Beading How To: Edge Beading

Michael demonstrates Edge Beading…[he begins by showing a few examples of finished pieces with beaded edges and gives some detail about some unique edge beading he used on one of his bags]. On this strap, the leather was really, really thick, so I got to bead the top and bottom and edge bead both sides…and frankly, that was just showing off [he says with a smile], but it does have a real nice texture.

For edge beading, you just need one needle with a doubled thread and, of course, some beads.

To begin
I'm going to start with these little blue beads. I like to edge bead from the right to the left. To begin the stitch, [He sticks the needle in through the back of his piece of leather] and now I'm coming out right through the edge (you want to bead with the good side facing you).

Stacked Edging
First, I'm going to show you how to do a stacked edging…its going to be stacked 2 high.

You want to load your needle and thread with 4 beads to start. Go into the same edge of the leather (a bead's width away from your first stitch) and come up off to the side (you should end up on the top of the leather). When you do your first stitch with the 4 beads, they'll bend over and make 2 stacks - you then want to take your needle and go through the 2 last beads without taking a stitch (in the leather).

All you're doing here is reinforcing it, you're not going through the leather (he completes the pass through the beads)…and there, you have the start of your edge beading. You shouldn't see any stitches.

Now, for each succeeding stack of beads (if you're doing a double stacked edge), you're going to load your needle and thread with 2 more beads, go in through the edge, come out on the side, and (without taking a stitch and going through the leather) go back in though those 2 last beads (bottom to top) to reinforce them.

This is fun to do on…a lot of people also use this stitch on jean jackets and stuff. Its a nice, tough edging. If you do it well, you can wash it…although I'd recommend washing it by hand or using the delicate cycle.

[Michael continues with his beaded edge and demonstrates it at a much more natural pace].

Varied Stacked Edging
You can also vary the number of beads per stack. One of the ways to vary this is to put more beads on your needle each time…in this instance, since I have been using 2, I'll put 3 on this time.

You continue just the way to did with the 2, but just remember you want to reinforce (go back through) all 3 beads this time. For the next stack, I'll add 4 beads and do the same thing…in though the edge, out though the side, and back trough all 4 beads to reinforce [Michael see that on that last pull, he has a bit of a loop, so he takes his awl and loosens his previous stitches slightly and pulls on the thread to snug it up].

So, now we've gone from 2 to 3 to 4 beads…we're going to go back to 3 with the next stack…go in through the edge, come out off to the side (don't make your stitch too big or it will show), and go back through the beads…and there's your 3! Now, we're going to go back to 2 [he makes the stitch and reinforces]…and there you go - it makes kind of a zig zag or hill pattern on the side of your piece.

Picot Edging
Now, I'm going to put on a couple more and then add another bead to the top…some people call this Picot edging. It's nice and decorative; it's a really nice way to finish a piece.

To do Picot edging, you can add another bead to your mix (it can be a different size or color or both). You want to add this bead to your needle and thread first (in this case a white bead) and then add 2 of your main beads (Michael's using blue) on top of that.

You want to do the same as you did before - go in through the edge and come out off to the side…but when you go back through the beads, you want to go back through just the 2 blue beads (not the white one).

To continue, add your white bead and then two of the blue beads to your needle and thread…go in the edge, come out off to the side, and go back just though the blue ones, not through the white one (this forces the white one up to the top).

[He continues with the Picot stitch at a much more natural pace] You can use any color or size beads you want for this…it doesn't matter.

When to do Edge Beading
When I do my beadwork, I like to do the edge beading first and then butt right up to it (with the beaded design/border on the top). Then, I do all my borders and then fill in with the design…I like to have a lot of coverage.

Edge Beading over a seam
If you were doing this on top of a bag, for instance, you would just continue, continue, continue all the way around and when you got to the end where the tow edges meet, you would go down in though your last stack of beads and come out the back and tie it off (this would make everything join up seamlessly).

Tying it off & beginning where you left off
[Michael adds one more white and 2 more blue beads to his needle] Here, I'll show you how to tie this off. Go in through the edge, just like you normally do, but this time you want to come out on the back side…once you're there, you just want to make a small stitch and pass your needle through the loop, make one tiny knot, and snip…you're done.

To start it again…take your needle and doubled thread (with a knot in the end) and come up from the back, right in under your beads (the edge you already did), come up on the top, and then go back through your last stack to reinforce…and continue with your edge, just like before.

Michael's parting words about Edge Beading
Edge beading is pretty satisfying…and like I said, you can also do this around your cuffs or your lapels, your pockets. It's a very traditional finish…and its the finish details that really make your piece.