Monday, January 13, 2014

Beading Woes and Wins in my Anna's Garden Poncho

Oh the troubles of beading an Alabama Chanin piece. The dilemma comes from finding a needle that is large enough to accommodate the thickness of the button and craft thread but narrow enough to fit through the bugle and seed beads. In the past I have found needles that work but I lost the package and didn't know what type they were  when I needed to replace them. 

I did some research and asked around on Craftsy for suggestions for good needles. I got suggestions for big eye needles. 

They have a collapsible eye and a narrow body to fit the beads. These work great in that they accommodated the button and craft thread easily, however because they were so flimsy they would bend and made the process very slow going. 

I then switched to the Sullivan's beading needles. They were thin enough to accommodate the seed beads but the eye was too small. I ended up using another needle to enlarge the eye and it worked for a time. The problem with this needle though was that going through the layers of jersey fabric, over time it would begin to arc and bend. This made for a slow process is well forcing me to stitch one running stitch and bead at a time.

I asked Dr. Fun what type of needles she was using and she pointed me in the direction of the Dritz Milliners needles. When I went to the fabric store though I forgot if she said embroidery or milliners. So, after debating for quite a while, I decided to go with the embroidery needles because the eye was  larger and the body of the needle is really narrow. I figured if I got it wrong I'd be back at the store if I needed to replace them.

Turns out the size 5 embroidery needle was perfect!  The steel is firm and the needle is short so it allows me to be easily work through the fabric without the needle arcing.  This needle allowed me to stitch a beaded back-stitch as opposed to a single running stitch every time.  It is hard to explain the difference, but in the time it took me to do one shape with the wobbly needles I was able to complete three shapes with the firmer needle.

My husband put some compression sewing gloves  in my Christmas stocking.

Compression Glove with double-sided tape as my beading glove.
I put them, and my needles too good use on my new poncho. With this poncho, I used a tan top layer stenciled with brown airbrush paint using the Anna's garden stencil and a white under layer. I used three types of beads in color combinations of white, silver,  and clear iridescence.

My label on scrap jersey.
I chose to use reverse applique in random shapes while leaving some shapes unstitched and unbeaded. 
Front on my custom dress form
I am sure to return to this piece over time, adding more beads and stitches. For now, I am happy with it. 

Happy Sewing,


  1. this piece is do great work....wish you lived closer..I am looking for a fellow AC devotee in the Minneapolis area....much love to you

    1. Thanks Laura! I know the feeling of wanting to share this passion with others. I have been tempted to start an AC Meetup... we will see. If you get to Tx, look me up :)

  2. Yes, the pain!!! But your poncho is gorgeous - love the colors - and glad you found a needle that works! It's just hitting me that I'm going to lose beads when I wear the dress. The owner who sold me my original beads said to expect to lose a lot - yikes!

    1. I am not sure why you should lose beads? I washed the poncho to curl the jersey and did not lose any. If you use a double layer of thread and tie a knot after a few stitches it should be secure. I would hate for all of your hard work to be lost.

  3. Oooh, I'm using a single thread - she said that in her Craftsy class I think. The guy said the edges of the beads rub the thread and can eventually cut through, especially when you sit down on them. Now did you turn it all inside out (not that you can with a poncho) or put it in a bag or something to wash?

  4. Yes, she does say to use one strand. I have no problems with one, but because my needle could fit two, I used it. I wash wrong side out on delicate with other items. I have not worn any beaded piece long enough to have the beads break, so hears hoping the same for you!