Bead embroidery transforms everyday objects into luxury items. Beading expert Dorothy Wood runs through the basics of bead embroidery so that you can bring some shimmer and sparkle to your projects.
Preparing to embroider
If the fabric is flimsy it needs to be supported in a hoop or frame while working so that the beadwork does not scrunch up. If possible use a backing fabric to anchor any threads on the reverse side. Use a double length of sewing thread in the needle or one strand of a beading thread such as Nymo.
1 Cut the fabric and any backing fabric at least 5cm (2in) larger all round than the finished piece. Fit the fabric into an embroidery hoop or on to a rotary frame.
2 Take two tiny backstitches on the reverse side and bring the needle out on the right side where you want the beadwork to begin. You are now ready to start your bead embroidery.
Sewing beads on individually
When sewing beads individually it is essential to secure the thread carefully on the reverse side when beginning and finishing off.
1 It is advisable to go through each bead twice to secure it. This makes it less likely the bead will fall off and also prevents the thread pulling through if the beads are spaced out.
2 When stitching larger beads, space the two threads out in the hole so that the bead is held firmly in position. For extra security, take a tiny backstitch on the reverse side before sewing on the next bead.
Sewing on beads with backstitch
Backstitch can be used to add individual beads or several at a time. Only pick up one or two beads to follow a curved line but pick up more the straighter the line, taking the needle back through the last bead each time.
1 Pick up three beads and let them drop down to where the thread emerges. Put the needle back through the fabric at the end of the three beads. Take a small backstitch and bring the needle out between the last two beads.
2 Put the needle back through the last bead and then pick up another three beads ready to begin again. When a line of beads is complete, secure on the back of the work with a few tiny backstitches.
Stacking single beads
Add larger beads or lots of small beads one above the other to create a range of different textures. Bugle beads also work well adding extra height and interest to a bead embroidery design. Vary the sizes of the beads in each stack to create a range of shapes and textures. Make a row of stacked beads along the edge of a piece of fabric to create a fringe.
1 Bring the thread out where you want to add a large bead. Pick up the large bead and a small seed bead. Take the needle back through the larger bead only and through to the reverse side.
2 To create a stack, pick up several small beads and a small pivot bead, which can be the same or a contrast to the other beads. Miss the pivot bead and take the needle back through the other beads and through to the reverse side of the fabric.
Couching is used to apply a string of beads to fabric in a straight line or curve. You need to use two needles on separate lengths of thread – one beading needle and one sewing needle.
1 Bring the beading needle out where you want the beadwork to begin. Pick
up sufficient beads to complete the line. If the beads are being couched in a straight line, put the beading needle in the fabric and wrap the thread around to hold the beads taut.
2 Bring the second thread out between the first and second beads. Take the thread over the bead string and back through the fabric. Work down the bead strand, stitching between every bead or in groups of three or four. At the end take both threads to the reverse side and secure them.
To attach single sequins
1 Secure the thread on the reverse side. Position the sequin where you want it and bring the needle up through the middle. Take the needle back down at the side. A second stitch secures the sequin and a third in a ‘Y’ shape will make it secure enough to wash.
2 Alternatively, secure the thread on the reverse side. Bring the needle up through the middle of the sequin. Pick up a seed bead and take the needle back down through the sequin only. Make a tiny backstitch on the reverse before attaching the next sequin.
To attach sequins in a row
1 Position the first sequin and take a stitch from the centre hole and over the right hand edge. Bring the needle and thread back through to the right side.
2 Position the next sequin so that it covers the last stitch. Bring the thread up through the hole in the second sequin and over the right-hand edge. Repeat until the line is as long as required.