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Amethyst and gold bead embroidery on silk hi lo dress.

The road to the finished dress was serendipitous!

Set, snip and go! It didn’t take long to cut out the Thai silk evening dress and its lining. I also cut another neckline piece on which I would practice my machine embroidery. Beirut, here we come! With 2 weeks until our departure, I was ready to knock this dress off my to do list. As any good project manager would do, the timeline was prepared:

  • After a meeting on Monday night, I would sew the lining and most of the dress body.
  • On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I could work on the machine embroidery and complete the construction.
  • Give the dress a few days to hang (silk lining and silk show fabric need time to adjust to the bias cuts and pleasure of its new life) while I was at the Vermont Quilt Festival.
  • Hem the dress the following Monday and perhaps even take it to the cleaners for a good pressing.

Or at least, that was the plan.

Jazzed to sew after the meeting on Monday night, I came home and my daughter said, “Mom, I was working on my dress and all of the sudden the sewing machine stopped working.  Going through my punch list of machine maintenance, I eventually concluded that the machine’s timing must be off (hmm, did someone tangle some threads and then yank the mangled fabric from the feed dogs… perhaps?).

There was no sewing on Monday night.  On Tuesday, I rearranged my day to drop my beloved sewing machine off at Nashua Sewing Center, pleading to have the machine back within a week.  Ruthie thought it would be possible.

Keep calm and carry on.  You can still finish the dress next week, I told myself.  Be flexible. Rearrange your to do list.  Think about Vermont Quilt Festival.  (You can read my round up on the weekend here.)

I’d almost forgotten that I’d signed up to take a class with Nancy Eha.  What a fantastic getaway… sitting in a quiet space, imitating embroidery stitches using beads.  Within 45 minutes of  being shown the first technique,  possibilities for interpreting the machine embroidery in beads on my dress multiplied. Now I know why my sewing machine timing went out!  I hadn’t been completely comfortable with the machine embroidery idea.  But I could easily convert the largest lozenge motif into beaded embroidery!  I’d couch some of the Kreinik Threads and complete the hand of Fatma using gold work techniques.

Serendipity is simply splendid.  I bought some  Golden Threads Quilting Paper, traced out my new motifs and headed to Bead Gallery on Monday for beads to match my threads. Genvieve looked a bit dazed as I described what I wanted to do.  Once I brought over the fabric and my design outline, she quickly suggested some amethyst bugle beads.  I also chose some gold seed beads size 7.  Then it was a quick trip to Nashua to pick up my sewing machine and check out the Bead Room for other bead possibilities.  Now I was ready to go!

First, the practice piece:

Alanna Nelson Embroidery and Textiles
Then it was time for the real thing:

Bead Embroidery on Clothing by Alanna Nelson

Most of US Independence Day was spent creating the amethyst and gold bead lozenges along the neckline. By Friday, I was madly couching gold threads onto the Hand of Fatma. On Saturday, I added the auspicious fish and beads and sewed the center front to the rest of the dress.

My plans for letting the dress hang for a few days? Um, how about 24 hours? I hemmed the dress on Sunday night and rolled it into my suitcase. It could hang in the hotel closet, right? I ended up rehemming the lining before the wedding, as the silk lining stretched more than the Thai silk show fabric. But mission was accomplished, and the dress looked great for the 12 hour wedding extravaganza. What a cute couple! What a great party!

Here’s a few views of the embroidery:

Goldwork and bead embroidery on silk dresses

Wishing that I had packed a good pressing cloth! I didn’t have the courage to send the dress to an unknown local cleaning for pressing. But the show went on!

Many thanks to Moussa Al Ahmar at Salon Glow for the fantastic chignon that stayed in place despite hours of dancing outdoors with searing summer temperatures!