Adventures in sewing – beaded scarf


Beaded scarf

I learned to sew as a child, but I didn’t have a lot of patience for it.  Besides, my mother sewed beautifully and would make nearly anything I wanted.  I hadn’t touched a sewing machine in 25 years until two years ago when I made M an Obi-Wan Kenobi costume for Hallowe’en out of a piece of brown corduroy, complete with a hood.

Since then, I have bought a few pieces of material, but I haven’t actually done anything with them.  I have made a few birds from fabric scraps.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make a scarf for a young friend of mine for her birthday.  I was at the fabric store checking out ribbon to make ribbon flowers when I came across bolts of a gauzy/chiffon fabric in bright colours.  It was on sale – my favourite kind of material.  I recalled that on a previous trip to this same fabric store, I had seen some beaded drapery trim in the same colours that I thought might work.  So I bought a metre (1 yard) of each, plus coordinating thread.  It was under $10 and I figured I would have material and beaded trim left over.

For anyone who knows how to sew or sews more than 2x in a couple of decades, this would have been an easy project.  Sew a couple of straight seams, add the trim, top stitch and voila.  An hour – 2 at the most, even for someone with my limited skills.

How not to sew a scarf

Before I even got out my scissors, I washed the fabric – that’s what my mother always advised.  Since it was polyester, I knew it wouldn’t shrink.  But after coming out of the dryer, the fabric was about half the size as the piece I started with.  Clearly, hanging it to dry would have been a better idea.

I figured I could iron the piece of material out.  It more or less worked, but some parts remained crinkly.  I had planned on cutting the fabric into 2 sections and sewing them together to make it long enough.  The material seemed to have a fair amount of give in it, especially after ironing it, so lining up the edges evenly was a challenge.  I ended up ripping it since I had no idea at this point where the grain was and I knew this was the best way to get a straight edge – another piece of wisdom from my mother.

My pieces didn’t turn out exactly the same size – one was about an inch wider than the other.  I pieced them together and managed to make a french seam (or a close facsimile). 

My version of a french seam

The next step was to put in the seam along the long side  – I folded the seamed pieces in half length-wise, to minimize the number of seams I needed to sew.

Since my two pieces of fabric weren’t the same size, I couldn’t just match up the edges and sew.  I tried pinning it together, but the material was so light that the pins just fell out on the floor.  I have no idea how long it took me to figure out where to put seam but I was well past the 2 hour mark before I got it in. 

Sewing the side seam - measure first

I sewed a second seam right on top of it, to ensure it wouldn’t come apart.  I knew enough to sew it inside out, with right sides facing.  I left a small section open so I could turn it right sides out once I had the trim on. 

Once I had the side seam in, it was time to tackle the short edges.  I was trying to smooth the fabric out and figure out whether or not it was even (it wasn’t), when I made another important discovery – polyester melts if the heat on your iron is too high.  Luckily, the tube of fabric was much longer than I needed so I cut off the melted section.   Small problem – the seam joining the 2 pieces of fabric wasn’t no longer in the centre of the scarf.

The middle seam - not exactly in the "middle"

A lesser (or wiser) person would have thrown in the towel at this point.  But I figured I was already in for a penny.  I turned over the edges of both ends and turned them again and basted them in place – no way was I trusting the iron at this stage and I kept having to pick up pins on the floor. 

I have read enough books about sewing and watched my mother often enough to know correct way to attach trim – with right sides facing, with the trim facing inward towards the scarf.  When you turn the scarf so the right sides face out, the trim will be at the bottom – hence the small open section.

I got the trim pinned in correctly, then I sewed the 2 edges together – theoretically, the trim would be caught in the seam and then I could top stitch it down.  Except when I turned the scarf so the right sides were facing, the trim was wonky. Plus the seam was bulky.

So I put the scarf aside for a week or so.  Yesterday, I pulled it out again.  I started on the end without the trim.  Instead of sewing the 2 ends together, I decided to follow the basting stitches and sew around the hem.  I figured it might be easier to insert the trim on the right side, rather than the wrong side.  Turns out I was right.  I had to baste the edges together about 2 inches in from the edge – otherwise, the fabric kept slipping.  I tucked the beaded trim in between the 2 edges and basted again.  I had already figured out that I needed to tie the last bead in the trim so it wouldn’t come apart.

Sewing down the edges with the beaded trim was a little challenging, as the needle kept hitting the beads.  I would raise the needle, wiggle the bead out of the way and gone on with my seam until it happened again.  The seam wasn’t as close to the edge of the scarf as I would have liked, but it looked pretty good. 

I had already sewn up the open section, so the only thing left was to top stitch the long sides of the scarf.  I had cut the fabric as close to the inside seam as I could before I turned the scarf so the right sides faced out, so the top stitching caught the excess material and made it less visible – good thing, because i had butchered the fabric trying to trim along the seam and it looked terrible.  But once I put the row of top stitching in, my poor scissor skills wer hardly in evidence.

Top stich edging

The second top stitching team went in fairly quickly and easily.  Scarf was done.  And it looked pretty good.

I don’t actually know how long it took me to actually make the scarf – 5 to 6 hours all told.  Given my limited sewing experience, I would have been better with a heavier fabric that wasn’t quite so slippery.   Fortunately my seams were relatively straight because ripping out the seams was hard – a couple of times I found myself pulling at the fabric itself.

But if I had known that the fabric would be hard to sew on, I wouldn’t  have chosen it.  And I wouldn’t have mastered the project.  The birthday girl seemed to like it – what’s not to like about a hot pink beaded scarf?

Beaded scarf

Now I need to find another sewing project and start using up all the material I’ve been collecting.

have linked up to the following: Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today”s Creative Blog; Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts;  Sow Me What You’ve Got on Not Just a Housewife; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt it Friday at Dotted Line Crafts


2 responses »

    • Hi Alison – thank you for taking the time every week I post a project on Wednesday Wowzers. I know lots of people link up every week, but as a relatively new blogger I really appreciate your generous feedback.

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