Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Bead Embroidery: RSN Essential Stitch Guide – Review


Amazon Books

The Royal School of Needlework produces a line of instructional books for needlework called Essential Stitch Guides, and I’ve reviewed most of them here on Needle ‘n Thread.

So far in the series, you can find Essential Stitch Guides for Beadwork, Goldwork, Canvas Work (I haven’t reviewed this one yet), Crewelwork, Stumpwork, Blackwork, and Whitework.

All the books are excellent little reference books to have in your needlework library, and so far, they’re building into a nice little Library Collection. I’m eager to see what topic is next in the series!

Just in time to add to your wish list for Christmas, I thought I’d review their latest book today – the RSN Essential Stitch Guide for Bead Embroidery, by Shelley Cox.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

Right off the bat, I’ll just say it: This is a great little instructional book! I am so glad I bought it!

Like all the stitch guides in the series, it’s bound with a covered spiral binding, so that it lies flat on the table while you’re learning from it. It’s a smallish book – a little chunky-thick, but not a large format, so you can carry it around with you from gig to gig quite easily. Just slide it in your workbag – it won’t take up much room.

Sounds strange to go into detail on the size of the book, but I really appreciate the thought that went into the design of the series. They are “essential stitch guides” – they cover the basics, and they’re meant to be instructive and usable, and I think the design of the books helps accomplish this.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

Caution: There’s Very Pretty Stuff in here. It will make you want to take up serious bead embroidery.

The book is not jam-packed with inspirational pieces, but the there are quite a few notable, beautiful examples of bead embroidery in it, and the one above is my Absolute Favorite. It’s a combination of goldwork and beadwork and it is soooooo pretty!

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

But, like any good instructional book, there’s a lot more to it than just “eye candy.”

Candy’s nice, but you can’t really live on it, you know!

There’s a good introduction to the history of bead embroidery. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail (I’m glad – that’s not the purpose of the book), but it does give you just enough of an overview to fit bead embroidery into context historically.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

There’s a thorough section on materials, and in this particular case, I appreciate the thoroughness of this materials section. When you start to incorporate other “things” into stitching, it’s nice to know all about those things.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

So we get to learn all about beads! Different types of beads are defined and illustrated, there’s discussion about shapes, sizes, methods of sewing on, and so forth.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

We also get to learn about other embellishments that often accompany beads in embroidery – sequins, gemstones, and found objects, like buttons and so forth.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

There’s a nice section on threads, with clear discussion on what threads work best and how they should be treated, what lengths to cut – all kinds of little tips relating to the threads used in bead embroidery.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

And then there are all the other little tools and items that are useful for embroidery, and more specifically, bead embroidery.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

And then… we get to the meat o’ the matter: the stitches.

It is a stitch guide, after all!

The essential stitches for bead embroidery are broken down into four categories: counted thread beadwork, bead embroidery (the basic stitches for attaching beads to fabric), surface embroidery stitches (the decorative stitches of embroidery, only worked with beads, too), and fringing and edging stitches.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

The author starts with the basics: how to thread a needle, how to start and end threads in bead embroidery…

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

… how to pick up beads and sequins…

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

… and then she moves into the stitch guides, starting with counted thread.

All the instructions are illustrated with step-by-step photos or diagrams, and photos of the finished technique.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

Of all the RSN Essential Stitch Guides so far, I think this one is the clearest when it comes to organized instruction in specific techniques.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

Moving on to bead embroidery, we get instructions on the basic stitches and techniques for connecting beads to fabric in different ways.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

For example, we learn how to make a circlet of beads, how to sew on lines of sequins, how to sew on lines of sequins and beads combined, and so forth.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

Then we move into surface embroidery stitches. Here, we can clearly see, with diagrams, how the surface embroidery stitches are worked. Then, with pictures, the author illustrates who to incorporate beads into those surface stitches. The thread and the decoration created by the stitch shape are integral here, and the beads are “accents” in addition to embroidery stitch.

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

The last section is how to create edgings and fringes with beads. This section is very clearly illustrated with diagrams and photo examples.

The techniques progress from simple edges…

Bead Embroidery RSN Essential Stitch Guide

…to complex, deep beaded fringe.

And the book ends with an index, for easy topic location.

The RSN Essential Stitch Guide: Beadwork Embroidery is a terrific little reference book for anyone who has considered incorporating beads into their embroidery, counted thread, or canvas work. Whether you are considering taking up full-fledged beadwork (it will get you into it with the basics), or simply interested in using beads as accents in other needlework, or looking for creative ways to edge and trim projects – this book is for you!

Where to Find

In the States, you can find the Bead Embroidery Stitch Guide through Amazon. You can look more closely at the inside of the book at Amazon, too, as they have the “Look Inside” feature available on this one.

Outside of the US, Canada, and the UK, you can find Bead Embroidery though Book Depository (located in the UK) with free international shipping.

You might also find Bead Embroidery though your local needlework shop, if they generally carry specialty books, so check there, too!


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(12) Comments

  1. Oh, no, don’t tempt me with a bead embroidery book! *lol*

    I’ve got half a dozen already but still almost as many on my wishlist, including this one. It’s just so interesting to read them all and pretty much every book I’ve read so far includes something the others don’t, e.g. raised embroidery, jewellery making (which is different from embroidering fabric for clothes etc), mixing thread and beads, beading on quilts, sequins, tamour beading etc etc. It might just be a book addiction, but I do feel you can’t have too many embroidery and/or bead books.

  2. What a wonderful resource! I so appreciate people who put these kinds of books together.
    Bead work has been on my list for a long time — too many other projects ahead of learning it, though. Thanks for sharing Mary.

  3. Dear Mary

    This sounds a really good instructional book I really want to learn more about bead work and this sounds like the one book I should have in fact I was asked by a relative what I would like for Christmas and I just read you review on this book and as the price is reasonable I will be getting it for Christmas so can’t wait and thanks Mary for reviewing and helping me choose one of my Christmas presses.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Well Mary, you certainly know how to play hell with my credit card….lol….fortunately this isn’t as expensive as the last book i bought on your reccomendation. I just put it on my amazon wish list….if i don’t get it for christmas i’ll get it with the amazon card i know i’ll get….lol. it look absolutely yummy! Merry Christmas Mary!

  5. You are right those little RSN books are a nice way to learn a bit about individual kinds of needlework. I have been eyeing some of the lovely bead work pieces on the web and I do believe you have convinced me that I need to learn a bit more about the subject!

  6. Oh boy, I had fun just looking at the pages you shared here. I’m a bit of a bead fanatic. I add them even when the directions don’t call for them. They make a great replacement for French knots, they add texture to patterns and my biscornus just have to have a few sprinkled around and along the edge. If I read this book, I’d be dangerous. LOL I’d be adding dangly bits to our kitchen towels. LOL It looks like a wonderful resource to have handy.

  7. I heartily agree with Mary’s assessment of this book. I think it’s wonderful (and pretty!). I had the good fortune to take a couple of goldwork classes from the author, Shelley Cox. She’s a terrific teacher and I think she did a lovely job putting this book together.

  8. Thank you Mary. I just bought the book. I have been looking for something on beading. Looking forward to starting my next project.

  9. G’day Mary,
    So happy with this review. Have just ordered mine through the Book Depository where it’s on sale for $17.46 $Aussie. Free postage. I like to add a little beading in with my freeform work but am interested in it generally. Beads can make or break a project if adding them for a touch of something extra effect so am careful there, and a motif or item done with all beads can be so beautiful. The page you’ve shown showing bugle beads in the embroidery reminds me that I’m yet to find a decent green colour in bugle beads. I’ll have to search specialised shops internationally on line a bit more. All the greens are harsh metallic type hues or really rich bright Christmas hues. Anyway, great stuff. Thanks for the insight. Can’t wait for my book to come.
    Cheers, Kath.

  10. Ooh … another lovely book to tempt me! The goldwork and bead combination project is gorgeous. This might just have to go on my wishlist. 🙂

  11. Oh dear – another book to put on my ever-growing wish list! To prove I have a problem when it comes to books – my book shelf just fell apart yesterday. Too many books? Never mind….I’ve figured a way to reconfigure my space so I can have a bigger one!!

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