Bead embroidery basics -- Nicole's BeadBacking
I recently had to sort out my beads as I try to downsize my craft stash (a daunting plan, as most of you will sympathize, I'm sure). I had accumulated so much stuff! In the course of sorting beads and tossing beads and reconsidering beads, I realized I really missed bead embroidery, more than other forms of bead work: more than simple jewellery making, more than bead weaving, more than stringing. I'm a collagist in other arts, and bead embroidery is very like collage: it can incorporate a wide variety of materials, it's cumulative and it can be structured or free form, as the materials and the mind of the artist dictate.
So bead embroidery it was! I would keep all my seed beads, my cabochons, my smaller glass beads, my drop beads. But I was almost out of the most important element: the backing material -- I just had a few scraps left!
I've tried various supports for this kind of embroidery over the years: Stiff Stuff, felt, heavy interfacing, but I always come back to my favourite: Nicole's BeadBacking, by American artist Nicole Campanella. Why? Two main reasons: it comes in a remarkable range of 15 colours (so no dyeing needed) and it's sturdy and easy to use.
I just received my latest order from her company, Beadwright (yes, she ships internationally) and it's reignited my desire to embroider. Every colour is an inspiration to me and every scrap is useful. I bought the sampler package (15 samples, one of each colour, in 4" x 3" pieces -- perfect for brooches, earrings and other small works) and the 9" x 6" full set (perfect for bracelets and some necklaces). They're great value and simply the best backing for bead embroidery I've ever used. She also sells Ultrasuede, both by the piece and in colour-coordinated sets with her backing.
Check out her shop at Beadwright.com.