Add Meaningful Words and Symbols to Your Bead Embroidery

Nancy Eha is back, and this time she is teaching how to bead embroider in the form of words.

Nancy and I sat down for a little bit, and talked about her latest bead embroidery course and the path that led her to this art form. I couldn’t wait to learn more about this part of her work and to then share it with you. Here is an excerpt:

BeadingDaily (BD) – Nancy, it’s a pleasure to have some time with you. Can you share a little insight on how you keep growing and expanding your bead embroidery work and how you keep things fresh?
Nancy Eha (NE) – I have been exploring with beads and fabric for over 25 years, spending 100s of hours asking “What if?” questions. As a result of this creative exploration, I have developed new beading techniques. Most of what I teach in my beading courses and through my books is my original beading stitches and techniques, which go far beyond the very few, traditional bead embroidery stitches.

BD – What inspired or led you to begin adding text to your designs?
NE – Adding beaded text to my work began in 1989 when I was experimenting with changing embroidery stitches into beading patterns. I called the technique I was creating “Crazy Beading” because it was beading, inspired by the opulent embroidery on crazy quilts. After I had fine-tuned “Crazy Beading” to the point I was ready to teach it to others, I finished my first beaded crazy quilt, “All Things Old Are New Again.”

I wanted to sign this “obsessively” beaded crazy quilt with my signature on a front corner, as artists do, but I wanted to do it in beads. I signed my name on tissue paper, pinned this in place, then, using tiny size 14 Japanese seed beads and the backstitch, signed my name following my pattern.

BD – How did things progress from here?
NE – At such a small scale and using size 14 seed beads, some letters in my signature were still filled in by the beads.

1st beaded signature

From this, I learned the scale of the letters would need to be larger. And although I liked my signature in beads, I realized the height of my letters varied and repeated letters, like the letter “a,” were not uniform in shape. These discrepancies were fine for a signature, because that is how I sign my name, but I knew I would want a cleaner, more uniform look. So, back to experimentation!


BD – What inspires you to continue beading, experimenting, and teaching?
NE – Seeing my students’ beading projects, created from what the courses inspired them to make, means the world to me! Even more gratifying, is the confidence level students attain, and the joy it brings into their lives.

Nancy, thank you for taking the time to share this little behind-the-scenes with us. I look forward to seeing all the work created in your “Beaded Text Embroidery” workshop and thank you and your students in advance for keeping us posted!

Please be sure to leave a note in the comments as you go through Nancy’s course.

Happy beading!


Featured Image: Bead embroidered quilt, “All Things Old Are New Again,” by Nancy Eha

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