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Embellishing The Forepart, Part I: Cording

As with most large projects, things have changed.  In this case, it's the design for the forepart and sleeves.

My plan was to use a solid fabric and apply gold cording in a grid, like this:


Then the grid spaces were going to be filled with jeweled ouches alternating with the monogram from my logo, embroidered in gold thread and rimmed with tiny pearls. 

After some deliberation I decided not to go with the monogram. It just seemed kind of hokey. I might do a big one on the end of the cloak train, we'll see.  

I wanted to use a brocade fabric, for several reasons. The first is to add texture. The second reason is that the right brocade can act as a grid for applying ornamentation.  

After a month of looking, I was beginning to despair of finding the right brocade. Finally I found this: 

It looks a bit more Middle Eastern than Elizabethan, but since the Kingdom of Margonia enjoys a cordial relationship with the Ottoman Empire, I think it's feasible. 

I tried outlining each motif with narrow gold cording.

 I have arthritis in my hands, so I wanted to do this by machine.  I try to limit hand sewing to save my hands.  

After trying several of the sewing machine feet in my arsenal, I realized I needed something else, so I purchased the Sequins & Ribbon foot and  the Accessory Guides from creative  I used the smallest opening for my cord. This is how it turned out:

There were two problems.  First, applying the cord involved a lot of twisting and turning the fabric, which made it just as hard on my hands as hand sewing.  Second, the cord just wasn't substantial enough to "read" well.  So I ripped out 7 hours of sewing work.

I decided what I needed was a thicker gold cord.  I estimated that to do the forepart and sleeves, I would need close to 200 yards of the stuff, so I was looking for a bargain, so I ended up at my go-to provider for bulk trims,

Cheeptrims is a great source, but their photos aren't the greatest. I found gold cord I thought would work, but it was hard to tell. They do have a good return policy, so I knew if it wasn't right I could send it back.

 I estimated 200 yards, but I live in fear of running out mid-project, so wanted more.  However, when Cheeptrims says bulk, they mean it. The cord comes in 100 yard lots. I bought 300 yards!

When the cord arrived I was pleasantly surprised. It's a nice, high quality twisted cord, not too tinsel-y.  

I made a sample with it and found that it was going to be pretty much impossible to machine stitch into those tight curves.  I was staring at the fabric, dreading hand stitching 180 motifs, when suddenly this occurred to me:

Yeah. Those large, simple curves are easy to sew by machine, and the frame the brocade motifs well. The design will only take about 40 yards of trim, which means I have 260 yards left over! Oh well. It's not like gold cord isn't a basic supply for an Elizabethan costumer. I'll keep a bunch of it, and probably sell some. 

The Sequins and Ribbon foot didn't work for this heavy cord, but another product from Creative Feet that I already owned, the Pearls-n-Piping foot, was the perfect size. 

I was hoping to be able to sew the trim on freehand, but because most of it lies on the bias, it stretched and puckered, so I had to pin it in place before stitching.


Before sewing the cord on, I applied a medium weight woven fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric to stabilize it and cut down on the stretching.

I used regular thread in the bobbin and clear monofilament on top, setting my machine for a fairly long zigzag stitch just barely wider than the trim, so I was sewing over it, not through it. Monofilament is virtually invisible on metallic trims.  

In making samples, I discovered that it's very important to apply all the trim in the right direction, with the twists going the same way.  If this isn't done, the light catches the trims at different angles and can make the rows look like different colors. 

It took a long afternoon to sew all the trims on the forepart, but finally it was done.  Next, the really fun part: jeweling!


  • Jemsperry
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  • Cozette

    What was the number for the gold cord. I would like to buy some.

  • Patricia McArthur

    As always you are an inspiration to we Elizabethan costumers. Please keep us informed of your progress. You have already made me decide to start a new gown!! Thank you, Margo.

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