Beading tips for the embroiderer

If you are considering stitching with beads these beading tips may help.

Beading can be used for an entire design or to emphasize part of it. Alternatively, as you get more adventurous you may decide to substitute an area of colour with seed beads of the same shade. Bead manufacturers have beads in a large variety of colourways and finishes. The beads I am discussing here are seed beads that roughly correspond in size to a square of 14 or 16 count Aida fabric.

Beading Tips 1 - how to attach beads

You will need to use a fine needle, preferably a beading needle, because in my experience the holes in the centre of seed beads tend to vary in size. Thread your needle with 1 strand of thread, roughly the same shade as the bead. I usually find a needle threader helps reduce stress here!

Bring your needle up through a hole in the bead and using half cross stitch, diagonally cross the square and bring the needle down through the opposite corner of the square.

If you have difficulty making your beads lie flat then a good technique is to use 2 strands of floss and complete the cross stitch, bringing each strand either side of the bead.

Beading tips 2 - Opening the bead packet

A word of caution about beads! You have brought them home from the craft shop with your packet of brand new beading needles. They site there, tightly packed and enticing, jammed into their little plastic bag or box and all you want to do is free them so you can start adding them to your embroidery. Don't! Or you will be sorry.

Much previous experience has taught me that beading is an enjoyable experience so long as you take the proper precautions. For a start beading is not advisable in the same room as children or pets. In fact don't even open the packet until you have got them occupied elsewhere - preferably next door! This is because beads are very small and slippery. Beads jump! It is a universal fact that they are particularly attracted to shag pile or multi-patterned carpets. Faced with wooden or vinyl flooring, given half a change they can roll very rapidly in opposite directions and end up jammed in tiny spaces between the floor and the skirting board. You decide to spend 5 minutes putting those flower stamens in and really make those flowers come alive, but actually spend an hour on your knees searching the floor for all those little seed beads (and in my house, realising just how much dust has accumulated under the sofa!).

Beading tips 3 - Bead accessories

Craft shops, artists shops and even the hardware shop can provide plastic containers with fairly small, shallow compartments within which you can store and access your beads individually by stabbing them with a beading needle. At a push if you are only using one or two colours, a small saucer will work as well.

A really helpful gadget to own is a special bead tidy, which is a rubber fingerstall with bumps on it. Placed on a flat surface it picks up several beads at a time.

Beading tips 4 - Your finished work

There are two points to consider here.

When you iron your completed work it really needs to be on a thick towel otherwise your beads can be crushed.

When framing, you will need a slightly deeper frame than normal, to allow for the raised areas of beads.

I have a wonderful angel over my fireplace with a beaded skirt. Every time I look at her I remember one of the cats leaping onto my work surface with a resounding plop, just as I had finished sorting out the various beads I needed into handy little piles. It was temporarily raining beads! It was on that occasion that I learned another method of locating lost seed beads. If all else fails walk around the room in bare feet - apart from anything else it amuses the cat. Grrrrrr! For more (amusing) stories of cats you might like to read my cats and cross stitch page.

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