How To | Scumble-Beaded Trim and Belt, Part 1

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Back when I attended a monthly knitting group I first encountered the term “scumble.” It’s just such a fun word, and while it has a very definite meaning in fine art painting, for textile work it usually means free-form or patternless work. So, even though we’ve got a bit of structure in our base and for our finished project, I like to think of this beading technique as rather scumble-y since we’re not using a repeating pattern.

Lots of little pieces, but not a big hit to the budget.

Lots of little pieces, but not a big hit to the budget.

First, gather your materials. You’ll need:

  • Ribbon or fabric that matches your color scheme. I like ribbon because it has finished edges and requires less work on my part other than measuring and cutting to have a solid foundation to work on. Furthermore, I prefer a grosgrain-style ribbon since it’s sturdy enough to hold up the beads without getting floppy on us. Satin ribbon could work in a pinch, but the tendency to snag and pull might prove problematic.
  • Beads in various sizes and/or colors. Beading like this means substantial shine, but shine comes at a price. To maximize the value in a DIY project like this one, pick out some nice beads like glass pearls, Swarovski crystals, and other high-impact gems, then pair them with simpler (and more cost-effective) filler beads like roccailes (11/o), e-beads (6/o), and bugles in your color scheme. Finally pick up some very tiny (like 15/o seed beads). As for color, you can go monochromatic or multi-colored, depending on the style you’re going for. I stuck with shades of ivory and peach for the larger beads, with clear and silver accents for the filler.
  • Needles and thread. There are beading needles out there but sometimes they’re not sturdy enough to go through the ribbon or fabric we’re using as a backing, so a simple, cheap multi-pack of needles will do just fine. You do want to make sure there are some small-eyed needles, though, as the smallest bead sizes still need to pass over them. Thread you want strong but not too thick. I used some quilting thread I had in my stash and it’s worked beautifully. Again, you want it in a matching or neutral color since you will see bits of it through the more translucent beads and, perhaps, between stitches.
  • Scissors and measuring tape.  No mystery here–you’l be doing a lot of snipping of threads and you’ll need the measuring tape to tell you how long to make your trim.
  • Bowls or a felt board with multiple sections. A felted board keeps the beads from scattering hither and yon every time you bump or move your work area, and the bowls or sections mean you can pour out your beads without mixing them up.

Once all of that has been assembled, you need to know how you’re going to use your finished trim because this is not something you can make a whole bunch of and then trim to size–you’re liable to lose beads that way and undo some work in the process. Instead, measure the garment (like, in my case, the neckline of the cardigan or the width of the front of my dress) to be adorned and then add about an inch to either end. This extra space allows you to fold some un-beaded ribbon up to make a nice, neat edge without fraying and reinforces what might otherwise be the weakest sections of the trim.

If you’re using fabric instead of ribbon, you’ll also need to cut it to the width you want, and hem the edges, too. (This is why I like ribbon.) If you’re going the ribbon route, you may not be able to find the exact width you want. For instance, I wanted a shade over an inch for my belt, but what was available in the color I needed was a full 1 1/2 inches. My solution was to use the wider ribbon but sew a line of basting stitches the width I was after to mark my edges, with the plan to fold them over and stitch the excess down once I was finished beading.

Keep in mind that this sort of beading is going to be quite heavy and quite sturdy, so if you’re planning to edge, say, your veil in this manner, you’re going to want substantially smaller beads and ribbon than if you’re making a belt, headpiece, or trim for heavy crepes and satins.

Now that we have our materials ready, let’s start the fun part: the beading!

My bead board working on the first pass.

My bead board working on the first pass.

The First Pass

Because we have a limited number of the larger, extra-sparkly beads (due to price or just plain scarcity), it makes the most sense to scatter them along the necessary length before adding anything else into the mix.

Thread a needle with a long piece of thread–I usual start with 2 feet or so–and fold it over so that it’s a workable length but do not knot the ends together. We’re only using a single thickness of thread through the beads in case another pass is required.

Make a single stitch at one end of the foundation fabric to anchor the thread and sew on the first bead. Make another single stitch at the opposite end of the bead, coming up through the fabric a little ways away from the first bead. Sew on another bead, make another single stitch, and continue in this way to add the larger beads in a random pattern along the full length of the foundation.

The extra stitches after each larger bead keep the fabric from puckering or drawing up. The other alternative is to stitch each path between the beads and that’s just asking for a headache, if you ask me.


The first pass, top and bottom. You'll have a whole network of crossing threads on the underside of your ribbon when you're through.

The first pass, top and bottom. You’ll have a whole network of crossing threads on the underside of your ribbon when you’re through.

Since I’d started with a finite amount of the “special” beads, I poured out half of them to be used on the cardigan trim, and the other half was saved for the dress trim and belt. At the end of the first pass on each I still had some beads left over. They didn’t go to waste, I was able to use them to fill some of the larger gaps during the second pass.

The rest of the process is coming up in the next post.

+1 Sparkly Cardigan of Arm-Covering

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Like a lot of plus-sized brides, I’m not a huge fan of my upper arms and wear half to full sleeves pretty much year-round. The thing is, it’s not so much the size of my arms that bugs me the most, it’s the pale-yet-blotchy skin tone that makes me feel more comfortable with them covered. That and my nervous habit of scratching at my arms if they’re not covered (which doesn’t help the blotchy skin tone).

All that to say, I knew from the beginning that I would be wearing a sweater, shrug, or bolero along with my wedding dress. And that I shopped for my dress with an eye towards compatible necklines.

Since I am most comfortable in knits, and I do knit from time to time, I figured I’d be happiest if I knit my own shrug, etc. and began looking for suitable patterns ages ago. Thanks to Duchess Katherine’s second wedding look (which included a cropped angora jacket over her evening dress), Vogue Knitting dreamed up a close-enough version and offered it as a free download. As usual, the sizing wasn’t quite right for me as written, so I decided to give the pattern a go in a larger, less fuzzy yarn and different needles and see how close that got me.

Color me shocked when my test-run turned out to be a pretty close match to the shade of dress I ended up choosing, and that the pattern adjustment was just right. Happy accident, that! All that was left was some sparkle to make it wedding-worthy.

Beaded trim, if you’ve never priced it yourself, is damned expensive. For good reason, mind you; it takes a lot of work, usually by hand, to achieve just the right look, but I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that we’ve got more time than money to put towards this wedding, and I’m already pretty adept with several styles of beading.

a beaded portrait (personal photo)

a beaded portrait (personal photo)

Since we Road Trips have a standing date with our DVR on Friday nights, I’ve been working on the necessary length to edge my cardigan (a little over a yard) during those date nights–it’s nice to have something to do with my hands while we’re otherwise vegging out.

I’ll do a better how-to of it in another post, but this beading took somewhere between 15 and 20 hours to complete. I’d have to check my receipts to see how much it cost me, but I know I’ve only used half the beads I purchased (I want to do more trim for the dress, plus a belt) and I doubt I’ve spent more than $50 total, so maybe $25 in materials, but something like $300 in time (at a rate of $20 an hour–not that high for custom hand-work).

Look at it sparkle! (personal photo)

The finished trim–look at it sparkle! (personal photo)

Even though I pinned out the length of ribbon I’d need to bead to trim the sweater, after hanging for a little while the neckline had “grown” as can happen with knits. It took a couple of tries before I got the trim and knitting to match up correctly without the body of the cardigan puckering, but it worked out in the end.

You can see some of the puckers on the right that I hadn't quite fixed yet.

You can see some of the puckers on the right that I hadn’t quite fixed yet.

To make sure the beading held to the knitted edges, I placed another length of ribbon on the back side of the knitting so that the trim would have something sturdier to anchor to. This also had the effect of stabilizing the edge of the sweater–it was curling in before the trim was added.

This is what it looks like from the inside of the sweater's edge.

This is what it looks like from the inside of the sweater’s edge.

And here she is, all ready for wearing!

All done! and, see, no puckers!

All done! and, see, no puckers!

A close-up of the beading along the neckline.

A close-up of the beading along the neckline.

One of the major “rules” about bridal diy is that you don’t plan something that means acquiring additional skills or expensive equipment. Thankfully this project required neither, just a lot of time.

Have you undertaken any ambitious diy projects lately?