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Decoration Techniques: Review

Review of Varied Decoration Techniques.

I would like to illustrate the endless design options provided by different decoration techniques so you can clearly see how and when these techniques are applicable. In other words, I want to give you actual examples of using various techniques and materials in different types of garments. It is the hardest thing – making a bridge that leads from pure technology to a complete look. No one is born a designer. In dressmaking, being a designer means knowing how to use this or that technique to create the desired look. For this tutorial, I have collected examples of clothes by famous haute-couture designers to demonstrate certain decoration techniques or combinations of such techniques. 

The first example is a garment by Valentin Yudashkin:

Judging from the way the garment clings to the body, it is made from absolutely non-resilient, non-stretch mesh fabric.  What should be taken into account when working on such garments? Mesh fabric should match the complexion of the wearer. We are not talking about dancewear so it's best to choose a nude rather than a tan shade. Darts are disguised by rows of sequins or seed beads and the remaining space can be decorated in any way according to the design concept.

Let's take a closer look at the decor. I can definitely tell that the embroidery was made right on the assembled garment. It is obvious because there are rows of seed beads and long bugle beads going right over the joining seam.

There are two ways you can work with non-resilient mesh fabric.

The first way is when you cut the garment after a tried and true pattern and you are fully confident you won't need to adjust the fit. In this case you may work on each piece individually: embroider the front, then embroider the back, embroider the sleeve, etc. Just make sure to leave a couple centimeters for joining the pieces. You can embroider those areas later after assembling the garment. In this case, even though the fabric does not stretch, I recommend you should wrap it around a suitable plastic template and secure it with pins. It will prevent the embroidery from drawing the fabric. All knots are tied on the face of the garment and then disguised by the decoration materials used in the embroidery. In other words, first you embroider all pieces, then you join them, and then you embroider the remaining empty areas along the joining seams.

The second way implies working on a garment that has already been assembled (like in the picture). And again, I recommend you pull the fabric over a plastic template of a suitable size and embroider each area individually to prevent the embroidery from drawing the fabric together.

Let's go ahead. What can I say about the used decoration techniques?

I can clearly see beaded stitches.  

They are made with a 1-ply thread and seed beads that seem to be silver lined inside. It looks like they are stem stitches, too. I have described this type of embroidery stitches in the tutorials above. 

I can also see rows of long bugle beads.

In this particular example, there are no round beads placed at the ends of long bugle beads, i.e. the person who did the embroidery was sure the edges of bugle beads would not cut the thread.

And therefore, it was most likely monofilament thread. Using monofilament thread has its own pros and cons. The main advantage is that it really is tear-proof. And the disadvantage is that your embroidery might not lie evenly on the garment but sort of stick up here and there because the thread is stiff. I recommend you just use regular robust thread and place a small bead at each end of the bugle bead: it will protect the thread from getting damaged and at the same time preserve the flexibility of the embroidery.

What else can I see there? Some sequins. In this particular case there are stitches made of alternate sequins and seed beads. There are up to 6-8 sequins in each stitch. I have also spotted large pailettes. It looks very delicate and beautiful – perfect for haute-couture fashion. But it is hardly functional if we are talking about casual everyday clothes because those stitches with pailettes and sequins will really irritate the wearer's skin.

I can see a row of very small seed beads, too. How was it made? The knot is most likely hidden underneath a pailette. You pick up a seed bead, bring the needle down and right up (the gap is literally half a millimeter), pick up another bead, bring the needle down and up, etc. After about 2cm, you should draw up the thread to help the seed beads form a straight row. And then you continue the same way: pick up a bead, catch the fabric, etc. And you keep drawing up the thread every now and again – you don't want to draw the garment tight, you just want the seed beads to make an even row. And so it goes. That's how you make a row of small seed beads.

And it works just the same way with short bugle beads.  It's the same kind of a row: pick up a short bugle bead, catch the fabric, pick up another bead, draw up the thread at some point, etc.

This technique creates an illusion of a perfectly uninterrupted row with no intervals between the beads.

I can also see clusters of seed beads. They are seed beads of different shades: pale lilac, peach, pink. The sizes vary as well. There are occasional rhinestones, sequins, and pailettes thrown in those clusters to create some creative chaos.

How do you do it? With one and the same thread, you first pick up a seed bead and bring the needle down and up, then a different seed bead and bring the needle down and up. The needle moves left and right in a kind of a zigzag. All beads are placed in different directions. The result is a line which resembles a zigzag. Every time, you bring the needle down and then bring it back up and place a new bead in the desired direction. This kind of stitching won't draw together non-resilient mesh fabric. But if your mesh fabric is resilient, then make sure it can still stretch the way it's supposed to when in wear. Since this mesh fabric is see-through, there is no point in tying knots on the inside. You simply disguise the knot on the face of the garment. Every new row is made with a new thread.

As you can see, none of these techniques are too hard to master and you can definitely repeat them and combine them the way you like.

And I just could not walk past the beautiful works of Elie Saab that simply take your breath away with their glamorous elegance.

What do we see here? It is mesh fabric decorated with sew-on lace motifs. And the lace motifs in their turn are embroidered with sequins of the same shade but different sizes. The sequins are sewn on in random places either with thread of a matching shade or with transparent thread. The purpose of sewing on sequins is to add some delicate glow to the garment by reflecting the light.

The next example:

Here sequins form a particular pattern. They are sewn in rows onto rather thick fabric. The technique of making such rows is described in detail in the chapter dedicated to working with sequins. I would like to add a few words about the algorithm: first you embroider the contour and then you fill in the area inside.

Judging from the reflections, the embroidery also features some rectangular sew-on rhinestones.

It is the rare case when the embroidery pattern is created from scratch and not just repeats the motifs existing on the fabric. And yet there is no sharp, disturbing contrast! The shade of the sequins matches the shade of the main fabric perfectly.

And another example:

There is black fabric and plain black sequins with no additional effects. You can also see the contour which was embroidered in the beginning. All inner areas were filled in afterwards. Those areas look particularly beautiful when filled with not just sequins but matching beads, seed beads, and bugle beads. It adds more volume to the garment. But they must absolutely match the shade of the main fabric.

Here is a different example:

In this case, the same black sequins are used on separate lace motifs. Their main purpose is to reflect the light. They are single sequins sewn on without adding any seed beads. They don't form a particular pattern themselves but simply highlight the lace making it look richer.

And, of course, I had to show you a dress embellished with gems:

If you want to make a high-quality dress from mesh fabric, you need to use expensive materials.

Speaking of rhinestones, what I want to say is you need to use sew-on cut-glass and crystal rhinestones. They are a lot heavier than cheaper rhinestones and all particularly richly decorated areas must first be duplicated with pieces of nude fabric with similar elastic properties. For example, if you are using stretch mesh, you should duplicate it with some resilient stretch fabric where relevant. If your mesh does not stretch, then choose non-stretch duplication materials.

You can also duplicate the duplication material, shall the need arise. Resilient materials can be duplicated with knitted fusible interfacing. Then you attach the piece to the mesh fabric, make zigzag stitches along the edges, and embellish it with rhinestones. First you work on the contour and then fill it in with large and small rhinestones.

Working with corset dresses is less challenging:

You can safely use lots of rhinestones because the stiff inner construction of the corset should be robust enough to cope with a large amount of expensive decoration materials.

You can sew on lots of cut-glass rhinestones and they won't deform the dress. It will look fabulous!

I wish you to truly unlock your creativity and get your hands on your dream embroidery project that seemed too difficult only yesterday. Now you know that sophisticated embroidery is just a combination of the simplest techniques and you can create gorgeous one-of-a-kind garments with your own hands. I assure you that decorating a sophisticated dress does not take 500 hours the way they write in descriptions of haute-couture garments! It takes several evenings.

Start right now by sewing and decorating the dress of your dream!

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