Embellish on the Fly: Tips for Sewing Beads on the Go

I am absolutely loving my still-new job as editor of Quilting Arts Magazine. But even a dream job requires some trade-offs, right? In my case, I’ve had to sacrifice some studio time.

beaded embellishment lyric kinard
Beaded embellishment by Lyric Kinard called “Sol”

I’m not complaining! I have just realizedlike so many others with busy livesthat if I’m going to get any of my own artwork done, I’m going to have to squeeze it in on the fly, embroidering by hand here and sewing embellishments there.

‘Sol’ art quilt with beaded embellishment by Lyric Kinard.I find one of the keys to making creating-on-the-go work is to prepare a variety of kits you can take along with you, whether you’re on the sidelines cheering at your kids’ soccer games or flying across the country on a business trip.

One of the most productive fiber artists I know, Lyric Kinard, put together a list of tips and supplies to make it easier to create on the go that appeared in the February/March 2011 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.

Fabric embellishment, especially sewing beads on fabric, is one of the easiest creative tasks to do outside the studio. Lyric suggests you make a travel embellishment kit using a tin box, like the kind used for holding mints.

embellish bead kit
A travel tin for sewing embellishments on the go.

Stocking your travel tins:

  • Cut a little square of felt to stick your needles in.
  • Glue a magnet to the lid to hold your needles and scissors.
  • Nymo Thread ® and C-Lon® beading threads are great and come in many colors.
  • Try #11 applique needles for beading on cloth; they don’t bend as easily as a beading needle.
  • Use a rubber finger to pull the needle rather than using a thimble to push it.

Lyric’s tips for taking your fabric embellishing kit on the road:

  • Take a needle threader that has a thread cutter attached if you are worried about flying with scissors. (But don’t rule out carrying a small pair of scissors; my fold-up pair has never been questioned at an airport.)
  • Use shorter lengths of thread and learn to pull your needle with the point facing you. Your seatmate will appreciate it.
  • Thread a bunch of needles ahead of time if you have trouble threading in a bouncy car or plane.
  • Close the tin after picking up beads on your needle when you are in a moving vehicle. (Seed beads could fly everywhere on a bumpy road or when a plane hits turbulence.)
  • Wrap a bit of tape, sticky side out, around your finger and dip it in your beads so you won’t have to open and close the tin as often.
sewing beads
Sewing beads and thread fit in a small tin.

When I look back at Lyric’s article and the other issues from 2011, I realize there are many parts of a fiber art composition you can work on when you’re on the go, in addition to quilting embellishments.

If you missed it, you can get Lyric’s article and the entire set of 2011’s issues on the Quilting Arts Collection. Just think, you could take an entire year’s worth of Quilting Arts inspiration and techniques with you when you travel and pop it into your laptop any time. Or, save even more space by downloading the Collection directly to your computer.

P.S. What are your tips for creating on the go? I’m sure we can all use more. Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Embellishing, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

4 thoughts on “Embellish on the Fly: Tips for Sewing Beads on the Go

  1. My kids and I have a great travel bag just for craft supplies, at least for road trips, it’s a little too big for the plane:-) I try to get them (and me!) to create something whenever we go somewhere, because being in a different location always stimulates creativity! My favorite was a camping trip, where they had to create something from what they could find. We had charcoal drawings on rocks, stick art, and even some crayons on warm rocks heated by the fire.
    Last fall we were in a hotel for a week while my husband had a conference, and I was preparing for a show, so I brought my sewing machine and worked for hours. I was wishing I had a shallow tray for beading in, and then I spotted the tray that was under the ice bucket and glasses, perfect! 🙂

  2. What a great use for those mint tins! I remember as a kid making emergency sewing kits out of empty lipstick tubes, too.

    Just be careful with those tins if you are traveling by air. I created all sorts of distress at the security area last year with my colored pencils. They were in one of those tins that the fancy pencils come in and I guess they looked questionable in the x-ray.

  3. I like doingthe MIll Hill Crossstitich and bead kits-especially at work during lunch. A shop owner suggestee that I get a “TAcky BOB”. It is essentially a CD case with tacky surfaces on the interior and there is a magnetic strip in the center for my needle. I now have two of them I keep it and a small scissor in a zipped bag so I always have something to do.
    Thanks for all the other tips.

  4. Thank you so much.quilting arts mag. has been such a blessing to me. I have needed help getting crafty and you and your sister book cloth paper scissors are wounderful….. YOU HAVE BEEN A WELL NEEDED LIGHT IN MY LIFE…..
    i cant say thank you enough.