Sewing Beads on Fabric: How to Reverse a Mistake

I’m what you might call a hasty (read: impatient) stitcher. Methodical is not in my vocabulary. As a result, I make a lot of mistakes that I have to undo when embroidering or sewing beads on fabric. More often than not, I end up cutting the thread and starting over, all the while trying to block out the sound of my mother’s voice in my head tsking, “Haste makes waste.”

So it was with some trepidation (and perhaps hubris) that I signed up for Nancy Eha’s Seed Bead Botany online course. On the one hand, do I have the patience for sewing beads onto fabric to create flowers and vines without giving up in frustration? On the other hand it’s an online course–nobody has to see my work but me.

beaded embellishments nancy eha
Nancy Eha shows how to create botanical beaded embellishments
like these in her online course Seed Bead Botany.

Well, wouldn’t you know, in the very first lesson I learned how to reverse a mistake!  Nancy calls it milking the cow, because the fingers on both of your hands will be making a milking or sawing motion. This is useful if you realize you’ve stitched down the wrong number or kinds of beads, or you’ve stitched them down in the wrong spot.

Removing Beads from Fabric by Nancy Eha

1. First, be sure to use double thread as you bead. Not only will this secure your beaded embellishments in case one thread breaks, but it makes it easy to remove beads without having to thread the needle again

2. Pull the last beads or stitch you made on the fabric until the eye of the needle is touching and snug to the back of the fabric (illustration, below left). You may get lucky and the eye may pass right through the fabric to the front.

sewing beads on fabric reversing the needle
Milking the cow: Pull the eye of the
needle up to the back of the fabric (left),
then grasp the threads with one hand
above and and one below the fabric,
gently pulling them up and down to
ease open the hole.

3. If the needle will not pass through easily, hold onto both sides of the thread on either side of the fabric and make an up and down sawing motion to enlarge the hole. (illustration, above right). This milking motion will open up the fibers allowing the needle to pass through the fabric eye first.

Note: Proceed gently. Never try to force the needle eye or point through the fabric; knots, pierced thread, or snagging the thread are very possible results.

4. Once the needle eye has backed out of the fabric, remove the beads and start over (correctly, this time!).

Now that I know how to correct my mistakes easily, I can move on to learning how to make straight and curved lines with the beaded backstitch and how to create and use paper stitch patterns. And that’s just the first lesson. With Nancy’s guidance, I’m confident I’ll become patient and skilled enough to add beaded embellishments to many fabric projects.

Registration for Seed Bead Botany ends soon, so join the class now.

P.S. No time for a four-week class? Download Nancy Eha’s webinar Sewing Beads on Fabric: A Comprehensive Guide to Beaded Fabric Embellishing.

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