HNW - Edwardian beading

Carolyn Kayta Barrows kayta at
Tue Sep 22 17:23:53 PDT 1998

I have an 1898 beaded bodice I want to copy.  My original has a black
beaded panel like a bib in front.  Some long sections are done onto what
looks like black chiffon, because the design in the middle is one bead
wide.  Here the edges are reinforced with something like soutache on the
back.  Other sections are two beads wide, and look like they were done
right onto the soutache.  Some of the edges have little loops of beads with
no backing of any kind.  

The finished beaded piece has been tacked down solid to the bodice over
velvet/velveteen, so I can't look at the back anywhere except at the lower
ends where the beaded part hangs free of the velvet/velveteen.  I am not
willing to remove any beaded parts to look underneath, so I can only look
at the edges.  Very few beads are missing or hanging on by threads, so
that's no help.  

I have some other beaded things of comparable age, but they are all made
differently.  Some are chain stitched together from strings of beads,
forming linear beaded trim.  The rest are done onto coarse cotton scrim,
linear trim or individual motifs.  

I have found a couple of small pictures of Edwardian production beading
shops, but these gives me no more information about period technique than I
could have deduced.  The workers are using big rectangular frames and
working on uncut pieces, with a needle not a hook.  
Are the backings I am seeing really chiffon and soutache?  This would mean
they tacked down the backing to something temporarily, sewed the beads to
the backing, then cut the finished piece free afterwards.  Understandable.
How did they sew the beads on, in terms of stitch used?  What kind of
thread did they use?  I had planned to 'cheat' and use that modern beading
thread everyone recommends.  Will that be any better than the cotton still
doing its job on the original?  Is there any advantage in using silk
chiffon instead of poly?  Does anyone have sources on period technique
here?  Or is this so 'intuitive' that I should stop worrying?

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