Arte Es Vida

The Bead Embroidery Supply List by arteesvida
November 11, 2006, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Bead Embroidery

Bead embroidery is exactly what it sounds like…the process of embroidering a surface using beads!  Bead embroidery is most often used to embellish clothing, but it is also a wonderful technique to use in jewelry.  Beaded cabochons are becoming increasingly popular items not only as pendants, but in earrings and necklaces as well.


Over the next few weeks we will talk about different bead embroidery stitches you can use in your own bead embroidery, but for anyone new to bead embroidery a good supply list is the first place to start!


Background Material:


Chamois is a great background material to bead on.  You can buy it in the auto care section of most discount superstores.  It is strong and pliable and often won’t need a heavier backing behind it when you are done beading.  Ultrasuede is very similar to chamois but can be a little more expensive.  Felt is not a bad option, especially for art dolls and practice pieces.  It is very cheap and easy to work with, and would be ok for pins and pendants if you made a backing for it with cardboard or clay.  One of the cool things about felt is it comes in many different colors so if you want a background color to show through the beading, it is easy to do with felt!  Don’t feel limited to just these materials though…you can bead embroider on just about any woven cloth…I’ve done lots of bead embroidery on denim!


Thread and Thread Conditioner:


The thread that is used for bead embroidery is different from regular sewing thread and can be found with the beading supplies.  Even though it is somewhat more durable than regular thread, it will still fray eventually.  A good thread conditioner (which can be found at most beading and craft stores with the beading thread) will go a long way in preventing frustrating snarls and knots.  Wax can be a decent stop-gap if thread conditioner is not available.  I’ve used a wax candle to condition beading thread on more that one occasion!


Beading Needles:


Beading needles tend to be thinner and longer than regular needles.  The longer beading needles are very flexible, but are more prone to bend and warp.  If you are using them on a heavy duty fabric such as canvas or denim, they can even break if you aren’t careful.  The eyes of the needles are smaller so the small beads can pass over them.  Many beading needle sets come with a threader to help the process since the holes are so small.  Beading needles are sized in accordance with beads.  So theoretically, size 12 beads would correspond to size 12 needles but it doesn’t always work that way…especially with seed beads that can vary quite a bit in their sizing.




You can use just about any kind of bead for bead embroidery.  Bugle beads and different sizes of round beads are the most common.  The smaller seed beads and delicas are a great way to fill in areas and create complex, light-catching designs.  Delicas are more expensive than seed beads but they are also the most evenly sized.  If your design is depedandent on all the beads lying exactly right, delicas are your best option.  You will also know that the delicas will always fit over your needle, which can be an issue with seed beads.  That being said, I use regular seed beads for bead embroidery all the time.  I always have a few that aren’t sized right for my needle and I set them aside for another project; but most of the time they work just fine.


Flat Backed Objects:


Objects such as cabs, buttons, and mirrors make wonderful focal points to bead around.  Anything with a fairly flat back can be incorporated nicely into bead embroidery.  Just make sure you attach it with a jewelry-grade adhesive that is graded for use with fabric such as Jewel Glue or E6000.

 Also, you may want to check out Beaded Embellishment By Amy C. Clarke and Robin Atkins.   It starts with a wonderful history of bead embroidery, covers many basic stitches and techniques, discusses elements of design, and includes several projects to get you started.

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