learn how to add beads by machine

How to Add Beads by Machine


My quilt pattern "A Second View" includes instructions for adding beads by machine so today I thought I'd demonstrate how it was done after a quilter (recent customer of said pattern) mentioned it might help her to see this process in action. I agreed, I have to admit I learn better by seeing! Adding beads by machine can be fun but it takes some careful attention and a steady hand.

I will be demonstrating on a challenge piece I'm making, starting with small orange beads in the corners of my block.

To begin, I thread my machine with invisible nylon thread and insert a size 60 needle. This smaller needle will fit through the hole in the bead - do test this first before you put your needle in the machine. I also removed the foot from the machine. Normally I would use a hoop, but I wanted to demonstrate that this can be done without one. I recommend that if you have a hoop use it as it keeps the fabric taut and you're less likely to break a needle.

I added three beads to each corner like this

small orange beads added by machine

.... and then blue beads along the edge of a blue section and also some clear beads around the center section. That was fun, however when I replayed the video I took, I realized the camera was set a little high and you really couldn't see what I was doing. Of course, I discovered this after all the beads were attached.

blue beads along edge of blue section

clear beads around center section

But in spite of not having a video to show yet, here is how the overall block looked with the beads in place. 

block with beads added

I realized at this point an important lesson.... I should have put the borders on first and added the beads after! (I was just in too big of a hurry to add those beads) You are probably asking why should you do this? because those beads, as small as they may be, will only get in the way of the foot as they are near the edge of the block.

So with a little adjustment to my design, I managed to add mitered borders around the edge.... And just because I still wanted to make a that video to show you how I actually attach the beads with my machine, I decided to add some small purple beads around the white line of stitching in the border. Can you see them?

My mini quilt

Before checking out my video below, check this list of what I do and watch for these tips in the video.

  • start with a few tiny stitches close together to lock the threads
  • use a stiletto or quick unpick to push the bead near the needle
  • use the handwheel to position the point of the needle in the bead
  • use the point of the needle to move the bead into the correct position
  • do one or two stitches into the bead, then do two more small stitches to the side of the bead
  • stitch on to where the next bead will be added and do another couple of small stitches before adding the next bead
  • Warning: Keep your fingers well away from the needle - if they need to get close, take your foot off the foot pedal.  
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