Years ago I spent a decade as a couture bridal accessory designer. It will probably come as no surprise that even then I found ways of doing things that weren't standard. . . Which could translate to: I would figure out how to get the best result no matter how unorthodox, tedious, time consuming, or mind numbing the process turned out to be. LOL
Many thanks to photographers ©George Delgado and ©Maria Scaglione.
Here's the thing about hand beaded veils: It takes precision, patience, some intuitive layout skills and quite a bit of time but this is a project that many people can master if they don't mind putting in some practice BEFORE attempting to hand bead their bridal veil. I say before because the nylon tulle used to make veils is delicate, fragile and not forgiving in nature (it will stretch and tear) so you need to know exactly how to do this before you attempt to bead your finished veil.
Why hand sew the beads to the veil instead of using glue? The downsides of using glue:
- 1) It is all too easy to end up with globs of glue showing around your beads (whatever type you use) and if the bead rolls across the tulle before the glue sets you'll have streaks of glue criss crossing your veil.
- Glue is not going to preserve well over time. Most glues will yellow as they age so if you want your veil to become a family heirloom sewing is the better choice.
- Glue often comes off during cleaning so if your veil needs to be professionally cleaned after your wedding you run the risk of having them fall off at that time.
The oddest story I was told by a client was how once they were attending a wedding on a very hot day and the glued beads on the bride's veil loosened because of the heat from the sun and began rolling off the veil during the wedding!
With that said, what you will need are crystal beads. (You can also use pearls or glass beads.) These are my favorite Swarovksi Austrian Crystals to use for hand beading veils. The shape is called a bicone and the Swarovski style number is #5301. It's faceted like a diamond which helps to create nice, bright, sparkles when light reflects off of them.
Pictured here in three sizes 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm. I almost always used the 4mm exclusively on short veils, meaning from the fingertip up. Floor length veils I would sometimes use 5mm beads at the bottom of the veil where it drags on the ground and blend them into the 4mm to bead up to the top where the veil attaches to the comb.
Most popular colors for bridal veils are the clear crystals or the AB (which stands for aurora borealis) which have a rainbow shimmer to them that will cast off colored sparkles when the light hits them.
You can purchase Swarovski Crystal beads online or at some local bead shops.
Tip: Freshwater pearls are more tedious because their holes are drilled very, very small so it's hard to find a needle that will fit through them.
You can also use round crystals or beads. The round Swarovski crystals (style number #5000) are more expensive than the bicone shape and less reflective. Since I preferred the other bicone shape, I seldom used the round for hand beading onto veils.
To sew the crystals to the tulle I use this nylon transparent thread size .005 by Coats. The thread is similar to fishing line and is an "invisible" monofilament.
Here is a close up of the thread.
For sewing I use small needles. "Sharps" or "Quilting Betweens" are usually the perfect size. Their short length makes them just the right size and shape for hand beading.
And this is the nylon tulle close up. I will repeat again, do NOT practice doing this on your actual veil. Most fabric stores sell nylon tulle. It usually runs around $3 per yard. Buy a yard and use it to practice your technique until you can do this perfectly. Only then should you move on to your actual bridal veil.
The strands create a small diamond pattern. Your goal will be to sew each crystal to a single strand of tulle where to filaments X over each other.
To begin, thread the needle.
Now double knot the thread directly to the head of the needle making sure to tie one knot and the second knot directly over the first one, not to the needle itself. The thread is much thinner than the needles so the knots won't create any excess bulk.
Now take the tip of the needle and in a horizontal direction catch one strand of tulle right in the corner of a diamond so that you are intersecting where the tulle creates an X. This is crucial, you need to catch the strands where they cross and meet. If you sew the crystal to a single strand it will stretch and hang funny as the single strand cannot support the weight of the bead.
Now that the needle is through the tulle, drop a single crystal or bead onto the needle and let it slide down to the tulle. Find the cut long end of the thread and giving yourself about 2 to 3 inches, tie a knot. Make sure that you are tying the knot snugly, but not too tight. You're going to need to be able to shimmy the knot down towards the hole in the bead to conceal it.
See the double knot?
Now hold both loose ends of the thread and slide the knot up towards the hole in the bead. Take the short end of the thread (without the needle) and pull it back through the hole in the bead first. You can see the cut end of the thread coming out the other end of the hole above. Gently pull it all the way through.
Now slide the needle through the hole too so that both ends of the thread are coming out of the opposite end of the bead hole.
Click image to enlarge for Clarity
START: With two hands, and while on the same side of the hole as the knot, gently grasp the loose ends of the thread together in one hand and gently pull them which will cause the knot to shimmy along allowing you to ease the knot towards the hole running through the bead.
MOVE KNOT: When it gets to the edge of the hole, use the ends of the thread coming out of the oppposite side of the bead like in the photo above and give the two loose ends a gentle tug so that the knot pops into the center of the bead and is hidden from view.
FINISH: You only want the knot to go halfway into the bead so don't pull too hard.
Tip: Also don't pull too hard doing this as it can stretch out the tulle and the sharp edge on the hole of the bead can cut the thread. It takes a very gentle touch.
Use a small pair of craft or manicure scissors (manicure scissors are best) to trim the loose ends of thread away. Make sure the knot is not too close to the end you are trimming or the knot may release and the bead will fall off.
Voila! You have just hand sewn a crystal bead to a piece of tulle! Notice how clean it looks with no visible knot or cut ends of thread. Below are tips and tricks that may help you complete your hand beaded veil project.
Removing a Bead
If you need to remove a bead because you weren't able to tie it on properly (too loose or too tight or don't care for where you positioned it) the best method that worked for me was to use the tip of an x-acto knife blade and very carefully slide it between the bead and the thread, facing upwards and as close to the hole of the bead, not the tulle as possible so that you don't cut the tulle by accident. It's imperative to hold the bead and tulle in place and only slice through the thread. If you allow any tension to develop it will stretch the tulle and will leave a visible mark to the tulle once the bead is removed.
As far as where to sew the beads onto your veil, it works best to randomly scatter the beads around. It will look prettier and more ethereal than if you measure their placement exactly. If you use equal, perfectly measured, spacing the finished beading will appear as rows.
Beading a Blusher
If you are beading a blusher make sure you don't place the beads across the face. It's better to bead the second layer and keep the blusher free of beads as this will look odd in photos, especially if a bead is place directly over an eye or near the nose or mouth.
When Not to Bead
There are two instances when beading a veil may not really be worth the effort. They are:
1) When the wedding is during the daytime and outdoors. The crystals will be visible but will not "sparkle." Crystals need there to be low light and a light source to sparkle. When there is too much bright light hitting the crystal from all sides, you won't see it twinkle the same as you would at night time or in a darkened room.
2) Also, when your bridal gown is heavily beaded. The beading on your gown will sparkle and show through a single layer of tulle so if you are using a single layered short veil or floor length veil, and your gown is already heavily beaded, adding more beads to the veil won't enhance your gown and may even detract from it if the spacing and placement of your beads somehow conflicts with the design already incorporated into your gown.