Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frayed Fabric Corsage Necklace Tutorial

Usually when the new Boden catalogue finds its way into our mailbox I flick through it, think I love that, I could make that, and then I forget all about it. This time I actually decided to do something about it. I love this Corsage Flower Necklace and thought it would be a great way to liven up a boring jeans and t-shirt outfit once the weather warms up a bit.

So, here is the necklace that I made, inspired by Mr Boden's creation:

And here is a tutorial if you would like to make one for yourself. It is all done by hand, no sewing machine required!

Although it pains me slightly, I'm going to do this in inches, seeing as I live in the US now, and that's how things come, and that's how my ruler is marked.

The necklace is made up of a mix of fabric beads and fabric flowers threaded on a strong thread attached to two rings. It has two ribbons which are attached to the rings and tied in a bow behind the neck.

You will need:

. Mine is some lightweight linen from Jo-Ann's, but quilting weight cotton should work about the same. I doesn't matter if it has a wrong side but the edges are left unfinished so don't use something that will fray really badly. I used plain and striped and bought 12" of each. It was 54" wide and I could probably have made two necklaces with that quantity.
2 rings approx 3/4" diameter. Mine are actually beads.
Grosgrain ribbon. Mine is 5/8".
Buttons/beads for decorating the flowers. I have a mix of beads and fabric-covered buttons.
Strong thread and big needle for threading the necklace together.
Fabric glue like Aleenes Tacky (PVA in the UK I think?).
Fusible webbing (not pictured).
Needle and thread for hand-sewing.
A thimble comes in handy for threading the necklace.
A cork board is useful for pinning the beads while they dry.
An iron.

To make the beads:

Cut a 3" wide strip of fabric. With the right side down, fold each long side in towards the middle of the strip so that they overlap evenly and you end up with strip about 1 1/4" wide. Press with the iron. Cut this strip into pieces 2 1/2 inches long. I used two strips of 54" fabric.

Take one of your folded pieces and fold it in half with the overlapped edges inside and so that the two raw edges are together. Roll the strip up tightly from the raw edges and apply a thin line of glue about 1/4" from the end. Roll up completely, and pin in place until the glue dries (on a cork board if you have one). I made 38 beads in a mix of the plain and striped.

To make the flowers:

Cut strips of fabric to the measurements for the size of flower you are making:
Large flower 1 1/4" x 54" (or the width of your fabric). I made 1 plain.
Medium flowers 1" x 54" (or the width of your fabric). I made 2 striped.
Small flowers 3/4" x 27" (I made 2 plain and used half the fabric width for each, but should have made the strips a bit longer because the flowers turned out a bit flatter than I would have liked).

Take a needle and thread and make a few stitches so that your thread is securely attached to the end of the strip. Make a long running stitch (about 1/4" stitches) about 1/8" from the edge along the whole length. When you get to the end gently pull the thread so that the fabric ruffles up to about 9" long (for all sizes of flower), and fasten off the thread securely.

You could leave the fabric like this if you want a more frilly look, but for a more pleated look pinch the gathers up into pleats with your fingers and press them with an iron. Don't worry too much about getting them perfectly even, but try and vary the direction of the pleats and make sure they are approximately evenly spaced.

To form the flower shape lay the ruffle on a flat surface and spiral it around to form a flower shape with about 3 layers, each layer slightly larger than the one above. Keep the centre of the top layer nice and tight and try and have an even gap between the edges of the different layers. You could stitch this together but I chose to use glue because it gave a bit more control over the shape. To do this gently lift up the layers and glue the back of one layer to the top of the layer below, make sure nothing has moved out of place and then leave on a flat surface to dry.

The ruffle half way through ironing in pleats:
The rolled-up (but not glued) flower from above and below, note the larger hole in the base from the spiraling.

I did try making the ruffles using a long straight stitch on my sewing machine but it was much harder to pull the gathers up, and my fabric frayed too much, so I went back to doing it by hand.

Once the glue is dry, decorate with your choice of buttons and/or beads. I stitched mine on but you could use glue if you prefer.

To assemble the necklace:

Iron the fusible webbing to the wrong side of some of the fabric and cut out a circle, approximately 1/2" smaller than the diameter, for each of the flowers. Lay out your fabric beads and flowers and decide on your arrangement. Remove the flowers and put the fabric circles in their place with the fusible webbing side up. Thread your big needle with strong thread and start threading the beads and fabric circles onto the thread. Try to get all of the beads aligned in the same direction, you could change direction at the half way point, but I didn't think of that until too late for mine! When you get to the circles make several large stitches across the diameter, curving slightly to try and follow the shape you want the necklace to hang. Glue the flowers to the fusible webbing side of circles with fabric glue, and allow to dry. Trim away any long frayed threads from the fabric.

Attach the ends of your thread securely to the rings. Cut two pieces of ribbon approximately 25" long, tapering the ends to prevent fraying. Knot one end of each piece of ribbon to one ring. Tie the other ends in a bow behind your neck, and admire!

The final dimensions of my necklace are:

Large flowers 3.5" diameter.
Medium Flowers 3" diameter.
Small Flowers 2.5" diameter.
Length from ring to ring 24".

I have since made another necklace using these beads and Kanzashi flowers which gives a completely different look - here it is.

This is my first tutorial so please let me know what you think, if any of it needs clarifying, and if I've made any mistakes. If you do use it to make something I'd love to see pictures, thanks.


  1. this is fabulous! i am going to make one. i will link your blog to my post. thanks. first need to finish some garments...then i am on it! thank you.

  2. Great minds think alike! I cut out the photo thinking I would do some corsages in the same style... This is fab!

  3. Thanks Cindy, I look forward to seeing what you come up with, and you blog is inspiring me to start thinking about making myself some clothes.

    Great minds indeed Ali! ;)

  4. How clever!! The tutorial is so kindly and useful for me. That's gorgeous necklace!!

    thank you for reading my blog. I'll come over to your blog again and again.

  5. So fun...I love it!

  6. I have made several fun flowers too. Check out my blog and youtube videos. I just can't believe how similar your necklace looks to bodens...fabulous!

  7. Help! I am in the process of following your directions to make this necklace, but cannot find the rings to tie off the fabric part to the ribbon part...Any suggestions? Jennifer

  8. Hi Jennifer, how exciting that you're having a go! If you haven't finished off the ends yet you could thread the ribbon onto the cord before you add the last bead, and then tie the ribbon around the middle of the last bead? You could also just tie off the cord into a loop and thread the ribbon through that or maybe you could just tie a loop in the end of the ribbon and thread the last bead through it like a toggle? I would love to see pictures of your finished necklace. Gail.