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Bead Embroidery

Samples Part II
Beadwork December 2001/January 2002
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Thread embroidery encompasses both precise stitch paths and also freeform stitches. 
Some of the most exquisite long and short stitches can be found in Japanese and Chinese motifs on screens, wall décor and ornamental wear such as kimonos.  Although many of these motifs appear very precise, they are often stitched freeform.  The stitchers’ expertise and dedication to their craft make these freeform shapes appear to be exact.  Chinese and Japanese art include symbolic motifs repeated at such intervals that the overall appearance leaves the viewer with a feeling of peace and contentment.  Long and short stitches can be found in embroidery throughout the world, each motif reflecting a particular culture and their symbols.

Embroidery II, Long and Short Stitches
AKA:  Shading, tapestry shading, Irish, plunge, leaf, satin, opus plumarium and feather-works stitch.  Long and short stitches are a variation of the satin stitch.  It is often used for florals, scenics and as a filler stitch for irregular and large shapes.  In addition to the names the long and short stitches are identified, bargello type motifs are also known as Florentine, cushion, flame and Hungary stitch depending on how the bargello motif is worked.

Introduction
 In most embroidery books, this type embroidery is listed with “long” first and “short” second, even if the project starts with a short stitch and follows up with long stitches.  The first of these samples requires counting the stitches on counted cloth.  The second and third samples are freeform using the same stitch concept without counting stitches on counted cloth.  Work the first sample to learn the idea of long and short stitches and follow up with the freeform motifs.   The two freeform motifs are worked much the same with very different results.  When I finished the first two samples, my hands still wanted to experiment a little longer and the third sample materialized.  Beadwork Magazine has limited space in their publication to dedicate to my sampler department so I am including it here.  It is important to see how the same stitches, with a few variations, can be worked in more than one motif.

General Instructions
Embroidery requires a fabric backing.  Bead embroidery bulks up and requires working stitches differently than thread stitches.   All beads are not uniform and every stitch will not line up exactly as thread stitches.  Fourteen count fabric works with 11/0 and Delica beads, however bead size variations require some adaptation to the stitches.  The counted fabric needs each cut edge whip stitched to prevent raveling or apply Fray Stop to the edges.  For the first sample, stitch each row of bead embroidery separately, if there’s a mistake in one row, it will be easy to correct without redoing the whole sample.  The freeform motifs are not worked in rows; work them with a continuous thread.  The counted fabric I used has a smooth and a rough side; I used the smooth side for the bead embroidery.   Plan for 29 stitches down and 27 stitches across for the bead embroidery area.  The counted fabric I used has 29 stitches down and 27 across.  Each fabric sample measures approximately 2 1/8” long by 1 ¾” wide; this does not include the whip stitched edges.

 Thread the embroidery needle with thick thread, double it, about 40” total, 20” on each side.  Make a knot in the end and cut off the excess thread.  Take the needle through the counted fabric from the back to front, at the top left or right edge, beginning in the 1st stitch from the top.  Make sure the thread is taut and take the needle from the front to back over the top of the fabric and back through the next stitch, making a loop around the edge of the fabric, continue to the end.  Then turn the piece to the backside, pull the needle through all the stitches to the other end and cut off the excess thread.

 For each row of beads across in the first sample, thread the beading/sharps needle with beading thread, double it, about 40” total, 20” on each side.  Make a knot in the end and cut off the excess thread ends.   Knots are not used in most thread embroidery, however, when stitching with beads the thread requires knots at the beginning and ending of stitch rows to keep the beads from pulling loose.  Use Fray Stop on the knot to make sure it does not come loose.  I use a disposable lighter on my beading thread ends.  Each time a row is finished, make a knot, cut off the excess thread and begin the next row with new thread.  Pull the thread taut after each stitch.  Each time beads are strung onto the fabric, take the needle through to the backside, and pull the thread taut.

Lighter Trick      Keep about ¼" loose thread at the end of the knot. Let the heat, not the flame, burn the thread ends. Soon as the thread ignites, it will burn down towards the knot. Blow out the flame on the thread before it reaches the knot, the heat from the burnt ends will make a little bead on the knot. Take care not to singe the counted fabric. This is a Joyce Scott trick. Adults should be in charge of the lighter trick.

Terms

Stitches Tiny holes run the length and width of counted fabric forming a grid of small squares. Count from one hole to the next (one small square) as a stitch; this is extremely important when counting. If you hold the fabric up to the light: the tiny holes will be obvious.
AKA Stands for "Also Known As"; additional names identifying the stitch being worked.

 Materials

 Notions


Bead Long and Short Stitches
Bargello Motif

Emb2-rows-300-czech.jpg (15927 bytes)
Emb2-rows-300-delica.jpg (15871 bytes)
Czech Delica

The first row alternates across with short and then long stitches, color 1 for the short stitches and color 2 for the long stitches.  All subsequent rows are long stitches and alternate colors starting with color 3.    There are 6 rows down.  The first row of shorts has five stitches in length and the longs have 10 stitches in length.  Longs in rows 2 through 5 also have 10 stitches in length.  The sixth row 5 stitches, is a short and fills the last portion of the motif.  Even numbered rows across have 14 stitches and odd numbered rows across have 13 stitches across.  Begin in the top corner stitch, start a row across from one direction, and then work back from the opposite direction.  String the number of beads that lay flat between the beginning and ending  stitch hole.  Each new row shares the last stitch hole of the previous row.  If you have never worked bargello or long and short stitches before, use the illustrations below as a guide for making the stitch rows.  Figures 1 through 3 are the basic steps when making   the rows, long and short stitches, to form a bargello motif.  These figures do not have the same number of stitches as required for the samples.  Remember to use different bead colors for each row, using colors 1, 2 and 3 as indicated above.

Graphic.jpg (16780 bytes)


Bead Long and Short Stitches
Scenic Palms Motif

Emb-palms2-300-czech.jpg (13216 bytes)
Emb-palms2-300-delica.jpg (12986 bytes)
Czech Delica

Begin with an irregular line of beads, color 3, to make the tree trunks, back stitching the beads.  String 5 beads, take the needle through the fabric and bring the needle back up through the fabric and the last 2 beads previously added; repeat for desired tree trunk length.  Use the basic long and short stitch concept for the tree branches; make one branch on the tree short and the next long.  Put color 3 next to the tree trunk, then color 2 and color 1 on the branch ends. The beads for the branches do not need back stitching.  For the island, bring the needle through to the front, string one bead and take the needle through the fabric to the back; repeat for an irregular layer of the 3 colors along the tree trunk base.   The sample photographs in Beadwork Magazine are upside down, showing long stitches first, when it should be short stitches first.


Bead Long and Short Stitches
Leaf Motif

Emb2-leaf-300-czech.jpg (12508 bytes)
Emb2-leaf-300-delica.jpg (13432 bytes)
Czech Delica

Start with an irregular line of beads just as you did the Scenic Palms.  Make a leaf stem just as you did the tree trunk.  Use color 3 and make the stem approximately the same length of the tree trunk.  My sample has a stem length measuring 2 1/8” worked at an angle on the counted cloth.  The stem is crooked like the tree trunk, not a straight line.   At the bottom of the stem, add a second section of stem, same color, approximately 7 or 8 beads long.  Make it a few beads longer than the stem end for a more natural look.   The stem base will be thicker than the rest of the stem.  For leaf filler, begin at the top of the stem using the same color sequence as you did with the palms.   Begin near the stem at the top edge with the needle coming up through to the front side of the counted cloth.  String 1 color 3 bead, then 1 of color 2 beads and 1 of color 3 last so the outside edge of the leaf will be the lightest color.  Extend the stitches at the top straight out, then as they fill that area, the stitches will be on one side of the leaf working down.  Then work the other side from the bottom up or top down.  Each side should not be exact matches.  The stitches at the top of the motif will be short stitches.   The stitches working down from the top and up from the bottom sides begin with short stitches and work into longer  stitches towards the center area on each side.  As the stitches become longer, add a few more of each bead color but do not use the same number of beads of each color for each stitch; this makes the leaf appear more natural.  The stem needs to be couched, the leaf filling does not.  When you stitch into the edge with one strand of beads, the strand should not be super taut.   As you build up strands, they will overlap each other and bunch around giving a more three dimensional effect.  These are long and short stitches, however the strands are not taut and overlap each other, which is reminiscent of Native American bead embroidery that includes leaves and florals.


Conclusion

Use these samples as a reference.  Try working these same stitches on wearables without counted fabric.  Try the palm scene in different color choices.  Don’t ever think a tree or leaf or has to always be natural colors.  As you can see by these examples, using a variety of colors can result in striking beadwork.  Work the bargello sample in rows with graduating colors; the more you experiment, the more you learn about color.  The bargello sample on counted cloth pieces would make great sections on a belt or headband.  Also you could make a long belt of counted cloth and make a continuous bargello motif.  Leaves or palms would be an excellent embellishment to quilts and tapestries.  Make a pin using ultrasuede as the background with the palm scene motif.  Make the background a little wider than the sample.  Above the palms and to one side of the smaller palm, add a few seagulls.   All you need to do is bring the needle through to the front, string 5 of the same bead colors, any of the same motif bead colors.   Take the needle up and a little to the side and bring the needle through, pull taut.  Bring the needle back up at the beginning point, not the same exact spot, and string 6 beads on, same color as the beginning 3.  Bring the needle up, a little to the side and back into the fabric.  The bird shape should look somewhat like an elongated “V” shape.  For the second bird, bring the needle back up through the cloth a little further over, string 3 beads for one wing side and 2 for the other.  Two or three birds are enough for a small motif.  After you have made these samples, make your own favorite motif with simple lines and filler on counted cloth and add it to your sampler.

Resources For Stitches

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, Reader's Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY,  1979

Reader's Digest Complete Book of Embroidery by Melinda Cross, Reader's Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY, 1996

The Golden Hands Complete Book of Embroidery, Random House Inc., New York, 1973

The Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework, Third Edition, by Therese de Dillmont, Courage Books, Philadelphia, PA, 1996

The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia by Jan Eaton, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., Quarto Publishing Ltd., London, 1986

The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchery, by Mildred Graves, Ryan, Doubleday, Inc., & Co., Garden City, NY, 1979

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