…and she said, “let there be sequins”

I’m just alittleinlove with this dress (by Aussie designer Rachel Gilbert), and I love love love even more that this hella-stylin’ lady wore it on her wedding day. In a paddock. With an Elvis impersonator as their celebrant. *nods*.

via polkadotbride.com
via polkadotbride.com

I’m not planning to wear black sequins to my wedding… but I was sorely tempted for several moments there! Instead, I’m redirecting my newly acquired sequin fetish into this years birthday dress. It’s the big three-oh, and so I need something particularly flashy to celebrate the end of my third decade of existance. Convenienly, our next event on the social sewing calendar – frocktails – is a week beforehand so it would almost be impractical not to make something a bit fancy, non?

I’ve been doing some sequin recon – most of the sequinned fabrics I’ve been scoping are sewn onto a tulle backing and have some stretch, so I’m thinking of underlining it in a stable knit to give a bit more warmth/comfort. I want this to look and feel totally luxe! On my recon missions I saw many fabulous sequinned fabrics, and thought I’d share a few with you guys. Problem is, sequins are HARD to photograph with a phone-camera – so in each of the photos below, imagine it 5x darker and ignore all of those pesky sequins reflecting light, and you’ll be on the money..

This fabric comes in 2 - black and charcoal. The little rectangles are sewn onto the mesh at one end and left to dangle, so you get a bit of swishy-ness!
This fabric comes in 2 colourways – black and charcoal. The little rectangles are sewn onto the mesh at one end and left to dangle, so you get a bit of swishy-ness!
This is probably my favourite... it's an inky blue/purple (looking more purple in the pic though) with two different sizes of sequins...
This is a favourite… it’s an inky blue/dark purple (looking more purple in the pic though) with two different sizes of sequins…
My second favourite - this is a matt black sequinned fabric with the sequins sewn in the row. Given the sample instore has packing tape down the cut sides, I'm wary of this one because those sequins would so easily become undone. during cutting/sewing. Wide seam allowances would definitely be required.
My second favourite – this is a matt black sequinned fabric with the sequins sewn in the row. Given the sample instore has packing tape down the cut sides, I’m wary of this one because those sequins would so easily become undone during cutting/sewing. Wide seam allowances would definitely be required.
The wild card. Completely inappropriate due to the FEATHERS stuck to the sequins... but.... oh my. It's completely impractical, but I WANT IT.
The wild card. Completely inappropriate due to the FEATHERS… but…. oh my. I covet this fabric.

As it’ll be a dress for cooler weather, I’m thinking a slinky sheath style, long sleeves and a bateau neckline – and uber short to be in keeping with the cocktail dress theme and balance out the modesty on top. And possibly a giant exposed metal zipper down the centre back, thankyou very much.

So what I actually ended up purchasing is this – a matt navy blue sequinned fabric with the sequins sewn in squiggly lines (to minimise unraveling edge heartbreak) from old faithful – Tessuti.

Navy Blue Sequins

I have a sneaking suspicious this will be a dress of extremes – it will be either awesomely epic or a complete disaster. Here’s hoping for the former, but I’ll share it with you all anyway even if it’s not. And when it’s all said and done… I’m finally going to make myself one of those Burda knit tops with the sequin inserts on the shoulder. Christy and Robin’s versions have been teasing me and I want in on the action!

Any tips on sewing with sequins? Throw them my way!



    1. Isn’t is just amazing??? I keep thinking about it and wondering how on earth you’d be able to incorporate it into a garment and show it off to maximum effect, whilst still making whatever it is wearable. I haven’t quite figured out a win-win as yet! And yep, I couldn’t agree more on the sequins/birthday combination! Thanks Michelle :)

  1. Handmade By Carolyn did a post about sewing with sequins. She hand sewed a cardigan but later did a dress or some skirts on the machine. She had tips about needles etc.
    I’m making a sequined dress. Using a Burda pattern. Not sure if it’s a Frocktails dress yet…

    1. Awesome – I must have missed that post! Heading over pronto to check it out. And ooh!!! I’d be totally stoked if there was another sequin-rocker at frocktails!! Do it!! :P

  2. Oh WOW!!!!!!!! I keep looking at sequin fabric, and so does my 15yo, and drooling. I just am not brave enough to buy it and attempt to sew it!

    Would Pattern Review or Stitcher’s Guild have any threads (pun not intended) from members on sewing this kind of fabric?

    1. That’s an awesome idea Melinda – I have no idea why it hadn’t occured to me! I usually go there first when trying a new pattern, so I really should search the threads (hehe) for some tips. Thanks!

  3. Wow. That wedding dress IS epic. If I was going to get married, I’d totally go there. Instead, we just got a ring. Which is black…

    No sequin tips (aside from don’t glue them on, which is how my mum cheated making my childhood calisthenics costumes), as I am utterly new to sewing. But I wholeheartedly approve of your choice and can’t wait to see the end product.

  4. Look! Shiny things!!!!
    There are some nice sequins at the fabric store I work in that are really similar to the one you chose. And they are cheap cheap. Hope it works out well so I can copy cat you! hehe. Can’t wait to see what you come up with :-)

  5. The fabric you chose is the same as the one I bought (from Spotlight) for my last New Year’s Eve dress… I bought it in red and made a simple cowl dress but it was easy to sew with… I used ordinary thread, a new pair or sharp paper scissors and off I went. I made it in 4 hours so didn’t line it but I will when I next need a shiny red dress! http://sewdarntired.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/now-sewing-for-2012-is-done.html
    You are a little less rushed than I was and your standards are higher but it isn’t hard to sew with. Can’t wait to see it.

    1. Excellent to read!! Thankyou! After reading everyone’s advice (which all recommends what you’re saying) I’ve come home today with some super fat knit needles and a pair of new paper scissors. Your NYE dress is fabulous!! Even more so after knowing how difficult it is to photograph such a ‘fabric’, hehe. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Isn’t it incredible? A little too incredible to sew with… I think. And thankyou! I certainly hope so, as there are no backups plans for either frocktails OR my birthday!

  6. I just spent the last four months sewing with sequins… the little buggers are everywhere! On the floor, in the tub, my sister found one in her purse – I even found one in the refrigerator! So I would say to expect it to be messy. Very very messy. As for cutting – just use scissors (do you have a second best set of scissors? Use your second best set if you can). I have used/tried a rotary cutter and it works alright but it dulls the blade quickly. As for the thread – just use whatever you normally use. It will be fine. For a needle – if the sequins are on a jersey/knit fabric (can’t quite tell from the picture) I would use the largest ball point you can get (usually size 14), but if that isn’t working go for a size 16 sharp. I had a lot of broken needle problems, but the size 16 punches through everything! You might experiment with using zig-zag to do the main seams (sometimes it helps the sequins lie flatter, sometimes not; depends on the fabric). Also I highly recommend finishing off the seams on the inside – you can figure out what works best for you – because if you don’t the sequins will cut you into a bloody mess (ask me how I know…). Some people pick the sequins off of the seam allowances, but I don’t like to do that because I worry about them unraveling from the right side of the dress. Also, it isn’t worth my time. A lot of people tell me I am crazy because sewing with sequins is “so difficult” but it isn’t really. The sequins themselves don’t stretch, so they make the fabric act more like a woven, even if it is on a knit. You may have to stitch a bit more slowly to avoid skipped stitches (my old machine had this problem, my new one does not). Oh, and whatever you do – DO NOT USE YOUR SERGER! That’s a mistake I made once. And paid dearly to replace the serger blades after…

    Anyway, hope that info is helpful. I am super excited to see your dress! And have fun!

    1. A million times helpful, THANKYOU! I have been greedily devouring the info you’ve been writing about on your skating costume posts, and this certainly helps. I’ll be doing a fair bit of testing and testing again before I cut or sew the real thing, methinks. I’m tossing up between two patterns – one has some drapey pleats at the front neckline and the other is more streamlined… might do some basting to see how the sequins look in an open-end reverse dart. I’ve bought a slinky knit fabric to underline it with to prevent just such seam-grazing injuries – but I might bind the seams as well to keep it neat. Depends all on the timeframe this will all take to put together! Luckily I don’t own a serger… so no worried there!! Thanks again!

  7. ooohhh sequins… if only i had an occasion to wear something so fabulous! i love the navy that you choose, and can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  8. this is going to be one epic dress (a successful epic and not a disastrous one). I like your choice of fabric and I think underlining it is a good idea as it will give you a killer shape.

  9. I love your fabric! I once sewed about 20 flapper/20s style dresses in sequin fabric for a concert. They had to be done fast, so I couldn’t take the care I usually would with them. I had sequins everywhere and I wish I had somehow saved them all for something (who knows what!). I would just say to NOT use your best scissors. I did and they were ruined after cutting so many sequins. Can’t wait to see your finished dress :)

    1. Yeah I was wondering about the scissor factor! A few peeps have said just use regular, albiet sharp, scissors to save the fabric ones. Makes sense to me! Thanks Megan!!

    1. hehe, you crack me up Anna. I’m super looking forward to all of us twirling in our latest creations at frocktails!!! I think I may need a stiff drink (or 5 – Longrain cocktails are AMAZING) after this is all said and done!

  10. When I made a jacket with the micro sequins like the fabric you’ve bought I found I could sew right over them with no worries just using a thicker needle than normal. I enclosed the raw edges with bias binding to stop any sequins falling off and unravelling, but overall it was no more difficult to sew than normal. I can’t wait to see your dress, I’m sure it will look smashing

    1. Thanks Kristy – I’ve just read through your post on it and will be taking all your lessons learnt into account! Fabulous stuff, this blogging thing. hehe, Cheers!

  11. I think I like the Tessuti sequins the best so I think you have bought well. I have sewn sequins a few times over the years and all the advice you have been given is spot on. Taking care of your best scissors is most important so I would hide them while you make this dress. Also, when you have sewn all of your seams and you are happy with the fit, all you need to do is to open up the seams and pick off any damaged or cut in half sequins that would possibly scratch you. looking forward to seeing this dress.

    1. Thanks Marjorie! With everyone talking about not using my scissors, I attempted cutting with normal paper scissors last night and it worked perfectly, so I’ll be sticking with that. I certainly don’t want to blunt my shears! And good point on the damaged sequins – I’ll definitely go over it for those.

  12. I can’t wait to see your final dress – it’s going to look awesome. Now admittedly I only used tiny little bits of sequin fabric but I used a second line of stitching just inside my seam line to help secure the sequins. Other than that – use sharp scissors and be careful, they like to flick up in your face!

    1. The squiggles appeal to me also. I was staring at it last night… and the sequins are actually sewn on in a regular repeating pattern, and not at all randomly like it looks. You wouldn’t notice it unless you really stared, though!
      Isn’t that black dress just incredible?!

  13. Great idea. The Maneqim website has a free download pattern that is very similar to the black dress in the first image (same shoulders, shorter length but you can fix that). No tips on sequins really-there’s a reversible hot pink/electric blue seqin fabric I’ve been scopin’ out at cleggs (my excuse for not buying it had always been-don’t have a decent pattern to use it on-and I now I have the August 2007 Knipmode that excuse is no longer valid.. I plan to use a heavyweight needle, regular seam allowances and just smash my way through the sequins-literally. Minute chippy-choppy+handsewy is not for me XD

    1. Thanks TJ! Scoping an appropriate pattern is the hardest part, actually – you really do want minnimal seams and darts! I’ve got a few in mind, but no final decision as yet. And I think I know the exact sequinned fabric you’re talking about! I saw it when I went in to look at their selection… I got some super fat needles yesterday and some sharp paper scissors so I should be sweet to hit the ground running this weekend :)

  14. This is ambitious and awesome and I love it!
    I can’t wait to see what you make of it.
    I’m also celebrating my big 3-0 around Frocktails but I can’t make it down to Melbourne so I’ll be looking on at all the photos.
    Can’t wait to see you rockin this dress!

  15. Absolutely gorgeous!! I LOVE SEQUINS!!! Would love to hear about your experience sewing with this fabric. And by the way – the fabric you ended up buying is totally my favorite of the group! Stunning, shiny, elegant…. I’m in love…

    1. Thanks Sallie! Who doesn’t love sequins? They’re pretty darn fabulous. I will definitely be talking sewing with sequins when this is all said and done :) Glad you like the fabric I got as much as I do!

  16. Sparkles! Be still my heart. You can quit gymnastics but you’ll never quit the obsession with shiny, sparkly objects (also known as sequins, diamontees and glitter).

    I know two people who have made their formal dresses with the Tessuti sequins (one was Colette’s daughter) – they did simple floaty T-shirt patterns lengthened to micro-dress.
    I also had some experience watching my sewing teacher with them – be prepared for snagging on any potential stockings if you turn the hem up and under. Also can be scratchy under the arms! Blind hems are your friend! Strong control needed with strong metal scissors!

    I have some white sequins on a white chiffon fabric (The Fabric Store, Surrey Hills) and white-ish silk satin (Studio Fabrics, Sydney) for project I had in mind for spring. I was going to ‘texture block’ (I despise neon colour blocking, and I want to be able to wear sparkles at places other than gymnastics competitions and clubs) by making a princess seamed boat-neck A-line dress and making the front dress panel (between the boobs part) sequined and everything else silk. Still has yet to happen and hopefully that will either be classic enough (hurrah!) that it’s not a complete dud!

    I have sewn a patterned sequined skirt (with scalloped edges) before, and I took care to physical remove each round sequin that potentially was in my stitch line (and also in my seam allowance, because I’m OCD). Every book I’ve ever read will tell you to NOT CUT THE THREAD, but rather, cut the sequin disk to the middle hole (I did this in 2-3 places), and then use tweezers to remove the offending sequins. This helped me get flat seam lines for presseing, etc (helpful for French seams). I kept any whole ones I had in case I had the urge to repair/reconstruct patterns.

    Oh, and I wanted to say I found your blog recently and I LOVE your work. Seriously, keep sewing. You often make things similar to what I have floating through my mind (and Pinterest wardrobe!).

    1. Hi Anna!
      Thanks for the tips… after your comment on stocking snags I think I will hem by facing with some of the lining material I’m planning to use. Thats should hopefully remove that issue! Your sequin block dress sounds fabulous!
      I started cutting (with paper scissors, not my fabric shears!) and sewing on the weekend and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it’s been – probably due to everyeone’s tips! I’m sewing with ‘micro-sequins’ though, and they seem to handle the seam joining without a hitch. I’m lining the whole thing though, so that should aid in the process.
      And thankyou so much for being so complimentary – you’ve made my day!

    1. Hi Stephanie – thank you! The other fabrics were from D’Italia – they have an incredible range of really unique things and are super friendly to boot :)

  17. Knock-out! Something tells me this is going to me amazing! I am not much here as I only embroidered with sequins. But from the comments I’ve learnt a big deal, in case I decide to sew something from sequined fabric.

    RE: Your tweet about Wolverine :) Wan’t it enjoyable to look at Hugh for two hours?

    1. Ah, Inna… there just wasn’t a high enough ratio of shirt-less Hugh to total movie length to push it into being ok to watch – hehe! I started working on it over the weekend (currently thread-tracing the lining) and it’s coming together better than I expected! I’m still in that initial excitement stage though, so give it a week!

  18. Gorgeous!! I’ve made a coupla things with that identical fabric this year (different colour, but) and found a denim needle worked just fine. Plus, DO NOT use your good dressmaking scissors to cut your pieces, I found that ordinary cheapie household scissors that you would use for paper and sticky tape etc, worked perfectly well to cut through the sequins.

  19. Oh my word – how beautiful is that dress?!? I want! Tips on sewing sequins, especially the disco pearl – you don’t need to wear safety goggles (or sunglasses) like I did when I sewed. Risk of eye injury is minimal!

    1. Funny you should say that…. I was thinking I would be fine, until I got a sequin in my eye when cutting last night, and didn’t even notice until about an hour later when it started tickling. It was a bit scary!! So as I don’t have glasses of the safety goggle variety to put to use… I’ve been cutting it henceforth with the sequins facing down to minimise repeat sequin-eye contact. Unlucky me!

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