Fabric Focus – Fabrics embellished with beads & sequins

Any fabric can be adorned with beads, sequins and embroidery

The type of pattern and decoration on fabric varies hugely. Indian wedding attire uses brightly coloured fabrics heavily adorned with gold/silver embroidery, beads, sequins, crystals and also mirrorwork in patterns influenced by Indian nature. In the western world seed pearls, crystals and beads and embroidery are used to adorn wedding dresses.

Beads are shapes with a hole pierced through the centre for a thread to go through. They are available in a wide range of sizes and colours.


Sequins are flat shapes with a hole for thread to go through, usually made from plastic or metal. They are available in a wide variety of colours/shapes and some have multiple facets to reflect light. Sequins can be stitched flat to fabric or stitched at only one point so they dangle.

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Most beads are spheres made from glass, plastic or metal, but stone, bone, horn, seeds, shells, wood, crystal and pearls are also used.

Bugle beads – Narrow tubes available in a variety of lengths - they can be twisted along their length. Available in plain colours or clear with a coloured centre. They can be used in a variety of ways, e.g. in geometric decorative patterns such as /\/\/\/\/\/  /////  \\\\\  IIIII  -----

Crystals/diamante – Available in a variety of colours and shapes/sizes. Diamantes often have a mirror finished back to reflect light.

Drop beads - Any bead shaped like a pear, with a hole at the narrow end or lengthwise through the bead.

Faceted beads – Usually based on a spherical shape, made with many facets in order to catch the light in different ways. They are often given an iridescent finish to reflect colour/light.

Rhinestones – Usually round in shape, secured in a metal bracket. There are channels on the back to pass a thread through. Top Tip: Try to use rhinestones that are backed with stainless steel to avoid them rusting and staining the garment.

Seed beads – Tiny round beads, usually made from clear glass with coloured centres or in pearlised finishes.


Types of sequin          

Cups - Round with a faceted surface and a bowl-like shape that helps to reflect the light – they have a central hole.

Flat - Round in shape with a flat surface – they have a central hole.

Paillets - Round, large and flat sequins that have a hole close to one edge to allow them to dangle.

Shaped: Flowers, stars, snowflakes, hexagons, seasonal shapes etc in various materials and sizes.

Spangles – Sequins with the hole located at the top to allow them to dangle and create a shimmering effect.

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Methods of attaching beads and sequins to fabrics

Usually specialist computer programmed industrial sewing machines are used to create intricate designs, but other methods include:

Sewing machine beading attachment – A string of beads or sequins is sewn on using a zig zag stitch.

Hand stitching – A beading needle and fine thread is used to sew on individual beads.

Tambour – Fabric is mounted onto a frame and beads/sequins are threaded onto a reel of thread. A very fine metal hook is pushed through the fabric to make a chain stitch and catch a bead or sequin in place at the same time. A huge variety of effects can be achieved.

Gluing – A flexible fabric glue needs to be used. Specialist glue guns and sequins are available.

Iron-on transfers – Strips of diamante/beads and decorative motifs are available.


See our guide on caring for beaded and sequined fabrics