My friend C~ found a beaded bag at an antique store that is going out of business. It was only $2.00 so she bought it for the beads. Then she offered me half of it! I got the handle and one side panel. That's what you see in the center of the picture, on the white tray she also gave me. Off to the left you see the pile of scraps I've been working with most recently.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday taking the beads off what was the handle of the bag. First I pulled out the cording around which the beads were wrapped. The beads seemed to be stitched to a piece of fabric that was then wrapped around the cording. I had to cut each bead off individually. I couldn't find the stitch pattern to reverse sew them (which I thought might be quicker and less tedious).
This is what was leftover when I finished with it:
Then I started taking off the coppery beads that made up the flowers on the side panel of the bag. That was a much faster process, and I didn't even think about reverse sewing to get them off. They are loose enough that it's easy to slip the scissors underneath and cut the threads. This is how far I got before I quit for the day:
Now I'm off to finish the job!