In this video tutorial, learn how to do two-needle appliqué beadwork. There are many different tribes in the United States and many different styles of beadwork. This video tutorial focuses the beadwork of the Cherokee people.
Cherokee people use beads in many different ways, and created beads before European contact. Traditionally, Cherokee people make beads out of materials found in nature like shells and clay. When Cherokee people started trading with European nations, small “seed beads” were traded that originated from the former Czechoslovakia. Cherokee people started using these small beads to create beautiful designs using the two needle appliqué method. In the video below, learn basic Cherokee beadwork techniques and create your own beadwork masterpiece!
Embroidery hoop (6”-8” is ideal)
10” square of wool (felt can be used)
10” square of muslin (any cotton fabric will do)
All purpose sewing thread
Beading needle (size 10/12)
Seed beads – size 10
Preparing the Embroidery Hoop
10” square of wool
10” square of muslin
Unscrew the embroidery hoop and separate the outer hoop from the inner hoop. Place the inner hoop flat on your table.
Place the 10” square of muslin over the center of the hoop. The piece of muslin should completely cover the hoop and the hoop should not be visible. Place the 10” piece of wool directly over the top of the muslin.
The outer hoop is slightly larger than the inner hoop and will fit over the inner hoop and fabric. Carefully place the outer hoop over the fabric and push it down over the fabric and inner hoop. The hoops will now be holding the fabric between them. Tighten the screw on the outer hoop until you cannot tighten it any more. Your fabric will now be tight and ready for beads!
Drawing the Design
Prepared embroidery hoop (from previous step) and an ink pen
Take the prepared embroidery hoop from Part 1 and turn it upside down on your table. You can use the design below or draw your own design. In the beginning start with a simple design with a few lines until you get the hang out two needle appliqué beadwork. Find the center of the fabric in the embroidery hoop and draw your design in ink on the muslin fabric. This will be the underside of the embroidery hoop and will not show through on the top where the beads are added.
Setting up the Two Needles
Cut two 2’ piece of the sewing thread. Tie at least two knots at the end of each thread. This will keep the thread from pulling through the fabric as the beads are added.
Thread one piece of thread through the sewing needle. Pull 8” of the thread through the needle. Repeat this step with the other needle and piece of thread.
Take the beading needle, which is longer and thinner than a regular sewing needle, and from the underside of the embroidery hoop, stick your needle up through a starting place on your embroidery hoop. You can choose any place on the design to begin.
Two Needle Appliqué Beading
Prepared embroidery hoop with needle and threaded sewing needle (from previous step)
Take the beading needle attached to your embroidery hoop and string on 20 beads. You can always add more beads so keep the number of beads on your thread manageable. You can hold the embroidery hoop and needle in whatever way feels comfortable for you. If you are right-handed, you may want to hold the embroidery hoop in your left hand, and vice-versa.
After you have added the first 20 beads to the thread, push those beads to the end of the thread. The beads will be touching the fabric where the thread comes out from the embroidery hoop. Hold this Thread tight and wrap the excess around your index finger. You will now have a tight thread with 20 beads on it with the excess thread wrapped around your finger. In that same hand you will also be holding the embroidery hoop. Your right hand is free to bead with the other needle.
Take the threaded sewing needle in your right hand. You are going to use the design on the underside of the embroidery hoop to see where to tack down the beads. Your beads are placed on one thread and will be tacked down by the other thread. Lay your beads along a line on your design. If it is a straight line you can tack down 3 to 4 beads at a time. If you are going around a curve on your design, you can tack down 1 to 2 beads at a time. Take the threaded sewing needle in your right hand and from the bottom, push up after the 4th bead. It may take a few pokes to come up right where you need to be because you are working from the design on the bottom. Be patient. Pull the thread all the way through the fabric until you come to the knot. Your thread will be after the 4th bead on one side of the bead thread. To tack down the beads, put your needle on the other side of the bead thread and pull all the way through the fabric. You now have a little stitch holding the first 4 beads down.
Continue along with the same process, tacking beads until you finish the design. You will need to add more thread at some point. To add more thread to either the beading or sewing needle, punch the needle through the fabric so it is on the underside of the fabric and tie at least 2 to 3 knots as close to the fabric as possible to hold the string in place. Cut off any excess thread. String a new piece of thread onto your needle and push it up from the bottom at the place you left off.
Cherokee people bead lots of design on many different objects like bags and moccasins. Have fun beading different designs with various colored beads. Practice, practice, practice. While two needle appliqué can take a little bit to get the hang of it, becomes easier with time. We can’t wait to see what you create! Please share with us on social media.