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What Is Bead Embroidery?

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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Bead embroidery is the technique of making designs on fabric using beads instead of, or in addition to, embroidery thread. The beads are attached with either a tough beading thread or several strands of standard embroidery thread. A variety of knots and stitches, usually those that are also used in traditional embroidery, are used to hold the beads in place. Beaded designs have a lot of appeal because they are three-dimensional and the beads provide a rich, varied texture that can’t be obtained with conventional embroidery.

Any fabric can be used for bead embroidery. Backing will often need to be applied to provide adequate support for the weight of the beads. The fabric should be placed in an embroidery hoop or similar device that can hold, but not stretch, the material. For a stand-alone design, such as a bracelet or a necklace, use very heavy material such as leather or suede as backing; a lighter backing will work for other material. The completed design is either created directly on the desired article or cut out and worn alone or stitched to another item.

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When choosing what needle to use, the main requirement is that it is able to fit through the hole on the beads. Tiny seed beads require a small, sharp needle, while tube beads, pony beads and other beads with a relatively large hole allow the use of a much larger needle. It is always possible to use multiple needles to accommodate work with various sizes of beads.

Many people who do bead embroidery use patterns that are either ironed or drawn on the fabric. Iron-on patterns can be purchased from craft or fabric stores. They don’t have to be specifically intended for bead embroidery, because any design meant to be applied to fabric will work. Patterns can also be drawn freehand on the fabric with a pencil or disappearing marker. The main purpose is to give the beader a guide for the project.

Virtually any kind of beads can be used for bead embroidery. When working with beads, different sizes, colors and styles are used to create different effects. Faceted beads give a geometric look while tube beads fill in shapes or outline areas of the pattern. Smaller, round beads are often attached in groups of three or four and are used to create spirals, circles and other free-flowing designs. It ultimately is an artistic decision made by the beader as to what kinds and colors of beads to use.

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SarahSon
Post 3

@Mykol - Bead embroidery can really be a lot of fun. There is no end to the creative things you can do with beads.

If this is something you are interested in doing, I would suggest seeing if you could take a class somewhere first. I found this to be invaluable for me when I first learned how to create things with beads.

I went to a class at a local craft store, but some adult education programs will also offer them. This will give you an idea of what you need to get started.

There are many wholesale online companies where you can buy beads from. I have ordered from a company called Fire Mountain, and they

also sent me a free catalog which is great for looking through.

You can order just about every kind of bead you can imagine from glass beads, to seed beads and everything in between.

I started out using patterns for most of my beginning bead embroidery projects. Now, I feel confident enough that I design a lot of my own patterns.

Mykol
Post 2

Where is the best place to buy bead supplies to use for bead embroidery? This is something I would love to learn how to do, but don't know much about it.

I ran across an online bead embroidery tutorial, and was immediately interested in the unique items you can make with beads.

There are so many different kinds of beads to choose from and I think I should be able to find them cheaper than at the local craft stores.

A couple local stores have a large selection of beads, but I would like to find a place that has better pricing and even more items to choose from.

myharley
Post 1

Some of the most exquisite bead embroidery I have ever seen is made by a lady in Colorado. My family goes camping and hiking every year here, and there is a shop close by that carries many of her items.

She uses all different kinds of bead embroidery stitches and beads and combines them with pieces of stone and metal objects. These are some of the most beautiful and elaborate jewelry pieces I have ever seen.

Every year I treat myself to one new piece, and always get compliments when I wear pieces of her bead embroidery. I will usually buy a necklace or bracelet, but she also makes decorative collars.

She has a beaded center to

the collar and then attaches elaborate beads around the collar. These are all one of a kind pieces of jewelry.

I don't have any idea how much time it takes her to complete each one, but know that a lot of time and effort goes in to all of her jewelry.

I wouldn't have the patience to work with beads like this, but enjoy the finished work of someone who does.

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