Thursday, 24 April 2014

An introduction to whipped and threaded bead stitches on stitched leather cord

As I promised, here's a closer look on the stitches I used for the 'candy berry' bracelet in yesterday's post. (Candy berry is short for opaque berry pearl matte beads on nappa in the colour candy.) This isn't a "real" tutorial, but I still hope it will be a useful introduction for beaders, jewellery makers and needleworkers, including those that aren't familiar with whipped and threaded stitches.

The illustrations are just simple sketches, but as the stitches are simple too, I hope the close-up photos together with the illustrations will still make the patterns clear and easy to understand. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions (in the comment section or privately via e-mail).

Choosing supplies

First, let's say a few words about supplies. For this bracelet I used a flat nappa cord, which is softer than many other leathers. You want a softer material in order to be able to get a needle between the stitches and the leather. Also, the seam shouldn't be too tight for the same reason, but it should be made with a tough thread that won't break when you press a needle under it.

I found my czech 11/0 seed beads to be the perfect size for this, not least since they're about the size of each stitch in the seams, but you might also want to try smaller beads for a more delicate look.

As for beading threads, I'm using my favourite (K. O.), but feel free to substitute with your own favourite. It's a good idea to match the colour of the seam so the thread blends into it, but as you can see I didn't follow my own advice, using a dark purple thread, and as long as it is more or less in tone with the colour of the seam and/or leather it will be rather invisible.

The needle I use is a size 10 ballpointed bead embroidery needle, which have a blunt point. Sharp beading needles are more likely to damage the seam and leather. If you still find that you push the needle into the soft leather, be sure to alter the angle of the needle so it is parallel with the surface of the leather. If that doesn't work, turn the needle so you push it under the seam eye first.

Simple whip stitch

The bracelet above is made using a basic whipe stitch, adding one bead per stitch. The difference between a whip stitch and a threaded stitch is that a whip stitch is worked in the same direction every time (so it goes over and under a seam) while a threaded stitch is sewn back and forth under a seam.

Most of the stitches discussed here only uses one bead per stitch, but do feel free fo add more than one bead if the spacing and bead size allows for it. You can create whole new styles that way.

Filling it up

If you don't like the "zipper look", you can fill in the bead rows afterwards by going through the beads, picking up one bead after each bead you pass through. Remember that the flat cord will curve once used so even if it might look a bit cramped when the leather is lying flat on the beading table, it will look ok once worn as a bracelet.

I haven't tried making more than one whip stitch per stitch in the seam, but that could also work. If adding more than one bead, be sure to adjust the stitch as the beads will be likely to arch or turn the hole up.

Basic threaded stitch

You can also make threaded designs. I don't have a photo of the basic threaded stitch so I'm afraid you'll just have to make due with one of my sketched illustrations. Here, you see the difference between whipped and threaded stitches.

Double threaded stitch

If you want more beads than in the example above, you can make a double threaded stitch by mirroring the first row of stitches. Start as above and then follow the grey thread path below.

Design tip: No one says you need to use the same colour/size/number of beads for every stitch.

Wide threaded stitches

I tried two variations of threaded stitches for parallel seams when making my candy berry bracelet: one filling the space between the seams and one creating a zig-zag pattern.

These are just two examples: by changning the number of beads, the direction of the threads (straight or zig sag), where you add the beads (in the middle and/or on the edge) and/or doubling the threaded stitches, you can create a plethora of bead patterns. Don't be afraid of experimenting!


Almost forgot this part. I secure the thread the way I would in an ordinary embroidery, by whipping or threading it on the flipside. The easiest way is to finish of the bracelet with glue-on end caps. Just secure the threads at the end of the leather strap so they too will be glued together when attaching the end cap.

I don't start nor end with a knot, but feel free to make a small, inconspicuous knot if you find that pulling the stitches tight pulls out the thread end. Do it near the end so it's covered by the end cap or in an inconspicuous place where the knot or secured thread won't show.

That's all, folks!

I hope you enjoyed my little introduction to beading on stitched leather cords. It's a great idea for anyone considering to bead on leather, but don't want to or don't have the tools to punch holes in it. Here you can undo your stitches without being left with a permanent hole. And that's just one of the things I love about these stitches and working on this kind of flat leather cord. Hopefully, you will like it just as much as I do!

Footnote: For a very good book with several examples of whipped and threaded stitches with beads, see Jane Davis' Bead Embroidery The Complete Guide: Bring New Dimension to Classic Needlework. If buying or borrowing the book isn't an option for you right now, you can read parts of it at Google Books. Threaded back stitch is found on pages 90-91. She doesn't show whipped back stitch (which is what's used in the bracelet), but you can find a variation of it in the whipped chain stitch on page 99.

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