December 22, 2013


My friend Julia brought me this sweet evening bag made by the designer Judith Leiber, in need of repair.  An image search for "Judith Leiber bags" will bring you to a fantasy land of rhinestone-encrusted little bags. 

This one is quite tame by comparison, but I find it very classy and elegant.  It's two bags, one silver-tone and one gold-tone, attached to one another.  There's a double strap with each color of leather.  The closures are coin purse style baubles with gold and clear stones.  They were missing quite a few rhinestones. 

I ended up learning a cool new technique to add to my bag of tricks.

An internet search brought me to a shop called Mimi's Gems.  I could order single stones there (unlike places with a minimum of a dozen or a gross.)  So I ordered a few single stones to make the best match of colors.  On top of that, the overall service was spectacular, with virtually instant replies to all my questions, and then, the best instructions for applying these teeny little stones.  What could have been a headache of glue and poor stone placement turned out to be one of the most fun projects I've done in a long time!  Big thanks to Melanie at Mimi's Gems.

Supplies: beeswax, stones, epoxy, foil, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, toothpicks

I spread out some stones on a little piece of velvet.  (My husband's uncle the watchmaker did that when working with all his little, bitty watch parts, in the long ago when watches had moving parts.)  I turned the stones all right-side up for easy handling.

Also, I made a little ball of beeswax and stuck it onto the tip of a toothpick.  This is where the fun begins!  

The epoxy, if you've never used it, is a two-part glue that doesn't become active until the parts are mixed.  That's what the foil is for, and the toothpicks. 

First, spread on a bit of glue with a plain toothpick.

Use the toothpick with the beeswax tip to pick up a stone.  A light tap on a stone sticks it to the wax.  

It's super easy to carry it over to the purse.  A light tap on the glued area grabs the stone off the beeswax.  A little gentle nudging can line it up just where you want it.

The glue sets up pretty quickly, so mix it just a bit at a time.  When it starts to get too tacky to get on and off the toothpick easily, mix up a new little batch.

Here are the before and after looks:

It was so fun!  I was really sorry when the project was over.  Oh, the alcohol and cotton balls are for cleaning up any stray glue that might get on the setting.  I found it also nice to wipe my fingers occasionally.

Here are a couple of portraits of the lovely little bag.  See more details, and even buy it, at Julia's shop, Basya Berkman Vintage

March 2014 update:
This little purse is in the spotlight - picked by Refinery29 as a top vintage find on Chicago Etsy.  Yea!

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