For years I avoided beading in needlepoint. I would look for alternatives, any I could find, in order to avoid the hassles of beading. Most of the time I was happy with the results.
I couldn’t help wondering though, if they really were better than beading when compared side-by-side.
I stitched this adorable blue crab from Patty Paints three times, once with all beads and twice in two alternatives to beads. Not only are these three the same canvas. but I also used the same thread for all three backgrounds.
If you are looking for perfect needlepoint, you’ll see flaws. I wasn’t using my favorite threads or techniques for several of these pieces. I wanted to see how these techniques worked.
Want the results? Read on.
Today beads come in a wide range of finishes and styles and can be bought many places. While I like the overall look of my beaded piece, color and finish can be a problem. The finished piece is pictured at the top of the article.
You’ll get the best results if you can see and compare the colors and finishes in person. I bought these beads from a color card and the piece suffers. Each is a different finish. The lightest blue is too close to the main color in many lights.
While I like the solid beaded look, I found that even though each bead was sewn on the same way, many beads moved, spoiling the effect.
This is my target look, but practice is needed to give consistent results. In addition knowledge or a great LNS are needed to make the best bead choices.
This technique is the only one I didn’t stitch on the crab. This coaster is from Raymond Crawford.
In look these knots look the most like beads and, in general, they are the most popular alternative. Most stitchers can make this stitch and they can use any thread to create whatever look you want.
There are some disadvantages though. First, it can be hard to make each knot look the same. That requires practice and making each knot exactly the same way. If you do not, the result will be a bit messy (which you may want). Second, you will need to experiment to find the knot size that gives you the look you want. Third, knots on every intersection may pile up and look too dense. I overcome this by doing knots on every other intersection.
This one is my favorite of the alternatives. The metallic threads do a fantastic job of mimicking the finish of the beads. It’s also an alternative anyone, even brand new stitchers can use because only Tent Stitch is needed.
If you chose to use metallics as an alternative, be careful only to use round metallic threads (i.e. metallic braids). These threads will round off at the edges of each stitch, as individual beads do. This makes them look more like beads.
All Shiny Threads
Because beads can often be shiny instead of metallic, picking shiny non-metallic threads is another alternative. Rayon is the fiber that makes the shiniest threads. When I stitched the crab in rayon, I could see that the individual stitches were less defined than those in the metallic crab.
I also could see differences in rayon threads. In my crab, black was stitched using Neon Rays, a rayon ribbon. Both blues used Patina, a two-ply single strand rayon. I did not use a stranded rayon. Neon Rays was by far the easiest thread to use, but it also looks the least like a bead. Patina looked better but it could snag easily, marring the effect.
I also noticed a clear difference in the shininess of the two colors. The lighter blue stayed shiny, while the darker blue became more matte.
If you are going to use the alternative you probably need to stitch test patches. Avoid rayon ribbons and test other threads and colors to see if the look is acceptable.
I loved trying these possibilities. While I am going to continue to look for places to work on my beading, I’m still going to stick with using metallic threads and Tent as an alternative. The look is very close to beading and it is about a billion times easier.