Add Texture with Beading: Tips from a Pro

blue beaded boxcate pratoIf you want to add texture and interest to a cuff, a collar, or an accessory, one of the quickest ways is to add embellishments like beading or embroidery.

Fiber artist Larkin Jean Van Horn is a master of adding texture with embellishment.

"Whether the texture is an optical illusion or something tactile that makes your fingers itch to touch it, texture is what draws me to working with fabric, fibers and beads," she says.

If you haven't practiced with beading and embroidery much or you have, but are looking for ways to experiment with it before adding it to your own creations, Larkin offers a terrific tutorial on how to make little treasure boxes, or reliquaries, as a form for trying out all your ideas and techniques in the new interactive eMag Quilting Arts in Stitches, Vol. 5.

The boxes make wonderful stitched treasures in and of themselves to give as gifts. Once you've created them, you can take your newfound skills and apply them to beading bags, cuffs, etc.

yellow beaded boxHere are some of Larkin's tips to keep in mind for better beading.

  • Use a good quality nylon beading thread rather than your hand or machine threads. It will hold up better to any little burrs in the bead holes that could wear on the thread and cause breakage. I always use doubled thread when sewing beads onto fabric.
  • You'll want a beading needle (size 10, 11 or 12) to go through small beads. The short beading needles are sturdier than the long ones, and will be easier to sew through Timtex or other stabilizer.
  • Tension is important. You don't want a lot of loose threads or loose strands.
  • A few basic stitches will go a long way: backstitch, seed stitch, stacks, and fringe are a good place to start. As you get more comfortable with beading, there are many other stitches to explore.
  • Remember to stop beading approximately 1/4" from the edge (or more, depending on your project's seam allowances) so you can stitch the edges together. You don't want to hit a bead with your machine needle.

Larkin demonstrates her techniques, explains stitches, and offers more advice in her piece "It's All About Texture" on In Stitches Vol. 5, now available for download to your PC or Mac, or for your iPad via iTunes.

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One thought on “Add Texture with Beading: Tips from a Pro

  1. I suggest that you DO use sewing thread to bead on wearables, except maybe for leather, denim or canvas.
    Nylon beading thread is stronger than cloth– snagging a bead on something and having it pulled, can result in a rip in the fabric. Sewing thread will snap– you’ll need to re-sew the beads, but that is easier than repairing a rip, THEN re-sewing the beads.
    You can make the thread a bit stronger by waxing it, although that will wash out eventually. Backing with interfacing or another layer of cloth, and sewing through both layers also can help avoid rips.