Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bead Journal Project - June

Soutache braidwork has been used as a fashionable trim throughout many eras and this month the "Fantasy Dressmaker" is showing her interpretation - in beads, of course.

Soutache is a braided trim which can be used to decorate clothing, upholstery or drapery. The braid itself is most commonly made in a herringbone pattern. Two threads are placed on opposite sides of a pair of inner cords and, starting with the left thread, it is placed over the middle cord and right thread. Then alternating with the right one, the pattern continues until a braid is formed. This design is called a French herringbone pattern. A Dutch herringbone pattern is when the threads are placed underneath the cord and opposite thread.

Soutache is a French word thought to have been first used in the mid 1800's. It comes from the Hungarian word sujtas, which means braid used for trimming. Another word for soutache is galloon, which is also French and comes from the 16th century. It is derived from gallonner and means to embellish or adorn with lace.

The soutache is stitched down the center groove formed during it's creation, frequently in very elaborate patterns. Such patterns were a common feature of the ladies magazines , as well as fashion plates showing the use of soutache.

These plates are from the mid-1860's:

The fantasy dressmaker created her bead soutache using herringbone stitch - it just seemed appropriate and it resulted in a natural groove down the center for stitching.
Many patterns include numerous loops, these are loops are actually fairly easy to create due to the method used in the construction of the soutache itself.

The trick is in those two inner cores - by exposing and carefully pushing the soutache up and gently pulling just a single core down, a loop will be formed. Loops can be formed in the opposite direction by pulling the opposite cord. After a bit of nudging into proper position, it's just a a few quick stitches to secure the loop in place.
Obviously, this wasn't going to work with soutache formed of beads. so a pattern without little loops was chosen from Sherwood's Impression Powder and Perforated Patterns published in 1865.
Applying soutache is fairly easy, it's the sheer yardage that can become problematic - this little 5" x 7" swatch used 4 feet. Image a skirt that's 180" around...

I found some examples of period usage, these all date form the 1860's, but soutache comes in and out of fashion right u to the present day.

Soutache, such a simple trim...but yet so impactful.


  1. Love your piece and all the background info about soutache.

  2. Soutache designs are always so beautiful and striking! I love the contrast of the red and black.