Sewing Beads on Fabric: Create Text with Beaded Embroidery – Quilting Daily

When I first discovered art quilting, heavily encrusted, beaded quilts were very popular due to a revival of crazy quilting. For a while, paint, needle felting, and fabric manipulation became more popular as surface embellishment–and that’s still true. But I see beaded embellishments are making a comeback, especially in combination with embroidery.

One of the simplest techniques for sewing beads on fabric is the beaded back stitch. You can use it to outline motifs, write words, or create lines.

Learn to add surface embellishment with beaded text
embroidery like this from Nancy Eha in her online course.

Here is how to write a word with the beaded backstitch, taken from one of Nancy Eha’s tutorials. Nancy is known as the queen of beaded embellishments:

1. Write your word on fabric with a light colored pencil that will blend with your background or an air-disappearing pen.

2. Come up from the back of the fabric with your needle at the beginning of the first letter and pick up three seed beads. 

3. Hold the beads in place (following the line of the written word) with your non-beading thumb and pass the needle through to the back of the fabric, right next to the third bead.

4. Come back up with your needle between beads 1 and 2, pass the needle and thread through beads 2 and 3.

sewing beads on fabric with the beaded backstitch
Beaded backstitch. Note, the example 
above uses a 4-bead technique.

5. Pick up three more seed beads, hold them in place with your non-beading thumb, pass the needle down through the fabric next to bead 3, come up again between bead 1 and 2, and pass the thread through bead 2 and 3.

6. Repeat along the line you are tracing until you have written the entire word in seed beads.

Note: if you do not have room for three beads along the line, pick up two beads, come up between 1 and 2, pass through bead 2, and continue.

Use this stitch for sewing beads on garments and accessories, adding text to an art quilt, or anyplace you need a little extra embellishment.

Nancy is teaching a four-week online course on Beaded Text Embroidery: The Art of Writing with Seed Beads with techniques ranging from how to print and write with cursive to creating show-stopping ornate letters inspired by illustrated manuscripts. If you like embroidery, art quilts, and embellishment, this course is for you.

P.S. What’s your favorite embellishment technique for personalizing your projects? Leave your comment below.

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