Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stitching with Beads!!

First, a quick look at progress on the Mindy canvas I'm enhancing with beads. Starting on the Peony, you can see in this shot (click to enlarge) the basketweave stitched in cotton floss on alternate rows on the warp (the "bump" threads). I also apply the beads the same way - inserting them as though stitching basketweave on the weft threads, which are a little "dip" on the canvas. The arrow at the top points to this.

The lower arrow is showing that the dark pink of the veins on the petals is stitched also just on the warp bump - and then the beads inserted where the weft threads are left. This doesn't work out evenly, but still looks great when the other beads are applied around it. It isn't noticeable that beads aren't on every other stitch.

Lately I've received e-mails with questions about the way I do the beading on painted canvas, and am told that many instructors are using a lot of things like beeswax and tapestry needles, etc., and that beading seems slow and tedious, and involves a lot of tools and toys.

My method is totally simple and a lot faster to accomplish than many of the decorative stitches. It's based completely on experience of trial and error over the last 12 years, and mostly just plain common sense. If it were slow, tedious, and difficult, I wouldn't do it. Needlepoint is for relaxation.

So first the needles: I use ONLY the traditional, original long, skinny beading needle. I used to get them at a local craft store, but can't find them any more, so order mine from Bead Buddies (link is on the side bar).

Tapestry needles are short, which makes "snagging" a bead out of the container more difficult than grabbing it with the point of the extremely sharp beading needle. There is also the factor of the tapestry needle having the blunt tip, which makes it difficult to grab a bead. Also, the eye of the tapestry needle is larger than the eye of the beading needle, so some of the beads won't go over it without breaking or forcing it. Not so with the beading needle, which has a tiny little eye.

The Sundance beads that I use exclusively for my work are uniform in size throughout the vial, and I never have to throw one away because it won't fit over the eye of the needle. The "tools and equipment" I use for my bead projects are very elementary and simple, and only involve the needles, the needle threader, a prescription medicine bottle cap, and the beads.

A word about the wire needle threader. This one came with the needles, but I normally use one I get from Colleen's store (link on the side bar to The Needle Works here in Austin). These are available in a little package of two threaders, and they last five times as long as the one pictured. I couldn't find mine, as they are buried in the heap of rubble I call my work table.

Threading the needle is easy with the wire threader, but must be done one ply at a time as illustrated. I learned a very long time ago that the cotton floss is wonderful for applying the beads, as it comes in so many colors, whereas beading thread doesn't.

There is also the factor that I can use the same thread to apply the beads as I used on the background - as this canvas is stitched totally in cotton floss. On other canvases, where I use silk or another fiber, I can still match the color in floss for the application of the beads.

Also, the cotton floss is used 2-ply for this, and with the technique of anchoring the beads by splitting the plies around it, the beads don't wobble and will nestle down nicely into the surface "fabric" of the needlepoint.

I do have a book I did on this subject several years ago - and have now revised a lot and added more projects and color pictures. It's available both as a book and as E-books on my web page. Lots of fun, very easy, and very addictive.


LIZ said...

Excellent tutorial! Makes me want to add beads to something right away. I have ordered your book and can't wait for it to arrive! Thanks!

NCPat said...

Great explanations! Makes perfect sense!

Cyn said...

Hi Judy,

Yep this is what I do mainly because it's how I figured out how to do things over 30 years ago (when I was very young) by learning by trial and error without some of the tools and gimmicks that we now have.

I believe in KISS (Keep it Simple Silly).

I've used all types of small lids to hold the beads as basically I used whatever was available. I also learned that putting a piece of felt down on the table kept the beads from rolling around. :-)

Very basic tools but they worked. Especailly when all I had originally was a 5 and 10 to pick up materials unless we had traveled to the next larger town which did have some more embroidery supplies such as wools and canvas. Yes I learned on penelope canvas and since I started stitching when I was 9 I must have loved it to keep up with it. LOL!

Windy Meadow