Passport to Paris: Micro-Fine Bead Embroidery

April 30, 2018

Passport to Paris: Micro-Fine Bead Embroidery

Treasure hunter and Island Cove instructor Debbye Mika made quite a find late last year. During a weekend trip to the now defunct 49th Street Flea Market in Pinellas Park, she came across a selection of fine bead-embroidered swatches from France. The vendor, who said she purchased the swatches years ago at a flea market in Paris, France, wanted to make a deal. She would sell a few of the vintage swatches in exchange for commissioning Debbye to create a one-of-a-kind statement necklace for her, using three of her own favorite beaded swatches.

vintage French bead embroidery swatch

The Beading Challenge

Upon closer inspection, Debbye noticed each vintage swatch was unique, with all the needlework having been done by hand. "The back of each piece was as fascinating as the front," she said.

The antique seed beads used on these swatches were extremely tiny, and extremely rare!  "Most people buying them are looking for beads to repair vintage and antique items. We opted to try size 18’s figuring that would be close to the right size and small enough to keep in line with period of the piece," explains Colleen Ewart.

Debbye decided to used brick stitch to join the ultra-suede to the netting that framed each piece. However, she knew that getting even a small needle through the bead twice “was certainly going to be a challenge.”

Shopping for Supplies

Before getting started, Debbye consulted Colleen to help research and shop for more of the tiny, vintage beads she would need to complete the custom piece. Here's her list of supplies:
  • Vintage seed beads - size 18 (you can order them here from Beadcats in sizes 16-24) 
  • Fine beading thread
  • Lacy's Stiff Stuff beading foundation (available at Island Cove in 8.5" x 11" or 4.25" x 5.5")
  • Fine needle with an extra small eye
  • Ultra-suede (available at Island Cove in assorted colors)

ultra suede back of bead embroideryultra suede backing of bead embroidery

The Final Result

Incorporating a spiral design and toggle clasp, Debbye finished off this gorgeous necklace for the flea market vendor. And the rest, is history. Both Debbye and Colleen now each have swatches of their own, and they're waiting to be made into something spectacular. "They’re so pretty, you could just as easily put them into a shadow box for display. The artistry of the beadwork is simply amazing,” Debbye remarked.

bead embroidery necklace by Debbye Mika

Learn Bead Embroidery at Island Cove

Our next Basic Bead Embroidery Sampler workshop is scheduled for 5/19. Click here to sign up, or call us to request another time that works better for you.

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