I’ve heard the technique of bead embroidery described as painting with beads, and indeed, a masterful bead artist can blend and stitch those tiny seed beads together into wonderful works of wearable art that resemble the finest paintings in any art gallery.
Bead embroidery designs are probably my favorite way to use up all those handmade ceramic and glass cabochons that I see and bead shows that I just can’t live without. Once you know some basic bead embroidery patterns and techniques, it’s easy to turn these little treasures into one-of-a-kind beaded jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Getting started with bead embroidery? Check out my four “secrets” for success with bead embroidery patterns:
1. Know How to Use a Color Wheel. Understanding the relationship between colors is probably one of the most important skills you need to have to create successful works of beaded embroidery. Just like creating a work of art using paints or colored pens, the colors of your beads mix a little differently in bead embroidery than they do in other types of beaded patterns using off-loom bead-weaving stitches.
2. Beading Thread for Bead Embroidery. Beading thread is a very personal – and important – choice when working bead embroidery designs. Some beaders prefer a stiffer thread like Fireline for their bead embroidery designs, but using a softer nylon thread for the picot trim and beaded fringe can have its advantages, too. Keep in mind the type of beads that you’ll be using for your bead embroidery, and use the thread most appropriate to prevent cuts and lost beads.
3. Bead Embroidery Medium. What you use for your bead embroidery base can mean the difference between having a piece of bead embroidered jewelry for six months or for sixty years. Once upon a time, we bead embroidery lovers were limited to things like just leather, suede, and even cardboard, but these days, there are lots of stiff felt products that come in a wide array of colors for our bead embroidery patterns and designs.
4. What’s Your Needle Angle? Have you seen those amazingly gorgeous, straight-lined pieces of beaded embroidery and wondered how the artist got these tiny beads to line up so perfectly with each other? The answer is most likely the angle at which the needle was inserted into the fabric of beading medium! It takes a little bit of practice, but ensuring that you are inserting your needle straight up and down, and not at a side angle, can make a huge difference in your bead embroidery designs.
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Jennifer VanBenschoten is the online editor for Beading Daily, where she gets to indulge in her lifelong passion for making jewelry with seed beads. She’s easily distracted by tiny, shiny things, and she’s made more beaded jewelry than she could ever wear in an entire lifetime. When she’s not beading, thinking about beading, or talking about beading, she’s either elbow-deep in her gardens, playing with her son, or cooking something fantastic in the kitchen.