How to pick thread that matches your fabric

Picking a matching thread color

Many of the things that I learned when I started sewing come in handy time and time again. Picking the right shade of thread is one of those things. We all know how to pick an item: simply point and say: ‘I’ll take that one, please.’. But picking the right shade for your project is on a completely different level!

Choose the type of thread according to your fabric

Before you start, examine the fabric that you are using. For most projects, standard polyesther thread works fine for sewing things together. However, silk fabric needs to be sewn with silk thread for the best results, and if you are planning on beading fringe or sewing hooks and eyes in place, heavy duty button thread is a more suitable choice. I am very pleased with the thread from Guttermann, a German sewing company. It is expensive but worth it. With inexpensive thread, the thread break, knots, and the color might fade over time.

Bring the fabric with you when you go out shopping for thread: the best match can be made by day light and with the fabric placed underneath the thread. The trick of picking a shade that matches is by unwinding the thread and putting the thread on top of your fabric. Take a step back and see which thread is ‘dissappearing’ before your eyes. This will give you a good image of what the seam will look like. If the thread is nearly undiscernable when it is on top of the fabric, you have found your match!

As an example, I pulled out some purple chiffon and laid out four possible choices. You might notice that the top two are both suitable matches. In that case, go with your gut feeling. Either one would give great results when used.

Picking a matching thread color
Picking a matching thread color

Project: Moon goddess

Sketch for Moon goddess bellydance costume

Yup, I finished the black multi color costume and I decided to continue with stash busting. I always wanted to make a goddess type costume with flowing white chiffon and a lot of AB crystals. Through the years, I made several drawings and sketches, playing around with the design. This is my most recent sketch, I drew it by hand and did a bit of coloring with photoshop.

Sketch for Moon goddess bellydance costume
Sketch for Moon goddess bellydance costume

The bra ad belt will be covered with chiffon that has been pleated and sewn into place. The beaded trim is accenting the upper edge of the belt and lower edge of the bra. Some draped fabric hanging off the shoulder creates an interesting line and some movement from the shoulder strap. The general idea is Golden Era meets goddess. Since I am preparing a performance where I am symbolizing the moon, I’ll call this one the Moon Goddess costume.

The good news is that I have most of the materials already in my stash, probably because I collect fabric and beads like a squirrel collects nuts.

  • White felt that I can use for the belt base
  • White tricot fabric to cover the bra and belt base
  • Some scraps of white chiffon left over from student veils I made about a year ago
  • About two yards of rhinestone AB trim, bought from a Chinese store on eBay
  • Left over fringe pieces in bright silver, patent silver and white silver (yes, three different types of silver)

What do you think, should I use one type of fringe? two types? three types? and if I have to choose, which one would work best? I have a yard of each. Leave a comment below or on my facebook post.

Fringe for the moon goddess costume
Fringe for the moon goddess costume

Where to buy high quality beaded fringe

White silver rounded beads fringe

I get a lot of questions about where I buy my beaded fringe because it is hard to determine the quality of the fringe from a picture on a screen. In this post I gathered a couple of reliable vendors and websites that sell beaded fringe.

For American buyers

Pepper Alexandria on Facebook. Several of my friends bought fringe from her and they like the quality and service.

Horus and isis – Excellent quality beaded fringe. They have a minimum order of 150 usd but they are the genuine deal. Just look at that fringe.I have two pieces of fire fringe from Horus and Isis in my stash that I have big plans for. They also carry swagged fringe and various color combinations.

Turquoise International -Carries superb quality fringe with, unfortunatly, very high prices. I like browsing through their catalogue for inspiration.

Scheherezade Imports – They sell beaded fringe, and show on their website what’s in stock.

For European buyers

Since I am on the European side of the ocean, I’ve noticed that it is often cheaper and faster to buy directly from Egypt. Be careful through, the quality might vary. In my experience, the fringe I got through eBay is lower quality compared to the more expensive fringe I got from Sakkara seams to no longer carry costuming supplies. – Limited colors, but good quality and they are fast with shipping within the EU.

B3ad3d on eBay – A friend bought fringe here and was suprised by the nice quality. Don’t expect excellence for this¬† pricem he is trustworthy and ships from Egypt

Nadya’s Bazar – This is a German costumer who is selling her surplus stash. I have never bought from her but her website is fabulous, a great costuming resource. And someone who shows such meticulous attention and patience in her costuming is likely to use the same competence in selling her extra stash ūüôā

How to recognize good quality beaded fringe

Though there are no rules set in stone when it comes to costuming, I strongly believe that using good quality materials and supplies for your costume is the best decision you can make. I can’t make a long lasting high quality costume with low quality materials. What happens to costumes when they are made with low quality materials? The paint from the beads will soon start to flake, the glass beads will break, crystals get scratched and loose their shine, fabric will fray, tear or start to pill and your fringe will break and fall apart.

Breaded fringe is one of the most effective material to use in a bellydance costume and also the one that causes the most trouble when it breaks down. Stepping into tiny beads during a performance is painful and covering the stage with beads coming from your fringe can cause harm to other performers.

Wearing a costume will influence how quickly a costume is in need of repair, but choosing materials carefully before starting a project will keep the regular upkeep to a minimum.  I like to spend less time on costume upkeep and more time on dancing :-). When beaded fringe gets damaged, it looses fringe creating a bit of a jagged and sparse look. The little bit of wiggle room created by jagged edges on beads is allowing the beads to move around on the thread during movement, causing even more wear. Jagged edges also act like a mini knife (if you ever cut yourself on broken glass, you know what I am talking about) and slowely saw through the threads holding the fringe together. In the example below, you can see an example of what damaged fringe looks like.

Damaged beaded fringe
Damaged beaded fringe

The fringe in this image happens to be twenty year old high quality Egyptian fringe. Given the age and the amount of use and abuse, I’d say this fringe is holding up great. In fact, most of the fringe is in such a good state that I can reuse it into a new costume I am making.

What is beaded fringe?

One of the best time saving materials for costumers is (pre) beaded fringe. Beaded fringe is hand made and thus on the expensive side. If you compare the amount of beads that go into making the fringe and the amount of labor to make your own, beaded fringe is a steal. Not having to slave away hours and hours on beading your own is a big plus in my book!

The fringe is sewn to a heavy cord, allowing you to cut and sew the fringe on your costume as you see fit. The most common type of beaded fringe is straight fringe, in 4″ / 10 cm and 8 / 20cm length. Beaded fringe is usually knotted to a cord of approximately “1 yard/ 1 meter. For a belt, I use¬†approximately one piece and a bit for a size 12 /EU size 42 hips.

Beaded fringe is also available though less common as beaded swags, or in ‘triangle sets’. These triangle sets consist of two pieces for the belt and one for the bra, beaded small at the ends and long in the center, thus creating a triangle shape.

Triangle fringe sewn to the bra and belt
Triangle fringe sewn to the bra and belt

More rare but also available is pre beaded swagged fringe. Falling down in loops, these swags can be sewn to any costume in no time. The fringe is made of seed beads, which is a term used for all types and shapes of smaller sized beads. The beads can be rounded or tubular shaped. The beads used for Egyptian pre beaded fringe are usually glass beads lined with a reflective layer to increase the shiny effect of the fringe.

What fringe is best suited for a bellydance costume?

Different types of beaded fringe are available online. Personally, I stay away from the decorative beaded fringe that is sold in sewing shops. This type is meant to be decorative and won’t stand up to heavy use. I also stay away from plastic beaded fringe. Plastic beaded fringe is cheap and the luster will soon disappear from the beads. It is ofcourse totally up to you what type of beaded fringe you’d like to use in your costume and these types can certainly create stunning effects.

I prefer using Egyptian pre beaded fringe, as the quality is superb. Handpicking beaded fringe in Mahmoud’s store in Cairo is one of my favorite parts of a trip to Egypt. Since I can’t afford to go to Egypt twice a year, I resort to buying fringe from online stores and eBay. The subject of buying beaded fringe online deserves a post all by itself, so I’ll post more about it later.

How to recognize good quality beaded fringe

Buying online is always tricky, it is easier to determine quality when you can see the fringe up close and personal. However, with detailed pictures I can make a pretty close guess on how long the fringe will last. These are the things to look for:

– Beads. Check if the beads are straight cut on the edges. Sharp edged beads will slowly saw through the thread, causing the fringe to break. The beads should have straight edges, and there should be little to no broken beads in the fringe.

Difference between two strands of beaded fringe
Difference between two strands of beaded fringe

– Thread. The thread is heavy cotton thread, securely knotted on the bottom and the top. Do not trust fringe made with regular sewing thread and don’t make your own fringe with regular sewing thread.

– Knots. The knots are important, as they keep the fringe tied to the cord on one side, and it ties of the fringe on the other side. The knots should be tied, double knots. To make the fringe longer lasting, use cear nail polish to seal the knots by dabbing a bit on each and every one.

– Material. There is a use for every type of fringe, but glass fringe works best for the low light environment . The durability of glass is also much longer, which is why I prefer using fringe made from glass beads instead of plastic.

– Amount of fringes per inch / cm. Good quality beaded fringe has fringes that are set closely together, thus creating a curtain of fringe. An easy way to reduce the labor on beaded fringe is by creating bigger gaps between the individual fringes. This changes the look and feel of the costume completely: sparse fringe makes a costume look unfinished unless it is a well thought out design element.