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How to Create Easy Beaded Edgings

Guest post by Julie Anne Eason of

Many brides-to-be dream about making their own gowns, only to realize it's way more project than they were ready for. Sewing your own dress is a tough one because even if you are an expert seamstress, there are so many emotions and hopes and dreams tied up in the perfect dress. But there is a way you can add your own personal flair to your gown without sewing the whole thing. And best of all, you could save hundreds of dollars at the same time. How? By purchasing a plain gown that fits and flatters you, then beading it yourself.

DIY Beaded Edgings
Beaded edge on a silk veil

Beading is a simple craft anyone can learn. And it can take a plain gown, veil, shawl or pair of gloves and turn it into an elegant masterpiece. Of course, you can also use these techniques to jazz up any bridesmaids gifts, favors or table dressings. Any straight edge is fair game for a beaded edging–the train, the bodice, the sleeves, a sash. All you need are needle, thread, some beads and time.

Needles: As long as your needle goes through all your different beads, it's fine. If you're using lots of tiny seed beads, you will want special super-thin beading needles. But you'll find regular sewing needles are easier to work with, as long as they fit through the hole.

Thread: The last thing you want is for your thread to break and have a thousand beads spill all over the floor during your first dance. So, be sure to use a solid thread. Silk thread is the strongest and has a nice drape, so it's best for dangling edges like drops and swags. If you're working on a tiara or beading that you want to stand up, like a delicate edge on your bodice or sleeve, try using a thin wire instead of thread.

Beads: Glass beads offer the most sparkle. And the more surfaces on the bead, the better. So, a round glass bead is shiny, but a faceted glass bead is even more so. You can also buy silver-lined beads in lots of colors. The silver helps the bead shine in the light. Crystals are by far the best for sparkle. Swarovski is the top of the line brand, but you can now buy less expensive crystal beads from other companies. The larger the bead, the faster your project will move. So, take time into account before you decide to use the smaller ones.

Test your pattern: The key to elegant beading is mixing up the textures with beads of different sizes and shapes. You'll probably want to test out several different combinations of beads before you start edging your gown or shawl. The beads will look different on an actual piece of fabric than they do lying on a table, so you really do need to make some test swatches. Just buy single packages of lots of different beads and start sewing them onto pieces of fabric. Try to use swatch fabric that matches the final piece. If you're beading a satin dress, make a satin swatch. If you're beading a veil, use some scrap tulle.

Now is also the time to find out how long it's going to take you to finish your project. Once you pick a pattern you like, time yourself beading across six inches or a foot. Then just measure how much edging you plan to create and multiply it by your time. So, if it takes you 15 minutes to work six inches, and you have 10 feet of train to bead, you're beading at two feet per hour. So, you'll need to budget at least five hours. (And you thought you'd never use your 6th grade math!)

Finish your edges first: If you're working with a purchased gown and just beading the train, bodice, sash or sleeves, you won't have to worry about finishing your edges. But say you wanted to make and bead your own veil, or lace shawl. Make sure you have a stable edge to bead on that's not going to unravel or fray while you're working. Your best bet is to run the edge through a serger or an overcasting stitch on your sewing machine. Don't have one? Ask a friend or take it to a seamstress. It won't take her long to do.

Start with these patterns: Here are three types of beaded edgings to get you started. But don't stop here. Mix and match techniques. Experiment with different combinations of colors and textures and make your creation a true expression of your love. You don't need to worry about wasting materials, either, because if you don't like a combination, you can just cut the thread and reclaim the beads.

–Roping: Roping makes an edging that looks like, well, rope. You can make a thick edge or space it out depending on your style. All you do is pull your needle up through the right side of your piece, string some beads on, then take the needle around the edge and back up through the fabric a little ways down the edge. The effect is that you're wrapping the beads around the edge in a spiral. This edge is beautiful anywhere you'll be looking at both the top and underside (like a veil edge.)

–Drops: Drops add dimension to an edging by dangling below the horizontal line of the fabric. Drops are made by stringing several beads onto a thread and then skipping one or two and coming back up through the same beads. So, your needle begins and ends in the same place each time. You can add drops every few inches in between roping, or have a lovely fringe made of closely spaced drops.

DIY Beaded Edgings
Pearl drops will swing nicely if you keep the thread loose.

–Swags: Swags are created by letting the strand of beads drop below the horizontal edge. You can add many rows of beads, gradually getting longer and longer, anchored at the same point. Adding a larger bead or drop at the anchor point makes a nice touch. Be sure you knot each swag as you finish it, so your strands stay put at the length you want them.

DIY Beaded Edgings
Vary your swag sizes for an even more dramatic look.

Helpful Hints:

  • To strengthen your thread and help it behave while you're working, run each strand through some beeswax or special thread conditioner.
  • Keep your beads in separate, shallow containers so your needle can pick them up easily. And if you have pets, be sure those containers have lids. You don't want to spend an hour picking up tiny glass beads out of your carpet when Fluffy decides it's time to play.
  • The looser you string your beads, the more movement they'll have–especially with drops and swags. Don't pull the thread too tight.
  • If you need ideas, head to your favorite bridal magazines or websites and zoom in on the beaded details of those $7,000 dresses. Use those patterns as inspiration for your own designs.

Finally, don't get too caught up in the “perfect” pattern or spacing. Be creative. Have fun. But remember that no one is going to be staring at the beadwork or judging your spacing. It's too easy to obsess over beadwork. In the end, it's you and your groom people will be staring at. I wish you every happiness on your big day, and for the rest of your life!

Julie Anne Eason is a freelance web publisher and writer. She spends her days dreaming up new craft projects and helping people learn new techniques. She also writes reviews for sewing machines like the Brother CS6000i, the Janome MC9500 embroidery and sewing machine, and the Bernina 950 industrial sewing machine.


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Jessica is the creator of The Budget Savvy Bride; she launched the site in May of 2008, shortly after becoming engaged. Jessica has been recognized as a budget wedding expert by various media outlets and continues to share realistic inspiration and actionable tips to help brides save money on their weddings. Google

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