Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Bead Problem Analysis with Potential Fixes

Yesterday I talked about my beading problem and how I fixed it. I thought today I would explain how to analyze bead problems and come up with solutions.

Bead problems generally come in two types:  either they won't stay put—beads are wiggly things!—or they don't seem to look "right."

Let's talk about the second problem first—beads that just don't seem to work on a canvas.  I think this is usually because a bead is too large or too small for the design.  Sometimes it is because a bead is the wrong shape.  Beads come in a variety of sizes but size 11 and size 14s or 15s are the normal bead sizes for 18 count canvases.  (Of course you can put a HUGE size 6 bead on a canvas for the center of a flower but you need to experiment to see what size will work in that case.)  If you are trying to solidly bead an area using tent stitches (come up like a regular tent stitch, toss a bead on the needle, go down as if doing a tent stitch) and the beads look crowded, use a smaller bead.  You will also find that Delica beads (which are barrel shaped) or a hex bead (which is six sided) will sometimes fit in an area better than a round bead.  Very occasionally a bead just doesn't give you the right feel for a canvas—it may just be sticking up too much.  Try a sequin or a French knot instead.  Sequins are very flat and French knots look more organic because they are hand made and vary a bit in shape, no matter how careful you are.  On some canvases this will matter, particularly a canvas that is a folk art design where very regular items just look out of place.  Not that all beads are identical in shape—they are not--but there is a difference between handmade French knots and machine-made beads.

Now for fixing bead wiggle!  For beads that aren't straight as soldiers, this can be because you've chosen the wrong size.  You can do what I did in yesterday's article and space the beads out on every other thread intersection if you like the bead color and shape. Or you can switch to smaller beads that won't be so crowded if you are covering every thread intersection of your needlepoint canvas with a bead.

If you think the beads appear to be the right size but they are still not straight in line, then use another stitch to attach them.  Instead of a tent stitch through the bead, use a cross stitch.  Or if the beads are touching and their holes aren't too tiny, take a long stitch through the entire row to see if that tidies them up.  This doesn't always work if you have a small bead because there may not be room to go through a bead's hole a second (or third) time.  You can corral groups of beads that are in a circle instead of a line by working a stem stitch around the perimeter.  You also can attach the outside of the circle of beads with cross stitches and use tent stitches in the inside of the circle.  Work from the middle out and when you get to the perimeter, switch from tent to cross stitches to secure the beads.  The more securely attached outside beads will often push the inner ones into shape.

If your wiggly beads are in a square or rectangle, you can do straight lines of single stitches outside the beaded shape to help corral them.  I would try going through the beads a second time myself but sometimes that's not possible because the holes are too small.  If you match the thread you use to the background color, that row of straight stitches will be hard to see even though it helps keep the beads in order.

If you have just one bead and it will not stay in position, see if you can position the bead in a hole on the canvas instead of on top of the canvas thread intersection. A single bead that is precariously sitting on top of a thread intersection will tend to "fall" to one side.  Having the threads of the canvas on all four sides will help secure a bead.  You may still want to go through it a second time, making a + over the four canvas threads that are the "wall" around the bead.

If you are attempting Don Lynch's basketweave beading technique, this works best with hex beads which are size 14 or 15s and that will cover only a small area on the canvas.  The more basketweaving beads you add, the more they will move a tad out of position because beads are not all exactly the same size.  If you are working more than a half inch of space, this difference in bead size starts to become obvious as the beads shove each other out of the way,  This looks messy.

To fix a bead problem, you need to try various things to see what will give you the look you want.  I hope the above helps!

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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© Copyright May 16, 2017 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.


  1. I've never beaded on canvas but have done so tons of times in cross-stitch. I'll have to remedy that when I find just the right canvas in my stash. Thanks for the beading lesson!