Ladder braiding

Another technique I’ve been wanting to try out since seeing at Suzie Q beads a while back is ladder braiding.

In their catalogue of classes, they describe it as “Chan Luu”-style ladder bracelets, but the technique isn’t new at all – in a bit of research it looks like a Vietnamese artist took a trip to India, and brought the technique to the public spotlight by charging hundreds of dollars for the bracelets to Hollywood starlet-types. (Check out some of the originals on the Sundance website:  or on The Find: – where I especially like the chain version…)

Online instructions & local classes

A blogger made her own version here:  complete with a little write up on Chan Luu and the evolution of the technique.

With the awesome coloured leather cords available (they seem new to me!) this seems like a fairly easy, new-ish project to try out. While the Suzie Q class offers a “Knotty-Do-It-All” design board for sale to help make the braiding really easy, this strikes me as something that could be done simply without it too.

There’s a tutorial on –  which seems really easy – and pretty much what I imagined the technique looking at the finished version. Another super-simple looking tutorial is on Inspirational Beading:  and another:

Hannah Roshner has a simple tutorial with photos here:


Here’s a Stella and Dot variation using Box Chain:

Hannah Roshner uses the ladder technique for an amazing clasp here:

Really mellow gemstones highlight a beautiful button in this MewKitty version:

Lampwork buttons and beads are highlighted in a variety of versions on this page:  I love the one with the blues and starfish!

Getting started – round one

While at Beads & Plenty More, I picked up some leather cord along with some gorgeous purple crystal beads, and brought them home with the plan to make a ladder bracelet.

Plan A

Plan A

I picked out a cute silver floral bead from my stash, but when I started the braid, I was really unhappy with the scale of the leather and the beads – the leather was just too big and chunky for the beads – it overwhelmed their delicate beauty.

Round two….

I switched to the purple waxed cord I had picked up at the same place, and a few beads into the project, I still wasn’t happy – it just wasn’t right.

Round three…

I went back to the black leather, and grabbed some of the white turquoise skull beads and worked with them instead….

The skull beads worked out much better… BUT…… (keep reading for the but…)


First I created the loop which would accommodate the clasp, and wrapped the leather with heavy thread (a button thread), then did a few figure-8 wraps around the ‘legs’ of the leather.

I secured the loop under the clip of a clipboard, and used a large binder clip at the bottom of the board for the ends of the leather.  I also slipped a small ‘bridge’ (a small stitch-ripper) under one end to raise up the leather and make it easier to bead.

The clipboard set up

The clipboard set up

Next, I started adding in the beads, making a figure-8 under one of the ‘legs’ of the leather, through the bead, over the leather on the other side, wrapping over it and going under, through, and over the leather.


After adding in all the beads, I tied the thread off, and went back through the beads over again – tightening up the threads and also securing them further.  If one thread breaks, hopefully the second thread will keep the beads in place.

Close up

Close up


To finish off I threaded a HUGE decorative lobster clasp ($1.30 from Beads & Plenty More) through the remaining leather ends, turned them back on themselves, and whipped them down with the remaining thread.  I also purchased a TINY version of the tourqoise skull bead ($.30 at Beads & Plenty More) to dangle off the clasp.

And now for the ‘But…’

I don’t like it.

It’s too chunky and heavy. There is too much ‘thread’ in the design, and the skulls are constantly rotating, and the whole thing curves because the ‘chins’ are narrower than the tops of the skull heads, which I don’t like either.

At some point I’ll undo the bracelet to salvage the beads, clasp, and leather, and make something else with the parts.

Ah well.. not everything turns out!

Have any ideas what I can use these cool skull beads for? Let me know in the comments below!


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