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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We also get to learn about other embellishments that often accompany beads in embroidery – sequins, gemstones, and found objects, like buttons and so forth.
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.
And then there are all the other little tools and items that are useful for embroidery, and more specifically, bead embroidery.
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.
The author starts with the basics: how to thread a needle, how to start and end threads in bead embroidery…
… how to pick up beads and sequins…
… 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.
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.
Moving on to bead embroidery, we get instructions on the basic stitches and techniques for connecting beads to fabric in different ways.
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.
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.
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…
…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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