Sew beads to clothing with dressmaker’s cotton or polyester-covered cotton thread. To add to its strength and reduce tangling, pass the thread across candle wax or beeswax before stitching. On heavy fabrics, attach beads with nylon thread or monofilament fishing line; both are strong and inconspicuous.
Keep the background fabric taut as you work by stretching it on a frame or embroidery hoop. If puckering persists, block the beaded fabric by pinning it to a dampened fabric and letting the fabrics air-dry.
Sewing beads to garments
You can replace beaded motifs on sweaters and dresses by stitching new beads in place singly with a running stitch. Or you can apply the beads one at a time with backstitches. Anchor the thread to the wrong side of the fabric. Draw the needle to the right side and add a bead. Take a backstitch, bringing the needle through the fabric a bead-length behind, then ahead of the first stitch. Continue adding beads, keeping each tightly against the next.
Beads can also be “couched” to fabric by hand or by machine. For handwork, use two threads and two needles. Anchor one thread to the fabric’s wrong side, draw it through, and slip on several beads. Anchor the second thread, draw it through, and use it to tack the line of beads to the fabric.
For faster couching, use the sewing machine zipper foot and a zigzag stitch. With the edge of the zipper foot close to the line of beads, tack them in place with zigzag stitches.