8 Ways to make a Beaded Heavy Chain Stitch


A month or so ago, I started experimenting with Beaded Heavy Chain Stitch, first with the stitch itself and then adding beads. And now I have eight different versions to play with! Who knew that a couple of hours of play would create so many possibilities?

My first thought was to add the beads to one side of the stitch using a Pekinese-style wrap. The beads line up beautifully along one side of the line of stitching. They look great in the flower petals for this design from the Paint•Stitch•Bead program.


Beaded Heavy Chain Stitch Options

When we explore a new stitch in the Paint•Stitch•Bead program, I add detailed stitching instructions to our Stitch Library. While I’m writing the instructions and making samples, I often go down a rabbit-hole asking “what if” questions. I start with one thing and end up somewhere else. Beaded Heavy Chain Stitch was no exception.

Adding beads with a thin beading thread gave a very clean look.

And…  adding the beads with pearl cotton provided a bonus! The beads are on one side of the stitching, and a bit of the thread used to attach the bead appears on the other side.

Now that’s all fine and good… But how many other ways are there to make a Beaded Heavy Chain Stitch? If you’re open to playing, it’s amazing how many ideas come up.

Yes, this kind of play takes time. But in the middle of a pandemic, it’s a good diversion. (Believe me, I’m much happier playing in my studio than I am reading the news!)

In a few short hours, I found seven additional ways to add beads to Heavy Chain Stitch!

In case you’re confused, the third line of stitching in the photo above is regular Chain Stitch rather than Heavy Chain Stitch. I wanted to see if it was worth the extra work of making Heavy Chain Stitch. (It takes more time and more thread.) Yes, it’s worth the effort. At least for my current project.


Color Options

I’m currently working on a large Stitched Painting. It has light yellow “flower petals” in the center of the design that are begging for beads. 

From my experiment, I knew how I wanted to add the beads. But that leads to the next question… What color of beads? 

The only way I know to solve this is to do an experiment on the actual project. And this meant adding beads, knowing full well that I would just take them out again. (But we have plenty of time on our hands, right?)

For my experiment, I added five beads for each wrap around the Heavy Chain Stitch. There are 2 small beads, 1 large bead, then 2 small beads on each wrap of the thread. (Small = size11/0, Large = size 8/0)

To start off, I chose two sizes of transparent gold beads. They added sparkle, but sort of disappeared when viewed from a distance.

Next, I swapped out the transparent small beads for a darker gold. The effect was better, but still a little boring.

On the third try, I chose small orange beads to go with the large gold bead. Ah, much better!

For one more option, I swapped out the small orange beads for pink beads. I liked that one too!


Why We Play

This whole experiment is just one good example of what happens when we sit down to play on a regular basis. It’s also why I decided to start teaching again. 

The monthly rhythm of the Paint•Stitch•Bead program forces me to get in my studio, create small but beautiful designs, experiment with embroidery stitches, and finish it off with beads.

Experiments like this one with Beaded Heavy Chain Stitch make me happy. And that’s a very good thing.


Thanks for reading

Thanks for reading. Your attention is the greatest gift you can give to a writer. I appreciate the invitation to be a small part of your creative world and hope you enjoy reading about my experiment.

If you’d like to join the conversation, leave a comment below.


  1. Katy Meile on February 4, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    HI Shelly,
    I would find it useful if your experiments/designs would give me an idea of the scale. I don’t know if the flowers/shapes are large or small.

    The beads + embroidery is starting to interest me, but I can’t yet visualize where I would use them. I am a garment maker, not a pillow or things on the wall person.

    I do appreciate that you take the time to share with us.


    • ShellyStokes on February 4, 2021 at 5:46 pm

      That’s a great suggestion, Katy. My new project is a large design — as in about 19″ across. I checked the yellow petals. They are 6″ long and about 2 1/4″ wide.

      I’ll try to remember to add a ruler to future photos.