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Beading Tips and Advice

Tips and Advice When Beading

What To Do When You Have Made A Mistake

Mistakes happen in beading all the time, even to me - often more frequently than I would like. Are you the type of person that once you see a mistake you can’t unsee it and you just have to fix it (don’t worry you are not alone it’s an affliction I have too).

You will probably be resigned to undo all the rows back to where the mistake occurred, laboriously undoing the beadwork bead by bead or even worse several beads at a time. What this will also do is destroy your thread in the process, not to mention your enthusiasm for the item you are beading.

If I am working on a large piece and I am more than a few rows past the mistake I will often use embroidery scissors to snip the thread between a bead on a row near to but past the mistake and undo bead by bead from there only. This gives you just enough thread to tie off and you can tie on a brand new piece of thread to start over. I have found it’s far quicker to just chop out the offending beadwork and less soul destroying, it’s not nearly as scary as it seems to take scissors to your work.

A good piece of advice I will give is never leave a mistake on your bead mat. I always correct the mistake so when I sit down afresh I can start beading straight away. I find I have significantly less motivation to work on a project when I have to sort out mistakes first.

Undoing Beadwork

So the inevitable has happened and you need to undo some beadwork bead by bead. The first thing you will use to help wiggle the bead loose is the beading needle. STOP put the needle down! Within a very short time you will find your beading needle will be bent beyond all usefulness, even your beloved Tulip needles, and they are not cheap! Instead take a dressmaking pin (the steel ones with a Pearl on top) and use this to wiggle between the beads to loosen the thread instead, your beading needle will thank you.

That Dreaded Word Tension

Tension is basically how tight you bead, i.e. how much pressure you are putting on your thread as you are adding beads. A tight tension means your beadwork is stiff and a loose tension means you beadwork will be more floppy.

To some, tension is the cause of all your beading problems. I am not sure I fully agree. When I am creating a design I like every bead to sit correctly and I cannot abide anywhere in my design where things don’t quite match up and you get a ugly gap or ripple in the beadwork. I will change a design to minimise this, so I definitely think the design also plays a big part. I know that different beaders bead with different tensions and my designs still work*

I always thought I beaded with a normal tension until my husband had a go at beading and his result was so loose I had to readjust my scale. We were both beading the same 3D design and the design looked the same, but it felt very different - his was a lot more pliable. This made me think a bit more about tension and I realised because I had ensured that the way the beadwork joined together fitted perfectly, it meant that despite loose beadwork being slightly bigger it would still fit in the same way, as the join would be adjusted to the scale of the tension on both sides.

Having said that I do firmly believe controlling your tension row by row can really make a vast different to the look of your beadwork and give you a more professional look. So, what do I mean by this?

Well, first off take a look at what you are about to bead, is it supposed to be nicely rounded or does it have sharp, straight edges? By using the wrong tension at the wrong time could mean your nicely rounded shape will have ridges or your straight lines will curve.

You might be thinking how on earth can you change your tension depending on the row you are on, it’s easy!

To tighten a row, give the thread a gentle tug after adding each bead. (I also recommend using a shorter thread as you tend to work with a tighter tension if you are not pulling the thread very far through the bead). You will typically tighten a row when you are increasing or decreasing and you are looking for a sharpe ridge or edge.

To loosen a row, bead as normal and try not to tug on the thread. At the end of the row smooth your fingers over the beadwork so any beads that are part of an increase are lying flat. You can pull on the thread to tighten and readjust as necessary. Note we are not looking for gaps between most beads just the ones that are part of an increase or decrease again.

When controlling tension we are not looking for extremes, you will still be beading with your normal tension, but when you are getting to rows when the shape is changing (i.e increasing or decreasing) you will control your tension to enhance the shape you are forming. i.e. For an egg shape you will need to loosen your tension at these points. I find that I tend to do this automatically as I a bead, using a looser or tighter tension depending on what my next row will be.

* As a disclaimer I will mention that very occasionally I have had instances where this isn’t always the case for a beader with loose tension. For example where beadwork needs to be sewn to other beads to form a structural piece and that sewing has been too loose that the beadwork moves and does not remain stable. I usually recommend in these instances to add new thread on and reattach or add a dab of nail varnish to stiffen the beadwork.

Tidying Up

This is something I have always done without really thinking about it, but maybe it is something you don't do! Whenever I am tying off a thread I check around that area of beads and see if there are any beads not sitting right, a little wonky or even too large a gap between beads. I use the thread I am tying off with to go to that area and re-weave between the beads and get things looking a little neater.

Finding A Bead In Beadwork

We ask you do to this quite a lot in our patterns, usually when we are adding another piece of beadwork to it.

I recommend to count from a bead you can easily identify, i.e. a bead of a different colour or an bead that is part of an increase. Its a simple thing to do, but I do get asked this a lot.

Holding Beadwork (Especially small pieces)

Occasionally I get a beader contact me to say they are having trouble with fiddly small pieces of beadwork. A lot of the time the trouble begins in how they are holding the beadwork in the first place.

Firstly I always recommend using a long tail of thread, with preferably a no tangle thread bobbin on it (See Equipment Section). This gives you something to hold onto to.

My next trick is to put my thumb over the piece of beadwork where I am adding the bead as I am pulling my thread through. This stops the beads moving around and means I can feel with my finger when the bead I add clicks into place. The benefit of doing this is it stops the previous beads that were added being pulled out of position and I can feel if the new bead is not sitting correctly so I can adjust as appropriate.

Stuffing Beadwork With Wadding

Take small pieces of wadding and roll into a ball in your hands – this ensures any stray fibres are smoothed. Insert using the end of your embroidery scissors or a blunt tool like the end of a crochet hook. Any stray fibres on finished beadwork can be melted away using a thread zapper if required.

Beading In The Opposite Direction

When I explained this trick to one lady over the phone she just would not believe it was true, it took some convincing. I am a right handed beader and I prefer to bead anti clockwise. Which direction you prefer to bead in does not seem to be a lefty/righty thing but people seem to assume it is.

So what do you do if the pattern is working anti clockwise and you want to bead clockwise?

Start off the beadwork as the pattern requires and then pick the beadwork up and turn it upside down. Follow the pattern as normal, you are now following an anti clockwise pattern in a clockwise direction and vice versa. Remember to flip it back when you are checking your beadwork against the instruction images. It doesn’t work with all patterns but on some it definitely does so give it a try.