Restoring a 1920s Beaded Velvet Jacket

I found this jaw dropping 1920′s beaded velvet jacket in a vintage store in Brooklyn, and honey she was a mess. A hot mess. Still, I could not pass up the opportunity to give her a little love. Whenever I find things from the 1920′s it’s always in totally random places; The Salvation army, the boonies, Queens… who knows.

It’s a rare day when they are in pristine museum quality condition, most of the time minor restoration can be done by anyone with a little patience, a few tools and basic sewing skills (ie, threading a needle, tying off, and of course, stitching).

Essential supplies and tools for this project.

Step one: Sourcing replacement beads.

I brought the jacket with me in to source the beads in order to match the color and size correctly. If bringing the garment isn’t possible, take a bead sample with you, taped to an index card. If you use a picture to match size it may not work due to lighting differences, etc. And yes, there about 58 different kinds of “clear”.

Tinsel Trading is a super fun place and stock all kinds of vintage findings, beads and other cool stuff.

I went to York Beads on 37th

street, they are helpful and have a great selection. Here’s the linky: York Beads

Carefully remove damaged strings, but save what you can!

Step two: Removing all the bad stuff.

The previous owner of the jacket also wanted to restore it, but possessed neither skill nor patience. I used a seam ripper to cut the thread and then collected the beads. Save all the beads in a small dish, one with a cover helps.

Step three: Filling in the replacement beads.

I was lucky with this particular pattern. The oversize leaf patterns were repeated over the whole jacket so I could easily compare scale. Use 100% cotton thread when ever possible and beading needles are pain to thread but a must! A little beeswax (or even a little lip balm) will keep the thread from making unwanted knots. I like to use double strand thread for the laying out the sections, which is also called the memory thread, and a single strand for anchoring each bead in (couching stitches). Count the beads onto the beading needle from a similar section. If you didn’t put down as many as you needed to, don’t worry you can always add a bead to two later to fill in any bare patches.

Step four: Anchoring each bead.

Tack the memory thread down with couching stitches between the beads. Time consuming work, but it will come out great!

Once you have laid out your line (it’s easier to start with a line or straight section to get the hang of it) tie off with a small knot on the reverse side of the fabric. Switch to single thread and make a small stitch between each bead, anchoring down the double strand thread like this:

If you don’t like the way something looks, take it out. For angles and curves it may take a few goes but you’ll get there! Restoring a garment that was otherwise a rag destined for the garbage or a production of ‘Grey Gardens’ can be wonderfully satisfying.  Photos of the completed project to come.

A section I have finished.

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