Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Aunt Inez Dress Project: Lining and Beading (or how I'm slowly losing my eyesight)

Above is the center front panel before and after repairing the loose and missing beading.  Below I will go over the process of getting to the end result, including how to easily replicate beading patterns with stuff you have in your kitchen!  Nothing fancy required.

LINING:  My first attempt at lining failed.  I had purchased some lovely and cheap silk chiffon off of ebay.  The restoration concept was to line the dress completely and rebead through both layers to stabilize the dress and transfer the weight of the beading off of the fragile outer silk.  Good in theory no so good in practice.  1)  The black silk caused the "sheerness" of the dress to disappear because it made everything dark  You could hardly see the beads.  This was resolved by using a light umber chiffon which unfortunately is not silk instead.  I did not have time to mail order more fabric and take a leap of faith that it would be right when I got it.  The second pic below shows the dress with the lighter goldish fabric below it.  2) I thought I could just rebead a little bit and that would be good enough.  Nope....much more extensive beading is required.  So I'm using my trusty #20 needle (love it!) and silk thread and slowly losing my eyesight.  Not having good ergonomics is also a problem so I can only bead in short intervals before my body is exhausted.  I need a much taller table and now have a lot more empathy for third world beaders.
 Umber fabric linking in photo below

 BEADING BASICS:  As I mentioned a good needle and silk thread seem to be key.  However the thread used to bead the dress is thick, almost like embroidery floss.  Where I have to add missing beads I have to double my thread and then go back across the beading at least twice to get it to look like the original beaded areas.  The glass beads are amazing.  The seed beads are six sized and reflect light beautifully, you might think them round until you hold one and look closely.  The faceting of the tiny beads really gives the dress sparkle.  The larger flat backed beads are like rose cut diamonds.  They are faceted like a round diamond but then poke up like a pyramid in the center.

Where to get extra beads?

The hem!!  I got this juicy tidbit from a blog called "Nan Sews the Dress," an amazing restoration of another amazing 1920s gown.  I also am getting beads because I am somewhat reworking the beading pattern to balance out the dress as I repair it.  Since in the end I will not have enough beading to restore the dress perfectly, I'm doing what I need to do to get a lovely outcome.  Here is the hem stash:

Below are my little cups of glassy goodness.  I probably should have lids on them....

Here are stitching pictures:


1)  Pin the area you are working on together and smooth flat.  You may get some poof from the original fabric being grossly out of shape but if you don't pin you will end up with big poofs you will need to undo (trust me...learned the hard way).

2)  Make sure you keep all the little bits of thread and fuzzy off the sandwiched part of your materials.  Learn from me that having to work a teeny tiny bit of black thread out of an area you have stitched shut is a huge time waster. 

Above is an example of me working a long straight area -- PIN FIRST!


I'm probably not the first person to come to the following conclusion but I found that by using the following I was able to easily replicate missing beading patterns --

clear zip top sandwich bags
white paper (napkin)
scotch tape
black sharpie marker

I'll go over how then you can follow the pics below:  Lay a sandwich bag over the area you want to trace.  I find working in small areas is better, all you need is another sandwich bag when you move on (and you could technically reuse the bags for lunch).  Use your sharpie to trace the over the good beading area (even if it is on another part of the dress).  Now that you have your pattern you can use your sharpie and copy the pattern on the other side of the bag from the first side (just lay it down flipped over and trace what you have already done).  Figure out which side you will use for your pattern, then on the opposite side tape a white piece of paper, napkin tissue etc.  This will help in visibility.  Then slip the whole thing under the lining and original dress.  Use pins to secure it and then carefully recreate your pattern without sewing into the plastic.  I found that the needle just kind of slipped over the plastic as long as I wasn't using brute force.  Not once did I sew into the bag.  Here are photos:

 I copied from the good side, flipped it over and aligned it under the fabrics where the beading was missing.

Above you can see two sections which are supposed to be mirrored but something weird happened.  The mistake looks original and not a repair.  The curly cue on the right should be going the opposite way.  I undid all the beading there and used the plastic bag method to repair that section.

 Below you see the curly cues on the bag that is pinned in waiting to be beaded.


  1. What a crazy amount of work! You're certainly doing an amazing job, keep it up :)

  2. Wow! This is a real labour of love, and such attention to detail. It looks amazing already - can't wait to see the next post.