This is one of these techniques where it really benefits to have a teacher, since it's very difficult to spot what you're doing wrong. Having someone standing by and coaching you, and coming back again when you've got in a complete tangle is brilliant. It can be used for applying beads, and there are various different ways to do this, one of which I think I would use any time I wanted to apply beads, since it made them lie on the material in a very upright way. I think I'll try to do some more of this, and it I do, I'll post up a picture.
ETA: Here's a video that shows the technique in beading