Confession: This wasn’t meant to be a tutorial at first. Originally, the belt was supposed to be over a sheer paneled floaty skirt; the idea was that I’d make it, photograph it, and maybe try and sell it if it turned out especially amazing. But I just started hating that idea, until I decided to leave it as a belt. Then it just seemed a little too simple to keep to myself; it’s time consuming, but by no means a work of artistic genius. Finally, I kept changing my concept as I worked, which led to some severe uneven-ness in the beading, and some crazy wonky grommets.
So instead, how’s about a tutorial so you can make your own? I might still offer a 2.0 version in an Etsy shop or something in the future, since they are super time consuming for such a small accessory, but it’s nice to share how to make things.
- Hand sewing
- Not losing all your tiny beads
- 1/2 yard fabric (I used an orange polyester left over from a Halloween costume, layered underneath a sheer curtain)
- A few yards of thin, flexible wire (I used copper wire from a broken lamp/headlight I found)
- 6 grommets
- Lots of small beads
- Thread and needle
- Cord/shoelace/something to lace the sides with
Cut 4 rectangles of the desired width and height. In my case it’s not super wide at 2 inches. Remember to leave a fairly wide seam allowance. For my version, I cut another layer of sheer fabric and hand basted it over my belt fabric to create one layer.
There are two front piece and two lining pieces. On the front pieces, on the right side of the fabric, mark offset dots every 1/2 inch to 1 inch, like so:
(Remember to use tailor’s chalk or something else that is fairly invisible, since you’re marking on the right side.) Feel free to make a wider or narrower grid; 1/2 inch looked the best to me with my small beads and tiny wire.
You should end up with two dot-covered rectangles, with a clear space of about 1/2 inch on the long edges and 2 inches on each short edge. This is where the grommets will go.
Now, take a long, sturdy thread. If using fairly large beads, I suggest embroidery floss. But for small beads, doubled machine thread works fine. Bring the needle up at each dot, and thread the needle through a bead. Bring the needle across (so the bead hole is horizontal) and back through the fabric at almost the same point, take a tiny stitch, and make a knot. The extra small stitch and the knot make a sturdy base that won’t pull forward too much. If you’re extra worried, reinforce the back of the bead with a small button on the back side. (That will take LOTS of extra time, be aware.) Repeat these steps for every dot.
If you look at my belt, you can see that at first I wasn’t very careful with my beading. Some of them pull forward, aren’t anchored properly, etc. I have to go back and fix the loose ones, as this belt is intended as a Burning Man costume and it’s especially not OK for beads to drop off.
Once you’ve finished all the beads, you’ll take the wire and poke it through the fabric from the back. Secure the wire by winding it around one of the anchor threads. Weave the wire through the beads as follows:
See how the arrows go? You’re making an embroidery stitch from wire, by the way.
Every few beads (or every bead if you’re really committed to an even finished product), take the wire around under the bead and back through; this will secure the wire and create a sharper finish. Without this step, something can snag on the wire and pull all of the beads for a great distance close together, puckering your fabric, ruining the effect, and requiring you to stop and re-form the pattern, even on the finished belt. Ask me how I know.
Once two of your rectangles are covered in your pattern (except the seam allowance, of course!), take your lining rectangles. On all 4 pieces, fold the seam allowance under and carefully press. You won’t be able to turn the fabric right-side out because of the wire, so make sure there’s a good crease, and that the seam allowance stays folded under easily. Then top stitch by machine or by hand.
Finally, hammer in the grommets and lace ’em up. Eventually I chose to attach my belt to an old swimsuit bottom, and then attach a distressed front and back panel to that. I haven’t decided if I’ll keep it, hence the pins and slightly fraying fabric.
You could really apply this style of wire embroidery to just about anything, which is the real reason for sharing. I think it looks really neat, although I don’t have the patience to apply it over a much larger area. Whatever you make with this, remember to line it; it would look beautiful with netting or illusion cloth, but the ends of the metal might poke you.