Bead Embroidery: Bead Embellishment for Clothing, Quilting and Decoration
Rissa Peace Root © 2004
|Home - Articles - Readers' Showcase - Novices - Search-|
When I started doing bead embroidery in college, I had the advantage of learning the art of beading from two very different types of people, Native American craftsman and costumers. Both of them were excellent resources for learning and both gave me great insight. The only book I had on the subject was Joan Edward's Bead Embroidery. Luckily for me, that was a wonderful text. The fluorescent highlighter of my youth has faded to a dull yellow in my dog-eared copy, but I still refer to it now and again. Despite the lack of colorful plates and specific patterns, it is a wonderful reference. After all these years, I am still actively using beads in my embroidery and clothing embellishment.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the costumer was "bead it right the first time, so there are fewer repairs." I learned that although couching, 2 needle appliqué, and lazy stitch were simple and quick, if the inevitable happened, you lost a lot of beads it took more work to repair the design. So I started using a lot more thread in my designs and making more small backstitches as anchors on the backside of my work. After a while, I got very comfortable using what I call "Beaded Backstitch" (see diagram below). Basically, it is the same as 3-bead backstitch, except that you pass your thread through more beads with each stitch. Bead embroidered motifs work well as decoration on clothing, handbags and quilts. All of the projects shown here were created using this method.
In addition to specific bead embroidery techniques, you can also add beads to almost any traditional decorative stitch. Instead of calling this bead embroidery, I prefer to call it beaded embroidery, a subtle but meaningful distinction. Beaded Herringbone, Beaded Fly, Beaded Extended Fly, Beaded Open Cretan, Beaded Chain and Beaded Feather Stitch are just a few examples of stitches where the addition of beads creates charming stitches, well suited to seam work in Crazy Quilting. Beads can also be added to traditional cross stitch and needlepoint designs. The example below is a piece of quilting fabric with envelopes, that I embellished with beaded embroidery stitches as an exemplar for class.
Just as there is wide range of uses for beads in embroidery, there is an extraordinary variety of beads available for that purpose. While this list is not exhaustive, it covers most of the beads used in bead embroidery.
Seed Beads are extremely versatile and deserve a little discussion, since they are the most commonly used bead in bead embroidery.
One of the big advantages of glass beads, is that they can be made with a wide variety of finishes. Finishes are usually achieved by applying salts and heat to the beads, but not all finishes are permanent. Plastic pearls eventually peel because heat can not be used in the finishing process.
Not surprisingly, there are nearly as many thread choices as there are bead choices. Which thread you select will often depend on the function of the finished item. Nylon thread has excellent strength and durability and is available in many sizes and colors. Nylon's weakness is that it cannot stand up to the hear of a dryer or iron. Nymo® and Silamide® are the most commonly used threads in beading. Both come in sizes 00(finest) through FF, but Size B and D are best suited for modern seed beads. Nylon thread sometimes stretches, so it is best to grab both ends and pull on it firmly before you start your work. Cotton embroidery and sewing threads are also available in a wide array of colors and sizes, but it not as durable as nylon. The threads from many antique items are often rotted. Beeswax can help ameliorate this problem. While polyester sewing threads are not prone to rotting, durability can still be a factor, because of the rough edges of the beads. Silk thread has the same disadvantages of cotton, but it is the best choice when you want your thread to be an important element of your beadwork. It is best used in decorative items like Crazy Quilts.
There are also many fabric choices available for beading, because you can bead on almost anything, although you will need a stabilizer for very lightweight or stretchy material. Ultrasuede® and denim are very popular choices for bead embroidery, because they are so firm, a hoop may not be needed. Silk and satin work very well, buy may require more care, since it tends to wrinkle and hold hoop marks. Almost all bridal/couture work is done on satin and silk. Just make sure you use a very sharp needle to avoid picks. Garment weight suede and leather are also wonderful for bead projects, but you may need to use a glover's needle. Quilting cottons are very popular, but need to be stabilized or worked in a hoop. Even AIDA cloth and needlepoint canvas can be used in beading, it all depends on the project.
Needle choice, like fabric, can often depend on the project. Beading needles are long and thin with very small eyes, but are often too flexible for bead embroidery. Sharps, in size 9 to 12, are often a better choice, the eye is small enough to pass through beads and the short needle is more comfortable for sewing. Basically, any needle that will accommodate your thread and your bead will work.
It is not required that you use a hoop. Sometimes it depends on your background. I find that most beaders who start to do bead embroidery hate hoops and most embroiderers can't imagine working without them. If you do use a hoop, make sure you wrap the inner piece to protect your work. Thin fabrics can often be beaded in a hoop without stabilizer. Some beaders use paper as a stabilizer and no hoop, but I find that it blunts my needles too quickly and is harder to handle than fabric in a hoop.
As a final note, I want to leave you with some basic tips for putting beads onto fabric.
|Home - Articles - Readers' Showcase - Novices - Search-|
© 2002 - 2011, All Rights Reserved