Basic Tips for Sewing Beads on Fabric

Beaded embellishments can enhance your fiber art, adding texture, pattern, sparkle and richness. Bead embroidery can be a wonderfully creative, relaxing activity, and smaller projects, such as ornaments, are a great way to explore beadwork in a non-intimidating way.

sewing beads on fabric ornaments by lisa binkley
Sew beaded embellishments for your holiday tree!

There is a knack to sewing beads on fabric so they will lay flat and stay on, however. In the 2013/2014 issue of Quilting Arts Gifts, Lisa Binkley offers basic instructions for sewing beads, along with a tutorial on creating exquisite beaded ornaments.

Beading basics by Lisa Binkley

1. When you cut a new length of thread, always stretch it to get rid of any slack before threading your needle and stitching.

2. Unless you are working with sharp-edged beads, such as bugle beads or Austrian crystal embellishments, always work with a single thickness of thread.

3. Thicker beading needles are stronger and less likely to break than thinner needles; they’re also easier to handle. Always use a thicker (e.g., size 10) beading needle for bead embroidery, unless the beads you are using have holes that are too small for that size.

4. Always try to stitch straight up and down (perpendicular to the fabric). This is especially important when you are stitching near the outer edge of your work so that you can avoid cutting through the beading thread when you trim the work to its finished size.

beaded fabric embellishment ornament lisa binkley
Beaded ornament by Lisa Binkley, from Quilting Arts Gifts 2013.

5. When you begin stitching with a new length of thread, always bury the knot in the stabilizer by running the thread through ½”-1″ of the stabilizer and pulling on the thread until you hear a pop and see the knot disappear in the stabilizer. After the knot is buried, trim off any visible tail of thread. When finishing with a thread, make a small knot on the back of your work, and then bury about ½”-1″ of thread just beyond the knot before cutting the thread.

6. Knot off and start with a new piece of thread if the thread you are working with frays a lot.

7. Whenever you are moving from one area of stitching to another that is more than about ½” away (across the back of your work), always run your thread through the stabilizer to get to the new stitching area. This will keep your thread tighter and the back of your work neater.

Now that you know the basics of sewing beads on fabric, you can try your hand at Lisa’s ornaments or the other projects from Quilting Arts Gifts 2013/2014 that feature beaded embellishments.

P.S. Do you have any other beading tips to share? Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Embellishing, Hand Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

3 thoughts on “Basic Tips for Sewing Beads on Fabric

  1. These are do pretty! I can’t wait to read about the technique when I get my issue. It would be fun to add beads to my snowflakes like I’ve done in the issue., making individual ones.

  2. Isn’t it odd how different people do things? I have often cursed when adding seed beads to crazy quilting with doubled thread, but since that is how I was told it was done by the great Nancy Eha, that is how I have always done it. Now along comes someone else (I must confess to not knowing of Lisa until now) who tells me it is not only OK to use a single thread, but it is recommended ……