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Topic: Help me to re-create my great-grandmother's beaded wedding headpiece  (Read 9049 times)
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« on: May 20, 2010 05:50:00 AM »

This is a picture of my grandpa's parents on their wedding day, back in the 1920s. The groom was a tailor, and he met the bride because she was a bead embroiderer by trade and was often used by his company. My grandpa said she probably made the headpiece in the photo herself, but unfortunately we don't know what happened to it.

So I thought it would be great if I could re-create one to wear at my wedding (years in the future when I have a fiance), and pass it down to the next generation of our family.

The problem is: I have never done any bead embroidery. I do normal embroidery among other crafts, but never anything to do with beads. So, I have no idea how to even start such a project.

Since I am totally new to bead embroidering, I would love any input and advice from more experienced beaders.

Here are a few of the issues I am unsure about:

1 - What to construct the headpiece from -

Presumably I will need to cut the shape from something stiff like card, and attach the embroidery to it after I have done the beading? I have no idea what materials to use for this and how to go about attaching it whilst keeping it neat and professional looking.

2 - How to make it wearable -

I can see the shape and how to do the beading etc, but how does it stay on the forehead like that? Would it have some kind of strap that goes around the head like the band of a hat? Or attach the sides to an alice-band? Other??

3 - Size and proportions -

I am afraid of making something and then realising that it looks too big or tall. Perhaps there is some way to measure the face to get the proportions right for something like this?

4 - The bead embroidery itself -

I've bought some beads and thread to practice with on a pre-made disc of silk. I will look up techniques on how to do the actual bead embroidering online, but any links to tutorials or tips you can provide would be much appreciated. For instance, would you start with the outlines of patterns and then fill in? Leave the edges till last or do them first? Would you do it all in a simple backstitch or are there better techniques for something like this? Any ideas on what kind of beads they are in the original, what sizes? Do they all look like beads or do you think some of them are sequins/rhinestones/other? Here is a close up picture:

My plan is to make a mock-up using cheaper materials first before making a real version with high quality beads. There is no rush since neither I nor my sister is engaged or will be for a few years, but I would like to get started on it soon.

Thanks a lot for reading if you stuck with me this far, I know I wrote a lot  Smiley This project means a lot to me so any help or input would be hugely appreciated.

« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2010 06:33:13 PM »

I can't answer most of your questions but I had to say, this is gorgeous (and your great-grandparents look wonderful... I love old photos like this).
I would guess it's actually a hat, since the rest of her head is covered and the veil hangs off the back.
I don't have much experience doing bead embroidery, but if I was doing this, I would do the outlines then fill in. That way you know the outlines will be straight, since the filling in is a bit more random. I'd do the very edges last though so you're not constantly putting stress on them while you do the other areas. I don't think any of them look like sequins.
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2010 06:28:46 AM »

Thanks a lot for your reply, it's great to hear someone elses thoughts and I will take your advice on leaving the edges til last  Smiley

« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2010 10:38:18 AM »

For that period the method was likely tambour. You can google it but it is a skill that may take time to learn. Your own method of embroidery will achieve the same result. A hat making supply place may provide a stiff base material. This site has a ton of links-
Lacis is good for the tools.
It may have been attached with some hidden combs. May also have a wired outline for the shape.
It looks like a combination of sequins and beads, maybe size 11/0 or 10/0 seed beads. There are tiny real freshwater pearls available if you want to go the extra step.
If you have a museum near you with a collection that includes costume items ask to see similar items in person and bring the photo along.
It's a lovely project, best of luck.



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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2010 02:17:36 PM »

1~ I would use baby lap to bead on.  (Baby section in most stores.  Also called lap pad or crib pad.  Joann's fabric has it on bolts also.)  Look into using leather, suede or a canvas type material for the backing. 

2~  You can make it a fully beaded crown type piece or make it a partial.  Once you get to the place by the ear where you can't see it in the picture anymore you can add ties that would go back behind the head.  Elastic might eventually stretch out too much.  Or hidden combs or hair clips would be good too.

3~ Not sure how to measure it.   Huh  Measure from your eyebrows up to just above your head?   Wink

4~  When I do things like this I start with the outlines then fill in the middle.  Like I do the outer edge then pick one of the inside pieces to work on.  Fill in that inner part completely before moving on to the next inner part.  I hope that makes sense! 

The beads look like sequence, clear glass beads? and maybe small pearls?  It's very beautiful though! 

« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2010 10:23:25 PM »

That is amazing, and yay you for embarking on such a project.  I'm sure it will turn out beautifully, and you will have something really exciting in the end. 

When I first looked at it, I thought of STIFF STUFF.  I've gotten the firemountain big supply catalog in the mail for years, and any project that involved beading something that needed strength but flexibility like a fabric, this is what is used.  Here's a description from the firemountain website....

Lacy's Stiff Stuff, beading foundation, white, 11x8-1/2 inch sheet. Sold individually.
A needle glides through this product with ease, yet Stiff Stuff is as stiff as cardboard and only 0.75mm thick. Stays stiff, even after wetting or dyeing, without shrinkage. Draw on it, trace through, or apply iron-on transfer. Lace it or stitch it. Cut it with scissors. No need for embroidery hoops or card backings.

I'm pretty sure it comes in different colors too, but they only have it in white.  I looked through their gallery and grabbed some designs where it is used...

That would help a lot with the beading part of it.  With that, you can make one bead stitch at a time, or several beads at once.  Since you don't see the back in the photo, I would take the liberty of adjusting to how you  would like to wear it.  Personally, I would cut the shape out of stiff stuff with an extra bit off to the side with notches cut out.  You can bead around them too.  And tie some silk through the notches that tie in the back?

  Good luck to you!  I would be inspired, too.

dog lover
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2010 02:56:12 PM »

This is a beautiful headpiece,  your great grandmother was a very talented lady:).    Sorry I can't offer any  ideas on how to make it but I think it's a brilliant idea to try and re-create something to be passed down thru the generations.   Good luck and hope you post pics of your progress ---would really love to see the finished piece:)
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2010 05:54:17 PM »

Sorry, I don't have any relevant ideas, either - just wanted to comment on how beautiful your great-grandparents were!  Good luck on your project, hope it works out well!

They call me.....Heebie Jeebie.....
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2010 11:41:38 AM »

It looks like mostly silverlined clear beads to me, with large freshwater pearls at the front.  You could contrast the silverlined beads for the outlines with opaque or matte white beads for the fill?  That would be nice I think.

For the base you want something that will last, so card may not be your best choice.  There's buckram, plastic canvas or the Stiff Stuff as mentioned above.
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2010 02:26:06 PM »

I don't have any advice, but I love that photo. They look like lovely people. I love how haunting and powerful pictures from the past are.

« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2011 07:38:21 AM »

Wow thank you everyone who replied! You have provided such fantastic advice and lovely comments too  Smiley I am really thrilled with the responses and will be sure to update this thread when I have made some progress on this project.

« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2012 03:34:31 PM »

I'm not very experienced at bead embroidery, but I'd suggest sketching it first on paper, cutting it and putting that to your head - it'll show you the size you need without wasting expensive material. To me it doesn't look like a hat but more like a half-crown - a beaded piece that doesn't cover the whole head but is sort of curved around half the head and held around the back of the head with something - maybe a sort of an elastic? and the veil going over that and hiding it. Maybe the veil is attached to the back of the "crown"?
As for the beading, start with the three large beads at the forehead, than do the outlines of the petal shapes, and fill in from that. I'm not necessarily sure you need cardboard - if it is indeed a straight piece that curves around the head, maybe using a stiff leather or the like will make it stiff enough (and remember that it's actually double since you sew a back to the piece).
Hope that helped any. And just wanted to say that is a truly gorgeous piece and photo.

Addicted to beads
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2012 09:16:01 AM »

how beautiful!  I also just adore the groom's pin.

« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2013 05:48:24 PM »

Your great grandmother probably made the headpiece out of BUCKRAM, a thick, stiff, starched, open weave fabric that is still sold today.  A good fabric store will probably have it with interfacing, but you may need to order it online.   Crinoline is kind of similar, but much lighter weight, and not strong enough for this.

Widely used for hats and headdresses, buckram is stiff and lightweight and can be sewn by hand or machine.  You can even stiffen it further by sewing a wire around the edge (use a machine zigzag or hand whip)

Here's how I would make the headdress:
Make two buckram forms in the shape of the headdress, one 1/2" smaller than the other.  (or make the smaller one of crinoline)
Wire the edges of the larger one (optional: cover with a thin padding, like 1/4" thick polyester batting--this might make beading easier), and cover both with fabric (she probably used silk), basting raw edges to the back of each piece.
Bead the bigger one, then stitch the smaller one on the back to hide the bead stitching.

I'm not a beader, so I'll leave those directions to the experts!

wait, I got more!
the knobby white things over her ears look like commercial flower centers.  My local Ben Franklin has a selection, or you could look for vintage ones online.  Looks like there may be some small flowers mixed in as well.  That might go all the way around the back of the head like a wreath.

the edges of the beaded section look like rhinestone chain to me, but the scale seems smaller than what's usually available now.

The three beads at center front look like baroque pearls.  You might ask relatives if there is any pearl jewelry from grandma; they look like something that might have been salvaged when the rest of the headdress was discarded.  Most of the rest of the beads look like they may be seed pearls, maybe in two colors to make the pattern stand out.

I think the beaded part and veil are attached to a cloche hat.  That's a snug fitting hat popular in the '20s and '30s, after women started bobbing their hair.  You might be able to buy a blank online somewhere.

for the proportions:  I measured the height of your grandma's head and the height of the headdress in the photograph; the headdress is 1/2 the height of the head.  So measure your head (from chin to top of what you can see in the mirror), and use 1/2 of that for the height of the  headdress.

BTW, I used to be a costumer--the job included analyzing and interpreting vintage images!
« Last Edit: January 13, 2013 10:51:05 PM by steiconi » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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