Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Teaching Tuesday: adding a bit of sparkle

As the festive season gallops up on us, perhaps it's time to consider adding a bit of sparkle to our work!

Sequins and beads, stitched by machine - because I can, and because I'm too lazy to do them by hand :). 
I could have stitched the buttons by machine too, but that would involve changing the presser foot...

NB This is all free-machining - teeth down, embroidery foot on

To stitch sequins, take it nice and slowly and don't be afraid to use the fly-wheel to lower the needle into position to take one stitch. When using the fly-wheel, make sure you only EVER turn it towards you, never backwards. So to get the needle back up, either use the foot pedal if your machine will do one stitch at a time, or keep turning the fly-wheel FORWARDS.

When the needle has taken a stitch through the sequin, shuffle the embroidery forward a bit so that the next stitch is off the edge, back into the fabric.

Now. Stitching beads.

First and most important - and do NOT skip this step! You need to check that your machine needle fits through the hole in the bead. You may need to downsize your needle. I routinely use a 90, so I will go down to an 80, and sometimes even a 70.

And I know it's tedious, but it's best to check every individual bead even if they all came from the same pack. Sometimes there are irregularities.

The process is exactly the same as for sequins, but this time you are stitching through the hole in the bead. Take your time, use the fly-wheel to position the needle, and as long as you have checked your beads first, all should be well. The beads cannot fall into the machine race as the fabric is there to stop it (do one bead at a time, just in case they run away). 

When you have taken the stitch through the centre of the bead, move away from the bead and stitch into the fabric. At this point, pay attention to where the back of your embroidery foot is - even though it usually sits slightly above the surface of the fabric, it still exerts enough pressure to smash a bead. I either stitch without a foot altogether, or move BACKWARDS away from the bead.

The worst that can happen is you break a bead. Actually, the worst that can happen is that you break a needle, but you would have to be stitching hard and fast to do that and hit a previously stitched bead. I can't rule it out as anything is possible!

So - my preferred method is:

1. Check the bead/needle first
2. Use the fly-wheel to position the needle just inside the bead (this also stops the bead running away)
3. Use my foot pedal to take ONE stitch, down and up
4. Move the embroidery towards me a smidge, so the foot effectively moves backwards away from the bead
5. Take a stitch into the fabric, making sure I don't skim the edge of the bead
6. Stitch my way to where I want the next bead, paying close attention to previously stitched beads so that I don't hit them with the needle or the foot.

You could also add a bit of sparkle by using some foil - just sayin'

I know my students want me to put their work up on here, so next week, we'll take a look at their landscapes and textured stitching, and we'll talk whip stitch and feather stitch. There's been some lovely stuff taking shape in the practice pieces, but this week we are starting an ambitious three-week project to bring it all together...

Meanwhile, here are a "few" finished pieces:

These are all by Fiona, who had to miss the last half-term to recuperate from an operation, but being Fiona she couldn't just stop and watch daytime TV, she stitched all of these instead! 


  1. Will certainly give this a go. Always sewed beads on by hand, but life is too short. Why do you only turn the flywheel towards you. Not heard of this.

  2. I wondered about this too. I've never had a problem as a result of turning the flywheel away from me.

  3. Great tips, I've never thought about stitching beads with the machine but m definitely going to try it now! Thankyou

  4. Wonderful artwork Iz and I enjoyed reading your stitching tips. I'm not competent enough to try them, but it was all very interesting! x

  5. Love the sparkle and the tips for stitching are really helpful. Very tempted to try some sequins now!

  6. I read this last week and then forgot to comment. I'm just getting into stitching but not on the machine, found this very useful, might have a go myself next time I have time to do some experimenting.
    Love the effect of including paper.

    1. Thank you for reading! Let me know how the beading goes.


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