Starting Out.

First, this is really easy, whenever I teach folks they go "That's it? That's easy!". It really is simple, you won't believe it. My students come back going! "WOW! everyone thinks I'm like a god now!" Really. Once you do it a few times, your' hooked. It progresses faster than regular embroidery.

Yes, as far as my embroidery goes, everything is couched within an inch of it's life. No escape, no surrender.

Period method was to string all the beads on at once and then one by one couch them in place with a second thread. It's hard cumbersome and not durable, if a thread broke you could loose whole lines.

I have developed a method that is in looks Identical to period couching but is... gasp... machine washable and sturdy as a elephant and even can be worn in yes... battle.

  • First USE good heavy cloth, broad cloth weight weave will pull apart and believe it or not, the weave will form holes and beads will flip around to the backside if you aren't careful. I've done this, trust me, use cloth up to the task.
  • I recommend you do pieces Oxford, light canvas, or even trigger type materials. They have a dense heavy weave. Basically if you can read a license plate through it it's too light. If you are doing accent pieces for light garb recommend you appliqué it on, hey it's period! And if the garment wears out, you simply remove it and apply to something else.
  • If you want fabric showing around and IN your design but one that isn't capable of handling it, or want added protection, BACK the material with trigger or somesuch. More is never a bad thing.

Using PENCIL like I said before, I use a mechanical pencil (just easier since it doesn't have to be sharpened and fits in the bead kit better)

I draw cross hairs more often than not so I can periodically check the way the material is shifting. You can use a magazine, postcard any thing SQUARE for this check.

You will from time to time have to redraw areas, don't fret it's normal. Especially in freestanding shapes like this. IF you DON'T do it everyone will know as it will be lopsided and uneven. Get used to the idea you WILL be doing touch ups to the design.

I hand draw, but you could use carbon paper, there is a line at art supply houses for fabric that washed out.

Or you can hold the fabric to the window and have a black line drawing behind it against the cloth and trace the image on the front, this works really well if you don't have a lightbox. This is how I do designs sometimes.


(I didn't start shooting pictures of the procedure until I was started, but that's OK, just pick up from here. Sometime in the future I'll re-shoot this)

Come up next to your line with your needle.


OK one thing to remember is your guidelines.

Which ever way you will be running your beads, the sticking to the guidelines is the most important part, you may need to back off the line a bit so the edges fall directly on it.


Load your needle with some beads.

Gather the beads at the end of the thread with your needle and find out where your thread needs to go next.

Go down right next to the end bead, don't leave too much or not enough room, the beads should lie flat and not have a sag or open gaps.


In small tight areas you may only want a few, in longer straight areas you could well do over 20 or 30.

I usually tech folks with 4 beads at a time at first, it can be hard to scoop them from t he bowl until you learn how to hold the needle and 4 is easy to do without trying.


Come up from underneath and come up in the middle of your line you just put down, at a crack between beads so you will not cause gaps.

You can use the stitch coming up between your lines to shape the row into curves, it will naturally lay flat, but come up a bit to one side and come through the rest of the line and it will curve. This is how you shape the lines.


Pass your needle through the beads starting from where you came up.


Load your needle again.


And continue, repeating the steps so far as you need.

When you need to lay another row, give room for the beads, don't come up RIGHT next to the edge. Roughly give a 16th of an inch, or less. You'll get how to work the spacing after awhile.

Copyright 2000 Jen Funk Segrest (Elspeth Grizel of Dunfort)