Bead embroidery is a nice way to add extra dimension and detail for embellishment of cloth. Beads, buttons, or charms can be part of the finishing process and added on top of stitching at the end, or they can be integrated beadwork as the design is stitched to create a bead tapestry.
If you are integrating beads as you work on a charted design, it is best to match the bead to the fabric or canvas count. Use size 11 seed beads on 14 count aida and canvas. Use smaller size 15 seed beads on 11 count. Beads larger than the count size must be carefully spaced on alternating stitches or even farther apart.
Use needles that fit the beads. It's best to check that a bead passes over a needle before you thread it to stitch -- Trust me, I learned the hard way!
Work the first half of the cross stitch X. Add a bead to the thread and complete the second half of the X. Or you can do the half cross stitch and apply a bead on the first stroke. As always, be careful to consistently go in the same direction.
On canvas, use the half cross stitch or tent stitch for bead embroidery. Apply one bead per stitch if they are sized properly. Large beads or charms need to be carefully spaced to avoid crowding.
Using beads that are the proper size for the fabric count or slightly smaller, work the backstitch and apply one bead with every stitch. Be careful to keep the tension even. A line can also be created by couching a string of beads. Couching means securing by looping over with a fine thread. This technique is often used to attach thick cords to the surface of a fabric. See an illustrated example of couching under crewel stitches.
Shepherd's Bush is known for using bead embroidery to embellish their designs. You can buy a prepackaged charm pack that includes various charms, beads, and buttons. They are designed to be used with the Christmas stocking patterns, but you could use them to embellish anything.
If you are adding beaded embroidery embellishments on a toy or blanket for a small child, please remember that beads and buttons are a choking hazard. Take a look at the crewel embroidery stitches you can use to safely decorate items for babies.
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You might want to also take a look at my other website about Yarn Methods which covers other fiber arts.