How to Embroider with Beads – Everything You Need to Start

Bead embroidery is similar to traditional embroidery and it allows you to create unique and eye-catching pictures to decorate your home or clothing items that will really make you shine. Whether you want to learn how to apply beads to your clothing, or looking for the best beading tips to embroider your first picture, don’t be deterred by the complex-looking patterns. Stick with us! We’re here to help you make your beading dreams come true. But be warned: once you start making gorgeous pieces, you won’t want to stop!

Pictures embroidered with beads will stand out in any interior, and can also become a worthy gift, made with your own hands. But if you are reading this page I suppose you still don’t know where to start with the embroidery process. Do not worry, because in this post we have prepared all the information you need to know from start to finish.

How to Start Beading

Your first project should be simple, with a small number of bead colors and a clear well detailed pattern. 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. Many people who do bead embroidery use patterns that are either ironed or already printed on the fabric. 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.

When choosing what needle to use, the main requirement is that it is able to fit through the hole of the beads. Tiny seed beads require a special, very thin and sharp needle. In the other hand, tube beads or any other beads with a relatively large holes allow the use of a larger needle. Also keep an eye on the angle at which you stitch through your pattern, as it might actually affect how your beads lie within each row of bead embroidery. If you insert your needle at an angle, your beads will either be spaced too far apart or will bunch up against each other and make little bulges in your rows. Try as hard as you can to keep your needle straight with every stitch to keep your rows of seed beads nice and even.

Since the thread undergoes significant tension during the embroidery process, there are 2 types of beading thread mainly used by beaders: nylon/polyester beading thread and transparent monofilament, fishing line type thread. Nylon thread is soft, strong, and will not create large holes in the bead embroidery foundation. The color of the thread is determined by the color of the base fabric, even if the colors of the beads are contrasting. Monofilament threads are also very strong and somewhat stiffer than the nylon threads, but they don’t come in a range of colors like the nylon beading threads. Either type of beading thread will work well for bead embroidery, and it is recommended to start the learning process with the thread no more than 30-40cm long. 

The best part of bead embroidery is that anything goes when it comes to which beads you use. You can use various seed bead shapes, styles, and colors to achieve different results in your bead embroidery. Try fun shapes like bugles for even more texture and dimension in your bead embroidery designs. If there is a bead that you want to use in a embroidery project, with a little trial and error and a little patience, you can use just about any type of bead that you want to and create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of beaded art.

Only if you are using pre-printed patterns, then you do need to stick to the bead sizes and shapes recommended by the manufacturer. As an example, most Ukrainian manufacturers design their patterns for the size 10/0 Preciosa Czech beads. To make sure you can count the amount of beads needed for your chosen design, start by counting the number of cells of each color on the pattern. Each cell of the pattern corresponds to a single bead. One gram of beads of a size 10/0 contains about 80 beads. Also don’t forget that there is plenty of bead organizers and storage containers available on the market to help you manage your work with materials as small as beads.

If possible use natural light by choosing a table next to a sunny window. But depending on where you live, your opportunities for optimum sun exposure can be limited – especially in winter! Magnifying lamps solve this problem by providing evenly distributed bright illumination without any distracting shadows or glare from another source of light and reduce eyestrain when working with tiny beads. 

First Steps in Learning Bead Embroidery Techniques

For a beginner it is always easier to start with a small embroidery kit that contains a printed pattern, beads, needles and threads as well as an information leaflet from the manufacturer with the detailed description of the bead embroidery techniques.

For embroidery of different designs different techniques can be used. One of the most popular bead embroidery techniques is called “half cross” stitch. This technique produces a diagonal stitch on the front side of the fabric and a vertical or a horizontal stitch on the back side. It is extremely important to ensure that the diagonal stitches are always made in the same direction to avoid distorting the pattern. Start by leaving a little knot on the back of your pattern, then bring your needle to the front and secure the thread with a couple of back stitches. It is good to know that experienced beaders sometimes skip the knot part. If you start your stitching in the top left corner coming down to the bottom right corner your beads will face right diagonally. Then you shall keep moving down the row by adding beads to the pattern one by one. Once you have completed the row, turn the pattern upside down and continue with the next row following the same direction as the previous one.

In some bead embroidery patterns where the lines are not straight you can use back stitch concept, making the longer stitches on the back of the fabric and the short stitches with the beads attached on the front. But if you want your stitches to line up better try to do this stitch upside down, so you can straighten your beads by passing the thread through the same bead twice.

On the longer rows, or if you are embroidering in a circular technique, it is possible to use 2-3 beads at a time with your back stitch. In this beading technique each stitch carries more than one bead, and only the last bead is being sewn onto the fabric.

If you feel like you need more detailed information about the stitches used, we do have a separate post dedicated to the most used TYPES OF STITCHES in bead embroidery.

A tidy backing, regardless of the type of embroidery stitches used, is an indicator of lessons learned and the key to a presentable appearance of the finished embroidered pictures.

You have to learn to maintain the same thread tension during the embroidery process. Do not tighten too much, nor leave the stitch too loose. This will prevent distortions and make a big difference in your finished piece. To improve the resistance of the thread and facilitate the embroidery process, natural beeswax can be used.

Many people who are not yet familiar with the practical side of beadwork believe that this type of handicraft is too complicated and laborious work. I am here to tell you it really isn’t and you will quickly realize how pleasurable it is to create the exquisite beauty of beaded embroidery with your own hands.

Pictures embroidered with beads can become not only an original gift for relatives and close friends, but also a very stylish element of decoration.

Materials Needed for Bead Embroidery

Every person that has embroidered before at some point must have faced a situation where in the course of the work one or another element was missing.

Make sure you prepare your workspace and have the correct lighting before you start your embroidery. Here is the list of everything you might need for the process itself:
– pattern printed or drawn on the fabric;
– beading thread;
– beading needle;
– scissors;
– beads;
– bead organizers.

Finishing Your Embroidery

The perfect embroidery piece is not only a beautiful picture made with love, but also with a quality finish.

One of the most popular methods of finishing your picture is applying a “Passe-Partout effect”. This effect allows you to apply a mat or cardboard for mounting and framing your embroideries. The effect creates margins around the pictures and enhances its visual appeal. The Passe-Partout should not contrast with the rest of the picture, but rather emphasize the benefits of it.

For a good finish, the following must be taken into account:
– It is not recommended to combine contrasting colors;
– since “related” tones often merge, it is desirable to “add” different tones between them.

Final thoughts

Many people believe that embroidery with beads is not only a creative process, but also a therapy. This exciting process is suitable for people with great patience, perseverance and have a remarkable imagination.

With the right approach, the beading process is capable of bringing a lot of pleasant emotions to both experienced and novice beaders. If you like cross-stitch, embroidery, or do other types of crafts, do not hesitate to try this new technique and we will help you by providing all the necessary materials, which you can purchase in our online store

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