How to cut out shapes in fabric
I created the artwork featured on this Bead Your Jean Jacket DIY about 20 years ago. It was time well invested (around 40 hours) since two decades later the jean jacket transcended trends and is still getting me many compliments for my art work when I wear it. This DIY jean jacket is an easy to follow step by step tutorial on How to make a stencil from an image, How to cut out shapes in fabric and How to hand bead. Do not be intimidated by this DIY jean jacket, yes it does requires time (but time passes anyway ; ) yet it is really simple to execute.
Bead your jean jacket DIY
To begin you need to select an image to make a single layer stencil. Here is a few options on how to make a stencil from an image;
1– Start from a face painting stencil and enlarge the image to the size you want
2– Choose an image from a stencil designs book (this one is by Polly Pinder)
3– Use a home decor stencil
4– Note that 3D images are not a good choice for a single layer stencil. You need to choose a simple/flat 2D image that ideally has blank spaces between the drawn shapes
You can of course custom draw your own stencil template.
How to make a stencil from an image
For the purpose of this tutorial I will use this stencil from Ideal Stencils. They offer a large selection of home decor stencils and I think that they can even make custom stencils (this post is not sponsored).
First I traced the image on paper. This allowed me to make some changes to the stencil design. As you see in the picture above I added a stem to the rose. I found that the addition of this vertical axis visually balanced the drawing and helped dissimulate it’s static drawn-from-a-stencil-template-look.
Cut out the stencil shapes with scissors. As you see in the image above, in some places I did not cut on the original lines. I did so to either create larger spaces between some of the shapes or to eliminate some corners that had too may details (like the points of the leaves and the center of the rose). Keeping a nice simple shape with rounded angles will be easier to hand bead and will also help the beaded edges remain flat.
Important tips to adapt your stencil for fabric cutting
1– You need to keep enough space between each shape. Leave a minimal 3/8 of an inch (1 cm) between each cut out shape. If the shapes are cut too close to each other, the denim will fray or tear and the two shapes will merge into one single shape. Wider spacing will also prevent your fabric from tearing during the hours of manipulations ahead.
2– Control the size of the cut out areas. Leaving large areas detached and cut away from the garment will result with that piece of fabric overhanging from the jacket.
3– Another reason to keep enough fabric between each shape is to help these areas withstand the weight of the beads.
∗To better demonstrate these important points I draw a different stencil design.
The picture on the left shows my stencil with the shapes cut out and you see that it has large opened areas not attached to the main garment, on the head and at the mouth. The picture on the right shows the links I added in strategic areas to ensure that the cut out shapes remained attached to the original garment.
See below how the stencil from the left will render once cut in fabric.
We see that the fabric part of the face is overhanging because it is is no longer attached to the main garment. But we also see that the mouth area doesn’t really represent a problem, I therefore cut away the added links.
Below see what happens when there is not enough space between two shapes.
When there is not enough space between two cut out shapes, the denim will tear or fray between the shapes and they will merge and become one shape.
Those torn areas can easily be repaired. Here’s how;
You want to rejoin the parts by sewing the pieces back together. What is important is that you poke your needle far from the torn edges. If you are too close to the unraveled edges the thread will pull out and your stitches won’t hold.
Pass the threaded needle many times between the two parts and finish with a buttonhole stitch holding all your threads together. It doesn’t need to look fancy the goal is simply to join the shapes back together. However those repaired areas won’t be solid (thread being very flexible) and you will have to keep the beading to a minimum over those areas.
To avoid these types of problems I would highly recommend that you try out your stencil on a scrap piece of fabric to review how your design renders before cutting directly into your jean jacket. If by mistake you create a bigger mishap in your jean jacket, do not worry it can be fixed. I found this very useful tutorial on Wiki How on How to fix a hole in a shirt one of those fixes will certainly be applicable to what you need to repair.
Prepare to transfer your stencil onto your jean jacket
In order to ensure that your hand beaded rose (or any other design you chose) is well centered in the back of your DIY jean jacket, you need to find the middle of your stenciled image and the center back of your jean jacket.
How to find the middle of your stenciled image;
To find the middle of your drawing; measure the total horizontal width at the widest part of your drawing and mark the middle. Draw a square up line across the page passing by your mark. Although I used a quicker technique and I simply pinched the paper between my fingers to mark the edges of the top and the bottom of the page (too lazy to go fetch a ruler).
Finding the middle this way worked well for this design, it might not for yours. If it doesn’t, trust yourself and just eyeball and guesstimate the center of your design. (You can put the design off center as a design preference; however the eye of the beholder may naturally assume an error as been made if they don’t share the creativity of your placement).
To find the center back of your jean jacket fold your jacket in half matching both side seams and the underarms seams while keeping the waist band aligned and at the same level. Carefully smooth out wrinkles. Pin the matching parts of the jacket together. The fold you obtained is the center back of your jean jacket. Mark the center back with sewing pins or mark with a pen.
I choose to mark the center back with sewing pins.
Transfer the stenciled image onto your jean jacket
Trace the image on the INSIDE of your denim jacket. This way you can still modify your design.
Align the center of the stencil to the center back of the jean jacket. Pin in place and verify the position of the stencil making sure that your image is well centered in the inside back of your jean jacket. Trace the contours of the shapes with a standard ball point ink pen. Denim is a thick fabric the pen ink wont show on the outside of the jacket. This jacket will be manipulated during many hours so you will want your design to be permanent therefore fabric disappearing ink pen won’t do.
This said DO NOT use a regular felt marker; the ink color will spread enlarging and blurring the design lines. Some parts of the ink will bleed through the denim fabric and show on the outside of your jacket. Furthermore when in contact with water the ink might bleed and spread outside the lines and the beaded areas.
This is the transferred rose. Look at your drawing one last time before cutting into your jean jacket fabric. You could also ask someone to try the jean jacket inside out to help you evaluate if the drawing is centered and balanced.
At this point you can still modify your design. You might even decide that you would prefer to have a beaded panda instead of a rose! That is not a problem, since you have drawn on the inside of your jean jacket you can draw something else.
If you do decide to choose another design, I strongly recommend that you select a different ink color for your second design (for example if you traced your first stencil with a blue pen, trace your second stencil with a red pen). Changing ink color will ensure that later on you will be cutting the shapes of your second design and not cutting parts of your first design and parts of your second design.
As you see in the above image (see the highlighted red and green areas) I modified and made some additions to my original design; I shortened the flower stem, and I added small leaves and some rose buds on the top of the rose.
∗If you hesitate because cutting into your jean jacket frightens you (and that is all right) you could simply decorate your jean jacket with an already made embroidered appliqué like I did for this beanie.
How to cut out shapes in fabric
Use the tip of a sharp pair of scissors and cut a small hole in the middle of the shape. (If your scissors are not sharp enough, you might slip and cut the design outside of your shape). You could also use a craft knife instead of your scissors to make a small incision in the fabric and be sure to protect your work surface.
Then use that hole to cut out the entire middle of the shape, carefully cut along the lines. Do the same for all the stenciled shapes.
Et voilà! This is How to cut out shapes in fabric.
And it is that easy! At this point you could decide that you like how the fabric cut outs came out and that you wish to wear your DIY jean jacket as is without beading it. It is a very good idea! You could simply leave the raw edges to unravel naturally and it will actually be a very nice look.
But you have to know that you will always have to wash your jean jacket by hand afterwards, because ……
This is how your cut outs will look after one single wash! See the red arrow in the image above? Well that was where the flower stem was.
A little quick step before we move on to How to hand bead;
I did not want the edges to unravel. I feared that the beads might eventually slip out and that frayed edges combined with the beading might look too busy. To prevent the edges from unraveling I uses a liquid fray stopper. Fray Stop (not sponsored) was the fabric sealant I had on hand. I like this fabric sealant because it dries flexible and the garments can withstand many washes. Be aware that fabric sealants may alter the color of your fabric. Test the liquid on a piece of scrap fabric before using it directly on your garment.
Ensure to protect your working surface and other layers of your garment with a piece of cardboard as fabric sealant may damage your working surface.
Apply the liquid sealant on all the raw edges. Wait for the liquid sealant to be completely dry before moving on to the next step. The sealant will be completely dry within 15-20 minutes.
In passing, fabric sealant hardens the fabric (from a little hard to very stiff depending on how much liquid you use) therefore edges that are too hard will be difficult to pass a needle through and they can also be scratchy on the skin.
In the above image the fabric sealant is completely dry. Do you notice a slight fabric discoloration? It will be okay for this project because those edges will be covered but keep in mind that it might not be the result you want on other projects.
How to hand bead
I choose these red and green seed beads from my jewelry supply. The green beads are slightly bigger and a tiny bit glaring compared to the reds. Paired together like this it does look like I am about to make a X-mas project! But my jean jacket is a dark denim and the final result doesn’t look like a Christmas ornament….. Well I hope so! What do you think?
For the next step you could use an embroidery hoop for more stability.
But I chose not too, This is an easy project to bead and it does not require a high level of precision like an embroidery needle work project would.
The best way to make sure your beads don’t fall off, is to use a strong beading thread. I chose threads that matched and blended with my seed bead colors. Before I started the beading and for a better finish I hand sewed buttonhole stitches around every shape. The buttonhole stitches will help in many ways; reinforce and make firmer edges, offer a nice definition, further prevent the fabric from unraveling and also prevent beads from dangling off the garment.
As you see my hand stitches are uneven and imperfect and it is okay for this project. I made sure to switched thread colors for the different parts of the cut outs. As you see above, I used red for the flower and the buds and green for the leaves.
WE ARE NOW STARTING THE LONGEST PART
Although the labor ahead is intensive you must have courage; you are creating a piece of wearable art well worth the effort. And those beading hours are a perfect time for some TV binge watching. Let’s learn How to hand bead.
You will need some embroidery needles. They are longer and thinner than regular needles and will go through the small holes of the seed beads and they also have a sharp blunt point that help penetrate tightly woven fabrics.
Double thread a needle and knot the end. Choose the placement for your first bead. Pass the needle from underside to the outside of the fabric. Pull the thread all the way through until the knot arrives at the underside of the fabric. String one bead by passing the needle through the hole and pin the needle in the fabric to return the thread on the underside of the denim.
Run the needle through the denim to the next position where you want to thread a another bead. Repeat this process and thread a bead every time you come on the outside of the fabric.
When your thread gets too short, make a knot on the underside of the fabric. As you see in the picture above, you do not need to bead close to the shape edges. You can rely on your buttonhole stitches for a solid and defined finish.
Bead bead bead, rest…. bead bead bead, rest…. repeat!
In the above picture you can see a close up of the beading. It is not perfect, we see some threads here and there. You also see that I extended my beading further than the initial contour of the cut out shapes. I beaded between the leaves and made extended petal shapes.
Once my beading was done, some 30 hours later, I applied a thin coat of fabric sealant on the reverse side of the jean jacket over the threads and all the way to the edges. You can also see some drawn shapes on the top right that I decided not to bead.
This jean jacket became the foundation of my wardrobe for a good decade. I paired it with skirts, pants, once with an evening gown!
CRITICAL: Protect the time and hard work that you have invested by always washing your beaded jean jacket by hand.
Enjoy being creative, Au revoir!