Simply put, bead embroidery is using thread and needle to stitch beads to cloth. The bead embroidery we see around our office is anything but simple, though, and goes way beyond stitching beads to cloth. Take, for example, the most recent project by Kim Leahy, in Beadwork December 2020/January 2021.
ABOVE: Your Majesty, Leslie Venturoso; Beadwork October/November 2020
The techniques in Kim’s Rain Goddess Necklace are the same you’d find in a “basic” bead embroidery design but WOW! The components, layers, and colors make this design totally rock! And the other bead weaving elements are what give the project its intermediate+ rating.
Kim’s bead embroidery skills really sing in ways that delight me, to no end. There is diversity in components and beads yet a beautiful palette and a consistency that really works in delivering a bold and beautiful design. Add to that, the use of a handmade bail that coordinates with the design, a complementary beaded toggle, and sweet beaded bezel drop complete with Swarovski crystal rivoli—I’m in love. All the elements are approachable and explained and illustrated so well, you’ll want to give this one a try!
Leslie Venturoso is another artist who combines bead weaving elements with bead embroidery. Her most recent design, Your Majesty, in Beadwork October/November 2020 is a stunner! The large Swarovski crystal focal and cupchain might have something to do with the WOW! factor, but the craftsmanship and design really stand out!
Just because the bead embroidery designs our contributors share are beyond simple and basic, they are all based on the same basic stitches: back stitch, beaded bezels (around a focal component), and an edging detail, like picot. Once you have these few skills mastered, you’ll find yourself running full speed along your own path. Sherry Serafini’s shibori cuff in process, shown above, is a great example of this thought—the elements make it interesting, but it’s done with the same basic stiches — following Sherri’s expert tips might also help.
Speaking of Sherri, she is a celebrated Designer of the Year and her Best of Beadwork: 8 Projects eBook is a top pick. Sherry also has a bevy of bead embroidery workshops available that take you through many of her techniques, including working with found objects, edgings, and fringe.
If you’re new to bead embroidery, consider dipping your toes into the online workshop, Learn How to Bead Embroider with Seed Beads from the Getting Started Bead Weaving Series, as a place to start. With all that’s covered in the course, you’ll have the back stitch and other techniques mastered in no time!
Bead Embroidery Favorites
If you’re hooked and looking for more, Beadwork Technical Editor Meredith shares this about bead embroidery and her favorites:
“With the introduction of new material like shaped beads, shibori ribbon, and more, there’s always more to explore when it comes to bead embroidery. In Kinga Nichols’ Creative Bead Embroidery 1 and 2 videos, she takes you through the entire process of working with shaped beads, fine fabrics, and precut foundations, then teaches you how to ‘bead without boundaries’ to make your piece truly special. Choose one of the many downloads by Sherry Serafini, like Bead Embroidery: Four Great Lessons Bundle, and be carried away on a magnificent journey through the art and talents of Kinga Nichols.”
No matter where you are in your bead embroidery journey, there is something here to get you to the next step. Plus, plenty of inspiration will get you into your own designing groove. Enjoy the learning and enjoy the exploration!
Director of Content, Interweave