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Tips and Tea on Tuesdays

On Tips and Tea on Tuesdays, I will cover a topic and hopefully provide you with some tips that will be helpful! And just as an afterthought, tea may occasionally be a cup of Joe!

Tea for Tuesday

Tea today is a cuppa English breakfast tea, with a splash of milk, and my favorite breakfast in the world. My hubby was a doll and made French toast for me this morning. What a guy! As he was cooking, I was getting my beading project laid out on the work table, so that the colors are organized and ready for today’s project.

I am working on a small piece this week, a beaded heart, from my class Beadoodlery. These little brooches make nice gifts, and give you a place to display your beading talents.

When I teach a beading class, I talk to my students about the types of threads that can be used and how to work with them. Below are a couple of tips that I would like to share.

Tips: Beading Threads and Needles

Threads

  • Silamide comes either on a card, or on a spool, which makes it easy to cut off a length and thread through the needle. I use the June Taylor thread holder for the spool, which also has a convenient place for your scissors and needles.
  • Nymo and S-lon come on a small bobbin, which truthfully can fly across the room at any moment while cutting off a length of thread. UGH!

To counter act that issue, and to prevent my spool from becoming the latest cat toy I use these ideas.

  • If you have an unused lipstick holder, it makes for a great storage case for those small bobbins. You can pull out a short length of thread from the color that you choose, close the lid, then pull out the length of thread you want to work with.
  • Another trick, is to pin the bobbin onto a pincushion with a T-pin. Hold onto the pincushion, and pull off the length of thread that you want to work with.

Needles

  • Use a refrigerator magnet to keep your needles organized while working on a project
  • To store your needles, cut an empty plastic bead tube, to fit the size of your needles. Take the cap off the cut end, and place it onto the short end of the container.

Happy tea drinking and stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you have any questions or thoughts, just leave a comment! See Tips, Tricks, the Basics, for more helpful ideas.

Beading Threads and Needles

Threads

Beading threads are used to stitch the beads in place on your fabric or into bead woven forms. When used for bead embroidery, the thread is used double, with a knotted tail. When used for bead woven stitches, the thread is used single, unless the directions state otherwise.

  • Silamide comes either on a card, or on a spool, which makes it easy to cut off the desired length.
  • Nymo and S-lon come on a small bobbin.

Thread Holders

  • The June Taylor thread holder can be used for a spool of Silamide, which also has a convenient place for your scissors and needles.
  • An unused lipstick holder, makes for a great storage case for loose bobbins. Pull a short length of thread, close the lid and cut off the length needed.
  • A T-pin can be used to hold the bobbin onto a pincushion, pull the thread off as needed.

Needles

Beading needles are fine and thin and most commonly found in sizes 10-13. The needles come in long and short lengths.

  • Use a refrigerator magnet to keep your needles organized while working on a project
  • To store your needles, cut an empty plastic bead tube, to fit the size of your needles.

Happy stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

Bead Embroidery vs Thread Embroidery

I love to embroider, which I am sure you can tell. I have two books that are specifically focused on embroidery. In the Hand Embroidery Dictionary there are over 500+ stitches, both traditional stitches and unique stitches that I developed for the book. In my book Beaded Embroidery Stitching, I offer you both traditional bead embroidery stitches as well as unique techniques that accommodate the special characteristics of the different bead shapes and sizes.

Below, I show you how various forms of thread embroidery can be adapted to bead embroidery and bead woven stitches. The use of beads in the bead embroidery and bead woven stitches certainly do bring a surprisingly visual and dimensional aspect to the work.

Here is an example of two crazy pieced sections of fabric. The first is worked in traditional thread and silk ribbon embroidery stitches, along with embellishments such as tatting, rosettes, charms and buttons. In the second piece, you see traditional stitches translated into beaded embroidery, with the stitches worked in seed beads in sizes 6°, 8°, 11°, and 15°. Embellishments include lace, larger beads, charms, and buttons.

This is an example of a sashiko pattern, the first is embroidered with perle cotton; the second is embroidered with 11° seed beads.

Here is an example of the cross stitch worked in perle cotton, and size 11° seed beads.

Here is an example of two brooches, worked in similar design. In the first I embroidered the Brazilian rose, and traditional leaves and French knot stitches in perle cotton; with a couched cord frame. In the second, I embroidered the a rose with size 11° seed beads, and added in bead woven leaves, and charms; with a beaded couched cord frame.

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

Bead Embroidery Tools

  • 6” clear quilter’s ruler
  • Air-erasable or water soluble pen: to mark embroidery lines
  • Bead scoop or teaspoon: use for picking up beads
  • Bead thimble: to pick up beads
  • Bead threads: Silamide, Nymo
  • Fast2mark Embroidery Stencils (by C&T Publishing)
  • Gauge to measure larger beads
  • Magnifier to see those tiny treasures
  • Needles: beading long and short, small sharps, cotton darner
  • Needle gripper: to pull the needle through layers of fabric
  • Perle cotton: to sew buttons or charms in place
  • Pincushion
  • Scissors: fabric and embroidery
  • Segmented dish: to organize all your treasures
  • Sewing thread: to sew buttons in place
  • Small crochet hook or awl: use to take knots out of beading thread
  • Synthetic bead wax: use to condition thread
  • Thermal bead mat: use to keep beads from sliding around work surface
  • Thimble
  • Thread Zap II pen: to burn thread close to the knot

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

Bead Embroidery Basics

Beading Threads

Silamide and Nymo are the beading threads that I use for bead embroidery and bead woven stitches.

  • Choose a color that is neutral to the fabric and to the beads and embellishments.
  • Cut a 3 yard length for bead embroidery.
  • Cut 1 yard length for bead woven stitches.
  • When used for bead embroidery the thread is used double with a knotted tail.
  • When used for bead woven stitches, the thread is usually used single.

Beading Needles

Beading needles are fine and thin and are most commonly found in sizes 10-13 (the larger the number the larger the needle). I prefer the John James brand of needles. They come in both a short and long length. I prefer to use the long needles for both bead embroidery and bead woven stitches, but I find that most people choose what works for them.

Note: A small sharps needle can also be used, on seed beads 10° or larger.

Threading the Needle and Waxing

  1. Cut the end of the thread so that it is straight across.
  2. Cut the thread according to the suggestions above.
  3. Hold the end of the thread close to the eye of the needle and insert the thread an inch or so beyond the eye.
  4. If you are working with the thread doubled, fold the length in half, with the middle of the thread at the eye of the needle; match the tails together. Follow the remaining steps.
  5. Place the eye of the needle next to the wax; pull the thread firmly over the wax.
  6. Place the eye of the needle at your forefinger and close your thumb over the thread. Pull the thread through your fingers to merge the two threads together.
  7. Knot the ends together.

Note: The thread in bead woven stitches is not knotted, the thread is woven between the beads to secure the thread.

Tips on Waxing

The goal of waxing the thread is to keep the two threads together, but not to have so much wax that you have clumps in the thread which will end up on the fabric.

  • A clean “used” toothbrush can be brushed across the surface of the beads and to remove unwanted wax build up on the surface of the fabric.
  • If the thread does not stay together after the first pass through the wax, then re-wax the thread.
  • When removing the thread from the needle, cut the thread close to the eye then pull the threads out of the eye. This will prevent a wax build up in the eye of the needle.

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

BEADS, Glorious Beads

The, beads, those tiny, shiny little treasures!

Types of Beads and Sizes

Seed Beads: round seed beads come in sizes 5° – 18°, some vintage beads can be found as small as 24°. These are used in bead embroidery, bead woven stitches, and beaded jewelry.

Triangle and 3-cut Beads: Triangular beads have 3 sides, and come in sizes 6° – 15°. Cut beads are round with one or several sides squared off, they come in sizes 8° – 15°. These can be used in the same ways that seed beads can be used.

Bugle Beads and Square Beads: Bugle beads are long and cylindrical, and come in sizes 2mm-20mm. Square beads have four sides and come in sizes 4° – 15°. These beads can be used in bead embroidery, bead woven, and beaded jewelry.

Larger Beads: Larger beads come in sizes 2mm and larger. These can be used in bead embroidery stitches, bead woven stitches, and beaded jewelry.

Embellishments

Charms: Charms come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and materials. These can be used bead embroidery stitches, and beaded jewelry.

Buttons and More: Buttons can add that extra bit of sparkle, or create a special design element. Chips, discs, and pailettes can also be used to create interest. These can be used bead embroidery, and beaded jewelry.

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

Working with Embroidery Threads and Ribbons

Embroidery is one of my most favorite pastimes. I enjoy both the process of creating and being able to pass on my knowledge through teaching and writing. Here are some tips that I hope you find useful.

crazy pieced base with embroidery

Cut Lengths

Keep your threads at a minimal length, so that the fibers do not break down, or tangle.

  • Embroidery threads: 18″
  • Silk embroidery ribbon: 16″
  • Metallic threads: 16″

Threading the Needle

  • When threading the needle, hold the end of the thread close to the eye of the needle, insert this end directly into the eye.
  • Always cut the end of the thread straight across the grain.
  • Pinch the tip of the thread and/or wet the tip of the thread.
  • Wet the eye of the needle, the moisture will attract the thread.
  • A needle threader can also be used for floss or perle cotton.
  • Perhaps a magnifier glass with a light source will help.
  • Hire a teenager that has great eyesight to thread your needles. (Don’t laugh; I used to do this for a dear friend of mine!)

Knots

  • Once the needle is threaded, I knot the tail. After I work a row of stitches, I knot the thread on the wrong side and cut the thread. I then make a knot in the thread, ready for the next row of stitches.
  • Another option is to tack the thread at the beginning and end of a row of stitches. Make a tack stitch into the foundation of muslin or interfacing (not through the entire piece). Take another tack stitch next to the first, pulling the thread to make a loop. Insert the needle through the loop and pull the knot closed.

Thread and Ribbon Specifics

Perle Cotton

When working with a ball of perle cotton, the loose end of thread will be found wrapped horizontally around the ball. This end is usually tucked under several layers of wrapped thread, so pull gently to find the end. Thread the needle with the loose end, and then cut off the amount needed.

When working with a skein of perle cotton, first remove any paper wrappers or tags. Untwist the skein and find the knot, then use one of the following suggestions.

  • Cut the knot of thread and wrap the length of the skein over a Stitch Bow thread holder. Tie the one end to the loop on the Stitch Bow and place the wrapper with the color # on the small rectangular portion of the holder. Take the loose end and cut off 18″ of thread, thread this onto the needle.
  • Cut through the entire skein at the knot, and tie into a loose knot to hold the threads together. Pull one thread out from the knot at a time, cut the length into two 18″ pieces. Select one piece and thread this onto the needle.

Floss

When working with a skein of floss, the mystery is always finding the tail without creating a big ball of knots. In most cases the tail closest to the paper wrapper listing the color#, will come out of the skein easily with no snarls. Pull out the tail and cut off 18″ of thread.

Another option is to remove both of the paper wrappers from the skein and slip the skein over a Stitch Bow thread holder. Tie the inner loose end to the loop on the Stitch Bow and place the wrapper with the color # on the small rectangular portion of the holder. Take the loose end and cut off 18″ of thread.

In most cases you will be working with a portion of the 6-strand length of floss. The number of strands you will use is up to you and your design. I usually use 3 strands, if a smaller stitch is needed then 2 strands. Here is how to split the threads:

  1. Hold onto the cut length of thread with one hand between your thumb and forefinger.
  2. Hold the remaining amount in the other hand, between forefinger and middle finger.
  3. Hold the length loosely in the same hand, between your thumb and ring finger.
  4. Pull your hands apart slowly to release the strands from the skein, let the thread flow between your thumb and ring finger.
  5. Choose the amount that you want to work with, 2 or 3 strands, and set the remaining group aside.
  6. Working with your chosen group, separate each thread individually, then reassemble these back together and thread this length onto the needle.

Silk Embroidery Ribbons

Whether you are working with a spool, reel or loose length, cut short 16″ of ribbon off. Then follow the following directions to knot the ribbon.

Beginning Knot

  1. Thread the ribbon through the eye of the needle, leaving a 2″ tail. Pierce the ribbon with the needle 1/4″ above the end of the tail.
  2. Pull the length of ribbon to snug the ribbon up to the eye.

Tail Knot

  1. Thread the needle through the tail with a straight stitch. Pull the ribbon through the stitch until only a small loop of ribbon is left.
  2. Thread the needle through the loop and pull the ribbon to form a knot.

Option: If you do not want to make a tail knot, then thread the needle through the fabric first, then hand stitch the tail in place with sewing thread.

Metallic Threads

Work with a short 16″ length, to minimize fraying on the ends.

  1. Fold over about 5 ” of the length of thread to make a small loop.
  2. Thread the loop through the needle.
  3. Insert the tip of the needle into the loop.
  4. Leaving a short tail, pull the length of thread to tighten the loop around the eye of the needle.

Finger Frame

All of the fabric bases have some form of stabilizer, so that I do not have to use a wooden or plastic frame. It is still important though to keep the fabric taught so that the embroidered stitches do not get pulled too tightly which will pucker and distort the fabric. I create a frame by holding the fabric between my fingers.

  1. Using your non-dominant hand, pinch the fabric between your forefinger on top and middle finger underneath.
  2. Leave a space of fabric, and then pinch the fabric between your thumb on top and ring finger underneath.

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

Tips for Successful Embroidery

Well, that just makes sense!

  • Practice, I do! If I could pass on one good suggestion, it would be to practice. Keep a piece of fabric and ball of thread on your work table, so that you can use it to familiarize yourself with a stitch, or to learn a new one.
  • Always wash your hands before working with the fabric base, embroidery threads and ribbons.
  • I keep a piece of cardboard with holes punched out to organize the unused portion of strands of floss. This way you will always be able to find the second half of the split skein.
  • Take notes while you are embroidering, such as how many wraps the French knots were, or how many strands of floss you used for a stitch.
  • Think of a mistake as a design opportunity that you had not thought of yet. Once you repeat a mistake, it becomes another element in the design.

Thread and Ribbon Specifics

Pearl Cotton and Cotton Floss

  • All the embroidery threads that you work with will naturally twist. Periodically hold the fabric base upside down then let the needle dangle down, the thread or ribbon will unwind.
  • To keep the threads from tangle free or from knotting, run the length of twisted thread or floss over Thread Heaven or Thread Magic. Repeat this if needed.
  • The loose end of thread can sometimes wrap around the working thread and create a knot. If you periodically cut the loose end this should help.
  • Keep the threads clean and dust free by storing them in a bag with a zip-lock closure. I have a separate bag for each project, and a smaller bag for the left-over odds and ends of for each project. You may never know when you need just a few inches to finish off a stitch.

Silk Embroidery Ribbon

  • Silk embroidery ribbon has a tendency retain the fold from the packaging. Slightly moisten the length that you are working with, and then gently pass the ribbon over the upright plate of a warm iron.
  • When embroidering with silk embroidery ribbons, in most cases the ribbon should lie flat against the fabric, however, the ribbon can twist once it is pulled through the fabric. If the ribbon is concave, hold the ribbon next to the fabric then stitch. If the ribbon is convex, rub the ribbon until it is flat, or concave.

Metallic Threads

  • Use a pair of craft scissors to cut the metallic threads, trims, or lace, as the metallic finish can dull your good embroidery scissors.

Working with Colorways

Ombre, variegated and hand-dyed colorways can lend a unique touch to any embroidered design. When working with this thread I try not to think out the color way too seriously, I just cut the thread from the skein or ball and begin stitching. If it is imperative to have a similar colorway for balance, try these suggestions:

  • For floss: split the skein of floss in half, and work one side, then the other.
  • For perle cotton, cut the thread in equal lengths until you find a repeat.

You can also create your own unique color blend of by combining the same size or different sizes of perle cotton, or combining perle cotton with cotton floss. Cut a longer length than you would normally use for a single strand of thread.

  • Combine 2 or more colors of the same or different weight of perle cotton threads into a large eye needle like a chenille needle.
  • Cut 3 colors of floss, separate 1 or more strands from each length. Combine the lengths and thread these into the needle. For 3 strands, use and embroidery needle; if you are using more than one strand for each color, then change to a cotton darner or crewel needle.

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

Sewing Basics

For all of my embroidered projects I start with a base of fabric. This can be a whole cloth, strip-pieced, or crazy-pieced base. Here are a few tips that I use when I work.

Well, that just makes sense!

  • I pre-wash all my fabrics so that the chemicals and accumulated dust are removed.
  • If vintage laces or handkerchiefs need to be cleaned, use a mild hand soap and water: dry flat on a towel and lightly press, if needed.
  • When working with any stabilizer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Use Sulky KK2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive to keep fabric in place while pinning and stitching.
  • Use a glue stick to temporarily keep lace, ribbons and trims in place while stitching.
  • Serge or zigzag the outer raw edges of the fabric base to prevent fraying while you are work the stitches.
  • Use Fray Check to help keep lace, ribbons, and trims from fraying.
  • Trims, appliques, and buttons can be stitched to cover raw edges that are not caught in a seam.

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.

All About the Needle

As a teacher of embroidery everyone, I mean everyone asks me if the needle makes a difference. YES is the correct answer!

The purpose of the needle is to make a hole in the fabric big enough for the thread to pass through the fabric, but not so big that the thread does not cover the hole. Needles are sized from low to high, the lower the number the larger the needle. The size of perle cotton, silk embroidery ribbon, or quantity of floss should correspond to the size of the eye of the needle.

  1. Beading, a thin, short or long needle with a thin long eye: use for all types of beading threads
  2. Chenille needle, a medium-length needle with a long eye that is wider than the shaft; use for silk embroidery ribbon, or for multiple threads
  3. Cotton darner, a long needle with an oval eye: use for twisted threads
  4. Crewel (also called embroidery needles), a medium-length needle with a long to medium eye: use for twisted threads
  5. Embroidery, a fine, thin needle with a long eye: use for stranded floss
  6. Milliners, a long needle with the shaft the same width the length of the needle with a small, rounded eye: use for twisted and floss threads
  7. Sharps, a shorter, fine needle with a small eye: use for sewing thread and for bead embroidery

Many students get confused once the needle is out of the package, and the name and size of the needle is lost. Here are a couple of tips.

  • To help you remember which needle is used for what thread, thread each needle with the type of thread, and keep this in a needle keep, a piece of fabric, or an index card. Then, write the name of the needle on the fabric or card.
  • To keep your needles organized, write the name of each type of needle in one pie section of a tomato pin cushion (and try to remember to put them in the correct pie space).

Happy Stitching to you! ~Christen

PS: If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, check out my PDF Classes and books.