Having grown up by the sea, when Beads Direct asked me to create something for the theme of summer it just had to be sea themed. I decided that I would love to create something special with a pair of seahorses using beaded embroidery and Soutache. I am a Soutache novice but using this technique you can be quite free with the design and there is no complex 3D bead weaving or counting involved.
This is not a quick project. Please just take your time and have fun. If you don’t like a section, just undo it. You could adapt the design too – do whatever you think looks good. Embroidery is more free style than counted weaving techniques so there is no such thing as ‘wrong’ with this one.
I hope that you like my loving seahorses. If any of you decide to make it, please do upload it to Beads Direct Shine Online Facebook group. I would simply love to see your version.
Happy Beading, Anne x
- Preciosa Seed Bead Mix Amazing Aqua (AMAZINGAQUA)
- Seed Bead Mix Silver Jet (SILVERJET)
- Seed Bead Mix Teal Explosion (TEALEXPLOSION)
- Seed Bead Mix Ocean Calm (OCEANCALM)
- Seed Bead Mix Turquoise Delight (TURQUOISEDELIGHT)
- Sparkly Resin Teardrop Cabochon Peacock AB (BA46)
- KO Beading Thread Olive (TC307)
- KO Beading Thread Blue (TC308)
- Polyester Soutache Cord Peacock (TC907)
- Polyester Soutache Cord Mint (TC918)
- Beading Foundation White (ST1112)
- Beading Felt Foundation Green (ST211)
- Beadalon 7 Strand Beading Wire 0.010in Bright (W440)
- Crimp Beads 2mm Silver Plated (FCR1)
- Zamak Toggle Clasp Antique Silver (F0138)
- Fevikwik (W311)
- Fabri-Tac Adhesive (W370)
ORDER ALL YOUR MATERIALS
You will also need:
- A fine sharp embroidery needle (or Beading Needles, W474).
- Fine sharp pointed embroidery scissors and dress makers pins.
- A beading mat is invaluable. I love the beading board (ST156) as it allows pieces to be pinned down while working. Handy for holding the work while braiding etc.
- Wire cutters and flat nosed or crimping pliers.
- I like to use thread conditioner (such as bees wax W342) as it strengthens and helps prevent knotting and fraying of threads while working.
- Bead stoppers (W317) are also really useful for holding beads on wire while braiding.
Note: I used a scrap of coordinating turquoise felt to back and finish my piece (in place of the green foundation listed in the materials).
GENERAL TIPS FOR STITCHING:
Drawing Tools: You will need a soft pencil or pen for drawing some guidelines on the beading foundation. Some scrap lined or graph paper is also useful for working out the placement of elements while building the design, so that you get them symmetrically placed.
Beads: I have chosen several bead mixes to use in the project as they are so versatile, giving a good range of sizes and colours. Consequently I don’t know the exact bead sizes of them all but have tried to indicate the sizes used at each step. Don’t worry too much. If a particular bead looks OK then it will be OK, even if it is not the same as I have used.
Starting and ending a thread: When starting a new thread to sew on beads or braid, knot the thread end and hide the knot on the back of the foundation or between braid layers. Then make a couple of small stitches to fully secure the knot and prevent it slipping and working its way through the felt or braid with time. End a thread by securing with 2 or 3 small stitches and trim close. It doesn’t matter how messy the back becomes as it will be covered with felt at the end.
Sewing on beads using Backstitch: Bring the needle up through the foundation, add on 2 beads, pass needle back down through foundation so that the beads lie next to each other. Next bring the needle back up close to the first bead added, pass the thread through the 2 beads just added, add the next 2 beads and repeat.
Sewing on beads using Couching: Bring the needle up through the foundation, add on all the beads needed for a row. Pass the needle back down through foundation so that the beads lie next to each other and make an anchor stitch. Next sew back down the row making small stitches between the beads, stitching down and anchoring the thread between them. Work the next row.
Tramming your bead rows: After stitching on rows of beads, pass the thread back through all of the beads. Gently pull the thread and secure with a couple of stitches to hold. Your beads will all line up nicely and give a much neater finish.
Stitching the Soutache: The braid is stitched in place by laying on its edge and making small stitches at right angles through the central groove. If you are a beginner it is easier to stitch single layers of braid at a time. I find that dressmakers pins can be useful to help hold the braid and tension it in place as I work around a shape. Add a tiny drop of Fabri-Tac to the cut ends of the Soutache braid. This will dry clear and prevent the ends from fraying.
Note: Some braids have a slightly different look depending on which edge you look at, a smooth edge and a slightly textured looking edge. Look carefully at your braid and use the same edges to match them.
Stitching beads between braids: Pass the thread through the centre of the braid, through the bead (or beads), then through the next braid. Take a small stich and go back through both braids and beads.
Step 1 (of 12)
Take one sheet of bead foundation (approx. 11.5 X 14.5cm). Draw a vertical guide line half way across, then 4 horizontal lines approx. 2.5cm apart, starting approx. 3-4cm up from the bottom. This is to help with placement of the cabochons.
Glue on the cabochons approx. 1cm apart and at a 45 degree angle, and leave to fully set, preferably overnight. Tip: Lightly scratch the back of the cabochons to give a key for the glue (do not do this if you are using transparent or special coated crystals), apply a small drop of Fevikwik glue, press down onto the bead foundation and hold for a few seconds. I have found that this method ensures that the cabochons stay strongly secured.
Next draw a heart shape (approx. 7cm wide and 7.5cm tall), circles and small central horizontal line (as seen in the pic). This will give a rough guide for beading and placement of the seahorse head, nose and body. The tail sections will cross over at the heart shape base.
Step 2 (of 12)
Backstitch opaque turquoise (approx. size 8) beads around the cabochons (from the Amazing Aqua Mix). Tram the beads to align neatly.
Step 3 (of 12)
Cut 2 lengths of Peacock braid approx. 25cm in length. Seal one end thoroughly with Fabri-Tac glue and make into a small tight spiral and stitch through the sides to hold firmly. Fold the braid back on itself, and place on the inside of the teardrop, using the drawn guidelines to position the small swirl. Stitch the braid all the way around the teardrop shape. Do not trim off the long ends yet. Don’t worry if you have space between your wrapped cabochons, just fill in any gaps with beads if needed as you work later stages.
Step 4 (of 12)
Sew on the eyes towards the outer edge of the drawn circles, using an approx. size 6 and a size 10/11 black bead (Silver Jet Mix). Stitch through the larger bead, thread on the smaller bead, and then go back down through the larger. Repeat a couple of times to ensure strongly secured.
Draw in a guide for the placement of the nose. Backstitch opaque turquoise (approx. size 11) beads around the circle guide lines (from the Amazing Aqua Mix). Tram the beads to align neatly.
Step 5 (of 12)
Stitch rows of transparent size 10/11 beads to fill the head area and sew a row of larger (approx. size 6) beads to fill the nose (Amazing Aqua Mix) following the drawn lines as a guide. You can work quite freely but leave space for the braid to be wrapped around the beaded sections. You want the nose tips to be touching.
Lay the braid up and over the head in a curved shape. Stitch in place around the head and the nose, giving the nose a flat end (nostrils). Loop the braid end back and forth to fill the neck area. Trim and seal the end of the braid with a little glue to prevent fraying. Stitch in place and add mixed beads to fill the spaces (Amazing Aqua and Ocean Calm Mixes). Just work freely and use whatever fits and looks right. I added a few smaller beads over the top of my messy braid ends to disguise them.
Step 6 (of 12)
Stitch alternating rows of 3 transparent and opaque size 10/11 beads, using the couching method, down the spine (Amazing Aqua Mix). Taper at the head and increase the rows towards the tail. The right hand tail is stitched so that it looks as if it overlaps the left hand tail. Leave enough space between the tails to pass 1 strand of braid (see pic).
Trim away the bead foundation taking care not to cut your stitches. Leave a bridge joining the tummy and nose tips. Reinforce these areas by stitching through the braids and into the backing. If you have a gap between the braids then add small beads to fill the joins.
Step 7 (of 12)
Cut one piece of braid approx. 40cm long and one approx. 18cm. Find the centre of the longer braid and attach between the nose sections. Attach the centre of the shorter braid to the lower tummy section. Sew the braids in place stitching back through the beads (and inner braid) to tram and align them. The inner braid on the right hand tail will fit into the gap left in step 7 so that it appears to overlap the left tail. Pass the braid ends from the left hand tail under the bead foundation. Leave the ends intact.
Step 8 (of 12)
Continue the tail sections starting with rows of 3 beads between the braids, then gradually tapering to zero beads. Overlap and join the tails at the base and finish by coiling the ends. Snip the braid to required length and seal the ends with Fabri-Tac glue. Dressmaker pins are handy to help hold the shape while you work.
Step 9 (of 12)
Stitch a net of size 10/11 opaque turquoise beads across the cabochons (Amazing Aqua Mix). Place the horizontal rows first then work the vertical rows passing the thread through one of the horizontal beads at the junctions. Stitch through all the beads again to tighten and add strength.
Cut two 15cm lengths of braid and stitch along the spine of the seahorses adding a mix of beads (Amazing Aqua and Ocean Calm Mixes) to create waves and fins. Curl the braid ends to the back and secure to the foundation.
Step 10 (of 12)
Cut four short lengths of braid. Thread one strand through a large holed aqua bead (Amazing Aqua Mix), wrap a second braid around the top of the bead and stitch together to make a loop. Attach to the top right hand side securing well onto the back of the bead foundation. Repeat on the left hand side.
Cut one strand of beading wire approx. 50cm long and one 25cm long. Thread the largest length through the front of the large holed bead and pull through to half way. Thread the shorter strand through the back. Add a crimp bead and pull through the 4 bead wire ends and secure. So now you will have 3 strands approx. 25cm and a tail. Thread 2 strands randomly with the Ocean Calm Mix, and 1 strand with the Turquoise Delight Mix. Push the tail up through the first few beads threaded and trim off. Add bead stoppers to the ends to hold the beads in place and plait/braid the strands together (in the same way as a hair plait i.e. right over middle, then left over middle and repeat).
Repeat for the left hand side. Adjust to the desired length allowing approx. 4.5cm for end beads and clasp. Pass the wires through a crimp, a large holed bead and another crimp. Add on 3 smaller beads and pass through the clasp loop, add another 3 smaller beads then pass the wires back through the crimps (each crimp now has 6 wires passing through). Tighten up and secure crimps. Thread tail ends down a few beads and trim. On the T-bar side add a short length of smaller beads before passing through the findings loop (they need to fit 6 strands of wire). This makes it easier to pass the T-Bar through the loop closure when using the clasp.
Step 11 (of 12)
Now have a bit of fun and embellish your design. Using the Mint braid and beads from the Teal Explosion and Turquoise Delights Mixes, stitch organic seaweed swirls and loops, and weave through the gaps in the seahorse tails. Add some swishy dangles too for movement.
Step 12 (of 12)
The back will look a mess but don’t worry. Lay the piece onto some scrap paper and roughly draw around the outside edge of the shape. Trim the paper to make yourself a template for the felt backing.
Use the paper template to cut out the felt backing. I found it easiest to cut the backing piece slightly larger than needed. I then pinned in place and trimmed back sections more accurately as I stitched. Secure in place by stitching through the felt (approx. 3-4mm in from edge) and out through the groove in the braid. This will encase and hide the white beading foundation and cover all the messy workings on the back. Keep checking from the front to ensure that your stitching is not obvious or distorting the braids.
I cut away the section between the seahorse heads as it made them stand out more. The lower spaces had been filled with my woven seaweed swirls so it was not necessary to cut those away.