Lessons in Beading

My bugle beads arrived quickly from Jewels a la Carte on Etsy. I ordered a few different colors to see how they look in person.


I wanted a blue-green to go with the print and while I didn’t get the exact color, the turquoise is close so I’m going to use those.

But first I had to learn how to bead.

My first problem was finding a needle. I have tons of needles, but the only one I could find that could go through the beads was a tiny quilting needle. Unfortunately it took 20 minutes to thread and I knew that I would be homicidal if I had to go through that hundreds of times. So I resolved to find my dream needle. As I was looking for my thimble, I came across these lovelies:


They’re perfect! Unlike the quilting needle, the eye is big enough to thread easily. They’re almost twice as long and feel great in my hand so they’re now my official beading needles.

I started making a little sample and immediately noticed that I need a beading glove. I can’t find a picture, but it’s basically a fingerless glove with double sided tape that holds beads so you can grab beads easily while you’re working. Who knew such a thing existed, right? Well after trying to pick up the beads from the table, it dawned on me that I should make it a priority. I have some spandex around here somewhere so that’s going on my list of projects.

In the meantime, I stuck a tape loop to my hand and got some beading done. So here’s my first row of beading. It’s not perfect, but I’m really proud of it. It was also a reality check: beading takes a long, LONG time (at least in the beginning) so plan accordingly.



A little bit closer


So now I just have to pull out the rest of the seams and bead them. Who knows, I might even do an oval around the logo.


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Reverse applique top and a word about tools

First, let’s talk about tools.

Now Natalie (yes, I feel that I can call her Natalie since we’ve become so close in the last three weeks), says not to run out and buy all the supplies at once. I say poppycock! And tommyrot! And other colorful but obscure expressions! You see, I’m a tool junkie. I sometimes find tools that I don’t remember buying and worse, I don’t even know what they’re for. Oh well. Perhaps I’ll do a “Can you tell me what this is?” post one day. But I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an airbrush so I snagged one on eBay along with some Createx paints.

Here are my new friends:

Stencil Supplies

After seeing Emmely’s cardigan at Infectious Stitches, it dawned on me that I could dye my shirts any color I wanted. (It may seem obvious to you, but I assure you, it never crossed my mind.) I went out to the drugstore and bought a box of navy RIT dye. Visions of navy goodness danced in my head, but then I got greedy. I decided to dip dye the bottom layer and dye the top layer blue – but not navy blue. So of course it turned out blueish-grey. Also, I didn’t use a large enough basin, so the pieces have a tie-dyeish effect which I like. The only downside is that the edges of each piece curled up. Next time, I’m going to do all the dyeing before I cut.

This is an airbrushed piece, a dip-dyed piece and my first stitched piece.

Unstitched Dyed Stitched

Stitched Closeup

Stenciled piece with test stitches


I really love airbrushing. Now I just need to learn how to mix the colors I want and make enough to cover all the pieces of the garment. Twice I ran out and had to mix a new batch. Since I was guessing at the recipe, the color varied a bit. But I’m okay with making mistakes because that’s how I usually discover “happy accidents” that look better than I’d planned.


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More AC Books and Some Stencils

After I bought Alabama Stitchbook, I knew I would order the other two: Alabama Studio Style and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. I’m so glad I did.  A lot of the same basic information is in all the books, but each one also has a different set of patterns and projects so I think they’re all worth having.

Anyhow, I was eager to get started on my first project: the white on white corset inspired by Nixxi on Craftsy  (stunning right?), but I didn’t have a disappearing marker and I didn’t want to use any paint. So while waiting on my markers to arrive in the mail, I grabbed a couple of blue t-shirts and started making a different type of corset top.

Larsen's Corset Top
When I was finished stitching the entire top, I changed my mind about the design. Yes, after HOURS of hand sewing I decided that my fish market t-shirt needed some zhuzh-ing up with fancy beading. Two problems: 1. the seams have to be on the inside; and 2. I don’t have any bugle beads. Gah. So I’m going to undo the entire top and re-sew it while I wait for my beads from Etsy.

Corset Top- Larsen Closeup

But let’s also talk about a win –  my stencil cutting skills!

I cut two stencils in the past week. Each took about 2-3 hours with an x-acto knife. (Here’s a tip: don’t cut felt while wearing contacts. Trust me).

This is Anna’s Garden:

Anna Stencil Full

Those weird green patches are from the fluorescent paint that came with my airbrush. Long story.

A little closer:

Anna Stencil Medium

And this is Bloomers

Bloomers Stencil

I used Anna’s Garden on a top you’ll see in my next post and I was really happy with it.

To make the stencils, I printed out the pages on 8×11 paper and taped them together. Then I placed a large piece of felt on my cutting mat, sprayed the back of the taped sheet with some adhesive, laid it on the felt and started cutting. I went through 2 blades, but the cutting was pretty simple, if a bit tedious after a while. I still have about 3 more stencils to cut including Magdalena and Angie’s Fall, but first I want to actually finish one garment.


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New Obsession – Alabama Chanin

During my break, I wondered how I could get back into sewing without getting burned out again in the future. Then it hit me: I don’t need to sew more, but I need to care more about the things I sew.

Now I’m by no means a speedy seamstress. I love doing detailed work. Let’s face it, a regular buttonhole functions just as well as a bound buttonhole;.it just doesn’t look as elegant as I’d like.  I don’t plan to give those things up, but right now I need clothes that are comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and, most of all, practical. I love pretty much everything I’ve made, but I still don’t have many pieces that I can just put on without having to consider the overall look. Sometimes I just want to grab a shirt and jeans and get out the door, but I don’t have that type of wardrobe.

Enter Natalie Chanin.

I was vaguely familiar with her clothing line, but I never stopped to REALLY look at it. I was in the local bookshop when I picked up Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and started flipping through the pages. I have no idea what happened, but suddenly I was obsessed. I Googled her and found a wealth of information about the company. Her business philosophy and business model are absolute genius and she’s a strong (and early) proponent of sustainable fashion.  Some of her pieces sell for thousands of dollars, but each one can take weeks to complete because every.single.stitch is made by hand and, more importantly, the artisans are paid a fair wage. Each piece is a work of art so when you put it into perspective, they’re worth every penny. I also love that you have to slow down to create each piece. I’ve been practicing on scrap fabric and not only is it very relaxing, I feel more invested in my garment. I’ve never done applique or embroidery before, but so far, I’m happy with the results.

Stitch Book


Alabama Chanin book

Pictures courtesy of Alabama Chanin’s website, alabamachanin.com


Which brings me to fast fashion. I noticed in my Facebook sewing groups that there’s a lot of pressure to keep churning out garments at hyperspeed. I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was bothering me about it until I realized that it replicated the whole industry of quick, disposable clothes that I’ve been trying to avoid. There’s nothing wrong with following trends, but I’m at the point where I want my clothes to be quality pieces that will a) last; and b) be wearable for many seasons. On Artisan Square, they do a yearly SWAP (Sew With A Plan). Going forward, I’m going to create a plan and use it as a guide to create the backbone of my wardrobe. I need to think about it a lot more, but I so far I know I’ll need a tailored blazer, a couple of skirts and a classic white shirt. Outside the SWAP clothes, I’ll need some casual items for the weekends. like this corset top and this skirt.

I purchased the Alabama Stitch Book which contains patterns and all the techniques. (Btw, can I tell you how much I love that she’s so generous with her information? Stencil templates are FREE on her website.) And I bought her Craftsy class (even though I’m not sure about that jacket. I think it might look better in another colorway).

I also picked up some t-shirts at the local thrift shop and found felt at my favorite fabric store: PS Textiles. They don’t have a website but they’re at 359 Broadway and their phone number is (212) 226-1534.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing pics of my process (and of course all my new tools and supplies).


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