Friday, March 02, 2007


All right, I promised lots of pictures. Here's a good start. Back in December, my sister called to ask if I would be willing to make up a wrap for a friend of hers who was getting married in February. I answered back with a bunch of questions: what kind of thing did this friend want? How much was she planning on spending? What did the wedding dress look like? Most importantly, was she very picky? I had nightmares of a bride in California unhappy with every tiny thing I did and the nightmares that could possibly ensue. My sister assured me that her friend was very laid back and would be incredibly happy with anything I made.

I talked to the friend and tried to narrow things down a little bit. She sent me pictures of her dress (seen here) and said she wanted something satin-ish with beading that hit around the waist. Off to the fabric store for swatches, since I couldn't really tell exactly what color the dress was via the link or her pictures. I found some likely candidates and sent them off so she could pick something that would work well. Meanwhile, I tried to see what the beading looked like on the dress so I could echo it somewhat. My sister came to the rescue here when she visited in January - we found the exact dress at a store, so I got a good look at it. Yay! That helped a lot when I went to design the pattern.

I wanted something that would coordinate with the dress and look similar in the detailing, so I took the vines and leaves pattern and started drawing. I used graph paper so the end result would be symmetrical and penciled in vines and drawing the individual beads until I liked the overall design. Then I stitched the sides of the wrap together and placed the pattern under one layer of fabric, tracing the lines with an air erase pen. I machine stitched over the lines with a silver thread veeeery slowly, since the thread snags and breaks very easily. I learned to use larger stitches and re-thread pretty often.

Then I started beading. Here's where I should mention that I've never done this kind of work before. I have sewn larger beads onto fabric and I've done cross stitch and needlepoint and all kinds of find hand sewing, but this was all new to me. When I went to the bead store I had no idea what the different beads were called or what to use to sew them on - all I knew was what was on the dress. The nice lady at the bead store walked me through finding the right kinds of tiny beeds (seed beads?), I learned that the crystal beads I wanted were "fire polished", and found out that freshwater pearls are actually not that expensive (good, because they really made the wrap). When I told her what I was attempting, she paused, then very carefully said "...well, that's quite ambitious" thinking, I'm sure, something more along the lines of "that woman is insane."

The beading took a long time and was very exacting. The needles used for beads this fine are unbelievably tiny - so small, the eye of the needle is barely large enough to fit the insanely narrow beading thread through. After a while I got the hang of threading the needles and got into a groove of following the silver stitching with a narrow line of tiny beads, then adding a lone pearl in the center of each leaf. The pearls got double stitched as they are a bit heavy. I beaded and beaded and beaded, dipping my needle into a wee bowl of tiny silvery bits to gather up more as I went, until my distance eyesight would get a bit blurry. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Finally I was done (cue angel's voices here) and stitched up the ends of the wrap, then hand stitched the remaining opening. I ever so carefully ironed it, packed it in tissue, and sent it off, hoping the bride to be would like it.

My sister went to the wedding and told me her friend loved the wrap. Evidently people kept coming up and commenting on it, and several people asked if my sister was going to get a wrap like it for *her* upcoming wedding. Well, no. I am making an heirloom lace shawl, which is just as cool and is exactly what my sister asked for (more on that later). But I noted a bit of regret in my sister's voice when she told me this, so I have something special planned as a bridal shower gift. More on that later, too.