Beading on Quilts

Stephanie Novatski © 2004

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My favorite embellishment is to use beads, because they can be used to add visual interest and definition.  They can be attached at any point while embellishing the quilt top or block and/or after the quilt sandwich has been created.   I have found most quilt shows will only accept quilts that are actually quilted (not tied) and I often use  beads  to achieve that quilting . 

When attaching beads to a quilt, you may use any one of several methods. Attach the beads to the top layer only prior to making the quilt sandwich, through the top layer after you have made the sandwich, or  through the top layer and batting or through all three layers after creating the quilt sandwich.  Below is an example of the different effects when attaching beads to a quilt sandwich. 

When attaching beads through all three layers, where the stitching will show on the back, I  use quilting thread  just as if you were not beading or beading thread with a quilting needle or any needle that will fit through the bead.    When attaching through only one or two layers of the quilt sandwich, I use waxed beading thread, such as Nymo or Silamide.   If the item is going to be used, I recommend using beading thread, reinforcing the beading by periodically, every two or three beads, going back through the bead a second time.   You can go through as many layers as you desire when reinforcing.

One of the first pieces I quilted were two fish quilts from Susan Carlson's book, Free Form Quilting.  I followed her instructions faithfully and ended up with a nice fish.   However, it didn't look complete to me.  The piece had been done up to and including the free motion machine quilting and binding.  I decided what it needed was beads.  Since this piece was already quilted, I attached the beads by carefully stitching through the top and batting layer so as not to add stitches to the back of the quilt. 

Another method of attaching beads is to bead a motif first on a separate piece of fabric then appliqué it to the quilted fabric sandwich.  I used this method when I wanted the beaded piece to stand out from the background.  The appliquéd motif was also batted so it had added dimension.

There are times when all of the above methods come in play as shown on the piece below.   I embellished with embroidery and beading the quilt top.  The moon was done on a separate piece of fabric and appliquéd on with additional batting behind.  The sky area was beaded through all layers so it would recede from the foreground.  The foreground "snowscape"  was beaded through all layers to define the slopes of the snow banks only.  The snowy hills were embroidered and beaded before the quilt sandwich was assembled.

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