Beading How To: Applique Stitch

In our final Beading How To for the month, Michael demonstrates the Applique Stitch and shares a few tips to make nice, consistent stitches, help mark your place (its amazingly easy to loose your place with this stitch), and adding additional lines of beads...and one of our famous friends makes a special appearance.

The Applique or Overlay Stitch (there's different words for it)…certainly different tribes used it more, especially in the West and Northern Plains - Crow, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, and Cree up in Canada as you move further north.

For this stitch, you need 1 needle with a doubled thread and 1 needle with a single thread (its folded over and waxed, of course). Now, people may be thinking, "Oh my Gosh, what do you mean 2 needles and thread?"…well, you don't need 4 hands, you will just be using one needle and thread at a time [Michael says this smiling].

Step 1: Needle with a doubled thread
The doubled thread is going to be holding your beads…its your bead-holding-thread. Come up from the back of your leather (with this needle and doubled thread) and then add your beads either from a hank or by scooping them up if they're loose. Once you've added some beads to this thread, put the thread off to the side (you're done with this one for now).

Note: The most difficult thing (I think) with the Applique Stitch is figuring out how to hold it so you can make it go where you want. I typically hold it between my index finger and middle finger at one end and between my thumb and ring finger on the other.

Step2: Needle with the single thread
Remember the Lane/Lazy Stitch and how we just nicked the top of the leather to hold down our stitches? Not for this one, for the Applique, we will be going all the way through.

[Taking his first stitch] I'm going to come up from the back of the leather, right next to my line of beads and in-between the first and second bead (you always want to come up in-between the beads); then I'm going to go down on the other side, directly across from it (if you don't do that, you're going to create a gap)…then you just want to pull the thread and snug it (you don't want to pull too tight).

[Continuing with his stitches] You always want to come up on the same side (of the line of beads) and go down on the opposite side (up on one side, down on the other) every couple beads- do this for consistency and it will keep your work looking nicer.

Mark your spot
[After a few more stitches] Do you see the problem with this? It's hard to tell where you were (one the stitch is pulled snug, it disappears and makes it difficult to find where you last left off).

Rather than count (beads) as you stitch, you can use your last stitch to mark your place - instead of pulling your current stitch snug, leave it a little loose so you leave a loop to show you were you were. Then when you go up on the next stitch (a couple beads away), pull it snug and the loop will disappear.

Remember to keep your material and bead-holder-thread taught.

[Continuing to add stitches to his line of beads] Your first lines (outlines) of Applique are going to be a little trickier because they're going to have a tendency to roll around a bit until you get them down. [As he takes another stitch, he points out the thread loop he's leaving to mark his place for the next stitch] See the little thread loop? Go a couple beads up begin another stitch…don't count, it'll stop being fun if you get all compulsive about it…and pull it [the loop] down, and there you go.

[Beginning another stitch at a more regular pace] I'm going to go in through my leather and leave a small thread loop on my way back down on the other side, I'm going to pull the loop snug.

Note: This stitch is actually pretty easy, although the hand holding the work will probably cramp on you until you get comfortable and figure out how you want to hold your work. I like this stitch because you can use different sizes of beads, you can work on different pieces/parts - for instance [Michael refers to one of his finished bags], you can work on your outline and then work on any other area (top left, bottom right, middle…or wherever you want).

[Still stitching on his line of beads]…Oops! I pulled that one (loop) tight, but I kinda remember where I was [he runs his needle down the back side of his bead line to find his last stitch]. Then he continues stitching.

I find the Applique Stitch a little more relaxing (than the Lane/Lazy Stitch) because I don't have to count all the beads and be panicked about all the beads being the same size (I'm referring to the same sizes to make your lines look nice).

Finishing the stitch
For the Applique, I recommend going every 2 beads or so. If you're doing a tight curve, you may want to go every bead. You also want to make sure you take a stitch right before the end.

[Getting to the end of his line of beads] Now, I'm getting towards the end, so I want to turn it around and jam the end of my bead line with my thumbnail to keep it stable, and I'm going to come up 2 beads before the end and take a stitch.

Grab your doubled thread, go down through the leather, and tie it off on the backside (as you backstitch, pass your needle though the loop, pull it snug, and cut off the excess thread - one little knot is all you need).

With your single thread, you want to take one last stitch right at the very last bead of the line to keep it taught. You can tie it off on the back.

Adding more lines of beads
When you butt another line of beads up next to the one you just did, you want to make sure to come up with your needle in-between the lines of beads (be sure to come up in-between the beads, DO NOT go down in between them).

[A familiar voice is heard at the door] Kevin Fast Horse stops in to say a quick HELLO and asks if Michael poked his finger yet and we laugh.

[As Michael snips his last thread] There, you just repeat that a few hundred times'll have something.