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Costume Pattern and Sewing Index

Tools and Techniques for Costume and Garment Construction

Many-Colored-Land  — The Look  — The Plan  — Easy but Substantial
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Princess Farhana recommends cutting the waistbands off flesh-colored panty hose, sew them to size, and glue on an assortment of rhinestones. On stage, all the audience will see is the glitter of the stones.


If you are not sure how to do an alteration, test your technique on clothes from a thrift shop.

When using a pattern that needs an extension to a seam allowance, cutting that seam on the pattern with a rotary scalloped blade will cue you to the need for an alteration without adjusting the pattern itself.


Applique stabilizers:
  • Stabilize the applique with two layers of tulle. This will produce a thin supple base that will allow the applique to be folded under curves without bulk;
  • Buckram provides a sturdy base for the kind of heavy ornamentation used in costumes;
  • Organza can be stabilized in an embroidery hoop, ornamented, then cut to shape and mounted with flexible fabric glue to whatever weight backing is required by the the costume design. High quality felt is often used, as is interfacing (single or multiple layers glued together;
  • Napa leather, which is kid or lambskin and very supple, lightweight and long-wearing, is sometimes used as an applique backing.

If the applique has been ornamented, a light coating of spray adhesive on the back will secure threads.


Straight dissection needle. These have a wooden handle, no eye, and are about 6" long with a fine, sharp 2" needle.

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Ballet Tutu

  • Fritz Masten, dance costumer extraordinaire, created a video entitled "How to Make a Tutu."
  • Kathryn K Conrad, "Classicial Tutu Construction" and "Romantic Tutu Construction."


Machine basting is useful for setting the shape of a piece which will be appliqued, including pockets.
  • Wash-away thread in the bobbin will make the stitching easy to remove after shaping.
  • Fine nylon monofilament thread for both hand and machine basting. It never gets caught in the permanent stitching; you can slide it out of the seam effortlessly.
  • Basting tape: two long strips of basting tape on the back of templates will hold the templates to the fabric. Replace the waxy protective outer layer when done to preserve tackiness.


  • Tambour beading makes linear designs easy and efficient.
  • Eshta Amar suggests using Tex 120 thread for beading. "Tex 120 is a multi strand twist thread used for denim. You cannot break any thread 105 and above with your hands. Quilting and nylon thread is not the same and has a coating that can make it slippery. Silk yarn does not come in that weight and since silk is organic it will disintegrate over time." She also ends fringe strands with three knots each to hold the bead on.


Bedlah from three paillette hip scarves at

Bedlah Belt:

  • A bedlah belt made in two pieces, with a closure on each side, will allow you to adjust the belt evenly on both sides if you change weight. It also makes the belt more attractive to a potential buyer.
  • The Costume Goddess's page on making a belt pattern.
  • Costume Goddess's page on altering belts.

Bedlah Bra construction: Bedlah bras do not look like lingerie from any angle. The straps and sides are usually removed and replaced with reinforced straps and sides that hold up to ornamentation and intense use.

Bedlah Pitfalls: Beaded bra and belt sets (bedlah) can be problematic, especially the cheaper items which are often heavily ornamented. Even if the cup size fits, you may need to adjust the back strap, the neck straps, or the belt closure. Items that have heavy ornamentation (beads, stones, sequins) on the other side of the hooks and eyes may be constructed in such a way that you must remove all the ornamentation from the outside and then replace it when you have moved the hooks.

  • Research your vendor. Google is your friend. Some vendors will send whatever they have in stock, whether it is the right color or size, and then give you a hard time about returns.
  • Choose a less-heavily ornamented outfit from a vendor who will allow you to exchange costume pieces that do not fit.
  • Examine the costume pieces and evaluate the probability of moving the hooks and eyes without cutting into dozen of threads of ornamentation.
  • Give yourself plenty of lead time for the swapping process.
  • If you are deconstructing and ornamenting a bra top yourself, be sure to buy a bra base that fits. This means the right cup size, the right neck shape, and enough coverage on the sides. A bra that seems to fit under a shirt may not cover enough when on it's own.
  • Halter bras, especially if heavily fringed, are not a good idea. Just ONE strap around the neck can pull your spine out of line and produce a permanent stoop, if you wear it often enough... sew your shoulder straps really close to each other at the center back (or to meet there, with a front-closing bra). This style is easier to put on, gives more support, better cleavage and the straps cannot fall off your shoulders." —Morocco.

Beladi Dress Instructions


Using bias as ornament (Threads Magazine, issue 61, Oct/Nov 1995):

  • Make your pattern:
    • Simple shapes and soft curves will be easier to implement.
    • Create a design template on stencil plastic, cutting it with a mat knife. If your design is a border, begin and end in the middle of a repeat.
    • Make an alignment mark or two on the template.
    • Verify that borders will match at ends.
  • Mark your fabric:
    • Apply wash-out liquid stabilizer to base fabric; saturate thoroughly and allow to dry flat. A hair dryer and a dry iron can speed the process.
    • Position template and trace around (or within) the design with a sharp water-soluble chalk pencil or fabric marker. Be sure to mark alignment points as well.
    • Lift template and verify transfer. If necessary, realign template with alignment points on fabric and complete transfer.
  • Make the bias tubing:
    • Fold bias strips in half, right sides together.
    • Sew the desired width from the FOLDLINE, not the raw edge, and trim seam allowances to 1/8"
    • You will NOT be turning these tubes.
    • Using a bias bar, roll the seams to the center and press open.
  • Anchor the tubing:
    • A fabric glue stick is an alternative to basting and will wash out with the stabilizer.
    • Patterns are created with a repeated under-and-over pattern.
    • Begin tubes UNDER intersections. If in the middle of a pattern, butt and glue and then mark the ovepass tube to indicate where the pieces join.
    • Borders are best worked by weaving an inch or two ahead of gluing or basting.
  • Sew the tubing to the garment.
    • Strive for invisibility.
    • 60/2 machine embroidery thread in top and bobbin is recommended. Alternative: a fine invisible nylon as top thread and fine cotton in bobbin. Lightweight silk thread is another good optoin.
    • Practice applique.
    • A blind-hem stitch 1mm long and wide will be the most invisible.
    • Do not stitch across intersections unless they cross abutted bias tubes. Stop, stitch to secure corner, then raise presser foot and needle and gently push forward until the unbroken thread crosses the intersection. Lover presser foot, secure corner, and continue. Trim crossing threads later.
    • At intersections: jump across the abutted bias tubes as per above, but stitch down the ovepass tube.
  • Finishing:
    • Remove stabilizer completely by running stabilized areas under warm running water. Spin dry in washing machine on spin cycle.
    • Block applique pieces. A makeshift surface of foamcore covered with a clean towel will do. Place appliqued piece right side up, smooth and pin into place after checking dimensions against pattern pieces, and let dry at least 24 hours.
    • Remove pins and press gently on the right side with a dry iron and press cloth.
    • On the right side, clip and remove each thread that passes over an intersection.
    • Underline the applique with a lightweight fusible tricot (Sofknit), an all-bias interfacing that fuses at low temperature. This underlining will protect the applique and maitain the shape, as well as adding weight and drape to the garment.

Bias as Facing: Threads Aug/Sept 2019

  1. Staystitch edge close to seamline, stitching in the direction of the fabric' grain.
  2. Cut a strip the length of the edge to be faced, plus 3 inches.
  3. Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, press to crease it, then press into a curved shape that roughly mimics the garment edge.
  4. RS to RS: sew strip to garment edge. Plan facing ends to be joined at center back neckline or armhole. Start and stop seam 4 inches from meeting point.
  5. Pin loose ends to the garment edge, mark the ends where they meet at their folded edge, then remove pins. You are marking a point, not a line.
  6. RS together: align meeting point marks one over the other and pivot facings so that they are at right angles.
  7. Stitch joint; trim; refold and pin to garment; complete stitching the facing.
  8. Trim and grade: garment allowance 1/4 inch wide and facing allowance 1/8 inch wide.
  9. Clip curves to stitching line. On sheer fabrics, stager the clips on the layers to prevent a jagged line showing through.
  10. Press the facing away from the garment without flattening the facing.
  11. Understitch the facing along the seamline, facing side up, about 1/8 inch from seamline.
  12. Press facing to the wrong side by lightly rolling the seamline for a fluid, clean edge.
  13. Secure the free edge with blind catchstitches or topstitching.
  14. Finish facing with a smooth join.

Bias ending with zipper: the goal is the finished binding and zipper at the same length. A 5/8 inch seam allowance at both ends, turned under and hand tacked, is the best approach.

Replace a shirt-collar facing with a bias facing: less bulk, easier and more durable than facings or turning under the collar neckline allowance and hand-stitching it.

Make a length of fabric into a giant bias tube and cut bias garment pieces as though they are on the straight grain. Threads Issue 107, June/July 2003 shows how to fold and stitch these giant tubes.

An alternative to the giant bias tube; cut bias-item pattern along diagonal lines and tape cut pieces together so that the diagonal lines (the new seams) are on grain. Includes pattern for a basic shift. Threads, issue 37, 1991 Oct/Nov.

Altering commercial pants patterns so that they can be cut bias. Instructions for pants without side seams, pants with side seams, and pants with side panels. Threads, Issue 116, Dec 2004/Jan 2005

Master class on bias basting, pinning, draping and sewing. Threads, Issue 99, Feb/Mar 2002.

Smooth, ripple-free bias binding of edges: Threads, Issue 51, Feb/March 1994.


The bobbin case tension is adjusted only if top thread tension adjustments do not result in balanced stitches. This is an adjustment that is frequently required for unusually thick or thin thread: metallic, quilting, and fusible threads (these heavy threads require looser tension) and machine-embroidery threads (thinner threads require a tighter tension). If a specialty thread is used often, purchase a bobbin case and adjust it just for that thread.

These adjustments are usually confined to machines with removable bobbin cases.

With the bobbin threaded through the bobbin case as usual, remove the bobbin case and dangle the case by the thread. Slight tugs should produce short slides down the thread.

If the bobbin slides down without stopping, tension is too loose. Hold the bobbin case so that the latch is on the left side and tighten the small screw in the case clockwise a very small amount. If the bobbin doesn't slide at all, turn the screw counterclockwise.


Eight-inch-long cable ties (used to bundle cable and electrical cords) with the wide ends cut off provide light-weight boning support.

Body Stockings

  • Making a Body Stocking from fishnet tights at
  • In a 1986 edition of Middle Eastern Dancer magazine, Arras suggests the following substitutes: Glitter scarf, tied loosely and open in the front; Stretch nylon sewed into a tube and ornamented with sequins; Waterproof, powder-base makeup that will not smudge.
  • SugarPetals in several strengths and sizes small to Queen+. They also sell leotards with a power-net insert covering the midriff.
  • sells XXS to 3X.
  • BellyStockings in the UK ships internationally with no extra charge for shipping! (2012)


Sewing books that will not lay flat can be converted to spiral binding at a local copy center.


  • Halter-style straps are much easier to make and fit than over-the-shoulder types BUT they will put pressure on the top of your spine. A hobbist who dances a couple of times a year may not be affected but those who dance regularly should be wary of these straps.
  • A bra with an over-the-shoulder strap may not convert gracefully to a halter or criss-cross strap style; the cups are shaped and positioned to look good with the straps pulling over the shoulder, not towards the back of the neck. A convertible-style bra is a more flexible base.
  • Some costumers stiffen new bras or rehabilitate old ones by applying hot glue on the inside of the bra in a random pattern or by spraying Aleene's Stiffen Quick on it.The bra can then be cut into shape, if desired.

Burnoose Patterns


Freezing textiles to eradicate bug infestations is done by professionals who know what materials can be safely frozen (NOT wood, ivory, morth of pearl, whalebone), how to prevent against condensation, and using equipment that achieves a much lower temperature than home freezers do.

If you have bugs in your textile, seal it in a plastic bag and fasten with packing tape; this will deprive the bugs of oxygen and stop their activity, as well as isolating them. Seek professional conservator advice ASAP. []


  • Wash-away basting tape will hold buttons in place for hand or machine stitching.
  • Thread matching buttons on shirring elastic. Strong and easy to tie and untie.

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Choosing Colors for Dance Costumes

Circle Skirt Sewing and Fan-fold Circle Skirt pattern


  • Attach coins to costume bras with snap swivels.
  • Coin Belts


  • A Guide to Color, a well-illustrated guide from New Mexico State University explaining (and illustrating) basic concepts about Color.

Costume Planning: or, What Has It Got in Its Closets?

Costume Care and Transport


Coutil: A strong, smooth fabric, similar to drill, which is used for costume pieces, such as corsets and ballet bodices, which must withstand stress without losing shape. It is made of cotton, so it is absorbent.

Cutting: Attaching the edges of a pattern to slippery fabric with invisible tape will hold the fabric and pattern together without sliding while you cut.

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Darts and their Design Equivalents

Most dancers exist in three dimensions: height, width and depth. A costume design that accomodates your bosum and your fanny, your long-or-short legs, and your high-or-low waist is going to make you feel so much better on stage. A word to the wise: the tip of the dart - or the dart equivalent -- aims towards the fullest part of the bust (aka the point of the bust) but stops an inch or so short.

Fast way to make darts:

Kenneth King's Darts Depth to Length Ratio:

If 2 darts, add .5"
If 3 darts, add .75"
.75" 3.5"
1" 45"
1.25" 5.5"
1.5" 6"
  • Rectangular strips of freezer paper can be used as straightedges when stitching darts. Mark both dart ends with pins, position paper (shiny side down) between dart ends just inside the desired stitching line, press and stitch. You can reused the paper strips.
  • At dart point, continue for several stitches off the fabric and cut this thread chain about one inch from the fabric.

Dog Bed from old blankets



  • Draping: a great video of a Dior professional translating a design into a pattern.
  • Inverse draping:another great video of a Dior professional translating a full size dress into a half-size pattern and then a half-size dress.

Dress Forms


  • Lanaset Dyes are considered the gold standard for silk, wool and nylon (protein fiber fabrics) dyeing. being more colorfast. However, they are more expensive than acid dyes and the process is more complex. Highly recommended black dye.
  • Dyeing Silk with Acid Dyes Acid dyes do a great job and CLEAN UP beautifully: they won't stain your stove, pots, floor or anything that is not made of wool, silk or nylon.

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  • The fabric next to the feed dogs will feed a bit faster than the fabric on top, which is a fast way to ease two fabrics together.
  • Gather and pull the portion to be eased tightly, then ungather it by smoothing the fabric along the stitching line. The result will not be quite as long as it was before the pull.


  • Narrow channels for elastic to create shirring: a narrow zigzag stitch will allow channel stitches to stretch. Use narrow elastic in every other channel; this will allow plenty of shirring without making it look overworked or bulky with elastic.
  • Waist elastic: The elastic used in stretchable waistbands needs to be of high quality, strong enough to hold the skirt up, and replacable. This applies to all skirts, not just the large tiered ones. I had to replace the elastic on a purchased narrow skirt after the dancer had worn it twice because the elastic was of terrible quality. After I took it off, I swear it looked like second-hand panty elastic that had been recyled. Yuck!
  • Zill elastic: your audience will notice sloppy zill elastic: pinned, tied, or just plain tired. Photos are especially bad at showcasing sloppy zill elastic. Experiment with a few techniques, choose the one you like, and stick to it.

Embroidery designs

  • Tracing the design onto organza, then pinning the organza to the wrong side of the fabric and outlining the pattern with small running stitches through both layers stabilizes the surface fabric and creates a clean design to follow.
  • Embroidering on Tulle yields ethereal Embroider Designs that look like they are floating in mid-air.

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Heddels: a website devoted to description and discussion of quality clothing and accessories. Their discussion of corduroy and denim is very useful.

Stiffen drapy, washable fabric in a solution of gelatin and water. 1 t gelatin in a pint of water, let sit for 30 minutes. Then add a quart of water to the gelatine mix and soak the fabric for an hour. Roll the fabric up in a towel, squeeze excess liquid out, and allow to air dry.

Fabrics that are prone to wrinkling will retain wrinkles after being squeezed in your hand for five seconds. Wrinkling can be reduced with a light cotton or silk underlining.

Fabric Pre-shrinking: Treat yourself to a long, happy relationship with your new costume piece and take a little time to pre-shrink. The US Extension Service states that 3% shrinkage will cause a garment to shrink ONE SIZE. Some fabrics will shrink up to 10%! If YOU do the preshrinking, then you have the option of washing it or dry cleaning it!

Facings and Bindings: Neck and armhole edges need to be constructed to hold up to the extra wear and tear those areas receive. Folding the edge over and stitching it down, or finishing it with a serged seam and nothing else, is asking for premature aging of the costume. Facings and bindings provide a strong stable edge.

Fitting a costume: A costume that does not fit properly will not provide the effortless projection of beauty and delight that you were dreaming of. How much of a reduction in value will depend on the costume's problems and the dancer's body type. A folkloric dress cut from an old sheet in a T-shaped pattern will look okay on a youthful, small-bosomed figure after the hip scarf and some necklaces are added. The same garment on a matronly figure will emphasize every figure fault and may make the dancer wish she'd never volunteered to get on stage. In both instances the costume design will deny the dancers the advantage of looking and feeling their best. The solution: invest a little more time and effort in choosing your design.


I purchased one of Farida Fahmy's e-books on costuming. I am trying to decide if it is worth the $10 I paid for it.

The e-book is 16 pages long, 11 of which are dedicated to drawings, one per page, of costume designs. Twenty years ago these would have been helpful. Today, in a world of Google images and similar, not so much. Then there are three pages of description with two smaller pictures. The first page discusses how the costumes we think of as 'saidi' costumes were actually developed by the Reda troupe for their theatrical presentations. Interesting. The subsequent two pages of dance costume tips (eight paragraphs) (NO diagrams) might be useful to a novice sewer (avoid stiff or limp fabric; attaching sequins or coins in diagonal lines is tricky; necklines cut close to the neck need an opening that is fastened with a hook) - but for $10? Buy a used book on sewing for $1 and get a lot more basic info.

I suppose I'm voting with my feet --- I haven't gone back to order any other e-books.


Cut two pair of pants (same pattern) from prewashed checked cotton with horizontal checks matching. Stitch one together without altering and take it to a tailor to make it fit. Then compare the tailor-fit pants with the cut fabirc. The needed adjustments will be clearly visible.

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Gathering: A strip of twill tape the length makes a reliable guide for gathering. A pull tab added to both ends of the fabric to be gathered, with the gathering threads starting on the tab, is helpful for identifying and controlling gathering threads.

Shushanna's web site has a clear description on how to make your own ghawazee coat pattern. Not for the beginner seamstress. If I were in a hurry, I would go to the second-hand or consignment store (or have folks raid their closets buy something they like on sale) for WOVEN (not stretch) princess or A-line dresses that fit each dancer. This removes the time-consuming problem of fitting the coat.

  • If you standardize on the trim and the cut and the type of colors (don't have one earth tone and 7 jewel tones) then the different fabrics will still seem coordinated.
  • Mark the neckline and arm shape with a washable pen (if you make the coat sleeveless you will save additional time);
  • cut the edges to suit;
  • reinforce the neck and arm holes with narrow twill or grosgrain;
  • then bind all edges with bias binding OR fold to outside and cover raw ends with ribbon;
  • add fasterner -- ties or zipper, hook and eyes, loop and button, or loop and knot.


Clean applicator tips with a fine beading needle threaded with ribbon dental floss.

Combination glue AND sewing is best for keeping gems put. If you can get gems with sewing holes in them, that is the best. Remember to protect your table with heavy board or glass while gluing: paper will end up glued to the back.

When glueing sequins, technique is more important than type of glue. Using tweezers, pick up the sequin, dab it on the glue, and apply to surface. Make sure that the glue oozes up through the hole, creating a little glue bead. This is what will hold your sequin to your fabric." — Rebecca writing in Jareeda.

This to That Glue advice generator.

3M Spray Mount Adhesive: glues together thin layers of cardboard, photographs, foam core, even light fabrics, firmly and evenly. Usually superior to rubber or contact cements, white glue, or tape. Various formulations.

606 Spray and Fix: spray-on fusible web; you make any fabric fusible by spraying its underside, allowing it to dry, and then cut into shape and iron it to permanently adhere it. Recommended by Threads Magazine,

Aleene's Jewel It: good for applications that require some flexibility in the jeweled area. Squeeze some onto a small piece of foil and use a toothpick or tweezers to apply it. Handwashing is a possibility, depending on the ornament.

Aleene's Original Tacky Glue: recommended by Jasel for attaching any size applique, seqin, bead, rhinestone, pailette, shell, fringe. Dries clear. Can be removed without leaving marks on the cloth. Upside: easy to clean up. Downside: not washable or dry cleanable.

Aleene's Platinum Bond is considered the industry standard in the jewelry world. Some claim they can glue stones to metal with it and it was tough as nails. Good for applications that do NOT require flexibility in the jewelled area.

Aerosol Adhesives

  • Temporary sprays: these hold for hours or days (depending on environment) and then disappear. Hold layers together during quilting or when making faux chenille, secure a stabilizer to an embroidery project, position appliques or lace on a garment while trying it on, spray masked-off seam allowances of velvet together for shift-free sewing, hold buttons for machine stitching. Sulky KK2000 Spray Adhesive, Dritz Spray Adhesive, June Tailor's Quilt Basting Spray, Sullivan's Quilt Basting, 505 Spray and Fix. Recommended by Threads Magazine, April 2002.
  • Repositionable sprays: the item with the sprayed surface can be positioned, removed and repositioned without losing tackiness or leaving a residue. Hold stencils, preview applique placement. 404 Spray and Fix is designed to be repositionable almost indefinately. 202 Spray and Fix makes items permanently repositionable yet not tacky when stored between uses. It does not evaporate, holds until removed and is reactivated by ironing it. Also: Dritz Spray Adhesive, June Tailor's Quilt Basting Spray, Sullivan's Quilt Basting, and 505 Spray and Fix. Recommended by Threads Magazine, April 2002. Loctite General Performance Lightweight Bonding Adhesive: a permanent repositionable spray recommended by Threads Magazine, Feb 2013.

Bo-Nash 007 Bonding Agent: spackle for cloth. Great for moth holes or 3-way tears or cuts. Chop up a tiny amoung from a seam allowance, mix the fuzz with the Bonding powder, and press between two nonstick ironing sheets. Washable, dry-cleanable, and can be sew through. Recommended by Threads Magazine, April 2002.

E6000: not just for pottery! Recommended by Nancy Fetzek-Guzel. "I worked for several years for a professional costumer. We made skating dresses for skate teams who competed all of the country. We also made the cheer costumes for many of the pro fottball teams. Believe me, NOBODY sews rhinestones on any more. First of all, it is too slow. Secondly, the settings for the stones turn green from body oils and perspiration. The glue we used was E6000."

Epoxy: Very durable for sequins if applied properly (see above).

Hot Glue: Great for glueing rhinestones and gems onto fabric. Too hot for most sequins; they may melt. Attach faux flowers to headpieces. A line of hot glue on the back side of a shoulder strap will give it traction to keep it in place.

It Stays!: water-soluble, roll-on adhesive that holds socks and shoulder straps in place. However, it is water soluable, which means that sweat and body oils will inactivate it. Therefore, it's mileage may vary by dancer and by the dance.

Jewel and Glitter Glue: recommended by Princess Farhana for rhinestones and crystals. No smell and is washable and dry cleanable.

Mighty Mend It: recommended by Threads Magazine for repair of pockets, hems and seams, and fro applying fringe and lace.

Mighty Gem It: recommended by Threads Magazine for applying crystals, rhinestones and sequins to fabrics.

Mod Podge:Sealer, glue and finish. Cover cardboard or wood boxes with fabric using it. Clean up with water while wet; once dry, it is permanent.

Stitch Witchery: works great for hems, larger appliques, or reinforcing fraying material. Use between two pieces of fabric as stiffening. It is sold in rolls (fast hemming) and sheets (cut to shape. Downside: can be difficult or impossible to remove an attached item.

Yellow glue: this is widely used in woodworking. It withstands moisture (it even comes in outside formulations); it requires only brief clamping (one hour maximum); it becomes sticky quickly.

Grain: Straighten fabric grain while pre-shrinking by trimming / ripping crosswise grain at each end of the fabric and then baste the ends together. Wash and dry. If very off grain, try basting the selvage together as well.

Guidelines for Dancing at Public Events

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Harem Pants and Pantaloons



Hems: Good hems balance the entire look of the costume, enhance the way the costume moves when dancing, flatter the dancer's figure, hold up during repeated cleanings, and keep the garment from fraying and catching in a toe or heel.
  • The skirt should not be too long, or too short... it should be in the Goldilocks zone. If you will be doing a lot of footwork, then a hem that is longer than the top of your foot will both hide your feet and trip you as well.
  • Unless the design calls for an uneven hem, then the hem should be equal distance all around. Even a very full skirt cannot hide a hem job that did not account for the dancer's butt or stomach; the uneven distance from the floor will be very apparent. This means: circle skirts need to be hung for at least a week before hemming or the bias will stretch and you'll have to redo your job. Tiered skirts, normally sold as a certain length long, will have to be adjusted at the bottom or - much easier - at the top. Then, mark the back of your skirt so you know which way to put it on!
  • If there is nothing you can do about a problem hem before showtime, tuck it up!
Making a hem:
  • Three ways to a narrow hem: serge first, then turn; make a banroll 'fan' to control the fold on a straight hem, then remove the Banroll; use wash-away stabilizer to control the fold on a curved hem, then remove the stabilizer.
  • Traditional hems have a bias strip in the fold for softness.
  • Making Perfect Garment Hems from New Mexico University.
Stablizing curved rolled hems: reduce bias stretching on curved rolled hems by staystitching the curve within the hem allowance before rolling the hem.

Hooks, Eyes and Bars

  • These need to be strong enough for the job, of good quality (no soft metal that bends under stress), sewn on strongly, and! the costume ornaments should not interfere with the dancer's ability to change into and out of the costume pieces quickly!
  • Light and heavyweight wire hooks are designed to close with a thread bar. Often used at non-stress points on a dress; at the top of a zipper, for instance.
  • Light and heavyweight wire hooks are designed to close with a wire eye; the heavier ones are used in ballet costumes.
  • Medium and heavyweight shaped metal hooks are designed to close with a metal bar: the medium weight styles are commonly used to close skirt and pant waistbands. The heavyweight styles are designed to hold heavy costume pieces in place.
  • Richard the Thread sells a complete variety of hooks, eyes and bars for costumes.

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Fusible interfacing: lay on top of a cotton muslin press cloth and cover with barely damp cotton press cloth. Press until cloth is dry.

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  • Make it possible to sit in a snug-fitting jacket with Yves Saint Laurent's solution: hidden side zippers opening from waist to hem, allowing the jacket to spread without opening it.

K      A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • If using double threads, knot the thread and take your first stitch from the underside, leaving a bit on the wrong side. Turn over your work and pry the threads apart: there is your loop. Run your needle through it and pull tight.
  • Weaving is a good alternative to a knot when you are doing embroidery work or other hand work that will be distorted by knots. Knot the thread, but leave a 5-inch tail on the outside of the fabric when you take your first stitch. When you re-thread your needle, snip off the knot and weave the thread tail under the embroidery.

L      A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

LACE On lace designs, garments are laid out so that they can be appliqued at seam lines to make the seams invisible.

LAMINATED COTTON: Lighter and with more drape than oilcloth and Gore-Tex. Wipe-clearn, water-resistant, and comes in cheerful colors.Store it on a tube to prevent permanent creases.


Sandra Bezina's technique for avoiding wrinkles: Iron, Then Wash.

  1. Before washing, DRY iron linen on highest setting ina well-ventilated room. This sets the anti-wrinkle finish that comes on new fabric.
  2. Wash fabric with detergent in hottest water.
  3. Dry in high heat dryer until almost dry.
  4. Press Again.

Making a robe from linen: It is very weighty and required eight yards of fabric to account for the shrinkage that created the loft in the fabric. After washing and drying five times on hot, the fabric was ready to sew. It certainly is not like a 'plush' robe and has a slightly brushed texture like terry cloth, but definitely not uncomfortable - the perfect thing to put on after a hot shower.


What the audience sees is NOT the most important part of the costume. The most important part of the costume is the underneath part that supports and protects the fancy outside. The top yoke lining of a tiered skirt will support the weight of the rest of the skirt. Ditto for pantaloon yokes and cuffs. The closely-woven lining of a tie belt will keep it looking good and from stretching while you dance, ditto for the lining of a vest or halter top.
  • If the pattern for a sleeve yielded a tight-fitted sleeve, mitigate the problem with a lining cut on the bias.

M      A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Mitered Corners


  • Reinforce mittens with faux leather sewn onto palm and thmb.
  • Line mittens made from a pattern by cutting two pair and sewing one with a 1/4" seam and the lining with a 3/8" seam.

N      A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Necklines: One way to reconstitute a stretched neckline is to pleat it into shape using a reinforced facing as a base. Very very narrow pleats, starting at center front, shoulder seams, and center back, with additions as necessary; stitch from neckline to tip.


  • [Hand] Needles Guide from John James. Description of use, and to-scale pictures, and a discount password for 25% on the website. Their website at has an astonishing array of needles and hand tools in small and bulk quantities.
  • Anatomy of a Needle from Threads.
  • Sewing-Machine Needles: An Overview
  • When handsewing, thread a number of needles on the thread at one time and then use them one at a time by pulling a needle to the end of the thread before cutting.



  • Use nail polish to make snaps, hooks-and-eyes, and buttons match each other and the garment.




Ironing iron-on patches to the back of self-fabric patches makes them twice as strong with no puckering. Trim away seam allowances from the iron-on patches before fusing to keep edges from being too bulky.

Panels of Ribbon and Yarn

Pants and Pantaloons

Pattern Index: Costumes from Geometric Shapes




  1. Cut around the border of your tissue pattern, giving yourself a one-inch border around all size lines.
  2. Attach tissue pattern to a large sheet of heavy white paper using transparent tape along the blank margin area.
  3. Trace around the size needed with a Sharpie marker. The marker ink will bleed through the tissue paper onto the white paper.
  4. Cut around the tissue pattern's outer margins to separate pattern from paper.
  5. Use a different color ink and a new sheet of paper for every size needed.

Keep track of pattern inventory by taking pictures of the front and back of each pattern and storing the pix where you can access them electronically while you roam.

Pattern paper:

  • Contractor paper is 28 inches wide, thicker than plain brown paper, and cost pennies a foot when bought in rolls at the hardware store.
  • Examination paper (medical exam papers) is often used for patterns.
  • Medical tape (paper tape) holds pattern paper together and can be ironed.
  • Flip chart paper, 34 x 27 with one-inch squares, assists with stripe and plaid alignments, foldline positioning, and length or width adjustments.


  • Masking or painter's tape is sometimes easier and more reliable than pins. Blue painter's tape is prefered: not too sticky, can be sewn across and leaves no residue. Don't leave on for more than a week or it will dry out.
  • A double line of pins, 1/2 inch apart, controls slippery fabric while stitching.
  • Small cutting boards in various sizes can be used inside awkward fabric spaces giving a hard surface for pinning.

Pinking Shears

  • If no qualified sharpener works locally, send them to an expert. in Wisconsin is recommended. Cutting aluminum foil really does not work and can damage the sheers.


  • Use the cut fabric piece from one side as a guide for the opposite side.


If you can incorporate pockets into your costume, do so. If not, pockets in your coverup will be helpful

Press Cloths

  • Cotton canvas or duck in a plain weave (not a twill). The density causes heat to be evenly distributed and diffuses the heat as it penetrates; therefore excellent for sensitive fabrics with a low melting point, such as nylon, leather, coated fabrics, synthetics.
  • Cotton Muslin provides strength and firm support. Poly blends not suitable. High heat tolerance but can emboss delicate fabrics.
  • Cotton Flannel: the napped, brushed surface protects brushed and hairy fabrics from turning flat or shiny. Use with wool flannel, camel hair, couble or pinwale corduroy. Light pressure or steam-and-finger-press seams.
  • Cotton Shirting: long-stpale, plain weave, Swiss or Italian best. Use when heavy steam is required; shirting can be misted or dampened, and its construction and high heat tolerance protects fashion fabric from changes.
  • Silk Organza: good for general pressing because of high melting point. Sheerness adds control. Fine texture prevents embossing. A large piece and a small piece.
  • Worsted wool (wool fabric of high-twist fibers) for tailoring wool garments. Flat, strong, holds moisture, keeps fabric from becoming shiny.
  • Light color press cloths prevent color transfer. Half-yard of fabric makes two press cloths. Wash press cloth fabric three times to remove all sizing and hem it. If you have to hem with a turned edge, be sure never to press on the turned edge or it will emboss the fashion fabric. A loop allows hanging at the ironing station.


  • To press seams open and flat on natural fiber fabrics (wool, cotton, linen), use an eyedropper to place drops of water or starch down the center of a finger-pressed seam and press with the tip of an iron. Clap the seam, if necessary, and let it cool a bit before moving on.
  • To avoid seam allowance show-through, place the folded edge of a folded dry press cloth under the seam allowance and up against the seam. Press the seam. Turn the garment to the right side, keeping the press cloth in the seam. Place the seam over a seam stick, under another press cloth, and press.
  • Get rid of seam-allowance show-through after pressing by damping the seam allowance on the wrong side, then place a damp (NOT wet) press cloth under the seam allowance and steam under the seam allowance to remove show through.
  • Get rid of a sharp crease in wool or cotton by steaming the crease open to loosen fibers. Then lay a damp press cloth dampened with a solution of 3 parts water and 1 part white venegar over the crease on the wrong side. Steam through press cloth. Flip fabric, and steam right side flat.
  • Get rid of sine on wool by steaming shiny area through a damp terry washcloth. Hover the iron and burst the steam. Then brush the fabric with the washcloth to lift the fibers. If the shine remains, dampen the washcloth with 3-parts water 1-part white vinegar and repeat steaming and brushing.



Self-Similar Fractals: Quiolts and the Sierpinski Triangle.

Darning feet are good for free-motion quilting.

Flynn Quilt frame is a small-footprint, easy-to-use tool for any size quilt and for hand and machine quilting both. The original setup, which I bought years ago, used 2 x 2 sticks for the long ends of the frame.

Cottoneer Fabrics:

Pepper Cory quilt fabrics

Kaffe Fassett quilt fabric.

Marcia Derse quilt fabric.



  • Runching side panels is best done by maintaining the original side seam and flaring the side-front and side-back pattern edges. The new flared sides are gathered to fit the front and back panels and the unaltered side seams are sewn to each other. Voila, runching without dragging! (Threads Aug/Sept 2017).



  • Denim is a traditional fabric.
  • Pure linen is durable and pliable and supports the weight and the style of sashiko stitches and is beautiful to work on.
  • Sashiko is similar to perle cotton or embroidery floss, but it is a single strand that is thinner and more tightly twisted and has no sheen.
  • Perle cotton #8
  • 6-strand embroidery floss (use all strands)
  • Sashiko or embroidery needle. Sashiko needle is longer and can carry more stitches than a regular embroidery needle.
  • Traceing tools: chalk paper, water-soluble pen or pencil.

You Tube channel dedicated to sashiko.

Use a running stitch with the gap (underneath) half the length of the full stitch (on top)

Traditionally, knots are not used to start or end as they might create additional bulk or leave marks. To hide a thread end, use an away knot: Insert thread with knot a few inches away from embroidery. Work a few stitches, clip t he knot, and thread the tail through the stiches on the back side. It is ok to overlap a few stitches for extra security; the existing thread will provide tension. (Maura note: why not start the new thread IN from the end, not away, stitch where the new thread should start, and then overlap your way back?)

Work parallel lines first, alternating direction of stitch with each one.

Space stitches so they do not touch or cross each other physically. The open space at the intersection looks better.

Corners: both corner stitches should end RICHT at the turn. Leave a small loop on the wrong side to keep it from puckering.

Okay to carry thread across the back for one inch or less. Do not let it pucker.


  • Fiskars 6-inch Softgrip Micro-Tip Pruning Sniops (9921) provides accuracy in the sewing room as well.


  • Make the seams of sheer clothing invisible by binding with flesh-colored chiffon.
  • Finish a bias bound edge with embroidery by sewing a line of evenly spaced running stitches (3/16") close to the facing's folded outside edge. Three rows, with spaces offset in the middle row, works well.


From Threads: Use a tiny (size 11) crochet hook to remove seams when you need a lot of control (easily damaged fabric) and/or the thread is difficult to see. There will be no worry about cutting fibers, and the hook will grab the thread easily and quickly.


The seam must be appropriate for the fabric and for the performance. Example: the narrow serged seams that are so popular in ready-to-wear may cause a tiered skirt of Indian gauze to fray and pull apart under the stress of the skirt weight, twirling and tucking motions, and cleaning. If you own one of these skirts, be sure to reinforce the seams with extra lines of stitching.

Problem fabrics that do not move smoothly over the machine plate or which get stuck in the machine foot (batting, bulky or loose-weave fabrics, faux fur, or Velcro) will sew smoothly with the help of strips of plastic grocery bags (above or below). The plastic helps the fabric slide smoothly, and a tug easily removes the plastic after the seam is complete.— Betty Bolden, Reuse Plastic Bags fo Smooth Sewing, Threads Magazine, Web.

When joining four pieces of fabric at an intersection, first sew two pair, backstitching at the end that will be in the intersection. Then link the two pair at the intersection by folding and lining up the sewn pairs and hand-tacking through the back-stitching. this prevents layers from shifting when you seam them. Then sew the final two seams, starting with short stitches at the intersection point and lengthening after 3/4 inch, sewing towards the outside edges. Clip the hand basting and press, then catchstitch as necessary.

When using machine stitching or zig zag to finish an edge, use fine embroidery thread. It has less bulk and will not show thru after pressing. Coats Dual Duty extrafine thread or DMC 50 cotton machine embroidery thread is recommended.

Fray Check can be applied with more precision if you put it in an empty nail polish bottle, available from


The normal size sequins used on costumes is 6mm up. However, tiny sequins are available and can result in a more refined line.
  • Cartwright's Sequins sells a wide assortment of sequins and pailettes: many sizes, colors and shapes.


  • Helen Howes in the UK specialises in hand crank and treadle veteran and vintage domestic machines. Some do-it-yourself advice as well as sale of oddments.
  • Treadle machine parts
  • Enthusiast reviews classic sewing machines.
  • Another reviewer of classic sewing machines.
  • Sewing Machine foot control: Add silicone sealant to the bottom of the foot control, let it dry for 24 hours, and the silicone will provide enough traction to prevent the control from skidding on slippery floors.
  • A bath towel draped under the machine and over your lap will provide a supportive non-slip surface.
  • Sewing machine feet:
    • Flat-felling foot: makes even narrow felled seams. Threads, Dec / Jan 2017.
    • Rolled-hem foot: makes even narrow hems. Threads, Dec / Jan 2017.
  • Sewing Machine Tables:
    • SewEzi portable wheeled table with recessed area for machine and a carrying case. Very sturdy.
  • Sewing machine oil: Helen Howes recommends using real sewing machine oil, not 3-in-1 or WD40.


Shoulder Pads

  • Removal of: This is what Sandra Betzina said: You will take half of the shoulder pad thickness and remove that amount (let's call the pad 1/2") from 1) the armhole at shoulder and taper, for front and back 2) 1/4" the top of the sleeve and taper, 3) the shoulder beginning at edge, 1/4", tapering to neck front and back, and 4) pinch out the sleeve itself and taper downwards.
    The result will be as if you grabbed 1/2" total at shoulder from front to back and 1/2" from the shoulder/sleeve in the other direction.
    You could also find info on how to add for shoulder pads, then do the reverse.


  • Threads Issue 10 Apr / May 1987 includes an article on how to adjust a knitting pattern for rounded shoulders has interesting insights for seamstresses.
  • Threads Issue 166 Apr /May 2013 includes an article on adjusting the back of a pattern to accomodate the various types of rounded shoulders, to much the same effect as the article for knitters, above.


Silk Fabric

  • Dupioni: Similar to shantung: plain weave with irregular yarns in the weft. Dupioni is the coarser, slightly looser weave with larger slubs.
  • Shantung: Similar to dupioni: plain weave with irregular yarns in the weft. Shantung is smoother and more tightly woven with finer slubs.
  • Tussah: silk woven from the light tan cocoons of wild silk moths.



The smoothest fitted seam will avoid catching the bodice shoulder and side seam allowances in the seam attaching the sleeve to the body.


Threads #178, April/May 2015: Essential Techniques: Staystitching.

  • One-quarter-inch plastic film masking tape with rubber-based adhesive (AKA draping tape or glossy art tape) from an arts supply store will not damage most fabrics and provides the stability needed when handling an unfinished edge.



  • 3M Post-it Labeling and & Cover-up Tape: will not shrivel when ironed and repositions easily. Useful for adjusting and repairing tissue patterns.
  • Pattern Fix-It Tape (aka Micropore) will not shrivel when ironed and repositions easily. Useful for adjusting and repairing tissue patterns.
  • Wash-A-Way Wonder tape is a 1/4" wide temporary double-sided transparent basting tape which holds fabrics together for sewing, won't gum up the needle, and disappears after washing.
  • Wonder Tape, Super Sticky Tape, Terrifically Tacky Tape: the tape that bonds laminated surfaces in place will permanently hold any beads pressed into its surface as well, if you have buttons or shoes or whatever that need to be covered with beads.


  • Make Your Own Tassels at
  • Please make your own. Don't buy the ones that are designed to go on the bottom of cafe curtains or to be used as tie-backs on drapes.
  • If you make tassels by winding them on cardboard, make sure the cardboard is 1-inch longer than the tassel length you want to end up with.

Tassel Belt Making


Gray thread can often substitute for a colored thread when sewing seams. A small assortment of gray threads in various degrees of intensity, light to dark, will provide substitutes that can be used with no detriment to the appearance of the garment.

Cotton: the highest grade is extra-long-staple, Egyptian-grown cotton. Cotton threads that do no list the staple length are probably lower-grade, short-staple cotton.

Polyester thread has strength, stretch, colorfastness, and resistance to UV rays, rot, mildew and chemicals. Multi-filament polyester is smooth, lint-free. and stronger than spun poly. Spun poly is generally a lower quality and fuzzy.

Pearl Cotton:

Upholstery thread: Nylon is recommended over poly because it is resistant toabrasion, weather, ultraviolet light, will not rot in wet conditions, and withstands dry cleaning better. Threads Dec 2016 Jan 2017.

  • Buttons and buttonholdes, darn pocket rips and tears, thread chains and jean hems.
  • Coats & Clark Extra Strong Upholstery Thread is recommended.
  • For machine sewing, use a size 110/18 needed and a longer stitch. Use it in both upper and bobbin.
  • Running a home machine with upholstery thread for long periods risks throwing off timing. Keep sessions to 30 minutes and sew slowly.

Ties for belts and skirts

The goal: make two flat ties neatly and quickly.

Tribal Lace Cuff Tutorial at

Troupe Costume Design.


  • Stablize a tuck by stitching from the top to the end, and then diagonally up towards the tuck fold.


Turkish Costumes


Underlining. Firm, crisp, lightweight, and stable fabric, such as silk organza, for underlinings.


Materity underwear that is cut low to go under the belly (instead of high to go over) is an excellent choice under low dance belts and trousers. Emprella on Amazon.



  • "Use tiny hair rubber bands to create flounces, tucks and even create sleeves in your veil. Once you remove your veil in your dance, simply snap and the bands fly/snap off and you have a flat fabric to dance with." — Amaya
  • Veil Construction

Vests for Dancers


  • Eliminate gaps in the armscye:
    • A princess line that ends in the armscye is the best way to eliminate gaps in the front armholes. Make a muslin, then pin the gap closed and mark it.
    • A princess line that ends at the should can also be adapted to eliminate gaps. Take in the princess seamline from bustpoint to shoulder. Restore the shoulder line by extending the shoulder line at the sleeve so that it is the same width as it originally was.
    • Gaps in the armsyce can also be eliminated with darts to the side (extend the side front up the same amount as used up in the dart).
    • Gaps in the armsyce can also be eliminated with darts from bust point to shoulder; modify the shoulder as per the princess line that ends in the shoulder.
  • Avoid curling vest points: exact cut and stitching is key.
    • Sew with heavier fabric (usually fashion fabric) on bottom to minimize the tendency for the feed dogs to ease in the bottom layer.
    • After applying interfacing, verify that all layers lie flat and are the same size.
    • Ditto after stitching vest and lining together.
    • Trim and clip seams as necessary to flatten neckline, front, and armscyes, but leave the bottom hem alone until final fitting.
    • At vest points, fold and baste seam allowances flat against the interfacing before turning right side out.
    • Smooth and press and place on a dress form and check for correct drap and bottom. Adjust seam line as necessary.
    • Turn vest wrong side out, remove basting at points, and then handstitch the folded seam allowances flat against the interfacing.
    • Turn vest right side out and press.
    • If you are not using a self-fabric facing, understitch the lining to the seam allowance with a running stitch or a backstitch to hide any display of lining on the front. Start and end the understitching an inch from the end, keeping the fabric moving evenly on both sides of the needle as you push the garment forward.




Yokes: Yokes add fit, strength and style.


ZILL ELASTIC: Fastest, Fast, and Professionally Elegant ways to put new elastic in your zills.


Zippers are popular but they are problematic in a dance costume. If they are located in an area that is commonly under stress, sooner or later they are going to pull apart. However, if your costume has one, make sure that the top of the zipper is reforced with a hook and eye or tie or some other device that takes the stress off the top of the zipper... or someday it WILL open up while you are dancing.

Zipper closings that run up to the top of the waistband:

  1. Attach the right side of the waistband to the right side of the skirt (use an iron to mark the finished waistband top before attaching).
  2. Clip seam allowances one inch from zipper opening, then press the seam allowances up towards the skirt, with the exception of the one-inch-end, which is pressed open.
  3. Install the zipper with the top stop just below the waistband fold.
  4. Match waist band edges, RS together, stitch shut, trim and turn.

Shortening a zipper:

  1. Add a fabric tab to the raw end.
  2. The raw tab length is 4x zipper width, the width is zipper width + 1 inch.
  3. Turn under long edges 1/2 inch and press. Ditto the short ends.
  4. Fold the tab in half, WS together, and press.
  5. With the WS of zipper and tab together and the fold aligned with the zipper cut end, stitch across the tab's short end on the zippers wrong side.
  6. Wrap the fabric around the zipper end to the right side and sew the tab on all four sides.
Tailors shop in 2000 by French artist Villemard in 1910
Tailors shop in 2000, depicted by French artist Villemard in 1910. Don't you just wish!

The Library

I went looking for a quilt top I started 23 years ago and I found it 30 seconds. When I think about it, my back bedroom is basically a reconstruction of my favorite fabric store on Allen Street 30+ years ago... except I don't have ladders yet. — April 18, 2011

Almashriq: Costumes of the Levant (Syria and Lebanon).

Antique Pattern Library: Large collection of books and pamphlets on needlework of many kinds. All of them are in the public domain, which means that these items are a century or more old. However, if you have any skill with needlework, you may find that some of these older crafts have modern-day applications for costumers. Warning: downloads of scanned documents can be very slow.

Berednsohn, Roy. Let's Stick Together. Popular Mechanics Magazine, May 1998. Web.

Cafferty, Jeanie. Glue! Glue! Glue! A Great Costuming Tool. Jareeba Magazine, 2008. Print. Beginning Sewing, well illustrated, with emphasis on sewing machine use.

Dawn Davina Brown: Hints and Tips for the Belly Dance Costumer. This free downloadable document is oriented towards dancers who are purchasing and maintaining costumes rather than costumers, but all costumers should know the details in this book. She covers Cabaret and Tribal costuming and practice wear, with illustrations of common costume pieces and discussions on how to mix, match and maintain them. Keep in mind that this very informative document was written in 2002 and that some costume trends have changed since then; turbans, for instance, are no longer de rigueur for tribal costumes.

Maura Enright, Evolution of a dance costumer,, 2010, Web.

Fetzek-Guzel, Nancy. To Dress or Not to Dress. Jareeda Magazine, 2006. Print.

Folkwear Patterns: Folkwear Tribal Dancer pattern #144. Carolena Nericcio worked with Folkwear to produce diagrams and patterns for pantaloons, choli, hip scarf, hip belt, fluffy skirt and tribal bra that involve the least possible sewing skill and fuss. Most of the pieces are based on rectangles with minimum fitting... but with that many layers, it doesn't really matter. I enjoyed using the pattern just for the sense of history.

Jacque Goldsmith, Make a Press-Cloth Wardrobe, Threads Magazine, April/May 2011.

Indiana University: Tilke Costume Patterns and Designs: Ethnic clothing design traced back centuries.

Jasel, Cheating - it's not just for tests anymore!. Jareeda 2005. Print.

Morocco, Ask Aunt Rocky. RDI Publications, 2011. Print.

Neukam, Judith. Get Up to Date on Sewing Adhesives. Threads Magazine, April 2002. Print.

New Mexico State University Agricultural Extension Service Publications on Clothing . Care, construction, choices of and color. Well-illustrated presentation of classic info.

Princess Farhana, Princess Farhana. Hareeda Magazine 2005. has a fabulous collection of how-to guides on all aspects of basic sewing skills.

Threads Magazine:

  • Free Croquis (body outline) to download from Threads Magazine web site.
  • Letters to Editor, several issues. Print.

Bond Fabrics Securely, Threads Magazine, Dec 2009. Print.


  • used to prevent linings and facings from rolling. After clipping, trimming and pressing an edge, stitch 1/8 - 1/4 inch from the seam line ON THE LINING (or facing) FABRIC.
  • Understitching is NOT a substitute for careful trimming and clipping, tedious though it may be. VintageSewing.Info: online library of sewing books in the public domain.

Vogue Sewing Book: MED / BD dancers are constantly scolding 'fusion' dancers about the need to know the basics of what they are trying to fuse. I feel the same way about costumers. Put down that hot-glue gun and do not pick it up again until you have read a basic sewing book and learned about linings, underlinings, seam finishes and hems. Hint: clothing is three-dimensional, the design in your head is two-dimensional. Time to evolve! Any decent sewing book, new or used, will do. I cut my teeth on the Vogue sewing book.



Costume Hems

Attaching hooks and eyes: Pictures from Utah State University Extension Service.

Attaching hooks and eyes: Diagrams from

Lock stitch for hooks, eyes and snaps from Threads Magazine.

Underlining dance costume pieces.

Costume Yokes.

Standards of Quality from

My grandmother's spools of thread and my mother's spools of thread live in their own drawer in my treadle machine.
— American Thread Giant size 50, 25 cents.
— Coats & Clark's Mercerized Sewing thread, 325 yards.
— Conso, Glaced Finish, 500 yards.
— Talon Mercurized, 125 yards, 15 cents.

Out of respect, I have started incorporating these threads into sewing tasks where color or quality doesn't matter (basting, gathering); as each wooden spool empties, I put the spool away.   Oh, and here is one I bought myself: silk buttonhole twist, 10 yards, 35 cents.   I bought this in Macy's in NYC when I was a teenager and Macy's still had an entire floor devoted to Domestics.   Young, in the summer in NYC, walking home to my apartment with my newly purchased treasures, heart light as a feather: anything seemed possible.

Using a Midpoint Mark to join Bias

Using a Midpoint Mark to join Bias.

Visible Mending with Sashiko

Visible Mending with Sashiko Movement.

Regency Tailoring Posture

Regency Tailoring Posture from

I WAS LIVING IN ATLANTA when I decided to learn to quilt. I started attending the quilting bee held every Wednesday at the Cabbagetown Community Center. I was 23 and had read about quilting in the Whole Earth Catalog; everyone else was late-middle-aged or older and had been quilting for decades. These ladies were from families that had worked the cotton mills for generations until the work migrated to Mexico, China and India. They knew how to make five cents do the work of a dollar. Their quilt tops were made of old clothes and remnants, mostly double knit. I was the only one who made quilt tops of new materials. They claimed to admire my made-from-new-calico tops, but not one other person, in two years, ever came in with a quilt top of new materials. That wasn't how they did it. And I pretended to admire their double-knit tops, and somehow we all got along. The quilt frame was composed of four 8-foot long boards (rails), held together at the corners with C-clamps and balanced on the backs of folding chairs to keep the quilt off the floor. Headless nails had been pounded into the rails at 3" intervals. There was no basting of any quilt, either to a leader strip attached to the rails or of the three layers of quilt. We stretched the lining over quilt frame and popped the fabric over the nails. Then we smoothed the batting over the lining and the quilt top over the batting. A few pins were inserted along the edges and we were set up... twenty minutes, max. There was no great store set on precision piecing. Some of these quilt tops were cone-shaped, not flat. But, as they said, it all quilted down. And it did. We used the same quilting pattern for every quilt; 'Elbows' they called it. Nested upside-down Ls. That pattern would flatten anything, and it would finish a quilt in a day. And that's what we did; every week someone would bring in a quilt top, we would cover it with Elbows, and they would take their quilt home at the end of the day. I continued to use four sticks with nails and C-clamps as my quilt frame for decades. But bit by bit I replaced some parts with pieces from the Flynn quilt frame company. The side rails have been replaced with the short (24") Flynn construct, and my long rails nestle into the side pieces and can be turned and tightened into place; no C-clamps required. The long rails, however, still have nails in them, and I don't baste anything. I don't think I ever will, because I'm still 23 and probably the last surviving member of the Cabbagetown Community Center quilting club. — March 2020
Maura Enright, Proprietor
© by Maura Enright
Updated 2020.09.28
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