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Bead Finishes in Garment making

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Beading is a form of Fabric decoration add texture and a feeling of luxury to apparel and non-apparel. Beading is a wonderful way to liven up your wardrobe and have a collection of clothing that is unique and individual. Most of the fabrics can be beaded except extremely sheer fabrics or fabrics that are easily crushed, as it’s hard to press the beadwork. For a more dynamic effect combine beads of different finishes.

Beading on fabric/Garments

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Beadwork of any sort looks a good deal more complicated than it actually is when a few simple techniques are generally sufficient to create even the most complex design. There is a natural affinity between beads and textile techniques; some translating directly. Embroidery and beadwork make a pair.

  1. Weight

    The first of several factors to consider when designing and executing a beaded project on fabric is weight. Beading fabric affects the drape of the fabric and can exaggerate any stretch the fabric might have. The weight of beads may even distort the weave of the fabric or tear the fabric if too great. On woven fabrics, areas that hang on the bias will stretch much more than adjacent areas on the straight grain. You may need to limit a bead design to areas of a piece that is on the straight grain only or at least reduce the number of beads in bias areas. Knits do not have a bias but stretch much more in the Horizontal direction than in the vertical direction and this can cause similar draping problems.

  2. Applicability

    Second, consider how your project will be used when placing your design. For beaded clothing, you don’t want to sit on bulky beads. Even beads on the back of a garment can poke when sitting in a chair. Comfort is still important.

  3. Shrinkage

    Third, take shrinkage into account. Fabric shrinks from two sources in beading, natural shrinkage of fabric when being cleaned and shrinkage from tension on the beading thread. Please preshrink fabric if you ever intend to clean it after, even if you plan on dry-cleaning. Chemicals can change beads. Be certain to leave wide margins around large or heavily beaded pieces so the pattern for the fabric piece can be re-marked after beading is completed. Overall designs should be beaded before the pieces are cut from the fabric. Small areas of beading, such as fringes and trims, can be applied after the garment is completed. Appliqués are stitched separately from a project. This way, fabric shrinkage due to tension on the beading thread is limited to the appliqué backing. If the garment is later damaged the appliqués can be removed.

  4. Support

    Fourth, beadwork needs a lot of support. Underline the beading fabric with a second layer of firmly woven fabric if necessary. Line your beadwork to save snagging the underlying threads. Remember to shrink that fabric too. If beads on a garment make one section heavier than another, the garment may rotate on the body. You may need to add dress-makers weights (invisibly) to balance the weight. They can be added in the hem like drapes. Use woven interfacings. Fusible interfacings don’t work as well with beads. On napped fabrics, use small pieces (or bead size pieces) under beaded motifs or the beads themselves, to keep small beads from sinking into the fabric. Light padding of a beaded appliqué makes a great difference.


Types of Bead Finishes

beaded dress

  1. Transparent

    Light passes through a transparent bead much like it would through a stained glass window. (You can see through it). Transparent beads transmit light and you can see into or through them, even when they are colored. Transparent beads are more lively or “sparkly” than opaque beads.

  2. Silver lined

    A transparent colored or clear outer layer which allows the silver lining on the inside to listen through, giving an added reflection. Silver-lined beads are made of a transparent or opal glass and have mirror-like reflective lining in their holes. Usually, but not always, the hole is square to enhance the bead’s reflectiveness.

  3. Translucent

    Somewhat clear (not as clear as transparent) – light can pass through.

  4. Rainbow

    An iridescent coating on the outside of either opaque or transparent beads.

  5. Opaque

    Light cannot pass through an opaque bead because opaque beads transmit no light. You cannot see the thread in an opaque bead.

  6. Metallic or Galvanized

    A shiny, very reflective coating that gives the bead a look of metal. Metallic or galvanized beads are glass with shiny metal like surface coating that is usually a baked-on product. Test the beads overnight in bleach, acetone or alcohol to check for permanence. Try not to use on bracelets or backs or necklaces where they will receive abrasions or anywhere they may receive a lot of sunlight. Three or four coat of a spray fixative can prevent the surface from wearing off quickly. Bronze, hematite, and copper are more permanent because they actually have metallic luster finish.

  7. Inside Colour

    The surface layer is clear while the color adhered to the inside shows through the clear layer.

  8. Matte

    A finish that has dulled or less shiny, perhaps frosty appearance. Light does not reflect off the surface as it does with a highly polished surface. Matte beads have velvety or frosted surface. Matte iridescent beads are both iridescent and matte. These cannot be etched to make simply matted.

  9. Lusted

    sequins are transparent, opal or opaque beads with a transparent, uniform, slightly shiny finish that is usually permanent. Finishes may be white, colored or even gold.

  10. Iris

    is an iridescent coating on dark opaque beads with multiple hues.

  11. Ceylon

    A pearl luster finish. Sometimes the color of this bead fades when exposed to strong sunlight.

  12. Aurora Borealis

    Named for the northern lights, aurora borealis is a term for crystal stones that have a highly iridescent surface.


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