Friday, 3 May 2013

Beaded velvet wasp

About a year ago I started making a wasp. A big wasp, made out of wire and covered with velvet and beads. But before it was finished, I left it on a shelf and moved on to other sewing projects.
The next Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge is Flora And Fauna- clothes inspired by plants or animals. Wasps are animals, so I'll be putting mine on an Edwardian hat.
I don't have any documentation for big, beaded wasps, but I have found a few examples of insect motifs from around this era.

There's this 1900's crochet lace dress from the KCI. It's quite festooned with dragonflies.

There is a privately owned fan with what looks like bees or flies made of spangles. The date is unknown but there is a possibility of it being Edwardian.

And finally, a hat with bugs! I didn't find this one, a commenter on the Flora And Fauna inspiration post directed me to it. Yes it's from the 30's, but one of the bugs looks like a wasp, and that's documentation enough for me.

This my inspiration hat.
From the Met.
The Met says it's from 1912, which seems about right, although their dating is often completely unreliable. I already have the black velvet, the same fabric that the wasp is covered with, which was cannibalized from an ugly bridesmaids dress that my mother wore to a wedding a long time ago. I think the wasp will look best in the approximate location of the top flower, with a clump of some other ornamentation beneath and slightly behind it.

Here is what the wasp has looked like for the past year or so.
Quilting square included for scale.
I don't have pictures of the earlier stages of construction but it was mostly the same as this.
First the wire frame was wrapped up in cotton and thread.
Then scraps of velvet were sewn around the different segments.

After I wrapped up the first two legs I regretted using the cotton batting scraps on them. The pile of the velvet makes them look way too thick, like tarantula legs. I'm considering stripping them off and covering them again without the cotton.
I'm using very tiny seed beads for the markings.

Imperial quilting square for scale.
I have some beads of the same size and finish that are faceted and I can't remember why I didn't use them for the compound eyes.
Why did I use the round beads? Why?
I'm sorry to say that the wasp is not finished yet. It should be, school is over and I have had plenty of time this week to work on it. But did I work on the wasp? Nooo.
On Wednesday I spent 3 hours cutting the paper backed edges off a whole bunch of fabric swatches, not sure what I'm going to do with them, but there are a lot of different coloured swatches and it seemed very interesting at the time. Yesterday I did work on the wasp for a while, but then I started drafting a waistcoat pattern. I didn't work on the wasp today either because I was testing a pattern for a pierrot jacket.
It's highly unlikely that the hat will be finished in time. I will try to work on it, but there is a whole sewing room full of distractions, so it will be difficult.


  1. Wow!!! That wasp hat is going to be a stunner or maybe a stinger. It's going to be a head turner for sure. Get back to it....

  2. Thank you! I am working on it today, switching back and forth between the wasp and the hat. I really do need to learn how to focus on one project at a time.

  3. The beaded compound eyes are very cool, and I love the beaded veins on the wings! Nice job so far. Looking forward to seeing the finished object. :)

    1. Hello Aunt Christine. Thank you! I like the compound eyes, but I really regret not using the faceted beads for them.

  4. I just want to add for the commenters that this wasp looks SOOOO much better in person than the photographs indicate. It's beautiful.

    1. It is true that the pictures in this post are not very good. I took some better ones today against a white background.

  5. I like the velvet dress much better in this incarnation. I knew that I kept that fool thing for a reason.