Soutache Then and Now

Lisette Root 2012

   
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Today I am going to write about "Soutache", an interesting form of decorative braid for things like military uniforms, (think about seeing a high ranking official, with gold braid on the uniform), there is also Soutache work, and Soutache braid can be used as a decorative base for jewelry,  and on things such as children's and women's dresses. The braid itself is Soutache, but we are going to talk about an art form which has emerged using the braid as a base with decorative elements such as beads and crystals as the focal points for lovely jewelry. When I came across a piece of jewelry made of Soutache, I went online and looked for further information, but I discovered that details are elusive. I searched for artists working in this medium, and found beautiful work, but with very little description of exactly how their jewelry was constructed. I decided to try and make a piece of Soutache jewelry myself.

I like to make my works totally original, so I did not want to copy other artists' works. Instead I looked at my supplies for the Soutache braids and I found a very few among my supplies, so I used different types of decorative materials and beads. I used Fabri-tac glue to tame the braids and cords with small dabs of glue beneath the elements, where they are secured. I also used threads to shape my piece.

Here is a list of supplies I used for this piece.

  • Stiff interfacing for the base
  • Flocked velvet on top of the interfacing
  • Flocked velvet on the back of the piece after the construction
  • Three fiber optic glass cabochons, 1 large, 1 medium, 1 small
  • Pearls: two large, three small
  • Eleven pressed crystals, three large, eight medium
  • Six coin shaped green glass beads, small in size
  • 8" of gold braid about 1/4" wide
  • 8" of thin metallic gold cord
  • 14" of medium size pink metallic cord
  • Green metallic seed beads, medium size
  • Pale green seed beads, medium size
  • Silver lined seed beads, medium size
  • Pink seed beads, small size
  • Fabri-tac glue
  • Gold colored chain and clasp, and two jump rings
  • Spray adhesive
  • Nymo beading thread

I started this design by spraying a little bit of Elmer's spray adhesive on top of the interfacing, and then laying the velvet on top of the interfacing,; the spray adhesive worked well to hold the layers together without bulk. I spent time deciding where the cabochons should be, and how I wanted to space them. I played around until I came up with a shape that pleased me, and then I glued the cabs on top of the velvet, using the Fabri-tac. I let the glue dry, and then I made peyote bezels around the cabochons, and I placed and stitched the pearls and crystals where I wanted them. After I completed the peyote bezel, I used the cords in a pleasing design around the large crystals and the large pearls, and partly around the small pearls, and around the large cabochon. When the design was completed I used the spray adhesive on the wrong side of the velvet set aside for the backing. I decided to use Soutache for the loops which the chain would hang from, so I cut the loops, and dabbed a little bit of Fabri-tac on the frayed ends and placed them where I wanted them. I carefully secured the loops with needle and thread to the interfacing, making sure I did not go through the interfacing to the finished front. I laid the finished piece with loops on the velvet backing, and I made sure the layers were smoothed together well. I carefully cut the backing to match the front piece, leaving a little extra velvet to stitch to, about 1/8". I did a simple bead edging with seed beads to join all the layers and complete the work. I then added the chains and clasp. Finished!

One of the great things about this kind of decorative work is that the resulting piece can be very lightweight, which makes it very comfortable to wear. It is also suitable to make corsages, brooches and barrettes from. So, I hope you try your hand at "Soutache Jewelry" because it is fun, not too difficult, with nearly instant gratification! I made my first piece in two evenings. Happy stitching everyone!

Lisette

P.S. Please feel free to use this design if you like!

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