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Beads, Beading, Beadwork
By Linda Beer, Sundrop Outerwear Textiles Inc.


Welcome to beadwork! This guide is meant to help you in class and when you are out of the classroom. It tells you how to do professional looking beadwork as well as a number of design ideas and some interesting beadwork variations.

How To Bead

Beadwork can be used on a variety of materials, in a multitude of colors and designs to enhance and accent.

Beading is done using 2 beading needles, and a good quality polyester or cotton thread in the same color as the fabric you are working on.

1. Thread both needles with a double thread. One needle is used to thread the beads on the other to stitch beads down.

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2. Bring one beading needle up through fabric at the place where you want to begin your design. String on as many beads as you wish in your color pattern.

3. Lay beads flat on fabric. Bring second needle up through fabric on one side of beads and back down through fabric on the other side of beads (see diagram ). On straight lines every second bead should be stitched down, on curves every bead should be stitched down. Beginners should stitch down every bead.


If your completed beadwork has some empty spaces they can be filled in by

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(a) come up through fabric one bead before the empty space

(b) go through the bead in front of the space

(c) put bead (s) on needle

(d) go through bead behind the space and down through fabric


Beads should not be removed from a design unless it is necessary. If you do find it necessary to remove a bead follow these steps.

(a) grasp bead on either side of hole with a pair of needle nose or jewelry pliers

(b) placing your thumb over the bead apply pressure to the pliers until the bead is crushed, throw crushed bead directly into the garbage.

NB. Beads are glass and will shatter, your thumb must be placed over the bead before you crush it. This prevents the bead from flying all over.


A good way to test your design idea and color scheme is to plan the design on graph paper. Use graph paper and colored pencils to test your design.

We have found that 1-4 colors of beads are usually adequate for a design. Too many colors can sometimes make the beadwork design lose its impact.


Lightweight, mediumweight, and knit fabrics -- fuse a piece of interfacing to wrong side behind where the beadwork is to go, this stabilizes the fabric.

Leather -- with a children's gluestick glue a piece of blank paper to wrong side behind where design is to go. This keeps the leather form stretching out of shape as you work and makes it easier to put the needle through the leather.

Heavyweight fabrics -- need no preparation.


There are many ways to transfer your design, the method you use depends on the material you are beading on and the design you are using.

1. Chalk or Wax -- Tailors chalk or a tailors pencil can be used to draw your design on to your fabric. This method works best on designs that start with a straight line. Wax can be used in the same way but only on pure wool fabric as it stains synthetics.

2. Tissue paper -- trace your design onto uncolored tissue paper or a \stitch and rip fabric, attach to beading material using a bit of gluestick or a a few stitches. This works well for intricate designs but the tissue paper can be difficult to remove. Bead the main outlines then remove tissue.

3. Washable pen -- can be used to draw design, test on fabric first to ensure it will wash out.

4. Transfer pencils -- can be used but these become permanent markings so caution should be used.

5. Vanishing pen -- a wonderful tool but you must bead quickly before it disappears! Applying heat will bring the marking out again for a limited time.


After the design is finished, glue, stitch, or fuse some fabric over the threads on the back of the design. This protects the threads from wear and hides the mess of threads!

More information on Sundrop Outerwear Textiles, Inc.

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