Monday, May 26, 2014

Optional Embellishments

I love embellishments.  They really take a garment to the next level.  The only problem is, they can make caring for your clothing a bit difficult.

Laundering is a major issue.  Add beads to a dress and suddenly it becomes much more delicate.  Some beads are not washable, making even a hand soak in the kitchen sink a dangerous gamble.  Embroidery can be pulled and snagged, or colors can stain the background fabric.

Storage can be problematic as well.  Beaded items, for instance, should be laid flat. 

I decided I wanted to embellish my Anna dress, but I was not quite sure how.  And if I was unhappy with the outcome, the whole dress would be compromised.  Because no matter how careful you are, removing beading or embroidery is going to leave, at best, a bunch of holes, and at worst, snags in the fabric. 

And then I realized that a removable collar was a great solution.  This would solve most of my issues, making the dress washable and easily stored with no chance of catching beads or threads on another garment in the closet.  And, best of all, the dress can be worn without embellishment of any kind for a different look. 

I cut the fabric collar pieces using the bodice front and back as a guide (just like I would with a facing), extending into the neckline so that there is no chance of the dress edge showing above the collar.  The muslin collar turned out a bit wide, so I trimmed away the lower edge until I was happy with the look.

To stabilize the delicate silk/cotton jacquard, I underlined it with two layers of organza, and a layer of cotton.  

My initial thought was to cover the entire collar with beads.  I got as far as tracing my pieces onto butcher paper to draw out the design which would then be transferred to organza – I like to use this technique to transfer a design to fabric.  I came up with a few options, but nothing looked quite right to me.

The pretty jacquard floral pattern woven into the fabric kept jumping out at me.  So out came the embroidery floss.

I have already added a few beads to the center of the flowers, but I plan on adding a lot more!  This process is actually quite relaxing for me, so I am taking my time and enjoying the hand work.

Once the embroidery and beading is complete, I will cut another collar, turn under the seam allowances, and hand stitch the duplicate collar to the back of the embellished one to enclose the raw edges.  I anticipate using a hook & eye to close the collar at the center back.

Hooping the fabric may have been prudent, but I think the project will be okay.  Once the beads are added I believe the puckering will disappear.  Next time, though, I may start with a square of fabric and cut my pieces away after the embroidery is complete.

So the next time you are pondering what kind of embellishment to add to a garment, whether it be collars, cuffs, or belts, think about making them an optional add-on piece.  And who knows, the piece may come in handy for adding some sparkle to other outfits in your wardrobe!

[The pattern for this project was received in exchange for my contributions as a Sewing Indie Month sew-along host]


  1. Beautiful option! I want to keep my Anna dress quite neutral and make several cropped jackets and embroidered shawls to change the look. The thought of a collar hadn't crossed my mind!

  2. I usually don't comment ... I usually just stare quietly in awe ;o) because I'm not at this level of sewing, so what could I add? ... but this time I have to tell you: OMG! Your design ideas are beautiful! Thanks for all the great ideas you share with us. :o)

  3. So clever, and as always, I am in complete awe of your workmanship. I can't wait to see the end product.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! I inherited a shoebox mess from my grandmother of the removable bits of shiny from her decades of homesewing, and I can only marvel at what they were originally attached to. Sewists: make sure the shiny bits don't lose their host clothing!

  5. What a gorgeous idea! Simply delightful!

    the Middle Sister and Singer

  6. absolutely gorgeous you are so clever :)

  7. Wow -- very beautiful. Looking forward to the finished dress!

  8. Your embroidery skills are amazing. This dress is going to be stunning.

  9. Hello Laura Mae,
    I can't understand how it has taken me so long to find you! We have similar interests, and I am always linking around finding new blogs to read and like-minded people. Well, I found you (now I can't remember how -- Pinterest maybe?) late last week, and have spent every spare moment and too many when I needed to be cooking supper or doing laundry reading my way through every post in your archive.
    I can hardly believe what I am seeing. Every project is such a thrill to look at and read about. And you make soooo many. I can hardly believe that this isn't your day job, designing and creating theatrical costumes and custom formalwear.
    I wish I were in your area, so that I could watch you on stage. I have no doubt that you are brilliant and ridiculously talented.
    I can hardly get over how much you resemble a girl I was friends with in high school (before you were even born), who had the most amazing singing voice. I never tired of hearing her sing. You also have her face and figure, not exactly a twin, but you two could be related! Isn't it strange when that happens?
    Looking at your pictures has definitely re-energized my resolve to get a better handle on my wardrobe. I am always looking for more inspiration, as I believe like you, that the best way to be well-dressed is to spend more money than I have, or to make it yourself! I really need to go get my sewing room better organized......
    Your newest follower,

  10. Totally brilliant! I'm glad I started following your blog yesterday. I really appreciate the craftsmanship you put into your garments! Not very many people, even vintage sewers, put that much work into a garment anymore. Gorgeous!