MAKING IT FIT
This was simple alteration project, done without a sewing machine, so all hand-sewing. I simply extended the band on one side, and beaded the extension so it would look like part of the original dress. (Thank goodness for our mom's bead collection!) Bra extenders, which you can buy at fabric and craft stores, work on the same principal.
BEADING THE TRAIN
My sister took charge of this aspect of the project, using more of Mom's beads to re-make the swirls.
There are many ways of attaching beads to chiffon. The best, I think, is with a tambour needle. You have two threads, and you're making a chain stitch with one which holds the other one down. What I like about it is that there is one stitch for each bead, which makes the beads lie snug on the fabric, and thus harder to catch on other things. But that method requires skill and equipment. And because the beads are on the underside of the fabric while you're working, you might be limited to sheer fabrics so you can see what you're doing (I don't know, since I have not learned that skill). A similar, two-thread, method is used by many home-sewists. You make a string of beads on one thread on the surface of the fabric, and couch it down at regular intervals with the second thread. This dress used a third way, which seemed a little cumbersome to me. There was a single thread: up through the fabric, thread several beads, down through the fabric. That meant that the sewing had to be done with a needle fine enough to fit through the beads, and that there were little gaps in the beadwork whenever the thread took a stitch on the underside of the chiffon. I mean, it worked, but couldn't have been very efficient on a large scale. My sister decided to use the same method to repair the damaged swirls, for a consistent look.
The whole project took maybe two nights of sisterly collaboration, liberally interspersed with chit-chat, movies, and cups of tea. My sister wore the "mermaid dress" at special occasions for a few years before (much to her disappointment) growing out of it. So this one goes back to the thrift store whence it came. Whoever buys it next, may she wear it in good health!
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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