A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Simple Embellishment--Beading (Supplies/Seed Stitch)

This month I’d like to concentrate on simple embellishments. I love hand embroidery, beading, buttons—anything that adds texture and interest to a piece.  During the month, I’ll be showing you a few simple embellishments I like to use. I’ll begin with beading. If you'd like to try some of these embellishments, you may want to make a small quilted sandwich to practice on OR you may want to get out a quilted piece that is just calling for some beading and embroidery.

I also have some EXCITING news. I will be announcing giveaways during the first week of January--yes, I said "giveaways" plural! You will have to come back to check out subsequent posts during the week to see what great giveaways will be available, though, so...stay tuned. 

Embellishment can REALLY change how a piece looks. This is what my "extreme texture" piece (that I did following Judith's November tutorial) looked like before embellishing.
This is what it looks like after I finished embellishing it.

 Beading Tools/Supplies
I’m listing supplies that I like to use. These are my OWN personal preferences. You will need to find the tools and supplies that work for you.

Thread--I like to use “Crystal Fine 6lb/Size D 0.008” avg. dia.” Beadsmith Berkley FireLine® braided bead thread for most beading jobs. For really dark beads, I use a smoke colored FireLine®. I get my FireLine® thread from Red Panda Beads (really good on-line store; not affiliated, just a happy customer), but you can also get it from Amazon and EBay. (FYI...Red Panda Beads has great beads too. It is my "go-to" on-line bead store.)
Scissors—You don’t want to cut FireLine® with your good scissors. It will dull the scissors and can cause some serious damage. I use a pair of Fiskars 5" Blunt Tip Softgrip Student Scissors (which are very reasonably priced and which are easy to get), but you can get scissors from Berkley made specifically for this purpose. (http://www.anglersworldonline.com/servlet/the-87/Berkley-Fireline-Scissors/Detail)
Needles--Since I’m generally using beads on fabric (and sewing through a stabilizer or batting of some sort), I like to use a needle that isn’t quite as thin and long as a usual beading needle. I usually use Beadsmith Sharps, Size 10 needles. The size needle you use really depends on whether the needle will fit through the hole in the beads you are using and whether it is strong enough not to bend when you sew through your quilt. The Size 10 Sharp fits most of the beads I use, and I haven’t had trouble with it bending when adding beading to a quilt. I also use the John James beading needles and these #9 Patchwork Clover needles for some pieces.
Other tools—One of my favorite tools is this triangular bead tray. I got mine from Etsy. They are VERY inexpensive and are FABULOUS for scooping up beads and pouring them back into their container.
I use Post-It Notes to corral my beads while I’m working. I got this ingenious idea from Tom Russell who was featured in Episode 1101 – Dress Your Quilts with Buttons and Beads on The Quilt Show. The beads stick to the sticky part of the Post-It Note and aren't as likely to roll off your work space.
I use a piece of Vellux (the red background in the pictures is Vellux) that I cut from an old Vellux blanket to pour my beads onto when I first start to bead. (It keeps them from rolling all over the place.) I also put my Post-It Note of beads on the Vellux when I'm beading just in case a bead comes loose from the Post-It. If you don't have an old blanket to cut a piece of Vellux from, you can buy Vellux beading mats. Here is one place you can find them. http://schoolofbeadwork.com/beadingmatvellux11x14.aspx

I like to have a piece of shelf liner on hand to help me pull the needle through the quilt if that becomes difficult. I’m sure there are fancier things to use, but this works for me.
I got these tweezers as a gift. (They are pretty cool, huh!) I use them to place beads onto the fabric when I'm deciding where to actually sew them down. (I usually audition bead placement before sewing.)
Now I have to give you a warning here…beads ARE ADDICTIVE! If you have a fabric stash, you know the concept. It is really hard to resist beautiful beads. It is also really nice to have the beads you might need on hand. I don’t have a bead store close by, so it is important for me to have a stash on hand. (At least that’s what I tell myself!)

Beads—As I’ve said, I collect beads. I use all types of beads, but the most common beads I use are seed beads and bugle beads. Seed beads come in various sizes, but I ogenerally use size 10, 11, 12, and 14. (the higher the number, the smaller the bead) Size 11 is the most commonly used seed bead for me. 
Bugle beads are long tubular beads. They come in different lengths. I ALWAYS use a seed bead on either end of a bugle bead, because the edges of the bugle bead are sharp and can easily cut the beading thread. 
Sequins—There are all kinds and sizes of sequins that may be used to embellish quilts (and other things). I like to use sequins in combination with beads.
Beading books—I have a couple of beading books that I refer to all the time. I like Beading on Fabric by Larkin Jean Van Horn and Bead Creative Art Quilts by Nancy Eha. I really like the layout of both books and appreciate the clear instructions and pictures. I would recommend these books, because I think it is important to find a beading book to use as a source of information. I’ll only be showing you a few beading applications. I’m thinking you will want to do more of it and will need a reference.

Beading video—It is easier for me to learn to do something if I actually see it done. For that, I ordered the DVD Bead It Like You Mean It by Lyric Kinard. Lyric does a great job of demonstrating most everything you’d need to know about beading on fabric.

I bead my fiber pieces AFTER they are quilted. I have layered a quilt top with the batting and have done the beading on that adding a fused back later. I have also TOTALLY finished a quilt (top, batting, backing, and facing/binding) and have done beading on that.  I do it this way because IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO QUILT AROUND BEADS. (Ask me how I know!) Again, I’m just letting you know what works best for me. You will need to experiment to find out what works best for you.

Seed Stitch/Single Bead Stitch/Running Stitch
The seed stitch is a "scattering" of beads across a portion of the fabric. It can be used to add texture and is nice to use as a filler that leaves some of the background visible.

I used the seed stitch on the two quilts I will have in the exhibit “The View from Here: Quilts of the Ohio River Valley. SAQA members from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio” which will be displayed during the International Quilt Festival in Cincinnati April 12-14, 2013. The seed stitch on these quilts gave just enough shine to represent sparkling snow.
(If you click on the pictures you can get a little closer look. The beads on these two quilts are white, so they are a bit hard to see.)

I also used it on the piece I did for the Fire blog when Judith presented Extreme Texture. The seed beads are the red/pink designs you see. The green design is made using embroidery floss and making a French knot (which I’ll cover later).
When you are adding seed beads using the seed stitch/single bead stitch/running stitch, it is important to keep your needle vertical to the fabric—not at an angle—when making these stitches (and all beading stitches I can think of). Tie a knot in the end of your thread.  Depending on how you choose to bead (top and batting only or finished quilt) either start from the back with the knot lying against the batting or start by burying the knot in between the layers of your finished quilt. Bring your needle to the top of the quilt where you have decided to place your first bead. Add a seed bead to your needle, and go back down into the fabric leaving enough space for the bead between where you brought the needle up and put the needle back down. Do not take the needle back down in the same hole you came out. Your goal, here, is for there to be enough room for the tension to be enough for the seed bead to stand up straight.
Continue this process until you have covered the desired area with seed beads. Do not “travel” more than an inch from one bead to the next without knotting the thread and starting anew. That can cause the fabric to pucker. When knotting the thread on a finished quilt, you must bury the knot between the layers of the quilt. If I am working with a quilt top and batting only (not a finished quilt), I like to take a few securing stitches (I just stitch in place four or five times into the batting making sure not to go through to the top of the quilt.) every one or two seed beads to secure the beads. That way, if one should come off, they ALL won’t come off.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to add bugle beads.


  1. Our brains must be twins when it comes to beading! It's how I do it, the book and DVD I recommend, needles, thread...glad to see it on this blog. One other tip--I get my Fireline at a nearby Cabela's sporting goods store--slightly cheaper! I'm sure Bass Pro would be the same if that's what's in your area. Or any store that carries fish line...

  2. Beading on fabric has been my passion for well over 20 years, having written several books and a DVD on the subject, I'm delighted that interest in this subject continues to grow.

    I thought I'd jump in with a comment about beading thread. Although Fireline behaves fairly nicely during the stitching process, I prefer Nymo, size D instead. I worry that any thread which dulls scissors when it's cut, may be too harsh on fabric over time. Additionally, with Nymo, knots remain small and hold well.

    Mary Stori
    web: www.marystori.com
    Blog: www.marystori.blogspot.com
    NEW SHOP BLOG: www.marystorishop.blogspot.com
    Author: "Beading Basics", "All-in-One Beading Buddy", DVD - "Mary Stori Teaches You Beading on Fabric", and "Embellishing With Felted Wool"
    2004 Professional Teacher of the Year

  3. Just a quick post to let you know my blogroll frequently changes but And Then We Set It On Fire stays through all the editing. Thanks Happy new year.

  4. What a great start to the New Year. By far you guys are one of my top ten blogs I visit.
    I appreciate all the encouragement and info the "and then we set it on fire" people so freely give.
    I have always liked hand work and look forward to this month.

  5. Larkin Jean Van HornJanuary 1, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Great post, Beth. Like Mary, I've been beading on fabric a very long time (since 1972). Just another thought about thread: There are plenty of brands out there (Nymo, Silamide, K-O, S-Lon, C-Lon, One-G, etc.). What that provides is a wide range of colors to choose from. I prefer to match, as closely as possible, the color of the beads I am using, so I use whatever brand provides me with that. Fireline is very useful for construction of 3-D quilted objects like boxes and vessels and beaded dolls. It is also your best friend if you are working with crystals, whether Swarovski or Chinese, as the edges are sharp enough to cut regular thread - even beading thread. For that, I use 6 lb. test, doubled, for security.


  6. Serendipity! I have been thinking of a 365 daily project, and have settled on doing something with beads. Imagine my surprise to open this link just after completing today's bead.
    At the moment I am making fabric beads round a knitting needle and then embellished with seed beeds.
    Besides Larkin's book, I have Bead Embroidery by Val Campbell Harding and Pamela Watts.
    Sandy in the UK

  7. I am so excited to see these instructions. I have never beaded except to add a couple of single seed beads to an art quilt or two. I'm a total novice!! BUT...the timing is perfect for me as I have an art quilt planned that will NEED some beading to accomplish the effect I'm going for. So...THANKS!! I'm really looking forward to learning and applying all this great knowledge!!

  8. Mmmm! This looks like fun. And I've been making jewelry for over 20 years so I have LOTS of beads to choose from.

  9. I have a few ;-) boxes of beads. I have been using them for postcards, haven't had the guts to expand to larger pieces with the beading. One day I'll expand my horizons and venture into beading large art pieces.
    Nancy B.

  10. This is great information, I am preparing my quilt for the next round: beading! I stay tuned...


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