Embroidery offers limitless design solutions thanks to the huge array of beads, sequins, threads and techniques available. When we first began our embroidery journey, we were amazed at the hundreds and thousands of options there are when it comes it creating innovative surface textiles. Like a painter with a blank canvas, we were so excited to start experimenting and creating different looks through embroidery. We can literally spend hours and hours in haberdashery stores; with shelves and shelves full of beads in every colour, shape, style and finish imaginable, we just want to take everything back to our studio with us! With an ever increasing choice of materials available, it still amazes us what can be created from the simplest of beads and thread-work. We’ve put together a quick guide to the different types of beads, sequins, crystals and materials available in the market and how we’ve used some of them unconventionally (who said sequins have to be sewn flat?!) to create innovative new designs for our collections.
Bugle beads/ Salli. Bugle beads are made of glass and are long and thin, creating a tubular like shape. There are infinite colours available (or they can be dyed to match any pantone shade), as well as various finishes like silverline, metallic, transparent, opaque and opaque lustre. They are also available in a twisted variety to give a textured finish, or available as micro (very fine) bugle beads and half-cut bugle beads. We love playing with the placement of materials to try and create something a bit more unconventional- one of our favourite swatches from our archives uses rows and rows of bugle beads placed vertically to create depth and movement within the embroidery.
Seed beads/ Poth. Seed beads are small rounded beads that are also available in a variety of sizes, colours and finishes. The size can range from 1mm to a few mm big and they serve as a versatile option for hand embroidery.
Bullion/ Nakshi / Sadi/ Kora/ Badla. Bullion wires are made from a flat, thin copper wire which is finely coiled. They are available in various metallic shades and can be either shiny (nakshi) or matt (kora). They can also be cut to any length. Bullion is a traditional embroidery technique and has been used historically for couture, royal and military embroidery. And whilst we often use it in combination with thread-work and beading to achieve a very majestic look, we also love the beauty of the wires alone for an embellishment that looks a bit more contemporary and minimal.
Raffia. Raffia is a straw-like ribbon which is easy to dye to any colour and adds texture and dimension. Natural raffia is made from dried and shredded leaves of the Palmyra palm tree. It’s a very versatile component as it can be weaved, twisted, plaited and cut to achieve different looks. It’s also a great sustainable component, which is becoming increasingly important as designers and artists are more aware of the impact of fashion and materials on our planet.
Crystals. Available in a huge variety of cuts, sizes and qualities, crystals add guaranteed sparkle and bling! Though beautiful and striking on their own, we’ve covered them with cupped sequins and silver thread to make this couture crystal embellishment that sparkles magically when it catches the light.
Pearls. Elegant, timeless and classic, pearls add the most beautiful finish to any embroidery. Known as the “queen of gems”, and historically a symbol of one’s royal status, they make every embroidery that they adorn delicately pretty, and are a popular choice for many of our bridal embroideries and accessories.
Sequins. Known for their sparkle and shine, there are infinite types, shapes, sizes and styles of sequins available to source as well as sequin sheets that can be customized and cut to any shape required.
Plexi-glass/ Acrylic. Plexi-glass is also a very versatile material as it can be dyed to any colour and laser-cut to any shape as per the client’s design.
The options are endless when it comes to hand embroidery, and the above comprises a tiny selection of materials that can be incorporated. Other components include feathers, fringing, thread-work, cords, wool, wires, plastic, leather sequins, brass sequins and studs to name just a few. And why stop there? Fashion runways and red carpets around the world have been host to the most original concepts, including Lady Gaga’s dress made entirely from meat (by designer/ artist Franc Fernandez), a bridal gown made entirely from rubber gloves (by British Artist Susie MacMurray), and a dress made up of yellow HB pencils (Mary Katrantzou). It just shows that really anything is possible! We’re constantly on the lookout for new materials, as well as innovative ways to use conventional beads to showcase them in a new light.
We’re excited to continue creating and experimenting to make embroideries that inspire our clients. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more and follow us on Instagram @ricamourembroideries for images of our latest collection coming out soon!