If you are a beader and have graduated past stringing (nothing wrong with stringing! I go back and do it all the time!) and want to venture into something that might work as an embellishment on clothing, you might be looking at bead embroidery or beadpoint. If you are, you may be getting the two terms confused in your mind and wondering – what is the difference?
In some ways, very little. In some ways, quite a lot. They each have their own wonderful place in your beading world, so learn them both. But knowing when to use each one is important.
Bead embroidery can be used as an embellishment on clothing or it can be used to make pieces of work. Probably the most famous artist for her work in bead embroidery is Sherry Serafini. Her work is very ornate. Yours can be ornate or it can be simple or in between the two. It is really up to you.
The way bead embroidery works is through a few simple stitches. One is called couching. With couching you typically use two needles, one to fasten your beads to the fabric and the other to whip between every three beads or so and fasten them down.
Back stitching is very heavily used in bead embroidery. With back stitching you stitch on three or five beads at a time and when you have a small row you come up from behind and backstitch a bunch of beads together to give them uniformity; that is, to keep them all together in a straight line. There are other ways of backstitching, but the idea is to keep the beads straight.
With large beads you might fasten the beads on one at a time with bead embroidery. The surface you bead upon might be felt. You normally use a size 12 needle and delica beads although seed beads can be used. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules except keep it neat.
Beadpoint, on the other hand, was developed by expert beader Ann Benson. The best way to describe beadpoint is to liken it to cross stitch with beads except you would be using beading thread instead of cross stitch thread. You would use the same types of stitching that are used in cross stitching, so if you know how to read a cross stitch chart, then you’re way ahead of the game when it comes to beadpoint.
Ann Benson does not recommend delicas for beadpoint. Instead, she recommends seed beads. Furthermore, you would use cross stitch backing, not felt or fabric. You would not usually use beadpoint as an embellishment on clothing although clothing items have been made from beadpoint. Furthermore, beadpoint would more likely than bead embroidery be used for covering the tops of boxes, as is see on the cover of Ms. Benson’s book, and it works well to make other stand alone items like brooches and vintage looking purses. While you could, in theory, use bead embroidery for these items, the backing used for bead embroidery makes it less likely.
I suppose one could use cross stitch fabric for bead embroidery. I used a hat blank, which is made out of buckram, a loose weave, for my bead embroidery piece. Remember, nothing is ever wrong in art! If you can make it work, then by all means, do it!
The purpose of this article has been to attempt to clarify the difference between bead embroidery and beadpoint. Is there a difference? Yes – and no. They are both stitching beads onto fabric. There is clearly a difference in technique, but I find that people seldom follow all the rules anyway. Nor should they. It is by breaking the rules we discover new and wonderful things.
“Beadpoint” by Ann Benson