Sewing bias tape to the edge of a veil

It’s recital time in my neck of the woods, otherwise known as ‘validating that I really need this many belly dance costume items by letting my students wear them’. It’s also an excellent opportunity to buy or make something new. 

This year my students got the colorscheme ‘blue and purple’. I dug up all my blue and purple items and started fixing things.

First up was a blue and purple changeant organza veil with bias tape edging. It is lovely but one pf the edges started to fray and the bias tape started to come off. An excellent opportunity to write about using bias tape to finish the edge of a veil.


Adding biastape is only useful if the veil itself is not weighed down too much by the edging. For example, a delicate silk veil woul become harder to handle with cotton or satin biastape along the edge. For organza, it really helps to get a better grip on the veil and to prevent ugly hems. Rolled hems on organza often look a bit rough. 

For edging the veil, use a zig zag stitch all around the veil to capture the fraying threads along the edge.


Take the bias tape (this is satin bias tape) and carefully fold and pin it along the edge. This might take a while. 


Sew along the edge of the bias tape, capturing the edge of the veil between the tape. Go slowly and make sure you’re sewing through both sides of the tape. Check for missed spots and fix them by sewing over the biastape again, slightly closer to the edge and this time surely capturing both sides of the tape.


There you go, one neatly edged veil, ready to go!

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Pattern storage

January is almost over and I am now writing the first blog of 2016. Life with a baby is very different and we are immensly enjoying her rapid changes and new skills. This also means less time for other things.

In order to keep on costuming I started organizing my patterns so they are easy to find. I kept tissue patterns that I made in the past in see through binders with a short note. This made it harder to find patterns or sometimes the pattern pieces would not be in the same binder, or the note was wrong. 

To make life easier I threw out patterns that didn’t make sense anymore and started adding pages with information to the patterns that I kept. The page contains at least the following information:

  • Drawing of the finished garment
  • Description of the pattern
  • If possible origin of the pattern
  • Amount of fabric needed
  • The date when I made the pattern
  • Personal notes and experience on making the pattern

I didn’t get everything done yet, but what I have so far looks pretty neat.

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It helps me to find the right pattern in a blink and gives me a good overview of how much material I need. This year I’ll be working on reducing my fabric stash, finishing projects that are halfway done and work on the projects that I already have the materials for.

For example, there’s a big pile of chiffon scraps from making circle skirts in 2015 that I want to turn into veils, wrap tops and practice skirts. The gold metal mesh costume is geting along nicely and I have a bit of printed jersey left from the peacock dress that I want to turn into a practice top. I have my work cut out for me!

How to avoid breaking sewing machine needles

Broken needle

I was talking to a friend a while back, who used a sewing machine for the first time in her life and promptly broke two needles. ‘Obviously me and sewing machines don’t go together‘ she commented. Hang in there! breaking needles is common and there are things you can do to prevent it. I too broke a fair share of sewing machine needles in the past decades and I know how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a seam and break a needle. In high school one of my teacher said that a sewing machine is heavy machinery and users should wear glasses at all times to protect against needles flying around. I took that with a grain of salt: once you get the hang of it, you’ll experience less and less breaking needles.

It just takes a bit of time to understand your machine and why it’s acting up. This blog names a couple of common causes, plus solutions. If you happen to break needle (I just broke one yesterday), remember that it’s a great way to figure out what went wrong and improve your skills. Even the most expierenced people break a needle every now and then!

Thread your machine correctly

This is one of the most common mistakes and also the cause of uneven stitching, the thread looping while sewing or even breaking. The first step of trouble shooting is rethreading the machine, taking a fabric scrap and testing to see if the stitches improved. This includes threading the upper thread and the lower thread. Also check if the spool is correctly spinning on the spool pin: if the thread is getting stuck or the spool is jumping up and down, secure the little holder on the top so it spins evenly.

Pushing or pulling the fabric while sewing

Every machine has a little transport system right underneath the foot. Those tiny moving teeth transport the fabric at the correct speed. When pushing or pulling at the fabric while sewing the needle is dragged out of position, causing it to break. Use your hands to guide the fabric so it is fed through your machine, but don’t push or pull. As an example, use a scrap of fabric and sew a couple of stitches without using your hand to guide the fabric. The seam might get a bit wonky if the fabric happens to turn or angle but the stitches will be neat and even. Use your hands to guide hte fabric through at the correct angle while sewing to make sure your follow the edge of the seam, nothing more, nothing less. Let the machine do the work for you!

Different needles for different fabrics

A universal sewing needle can get you a long way but it might have trouble with difficult fabric like denim, multiple layers, reinforced fabric, sequinned fabric, leather, pleather and tightly woven fabric. That’s why there is a huge selection of needles available, suitable for different fabrics. Your gut feeling might be to buy the biggest, strongest needle available when you’ve broken a needle. Don’t! Take a bit of your fabric with you to the store and ask someone to help you select the correct needle for your project. A slim needle might punch through your heavy fabric without any trouble, while big needles break.

As a sewing staple, I always keep the following needles in my stash:

  • Standard sewing machine needles 70-100 – There are various brands out there, use whatever feels good. When you have no clue what needle to use for your project, start with these. 70-100 refers to the size: play safe and start with a size in the middle. Use the smaller ones  for light fabric, and the bigger ones for heavier fabric. For the record, size refers to the width of the needle: all needles are a standard length.
  • Jersey or stretch needles – They have a ballpoint shaped tip, that won’t damage stretch fabrics when sewing. Useful for sewing tricot/jersey/lycra/stretch velvet
  • Denim/jeans needles – It’s sharper and is modified to create better stitches on denim, canvas, upholstery, leather and vinyl

The needle is damaged or flawed

When dutting down a tree, the axe dulls. The same goes for needles: if a needle has been used for a while, it dulls. As a result, it will no longer punch the fabric with easy, miss a couple of stitches, create uneven stitches or break. The needle might also be bend or damaged, either because it’s used or because the needle is a cheaper kind and is flawed during the production proces. Test a needle before starting on your project on a scrap of fabric, or replace your needle after every three projects and throw the old one away.

Broken needle

Sewing over pins

It makes sense that a sewing machine is not desinged to sew through pins. When I’ve pinned fabric into place, I always carefully remoe the pins while sewing, right before the fabric is sewn. A missed pin can cause a broken needle, but it can also bring your needle out of position, which is a Bad Thing.

Your needle is out of position

Sit behind your machine, put a needle in and bring the needle down by hand. The needle should go neatly into the designated slot. If it doesn’t match up, use the controls on your machine to reposition the needle. Use google to find the manual that belongs to your machine if you don’t know where the controls are. I prefer to bring my machine in for a check up every one or two years or so, at the store. Consider it a MOT test for your machine 🙂

That’s all for now. I’ve reached the last month of my pregnancy and get increasingy tired, so the freequency of my posts is going down. I am still sewing though and have plenty of inspiration for new posts.

Read more:

Needle classification

Why does my sewing machine needle keep on breaking?

I am  a professional bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. I’ve been sewing and crafting stuff for over twenty years, for theaters, dance costumes, historic costumes and regular clothes.. If you enjoyed this post and like to kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook and I might write a blog post to answer your costuming question.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

How to finish a straight seam

Seam with zig-zag stitch

I’ve been working on the Moon Goddess costume as my performance is due next Saturday. I finished a double layered white chiffon circle skirt that is part of the Goddess costume. It is now hanging upstairs, waiting to be danced in. The belt is mostly done and is ready for fringe and more rhinestones. I’ll post a costume project update later this week.

While making the skirt, I took a couple of close-ups to show you how to finish a straight seam with a regular sewing machine.

What does an unfinished seam look like?

Unfinished seams in a finished costume are a sign of poor workmanship. The purpose of finishing a seam is

  1. to reinforce the seam: if the seam rips, at least the finish will help to keep things together;
  2. to prevent the fraying, which will lead to damage to your seam in the future;
  3. to prevent burlign of the seam creating bulges and uneven lines;
  4. to flatten the seam and make the seam as invisible as possible;
  5. to clean up the interior of your project. It just looks better.

Finishing a seam if a proces that is almost identical for most fabrics. I use this techinque for almost all fabric types and it creates supple, neat, flat seams. Keep in mind that it works best for straight seams!

Seam with selfedge
Seam with frayed edge on the top

Let’s get started

Make sure you’ve stitched all the neccesary pattern pieces together and you’re ready for finishing your seams. Most patterns include a seam allowance of 2 cm. 4/5″. This leaves quite a wide seam on the inside of your garment that needs to be taken care of.  The first step is taking a pair of fabric sciccors and trim the seam allowance back to about 0.5 cm – 1 cm/ 1/5″-2/5″.

Trim seam allowance
Trim seam allowance

Get your sewing machine out and choose a wide zig-zag stitch. My machine is automatically set to a seam length of 2 mm and a width of 3 mm. Feel free to experiment a bit with what suits you best: for example, a 5-6 mm wide sig zag also gives a nice finish. Stitch over trimmed edges of the seam, catching both layers with the same stitch.

Seam with zig-zag stitch
Seam with zig-zag stitch

The end result is a narrow seam with a neat finished. Sometimes small threads of the fabric escape from the seam: use scissors to trim it down.

Finished seam
Finished seam

I am  a bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. I enjoy blogging and I have big plans for the future with regards to writing and publishing books and such. All that, and a full time day job too! If you enjoyed this post and like to kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook and I might write a blog post to answer your costuming question.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Black multi color costume part 5: the armbands

Finished arm bands

The black multicolor costume is well on it’s way. I made a new belt base, a bra base, I decorated the bra and lined it. Before continuing with the belt I needed a short project with a quick result. The key to keeping yourself motivated for complicated sewing projects is by cutting it into smaller chunks. Every time I finish a chunk, I remind myself how I am getting closer to the ultimate goal of creating a completely new costume.

So, I decided to work on the matching armbands. The original costume had arm bands made of stretchy sequin ribbon. For the remake I wanted something that mirrored the scallops on the belt and that showcased the bright jewels. I didn’t feel like taking the high road by carefully creating a paper pattern, instead I took a marker and drew the shape of the armbands on white felt and cut out two of the same shapes.

The outline of the armbands on white felt
The outline of the armbands on white felt

I covered both shapes with black lycra by pinning the lycra into place and using the sewing machine to stitch it together.

The armbands covered in lycra
The armbands covered in lycra

I then continued with ading the sequined fabric on top. Using a zig zag stitch to attach the fabric to the armbands, I then cut off the remaining sequined fabric. Watch me go crazy by taking this picture on the diagonal instead of horizontal.

Armbands covered in sequinned fabric
Armbands covered in sequinned fabric

The beading is similar to the bra: I added rope beading along the edges and stitched jewels edged in pearl in the center of the bands. I left the ends of the armbands unbeaded on purpose, to make it easier to attach black elastic. I cut out two pieces of lining big enough to line the arm bands.

Armband on a piece of lining material
Armband on a piece of lining material

In order for the fabric to follow the scallops, I needed to make a couple of cuts to create ease in the lining fabric. I made cuts at the places where the fabric might be tense, where the design dents inward.

Small cuts to allow for ease
Small cuts to allow for ease

I pinned the lining to the armband with a couple of pins in the center, then started pinning and folding the lining to make it follow the scalloped edges of the design. I started out in the center and worked outwards. As you can see, I am still pinning constently from the outside inward. Consistency in the work proces helps to create consitent quality in the finished product. In other words: once you find out what works for you to create a high quality costume, make sure to stick with it every step of the way.

Manipulating the lining to follow the scallops
Manipulating the lining to follow the scallops

 

Once pinned, you can already see what the end result will look like.

Lining completely pinned to the arm band
Lining completely pinned to the arm band

With sewing the lining down, I left the side parts open, leaving a gap for the black elastic. In essence this is not neccesary, the elastic could just as easily be sewn on top of the lining and the arm band would have been fine. I made this choice because I like the look where the edges of the elastic are hidden behind the lining. Here I am poking the hole with a pen to show you what it looks like, as black on black was hard to photograph :-).

The gap left open for elastic
The gap left open for elastic

All I needed to do was find a piece of black elastic, shove it between the lining on both side and pin it. I tried it on for size and adjusted the elastic accordingly before stitching it into place.

Elastic pinned to the arm band
Elastic pinned to the arm band

 

Finished arm bands
Finished arm bands

 

Weehee! I am happy with finishing these and I am continuing with the belt.

Black multi color costume part 4: lining the bra

Using a hemming stitch to attach lining

“Show me the inside of your costume and I will tell you who you are”  ~ Kyria

A costume can be worn without a lining but I personally like the satisfied feeling of hiding all the stitches and loose threads. There really is no reason why I shouldn’t put in the effort, after hours and hours on working on creating the costume and adding the beadwork. Besides covering up the stitches of your beading, it protects your bra from sweat and stains, it makes it more comfortable to wear and it gives you a place to put your label in.

I ordered my first set of labels in 2005 and am currently using a second set, in gold thread. Gold thread is not very practical and it is hard to photograph, however I couldn’t resist it. I really get a kick out of making a costume from scratch and putting my label in is a nice way to mark my work. In this case, I sewed the label to the lining of the side strap before hand stitching the lining into place.

Lining is easy and can be done with any size or shape of the bra. Bella lines her elaborate cut-out bra and belt sets and I did something similar with the pink Turkish costume that I made. It is a matter of pinning the lining fabric to your project with a couple of pins in the middle of the item. Then slowely working along the edge, carefully folding, tucking and pinning the fabric. I always pin from the outside to the inside as it prevents the pins from scratching my hands when sewing.

 

With a slipstitch, secure the lining into place. I prefer small stitches but if you are in a hurry, big stitches will also hold. When it comes to the order of lining, I usually choose:

  1. lining the side straps;
  2. lining the bra cup connector;
  3. lining the shoulder straps;
  4. lining the cups.

First, cut out enough fabric to line the part that you are working on (in this case, a side strap)

Pinning lining to a bra side strap
Pinning lining to a bra side strap

You’ll notice that I always pin from the outside and the sharp part of the pin faces inward. This deliberatly: it reduces the risk of scratching myself on pins and it is easier to pull the pins out while sewing. Continue tucking the lining fabric inward untill it is compeltely pinned down.

Completely pinned lining to a bra side strap
Completely pinned lining to a bra side strap

Small detail: I attached the hook and eye closure earlier in the proces and I am sewing the lining overthe points where the hook is attached. If I ever need to change the closure, most of the times tha hook stays put and it is the eye that has to be moved. I also like this method because it create a neater overall look of the costume. After pinning, I use a hemming stitch. I prefer small, tidy stitches (I start to think there’s a theme in here somewhere) but bigger stitches will also work. Sewing and costuming is all about what works. As long as it keeps the fabric in place, don’t worry about the size or neatness of your hand sewing.

Using a hemming stitch to attach lining
Using a hemming stitch to attach lining

 

I pull out the pins while I work and since a hemming stitch is really fast, I usually finish lining a bra strap in about fifteen minutes. I proceed with lining the bra cup connector and shoulder straps. For the bra cups I use a slightly different approach.I cut out a square piece of fabric and start pinning where the bra cup and connector meet.

Pinning lining a bra cup
Pinning lining a bra cup

 

I’m left with a flap of fabric, running from the apex of the cup to the side of the cup. I fold this inward (I rarely cut the fabric, as it isn’t bulky) and pin it down. I like to pin both sides before sewing it into place, to even out the seams a bit. As a check, I push my closed fist into the cup. The lining fabric should not be tense in any part. If you feel tension, remove the pins on the outside, give a bit more room and repin.

Lining pinned to a bra cup including the inside seam
Lining pinned to a bra cup including the inside seam

Afterwards I bask in the glow of a job well done and every time I wear one of my home made costumes, I am glad I took the time to add lining.

 

10 costuming rules that work

My white flower fairy costume from 2001.

When it comes down to costuming, there are no hard and fast rules that work for every project. Costuming is about what works for you. Different types of costuming require different choices in design and material. A costume made for a one time wear during a renfair is different from a (belly) dance costume that has to withstand years of vigorous dance performances. I started at a young age with making clothes for my dolls. When I was sixteen, I made clothes for myself instead. I have made retro dresses in fiftees and sixtees style, went through a phase where I would make a lot of tie-dye and flared pants, made a truckload of Gothic clothes (never cut black velvet in a house with carpeting. Really.) ventured into historical costumes and made medieval dresses, corsets and Victorian outfits. For the past fifteen years most of my projects were bellydance costumes. In short, I did a whole lot of sewing and costuming and I developed a couple of rules that work for me. Take advantage of my mistakes and try the following rules when you’re on your next project.

My white flower fairy costume from 2001.
White flower fairy costume from 2001.

1. Use high quality material for time intensive costumes. You don’t want to spend many hours on a costume, only to have it fall apart after your first performance

2. Make costumes that can be adjusted for size. When I started costuming, I was an A cup. Years later, I wear a C cup. I always make my bellydance bra one cup size bigger and leave a bit of overlap in my belt. It takes just a little bit of extra effort to create a costume that can be adjusted to size changes. You’ll get more wear out of your costume and it will be easier to sell.

3. Work tidy. I am not referring to your workspace because mine is a mess, but to your sewing. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well, tidy stitches will hold a long, long time.

Victorian fantail skirt
Victorian fantail skirt and a pvc corset.

4. No sewing after 23.00. Most of my errors in judgement were made after 23.00 when I was too tired to think straight or work tidy (see nr. 3).

5. Don’t wear clothes in the same color as the costume you are sewing. For example, working on a black costume while wearing black pants and black t-shirt. Way too easy to stitch things together that shouldn’t.

6. Always work with good light. Daylight is best but if that is not available, make sure your workspace is well lighted. Save your eyes, you’ll probably want to use them later in life too.

7. Take breaks. It is tempting to keep on costuming because you’re soooo close to finishing your costume. A break will allow you to rest your hands, back and head and place things into perspective. Also see rule 4. As a life long costumer I can tell you that you might finish this costume, but there will always be a next project right around the corner so don’t rush it.

8. A quick trick to check if your design is balanced is by looking at it through a reflection in the mirror.

9. Think before you act. I spend many hours on sketching and planning a costume before actually making it. The times that I rushed into it, I regretted some of the choices I made and had to go back and fix it. Save yourself the effort and think it through before you start.

10. Enjoy the proces. Costuming takes time, so make sure you are enjoying yourself. I like to settle on the couch, watching movies or series with one eye while beading my way through another inch of rope beading. With a nice pot of tea within arms reach and no dead lines, I can relax and let my mind relax too. After finishing the project I can look back on hours that I spent being happy and relaxed, and a costume imbued with good mojo.

Those are my ten rules for costuming. What are yours? Leave your reply in the comments or on facebook!

How to add elastic to non-stretch arm bands

Arm band without and with elastic

Most bellydance costumes come with accesoires, like arm bands, gauntlets or sleeves. The past couple of years I was short on time so instead of making my costumes, I bought a couple and those costumes came with arm bands. Arm bands that, despite the addition of a bit of elastic, wouldn’t stay on my arms.

As this is a common problem, I’ll show you how I add elastic to non-stretch arm bands hoping that it will save you time and frustration with your own costuming endeavours.

What do you need?

The arm band(s)

Matching thread

Elastic, width should fit within your arm band

A couple of pins

A (wine) bottle

You could use any bottle, but it happens that the wine bottle was the first one available.

Red thread and pins
Red thread and pins

Take the wine bottle and place it in front of you. Take the arm band, flip it inside out and put it on top of the wine bottle. Pull it down until it is fully stretched, like so.

Arm band on wine bottle, notice the start of the 'thread casing' of the elastic on the left.
Arm band on wine bottle, notice the start of the ‘thread casing’ of the elastic on the left.

Pin the elastic in place, thread your needle and create a ‘thread casing’ for the elastic by taking the needle across, pushing it through the fabric and emerging a couple of mm to the left of where you entered te fabric. Rinse, repeat. Here’s a drawing in an attempt to better explain what to do, but from a left hand perspective.

Creating a 'thread casing' for elastic
Creating a ‘thread casing’ for elastic

Continue sewing all around the arm band. In the end, pull the elastic taut and sew into place. Put the arm band on your arm before cutting the exces elastic off to make sure it is the right fit. On the outside the armband will look identical, but on the inside it now contains elastic that will keep it secure on your arm.

Arm band without and with elastic
Arm band without and with elastic

That’s it for today, keep on dancing and see you next time!

Adding wire to bra edge

Wire attached to bra covered with bias tape

The key to a flattering costume is that it fits you like a glove. That’s why edges of bra’s and belts are often reinforced with metal wire. Without this reinforcement, the edge would gap and fabric would fold or stand away from the body. This technique has been used by many costumers in various styles of costuming but it is infamous for Turkish costumes. Whimsical cut-outs, flourishes around the edges, all of these made possible by a simple piece of wire.

I like to use garden wire, as it is strong, flexible and easy to use. I would not recommend this type of wire for parts of the costume where it can easily be bend out of shape. For example, decorative curls and flourishes that are added underneath the bra or to the shoulder straps should be made with a stronger wire that holds it shape. For bra and belt edges, the garden wire is perfect. You can use it to reinforce a straight edge or follow a shaped edge by bending the wire into shape and sewing it down with a whip stitch. I decided to add wire to this bra because I wanted it to function as a strapless costume bra. When it comes to strapless, I’d like to have all the reinforcement I can get.

Why is the end of the wire bent? To keep the wire from poking out of your bra and into your flesh. It also provides an extra point to secure the wire into place and prevent it from twisting, so take your time and secure it well. I took this picture over five years ago when I was still making angles at the end of the wire to keep it in place. I don’t do that anymore, instead using pliers to create a spiral at the end. It is easier to secure and stays in place really well.

First step of adding wire to a bra edge: carefully fold or roll the end of the wire into a spiral and tack it into place.
First step of adding wire to a bra edge: carefully fold or roll the end of the wire into a spiral and tack it into place.

Once you’ve determined the total length of the wire, cut it off slightly longer than you need and add an angle or spiral to the end of the wire. The wire should sit on to of the bra cup without tension or twisting. In this case, I decided to sew the wire straight to the top of the bra. It is also possible to add the wire after you’ve finished your bra base. Make sure to tack it to the inside, a couple of mm from the outer edge.

This is what the wire looks like when it has been attached to the bra edge completely. Smooth, no tension and no twisting of the wire or the bra.
This is what the wire looks like when it has been attached to the bra edge completely. Smooth, no tension and no twisting of the wire or the bra.

In this case I covered the edge with bias tape so it would be secure and I’d have a bit of fabric on the edges where I could add edge beading. Take thebias tape and stitch into place. You can do this by hand or machine, depending on the type of bra and your agility with a sewing machine.

Wire attached to bra covered with bias tape
Wire attached to bra covered with bias tape

 

I made this bra about five years ago, covered it with black velvet, did some beading and then put it in my to-do pile. Maybe this post will inspire me to get it out and finally finish it. I am wondering though, what was the last time you made a bra or thought about reinforcing edges with wire? Let me know in the comments or on facebook!