Get Your Bead On

comments (3) July 1st, 2011     

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smcfarland Sarah McFarland, associate editor
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A simple running stitch is all thats required to add lines of beads to a neckline.
Heres a another look a the beaded neckline on a Ronni Nicole dress from JCPenney.
A simple running stitch is all thats required to add lines of beads to a neckline.

A simple running stitch is all that's required to add lines of beads to a neckline.

Photo: Jack Deutsch

During a busy photo session for SewStylish, summer 2011, we all stopped to notice a great dress brought by our issue stylist. She does a fantastic job of providing accessories to go with the ready-to-wear and sewn garments in the issue. The white dress with a bib of bright beads, shown on p. 59 in "Two Summer Totes," is by Ronni Nicole

Would you like to add beaded glitz to a garment? Don't think twice about it. Beading is one of the easiest and most eye-catching ways to upgrade a garment-whether it's handmade or store bought. Here's what you need to know to bead a ready-made garment.

The basics

A simple running stitch is all that's required to add one or multiple lines of beads to a garment. Simply move the threaded needle in and out of the fabric, pick up a bead, and repeat. Here's what you'll need:

  • Sharps or regular beading needles
  • Polyester, cotton, or silk thread that matches your fabric
  • Beeswax, to strengthen and stiffen the thread
  • Beads
  • Embroidery hoop, optional
  • Fabric marker

Know how to hold it

When beading, the fabric must be stretched and held taut. For previously constructed garments, this requires a little ingenuity since they're difficult to hoop. Holding the fabric taut with your hands may be the only option, especially in tight places such as sleeve edges or when the garment cannot be laid out any flatter.

Get ready

There are two basic methods for securing beads using needle and thread. One is to stitch down each bead individually. This is best when beads are scattered across the garment. If the thread must cross an inch or more on the underside to get from one beading spot to another, take a tiny stitch between-ideally, camouflaged next to another bead-to prevent long floats of thread.

The beaded bib shown uses a running stitch to apply a line of beads. It's a fast method, but only suitable when you want a line of beading. To create a bib look, as shown, it's best to plan and mark the beading lines. Notice how the example neckline widens or dips at the bottom. To achieve a similar look, be sure the beads are spaced in parallel lines. Whether they spread apart is up to you, but you'll want to mark placement lines so that your beads don't meander.

Keep design in mind

The weight of the beads affects the drape of the fabric and, over time, the stability of the weave. Beading must be applied so its weight is balanced on the garment. This doesn't mean counting the beads or beading only in symmetrical patterns; it means that a concentration of beads in one area should be counterbalanced. If you bead one sleeve, bead the other, too; if you bead the front of a blouse, add beads to the back as well.

Choose the right fabrics

You can bead on just about any fabric, as long as you prepare it. Cotton, linen, and silks work easily, but for chiffon or other lightweight fabrics, add an underlining to the beaded areas, and stitch through both layers; a second layer of the same fabric often works well. Don't work on a knit or any stretchy fabric until you're experienced with more stable fabrics and have a good sense of tension control.
Typically, it's best to match your thread color to the background fabric, but in certain instances-such as when you apply transparent beads-you should use the thread color that gives you the best overall affect. Use a single strand of thread waxed with beeswax. Wax strengthens the thread and prevents fraying and tangling.

Care for your garment

Garments made of washable fabric can be handwashed if the beads are colorfast. To check the colorfastness of beads, shake a few in a small jar of warm water, drain, and let dry; then compare them to their unrinsed mates. Beads that are not colorfast will be noticeably paler than those that weren't rinsed.

Most beaded garments can be cleaned by a good dry cleaner, but be careful. If a beaded garment needs ironing, either steam it without touching the fabric or the beads, press on the wrong side on a terrycloth towel, or use a thick pressing cloth. Glass beads can get hot enough to harm certain fabrics and threads.


posted in: beading, sewstylish technique

Comments (3)

Nodan writes: It is a good idea! the beads make the common T-shirt looks distinctive.
Posted: 12:52 am on January 19th
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