Q: What is Soutache?
A: Soutache (pronounced SOO-tash), also referred to as "Russia braid," is a common element in the French art of passementerie. Developed in the 16th century, passementerie encompasses a wide range of trims, braids and tassels used as decoration on haute couture, draperies and furnishings. To make the “galoons” most often seen on military uniforms, swirls of soutache are stitched flat. In Soutache & Bead Embroidery, however, lengths of soutache are "stacked" to create a more solid visual element and a stable base for the addition of beads.

Soutache can be curved and shaped into many patterns and because it is essentially a textile, soutache jewelry has two wonderful properties; it is extremely light-weight and, like a well-made piece of clothing, it will conform to the wearer’s body.

Q: What are the differences between the different types of Soutache?

A:

BeadSmith brand Soutache is:

  • made of either poylester or rayon depending on the color  - in this line, polyester braids are matte and rayon braids are shiny
  • braided more tightly than Imported Soutache - this makes it...slightly "smaller" (see fig. 1) - BeadSmith brand Soutache works extremely well if you are interested in incorporating smaller beads that may otherwise be dwarfed or "swallowed" by the Imported Soutache
  • very consistently sized - made for jewelry designers by jewelry designers
  • less apt to fray
  • rayon colors pair well with Luxury Italian Soutache


Imported Soutache is:

  • made of polyester - very shiny
  • braided less tightly than BeadSmith brand or Luxury Italian Soutache - this makes it...slightly "larger" (see fig. 1) - Imported Soutache works extremely well if your are interested in incorporating larger beads (Domestic Soutache can "slip behind" larger beads in a design)
  • more apt to fray (leave more "tail" when trimming Soutache ends and/or dab ends with glue after trimming)


Luxury Italian Soutache is:

  • made of acetate - this very shiny
  • braided more tightly than Imported Soutache - this makes it...slightly "smaller" (see fig. 1) - Luxury Italian Soutache works extremely well if you are interested in incorporating smaller beads that may otherwise be dwarfed or "swallowed" by the Imported Soutache.
  • extremely consistent in both size and drape
  • less apt to fray
  • pairs well with rayon colors of BeadSmith brand Soutache


Metallic Soutache is:

  • made of combinations of polyester, rayon, Lurex and other materials - this makes it
  • Less consistent than non-metallic Soutache - some colors are narrower and sized more like BeadSmith brand Soutache, some colors are wider and sized more like Imported Soutache
  • A bit more delicate - the wide, flat fibers that are used to give this type of soutache its metallic sheen can break if a needle is driven through them resulting is small snags. Take your time when working with this material - "twist" your needle to work it past and around the metallic fibers rather than pushing through them


Imported Soutache is slightly larger and thicker than BeadSmith brand or Luxury Italian Soutache. See the figure on the right. The Imported Soutache is a scant wider than 1/8". The BeadSmith brand and Luxury Italian Soutache is a scant more narrow than 1/8"


This may seem like a miniscule difference but it can dramatically affect the look of an overall piece.
 
See the second figure on the right. the piece on the left is three layers of Imported Soutache worked around a 4mm bead. On the right, three pieces of BeadSmith brand wrapped around the same size bead. In the middle, three pieces of  Luxury Italian. See the difference?

The different types of soutache can be used together - it is harder and more complicated but can be rewarding. ARwS recommends keeping smaller braids near the top and/or bottom of
the "stack" so that it does not get "swallowed" by the Imported Soutache. We also  recommend the most tried- and-true method; trial and error.


Amee Runs With Scissors
Soutache & Bead Embroidery ​Jewelry, supplies, education & inspiration