Your Guide to Bead Embroidery
Bead embroidery is a beautiful technique for making your jewelry projects stand out even more. Often, bead embroidery is done around a focal bead, rhinestone, or button, like the buttons used in the Proud Mary necklace above. The technique involves stitching beads onto a foundation in order to achieve the intricate look. In this guide, we'll tell you what you need to get started with the technique and provide tutorials on some of the basic bead embroidery techniques. You'll also see beautiful jewelry inspiration along the way!
Supplies You'll Need
1. Pick a focal
Bead embroidery often starts with inspiration from a beautiful focal piece. We like to start with hand-painted focal beads, ceramic pendants, Grace Lampwork beads, Czech glass buttons, crystal rhinestones, or even cabochons. You can get really creative with the focal pieces you use in bead embroidery, so pick something that inspires you!
2. Choose a Beading Foundation
Bead embroidery techniques are done on a beading foundation. This is also what you'll use to secure your focal. Typically, the beading foundation is a stiff felt-like material. We offer Bead Backing from The BeadSmith in black and white colors and various sizes, depending on what kind of bead embroidery project your planning. You can also use materials like felt and suede. Once you have your bead backing, you can glue your focal onto the backing. We like to use adhesives like 5-minute epoxy or Gem-Tac.
3. Select Your Seed Beads
To achieve the actual bead embroidery techniques, you will need seed beads. You can use various seed bead shapes, styles, and colors to achieve different results in your bead embroidery. Try fun shapes like bugles for even more texture and dimension in your bead embroidery designs. You can even use other small beads like Czech glass fire-polished beads, dagger beads, and more.
4. Stock Up on Beading Needles and Thread
In addition to seed beads, you will also need beading needles and thread to do bead embroidery techniques. We offer a wide variety of needles and threads to match your needs. You can read about choosing the right needles for your projects here. We like to use long beading needles in size 12 or 13. Tulip also makes needles specifically for bead embroidery in size 10 and 11. Choose a beading thread that closely matches the color palette you'll be working with.
Bead Embroidery Techniques
1. Two-Seed-Bead Backstitch
One of the most basic bead embroidery techniques is the two-seed-bead backstitch. This technique stitches two seed beads at a time onto the bead backing and can create a frame around focals or can be used to make curving lines and shapes with beads. Once you learn this technique, you can do lots of amazing things in your bead embroidery projects. Learn this technique with our step-by-step photo tutorial. We also have a video for this technique:
2. Peyote Stitch Bezel
You can build on the two-seed-bead backstitch with a peyote bezel around your cabochon or focal. This technique builds up on the backstitch, creating a beautiful frame for your focal piece. You can learn how to do this technique with our step-by-step photo tutorial. We also have a video for this technique:
3. Brick Stitch Edge
Once you've created as many rows of two-seed-bead backstitch as you like around your focal, you're going to want to cut your bead backing down to size around your rows of seed beads. But how do you make those cut edges look neat and finished? This is where brick stitch edge comes into play. The basic brick stitch edge or Sunshine edge is a beautiful way to finish a bead embroidery piece. Also known as the raw edge or basic edge, this technique uses the base stitch for the brick stitch pattern. You can learn this technique for yourself with our step-by-step photo tutorial. We also have a video for this technique:
4. Beaded Bail on Brick Stitch Edge
You've completed your bead embroidery focal! Now, how do you attach it to your necklace? One technique for that is making a beaded bail on the brick stitch edge you've just created. By adding seed bead loops to the top of your focal, you can make it easy to string your piece onto a beaded strand, silk ribbon, chain, and more. Learn this technique with our step-by-step photo tutorial. We also have a video for this technique:
5. Embellishment Stitches
Now that you're hooked on bead embroidery, you're probably wondering how you can make your projects even more elaborate. We have tutorials for beautiful embellishment stitches that can be used with bead embroidery in wonderful ways. Try your hand at the picot edge for scalloped beaded details. Seed bead fringe can add length and movement to your bead embroidery focals. The coraling technique is a seed bead fringe variation that adds even more texture and fun. We also have a video for this technique:
More Bead Embroidery Videos
Bead Embroidery Inspiration
Now that you've learned what supplies you need and the basic techniques for bead embroidery, get inspired by our Design Studio! We have lots of bead embroidery projects to get you started, so take a look: