Bead Embroidery with Found Objects: Tips from Kelly Angeley

Metropolitan Glide by Kelly AngeleyI love using found objects such as game pieces, coins, buttons, and dollhouse miniatures in my jewelry.  It's fun to give old objects a new life.  Lately, I've been thinking about making a bead embroidered pendant using a found object instead of a purchased cabochon, my normal go-to item for bead embroidery.  I've stocked up on bead backing, glue, thread, and seed beads, but I'm still hesitating.  What type of object would work best?  Are some objects easier to use than others?  What kind of pitfalls should I watch out for when choosing my object?

To figure out what might work best, I gathered up a few possible objects and asked Kelly Angeley, beading instructor and author of Explorations in Beadweaving, for some expert tips and advice.  Kelly's used all types of unusual objects in her jewelry, including porcelain kitchen faucet knobs.  (Pictured here is her Metropolitan Glide necklace which features a piece of glass cut from a vintage cocktail shaker.) 

Here are my found objects and Kelly Angeley's advice on using them in bead embroidery:


Of all the objects, the penny will be the easiest to work with because of its round shape.  One round of backstitch around the penny using size 11 or size 15 seed beads should do the trick. If you use size 15 beads, you could even bezel set the coin by completing one row of backstitch and then building off that row using several rows of circular peyote stitch.

Bottle Cap

The bottle cap will also be relatively easy to use for bead embroidery, as it is also round. I have bead embroidered around a number of bottle caps using peyote stitch to bezel set the cap. I typically start with size 11 beads and finish the last several rows using size 15 seed beads to snug it up.

Candy Tin

I like the idea of using the Altoids container, however there are several things to consider before beading it. First off, do you want it to have the ability to open? If so, you will need to make sure not to bead around the lip, where the container closes. In that case, since it will not be bezel set, the main force adhering it to the surface of choice will be glue, not beads. There is a chance it may fall off in time, especially since the tin does have a bit of weight. You could, however, bezel set it by completing one row of backstitch and then building off that row using peyote stitch to secure it. That would be my choice.


The shells are lovely, but may prove to be a bit challenging. The smallest, flattest, and roundest shell should not be too difficult to work around. However, the scalloped edges on the smallest shell will be a bit tricky. The height and uneven surface of the largest shell may also present a challenge. You might need to create some type of a peyote-stitched “bridge” across the surface of the shell as an extra security measure to hold it in place.


The key and dog button will be the most challenging objects to work with, simply because of their irregular shapes. It will be tricky beading in between all the little “nooks and crannies” in the cutouts. You will probably need to use couching in addition to backstitching when you reach corners and turns.


Cutting the shank off the button will be helpful as it will flatten the surface, making it easier to glue down before beading.

Thanks, Kelly! I was so concerned about finding items that were relatively flat and small that I hadn't given their shapes much thought. I'm now leaning towards using a coin for this project. See more of Kelly's work (including some jewelry kits with bottle caps) in her Etsy shop

Readers, what's the most unusual item you've used in your beadwork?  Please share!

Michelle Mach
Contributing Editor, Beadwork

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