Why Bother With Bead Embroidery? Guest Blog By Cyndi Lavin

Mar 8, 2013

Bead artist, blogger, and really good cook Cyndi Lavin
There are many reasons why I love bead embroidery, but the Zen-like qualities of the process are probably why I return to it over and over again.

On the surface, bead embroidery really is very simple -- just a couple of easy bead stitching techniques. But once you've mastered the basics, you can use bead embroidery to create astoundingly complex pieces of beaded jewelry! Today's guest blogger, Cyndi Lavin, is no stranger to astoundingly complex -- and beautiful -- bead embroidery. Read on to find out what inspires her to create, and how she wants to inspire creativity in others who share her passion for beads.

Ancient Waves by Cyndi Lavin
We all know that beadwork can be a ridiculously painstaking medium for self-expression, and it could be argued that bead embroidery is the most painstaking of all. It can also become ridiculously expensive, since once you get started, you have to have seed beads in every color, shape, size and finish! 

Not all artists have the obsession with attention to detail that's required on the beaded path, but those who do are rewarded beyond measure. Not only by the work itself, but also by the inclusiveness of the amazing community of beaders. There will always be room for more members!

So, looking at bead embroidery another way, what could be easier or more appealing than stitching beads onto fabrics to create a world of color, texture, and and emotion?  Bead embroidery is an art form that is easy to learn and accessible to everyone, but it also has unlimited capacity for increased complexity...or even for weirdness. As time goes on, you find yourself wanting to add a whole bunch of other things besides just beads, like found objects, and sometimes you also find yourself stitching on materials other than fabrics...and so it goes. Now you're working with mixed media bead embroidery, with no boundaries at all.  

My goal as a bead artist and writer is to help you find your way into this fabulous art form. Did you know that you really only need to know how to do five bead embroidery stitches to get started?  If you already know bead-weaving, I'll bet you already know how to do peyote stitch. Four more stitches are all you need to learn: back stitch, stack stitch, edging brick stitch, and picot stitch. That's it!  I wanted to make it really easy for you to see if this is a journey you'd like to take, so that's why I offer the first chapter of my e-book Every Bead Has a Story, for free. It covers my favorite materials, tools, and stitches (including the four stitches listed above), plus it has a beginner project. The additional chapters of my book focus on altered surfaces, dimensional beading, found objects and unusual materials, and integrating bead embroidery with other fiber arts.

Arctic Frost by Cyndi Lavin
Everybody's beading journey is different, and there are an unlimited number of other beading techniques and bead-weaving stitches that you can add to your repertoire once you've decided you're hooked.   And you probably will get hooked, so maybe I should throw in the warning right now: run away before it's too late!

When I first began making bead embroidered necklaces, I tended to favor the familiar collar style.  They were fun to make, but I felt that I had worked too long and hard to master all the off-loom bead-weaving stitches to simply throw away those skills. Eventually my style morphed into one that combined all the techniques that I love: embroidery, off-loom bead-weaving, stringing, and wire work. That's where I am now, and my newest e-book, Some Assembly Required, focuses on working with smaller components that are then attached together to form the final necklace. 

Where to next? Only the beaded path ahead knows for sure! Enjoy the journey!

Follow your own beaded path and see what lies ahead. Looking for more great inspiration for mixed media bead-weaving and bead embroidery? Take a look at The Art of Forgotten Things by Melanie Doerman. You'll find page after page of inspiration, ideas, and techniques for taking everyday objects and using them to tell your own unique stories through beaded jewelry. Get your copy of The Art of Forgotten Things and see how you can make memories that will last a lifetime with your beads.

How do you tell stories with your bead-weaving and bead embroidery? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your thoughts with us!

Bead Happy,


Cyndi Lavin is a writer, bead artist, bead blogger, and a really good cook. You can find out more about her through her website, Beading Arts.

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LeslieY@2 wrote
on Mar 8, 2013 7:39 AM

"so that's why I offer the first chapter of my e-book Every Bead Has a Story, for free."  I don't see a link to this offer.  Would love to see it.

on Mar 8, 2013 7:59 AM

Thanks so much for this great blog about beading on fabric. All too often, I find that beaders forget that we who sew on fabric are also beaders, too. For my own art quilts, 1 sq in or 2.5 sq cm takes 1 hour to complete. Some of my larger pieces weigh as much as 25 pounds or 22.4 kg, so I use a LOT of beads. However, when I settle in for what I call the Time of the Long Sew, there's a Zen-like quality to the work and hours fly by,,,,

Nancy Smeltzer


on Mar 8, 2013 9:59 AM

I'm just beginning beading and this work is truly inspirational! Embroidery is what you make it...totally from the heart!

CyndiLavin wrote
on Mar 8, 2013 11:18 AM

Jennifer, thank you so much for allowing me to gush about my love for this art form!  Folks who are having trouble finding the link...just visit the link to "Every Bead Has a Story" which is highlighted in the post.  Scroll down just a bit and you'll see the icon for the free chapter.  Left click and it will allow you to download the free pdf!

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!



Lois2037 wrote
on Mar 8, 2013 8:13 PM

I wish this were in print. I can't deal well with ebooks.

coralisles wrote
on Mar 8, 2013 10:29 PM

Very inspiring. I had a vision of  bead embroidery in my head for years but was afraid to attempt it.  Finally got the courage and completed my project just as I had invisioned it! Advice to others - Just do it!

Eileen1224 wrote
on Mar 9, 2013 9:11 AM

I'm delighted to see this interview with Cyndi Lavin. I've followed her mixed media and bead embroidery work for a long time.

I have "Every Bead has a Story", as well as her more advanced bead embroidery book, "Some Assembly Required - Bead Embroidered Components". Her tutorials are top notch!

Eileen1224 wrote
on Mar 9, 2013 9:15 AM

Tip for Lois2037:  Cyndi's books are PDFs, so you can print them out. I'm with you, there's nothing better for following tutorial directions than a  "real" book.

aneva9 wrote
on Mar 9, 2013 11:37 PM

The Art of Forgotten Things.  A Beautiful Book written by a Beautiful Woman; Melanie Doerman.  

Being as sentimental as I am, this book not only give us so many inspirational ideas of how to wear and display our cherished items, but it also has shown me that there are others in this World who are as Sentimental as I am.

Rest In Peace Melanie, your talent and beauty you created through your works will live on Forever!~