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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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The Festive Magic of Sparkly Beads in Embroidery

 

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Here in the studio, we’ve been stitching up sample after sample on a project collection that I’ve had on The List for about five years now. We never seemed to find the chunk of time needed to tackle the idea.

Suddenly, this past August, we decided we’d just leap in and do it this year, no matter what.

We started finalizing our doodled designs, turning them into useable vector drawings, then we gathered threads and fabric, and then…

…and then we got interrupted by a gazillion other fires that needed squelching.

Here we are, mid-October, weighing whether or not we can meet an end-of-October deadline for the stitched samples. Can we do it? I think we can! You know why?

Because truly, there’s nothing better than having a Good Excuse just to stitch all day, playing with threads and stitches and fabrics and … BEADS!

Yes. Beads!

For me, beads are the highlight of embroidering small holiday projects.

Lately, I find that beads propel me out of bed in the morning. They drive me to work at unreasonably early hours. Beads occupy my waking moments at night. They insinuate themselves into my dreams. Beads rise up out of the haze of doing laundry and cleaning house. And they leap into my imagination when I’m supposed to be concentrating on other tasks … oh. Look! There they are, floating in front me as we speak…

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

Beads!

There’s just no better way to add that festive magical touch to holiday embroidery! A little bead or two or ten or more, well-placed, goes a long way to brighten the hand embroidered Christmas ornament.

With their hint of sparkle and twinkle, beads make embroidered ornaments so much more merry and fun!

So, if you hadn’t guessed by now, I love beads. And between about October through January, I’m practically addicted to them.

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

When I start working on Christmas-related designs, the bead trays end up front-and-center on the work tables in the studio.

I’ve been using these bead trays for years and years. They are my favorite way to store beads, because, when I’m not working with beads, they stack so nice and neatly and they take up very little room.

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

But they store a lot of beads!

They allow me to neatly organize beads by colors, and within the color trays, by size. It’s easy for me to find the bead I have in mind – as long as I have the bead I have in mind.

And if I don’t have the bead I have in mind, then guess what?

Oh happy day! I get to go shopping! (Hey, any excuse to increase my cache of delightful, dazzling, delectable beads!)

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

Ok, enough. Let’s be serious.

When it comes to planning a multitude of small projects that I’m going to spring on people, and that already involve several components, I really try not to go overboard using too many varieties of small things.

While I likely wouldn’t restrict myself to one type of bead on a whole group of small projects, I would at least try to be mindful of using too many types and colors and sizes of beads.

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

While working on these projects, I’m trying to use beads from a pre-determined selection, so that stitchers can create a range of projects with variations, but using more or less the same components.

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

And while this approach can seem restrictive – especially when there are so many beads in the world to choose from! – it’s actually a bit freeing. The fewer choices one has, the easier it is to move forward without hemming and hawing over decisions.

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

Restricting choices can also lead to good learning experiences.

Sometimes, beads that you thought would be Just Right end up not-so-right. And the bead that ends up Just Right is a bead you never imagined would work.

Beads in Embroidery - add some Holiday Sparkle

And so, forward again! Another day of stitching! And hopefully two more samples towards our goal.

Once we have our collection of samples finished, we will pick our favorites and turn them into something exciting for you.

Stay tuned!

 
 

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(15) Comments

  1. Ooo such a beautiful tease. I can hardly wait. Not sure if I should be frustrated in the wait or jump for joy seeing what is coming our way. Sparkles. Yum.

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    1. I purchase my beads from wholesale sources for the most part. But if I’m buying retail, I but from Caravan Beads, Fire Mountain Gems, Aura Crystals, and other sources. I pretty much use Miyuki beads for all my beads, although I do occasionally use some TOHO beads. But I always kit with Miyuki. (Except for pearls.)

  2. Just wanted to tell you how much I love your writing. If you weren’t such an amazing embroidery artist, writing could have been your calling!

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  3. Really beautiful embroidery. I heard that bead vendors are not selling any more seed beads, or else decreasing their stock; but you could go to Fire Mountain Gems’ website to get a large selection. Mary: where do you get your seed beads?

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    1. I purchase my beads from wholesale sources for the most part. But if I’m buying retail, I but from Caravan Beads, Fire Mountain Gems, Aura Crystals, and other sources. I pretty much use Miyuki beads for all my beads, although I do occasionally use some TOHO beads. But I always kit with Miyuki. (Except for pearls.)

    1. I purchase my beads from wholesale sources for the most part. But if I’m buying retail, I but from Caravan Beads, Fire Mountain Gems, Aura Crystals, and other sources. I pretty much use Miyuki beads for all my beads, although I do occasionally use some TOHO beads. But I always kit with Miyuki. (Except for pearls.)

  4. Dear Mary

    You made me laugh on your thoughts on beads. Like you I love beads they really add sparkle to so many projects. They just lift the embroidery to another dimension, as your photos show above, this is true especially at Christmas. I love your bead trays they are so compact and the beads fit nicely into them. I really look forward to your designs on beads it sounds exciting and I’m sure it will be delightful just before Christmas. thank you for sharing your thoughts on beads with us and for the lovely photos above, it cheered me up this morning.

    Regards Anita Simmance

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  5. What a nice solution to storing beads. I always like a good organizing system.
    Your work is so lovely. If I were 20 years earlier, I would love to work your designs. All the lovely thread that is available today must be fun to work with.
    Thank you for your podcasts. Even though I can’t do the needlework, I enjoy reading about it.

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  6. What size beads do you use and where is a good place to get them? I bought some at a big box store and they were too tiny to get a beading needle through. Of course I could be doing this completely wrong. Any hints you can give me would be appreciated.

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    1. The most common sized beads I use for embroidery with beads are 15/0 and 11/0. You’ll need a size 10 embroidery beading needle to accommodate the 15/0 easily. John James makes one. Specifically, it is the John James Beading Embroidery Needle (available in a tapestry point or a sharp point and in a size 10 or a size 12 – the 10 works for 15/0 beads). The product number on those needles is JJ10710. You can also use a #11 or #12 crewel (also called “embroidery”) needle for 15/0 beads. A lot depends on the type of thread you’re using, too. I have come to refer Miyuki and TOHO beads – and I use Miyuki beads the most frequently, because they are the best quality beads I’ve found and they have a wide range of colors and finishes. For thread, I normally use Miyuki’s white beading thread. Even on natural colored fabrics, it blends in and you don’t really see it.

  7. Those trays look like they were made for the bead packs. Were they? My reason for asking is I have a lot of the small bead packs too, but they are in a sewing box, which doesn’t give you the opportunity to see the colors right off. If you can share where you found these little trays that would be super helpful. Years ago, I bought some 4 drawer little storage drawer cabinets — I drilled holes to fit some metal rods inside, and bought all those little hanging little pendaflex style clear bags with tabs so I could fie all my threads. It’s a great system, and I love having it all organized. I don’t have that kind of set up for my beads though, so if you can share where you found them, I would appreciate it. Thank you!

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