Bead-Dazzled: Add Detail and Sparkle to Your Fiberwork (Giveaway!)

What do the following little quilts–part of my self-imposed 30-Minute-a-Day Creativity Challenge –have in common?

Sedona Nights, 3″ x 5″, by Darra Williamson
Three Sisters, 3″ x 5″, by Darra Williamson
Cupid’s Arrow, 3″ x 5″, by Darra Williamson

If you guessed beads, take your seat at the head of the class!

As you can see, beads can play a starring role (the “prickles” on the cactus in Sedona Nights), add detail (the pear stems in Three Sisters), or even be used to tack down appliques or embellishment (the rickrack in Cupid’s Arrow). But that’s just the beginning.

I love to add beads to my projects, large and small, and over the years I’ve accumulated a number of books on the subject. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

I’ve known Mary Stori for ages. (She’s a member of that creative group, PTA–Professional Textile Artists–that I wrote about in a previous post.) She’s talented, funny, and adventurous, and her work and her enthusiastic teaching style reflect this. She has a wonderful way with beads, and felted wool is a current passion. Check out these wonderful examples.

Tracks, 5″ x 7″, by Mary Stori
Long Needle Pine, 9″ x 12″, by Mary Stori; note the tiny seed beads in the sprig and all around the little quilt’s edges.
Trade Winds, 7″ x 10″, by Mary Stori
Pussy Willows, 11″ x 19″, by Mary Stori
Small Trees, 14″ x 15″, by Mary Stori; again, note the beads on the edges.

Mary has written a number of books about beading and embellishment, and Beading Basics is one of my favorite go-tos when I need a tutorial or a shot of inspiration. Its 48 pages are packed with solid info, great how-to and photos, and loads of super ideas for incorporating beads into your work. I particularly love her clever techniques for fringed and other bead-bedecked finishings.

In addition to her books, Mary offers two other great resources to help you sharpen your skills and spark your creativity. Viewing her DVD, Mary Stori Teaches You Beading on Fabric, is like having her right there with you in your sewing room, walking you step by step through the beading process.

Her All-in-One Beading Buddy is a handy reference that you can tuck into your sewing basket, stash beside your favorite stitching spot, or slip into your purse for shopping and travel.

All three–the book, DVD, and Beading Buddy–are produced by C&T Publishing.

Another fiber and beading artist whose work I admire (OK, moon over!) is Larkin Jean Van Horn. As her website states: “Larkin wants her work to have as much interest for the fingertips as for the eye — hence the decision to work with fabric, fiber, beads, and found objects. She is also drawn to the alchemy and serendipity of dyeing and painting her own fabrics and yarns to create her ‘paintbox’ of materials.” Take a look at her work; I think you’ll agree, she nails it!

Calm in the Center, 12 1/2″ x 19″, by Larkin Van Horn; beading as applique
Night Light, 10 1/4″ x 10 1/4″, by Larkin Van Horn, another example of beading as applique
Prairie Winds, 6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″, by Larkin Van Horn, from her Small Treasures series
Falling-Flying, 5″ x 8 1/2″ x 5″, by Larkin Van Horn; note the beads securing the leaves

As I with do with Mary’s, I find myself reaching again and again for Larkin’s info- and inspiration-rich book, Beading on Fabric. The subtitle–Encyclopedia of Bead Stitch Techniques–gives you a good idea of what you’ll find inside. Published by Interweave Press, this 120-page hardcover has a covered spiral binding, so you can prop it open beside you as you stitch. I love that!

I hope you’ll take the time to visit both Mary’s and Larkin’s websites. Each features an extensive gallery of the artist’s work. You won’t be disappointed!

A relative newcomer on the “playing” field is the softcover version of Creative Quilting with Beads, by Valerie Van Arsdale Shrader, senior editor on the needlearts team at Lark Crafts.

Following a healthy chapter on beading basics, the book features over 20 projects designed by some of the most well-known names in the fiber/beading galaxy…including Larkin Jean Van Horn! (Her 29″ x 14″ quilted and beaded piece, Jewels of Our Past, appears–with instructions–on page 68.) Along with a variety of small quilts and quilted collages, projects include a doll, pillow, handbag, apron, bookcover, and more. There’s a juicy gallery, too.

Jewels of Our Past, 14″ x 29″, by Larkin Van Horn, as seen in Creative Quilting with Beads

Feeling inspired? Well, I’ve got just the thing: a copy of Creative Quilting with Beads to give away to one of our lucky readers. Leave a comment telling about a project you’ve made with beads, or–if you haven’t tried them yet–what you would like to make, or even a cool project you’ve seen. Post it by midnight (PDT) October 5, and I’ll announce the winner on October 16.

On the subject of giveaways: congratulations to mjkasz, winner of the EQPrintables Inkjet Fabric Sample Pack from my August 24 post. If you’ll email me at, I’ll get your prize, generously donated by EQ (Electric Quilt), on the way asap. (There were so many lovely, heartfelt comments, I’m glad I was making the selection via random drawing! Thank you all.)

Finally, we’re coming down the home stretch in our preparations for Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane Nursery this weekend (September 22 – 23). If you’re “on the grounds,” please stop by and say hello!

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching.


18 thoughts on “Bead-Dazzled: Add Detail and Sparkle to Your Fiberwork (Giveaway!)

  1. I know these posts are a few years old, but was wondering if you could answer a question. On your piece Sedona Nights, are the beads glued on or sewn. Love the look of the prickly cactus. Thanks.


  2. My current project is will be beaded – I am just about ready to start sewing them on – and I can hardly wait to get to it. I have been reading about beading and have beads on hand… if I win this book I will be so delighted to have guidance in this important step. Thank you for the chance to win it….


  3. My very first beading project was a beautiful large flower print fabric that I am accenting with beading. Still working on it but hope to have it done soon. Beading is such a fantastic way to enhance the beauty of a quilt. Thanks for the opportunity to win!


  4. I’ve done a couple of quilts with bead embellishment. One is a landscape (ala the book Accidental Landscapes) where I used beads to highlight the water in the mountain lake, and also to add sparkle to a waterfall. And the other started as a Ricky Tims’ Harmonic Conversion that reminded me of a super nova (picture deep blue with white spots for stars, a deep red, deep orange, and bold, bright yellow). I used white beads to illustrate force waves in arcs, and then used orange beads in radiating lines to indicate the energy. Fun!


  5. I have beads, mostly for scrapbooking. I have thought of adding them to smaller quilted wallhangings. I would like to try some beading after reading your reviews of the resources available to us.


  6. First, I have both Mary and Jean’s books and follow Mary’s blog! They are both so talented and inspire and guide us on a regular basis!!
    I love working with beads and can’t imagine my art life without them!!! Each winter I drag ALL my beads with me to Florida! Hubby can never figure out what “that noise is in the back seat!”. I’ll never tell. Currently, I’m working on my beaded embroidery butterfly…oranges and browns! I’m using #11 and #15 seed beads.


  7. Beads are sneaking onto my quilts more and more after I added beads to a small 15-point mariners compass I made to celebrate our guild’s 15th anniversary. I recently added beads to one of the two pears on a tiny quilt I made, inspired by the pears quilt of the Modern Quilt Studio, as a bridal shower gift for my best friend’s daughter. Next up, the guild’s 2012 challenge, which requires embellishment, and that of course means BEADS (and ribbon and ….).


  8. My guild has just issued a small quilt (9 x 12 inches) challenge and this would be the perfect opportunity to try beading! The books would help me conquer my fears about trying this new (to me!) technique and help get my creative juices flowing!


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