As I mentioned earlier, the original gown appears to be sewn all over with beads and silver sequins– while I briefly considered doing the same, I knew it would take absolutely FOREVER and I really didn’t want to deal with the time and effort involved. Instead, I decided to use glue to attach silver sequins to the dress.
As previously noted, I purchased six thousand 4mm flat silver sequins for this dress. You can see in the photographs that the sequins are concentrated around the lines of trim on the side sections, and are basically everywhere in the center section, so I figured I’d need a lot of them.
Taking the advice in this tutorial (excellent tips, by the way), I bought Gem-Tac glue to attach my sequins and rhinestones, and made myself a big cardboard backing to use as a base for attaching things. I covered it in parchment paper and used binder clips (cushioned with paper towel to prevent snagging or creasing) to clip the edges of my fabric to it.
My first area was a relatively out-of-the-way spot on the dress, just so I could practice my gluing technique without worrying about screwing up. As instructed, I squeezed tiny glue dots onto the mesh (I used a glue syringe with a 21-gauge blunt needle), let them sit for a minute to leak through the holes and set, and then put another tiny dot on top. I used a toothpick (first dampened by touching it to a wet paper towel, and then made slightly sticky with residual glue) to pick up my sequins and place them on the glue dots, pressed down slightly so the glue would ooze up a little through the center hole, and let them dry completely before pulling the net off of the parchment and moving to the next area of fabric. The glue took about 30-40 minutes to dry enough to let me move it after each gluing session.
Once I’d satisfied myself that I wouldn’t screw things up too badly, I started embellishing the areas around the diagonal swags. Unfortunately, I got a little too expansive when placing my sequins and ended up making more diffuse areas of sequins than the more restricted lines you can see in the reference photo. I didn’t see the problem at first, but when I backed up and looked at the bigger picture I realized that a more structured line was necessary to define the “swag” effect. It had only been about two hours since I’d applied the glue, so luckily I was able to peel off the outer sequins and use an old toothbrush dipped in water to scrub away at the glue bits left behind until I could scrape/pick them off with my fingernails. It took a really long time, but at least the glue was removable at all! Here’s the before and after:
I will note that the areas that had had the longest time to dry were the hardest to get the glue off of, requiring much scrubbing and picking (and swearing). In contrast, the ones that had only been applied 15-30 minutes previously were much easier, requiring only a wet paintbrush and a paper towel. So for future reference, take a good look at your sequins immediately after you’ve finished each section, because the earlier you can fix your mistakes, the better!
Doing just the side swags took just under one full container of sequins– close to 1,500! I also added 10mm rhinestones to the centers of the large flowers and 6.3mm rhinestones to the centers of the smaller ones, which looked great.
So I thought that at this point I’d be happy with the embellishment. That lasted right up until the point when I’d finished the side swags and put the dress back onto the dress form, and realized that I didn’t really like the effect. The sequins looked kind of costume-y, possibly because they were too large, possibly because they were spaced a little too far apart– I couldn’t tell which, but I didn’t like it. What to do?
I ended up buying some tiny rhinestones– ss10, which are just under 3mm in diameter– and using them to fill in the spaces between the 4mm sequins. Which, of course, required more gluing and more waiting for the glue to dry, but it was worth it– the swags looked much better with the tiny rhinestones added. I will note that while I tried at first using a smaller blunt needle for the glue, the 25-gauge needle I had was just too small to let the glue push through consistently. I had to switch back to the 21-gauge, which made the glue dots just a bit larger than I needed. I think a 22- or 23-gauge would have worked best for the tiny rhinestones, but I had to work with what I had.
I do apologize for not having a photo of the rhinestoned swags– I thought I’d taken one but apparently was mistaken, and by the time I realized that, well… you’ll just have to wait until later to find out why it’s now too late…
(to be continued…)
2 thoughts on “My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part X: Sequin and Rhinestone Swags”
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