Sewing Couture Techniques - Embellishments, Sewing Beads, Passementerie, and Lace


Hi Everyone! In part 3, we continue with Melinda, the designer of the Melody Valerie Couture brand, sharing her knowledge of this topic with us! This week we focus on couture embellishment techniques and applications. An embellishment is any decoration applied to the garment. Carefully placed and designed, a well-crafted embellishment can elevate an ordinary garment to sublime, and really impress the viewer. Heavily embellished sections of the garment are usually worked before being cut out; other types of embellishment can be added during, or after, construction. Sequins, beads, embroidery, and lace can be used as embellishment.

I encourage you to follow along and learn a little more about the art of the couture garment!

We'll be demonstrating these methods as basic tutorial exercises on small scraps of fabric as well as showing examples on both Liberty Jane and Melody Valerie Couture designs to help illustrate how the basic techniques and methods are used at a smaller scale. Follow along to understand the process, hopefully watching us in action will clarify any concerns or issues you may have with these types of techniques.


Suggested Patterns For this Topic: 

  • LJ Boomerit Falls Jacket
  • LJ Piccadilly Peacoat
  • LJ Ginza Girl Coat
  • LJ Lace Overlay Tank Top
  • LJ Abbey Road 
  • LJ Opening Night 
  • LJ Starlight Gala 
  • LJ Hello Oscar 
  • LJ Sheath Dress
  • Any MVC pattern, each demonstrates different types of couture techniques from french seams to bias bindings. Read the descriptions to get more detail.



Couture Embellishment -  Sequins & Beads!

Sequins small discs of faceted plastic, often with an iridescent coating add a lovely splash of sparkle without adding weight. Sequins can also be attached individually using a tiny seed bead. Depending on the size of sequins, and the number applied, the effect can vary quite dramatically. In doll couture, as with everything else, it’s important to keep an eye on the scale of the sequins! 

Couture Embellishment - Embroidery & Passementerie

Both embroidery and passementerie are more like drawing on the fabric, than either beads or sequins. Embroidery uses "floss" or decorative thread in many colors, while passementerie uses cording, bias tubing, or existing trims to draw designs. Each can be spectacular in its own way. 

Both passementerie and embroidery are fairly labor-intensive, but both are stunning and afford a wide range of effects, depending on how densely they are worked and the materials used. Adding these details to your garments will really set them apart.

Couture Embellishment - Lace Trims

Creatively using lace can speak volumes to your skill as a couturier, and really help elevate your work. This gorgeous, delicate fabric is woven from fine threads, and usually has motifs that rest a netting background. But as with all aspects of doll couture, it's imperative to keep the scale of the lace in mind. Common lace techniques include cutting and lapping, moving motifs, and using edgings.

As with everything else in doll couture, getting the scale right is of utmost importance. The scale of the lace (both the size of the motifs, and the heaviness of it) should match the scale of the rest of the garment. A lace you intend to use as a focal point can be a bit heavier and chunkier than an all-over, background lace. But, keep in mind that most gorgeous, heavy lace is simply too large for dolls. When shopping for lace, train your eye to look for laces that are small and delicate enough to compliment your doll without overwhelming her. Also, in this small scale, the amount of detail is really important. I love to work with French cotton laces because they are so delicate and perfect. 

While finding (and using) lace does present some challenges, its elegant beauty will add a lot to your garments. With some creativity and a few basic techniques, you will be able to begin using it in your own work to great effect.

Week One tasks:

  • Watch the Controlling Bulk and Engineering The Garment videos.
  • Complete the exercises to practice the techniques demonstrated.
  • Check out the Ultimate Resource Guide for fabric and supply sources. (Find this in the SWC Bonuses section)
  • Jump over the SWC Facebook Group for conversation and project sharing.

Exercise #1: Add a simple embellishment to a finished garment. The blue Starlight Gala dress illustrates this done as an applique using the lace motifs cut from lace yardage. Each motif was placed on the finished dress and hand-stitched into place. We used them on the bodice sleeves and skirt portions fo the dress. The finished result is stunning!


Exercise #2: Use lace fabric as an overlay with an existing pattern. The simplest way to do this is to overlay a bodice with lace. The fuchsia Starlight Gala dress is a beautiful example of this technique.



Pamela W
Pamela W

August 28, 2019

@cinnamon – Thank you – there are some nice videos on use of that once I understood the correct tool. Having grown up in the 1970s, I did my share of latch hook. I also crochet, so I can see how this tool would work similar to those, although I’ve never worked from the back so that might be a little tricky to figure out, but I could get the hang of it with some practice.

Chris Bell
Chris Bell

August 27, 2019

These were very well done. She is a good teacher. I enjoyed them, they had a lot of information.


August 27, 2019

@pamela – it’s a tambour hook that is mentioned. You can see it used in the Dior in Miniature videos. I have one and plan to do a course soon!


August 24, 2019

I’ve always been afraid to use sequins because I simply did not know how to apply them. Thank you for the tips. I will be looking up how to use a tambour hook for the sequins – after a quick search I see that there are other tools available as well to do this work. Great set of videos – I had hoped to see a little more on embroidery since I do that already, but this was a good overview.

Pamela W
Pamela W

August 22, 2019

Melanie mentioned a tool for working with sequins – a hook, but I couldn’t quite catch the name. It sounded interesting, and since applying sequins the past had been tough, I was wondering if this tool might make it easier or more uniform?

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