What's the strangest embellishment you've ever done? .

Passementerie looks difficult,
but it's not.

The cord and braid are poked
through the underlined muslin.

Embellishment is not a sewing technique I naturally gravitate toward. I like my garments sleek and clean-lined. But in the process of getting a couture certificate, I had to take a summer course in embellishment. It was a 6-week intensive and for twice a week at four-hour stretches in the dog days of summer, I was completely immersed in embellishment of every stripe and color.

Somewhere in that time, I began to fall in love with embellishment and began to understand its integral role in couture. There is no doubt that you can spend as much time on embellishment as on the garment itself.

By far one of the strangest techniques that I worked on was called passementerie. What a lovely mouthful of a word! Derived from the French word "passemente," it is the art of applying elaborate trimmings made from braid, cord, beads, etc.

I suppose that its most frequent usage is in bridal wear, but it's often seen on couture, red-carpet type gowns as well. At any rate, it's not an everyday kind of embellishment that you just pull out of the hat for any old project.

I created my sample with thick rat-tail cord and a braid so intricate that it almost looked like lace. After underlining the fashion fabric sample with muslin, I started the passementerie by poking the braid and cord through a hole in the fabric and then winding it into loops and curves. By using a thread in the same color as the braid and cord I was able to make it look like it had just landed fully formed on that fabric, like "Hey! Look at me!"

I never would have thought that with a little cord and braid and thread and needle that I could create something so stunning. I'm not saying that I rushed out and applied passementerie to every project I created. But I could have.

That's the thing about esoteric embellishment techniques. I sort of think of them in the same way as I think of my scuba diving certification. I am not an avid diver and haven't pulled on wetsuit in years, nor do I plan to. But it's a good skill to have in my toolbox. You just never know when it will come in handy.

For loads of beautiful embellishments to put in your toolbox, take a peek at the new Handsewn book  in the Sew Daily Shop.

Do you have an esoteric embellishment technique in your tool kit? Do tell!

Happy stitching!







Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Embellishment, Garment Details

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

10 thoughts on “What's the strangest embellishment you've ever done? .

  1. While I’ve used a variety of passementerie and frou-frou on my art quilts, probably the strangest material is a squashed double AA battery that I found on the street (actually, I’ve found two). I wrote about it on my blog on March 8…


    Scroll 1/2 way down the page to see the middle photo. I used embroidery floss to fasten the battery onto the surface. When the battery is flattened, they look like little figures, as the end where the terminals were looks like a face. Now, I’m trying to figure out how I could flatten some on my own in my driveway… Nancy Smeltzer

  2. When I first tried embellishment it was on a beautiful,plain pair o delicate, silk panties. Well, unfortunately the heavy embellishment, almost swallowed the garment up, with puckering etc, and when I washed them? Most of what I was left with was the embellishment. Now I just embellish cushions and shirts made of sturdier material.

  3. I once used metal dryer vent tubing to make cirlicues on an art quilt. Because the venting was already cripmped and twisted, it made easy and shiny spirals when tacked to the quilt top. Needless to say, the quilt was not meant to be washed.

  4. When I do embellisments, it is usually embroidered or crocheted lace. Once, my husband asked me to embroider a dragon for the front of his cap. I embroidered a long, low, mean-looking dragon out of green and copper wire embroidery floss. It came out so well, that my daughter asked me to do one for her. I think they turned out pretty good and would wear one myself if I wore caps. Thank you for all your sewing tips and have a great day!

  5. I made a crazy quilt diaper bag with embellishments. Thread, yard , ribbon etc. winding them around while machine stitching them down. It was great. I had so much fun. and it was beautiful. My daughter loved it.

  6. I made a crazy quilt diaper bag with embellishments. Thread, yard , ribbon etc. winding them around while machine stitching them down. It was great. I had so much fun. and it was beautiful. My daughter loved it.

  7. During my senior year in college I designed a sleeveless flowing gown with graduated hemline being longer in the back (from short in front to tea length in back) with a princess line in front. I embellished the center front panel with guinea hen, pheasant and peacock feathers, pearls, sequins and beads. I also used some couching embroidery. Think jungly rain forest woman. I wish I have a color picture to show. It was a nice way to use some of my fathers fishing lure feathers. Oh! I’ve done shells.

  8. maybe the strangest embellishments for some of my quilts are not what i add,
    but what i take away.
    it started with my window quilt series (over 3 dozen finished – so truly a series).
    a favorite saying is “when God closes a door, he opens a window”.
    my quilts are windows for me – they bring the warmth of friendship and sunshine into my life. and thus they need to have windows – openings – in them.
    so after being heavily quilted, i freehand cut shapes into the quilt.
    cover the opening with water soluble stabilizer, and with the machine stitch needle lace into the opening, anchoring the edges of the lace on the edge of the cutout.
    then freemotion satin stitch the edge to clean finish it.
    rinse the quilt in warm water to remove the stabilizer.
    the needle lace can be random – or often i will add a motif from the main fabric of the quilt (flowers, leaves, stars…..)

    one large wall hanging had a fabric with spider webs printed on it. so a dozen openings got machine made spider webs inserted. then most webs were embellished with hand made beaded spiders. and a couple received small fly buttons.

    a large horse quilt that has curved hole in the barn door blocks as the background also has cutouts (the holes) with machine needle lace.

    one month my art quilt group challenged us with the theme – holes.
    but they said i could not do little holes – they had to be big holes.
    so i desiged a reversible quilt – a window frame with spring branches and leaves on one side. the reverse of the branches and leaves are autumn colored.
    the branches and leaves are life sized and dimensional and inserted into the frame. so between each branch – there is just air (holes !). and if you push the branches aside, you could actually slide your whole body through the opening.