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Bead Embroidery Heart Ornament

1. Gather Your Materials

You'll need the following beads and supplies to make one heart ornament:

About 200 size 11/0 round opaque red seed beads

About 200 size 11/0 round opaque cream seed beads

About 1.5 square inches of red bead embroidery backing

A blue or black ball point pen

Sharp scissors

Size D Nymo beading thread in pink

Thread conditioner

A size 12/0 beading needle

White fabric glue or craft glue

About 1.5 square inches of ultrasuede in red, white, or a neutral color

Optional but recommended: A beading awl for pulling out stitches to correct mistakes


2. Trace the Pattern

Cut out one of the hearts in the pattern and trace it onto your backing material with a ball point pen.

3. Begin the First Stitch

Prepare an arm span length of beading thread and thread the needle as you would for single-strand beading.

Tie several overhand knots, one directly on top of the other, a few inches from the end of the thread.

Pass the needle up through the backing material at the bottom point of the heart, and pull the stacked knots up against the underside of the backing.

Pick up six cream beads and slide them down against the front of backing. Use your fingers to align this row of beads on the inked line that you made while tracing the heart, then pass the needle back down through the backing just past the last bead. Be careful not to stitch too close to the last bead, which can cause it to tip downward; ideally, you want the entire row of beads to sit flat, with their holes running parallel to the backing.

Pull the thread taut, and then pass the needle up through the backing -- on the inked line -- between the fourth and fifth beads that you stitched. The trick here is to bring the needle up as close to the existing thread (running between beads) as possible, but to avoid splitting that thread with the needle.

Pull the thread taut again.

4. Complete the First Stitch

Now pass through the fifth and sixth beads in the row again, and pull the thread taut.

Use your finger to push the entire line of beads back in the opposite direction that you passed the needle. This eliminates extra space between the beads and helps to keep the stitch looking linear and neat.

5. Continue Backstitching

Continue this backstitching technique to bead along the pattern line. For straight portions of the heart, you can stitch six, five, or four beads at a time, always bringing the needle up behind the second-from-last bead stitched, and passing through the last two beads.

When you reach the curved part of the heart, switch to shorter stitches: Pick up three beads at a time, and pass through just the last of those three to complete each stitch (as shown below).

Tip: If you make a mistake, you gently pull out stitches after making them. To avoid fraying your thread, go slowly, and always apply more thread conditioner before re-threading your needle.

6. Change the Path at the Top of the Heart

When you reach the center of the top of the heart, stitch one bead beyond the ink line, toward the inside of the heart. (You can stitch one bead by itself, if necessary; just be sure to bring the needle up behind it and stitching through it again to lock it in place.)

Then, pass down through the backing, reposition the needle, and pass it back up on the ink line. Beackstitch two or three beads here to continue the outline.

7. Complete the Outline and Begin the Second Round

Keep backstitching until you finish the heart outline. After completing the last stitch in the outline, pass the needle down through the backing, reposition it, and bring it up inside the outline to begin the second round.

Stitch the second round with red beads. When you reach the center of the top of the heart, stitch one bead beyond the center bead in the outline, then reposition your needle (like you did in Step 6) and continue the round.

8. Complete the Second Round and the Third Round

Continue backstitching. When you complete the second round, reposition your needle, switch colors again, and stitch the third round. Keep each row of beads as neat and tidy as you can. As shown in the photos, the lines of beads may still look a little messy. They'll come together and straighten up quite a bit when you have the entire heart filled with beads.

9. Keep Backstitching to Fill In the Heart

When you reach the fourth round, you won't have enough space to make a smooth curve with your beads. Instead, bead upward as far as you can, pass down through the backing to change position, and then pass up through the backing next to where you left off (see the first photo below).

To fill in the very center of the heart, you'll only have enough space for a "V" of two lines of backstitched beads.

10. Weave-In and End the Thread

When the heart is completely filled, pass the needle down through the backing, reposition it, and bring it up between beads somewhere in the initial outline. Pass through several beads, then make a half hitch knot by looping the working thread around the existing thread that runs between two beads (the top photo below), passing the needle through that loop, and pulling the thread taut.

Pass through several more beads in the outline and make a second half hitch knot.

Pass through several more beads and bring the needle out of the beadwork. Pull the thread taut, and cut it close to the beadwork.

Turn the beadwork over and trim the initial thread tail to about a 1/4 inch.

11. Cut Out the Heart and Glue it to Ultrasuede

Carefully cut the backing material around your beadwork, leaving a small border of backing that is the width of about 1/2 to 3/4 of one seed bead. Be very careful not to cut through any beading thread.

Apply white craft or fabric glue to the center of the underside of the backing, and glue it onto a piece of ultrasuede. It's a good idea to keep the areas near the edges of the backing free of glue, because it can be difficult to stitch through when you create the beaded edging (see below).

12. Cut the Ultrasuede

When the glue is dry, cut the ultrasuede to exactly match the shape of the backing material. Keep the blades of your scissors perpendicular to the beadwork as you cut.

13. Weave-In to Begin a New Thread

Prepare another arm span length of thread, and weave-in through the outline of beads to add the thread to the beadwork. Pass through several beads, make a half hitch knot, and pass through several more.

14. Stitch to Position the Needle

To position the needle for stitching the edging, pass through the backing and ultrasuede, move over by the space of one bead, and pass back through both layers to the front of the beadwork again. Bring the needle out just outside of the outline row of beads.

15. Stitch the First Edge Bead

Pick up one red bead, slide it down against the backing, and pass the needle down through both layers just past the bead.

Bring the needle up around the edge of the beadwork and pass behind the thread that exits the bead (the middle photo below).

Gently pull the thread taut.

16. Stitch the Second Bead in the Edging

Use the same technique to stitch the second bead. Position this bead as close to the first bead as you can.

17. Stitch Edging Beads All the Way Around the Heart

Keep stitching edging beads, one at a time, all the way around the heart. When you reach the first edging bead again, pass the needle through all of the edging beads for reinforcement. Go through several beads at a time. It's a good idea to then turn the beadwork over and check to make sure that you didn't accidentally skip any beads. (If you did, use a beading awl to carefully pull out the thread and begin again.)

Then pass through as many beads as necessary so that you can bring the needle out just past the center bead at the top of the heart. From there, string as many cream colored beads as you'd like to make a loop for hanging your ornament. I used 15 beads.

To complete the loop, pass through that center bead in the edging from the other side. Optionally, pass through the entire loop again for reinforcement.

18. End the Thread and Add a Ribbon

Weave-in and end the thread by passing through beads in the edging, making one or two half hitch knots along the way. Bring the thread out and trim it off close to the beadwork.

Slide a ribbon through the top loop for hanging, and your ornament is complete!