Beads, Beads & More Beads!

I’ve taken several classes on bead embroidery over the past several years. In all of that time I’ve never done much more with the knowledge than class samples and bits of embellishment on small quilt projects. I recently had another bead embroidery class, and this time I finally continued on and finished a small piece. The finished size of this piece is 14 cm by 9 cm (5.5 “ x 3.5”).

Finished Bead Embroidery

I didn’t have an overall plan. I started by attaching three small Shisha mirrors using three slightly different techniques. From there I kept adding beads and sequins a few at a time, and trying various stitches. A few times I decided I didn’t like something, and so removed it. I tried to use some basic design concepts like the repetition of elements, and balance of colour and design placement. Overall I’m pretty happy with the end result. I’m not completely sure what I will do with this small piece. I’ll probably make a small quilt to serve as a background, and mount the beaded piece on top.

The following photos show the piece in progress, from start to finish. All photos can be clicked on to make them bigger.

The first thing I did was start to connect the mirrors to each other with a paisley shape.

Beading progress picture 1

I added a few more elements on the piece. The small silver circles are large sequins with a bead in the middle. I started to fill in some of the background space with orange.

Beading progress photo 2

I added a sort of bugle bead crown to the top edge of the paisley shape, and added some more orange seed beads to the background.

Beading progress photo 3

The beads in the upper right form a herringbone pattern. In the lower right I added some more sparkle and some texture. The orange beads I was adding as background fill were too bright, and I thought they competed with the more muted purple and green, so I removed most of them.

Beading progress photo 4

A few more elements added in. The green bugle beads repeat the curved bugle beads in the centre.

Beading progress photo 5

And a few more – repeating some of the black beading from the right side to the lower left and bottom.

Beading progress photo 6

At this point I tried out several different beads to use as background to fill in the rest of the space. Everything seemed to overpower the matte-finish purple ones. In the end I decided to just continue using the purple. I removed the remaining small section of orange seed beads, and also the triangular beads I’d put around the central mirror. A few more bright green bugle beads helped set off the central paisley motif.

Beading finished

I learned a lot from this exercise. My control of the stitching improved, and I tried out a few new-to-me stitches. Overall I think the piece is a success. In future I think I’d plan out my design a bit more at the beginning, and settle on a more clearly defined focal point (or points). I’d leave the background beading for the end. I would also plan out the background stitching direction before starting, to be sure that the flow of background beads worked to draw the eye towards the elements I want emphasized.

I also learned the value of having a variety of sizes and shapes in the same colours of beads. It provides greater opportunities for design.

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