Monday, March 19, 2012

Beads on Canvas - Part 1

When you place your threads on the canvas you are very careful that they lie nicely for the best effect - whether it is light play on the laid threads or the threads lying neatly side by side, or whatever the look for which you are striving.  However, many people put a bead on canvas without realizing that they should be just as careful so that all the beads look the same - they all lie the same way, there is no wiggling or wobbling, etc.  Unless you are looking for a completely random effect, you want to attach the beads to the canvas in one of the following three ways.

The thread passes through the hole in the bead twice for the first two bead attachments.  (The dotted line represents the thread inside the bead.)  The third bead attachment uses 2 strands of thread and the first stitch passes through the bead, while for the second stitch the thread is separated and the bead is placed in the middle of the two threads.  When you pull the thread taught it will keep the bead in place.
What happens when the bead is to be placed over the intersection of two canvas threads?  This type of attachment is shown below and causes the most problem for people because the hard bead is placed on a raised canvas thread.   The cross stitch will prevent the bead from wiggling.

Now for a discussion of threads.   What type of thread should you use?  Seed beads are made by cutting a long, thin glass tube or cane into short pieces.  This means that the edges of the bead may be sharp, not to your fingers, but to a piece of thread that is going through the middle of the bead.  
Cotton floss is not strong enough for attaching beads to canvas.  I suggest using either the nylon beading threads (C-Lon, Nymo or Silamide) which come in a range of colors, or use polyester sewing thread, which comes in even a wider range of colors.  I personally use the sewing thread for any piece that is a picture.  If I am going to wear the piece, then I use the nylon beading thread.  I think the nylon beading threads are a little too thick for most of my purposes on canvas.  You may or may not agree with that, which is fine.  Just don’t use cotton floss.  I also have used Invisible Thread, which I will get to in another blog posting.
As for waxes and conditioners (like Thread Heaven):  I don’t use any.  I know that people say that they make the beading thread stronger.  My understanding of wax is that it coats the thread to protect it from fraying and resistant to unintentional knotting, and in some cases, strengthens it.  Thread Heaven reduces knotting and fraying.  I just don’t use either.  I hate having to pick dried wax out of my needlework, I don’t have problems with thread knotting if I am careful when I stitch and if the thread starts to fray, I begin a new piece.  When beading I place a couple of buttonhole knots on the back after every 5 beads or so, just in case the thread breaks after I am finished stitching the piece.  That way I will not lose many beads.  It works for me.  Do what you think is best for you.
Now, the most important part of thread: the color.  There are those who advocate the thread you use should match the color of the bead.  I am in the camp that believes the thread should match the color of the underlying material (canvas or the stitched thread, depending on where you attach the bead.)  Here is an example of what each type looks like when stitched on canvas:

The top row of beads is stitched with a thread similar in color to the bead, the bottom row of beads is stitched with a thread that is the same color as the canvas.  Which do you like better?  It depends if you want to see that thread or not.  I prefer not to see that thread.  Which do you prefer?
Notice that the second bead in each horizontal row is at an angle.  This is a nice variation for how the bead will sit on the canvas and comes from using an Upright Cross Stitch to attach the bead.
In the next blog I will discuss different types of beads, attaching scattered beads (i.e. where to hide the traveling thread), and different types of needles.


  1. Thanks for a good overview of the possibilities for bead attachment. I learned!


  2. Another fantastic post! Your blog is great :-) :-)

  3. Terrific explanation & illustrations. Thank you.
    I've also found that with translucent or transparent beads, changing the thread color can change the appearance of the bead color.

  4. The best is to stitch beads with invisible thread. No dilema with choosing the thread colour. And in addition all beads looks like they are loosely spilled on the stitched piece - looks just simply gorgeous.