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Costume Panels for American Tribal Dancers

Simple panels of ribbon or yarn transform the look of costume pants and skirts. Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.

Yarn Panels

The Lark Head yarn panels are made from long pieces of yarn which are looped around a black elastic no-roll waistband using a Lark Head (aka cow hitch) knot.

Plan your layout and determine how many strands of yarn you will need by cutting a dozen short pieces of yarn and looping them with lark-head knots around the elastic.

  • Worsted-weight yarn will need 6 strands for each inch of panel desired.
  • Use one-inch wide elastic, black.
  • Cut yarn strands 60-inches long for a mid-calf panel.
  • Jewel tone colors with a bit of black yarn is always a good tribal look.

Make your panel(s):

  1. Cut a piece of 1" no-roll elastic that will fit around your hip with 2“ extra for overlap.
  2. Cut pieces of yarn that are twice the desired length of the panel plus 4“
  3. Fold a piece of yarn in half.
  4. Slip the loop under the elastic so it pokes out an inch or two below the bottom of the elastic.
  5. Thread the two ends through the loop. (This is your Lark Head knot.)
  6. Tighten.
  7. Finger-comb and hang over night.
  8. Trim.
  9. If desired, put a very tiny knot at the end of each yarn strand to prevent ravelling.
lark head yarn panel belt

Ribbon panels

The ribbon panels are made from 31“ long pieces of ribbon which are attached to narrow yokes and connected front and back with tie or elastic.

Plan your layout and determine how much ribbon you will need by placing small pieces of ribbon next to each other. Example sizes:

  1. Groups of 5 grosgrain ribbons (3 5/8 “ribbon, 2 “3/8 ribbon) will be 2.75“ wide per group;
  2. Groups of 2 grosgrain ribbons (1 5/8 “ribbon, 1 “3/8 ribbon) will be 1“ wide per group;
  3. Individual ribbons 5/8“ wide.
A good panel size is 12“ wide and 31“ long. You will need two panels, one for front and one for back.
Prepare your strips of ribbons.
  1. Cut ribbons 1/2“ shorter than desired length of panel (the extra length needed will be supplied by the waist yoke). Cut straight across to reduce fraying. Apply Fray-Check or similar fray-stop liquid to the cut ends of the ribbon. Let dry.
  2. Pin ribbons to a piece of 5/8“ grosgrain ribbon that is 1“ wider than the desired finished width of the panel. Leave 1/2“ grosgrain at both ends.
  3. Stitch ribbons to grosgrain, making sure they stay straight.
  4. Tuck grosgrain ends under and stitch in place.
  5. Repeat for your second panel.
Prepare strips of ribbon
Prepare the yoke:
  1. Cut a piece of fabric 3.5 “ wide and 2“ longer than finished panel width.
  2. Turn and press all raw edged to the inside. Fold in half length-wise and press a center line.
  3. Repeat for your second panel.
Prepare the yoke
  1. Pin the ribbon strip to the yoke on the yoke wrong side (just below the pressed center line) and stitch the ribbon strip to the yoke.
  2. Fold the yoke on the center line and stitch the long edges together to create a casing.
  3. Repeat for your second panel.
  4. Thread a tie or elastic through the yoke casings and adjust to fit hip.
Stitch ribbon panel to yoke

Fold and stitch the yoke
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