Bead embroidery adds spark to your fiber art’s surface design as well as taking center stage in bead embroidered jewelry. No matter the end game for your bead embroidery, you want to keep the beads in place. After all, you want your work to last a long time. Starting with the best bead embroidery tools means a beautiful and lasting result, as well as a fun beading experience!
Here are some of my favorite bead embroidery tools. I consider these my “top drawer” helpers because I reach for them so often.
Bead Embroidery Basics
I use a vellux-type beading mat for all of my projects. The beads stay in place really well, and I can cut them to fit various project trays and travel cases. And they are washable. so they last a long time! There are sticky mats that keep beads from rolling about, but I prefer the soft touch of these mats.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners. Your purchases via these links may benefit Create Whimsy. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
I store most of my seed beads in small plastic tubes, but that narrow opening can make clean-up a challenge. The scoop end of the tweezer/shovel combo lets me gather leftover beads and pour them into the storage tube. With the tweezers, I pick up beads that wander off into the corners of my tray.
When I make bead embroidered jewelry, I need a foundation that will hold its shape while being easy to stitch through. Bonus points if I can draw on it or adhere a sticky-backed pattern to guide my stitching. This beading foundation fabric comes in both black and white so you can choose a light or dark background for your beadwork. It is a non-woven fabric, thick enough to hold heavily embroidered pieces while still remaining flexible enough to adapt to body contours. The edges do not fray, so you can trim to the exact shape you want.
I love Ultra Suede for backing bead embroidered pieces. First, it feels soft against the skin, so jewelry is comfortable all day and into the evening. (There’s no point in making jewelry that no one wants to wear.) It comes in a gazillion colors. I like to have some neutrals on hand, but sometimes it’s fun to spice up a piece with a colorful back. Ultra Suede does not fray, so you can cut it to fit the shape of your piece, and it’s easy to stitch through for your favorite edge treatment.
When stitching through layers and foundations, you don’t want wimpy needles! Burrs on the tips and rough eyes that shred your thread bring nothing but frustration. So it’s worth it to invest in good quality beading needles. They last longer and improve your work. I use different size needles for different purposes, and I hate trying to figure out if I have a size 10 or 12 needle in my hand. Beadsmith ColorEYES beading needles help a lot!
For most bead embroidery projects, I use a nylon beading thread such as Nymo. It’s strong, yet pliable, so beadweaving projects have a fabric-like drape. When I can, I like to match the thread color to the beads, and nylon threads allow me to do that. I can also choose a neutral thread for projects with multiple color changes. I prefer a finer size B thread for most projects because I often make multiple passes through the beads, and a heavier thread can get in my way. Just like with needles, quality makes a difference in beading thread.
Some beads have sharp edges that can fray soft nylon threads over time. (I’m looking at you, crystals and bugle beads!) Braided bead thread resembles fishing line and can hold up to years of abuse. The crystal and smoke colors blend with just about everything. It’s tough stuff and can damage your regular scissors over time, so you will want dedicated cutters (see below). Some beaders use this thread exclusively. They love the structural quality it gives their work.
Xuron shears are my favorite cutting tool for braided beading thread. I have used the same pair for several years, and this cutter still gives me beautiful clean cuts. I feel like they have saved me money in the long run because I haven’t ruined my other scissors on the braided thread that I often use.
When using nylon beading thread (which is most of the time for me), I like to have beading scissors on my mat. They are small for take-along projects (I never go anywhere without a project of some kind), and maintain their edge nicely, as long as I don’t use them to cut braided beading thread.
Sometimes I need to trim a thread, and I just can’t get the tip of my scissors far enough between the beads to prevent a hairy little thread from poking out. The tip of the Thread Zap thread burner heats up, and the precision point lets you get to the offending thread ends. Just lightly touch the cut end with the zapper, and the offending thread tail melts away. It does get hot, so keep the tip away from your fingers. This tool works on both types of beading thread. (Do not use on natural fibers – they will burn!)
Browse through more bead embroidery inspiration on Create Whimsy.