How to Care for Your Embellished Garments

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by Jamie Smedley, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

Embellished and bejeweled clothing is all the rage--rhinestone-encrusted jeans, beaded sweater sets, sequined dresses and gemstone-jeweled gowns and scarves. Although beautiful to wear, many of us shy away from such garments because of the special care they require. Many times these embellished articles of clothing don't include special-care instructions for washing if the embellishments were added by an artist other than the original designer.

Discover tips for safely caring for embellished clothing including how to wash, iron and store these clothing gems for long-lasting fashion.

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The first consideration when washing embellished clothing is the type of fabric. Each type of material will have a different washing method. For example, a knit shouldn't be stretched, wrung or hung to dry like woven fabric because it will stretch and lose its shape, and denim is a more durable and hardy fabric than fine silk. Check the fabric type in the sewn-in label, either on the bottom side or in the back of the collar.

Next, look at what the embellishment is and how it was applied. For instance, clothing can be embellished with gemstone beads, cabochons, feathers, organza ribbon, sequins, Crystal Passions® beads and components, seed beads, rhinestones and more. Embellishments can be applied in any combination of methods that include jewelry-making adhesives and glues, sewing, rivets or pronged ring settings. Oftentimes just turning the garment inside out will allow you to see the stitching, settings or small glue dots that may not be visible on the outside of the garment. If the garment is lined, you can feel the reverse side through the lining with your fingers to determine what application method was used.

Washing Embellished Garments

Most clothing-care labels recommend washing embellished garments inside out on a gentle cycle and tumbling dry on low. However, this machine method may loosen beads on embellished clothing, causing fine materials to snag and beads and crystals to lose their sparkle.

Typically, embellished clothing should be washed by hand or sent to a dry cleaner to safely clean them. You will have more control and save money if you wash the item yourself, by hand, inside out, in your kitchen sink using warm water and a small amount of mild liquid detergent. Here are some tips for washing embellished clothing:
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  • Avoid using hot water because this may shrink your fabric, soften adhesives or ruin the finish on beads.
  • Do not soak for more than a few minutes in order to protect the finish on your beads.
  • Gently knead and swirl the saturated embellished garment in the sudsy sink water to gently mimic the agitator in your washing machine to remove light soiling.
  • For larger embellished garments, you may want to use a bathtub to make rinsing easier.
  • Do not twist or wring the embellished garment, especially with sewn embellishments.
Special care must be taken not to stretch, twist or wring the fabric while washing, rinsing or drying because the tiny threads used to sew on the beads could break and you will lose portions of your beaded design. When the embellished garment is clean, drain the water and press your hands down onto the wadded garment to press most of the water out. There will still be a large amount of water in it, but a clever alternative to a lengthy drying time is to transfer a washed embellished garment to an empty washing machine and use the gentle spin cycle to remove excess water. Do not do this with velvet, because it can cause permanent creases in the pile.

Drying Embellished Garments

To dry a non-stretch woven garment, hang it in a dry place in or outdoors and away from direct sunlight. Lay anything that can stretch and distort on a flat, clean surface to dry also out of direct sunlight that could fade your fabric. For embellishments that are applied with an adhesive, avoid any kind of heat that may soften or damage the bond.

After your garment has dried completely, it might have a stiff feel from air-drying. If this happens, place it in a pillowcase or a zippered garment dryer bag and fluff it in the dryer on low heat for no more than five minutes.

Ironing Embellished Garments

Design Idea 9859 Outfit and Earrings Do not let the iron come into direct contact with sequins, beads, crystals or stones. Use a press cloth to iron all embellished clothing. You can easily make your own press cloth from an old T-shirt cut into a medium-sized square. Select a heat setting appropriate for the fabric and the embellishments. Fine silks and polyesters, as well as sequins and plastic beads, will melt under hot irons. Place the press cloth on the right side of the embellishments and use it as a barrier between the embellished fabric and the iron.

Do not let the fabric or embellishments get too hot or glass and crystal beads could crack and, possibly, soften synthetic beads. If you are ironing embellishments that use adhesives, give the areas you iron a few minutes to cool and re-set before you move them to ensure the stones stay in place. Avoid ironing large embellishments, even with the press cloth. Instead, carefully iron around them with the iron to eliminate any fabric puckers on the reverse side.

When ironing on areas that are not flat, try ironing over the top of a round, ham-shaped pillow or a sleeve pillow made specifically for ironing round surfaces. You can find these ironing pillows at a local sewing or craft store.

Embellished Garment Storage

Properly storing embellished clothing is just as important as proper washing. Folding your garment in tissue paper and storing flat will keep beads and delicate fabric from snagging or getting caught on other clothing. It will also prevent impression marks, creases and sagging. Storing the folded garments in a chest of drawers with sachets scented with your signature fragrance will make it a special treat to wear.

If you have a full-length garment such as an evening gown, place it on a secure, slip-free hanger and cover in a plastic bag to protect from dust and snagging. Another option for storing beautifully embellished articles, such as scarves or robes, is to leave them hanging or draped in the open to be enjoyed while you're not wearing them.

With the confidence to properly care for embellished clothing, now's the time to invest in something special and create clothing gems for gifts, resale and your own fashion wardrobe. Share how to care for embellished clothing with customers to ensure long-lasting style.

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