Sewing Decorative Charms
by Carly DeGraeve | one response | April 7, 2013
Wandering through the aisles of a craft store can lead to all sorts of inspiration. Some objects are designed for one type of craft project seem destined to be used in another area. Sewing decorative charms like the bag of mother-of-pearl chips I found located with the mosaic/glass working stuff is be a beautiful way to create a new texture on a leather bag. But how do you attach something like this (with no holes or facets) to fabric?
Something to decorate (example: bag)
Hand Sewing Needle
Chalk/Pencil for Marking
If working on Leather/Vinyl:
Pliers (for pulling the needle through the material)
Step 1) Laying Out Your Decorations
Before you begin sewing, it is important to figure out how you want the pieces positioned on your fabric/leather and to ensure you have enough pieces to complete the project as desired. If making something it is generally a good idea to add the decoration to the cut fabric piece before all the pieces of the project are sewn together – assuming that the charms are not going to interfere with the construction of the project. Adding charms to an already existing object is not difficult and can be a good way of refreshing an object you’ve owned for a while.
If you are working with an organic layout, it is worth the time and effort to layout an approximate determination of where you want the pieces to sit before you begin to sew.
For a structured and clean design using a computer drawing program is a great way to ensure a perfectly spaced layout. After the design is created you would print out the necessary pages so you can transfer the layout onto the material you are working with.
If you don’t have a good drawing program on your computer to create a layout, some careful work with your pattern pieces, the objects you are going to sew down, and a ruler can result in an excellent layout as well.
For charms which are square, sewing them down like what is shown below works quite well.
For extra safety (especially on soft fabrics) or aesthetic choices, add a few more stitches.
Other shapes may require different stitching to hold them securely. Play around to ensure you stitch your charms down in a way that looks good and holds them securely.
Step 2) Marking Your Fabric (or Leather)
If you desire perfect stitch position it is worth the effort to mark where the stitches go on your pattern piece for transferring to the fabric. When sewing things that have no holes for securing (like beads or pre-punched sequins) you really have ultimate control of how they are sewn down.
To begin sewing your charms in place, the material needs to be marked. These marks can be stitching points, the shape of the pieces, or both depending on what you need to do in order to successfully sew the pieces in place. If you are working with fabric you will need to transfer information onto the wrong-side of the fabric marking with a pencil or chalk.
I am working with leather and marked the positions of each piece by pre-punching stitching holes at each corner of the charms. It also works to mark the wrong-side of the leather in a similar way to marking the wrong-side of fabric.
I will show 2 different ways to attach the charms.
Sewing Charms 1:
This technique works well if you have unusual or varying shaped pieces.
Begin by tying off your thread. For a secure knot it is better to send the thread through the material and tie a square knot on the wrong-side.
A simple overhand knot is likely to pull through to the right side of the fabric and therefore not do its job.
On the right-side of the material, place the charm where you want it to be positioned and sew over the charm working in an ordered pattern.
Before moving on to the next charm pull the threads very taught and tie a knot on the back side of the material. This will maintain good tension for each charm you sew down and reduce how many pieces may work loose if a thread breaks. Tying the knot around one of the floating threads on the wrong-side helps to anchor the knot and hold everything securely.
Continue working through your whole pattern.
Sewing Charms 2:
This technique works well if you have a clearly defined stitching pattern.
Mark your material in a way appropriate for what you are working with. I’m working with leather and pre-punched my stitching points.
Begin by tying off your thread. For a more secure knot it is better to send the thread through the material and tie a square knot on the wrong-side. A simple overhand knot is likely to pull through to the right side of the fabric and therefore not do its job.
Bring the thread to the right-side of the material.
Work through the stitching pattern leaving slack in each stitch.
Slide the charm in between the threads and position correctly. Use an awl (or straight pin) to position all the threads on the top of the charm in the correct places.
Tighten your threads. An awl is very helpful in pulling each thread tight.
Tie a knot on the wrong-side of the material to hold the charm and the thread taught. Tying a knot between each charm is important because it holds all the threads taught over each charm and it prevents how many charms may work loose if a thread breaks. Tying the knot around one of the floating threads on the wrong-side helps to anchor the knot and hold everything securely.
Move on to the next piece working in the same way.
This technique works on a variety of charms whether it is mother-of-pearl chips, glass chips, sequins, mirrors, wooden charms, and more.