My intention was to take a  piece of cloth and just bead ’one stitch at a time’ as described by Robin Atkins in Bead Magic. A time to reflect and relax in thought surrounded by peace and quiet and no preconceived ideas of where and how the design would develop and grow.

In my stash I had a quilted panel made from a vintage handkerchief which had a central space currently empty and ready for embellishing. This was prepared some time ago as an exercise in quilting (still not quite finished – one of those WIPs to get around to one day). The beads could have been stitched directly onto the fabric but instead I decided to bead onto a foundation piece which could then be cut to shape and stitched/beaded onto the panel. The foundation was produced by ironing two small pieces of heavy weight iron-on interfacing together thus making a firm surface to sew on.

A ‘soup mix’ of beads of reds, greens and metallic golds / silvers of different sizes and shapes were gathered and I found my assortment of moulded faces which always gives me such pleasure to work with. The only other things I needed were beading needles, threads, wax and a bit of double sided tape to secure the face while working on it.

I started with the face thinking I could surround her with gorgeous beads. To fix the face to the foundation I used double sided tape as a temporary fix and then built a wall of Delica beads (size 11) around her, using smaller ones (size 15) at the top to pull the wall around her thus making her a secure feature. Next month I will be exploring this technique further. From this point, I simply stitched the beads around her using waxed Nymo thread.. I started with flat rows of Delica beads coming around her head like hair. I added some flowers to the side of her head and then spread down around her left side with seed beads and crystals, using combinations of beads to make this more three dimensional.

Ways in which you can make beads stand out from the foundation include adding three beads at a time and then sewing back through the foundation close to where you came up. Thus the beads stand in a picot. You can thread on two or three beads with a feature bead on top to stand out like a blade of grass or flower. To do this you need a small bead as the last in the row which will act as a turn bead before taking the thread all the way back through the tower of beads. Clump several together and they will splay in different directions. The flower heads were added in a similar way so there was a bit of movement in the way they lay.

We discussed attaching beads in straight lines in the last blog (Bead Broth: Walking the Line) and it is worth remembering that if you want a line of beads to sit straight you do need to take the thread through several times to fill the centre holes.

I was thinking initially about the design spreading quite wide but in the end it felt right to finish small. When the design was complete the shape was cut out, taking care not to cut through any stitches and leaving a small piece of foundation showing all the way around. This was then placed on the quilt and stitched down around the edges using blanket stitch but with a bead added on every stitch. When complete a few beads were added to the quilt so that it was a less solid outline and then beads added to outline the embellishments.

One thing to remember when beading in this way is that beads are very heavy so making too big a motive would potentially distort any hanging quilt.  A little caution is called for.  However, fabric box lids look lovely when beaded in this way as do evening bags and bracelet / cuffs.

Remember though….. If you are beading simply as a means of relaxation not every piece has to have a purpose and these gorgeous tactile works of art can simply sit around for moments when you want something to look at and stroke!

Try it – sure you will love it.