Ask Us – About Herringbone Stitch

from The Bead Scoop Vol. II  Issue 2 July 2008

Q. What is Ndebele Beadwork?

A. Ndebele beadwork is defined in The Illustrated Bead Bible (2008, by Theresa Flores Geary, Ph.D.) as:

“Beadwork, made with the notable bead netting or herringbone stitch by the Ndebele, a tribe living in Transvaal or Kwa Ndebele, northeast of Pretoria, South Africa. The Ndundza branch of the Ndebele have been widely recognized for their beadwork talents. In the late 1800s, the Dutch seized their farmlands and enslved the people, which may have influenced their beadork traditions. Contact with European traders who brought Czech seed beads may also have affected their beading style.”

The “Ndebele stitch” or “Herringbone stitch” has been credited to the Ndebele tribe but the stitch has been used all over the world. For example, the Zulu people describe the same stitch as the “feather stitch”. Today it is used by contemporary and traditional beaders from around the world in a vast array of jewelry and other artistic creations.