Recently, I was hired to do some restoration work on a vintage 60’s garment made of velvet, which was hand painted and adorn with sequins, which were falling off. After consulting with the client, we determined it would be too risky to repaint the garment, but adding more sequins individual knotted, would be plausible.
The historical value of the garment was a few hundred thousand dollars (yes, actually $300,000ish!!!) and it would be part of a museum type display, so any mistake on this project could be devestating!!
I looked into buying some vintage sequins on Etsy, eBay and from General Bead in San Francisco, but determined that wasn’t necessarily going to solve the problem completely, because they were still in their original packaging, they actually looked shiny and new.
The sequins I needed to match were 6mm cup sequins that were dull, a little smooth where the “cup” indentations were and somewhat faded in color. I found the size and shape I needed were still readily available, I just needed to figure out how to age them.
Initially, I had thought of spraying them with something like hairspray to mute and dull the shine. Then one of my theater friends said “don’t to it!!” He tried that once on a vintage garment and it had a chemical reaction with the garment!! Yikes! Nope!
I was wondering if there was some way I could rub them with sandpaper or some how give them a mini abrasive sandblasted type treatment? How could I do that without blowing them all over the place? Could I tumble them some how to distress the finish? That didn’t seem doable.
I wondered if a mild acid abrasive like vinegar work?
Someone from my online costume group suggested using liquid fabric softener.
I brainstormed with my client on as many ways we could think of to simulate the distressed look of the vintage sequins.
Could a chemical treatment be later rinsed off enough to prevent any reaction with the velvet?
Due to the substantial historical and financial value of the garment, having any chemical reaction was a major concern.
Then someone suggested I expose them to boiled water. This seemed like the safest treatment under the circumstances.
I tried all 3 methods and set aside a pile of sequins aside, that were untreated to compare and here are the results:
1. Sequins soaked in white household vinegar:
- I initially put 1 TBL of water and 1 TBL of vinegar and after 15 minutes of soaking, I didn’t see much of a change.
- I dumped out the liquid and soaked them in straight vinegar, I noticed a slight tint to the vinegar after soaking them for about 15 minutes and noticed the shine was slightly duller and the shape was fully intact.
2. Sequins soaked in 1 TBL seventh generation all natural fabric softener and 1 TBL water:
- After 15 minutes of soaking, I didn’t see a noticeable change.
- I dumped out the liquid and soaked them in straight fabric softener for 15 minutes, a very slight dullness from the original, but less effective than the vinegar.
It’s possible because I’m using and all natural fabric softener and not a chemically made one that I’m not seeing the results other people have told me they’ve gotten using this process.
3. Sequins exposed to boiled water:
- I microwaved a cup of water for 2 minutes, then dipped the sequins in using a small mesh strainer. I didn’t see an immediate change, but I could see a slight greenish tint to the water, so it was having an effect.
- I took the sequins out and boiled the water for another minute, then dipped them back into the hotter water.
- This time I could see an immediate difference in removing the shine, making them duller looking and it gave them a slightly aged look by smoothing out the sharp angles of the stamped center shape.
The boiled water method gave them the aged appearance I was looking for on this project and was also much safer than using the chemically treated version.
See for yourself!
What have your experiences been?
Have you tried any different methods?