Our guide to the different materials that go into creating embroidery.

Embroidery offers limitless design solutions thanks to the huge array of beads, sequins, threads and techniques available.  When we first started learning about embroidery, we were amazed at the hundreds and thousands of options there are when it comes it creating innovative surface textiles.  Much like a painter or artist with a blank canvas, we were so excited to start experimenting and creating different looks through embroidery. It’s possible to spend hours and hours in haberdashery stores, with shelves and shelves full of beads in every colour, shape, style and finish imaginable.  Like a kid in a candy store, it’s easy to want to take everything back to our studio with us! Narrowing it down to just a few is never an easy choice. And with an ever increasing choice of materials available, it still amazes us what can be created from the simplest of beads and threadwork. We’ve put together a quick guide below of the different types of beads, sequins, crystals and materials available on the market and how we’ve used some of them 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 in the markets (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.

  • Ricamour embroideries. Hand beaded swatch with bugle beads of various lengths & shades

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.

  • Ricamour embroideries. Hand beaded ladybug made from seed beads, crystals & threadwork

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 threadwork 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.

  • Ricamour Embroideries: Left: Hand Embroidered Crown made from gold bullion wires & beads. Right: Hand embroidered polar bear made entirely from bullion wires.

Raffia. Raffia is a straw-like ribbon which is easy to dye to any colour and adds texture and dimension.  It is also a very versatile component and can be weaved, twisted, plaited and more to achieve different effects.

  • Ricamour Embroideries: Hand Embroidered Bird & Florals with Raffia Embellishment on bird’s breast & body

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.

  • Ricamour Embroideries; Star & Flower shapes sequins overlapped & entwined
  • Ricamour Embroideries; This piece is made from rows and rows of stacked sequins.

Plexi-glass/ Acylic 

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.

  • Ricamour Embroideries; customized plexiglass shapes were designed, laser-cut & dyed to create this swatch.

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 pearls, crystals, feathers, fringing, threadwork, 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).  And whilst we won’t be headed to the grocery store just yet for inspiration, 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.  Follow us on Instagram for images of our latest collection coming out soon!