Beads add texture and sparkle to your embroidery and are easy to work with. They come in different shapes and sizes, but those most commonly used for embroidery are round seed beads. Mill Hill makes glass beads of various shapes and sizes that work well for embroidery.
How to stitch beads on to fabric
Royal School of Needlework graduate Sarah Homfray has a great video on how to apply seed beads using three different methods:
Attaching single beads individually so they can be dotted around the fabric (1.20 minutes in).
Couching down a row of beads in a straight line (4.50 minutes in).
Back stitching beads along a curved or wavy line to create a solid row of beads or a row with gaps between the beads (8.10 minutes in).
You can also back stitch, say, three beads at a time, going back three beads each time to reinforce the stitching as Pam Ash has done here.
Robin Atkins has made her first book, One Bead at a Time, available as a free download. She gives four different ways to attach beads – with seed stitch, back stitch, lazy stitch and couching – on pages 48 to 51, with side-view illustrations so you can see how the thread runs through the beads and fabric.
And Bead-Media.com goes into detail about starting and ending with knots – the good, the bad and the alternatives.
How to attach beads in a cluster
Use the same method as you would to attach single seed beads, but position them close together to create a cluster of beads. Start along the outline of your shape and work towards the centre, adding beads until your shape is filled. The trick is to position each bead at a different angle to the one alongside it.
If you want to match your DMC thread perfectly to your Mill Hill beads, use this chart.
Bead embroidery book
If you prefer learning from books, A-Z of Bead Embroidery by the Inspirations magazine team in Australia is a "comprehensive guide to bead embroidery … With over 440 step-by-step photographs, it brings bead embroidery within the reach of anyone who can thread a needle.”
You can look inside the book on Amazon.
Bead embroidery patterns
The modern mini hoop ornaments in this pattern use different beading techniques to create 5 embroidered decorations for your Christmas tree.
The 12 flowers in this pattern incorporate embroidery, embroidered appliqué and beading.
The eight leaves in this pattern each contain a combination of embroidery, embroidered appliqué and beading.