Tantalizing Trees!
(Part Deux)

Leslie Ehrlich © 2008

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Beaded Tree

I am so excited to be able to share some more of my tree explorations with you! It is such fun to play and experiment with different mediums in our art!

Beads are a favorite item for me in my stitching. They add shimmer and depth to a seam or a motif in a way that thread can’t always achieve. I have recently been teaching some beaded embroidery to my local CQ friends and created a wall hanging embroidered entirely with beads! So what is more appropriate than a beaded tree motif to add some natural appeal?


  • Delica beads
  • Nymo thread
  • Pellon Thermalon
  • Size twelve beading or appliqué needles


I chose Delica beads for the simple reason that I prefer the precise cut and sizing of each bead. This allows my stitches to all be regular and symmetrical. Other seed beads will work as well and will simply create a different appearance for the end product.

The Nymo thread I use comes in and several different sizes according to the size bead that you are using. I choose size D as it works well doubled with the Delicas. I have opted to use Nymo in my beading projects primarily because it is easier for me to see, comes in a variety of colors to coordinate with my beads, and is sturdy and secure. After putting much time and effort into beading a design or seam, I don’t want to be concerned about the project falling apart due to a thread break. Other threads that are available are Nylon, Fireline and Silamide. These work just as well, so please feel free to explore them and discover what works best for you. Regular cotton or silk thread is not advisable as it does not stand up to handling very well in my experience.

For needle selection I use a size twelve appliqué type needle. This is a personal preference as I tend to have a firm grip and have bent my share of long beading needles. If you have a penchant for long beading needles, by all means use them! They work just as well as any other needle.

Last, but not least, I like to back the project I am working on with Pellon Thermalon. This provides a stable base for the beading while still remaining flexible and more importantly, stitchable. This is another personal preference that I have adopted as I like the qualities of the product and I don’t struggle with fibers coming thru with the stitches as much. Other backing options are Warm and Natural quilt backing, Stiff Stuff or felt.

As with the embroidered tree trunks and tops I wrote about in the last issue,(http://www.cqmagonline.com/vol07iss03/articles/824/index.shtml), I like to use several different colors of Delica beads, along with different types (i.e.: size eight or ten seed beads, bugles, etc.) to create more depth and texture within the image. In the sample below I used Delica colors DB 101, DB 118, DB 150, along with some size ten brown seed beads I had on hand to provide more “bark” appeal. I like to overlay colors and styles to re-create the natural whorls and knots of the tree. Bead soup mixes are also excellent for this type of stitching as they generally contain different styles, colors and sizes of beads.

To create this sample, I began by  pulling off a good length of Nymo to thread my needle, doubling the thread. I used a quilter's knot to secure the thread behind the fabric. I outlined the trunk and then began filling it in, shifting bead colors as desired to achieve the look I wanted. Using a Back Stitch, I took three beads, laid the beads flat on the surface, took the needle thru the fabric at the end of the beads, then came back up at the second to last bead. I passed through these last two beads again, picked up three more and repeated the procedure. I like to knot the thread every six stitches or so to make sure that if a thread is cut or breaks it will not compromise a whole row of stitching.

For the foliage of the tree in the above sample, I used Delica beads in colors DB11, DB123, DB124. In the sample below, I created three bead clusters stitched down like a picot.

This provided a dimensional effect and added the depth in color that I was looking for. While stitching, (using the same procedure with knotting every six stitches) I tried to keep in mind the shadows of the foliage so that I could achieve the same look with the beads. I primarily placed the darker color along the bottoms of each branch cluster and then scattered a few random bits throughout to provide some detail.

I then proceeded to fill in with the lighter color towards the middle as it would be the outer most part of the foliage and the medium color for the remainder. This technique is not unlike what I do with variegated threads in embroidery. Rather than cut the Edmar or other thread into shorter pieces, I scatter the stitches much like seeds or beads. This technique has worked well for me as the thread is more manageable, but I’m always exploring new processes and would love to hear what everyone else has discovered for themselves. I am just beginning my journey in exploring the creation of all sorts of beaded trees and am excited with the many color and design possibilities!

I hope you enjoy your journey into beading. Please share your creations!

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