I have been busily working on a lovely smocked beaded ornament designed by Linda Gray for our SAGA (Smocking Arts Guild of America) chapter and thought an easy tutorial on adding beads to smocking might be helpful. A bead can be added to any smocking stitch. It is as simple as slipping the bead over your needle and onto your thread before you take the stitch. Then just pull the thread taught as normal. If you are placing a bead on a Cable Stitch, the bead will sit very nicely in the middle of the cable, centered over the 2 pleats. If you are placing a bead on a Trellis Stitch, the bead will often sit on the side of the pleat as you pull the thread taught. Simply use you needle to nudge the bead to the top of the pleat.
Add as little bling or as much as you like! Of course there are few things to keep in mind. First, I have always worked with Mill Hill beads and the ladies at my chapter meeting today all confirmed that they have had wonderful results with the Mill Hill beads. The beads are made of glass, and so won't melt if you are adding them to a garment and get the iron too close or you store the ornament in a hot attic! The beads are also color fast (yes, the dye from some beads will run), and my friends report that the beads have not faded over time. The Mill Hill website does state that some of the beads have a delicate finish that could be "affected by detergents, oxidation or strong friction" and recommends spraying them with Krylon crystal clear spray. I haven't tried this but will the next time I am putting the beads on a garment. There are different size seed beads, but size 11 seed beads are a good size for sitting on top of a pleat. Unfortunately, a size 7 darner needle usually will not fit through size 11 seed beads; but a size 9 darner or size 10 crewel will go through without a problem and can still take 2 - 3 strands of floss. The beads come with a color number so you can find more of the same color in case you didn't buy enough (or sent them flying though the air, vacuumed them up, lost them in the couch cushions... ).Using a piece of scotch tape wrapped around your finger will allow you to pick up a number of beads at one time and you can then thread one onto the needle as you stitch.
When deciding where to add beads to your smocking, notice that with the Trellis Stitch, the bead sits in the middle of the thread and draws your eye to that spot. In the picture below, the needle is pointing to where it entered to take the stitch and you can see the bead sits below it on the floss.
The "v" shape of the Trellis is less defined with beads, but is still lovely. Finally, beads of course are a choking hazard, so adding them to a baby garment is not recommended, but they add a wonderful sparkle to an older child's garment. As for a Christmas ornament, the more sparkle, the better! I hope you try adding some beads to your next smocking project!