Sewing With Sequins

how to sew with sequins


Do you ever sew outside your comfort zone? I recently decided to take my own sewing experiences one step further by enrolling for a sequin embroidery workshop with the Royal School of Needlework, hosted at the Bath Fashion Museum. And if that’s not a sentence to make you swoon, I don’t know what else to write.

But I’ll try. 😉

Bath Royal Crescent

If you’ve never visited Bath, you really should add it to your places to try. It’s a lovely and compact city, with lots of excellent shopping, though I always find the lack of fabric shops utterly bizarre. There is an excellent bookshop you should try.

embroidering sequins

I was here for the sequin panel embroidery workshop, inspired by a 1930s sequinned court dress belonging to Queen Mary that was on display as part of the ‘Royal Women’ exhibition at the museum. We were treated to a tour before the venue opened to the public.

queen mary gown

The original gown is head-to-toe sequins and I was fascinated by the construction, throwing questions at our tutor, Deborah Wilding. I adored the dark and elegant hues of the gown and our task was to create a miniature version of that front bodice panel.

Deborah had already traced the pattern onto fine net for us and helped us stretch it in our seat frame embroidery hoops. You use the frame to steady the hoop by sitting on the wooden base. This allows you to have both hands free for embroidery – key in sequin work.

embroidery hoop

embroidery hoop close up

By mid-morning coffee I had sewn on – ooh! – at least seventeen sequins, learning all about cupped, semi-cupped and flat sequins. I was entranced.


deborah wilding embroidery

Deborah was a fantastic teacher – calm, quick-thinking, unflappable, passionate about her subject and oh-so-knowledgeable.

I brought the rest of my project home and am determined to finish it. What might I applique this on, do you think?

royal school of embroidery

I love the use of sequins in such a sophisticated treatment. Are you a fan of the sequin? Any tips of your own for embroidering with these magical discs?

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21 Responses to Sewing With Sequins

  1. How cool to have a tour before the public!!! I think the methodical nature of sequin sewing would make it the next big thing after Zenbroidery!!

  2. ooobop! says:

    What a gorgeous thing to do! Great work, Karen! Back of a denim jacket perhaps? Or a posh evening purse, that you’ll have to make first of course! x

  3. Su says:

    Ooh that’s lovely! Such patience!

  4. jay says:

    What a lovely opportunity to learn something new. I’ve never worked with sequins, but how inspiring!

  5. Fantastic! I am a hack at these things and tend to use strung ones and sew them on which is not as beautiful but I’m after maximum wattage from the stage.

  6. Megan says:

    I did a hand beading course ages ago. It was fascinating. The most amazing thing I learned was that some of the older (antique?) sequins melt when placed in water… we had to test all our sequins before sewing. Who would have thought that would happen! It was so interesting, sadly my beaded cardigan is still in the same half finished state, I am now a bit, just a bit more inspired to get back to it, so much work… congratulations on yours and I do hope you finish it. Nice to learn what are essentially forgotten skills.

  7. Yvonne says:

    That’s dazzling! I think you should make two (similar) and use them to adorn pockets.

  8. Twinkle-tastic! Make more, sew them on EVERYTHING.

  9. stitchedupsam says:

    Oh my goodness, stunning! That sounds right up my street. Many years ago my sister and I both competed in artistic roller skating events and I sewed sometimes thousands of sequins on our competition outfits, never with as much precision as this though.

  10. I’ve been eyeing up courses at the Royal School of Needlework too. Think I will take the plunge.

  11. LinB says:

    Donkey’s years ago, when I did alterations for an upper-end ladies’ clothing shop in Wabash, Indiana (I know, “upper-end” and “Wabash” seems like an oxymoron), I was instructed to add some sequins to a very plain, very beige dress. The dress was for a minister’s wife to wear at a wedding her husband was officiating. I was instructed to put on only a few sequins, since the minister did not want to appear as if he and his wife were too worldly. Sheesh.

    I put on demure dots of golden cupped sequins, arranged in a loose spiral across the floating panel on the bodice front. It would not have been too much bling for a nun.

  12. what a fun day and after watching so many English dramas I want to go to Bath. Sequin sewing, I always think about doing it but never quite start. By the way, a young woman who is a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework has opened a school in SF (Union Sq. one of only two such schools in the US) She did a speaking engagement at a group I belong to – it was so interesting and now I need to give one of their classes a try.

  13. Looks good and the colour combination is so pretty. I love sequins, but I use luneville/tambour technique to stitch sequins on the fabric. Sadly I have no reason to create a dress with a lot of sequins (I have already two ballgowns and no reason to wear them). But maybe a blouse with a little embellishment.

  14. Christine says:

    You reminded me that many years ago when my favourite aunt worked as a Careers Officer she visited a factory/workshop somewhere off the Mile End Road where they were embroidering sequins and other beads on to evening dresses. The women sat there at the work-table for hours carefully creating the designs that had already been drawn for them to follow. Stopping at another table she noticed that these women were cutting the embroidery off of various dresses. Why are they doing that, she enquired? Oh, said the person showing her around, the design is exclusive and the women who own the dresses go to rather special events and consequently only want to be seen in a dress a very few times. The dress then returns to our workrooms when the design is cut off, the dress cleaned and a new design is embroidered on to it. My aunt who trained as a court dressmaker when she left school and understood the amount of work involved in creating a special gown, could only gaze somewhat horrified at the thought of the hours involved in sewing on the sequins and other beadwork only to have it removed a few weeks/months later.

  15. Wow that sounds like an amazing workshop!

  16. No time for adding sequins by hand but still keen to sparkle? Some ready sequin fabrics will go under your sewing machine surprisingly easily. Especially if the sequins are small and fine. Go slowly, use a simple pattern with minimal seams, sew with a plastic foot, and have a couple of spare needles to hand just in case. Consider underlining rather than lining if the sequins are mounted on a very floppy fabric. Quality counts here too. If the sequins are sewn on in very long strings – cheap fabric – you can lose a whole lot of them very quickly. Experiment before you begin.

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