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Tassel Belt Pattern for American Tribal Dancers

Make a tie-on tassel belt that will stay up, stay together and last a long time.

Cut on grain so it doesn't stretch;
Shaped with simple darts to keep it on your hips;
Lined to give it stage-worthy presence and to support tassels and decorations.
  1. Design Considerations
  2. Select Your Fabric
  3. Taper the Ends
  4. A Quick Lining
  5. Make the Ties
  6. Attach the Ties
  7. Top Stitch the Belt
  8. Add Darts for Shape and Strength
  9. Make and Attach Tassels
American Tribal hip belt with tassels

Design Considerations

Color: Black is a traditional and easy theme color for tribal belts.

Pattern: A fabric with a woven-in design is often a good choice if you don't intend to ornament the belt body after sewing. Brockade, ikat and tapestry provide built-in designs.

Grain: This pattern is designed for a belt body, lining and ties cut on the grain, which means with sides running parallel to the selvage or to the weft (woven threads). Cutting on the grain makes for strength and stability; cutting off-grain will permit the fabric to stretch in uncontrolled and undesired ways.

Ruric-Amari and Samovar at the Jazz Factory
Ruric-Amari in the belt prototype. Because of the darts, the belt is level, not tilted from back to front.

Select your fabric:

The upholstery remnant table at your local or online fabric store is a good place to look for fabric, but be careful. You don't want to end up with a belt that looks like sofa upholstery. If the pattern appeals, analyze how it will look on stage around your hips.

Start by measuring around your hips at the widest point. This is your hip measurement.

Then decide how deep you want the belt to be in the back. The examples in this tutorial make a 5" deep belt. These instructions can be adapted to suit a wider OR a narrower belt. Elongate the slope of the belt front towards the back. Depending on the depth, you could end up with a belt hem that is almost entirely on a curve.

Fabric for Body: 6” x (hip - 2”)

Fabric for Lining: 6” x (hip -2”)

Fabric for Optional Underlining: 6” x
(hip -2”)

Fabric for Ties: 10” x 42”

Grosgrain for optional reinforcement: Four yards of 1/4” grosgrain.

Tassels:Depends on the width of the tassel. If you are making your own from yarn, try 1 per 3” length of belt.

Ornamental bead with 3/16” hole: 1 per tassle

Taper the Ends to Shape the Body:

The goal: to shape the body and lining quickly and without a pattern. If your belt body needs to be underlined, do it now.
Mark the front slope on the belt using chalk or fabric pen.
  1. 7" width or less:
    Make a mark 3” down from the waist on each end;
    Make a mark 7” in from the side on each bottom;
  2. 7 - 9" width
    Make a mark 4.5” down from the waist on each end;
    Make a mark 10” in from the side on each bottom;
  3. Connect the marks with a smooth line and cut.
  4. Round the bottom of the cut into a smooth curve that extends towards the back center of the belt a bit.
Shaping the American Tribal tassel belt body

Shape and Attach the Lining to the Body

The goal: sew the belt body and lining together quickly and accurately.
  1. Optional: One inch from the outside top edge of the LINING, in the center, attach a piece of white grosgrain or twill tape for a name tag.
  2. Right sides together, lay the shaped Body fabric on top of the lining fabric, lining up at the center top edges.
  3. Sew the TOP edges together using a 1/2” seam allowance, backstitching for strength at each end. Do NOT sew the short sides.
  4. Optional: attach 1/4 - 1/2" grosgrain on the seam lining or along the top of the lining to prevent any stretching at the waist.
  5. On the bottom edge ONLY: trim the lining to match the Body shape.
Shape the tassel belt lining
  1. Right sides together, with the Body fabric on top, pin Body and Lining together at the bottom edges.
  2. Sew edges using a 1/2” seam allowance, backstitching for strength at each end. Do NOT sew the short sides.
  3. Turn right side out.
  4. Press flat.
Sew the tassel belt lining to the body

Make the Ties

Make two flat ties neatly and quickly by following the instructions in the Ties page. Make ties that are at least 18 inches long.

Attach the Ties

The goal: attach the ties to the belt quickly and neatly with topstitching..
  1. Lay the belt on the table..
  2. Fold under the seam allowances at the ends, making an open circle at each end. Press and/or baste the raw edges in place.
  3. Insert a short end of a tie into each end.
  4. Pin or baste closed.
  5. Top-stitch the sides closed. I use a long narrow rectangle to flatten the enclosed seam allowances.
Add ties to tassel belt

Top Stitch the Belt

Goal: Neat topstitching that will emphasize the beauty of the belt and strengthen the seams.
  1. Make sure the belt is pressed with seams positioned properly.
  2. For the tribal belt: with the belt body facing up, run a seam from the middle of the finished end of one tie, across the top of the belt and the other tie, then down around and across to where you started. Recommend stitching no more than 1/3” from the edge.

Add darts for Shape and Strength

Goal: create exterior darts that will make the rectangular belt conform to your figure, be less likely to slip down while dancing, and maintain shape under stress.

These darts are not like the ones on dresses.

  1. You don't have to be exact (although you can if you want). You need a few generic darts added to curve the belt and add body.
  2. In dressmaking, darts are sewn before sewing the garment together. In this case, we sew the darts AFTER everything else is complete. This allows the bulk of the dart to act as self-boning, and also allows you to make adjustments in the future if required.
Mark dart position by dividing the the belt into eighths and pressing the folds. (It does not HAVE to be eighths -- but eighths seems to work well across a wide variety of sizes and materials.)
  1. Fold the belt body in half, with the lining side on the outside.
  2. Iron each half into half. This creates quarter-belt marks.
  3. Iron each quarter into half. Now you have eighths.
  4. Run a basting stitch down each fold to keep the fabric from shifting when you sew darts.
add darts to tassel belt
Pin and sew darts at folds 1, 3, 5, and 7 as marked on the diagram. The darts are 1/2” inch at the top and taper to 1/8” at the bottom. Because of the turn of the cloth, these four 1/2” darts reduce the belt waist size by 6”.

You can run the dart to the very bottom of the belt, or you can stop part way. Your choice.

If you want to have darts at points 2, 4 or 6, you can: but narrow the taper of the dart to 1/4 inch or you may end up with a waist that is too small. Unless, of course, that is what you are trying to do ... resize the belt for a smaller person.

As you make your darts, you will see your belt curving a bit. This is what makes it fit better.

Make and Attach Tassels

  1. Make tassels following the instructions at
  2. Think ahead about how you are going to attach the tassel to the belt and use the yarn, tie, shoelace, string, ribbon, whatever, that you plan to attach the tassel with in step number 2 when you are tying the strands together and before you wrap the neck. I call this tie the tassel lead.
  3. Threading a bead through the tassel lead is a nice touch.
  4. Sew the tassel lead to the back of the belt at the desired spot(s).
tassels for American Tribal belt
Maura Enright, Proprietor
©2013 - 2016 by Maura Enright
Last updated Jan 2016
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