Try Something New: Combine Beads and Art Quilting

Many of us on Beading Daily have a creative history that includes fabric and fiber arts. Here to tempt us to bring fabric and beadwork together is Pokey Bolton, Editorial Director for Quilting Arts, with some enticing examples of beaded art fabrics. Please welcome her!–LR, Editor, Beading Daily

Although I am a quilt artist at heart, the sheer size of my beading stash rivals that of my fabrics. If you see me at a quilt show hunched over a heavy shopping tote, it most likely isn’t weighed down by fat quarters specialty fabrics, but rather by every kind of bead possible: seeds and bugles, lampwork, wood, ceramic, Czech, pressed glass, Chevrons…you name it, I’ll buy it. (Beading vendors love me!) In my mind, anything I can drill a hole into or tack down with thread is fair game for an art quilt. After all, there’s nothing better than a quilt encrusted with lots and lots of embellishments.

Have you wanted to try your hand at combining beading with art quilting? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 Beaded ATC  

Start Small

Make a beaded fabric postcard or fabric Artist Trading Card (ATC). Begin by making a  small quilt sandwich (backing fabric, batting, top fabric), draw an abstract design on the top fabric with a pen, and stitch down seed and bugle beads over the lines using the beaded back stitch.

(Beaded ATC by Nancy Eha)

Meaning of Life

Make a Small Beaded Collage

Make a quilt sandwich and audition a variety of beads in colors that are analogous or complementary to the fabric. Stitch them to your quilt top using a simple tack or stop stitch.

(Deana Hartman’s piece, “Meaning of Life, Part 1")

Busby Landscape  

Paint & Bead a Landscape

Paint a quilt top with a landscape design and embellish the flora and fauna with beads to represent flower buds, leaves, grasses, etc.

(Betty Busby's quilt “Spring is Sprung”)


Upcycle! Feature Found Objects in Art Quilts

Estate sale finds aren’t just for mixed-media jewelry—they are fair game for art quilts, too. Mary Hettmansperger encouraged me to see the beauty in old forks, bits of wood, rusty bottle caps, and even corn pads for quilt embellishments. Drill holes into your found objects, then tack them down with thread to a fabric-collaged base.

(Detail of collaged fabric panel by Mary Hettmansperger)

Holiday Alford Quilt Page

• Be Outrageous!

Let the beads act as your fabrics and completely encrust a quilt top to feature a variety of children’s toys, found objects, and 25-cent finds as Frances Holliday Alford has done here in “A Page from My Journal.”


These are just a few inspiring examples for how you can use some of your bead stash to make fabric art. For more tips, check out Quilting Arts Magazine® where we love to feature embellishment techniques, explore surface design processes, feature hand- and machine-stitch tips and tutorials, profile artists, and showcase a variety of beautiful art quilts.

Pokey sig

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