it comes to beading, it is huge. It makes the difference between a piece of beadwork sitting flat and wrinkling up or between visible thread and neat work. So before you start thinking you can just buy a tube of Infinity beads and use them in your favourite Superduo patterns, think again. Some patterns may work, but many will not.
Secondly, look at the shape of the beads: infinity beads are the same depth all the way along the bead, whereas Superduos have a fat middle and thinner ends. This makes a very big difference to the way in which the beads will sit. The narrow ends of the Superduos mean they look fantastic when worked up in herringbone stitch. Infinity beads don’t work quite the same. They can be used for herringbone, but the effect is much untidier and you are in danger of seeing small amounts of thread between the bead tips. The same applies to Right Angle Weave: Superduos will snuggle in neatly to make a circle, but Infinity beads look better if you mix in a tiny size 15 seed bead to disguise the thread between your Infinity beads. Finally, take a look at Peyote stitch and you can see that although both varieties of bead work well, the end texture is quite different in each case. Compare the little Infinity beads sample with a bracelet made using Superduos.
How do you design with Infinity beads?
The literal answer to this question is: buy a packet of Infinity beads and start playing with them. Start by trying to use them in traditional bead-weaving techniques, although I have highlighted some of the advantages and pitfalls I found with some of the techniques above. Second, take a mental step back and look at the qualities of the beads: what do they suggest? What are they most useful for achieving? My immediate answer to that question is ‘linking things’. Using them as links allows you to add interesting pattern as in this pendant. It is basically a Polaris cabochon around which I have added simple rows of Peyote stitch. The inclusion of a row of Infinity beads (light blue) immediately adds a different texture. It also allows the circle to grow and make space for some different sized beads. In this case I have mixed in some pale yellow O beads to add another texture and a bit of interest in terms of colour. I then finished up with 4mm faceted beads.
The pendant design creates a link in a two-dimensional work, but what about using these links to turn two-dimensional beadwork into three-dimensional work? This is an idea I explored in a herringbone bracelet – you can find the pattern here. My first thought was that the smaller 3x6mm Infinity beads should fit with size 8 seed beads as these are also around 3mm in size. Having discovered that Infinity beads are not terribly successful when used on their own in a herringbone weave, I wondered how they would fare when mixed with ordinary seed beads. The answer is, just use a single hole in each Infinity bead and keep to a single row with them and the results are just fine. This leaves a second hole sticking out from your beadwork, so you can go back to that later on and add embellishment and you immediately have a design with three-dimensional interest. In theory the larger 4x8mm Infinity beads will fit with size 6 seed beads or 4mm faceted beads or 4mm pearls, so this knowledge is also something to explore.
It is possible to create fascinating beaded beads by playing with the idea of two holes being capable of creating layers. I designed this pattern for a beaded bead. I found that it works just as well with both sizes of Infinity beads, but interestingly it does not work at all with Superduos – just proving that these different types of beads are indeed sufficiently different to not be interchangeable. Once again, in this pattern I mixed in O beads to introduce texture and used Delicas to help create the structural links required. So, hopefully by now you are getting the idea that most of these shaped seed beads are really ideal for adding interest to beading designs, more than for creating designs on their own. This is of course good news for your purse – a single pack of Infinity beads can go a long way if you are using them in combination with standard beads that you may already have in your stash!
Infinity Bead Patterns
I am still working on Infinity bead patterns, so do keep checking back to this section as I add more links to different patterns or pattern sources. My first Infinity beads pattern used basic Right Angle Weave, mixing just half a tube of Infinity beads with other seed beads to create a layered bracelet. so the Infinity beads are used to add the layer of interest over the top of a RAW base. Provided you feel happy working in basic RAW, this pattern will be no problem at all to follow, so you can find it here.
If you want an easy, gentle place to start, then the herringbone infinity layers bracelet is ideal. If you’re after more of a challenge, then why not try the infinity beaded beads? Just a warning – they become very addictive to make!