16 or 17 years ago I went on a jewellery making taster session at the Bead & Button Bazaar in Earlswood Lake Craft Centre and found that I had quite a passion for it. After a while I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity to facilitate a class (or two) for knotted and stitched jewellery, which I really enjoyed. You can lose yourself in beading just as you can in patchwork and quilting and a regular group gives its’ members opportunities to vent feelings, be supportive and laugh; and we certainly did a lot of that!

Beading can mean different things to different people. I love the structured form but I also love improvisation. It is a great way to add detail, colour, sparkle, secure elements, build borders and add interesting surface structure.

‘I select some fabric and some beads I love, choose a bead that appeals to me (without concerning myself about why it is calling me) and sew it on somewhere. Then I pick another bead, and another, until something tells me to finish’. (Robin Atkins, ‘One bead at a time’)

Robin Atkins in her book explores how beads, creativity and healing are related. She creates some stunning pieces through improvisation. This is all about mindfulness as it brings people back to noticing their thoughts and feelings as they stitch ‘one bead at a time’. For those of you who hand stitch I am sure you can recognise this state of mindfulness and the benefits it brings to our mental and emotional health.

I came to patchwork and quilting only in the last 4 years and during this time beading has slipped a little out of sight sadly, but there is so much potential for bead / quilt fusion and I am going to be exploring this over the next few months, merging my passions and sharing these with you.

Each month I will be looking at an element of beading and its’ potential value in creating and enhancing art quilts, mini quilts, postcards, inchies and small quilted projects. I will be sharing different techniques with you and if you would like to try these out and dip your toe in the water with me you may want to purchase a few basic supplies in advance. The basic supplies include:

  • Needles… beading needles are very thin in order to pass through the tiny beads known as seed beads. The size of these are a general 10. I like long ones but some beaders like the short ones. The disadvantage of using short ones is that you can’t pass through many beads at the same time.
  • Beading thread… This is different to the thread we use for patchwork and sewing as it is stronger. Nymo is my preferred brand (size D). If you want to purchase only 1 then I suggest a white or cream. A thread wax is also required to stop tangling and splitting and also helps in the process of stretching the thread. Many of you will have wax for hand stitching, such as Thread Heaven.
  • Seedbeads… also known as round rocailles. The higher the number the smaller the bead so I would recommend a size 11 for starters and maybe a 15. These have round sides and smooth edges. To give you an idea of how small these are a size 11 is about 2mm in diameter. Japenese seedbeads are known for their high quality and consistency in size. We may use Delica beads later down the line for creating bezels, for securing cabochons or other flatback domed shapes and these are the best beads to use. They are flat sided and fit so snugly next to each other that they form a very secure structure. Don’t forget that you may have some jewellery that can be de-constructed and thrown into the post (after a good soak in soapy water).

If you already use beads please leave us photos below so we can share ideas and garner hints and tips. Similarly leave a message if you want to know more.

So……  this isn’t Chicken Soup for the Soul but Bead Broth for Creativity!

Thanks for reading


Note: One Bead at a Time can be downloaded for free at www.robinatkins.com


  1. Sharon Reid

    Beading a hobby I’m looking for the time to do! I already embellish bits a pieces with beads and have attended a Beading group a couple of times. Sadly time eludes me doing more however supplies and books are gathering ready for when I have the time.

    1. Ruth Garner Post author

      Time is a problem isn’t it! I see so many things I want to do and, like you, I gather supplies and the time never comes. I did snatch a really nice hour this week when everyone was out and I added a beaded tassel to a gift bag. I had forgotten how much pleasure I get from this sort of thing – and it only took an hour so I was well pleased. . Thank you for reading Sharon.