Vintage Beaded Clutch Refurbishment

I made a resolution about a month ago, not to take on any more projects. I have far too many as it is. On the whole it has been great, I’m finishing plenty of old forgotten things. Unfortunately, a few days ago I saw a small, beat up, beaded clutch at an ARC thrift store. I tried to resist it. I swear to you, I tried. I looked it over, it need bead work, the lining was terribly stained, it was misshapen. I didn’t buy it, I walked out of ARC and spent the night thinking about. The next morning I went back, and bought the damn thing. Here it is:

It was missing quite a bit of beading along the top. It was also discolored. The lining was terribly stained.

However, I could see how beautiful and glamorous looking it would be if restored to its former glory. So I jumped enthusiastically into fixing this bedraggled clutch.

Firstly, I removed the metal hardware from the bag, then the terrible old satin lining.



At this point I cleaned the beaded outer shell in tepid water with a bit of soap and minimal agitation. I did all the cleaning and rinsing in a bucket just in case I lost some beads. I also cleaned and polished the metal hardware. If you have an old beaded bag you want to clean, make sure there is no cardboard inside the lining, use tepid water and minimal soap. A soft toothbrush can help remove dirt and grime from between the beads. To dry the bag use small hand-towels inside to maintain the right shape, and check occasionally to insure it is drying correctly.

Back to my bag, the outer shell was missing plenty of beads, most from the top where someone would grip the clutch. There were three types of beads all an opaque milky white, but the only ones I could find at Hobby Lobby that matched were the tiny 11/0 seed beads. I decided to change the pattern on the top designs and fill them in with the tiny seed beads. In this way I could remove the remaining large beads and use them to fill in the pattern on the rest of the bag. Here are my beading supplies:

As you can see I bought beige colored cotton thread, because the original thread was discolored and this matched better than bright white thread would. Here are a couple of links that explain how to bead onto fabric:

  • A pdf from Timeless Creations, which explains the basic procedure and supplies to bead on fabric: here.
  • A video, and link to printable instructions on how to bead from Beads East: here.
  • Another pdf, that goes over types of beads for sewing with and other tips from here.
  • Instructions for crocheting with beads from here.
  • Instructions for cross-stitching (scroll down the page a little) with beads from Thread Needle Street: here.

One tip that really saved me from frustration, was to apply tape to one finger on my left hand. It makes picking up and threading multiple seed beads infinitely easier.

Here are close up shots of one of the top medallions that I re-beaded.



It took a couple of days to finish re-beading the bag. I was very happy with the results. The new bead configuration is hardly noticeable and all the beads are tacked down securely. Plus I have tons of seed beads left over… beaded tank top neck maybe??

For the lining, I used the old pieces of satin as a pattern and cut new pieces out of some lovely houndstooth patterned wool I bought second-hand a few months ago.

I chose not to add pockets, partly because the clutch is so small I feared pockets would pull at the sides too much and because wool pockets would be very chunky. In the next pictures you can see I reinforced the sides of the lining with fusible interfacing, but I hated the way they shaped the bag, and I removed them later.


Here the lining is pinned and then hand-stitched to the beaded bag shell.


The metal hardware was originally covered with satin and then the satin was stitched onto the bag. To make the task roughly a billion percent easier I wrapped the metal with thin black ribbon. This way I didn’t have to sew on fabric, or cut holes for the clasp, or anything! I just hot glued the end of the ribbon on to the metal and started wrapping.

The hardest part of this refurbishment by far, was hand sewing the hardware back into the bag. It required a lot of re-positioning, since I couldn’t pin it to anything and the bag had to be stretched as I sewed to cover the metal correctly. However, in the end I managed it. The finished clutch:


I love how just a thin line of black can be seen when the bag is shut, and I love the luxurious feel of the wool lining. Another plus about the wool, it’s so plush that you can’t see the shape of the items in the bag. I can’t wait to carry this thing around with me, hopefully it will serve the dual purpose of reminding me not to take on anymore superfluous projects and being absolutely gorgeous.

Love this project? Like vintage beaded bags? Trying to fix one of your own? Tell me about it, by leaving a comment!

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  1. Molly says:

    I love what you did to restore and add some modern flare to this clutch!

    I am getting married June 2014 and am thinking of unique gift ideas for my bridesmaids. Would you be able to do some custom clutches for me?


  2. Jeanniya says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey and thorough process to restore this beautiful piece! I to last week bought this clutch like looking beaded/sequence piece. It was for $5 but I bargained the employee for $3 cause that’s all I really had and she gave it to me for $2 -I couldn’t find the other dollar. .. so I’m researching the Internet and I found you and this helps me alot. So thx again for sharing. I would love to show you a pic of it. I think you would talk in love with this piece too:) happy holidays

  3. Yumi Kane says:

    This is amazing! I love looking for vintage things and trying to refurbish them for personal use but didn’t even occur to me that you could fix all the beading by taking the frame out. You did an amazing job, it looks like the top part was meant to be patterned that way…. I’m going to try it too!!! 🙂

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