Stitch of the Month
October 2006: Beading with the basketweave stitch

by Kathy Fenchel

Adding beads to a needlepoint design is a wonderful way to embellish your needleart.  There are an endless number of beads and techniques for attaching them to the canvas!  One of the ways that I have found works well for beading a large area is by using the familiar basketweave stitch.  It allows you to attach the beads securely, without having them crowd a small space.  In addition, it is possible to change bead colors within a specific area.  It is a handy, simple method.

To begin, match your thread to the color of beads that you will be using.  Generally, I find that it is best to use a stranded thread for this technique, such as floss or silk. If the needlework piece is not going to be subject to heavy usage, I do not wax the thread, but it can be done if you think it is necessary. Basically, the area that you plan to bead is going to be completely stitched in the basketweave stitch.  The beads are attached to alternating rows of stitches.  In other words your “up” row of stitching within the designated area will be in basketweave stitch. When you begin the “down” row of basketweave, add a bead to the needle before entering the canvas.  The bead will sit on top of the intersection of the canvas threads. The third row will be an “up” row and will be stitched in the basketweave stitch. The fourth row (down) will be the basketweave with a bead on each stitch.

Row one: Stitch the first row of basketweave “up”.
Row two: Stitch “down” using the basketweave method, but place a bead on the needle before completing the stitch.
Row three: Stitch the third row “up” in basketweave.
Row four: Stitch “down” adding a bead to each stitch.
Row five: Stitch “up”.

Continue basketweave stitching, adding a bead to every stitch you make in the down row until the designated area is filled with beads.  Once you have completed the beading you may find that some of the beads do not line up properly or seem a little loose and wobbly.  This can be caused by a number of things.  Sometimes there is an irregularity in the shape of the bead, your tension may vary, or your canvas has been affected by humidity.  Don’t worry. The problem is easily corrected! 

Figure 2

  1. Thread a long, very fine, beading needle with one strand of thread and anchor it behind the loose bead(s).
  2. Bring the needle to the front of the canvas, just below a bead that is one or two threads below the loose bead(s). Hypothetically, the third leaf in the diagram above has four loose beads indicated in green.  The arrow that runs through them represents the threaded fine beading needle. Note that the needle comes to the surface a bead or two below the loose green bead.
  3. Run the needle through the beads and include a bead or two in front of the loose bead.
  4. Take the needle to the back of the canvas and secure. The loose bead problem is solved!

You may decide that you would like to bead an area with a variety of bead colors. You must first decide on the color of your thread.  In the diagram below, the leaf will be stitched in three colors. The center vein uses the darkest shade of green, the upper half is medium green, and the bottom is pale green.  In this case, the best thread to use should be close to the middle shade of green.  On the other hand if the leaf were to be stitched in a combination of fall colors, such as red, gold and brown, a gold colored thread would be the best choice. The reason for this is that it is a color that is the most neutral, will set off the red, and contrasts with the minimal use of brown.  As you bead down each row, change the bead color as you come to the appropriate colored area.  Do not change your thread color.

Figure 2

Experiment with this technique.  You will find that it is an elegant addition to any canvas.

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