Beads add texture and even sparkle to your designs, limited only to the variety of beads available. Beading can also add a touch of realism to your finished product, particularly in Native American designs. Small black seed beads can be used for eyes in place of French Knots. Always use glass beads, as plastic beads could melt from the heat of an iron. If you do add plastic beads clean and iron your design prior to adding the beads
Attaching Your Beads
Make sure you have a needle which when threaded, will easily pass through the hole in your bead. I prefer to use beading needles, which while traditionally sharp, there are some available with a blunt point like your cross-stitch needles. Use two strands of floss to attach your beads. The colour of floss you use can be chosen in three ways. It can match the colour of the bead, be a 'clear' bobbin type thread, or black. Secure the end of your thread by running it under a few finished stitches, come up through your fabric, through the bead, and back through the fabric. Bring your needle back up as if for the second half of a full cross-stitch, but split the threads on either side of the bead before going down through your fabric again. Splitting the threads around your bead will make the bead stand up and put 'shadowing' around it. I wouldn't suggest using black thread with clear or transparent beads (unless they are transparent black), but rather match the bead colour. This will brighten your bead colour and make it stand out more. Always leave your beading until last, as the beads can catch on your floss when stitching other parts of your design.
Beads Have Grain
To keep your work looking uniform, attach your beads so that they match your top stitches. If your top stitches go right to left, then so too should the holes on your beads.
What do with those beads way out in the middle of nowhere on your design? I have found the least conspicuous thread for attaching isolated beads is with thread from the edge of my fabric. Simply separate one from the weave and attach the bead using a waste knot to secure the thread. Small Granny knots can also be used to attach isolated beads.
Most charts, which include beads in the design, will tell you what size and what type of beads you will need. However, if you are adding the bead to personalize a project, a good scale to follow is the bead size should match the size of your stitches.
Storing Your Beads
When you purchase beads, they come in nice little plastic containers. These containers are hard to get your beads out of, as they don't often stay open. There are a number of bead storage products available. I prefer one from Loran called The Big Caddy. It has nine individual compartments, each with a separate lid. These containers are also stackable for storage and sit flat, making it harder to knock them over.
Oops! Spilled Beads?
Picking up spilled beads is easy. Put a nylon stocking over the hose on your vacuum and vacuum them up. Simply brush the beads off the nylon into a container.