Bead Embroidery, Beaded Fabric, Beaded Quilts, Beading Techniques

Nancy Eha – bead embroidery artist, beaded fabric quilter, beading technique expert, and all around amazing talent. Yes. I’m in awe of all she can do. And all she continues to share with us.

photo at right: beaded quilt by Nancy Eha

Nancy’s next workshop, Japanese Scroll with Beaded Dragonfly and Beaded Sashiko explores bead embroidery like you’ve never seen before. She combines her passion for quilting with beads then adds in the art of Sashiko. For more on this art form and Nancy’s course, see “Learn Bead Embroidery and Sashiko from a Master Artist:”

beaded dragonfly, beading on fabric,, by Nancy Eha

Beaded Dragonfly detail, by Nancy Eha

Nancy continues to inspire and offer us her talents with beading techniques. Here she offers us this beading tutorial to get us ready for her next course.

What You Need to Know to Begin Beading on Fabric
By Nancy Eha,

Have you been longing to bead on fabric, but unsure how to begin? I have been asked many questions from beaders who want to make a transition to beading on fabric. Here are the top three fabric beading FAQs that I’m asked.

Q: Do you use a hoop to bead?

A: I don’t use a hoop; with practice, I know the correct thread tension needed for beading on fabric. And I don’t make long thread stitches on the back of the fabric, which decreases the chance of the fabric puckering. You can use a hoop for spot beading, but remember beaded fabric will not fit between the two hoop sections.
Hoop and beaded fabric, by Nancy Eha

Q: Do I need to prepare the fabric so the weight of the beads or the beading stitches do not cause the fabric to stretch or pucker?

A: Lightweight fabrics that shift grain when tugged on, such as silks, knits, and t-shirt fabrics that stretch need to be stabilized on the back side of the fabric before beading. I use a light tricot stabilizer for clothing made of silk and sheer knits, which I want to retain the ability to drape the body and not become stiff.

what the beading looks like on fabric.

I use a heavier cut away stabilizer, for heavily beaded areas. This stabilizer is removed from around the beading by cutting off the excess. Use this stabilizer with caution, it will stay rigid and does not drape over the body. The stabilizers can be found on bolts in fabric departments in large craft stores and will have directions for use.

A good fabric beading project to begin with is a wall hanging, or as it is sometimes called an art quilt. The goal is to have it lay flat to hang and so you don’t need to worry about draping the body. To stabilize a wall hanging and hide my beading thread stitches from the back of the wall hanging, I use flannel (pre wash)or light weight cotton quilt batting as the stabilizer. I baste the stabilizer to the back side of the fabric and then I bead through the fabric and the flannel/batting layer.
beading through the fabric and batting layer, by Nancy Eha

When I am through beading I put on the backing and all the thread knots and stitches are hidden between the batting layer and the backing! You can also use the same technique for any project that that you will be adding a lining such as a purse, tote bag, or lined clothing.

Q: Can I wash or dry clean my fabric based beading project?

A: Not all bead colors are colorfast, they lose their color when they are washed or dry cleaned. The reason is not every color can be made in glass and so to achieve certain colors the beads are dyed. This includes some reds, fuchsia, hot pink, blue purple and color lined beads. Because glass is not porous to absorb the dye, the dye is a surface coating. And when these beads get wet, the surface coating will come off.
dyed bead colors
Where you purchased your beads or how much you paid doesn’t assure the colors are permanent. Many of the exotic and costly bead colors are achieved through the “dye” process.

I test all my beads before I start beading if I think the project will ever come in contact with liquid or need to be cleaned. I use a soup bowl with an inch of water in it. Take a few beads of every bead you might use in your project and let them sit in water overnight. If the color changes or comes off, you know not to use that color of bead.

testing beads for possible dye and color loss
Beaded scroll by Nancy Eha
Are you ready to take the next step and learn a variety of fabric beading stitches?

Nancy’s fun five-lesson course Japanese Scroll with Beaded Dragonfly and Beaded Sashiko starts June 13th. You will create a fabric-based scroll with a three- dimensional dragonfly, then learn how to make traditional sashiko stitching with bugle beads. Post your progress photos and join in the question and discussion area with your fellow students. What a great way to welcome summer and the gardening season! Enroll now!

There’s also an optional course kit available to make sure you have the right supplies and beads for success. I know you’ll enjoy this time with Nancy as well as adding these techniques to your bead embroidery repertoire.

Happy Beading!


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