Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Hand Beading a Wedding Gown


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This time of year, there’s always loads of stuff going on in my studio. Besides autumn embroidery (I can’t resist stitching something in anticipation of autumn each year), I’m already looking ahead to Christmas while trying to tie up loose ends from earlier in the year.

I have a lot of loose ends this year – those projects that I should have written instructions for by now, those kits that I should have ordered supplies for by now, those tutorials I should have videoed by now. This year, I’m a bit more behind than usual.

But that’s ok! Everything happens for the best, and everything that’s supposed to happen, will happen in good time.

To avoid stress in my Needle ‘n Thread world, I try to stick to the principle of not letting what I can’t do keep me from doing what I can. Or, in another sense: I do what I can do, and I don’t worry about what I can’t do.

But there are some “little” projects that come up unexpectedly, that I don’t mind doing – in fact, that I want to do, that I’m excited to do, and that I’ll put aside other things in order to do. And this is one of them!

Hand beading a wedding gown with pearl beads

I’m beading a wedding dress.

My niece made her own wedding gown. It’s a simple gown, which she more or less designed herself.

It’s made of a lovely, light, and very fine silk cotton – such a beautiful fabric for a gown! It’s very wearable, with a lovely natural-fiber sheen. The lining is a very fine cotton batiste.

The gown is a light ivory – what I’d call an eggshell white – as opposed to stark white. It has a simple bodice with princess seams, short sleeves, and a smooth waist above a skirt with godets (inset reversed pleats) to add flare to the a-line structure. The skirt is supported by a tulle crinoline underneath, and the hem of the gown floats just above the floor.

Initially, there wasn’t going to be any lace or extra detailing on the gown. She wanted plain and simple.

Hand beading a wedding gown with pearl beads

But then we all got to talking about lace on the bodice. Wouldn’t a touch of lace that would cover the bodice and tendril over onto the flaring skirt just past the waist look pretty?

And it sounded like a good idea.

Hand beading a wedding gown with pearl beads

So, the hunt for lace began.

Out here in Kansas, we don’t really have fine fabric shops close by, and the time and expense involved in tripping out to the larger cities to try to hunt down something suitable didn’t make sense, especially given the current tenuous state of small businesses that aren’t open regular hours, and other city affairs.

Online shopping wasn’t the best option, either. Without being able to see and feel the lace, it’s financially risky to order suitable cuts. And there were time constraints to consider – ordering swatches adds another layer of waiting on shipping.

One day – just last week – after discussing the lace question and deciding it wouldn’t happen after all, Julie was going through her mom’s fabric cabinet to get out the batiste for the lining.

She moved aside the batiste, and lo! underneath it was a package marked (of all things) “bridal lace.” It really was a cut of bridal lace!

Hand beading a wedding gown with pearl beads

My mother (may she rest in peace, that woman of foresight!) had purchased the lace for a different project altogether years ago. It didn’t work for the project, so my sister never used it and forgot she had it.

And so, thanks to Grandma, Julie now has lace for her wedding gown. It was the perfect type and cut of lace for what we had in mind.

With focus and determination, last Friday, my sister set to! Julie donned the gown, and the pinning, basting, and trimming of the lace on the bodice began.

And then we said, “Wouldn’t tiny pearls be a nice touch?”

Foraging through the Swarovski pearls in my bead stash, we selected small 3mm pearls in a light creamrose. They have a kind of vintage glow to them, which is right up Julie’s alley. I didn’t have enough, so I contacted Fire Mountain Gems to order more, and they sent them to us post-haste. In fact, they arrived 24 hours after I ordered them.

Yesterday, I started beading, and today, I’ll continue. I’m keeping the bead layout somewhat random – I don’t want too much of a pattern, but I do want an evenly distributed coverage – while just picking up parts of the design in the lace. I’m using ivory silk sewing thread to sew them on, and securing the basted lace as I go.

It’s a very satisfying project.

While I work on the bodice, Julie is hand hemming on the other end of the dress.

The wedding is day after tomorrow.

Heh heh.

Have a wonderful weekend!



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(115) Comments

  1. What a fantastic thing to be able to contribute to. I love projects like this- they seem almost meant to be. And a lovely opportunity to think about your family while you work!

  2. Congratulations to Julie and the whole family. The little bits you showed us look beautiful, Mary. Can’t wait to see the whole thing modeled!

  3. Oh my gosh, it was meant to be! A lovely gift from Julie’s grandmother, a bit of “something old…”, and a great story to tell and hand down in the family ❤️

  4. What a lovely story that you have shared with us Mary! I would love to see a photo of your niece in her finished gown. This will be such a special family heirloom and beautiful story to pass down in your family.

  5. Mary… what a wonderful gift from Grandmother! Is it your mom? If so, the gift doubles for your niece and triples for you and your sister. How serendipitous! ❤️ May you all enjoy the creation, wedding, and memories, regardless. Susan

  6. This is so very lovely. I cannot help but be touched by this “touch” of “grandma” for your niece on her special day, and especially so when so close to the loss of mom and grandmother in your family. Such a tender addition to the day and for all of you who are working on it.
    May it be a bit of comfort…

  7. This is simply a beautiful post. The addition of lace from your mother allows her to be present too. There is so much love invested in this beautiful, now heirloom gown. I hope you’ll be able to post a pic of the finished gown. Much love and happiness to your niece.

    1. Oh, please do post pictures of the finished dress and bride. How lovely that your collective prayers are being sewn into her memories physically & spiritually

  8. Wow, that looks lovely! I thought I was the only one to do things last minute! You take it to another level, Mary. I hope you all have a lovely day.

  9. Oh, Mary! Please, please, please may we see a picture of the bride in her gown after the wedding?! I hand beaded my own gown 35 years ago and it is still one of my most satisfying and endearing handwork memories.

  10. Mary you know what is next, don’t you? A closeup of the beadwork, but most important of all, a photo of your niece Julie in her wedding gown and throw in the groom for good measure. I had a similar situation with my daughter -in-law. The person who made her wedding dress also embroidered pearls on the top, but the edging was not very even, so mom-in-law came to the rescue, 3 days before the wedding. Congratulations to Julie and may she have a wonderful happily married life. Elza from Cape Town.

  11. Love this story!
    And how I can relate! My daughter bought a rather simple used bridal gown and wanted some embellishment to personalize it. She lives in the Washington DC area and I’m close to Detroit MI so we had access to bridal lace. What did we use? A 20 year old length of cotton netting lace from my stash!
    My mother forbade me from making my own wedding gown. She said “I don’t want to be following you down the aisle on my hands and knees while I finish the hem.”
    Thanks for sharing!
    Mary Sue

  12. Congratulations to your niece and your family. How lovely, a wedding dress grown from family and history! Please, could we see a picture of the finished gown? (After all the wedding time pressure is off, of course!)

  13. What a wonderful blessing to have your moms hands on the dress too. Sure hope you are going to show the finished dress.

  14. This was meant to be. How lovely to have lace chosen by your mother on your niece’s wedding dress. Best wishes to the happy couple.

  15. I love this so much! Grandma to the rescue even now. Enjoy! I hope we can see a photo of the finished dress. It sounds amazing.

  16. What a lovely way for your mother (may she rest in peace) to be a part of this day of celebration! Perhaps you could share a wedding picture of the bride in the dress after the wonderful event.

  17. This morning found me in a cranky mood—situations being what they are. Then I read your lovely entry and my day brightened. Your niece will be wearing the most meaningful and stunning wedding dress, designed and sewn by her, lace from her mother’s cabinet originally and intuitively purchased by her beloved grandmother, and beaded by her dear aunt. Just lovely all around. Best wishes to the happy couple!

  18. How wonderful that you have a family wedding to look forward to and how wonderful that your Mom made such a lovely contribution to it and found her way to be a part of the day as well as in your hearts and thoughts.

  19. Morning Mary,
    This is going to be beautiful I know. My sister and I used this same lace thirty years ago on my daughter’s wedding dress on the bodice, around the hem and on the train of the skirt. Heavily beaded with pearls as you have and also iridescent sequins, all hand stitched and took two months to bead and applique. We also covered her shoes with the beaded lace. Sis and I neither of us had a lavish wedding so we made up for it on her dress and self catered wedding supper.
    Two years later, sis surprised us each with a Christmas egg for the tree. A goose egg, carefully covered in the satin waste (so there’s no visible tucks, pleats, or fraying) from the dress and also the last of the lace motifs with the beads and sequins.
    Enjoy this special day and knowing you were part of making it happen. Blessings to the bride and groom for a long and strong marriage.

  20. What a wonderful post! She won’t regret the lace & beading. My aunt made my dress in 1970. I wanted plain, plain, plain. She finally talked me into some beads around the mandarin collar and at the edge of the long sleeves. I so wish I had let her do some lace, especially on the bodice. It was empire waist and then a-line floor length skirt. I still have it but it’s so plain! On the other hand, it’s a good couple of yards of satin that could be reused for something else!

  21. If it’s not too much trouble (or too personal for the bride) I would love to see a photo of the gown finished. I used to work in a bridal shop and while most of the dresses we sold came already beaded, I did get the opportunity to bead the lace motifs on a dress for one of my coworkers when she got married. And what a great story! Deciding that lace would be a nice touch and then finding some your recently deceased mother had purchased! It’s like a gift from heaven. May the happy couple be forever blessed by such good fortune.

  22. What a beautiful gown with contributions from so many sewed into it. We’d all love to see a photo of the beautiful bride – perhaps with Aunt Mary.

  23. Best wishes to Julie and her husband-to-be!

    And what a wonderful, heirloom wedding gown. Not only was it handmade by Julie herself, it has contributions from three generations. And when she’s walking down the aisle, wishing her grandmother was present, she can just touch that lace and know she is with her.

    This is a real tear-jerker, Mary. Blessings to all on such a special day.

  24. Mary, congratulations to your niece! How sweet that she has something from Grandma on her wedding gown.
    I was married in October 39 years ago. I made my dress and put Alencon lace on my gown. I cut out the lace motifs, beaded them with pearls and then sewed them on the bodice, down the train, and along the hem. I spent all my spare moments that summer snipping, beading and sewing. Even my 70 year old dad got in on the cutting!
    Your post brought back many happy memories. Congrats again to you and your niece. I wish her and her intended many happy years together!

  25. Dear Mary

    What a fortunate outcome, how lovely to have a stash of lace the right colour and texture for the bride I can’t believe you are still sewing on the pearls with only a couple of days to go to the wedding. The dress looks beautiful and I’m sure it looks even better then the photos. I love pearls and lace they just go together and they give such a lovely glow to any gown. I do hope the your niece has a lovely day and congratulations to her and her groom. Thank you for sharing with us such a lovely story.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  26. It is always good to read about a good story when it come to this kind of things. Congratulations! I always believe more luck will come that way too.

  27. What a lovely dress. And very special too! Congratulations on her wedding. I’m way behind this year but I know it will all work out. The covid thing has really kept me from focusing on sewing, quilting & embroidery. I got some paints & little rocks together. Im going to try to paint little rocks with happy things. Maybe that will help me focus! I sure hope so. Enjoy your day!!

  28. Oh my, you’re going to be very busy finishing up beading the bodice, but what a delightful project! And so sweet that your mother (may her memory be for a blessing) had a hand in providing the lace!

  29. Amazing! I’d love to see a picture of the finished bodice or finished dress if your neice wouldn’t mind it being posted. What a special addition to her wedding this will be, congratulations and best wishes to her!

  30. I can’t wait to see photos of the gown. I made my wedding dress with lace and pearls – what an undertaking. Everyone was wondering if I would finish it on time (I did). As a joke, I was going to have someone following me down the aisle and make believe they were stitching the hem. I didn’t do, but that would have been funny.
    Enjoy the wedding! Congratulations to the bride and groom!
    (your Mom will be there in spirit!)

  31. I loved this post. I love the community of women, related or not, who put their heads and talents together to make something special for a special day! The last bit made me laugh out loud! It wouldn’t be a wedding if there wasn’t some last minute frenzied preparation! Best wishes to your niece! If she’s comfortable, we’d love to see a picture of her finished, one-of-a-kind dress!

  32. Mary,

    I am enjoying seeing the close ups of the beading detail you are doing on this dress. Can we also see a picture of the full dress itself? Perhaps one of the wedding photos after the ceremony?

    Thank you,

  33. Wow — talk about “just in time” efforts! The bits you’ve shown look wonderful, and I’m sure the bride will look beautiful in it. Blessings on all those who are making this possible, and on the bridal couple.

  34. This brings back memories! I and a few helpers were still sewing on sequins and pearls onto the lace on the bodice of my wedding gown, a couple of days before the wedding! Please show us a picture after the festivities!

    Your niece will have a lovely memory to go along with her dress.

  35. Oh, Mary. Happy, happy beading and may the beading fairies help you get it done in plenty of time. I so enjoyed the laugh you gave me at the end.


  36. Wow! This brought back memories of my mom sewing beads on my wedding dress! (also at the eleventh hour!)

    Please do share a photo of your niece and her wonderful dress! It sounds lovely!

  37. Oh wow! Thanks for taking the time to share that wonderful story with us! My heart just swelled with your thanks to your mother (“that woman of foresight”) and the thought of you all finishing the dress together days before the wedding brought the tears to my eyes. Best wishes to the wedding couple and may you all be safe & healthy together!! Thank you!

  38. Mary,
    Talk about time pressure! What a wonderful gift your mom’s lace stash and your time and talent are.
    I hope you’ll post a picture of the finished dress and Julie wearing it.

  39. Of course, you’ll take a few photos of the completed dress to show us, right? Praying for a long, happy marriage for the happy couple!

  40. What a lovely story! Hopefully the joy and love of Julie and her husband-to-be will balance the sorrow of your mom not being physically present – but I bet she’s watching anyway! And brings back memories – my own wedding gown was simple, A-line, and I embroidered tiny flowers on the bodice that picked out the woven-in pattern, scattered about. Yellow and green on white, still my absolute favorite color combination! As for lace, in my case it was a serendipitous find of a beautiful German lace curtain material in a store – we got married in Germany (two US soldiers), which became my veil – but no pearls were added 🙂

    Best wishes to the bride and groom – I hope they have at least as many happy years as we have (coming up on 42 next month 🙂


  41. That is cutting the timing close! Glad it is all working out. And I think is it so sweet that your Mom, her grandmother, got to contribute such a lovely and memorable part to the wedding. God bless her and her groom in the new life they will build together.

  42. Ah, let’s hear it for the last minute!! Many, many years ago I had a friend getting married in June. But the the groom got his orders to leave for overseas duty on May 31, so the wedding was moved up to May 20th or so. She had planned to make her dress after classes were out on May 15. So, we started the dress and I got to help because I was a sewer. I remember appliquéing the lace across the bottom of the train while she was at the rehearsal. We put as many beads as we could that night. Found a dry cleaners the next day to press it while I waited and she wore it that night and it was beautiful!!

  43. So beautiful that Julie’s grandmother – your mother – will be such a special part of the special day! The dress will be all the more beautiful for her presence.

  44. Lovely, lovely, lovely!! Your mom would be (is) so happy that she had a part in the dress as well. My grandmother made my wedding gown and it was simple, elegant, and fit me perfectly (lace bodice and even pantaloons beneath a flowing skirt with a large tier hem at the bottom–a country gown for a country wedding). The bridesmaids wore Gunny Sax matching dresses. Simple and beautiful! The greatest blessing was knowing Grandma’s hands made the gown. Now that I’m a grandma too, I appreciate it even more. Please let us see a picture of the dress when you’re done, if possible. Many blessings on the married couple too!

  45. Ah, how gorgeous! I love pearls and lace together! Also, this kind of “last minute” thing is my kind of wedding lol (I’m not married, but I was helping my sisters and sister-in-law prepare up to the last minute). Congratulations to Julie and her family! How beautiful that you can work together on this very special project.

  46. Mary, your story brought happy tears to my eyes. Congratulations to the beautiful bride and her fiancé! Can’t wait to see a few more closeups and a pic of the entire dress. Hugs from California!

  47. What a lovely project and what a beautiful tribute to your mother. I too would love to see a photo of the bride in her dress.

  48. I think the dress will look adorably beautiful!

    Besides, using something made by the family has even more value!!!

    I sincerely wish your niece to be very happy and the family to have an unforgettable day!

  49. What a wonderful project! It’s great that your mum has been able to make a special contribution under the circumstances.

    I hope you all enjoy the day and please post a picture of the finished gown!

  50. Dear Mary, this story made my heart leap with joy – your dear Mum would have loved this. Bless you for sharing it and hope it’s a wonderful day for your niece in her beautiful gown of love, pride and memories, and for you and all your family.

  51. On the night before our wedding, my best friend, my husband-to-be, and I were finishing the wedding clothes. Friend and I were sewing, and my husband was doing the hand embroidery on my skirt. Embroidery was a skill he had just learned, just for this purpose. That was 1988, and we are still married. 🙂
    Blessings to your niece, and Please post a full picture of her beautiful gown!

  52. Oh, what an amazing turn of events! I can’t help but feel that your mother must be smiling from above. What a loving and comforting touch that in such a way, she will be part of Julie’s wedding in such a vibrant presence through the dress. It is such an amazing and touching story. Thank you for sharing with us. I’m sure it must have been very emotional for all involved. Best wishes of love, health & wealth for the Bride & Groom!!!!

  53. Oh, how lovely and what a nice story about Grandma’s contribution. Do show us a photo of the dress in your next post; or better yet, a photo of the lovely bride (if it’s ok with her). Congratulations to the lucky couple.

  54. The wedding dress sounds absolutely beautiful! Please, please, PLEASE share photos of the finished dress (after the wedding of course – the dress reveal should be at the wedding).

  55. It all sounds such a lovely story and one I’m sure will travel down Julie’s family history of how her aunts helped to peep up her wedding dress last minute.com, and with such luck in finding the perfect lace granny had left to find.

    Please post a wedding day picture of the bride, it would be lovely to see her in all her glory on her important day.

  56. What a special way for Julie to bring Grandma into her special day. It may be bittersweet at the time, but she will treasure those memories forever.

  57. Thanks for sharing this experience! I just made my own wedding dress and it was an adventure full of fabric miracles and help from people very close to me (Fairy Godmothers are real!!!). I put the last stitches on my dress early the morning of my wedding. (don’t tell my mom! ) Working until the last minute seems common among creative people. I think we all just push ourselves to the very limits in order to achieve the best results we can!

  58. As a sewist i would like to know how she designed her wedding dress did she draft it herself or combined one or two patterns together.Would love to know the nitty gritties

    1. I think she just had some ideas in mind, and then she made a couple mock-ups of the bodice, and then her mom helped her fit the bodice, and then she took apart the fitted mock-up and used that as the pattern.

  59. What a wonderful project!
    Two days before the wedding is almost traditional. So glad your amazing mother had just the right lace in her stash. She would have been delighted. Please send us photos plese.
    wishing you all a wonderful day tomorrow. Ann

  60. It looks gorgeous!! You’ll have to make sure to share some pictures of your niece in her dress. We could all use to see a beautiful bride on her wonderful, happy day!!

  61. oh Mary – You HAVE to post a photo of the completed dress! It sounds quite lovely. What a special find was that lace – it just had to be perfect!

  62. Mary, you are my absolute favorite resource person for embroidery. If you recommend a product, I have total confidence it will work and be the best choice. Thank you for everything you do.

  63. How beautiful! I’m reminded of Meg’s wedding dress in Little Women, with all the love stitched into it. Grandma’s lace and Aunt Mary’s beading and her mom adding the lace. She will feel so loved and special as she walks down the aisle.

  64. Sooo, beautiful! What a treasure! Thank you for sharing and congratulations to the bride and groom. She’s so lucky to have your amazing talent in her family.

  65. Wow Beautiful Wedding Dress! You did an awesome job.
    First I enjoy getting your emails and advice. Thank You.

    This is just a curiosity question – Is your area of the county Covid-19 free? And no one is required to wear face mask? If so, how blessed you are. This is awful time we live in at the moment, and weddings with masks are not the same.

  66. Mary,

    How delightful. Your niece is quite a dressmaker to design her gown and the fabrics sound exquisite! What a blessed touch to have the lace her grandmother had packed away. That’s divine intervention.

    So your niece, her beloved Aunt Mary and Grandmother created a wedding gown that is already a family heirloom.

    Congratulations to the bride and groom.

  67. this sounds like me and my girls and grand girls . no sleep the night before and it ends up beautiful . gone through wedding dresses and formals, they think i can sew anything they dream up.. i think she will be beautiful.

  68. Wow! What a wonderful and serendipitious project! And under time pressure, too. Will you add a photograph of your niece wearing this dress? I would love to see it.

  69. Hi Mary!
    I would love to see the finished dress! What a lovely gift from Grandma to buy the perfect lace years prior!
    You all must come from lineage of seamstress and stitchers!

  70. I am beading my own wedding dress for the first time and found this post very helpful. A couple of questions please from a total novice to your much more experienced self… I am beading a pattern made up of 3-4mm pearls, size 11 seed beads, and 3mm long/1.5mm wide bugle beads! Ughh! Online buying because I am far from specialist shops, there are so many things to get your head around…and mistakes to be made! (a few returns have been made before I got the pearl and bead sizes right for the lace…) Do you think silk thread is better than using invisible thread? What width of thread and needle would you use? – especially in the case of seed beads that only have a 0.8mm hole? Many, many thanks is advance for any wisdom you can share

    1. I vastly prefer Miyuki beading thread – it’s Miyuki nylon beading thread size B in white. They have a large spool, 547 yards I think, which would probably be a good idea if you’re beading a wedding dress. For a needle, I’d use one with a sharp tip and as small an eye as you need. You could probably get away with a #10 or a #11 crewel needle. There are also the #10 short beading needles by John James that are pretty fine. Hope that helps!

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