How to Add Beads to Cross Stitch

Jane Greenoff, author of The New Cross Stitcher’s Bible shares her tips on how to add beads to cross stitch….

jane greenoffUsing beads is one of the most satisfying embellishment techniques when you are straying away from pure cross stitch. Their use is highly effective, whether you intend to combine the beads with your cross stitches or completely replace the stitches with beads.

The best bit about counted embroidery is that you have so many choices and are free to express your artistic tendencies, and nowhere is this more evident than when stitching with beads. In many cases you will simply be exchanging beads for stitches, because you can adapt any cross stitch chart to allow the use of beads, as long as the chart does not contain fractional cross stitches – it’s not possible to attach half a bead!

Substituting beads for stranded cottons on parts of a charted design is a wonderful way to explore your creative powers. Working with beads in this way is easier than you can imagine: as all the beads are stitched on using only one colour thread you can work across the pattern row by row instead of working blocks of colour as you would for cross stitch.


Basic Bead Typeshow to add beads to cross stitch

There is a huge range of beads available today and obtaining catalogues from some suppliers will reveal an irresistible array. and some of the basic ones are described here. Beads are measured at the widest point and they do vary slightly.

Seed beads – these are small beads, between 1.8–2.5mm. The Mill Hill range includes petite glass beads, glass seed beads and seed beads with special finishes, such as antique and frosted.

Magnifica beads – these are very uniform, cylindrical beads, about 2.25mm in diameter, with larger holes than seed beads and thin walls. They are commonly used for bead weaving but also look good with cross stitch.

Bugle beads – these are rods of cut glass in a variety of lengths, colours and finishes. The sizes vary between 2–30mm long and they are usually 2.5mm wide.

Pebble beads – these are larger than seed beads and almost round in shape, about 5.5mm in diameter. Being a little heavier than seed beads, they can be attractive added to tassels and fringes.

How to Add Beads to Cross Stitch

Attach seed beads and bugle beads with a fine ‘sharp’ needle or a beading needle using half cross stitch and thread that matches the fabric background. Bugle beads make excellent flower stamens and, because they are longer, are best attached after the cross stitch has been completed.

How to add beads to cross stitch

Jane’s Tips for Cross Stitching with Beads

  • Select the correct size bead for the fabric of your choice. If the beads are too large, they will crowd on top of each other and the design will distort. Most seed beads are perfect for 14-count Aida and 28-count evenweave. If unsure, work a small square in beads to see if the beads fit the space.
  • To substitute beads for stranded cottons (floss) on a chart design, gather together the stranded cottons and match the beads to the threads. Choosing beads in isolation can be difficult.
  • Treat bright yellow and orange beads with a little caution as they can outshine more subtle colours.
  • Use a size 10 ‘sharp’ needle instead of a blunt tapestry needle to attach beads. Specialist beading needles are available, which are longer and thinner.
  • Apply beads using ordinary sewing thread matched to the fabric colour. To make sure you cannot see the thread through the beads, experiment by stitching a few on the corner of the fabric.
  • Polyester mixture threads are stronger than pure cotton and thus are useful for attaching beads securely. You could attach beads using Nymo thread, a strong, waxed thread created especially for beadwork. It is available in various colours.
  • Choose your fabric carefully. Beads will sit better on evenweave fabric than Aida, and on double canvas than on a single weave canvas.
  • Consider using a frame or a hoop when working with beads. This will keep the fabric taut and you can pull the thread firmly as you work to keep the beads in position.
  • Beads are lively things and will end up all over the floor if you are not careful. There are excellent bead holders on the market but putting the beads on a square of cotton velvet on the table is the ideal solution, making them easy to pick up with your needle.

cross stitchers bibleHow to Add Beads to Cross Stitch was excerpted from The New Cross Stitcher’s Bible. For more expert advice from Jane Greenoff on all aspects of counted embroidery, download your copy today!

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About Ame

Ame Verso is the daughter of legendary cross stitch designer Jo Verso and has been cross stitching since the age of 10. She also sews and crochets and is the face of the SewandSo YouTube channel.