Sparkle! (and where to find the best stuff)

We’re delighted that Laura Stanford is joining us for our virtual xmas party! Without further ado we’re leaving you in her capable hands…

Sparkle. Could there be a more perfect way to customise at Christmas? For me, as a Designer, Maker and Author of all things lingerie, it is most definitely the season of sparkle!

It’s an absolute pleasure to guest post for Caroline & Sandra at Gather. I hope my hints and tips guide you on your way and my sources inspire and help you to find the style, colour and finish of sparkle that you desire.



All images: Hanson Stone Vintage

Put your guilty pleasure for Strictly Come Dancing to one side and instead think of all the fabulous beading of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Three decades which I have an unhealthy obsession with; the sparkle of sequins, the shimmer of glass, the shine of metallic! With such choice the creative possibilities really are endless. By emulating details from these eras you can sew simple embellishments around arms, hems or necklines. And if your fabric is printed or has a woven pattern you can create small areas of embellishment repeatedly along these edges. Either way, using tonal or matching colours of sparkle to your fabric will give a luxurious feel. And if you think it needs a little something extra, adding small pops of colour or a metallic will help.

Macculloch & Wallis is a particular favourite of mine for sequins. And the Creative Bead Shop & Beadworks offer a fantastic range of beads online. If it’s vintage you’re after then Hanson Stone Vintage are a superb Etsy seller, but they are based in the USA. However with so many vintage fairs and shops about, you may find a haberdashery stand selling salvaged beads or even an item of clothing beyond wear that you could use the beads from.

For the ultimate in luxury glass cut beads and crystals have a particularly illustrious history in fashion. We’ve all heard of Swarovski but Preciosa beads are also a fine choice and share a similar European heritage as Swarovski.

Having bought a lot of vintage in the ‘name of research’ I know that inevitably its rarity is sometimes reflected in the price tag. To make sure you are 100% happy, ask to have a small sample sent if possible, a couple of beads stuck to a card will suffice. And beware of vintage sequins from the 1930’s! Up to and including the 1920’s sequins were made of metal, but the lightweight versions of the 1930’s (before plastic) involved the use of gelatine. Although they are absolutely stunning, once in contact with water or warmth, they simply start to dissolve into mush!



All images: Kreinik

If you are looking to add some simple, refined sparkle then adding touches of metallic thread could be just what you need. As a lingerie designer, I’ve collaborated with some of the most exquisite embroidery companies in Europe and believe me, metallic thread can look spectacular! In recent years the breadth of metallic colours has exploded on the professional market and these are now finally within reach for home sewers. If you are a beginner or haven’t experimented a lot with embellishment before it’s a simple option to consider trying.

Most haberdashery’s who stock a broad range of thread types will have metallic colours, such as John Lewis who sell both Gutermann and Coats. For the broadest choice you should take a look at Kreinik metallic yarns. In the UK Jenny Wren Crafts are a key stockist who also have a few really helpful pages so that you can confidently select the right thread type and colour. And Kreinik have standard thread colours that match each metallic, so if necessary all of the stitching on your garment can blend together beautifully.

As a word of caution these threads do need to be treated with care. Unless you are able to slow the speed of your machine I would suggest you use them to over-sew or weave through existing stitching by hand or hand sew top-stitching. If you fancy something more unique, why not stitch around elements of a printed fabric to create highlights or add French knots like polka dots.



From Left to Right: Givenchy, Kay Adams, Burberry

Upcycling is practical and affordable but doesn’t always sound very glamorous, but that couldn’t be further from the truth when you’re working with jewellery to begin with. Re-imagining, shall we say, a use for a piece of costume jewellery can add style and charm to any garment, just remember ingenuity is the key.

Broaches and earrings in particular can make amazing statement features on shoulders and necklines or a mock fastening for fabric belt. And adding sparkle in this way means it can be as temporary or permanent as you wish.

If you want to go all out, combining various jewelled elements of differing shapes and sizes will give your garment a truly retro feel. Diamante chain lengths and individual gems or crystals from the likes of Kleins & Macculloch & Wallis can be used to connect the larger elements and therefore refine the overall look.

Ultimately, all embellishment adds character. So have fun, be playful and enjoy injecting your sparkling personality into your sewing creations.

Happy Christmas & Good Luck!


Laura Stanford, co-author of The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie.

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