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27 April 2006 @ 06:46 pm
Padme Family Gown - Trochus shell beads  
Oh my goodness, I never would have thought I'd be working on making my beads for 2 weeks! I'm just about done. I ran out of clear coat spray today, and I decided to dye some extra shells just in case - so one more batch still needs to go through scrubbing, drilling, and spraying.
Here's what the costume shells beads  look like:

And here are mine:

I was so worried about getting them dark enough, I think I may have gotten some of them too dark! Each shell takes the dye differently, so some are dark, some are light. I guess I will have enough extra to weed out the really dark ones.

How I Made My Beads

Shells Used:
Mini Pearl Trochus shells from

I purchased 4 bags, but 2 probably would have been enough. I sorted all my shells into piles according to size and condition; defective shells, xs size (these are about 3mm in length or smaller. Not many) small size (these are about 4-7mm long and what I chose to use for the costume) medium size, and large size.

Dye Used:
Jaquard Wood & Reed Dye from Dharma Trading Color Royal Blue
Dye Recipe

Step 1 -
Make a stock solution using 1/2 tsp of dye to 50 ml of water. You can keep this in a plastic container in the fridge for some time.
Step 2 -
Simmer (don't boil) the shells  for 2-3 minutes in a mixture of 1 tsp of vinegar, 1 cup of water, and a pinch of salt. Rinse well when you are done. I think this step just helps clean the shells and etch the surface a bit so it will take the dye better.
Step 3 -
Boil 400 ml of water. Remove from heat and add 8 tsp of vinegar & 12 ml of  Royal Blue stock solution. Add your shells to this bath and stir occasionally. Let sit for 30-40 minutes (the more time, the darker the color you'll get. But if they sit too long, the vinegar will start to dissolve your shells.).
Step 4 -
Spoon your shells out of the dye bath and place them in a clear warm water rinse bath. There will still be a lot of dye clinging to the shells and you don't want to disturb them. Let that dye continue to soak into the shells for 30-40 minutes.
Step 5 -
Drain the shells and place them in a new clear warm water rinse bath.  Let sit for about 40 minutes.
Step 6 -
Drain the sells again and let them rinse in one more warm water bath, agitating them occasionally to get them to release their excess dye. Every 40 minutes or so drain the shells and put into fresh rinse baths that contain some liquid dish soap to help clean them off and remove excess dye.
Step 7 -
After the shells are well rinsed (I usually let them sit over night), get a toothbrush and start scrubbing off any excess caked on dye. The inside of the shell seems to be the area it usually collects in. If you don't take off this dye you could run the risk of it eventually getting on the fabric of your costume.
Step 8 -
Let your shells dry for a day on a paper towel. They will look very dull and pale when they have dried. I sprayed mine with a little alcohol free silica hair shine solution, then patted them off with a wet paper towel so they wouldn't be too greasy. This shine is only temporary. If you let the shells sit for a few days to a week they will get dull again.

Drilling Holes
Drill holes in the shells to make them into beads. I used a dremel and a small model train drill bit size .021/75.  The drill bits are fragile. I broke one after drilling  a few hundred shells, so getting 2-3 is probably a good idea.

After you drill the holes you'll have a bunch of shell dust all over your shells. I used a combination of a dry toothbrush and an air can to clean off  all my shells.

Seal and Shine Shells

The dye used on the shells needed to be sealed in, otherwise if they ever got wet the color would bleed onto the fabric of the costume. I also wanted the shells  to look permanently shiny (the common practice of using mineral oil, baby oil, or silica spray to shine old dull shells would not be practical once the shells were all sewn onto the costume) I used Krylon Clear UV resistant spray in a gloss finish.

I strung my beads onto some thread - then tied either end of the thread to two bamboo planter stakes in the ground outside (like a tight rope with shells running across it). This way I could spray my shells at all angles, including inside.
padawansguidepadawansguide on April 28th, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
They look great! Mind if I post your little tutorial?
kay_dee70kay_dee70 on April 28th, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)
That's fine if you'd like to post it :) Although something tells me there must be an easier way to do this! LOL!
Yvettebelluthien on April 28th, 2006 03:32 am (UTC)
They look great! And, I don't think they will look too dark up against the fabric... just imho. ;D
kay_dee70kay_dee70 on April 28th, 2006 09:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, maybe when they are against the blue fabric they won't seem so dark. I didn't realize that the laquer would darken them as much as it did. I also wanted to make sure there was some amount of contrast, I want the beads to show up and not just match the fabric color. Oh well!
lordofhaladinlordofhaladin on April 28th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)
looks great!
Laura, the Goddess of Love and Light: costume padmegunslingerpadme on April 28th, 2006 05:07 am (UTC)
Once again, I am amazed by your dedication to detail. They look great!
kay_dee70kay_dee70 on April 28th, 2006 09:11 am (UTC)
Thanks, lets just hope I can get the rest of the costume to look good. I'm a little scared right now!
Rachel: Back to the Future - Great Scottmiana_dude on April 28th, 2006 08:46 am (UTC)
Wow. I don't think I've ever put that much work into.. anything. :-P

Can't wait to see this one finished!
kay_dee70kay_dee70 on April 28th, 2006 09:10 am (UTC)
Thanks - I'm just scared to discover how much work the other parts of this costume will be. The beads are the easy part!
cleopatramwicleopatramwi on April 28th, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC)
I think your hard work is worth it, they look great!
teh_pariah on April 28th, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
I swear, kay, you're scary. In a very cool way. :p
Cassandrapinkrouge on April 29th, 2006 12:55 am (UTC)
They look really good! Great work!
Taerieltaeriel on April 29th, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
They look great! I am utterly is awe of the amount of work you put into them... I mean, you did all of this for hundreds of shells?