I didn’t make it as big as the 70 squares I was intending to but I think it turned out well. I could probably add a border around sometime later but I’m happy with it being a foot blanket for the time being.
No matter how well sequins are stitched on they do have a tendency of falling off or working loose, I usually tie off the thread every three to four sequins to reduce the risk of this. This will also keep any repairs that are needed in the future to a minimum.
Most importantly when stitching sequins and especially the heavy coins and metal work use a good quality strong thread (I use gutterman or moon threads). To strengthen the thread again with out adding more strands run the thread across a block of beeswax this will help stop the thread from knotting and reduce friction so trims don’t wear though so easily.
While stitching the overlapping sequins I found they moved around a lot making it look messy, so I thought it was best to stitch an additional line invisible thread over the top of the sequins making them much more secure- invisible thread being transparent looks much nicer for this type of top stitching, as you can’t see it. Transparent thread does tend to knot easily while stitching an become loose while stitching as it has a certain amount of stretch. My only advice would be to use it in short sections and persevere, because the finished look will be worth it.
In the center of the bra there needed to be a hanging heart and chain loops.The heart just needed to be stitched securely, and the chains after deciding how long to drape them it is helpful to measure each point they are going to be attached to and how much chain will be in each loop.
The last trims to apply were the Kuchi triangles and gathered flowers. The triangles needed to again be pinned in place and adjusted until they were even, I stitched these down securely but left the chains at the bottom to hang freely.
Although these steps are the most rewarding, as you can finally see the costume coming together, they are the most time consuming. I have now finished all the bra trims and will in the next few posts take you though a few of belt trims as many are the same as the bra before we finish with the linings and finishing touches.
The bra and belt have a base cover and are strengthened ready for the trims and metal work. Adornments can really make a tribal belly dance costume stand out from the crowd. Here’s how I went about applying them for Lyza’s costume.
The side ties for the bra need to be added before any trims. In my pattern drafting post I described the necessity for strong stitching on the side ties as they will be taking most of the weight of the bra, you’ll want to get these out of the way before adding any of the trims.
Once you’ve cut out the straps, they can be lined – leaving an opening where they are to be attached to the bra. First the strap needs to be pinned in place and checked it is at the correct angle. Next stitch the strap to the bra, as this needs to be a strong join it is best to stitch it to the underwire casing of the bra. The casing is made of a strong woven fabric and shouldn’t rip or stretch over time. I usually use two strands of thread when stitching and stitch backwards and forwards a few times.
Taking some time to think about how the layers of trim will build up will help to ensure that nothing is missed out, overlap in the correct order. One of the worst things is attempting to slot something in or worst of all undoing work that has taken hours to complete!
For my trim layers I started with adding rivets to the bottom edge of the bra. These were a new adornment to me and took some time to get used to. They looked simple enough but ended up being a little more fiddly than I anticipated. They tend to pull and distort the fabric if you aren’t careful. In the end this was remedied with delicate placement of the rivet pins, so that the fabric is stretched sightly into the four pins before they are bent inwards.
The velvet trim edging the bra needed to be stitched in place next. Starting from the outside I pinned the velvet around the neckline ensuring it didn’t pull. At this stage it is important to do a lot of pinning to ensure the shape is correct as layer will be one of the most visible when the costume is complete.
To create the shaping around the neck I first turned under and pinned the velvet starting with the center front continuing all the way round and then secured it with small invisible slip stitches. The last step with the velvet was to fold the fabric up and over the edge of the bra and stitch it to the inside with a quick tacking stitch, there will be many other layers of stitching on top of this, so it wasn’t necessary to spend a great deal of time securing this part.
Next the heavy antique gold trim needed to be applied, again pinning was key to making sure that everything was smoothly attached.
After this was completed I could see the design starting to come through, and next to come was one of my favorite bits – sequins!
Last week we covered the production of a pattern for both the bra and belt. This week that pattern will be used for covering the bra and producing the belt.
After cutting the pattern out of the fabric the first step is to stitch both fronts together and stitch the darts in place. This is one of the few stages that can be completed using the sewing machine.
Now to attach the fabric to the bra, start by pinning the center-front working all the way around the cup. Finish by neatly folding the seam allowance inside and stitching in place.
The belt will need extra stiffening as it is going to have a lot of coins and heavy chains attached to it – to do this a layer of interfaced scrap fabric is used on top of the existing fabric. The scrap fabric will also give a weave to securely tie off any adornments. To encase all the edges inside, I stitched these two layers together leaving a gap at each end and turned through.
This leaves us with a fabric covered bra and a belt base to start applying adornments.
Following the last post covering the development of a bra base pattern, I’ll now discuss pattern drafting for the belt.
The best and most reliable way to make a pattern for a belt is to cut a strip of paper the width of the finished belt and long enough to go all the way around the dancer, overlapping a little. This is then taped around the dancer’s hips, it will stick out slightly in places (which we will correct in a minute).
Belly dance belts are usually worn just above the hips which is where most of the curving occurs. This means that for a belt to fit snuggly it needs to contour to the individual’s shape.
To make the belt lie flat against the body, darts and slits need to be added at points on the paper, usually you’ll need to add them to:
- Center back
- Back sides (between center back and side)
- Side fronts (between center front and side)
When complete cut the paper pattern off the body at center front.
This pattern can then be transfered to a new sheet, marking the size and position of the darts on the new sheet, smooth out any harsh curves and add a 1.5cm seam allowance all the way around. For this belt, I removed 3cm from either end so that the lacing would be more visible. The belt should now be curved to fit the figure of the dancer.
Just posted a few more hair falls in various colours on Etsy. These falls can also be custom order in any cololur and any length, just message me with details!
Last week we covered the importance of stabilising the bra and how to go about it.
This week I began developing the pattern for the halter top that would be attached over the top of the bra. This is a great way of adding base pattern before adding trims and embellishments which can really add to the finished look.
To begin pattern drafting you will need some scrap fabric – begin by pinning this to the bra in the same way as the interfacing layer starting in the center and working your way around each upper edge of the bra and darting where necessary. As I was creating a halter style bra I found the next step much easier to complete with a mannequin, but using the client would be just as beneficial if not more so. It is important that the halter straps lie at the correct angle to fit comfortably around the neck.
Once the scrap fabric is pinned flatly to the bra you need to begin marking out the shape of the halter as there are many different angles and curves that could be used. With the halter section it was necessary to shape the beginning of the straps so that they would taper down from the neck strap in one smooth curve. After you have decided on the shape the fabric can be cut along these lines and around the cup shape giving you a feel for the final design.
Next it is time to consider the back straps. There are a few ways of approaching these but for this design we have chosen to go with straps that tie at the centre back. This style is easily put together and allows the costume to fit regardless of weight fluctuations. From the edge of the cup the strap can be either straight or shaped depending on the style you want.
Make sure not to make the back straps too thin especially if the costume is going to be weighty as much of the weight will be carried by these as opposed to those around the neck.
This completes the drafting of the pattern, so all that is left to do now is to remove the fabric from the bra marking all the darts so that they can be easily transferred to the paper pattern for cutting.
Lay out the scrap fabric template on to the paper and pin it in place to stop it moving around. Transfer all the darts and trace the outer shape on to the pattern paper, this will give you a nice easy to understand pattern to work from. Once all this is done you will need to add seam allowance all the way around both the main bra and back strap pattern.
It is important that the back straps are separate from the main body of the bra as they will take a lot of weight in some cases and therefore will need a lot of securing. The best way of doing that is to stitch it on to the casing that holds the underwire. These are designed to take the force of the back straps supporting the bust, but I’ll cover this more thoroughly next week.
If you have any questions about bra pattern drafting get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
Last week I covered working with the client to produce a final design for the costume. This week I started the actual construction process of the costume with one of the most important steps to decorate a belly dance bra.
You need to start with a fairly sturdy underwired padded bra that fits well – the last thing you want to think about while performing is an uncomfortable/ill fitting bra.
The next step is to stabilize the bra before adding base fabrics or embellishments. This will give you a sturdy base on which to build and will ensure that the bra doesn’t collapse under the weight of all the trims. Tribal fusion coins or even bead work can end up being heavier than you’d imagine!
I usually find heavyweight interfacing to be the best way to do this. I used one layer for this costume because I intend to cover the bra with an extra layer of interfaced fabric. Some bras might need two layers especially if there’s going to be a lot of heavy trim or if the main outer fabric isn’t going to be stiffened.
While it’s not always necessary, I cut away the bra straps for this costume – I’ll be replacing them with a halter-style top later on. I then began to pin the interfacing in place around the outside of the bra.
Starting the pinning from the center between the cups up to the highest points where the straps are attached to the cups gives a nice clean edge to the inner curves. While pinning I made sure that the interfacing was smoothed and darted where necessary. You’ll usually find you need to a dart from the bust point to the lower outer edge of the underwire and another from just below the bust point to the bottom edge of the cup.
After pinning the interfacing it needs to be stitched in place, this will have to be done by hand starting with the darts and then working from the center of the bra all the way around the edge. Once this is done all the excess interfacing can be cut away. Be prepared for a lot of hand stitching while covering the bra – there isn’t much that can be done by machine.
Once all this is complete you’ll end up with a nice stable bra that’s now ready to have an outer fabric applied. Next week I’ll be drafting patterns for the bra and belt so that outer fabrics, lining and interfacing can be all cut to fit each other.
Thanks for Reading if you have any questions please let me know.
Lat week I covered the initial draft process – I came up with three designs that met Lyza’s criteria and gave a brief summary of them. This week I will be discussing how we came to the final design and where we go from here.
We arranged a meeting in a lovely cafe in Aberystwyth where I took along my designs, some fabric, and metal embellishment samples. We discussed her favourite elements of each design, the fabrics she liked and any other comments.
At this point make sure that your client knows that they are free to be harsh with their comments about the designs. This can teach you just as much about the design they want.
It turned out that we both liked design 2 the best but there was a few elements from the other designs that we mixed in to it to create the final design. In particular she loved the base fabrics, trims and chains from design 3.
The base fabric from the third design combined with the red velvet really jazzed up the bra and the tarnished sequins from the same design turned out to work really well lining the inner edge of the halter straps. Two changes that really made the design feel a lot more coherent.
To accentuate certain movements such as shimmies and flutters the chain configuration was just copied over from the third design. Chains are a great way to add movement to a costume – they are also great for a little bit of extra jingling.
It’s sometimes tempting to keep adding embellishments to a design, sure it’s nice to have a shiny full costume, but always try to keep a good balance between weight, cost and considered design. Too many bits can spoil the broth… or the costume.
The design really came in to its own this week – I feel like I have a clear grasp of where the costume is going and how it meets Lyza’s needs.
Next week I will be starting the costume! First step is to create patterns, buy materials and stabilize the bra.
If you have any questions about Week 2 get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve been a big fan of belly dance, particularly tribal-style since I was young – it’s inspired a lot of my costume creations including a few full belly dance costumes for myself, so I was really excited to be asked to create a bespoke costume for the dancer Lyza of Chthonia Bellydance.
I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to document the whole process from idea to creation here on my blog, sharing my process and hopefully some helpful hints and tips for making your own costumes. I’m hoping this will be a weekly thing as I work on the costume – this week I’ll start with the planning and design.
It’s really important that the costume you are creating is what the customer wants. Having a meeting with them is usually the best way to find out what they’re hoping to get out of it – whether they have any design preferences, a style of dance which the costume needs to work with, and most importantly, their personality and character as a dancer so the final design is something that represents and is unique to them - this is a custom costume after all.
One of the first things I did when designing the costume was to come up with a few initial drafts based on my chats with Lyza and from my impressions of her style. Her main criteria was to have something with an earthy look including reds, browns, and golds so my initial designs were largely based around these colours.
Its always a good idea to make sure that there is a good variety in your designs. Forcing yourself to think outside of that one image you have in your head will open up possibilities that you may not have thought about. you might even find that the client ends up liking this different direction too. There is also no harm in mixing and matching elements from each design so the more variety you have in the designs, the more options you and the client will have to decide from.
This design had a very flamenco styling to it – drawing from the frilly saloon girl designs used a few years ago by the Belly Dance Superstars tribal group. Layering harem pants over skirts gives a full look and an immense amount of movement during dancing.
By far my favourite design of the three. This uses the halter neck straps that are similar to other tribal fusion costumes and includes Kuchi Brasstone coins as opposed to the tarnished silver ones which seem to more widely available. I find these give a lovely rich feeling to the costume and are a great way to fulfill the need for gold.
I love the loose ruffled lacy fabric over the shoulder straps on this one, when you are creating a decorated bra, you don’t want it too look like a boring bra that came from a high street store, this is a great way to do that.
The hanging layered yarn threads and hip scarves create a more cutesy design than I was hoping for this costume.
The next step of the process is to work with Lyza on a final design that she is happy with. I’ll cove more about that in next weeks blog.
If you have any questions or comments on week 1 I’d love to hear them.