Recently I spied a Facebook post by Candy Glendening in which she shared a picture of a fabric zipper-bag she made to hold her son’s charging devices while he travels. Of course, Candy not only made the bag from her own dyed fabric but stitched her son’s name on it, to boot. No one else is going to claim that kid’s bag by mistake!
The post reminded me once again of how many creative surface embellishment ideas we fiber artists have at our disposal. From stitching, to embroidery, to sewing beads on fabric, and more, embellishing techniques are part of our everyday repertoire. It’s that extra touch that makes even a humble bag a work of art.
When a bit of sparkle is called for, many artists turn to beaded embellishments. I’ve savored many of the early issues of Quilting Arts Magazine that featured beaded quilts by artists like Nancy Eha.
Those encrusted crazy quilt concoctions looked so complicated. But Nancy and the other featured artists showed how to break down the process of sewing beads into simple steps that produced intricate results.
One of the simplest beaded embellishment techniques is the beaded back stitch. You can use it to outline motifs, write words, or create lines.
Here is how to write a word with the beaded backstitch, taken from one of Nancy Eha’s tutorials:
1. Write your word on fabric with a light colored pencil that will blend with your background or an air-disappearing pen.
2. Come up from the back of the fabric with your needle at the beginning of the first letter and pick up three seed beads.
3. Hold the beads in place (following the line of the written word) with your non-beading thumb and pass the needle through to the back of the fabric, right next to the third bead.
4. Come back up with your needle between beads 1 and 2, pass the needle and thread through beads 2 and 3.
5. Pick up three more seed beads, hold them in place with your non-beading thumb, pass the needle down through the fabric next to bead 3, come up again between bead 1 and 2, and pass the thread through bead 2 and 3.