April 30, 2020 4 Comments on Flapper Dress Beaded Embroidery Tutorial
Gathering the Inspiring bits of this and that is half the fun.
The team at Folkwear is terribly excited to be offering a smart & select, new Flapper Dress Pattern! This is a fabulous little dress pattern and so easy to make. A dress that can literally be made the afternoon before the party. There is no excuse to claim you have nothing to wear!
The 1920's was not called the "RoaringTwenties" for nothing. It is the iconic flapper dress that we all associate with this bold and exciting time. Whether dancing to the electric energy of jazz party tunes, or relaxing all afternoon sipping a fancy drink on the lawn, the flapper dress is always appropriate. Plus, there is hardly a dress more fun to wear!
Our very own Cari provided Folkwear with the inspiration for this dress. We copied this original flapper dress that belonged to Cari's grandmother. The dress was hand sewn and hand beaded. We were inspired to make the dress for ourselves. And because it was so fun and easy to make, we decided it would be a perfect project to offer to the Folkwear community. You can download this simply fabulous flapper dress as a PDF here.
One of the things that can make a flapper dress have its great drape and swing is the beading on the dress. Glass beads add a weight and glamour to the dress that is iconic of the time. You can use beaded fabric, or as with our original, add beads to your dress. Below you will find a tutorial on how to add beads to fabric, and at the end we've included videos to show beadwork that is both fun and simple to do. Every Flapper, even if only in spirit will enjoy learning a few beading tricks to embellishing a perfect something. You only need a few supplies to do amazing things with beading on fabric.
Everybody in the know, knows that a flapper dress gets it's swing from the weight and drape that only beading can provide.
Seed beads and bugle beads are perfect for beading on fabric and allow for beautiful details.
Flapper dresses were originally adorned with glass beads, metal beads, pearls, and sequins. Today, beads are easy to find whether new or vintage. Online sources such as eBay and Etsy are a great place to search for vintage or antique beading treasures. Glass beads originally used on flapper dresses were mercury glass beads, jet glass beads, Czech glass beads, etc. Millinery supplies shops are also good places to look for beads too. For new glass beads, most craft stores, such as Jo Ann's fabrics and Michael's carry a beautiful and wide range of colors and shapes. One of my favorite local bead shops is Chevron Bead Shop in Asheville, NC.
Designing with beads is one of those endless possibility pursuits! There are just so many different beads to chose from and the design possibilities are endless.
Just about any fabric will work well for beading. Flapper dresses with fancy elaborate beading designs were originally made of silk, velvet, and rayons that varied in weight and textures that always lent a soft drape. Stiff or heavy fabrics really do not allow for the drape that is synonymous with the flapper dress aesthetic.
The beauty of the flapper dress is that it can be made for easy everyday wear or done up for a fancy glamorous party or evening dress. Recommended everyday fabrics include cotton lawn and voile, handkerchief and mid weight linens, and rayons for warm weather wearing. Light weight wools, flannels, mid-weight cottons are perfectly acceptable for cool weather wearing. Depending on the weight, knits work well for an even more casual look in all seasons. For a glamorous evening look, silk and velvet are always absolutely perfect. Basically you want a soft fabric that hangs and drapes nicely and makes you feel beautiful.
Thread & Needles
While everyday all purpose polyester thread like Guterman will work just fine for beading, cotton thread, silk thread, and plastic thread just for the purpose of beading are also available and work well.
A long beading needle above a shorter Milliner's needle.
The eye of the needle is the element that counts in beading. Like Milliner's needles, the eye and the shaft of a beading needle are the same width. You can use any needle that will allow the eye the needle to pass through the hole of the bead. Beading needles are useful and a pleasure to use because the eye is extremely small which will pass through tiniest of seed beads and the needles are long and wire thin. The long length of the needle allows for you to load lots of beads on the needle at one time. The size of the thread used also depends on whether it will pass through the eye of the needle.
Helpful Hint: Due to the really tiny eye of beading needles using a needle threader is highly recommended.
Just about every sewing mending kit come with a useful needle threader.
Preparing your Fabric
Once you decide on a beading design for your project you will need to transfer this design to your fabric. Both transferring your design and the actual beading will require working on the right side of your fabric. This part of the process will take some consideration, and experimentation may be in order to achieve success. The idea is to be able to see your design guide well enough to outline or fill in with beads, but to not see the transfer marking or lines once your piece is completed. Depending on the fabric you use, will in part depend on the transfer method used.
Invisible pens used in sewing are a good option for drawing or tracing your design to your fabric.
If your fabric can be seen through, tracing your design using a light box or light table would be ideal. Using a window instead a light box will work too.
No matter what method you use, always use a light hand with an ink pen or fine leaded pencil.
If your fabric can not be seen through, then laying and pining your paper design guide on top of your fabric, with fabric appropriate carbon paper sandwiched in between, is a good method to try. Instead of trying to actually draw your design with a continuous tracing line... use small continuous dots to create a line. Just remember that fabric is not paper and will not behave like paper when transferring is the task.
Freehand drawing my design directly on my linen fabric.
Depending on how much beading you intend to venture into will in part determine how you approach preparing your fabric for beading. Beading will add weight to your fabric and the more beads your design requires the heavier your fabric will be. Beading also cause your fabric to shrink ever so slightly, because beading draws the fabric up. Generally, this is not enough to impact fabric size, but it is good to know.
The decision you need to make up front is when you will bead your project. You may want to consider beading your fabric before actually cutting out your garment if your beading design is extensive. Draw the outline of your pattern piece onto your fabric using a stay stitch or drawn outline. If using an ink pen be sure to use a light hand and allow the ink to completely dry, to avoid smudging your fabric. A useful method, is to trace your pattern piece with a pencil. Once again using a light hand, and then stay stitch over your pencil line. Be sure to allow space between the edge of your outline and the seam allowance - you want to avoid beading in the seam allowance and leave a quarter inch for your machine foot, if needed (sewing machine feet have a hard time going over beads). Do all your beading just a bit outside the seam allowance. You can always go back and fill in with a bead here and there if you have any unwanted empty spaces, once you have sewn up your garment or piece.
Also, consider starting your beading design work in the center of your fabric and work outwards. This will allow you to more evenly distribute the weight of your project, which will help prevent the fabric stretching out of shape.
If your beading work is not extensive or only occurs in small areas or as trim work along the edges, you may decide to do your beadwork after you have assembled your garment.
It is always prudent to try and think out the possibilities and challenges you may encounter in a new project. For that reason I am going to demonstrate several simple beading stitches and complete a simple design just for the fun of it!
Preparing to Bead
Tiny little seed beads can become unruly and literally bounce and fly off in all directions if you do not know how to handle them. A few simple preparations will help make your beading project go more smoothly and remain tidy. You can purchase beading blankets to help make working with beads more manageable. Beading blankets provide a soft surface, which help to keep your beads from uncontrollably rolling around or popping and bouncing about when you try to load your needle with beads. If you do not have a beading blanket a simple piece of felt will work just as well.
Felt to help prevent beads from bouncing about.
Loading beads onto a needle.
Beaded border designs in progress. See video for instructions.
Finished beaded design. See video for instructions.
Up close detail.
May 01, 2020
Thanks so much! I was trying to find a good tutorial for this and have several art deco design books.
May 01, 2020
ya’ll are the best, so happy you provided this info.
May 01, 2020
ya’ll are the best, so happy you provided this info.
May 12, 2023
August 30, 2021
Thank you so much for this tutorial. Do you know where to find 1920’s beading patterns?