Working with Embellished Fabrics, Part I
I've had a piece of beautifully embellished silk chiffon for a while. A recent studio re-organization turned it up, and I think it's time to work with it. It's very heavily decorated with glass seed and bugle beads, metallic thread embroidery, and sequins. The ornamentation is so thick that you really have to search to see any of the chiffon underlay. This fantastic material inspires a tutorial about working with extremely embellished fabric. I'll take you through the process as I create a garment.
I'm going to break this project down into two sections. Part 2 will be covered in another post. Here, in Part 1, I'm going to explain how to:
1. Check the fabric to make sure the embellishments are securely sewn on
2. Attach an underlining
3. Remove the beads from the seam allowances of the side seams
4. Deal with the darts
5. Sew and catch-stitch the side seams
6. Prepare the lining
First, a bit about the nature of the design and the fabric. I am going to keep the design simple–a straight skirt (very slightly pegged at the hem), without a waistband, underlined with silk organza and lined with silk charmeuse. There's about a yard of fabric. At 45 inches wide, it's not wide enough to go around me, (especially considering seam allowances). As the embellishments are symmetrical from side to side, I cut it down the middle (parallel to the selvedges) and create two identical pieces which I'll use horizontally.
With a minimal hem (I'll add a facing) and a simple treatment at the waistline, I'll end up with a skirt that's about 22 inches long. It won't be the longest skirt in the world, but there's a lot going on embellishment-wise, so less is just going to have to be more, in this case. By the way, use your oldest scissors for this sort of cutting job–inevitably you will be cutting through beads.
1. Check embellished fabric carefully after you have cut out pattern pieces. Embellishments are typically applied with a tambour hook–and while that allows the embellisher to work at great speed, applying a tremendous number of beads quickly and easily (once adept at the technique), it's a bit of a liability. The embellishments are applied with a chain stitch, so once a thread is pulled, it can keep on pulling, removing the beads as it goes. Stabilize threads that have worked their way loose (a little dab of tacky glue on the reverse side works well, as do a few stitches in place). It might be necessary to do some filling in, so save any loose embellishments.