What Are Piggy Beads?
Piggy Beads are made in the Czech Republic. They are little round beads, measuring about 8mm in diameter. Instead of being flat discs, the front of the bead has been indented and the back rounded out as if someone had taken hold of a flat disc and moulded it around a thumb or finger. This gives them a depth measurement (front-back) of about 4mm. Aside from their shape, Piggy beads are also remarkable for the fact that they are two-holed beads. The holes sit one in the centre and one to the side of the bead, so if you look at them face on, they look a little like the nose of a pig, hence the name.
Why use Piggy Beads?
As a designer, I’ve been having a play with the beads to see what can be done with them. Whether you are a designer or a customer, the perfectly legitimate first question could be, ‘why do I want to use these beads?’ Well, the colour and shape makes them immediately attractive. They are available in a good range of colours and I’m sure more will be developed as the bead shape takes off. The indented shape makes them great for sitting around other rounded beads to create interesting details and textures. They also have a fascinating texture when they are used with one another: you can place them face to face, back to back, or in alignment depending on the look you want to achieve. As you will see below, I have come up with a few patterns to start exploring these ideas. The two-hole structure means that you can use these beads to create layers, so combine them with smaller shaped beads or seed beads and you will end up with different things going on between your Piggy Beads. There are a lot of possibilities.
As with many of the newer shaped seed beads, if you want to become comfortable with Piggy Beads, it’s a good idea to throw out the thinking that you might apply to traditional seed beads (delicas and rocailles). Delicas and rocailles can be used on their own to create fantastic pieces of beadwork and jewellery. You will struggle to do this with Piggy Beads: they are really designed to create interest and texture in combination with other beads, so once you come to embrace that idea, you can really have fun exploring the possibilities.
How do you use Piggy Beads?
As with any of the shaped or two-holes beads, Piggy beads can take a little getting used to when you first start to work with them. The fact that they have two holes means you will need to check both holes in the bead before you use it. Usually you will be passing through the first hole in one row and not come back to the other hole until later in the pattern, so if you find the second hole is blocked at this stage, you will be un-doing a lot of beadwork to replace the bead.
Secondly, the placement of the holes means you will need to take care that you pass through the right hole. As designers, the new multi-holed beads are forcing us to come up with a new language for describing the steps in a pattern. Make sure that you are clear what the designer means and follow the instructions carefully as you work with these beads. I distinguish between the ‘middle’ hole on the bead and the ‘bottom’ hole and each of my patterns includes a brief introduction to explain the references.
Thirdly, the shaping on this bead means that you will need to be aware of which direction you pass through the bead. I refer to the ‘back’ (the rounded face) and the ‘front’ (the indented face) in my patterns, but other designers may use different references. Be sure you understand them and be sure to follow carefully: for example, passing through from front to back, would mean you need the needle to enter in the indented face so you are exiting from the rounded side of the bead. I have found that these beads tend to flip over on my beading mat, so it can be easier to pick them up in your fingers in order to make sure you are passing through the right hole in the right direction. Finding out how you feel comfortable working with these beads may take some time, but it is worth the effort!
Patterns for Piggy Beads
These patterns are the first that I developed using Piggy beads, so they are fairly simple and a good way of getting into this new bead shape. You can find more patterns on my beadflowers website and my own stock of Piggy Bead patterns is sure to keep on growing, so I hope you enjoy your journey of Piggy Bead discovery.
Piggy Triangle Spiral combines Piggy beads with tiny triangles and size 11 seed beads to make a netted spiral embellished with pearls. The thread path for this is simple and you will be creating a double spiral in two stages. This is suitable for all levels.
Piggy Pearls necklace uses a simple stringing technique to mix the Piggy beads and pearls with Superduos and Delicas for the focal central section. I used a peyote stitch beaded clasp and rope for the necklace, but you can add a rope and clasp of your choice if you prefer. This is suitable for all levels.