Applied Arts: Faux (Beaded) Embroidery

I'm sorry. This post was supposed to be about how to sew beaded fabric. But after MUCH thought and even more preparation, I ended up reverting to an exercise I did four years ago in a post entitled, "Applied Arts: Faux Embroidery."

Sadly, one of my favorite fabric stores is closing. So I ceased the opportunity to buy something special. For me, edge to edge beads aren't all that interesting. The fabric with the beaded/sequined motif is what you want to buy. But then, I started doing a lot of soul searching. I figured that few are really going to go out and purchase such expensive beaded fabric (which costs upwards of $75 USD and more) unless you're making a dress for someone else, in which case, you probably already know what you're doing. It is a pretty straight forward. 1) Trace the pattern in chalk on the fabric. 2) Make an interlining out of sheer fabric. (All markings go on this, a second layer. 3) Trace the seam allowance with painter's tape. 4) Smash the beads with a hammer to flatten the seam allowance. 5) Remove the painter's tape. (It keeps the broken beads together for disposal.) 6) Sew as usual. And while I had another sheath dress pattern ready to go, I stopped and thought..... If you do have the opportunity to get a bit of such a precious piece of fabric, what is the most efficient way to use it so there is no waste?


When Haute Couture houses create these red carpet dresses, they don't use beaded fabric. The atelier cuts out the pattern pieces in silk, marks all seam lines in thread and sends that to the embroiderer who mounts it on a loom and hand embroiders a pre-approved pattern. With that thought in mind, I decided not to cut my pattern pieces out of the beaded fabric, but rather, make an under dress and "embroider" it with pieces of my luxury material.
I wanted a "typical" red carpet dress, so I started out with a strapless sheath cut from 2 layers of tulle. You can use the standard strapless sheath pattern or make a tube dress. Above, I have stretched a double layer of (diamond cut) tulle around the doll's body, forming a single seam in the back.Tulle has a good horizontal stretch. But there was a bulge around the midriff, so I pinched out the excess on both sides of the body by forming diagonal bust darts. At the back, I left the area above the waist free and stitched the rest down the back. Check to see to where the doll can come out of the dress and that's where the back seam will start.

1. After you have your foundation, pick up the beaded fabric and stretch it over the body, pinning at the back.
2. Note the pattern of the beads as it relates to the foundation. I used pins to mark the areas where I want to attach the fabric to the foundation and where it will be joined in the back. The idea is that you will cut around the areas you want for the dress using the pins to help guide you.
3. With a small pair of scissors, very carefully cut close to the motifs without cutting the beads and be careful not to cut the foundation beneath.


4. Cut a few of the motifs from the main piece of fabric. You are going to use these motifs as well as the loose beads to fill in "empty" spots or hide "discreet" areas of dolly's body as well as to camouflage seam or darts.
5. Here, I've cut away a small motif which I then add to the top of the dress. If there is excess netting, cut it away, again, without clipping the stitches holding the beads.

6. Turn the dress to the back and continue until you are happy with the look.
7. I used a single hook and eye to close the back of the dress at the top. Go on and sew it on without worrying about it showing through because..... On the outside of the dress, sew a small cluster of beads or another motif to cover the hook.
8. The idea is for it to look like it is part of the design while disguising the closure!
As is the case of our velvet and sequined dresses, the important thing is to KEEP IT SIMPLE! The drama of the look lies in the beauty of the beads.
Think beads on the bodice of a dress. 
And, you don't have to do an all over dress (unless, of course dolly is planning on crashing the Oscars). You can confine it to one area of the dress or as an accent.
Add a beaded motif to an existing dress for a touch of added glamour.
If you can't afford to buy the fabric, take a look at beaded trim. This can also be taken apart and used as "embroidery."
You can buy beaded trim. Applied around the neckline and around the sleeve hems, it gives a touch of class and elegance to Richard's wedding suit.



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