Something old, something blue…

tribal showing hip tucks

Bellydance belt and headband

Not at all wedding-related, in case you were wondering.

Since the sewing’s been slow (aka non-existent) with me this week, I thought I’d pad things out with a retrospective piece.

This is a headband-and-belt set I made five years or so ago, as a costuming element for American Tribal-Style Bellydance—not the only style I do, but probably my favourite (I should note here, since a lot of the elements of adornment I used in this derive from First Nations and Native American traditional arts, that ATS bellydance has nothing at all to do with any group of native americans. It was invented by a white lady in San Francisco and utilizes elements of traditional bellydance, flamenco, and east Indian dance). This particular set is a knock-off I mean inspired by the early costuming of a Tribal Fusion bellydance group called The Indigo, and if you’re not a bellydancer that’s probably so much gibberish so I won’t go into it. It’s probably my absolute fave piece of costuming, ever.

There was little, if any, machine sewing involved in these pieces; a fair bit of hand-sewing, and a LOT of beading.

I made the patterned bands of beads on a bead loom. This is one of my favourite forms of

Left: commercial bead loom. Right: home-made bead loom my mom made me when I was twelve for so.

beading—it’s comparatively quick, and you can make lovely patterns without too much thought. I don’t think there’s anyway I could have hand-beaded the entire thing this densely without shooting myself.

My mom made me the bead loom on the right when I was twelve for so, around the time I discovered a box of beads and some bands she had created herself at some point in the past (my mom is a worse hobby-slut than I am). And I banded merrily away for awhile until I reached the same unhappy realization that I cam to with cross-stitch: when I was done, I had all these little bands of bead work, and nothing I really cared to do with them. So I was pretty stoked, a decade or so later, to come up with the idea of using them in this outfit. The nice thing about tribal bellydance is you can pretty much throw anything into the mix and make it work.

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Headband with flowers, bead medallions, and cowrie falls.

Anyway, the band patterns are variations of greek key, which is a pattern I love because a) it’s gorgeous, and b) it’s found all over the world, despite the name. The centerpiece on the headband is a Hand of Fatima, which is a symbol of protection and good luck; it’s a stylized hand with an eye in the palm, though the eye didn’t show up very well, I’m afraid (and also really beautiful… and pretty much my only nod to the middle Eastern origins of bellydance in this particular ensemble).

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Headband beading

The belt is based on simple rectangles of layered denim, covered with black cotton velvet; the headband I glued a a stick-on felt backing, which works well for not sliding around and was quick, but was a bad idea for ending up with glue showing on the upper side of the beads as they rotate. It would’ve been better to quilt it down to a sturdy piece of felt (or more of the cotton velvet) by hand, especially since I ended up going over all the edges to apply more beads anyway.

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Hand of Fatima

The beaded medallions were made of slightly larger beads hand-sewn to plastic canvas circles like these ones here. This took the longest and probably drove me the most nuts of any part of this project. It was BORING! I believe these, like the bead-bands and the dress-jingles, are also nods to Native American crafts, though not ones I’m personally familiar with, unlike the bead-bands and the dress-jingles. Again I used a variety of spiraling motifs.

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Beaded medallion

The little mirrors embroidered on the belt and at the centres of the beaded medallions are generally called shisha and are common in (east) Indian adornment. I lurve them. If you find ones that were actually made in India or thereabouts, spend some time looking for lettering on the glass—often it’s

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Shisha mirror

some fragment of “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”. I love that! Mine, on the other hand, come from mosaic supplies found easily (but not nearly so thriftily) at Michael’s. My embroidery holding them down is fairly crude compared to the real thing, but again, I’m an impatient North American. It was also another handy use for that long-hoarded cross-stitch embroidery floss ;).

Also, you can see an example of my love for decorating stuff with buttons.

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Belt ornament, from left to right: dress jingles, narrow beaded strip, buttons, wide beaded strip, shisha mirrors

I finished the bottom of the belt with some small dress-jingles. I purchased these at a tiny little shop in my hometown; the lady makes moccasins and mukluks and sells powow costume supplies. I felt so authentic! They’re smaller than a lot of the ones you see on costumes, but I love them that way. Figuring out how to attach them with yarn, as opposed to the traditional leather fringe, was a bit of a trick, and involved threading beads on the yarn, popping them inside the little cones, and then squishing the narrow end of the cone with pliers so the beads couldn’t get back out again.

The belt---on. An OLD picture

Then, of course, there’s the yarn. You could not (at least at the time I was making this) have a fringe belt like this without having this kind of chunky, variable yarn. In this case, I combined two yarns, both souvenirs—the purple/blue bought at a yarn shop in Regina, Saskatchewan, and the tan/cream bought at a yarn shop in Ottawa, Ontario. Possibly I could’ve found the same stuff in my home-town, but a) I never went looking, and b) it’s much more fun to say you found it while travelling.

Blue-beaded dance headband & belt

Bead and cowrie falls on headband

Hmm. I think that mostly covers it. Oh, there’s also the cowrie falls on the headband. My mom put these cowrie shells in my stocking one year. Cowrie falls are about as integral to this look as the slubby yarn is, and there were (probably still are) about a million tutorials out there on how to make them, so I won’t go into it. It’s not hard. I do think they finish off the headband nicely, though.

Here’s another action shot to leave you with:

In action, 2008

And you can find more closeups of the pieces here.

Whew! Although I’m feeling much better, even sitting up to write this post is enough to exhaust me.  So I’ll leave you with some blurry SSS pics, they’re from yesterday but I’m wearing the same thing again today. I know, not even spacing out the repeats, but considering I’ve only been dressed for about three hours/day most of this week, I’m not going to feel too bad about it. I think I am kinda hitting self-stitched exhaustion, however. I’ll be glad to get a bit more variety back into the old wardrobe next month.

Self-Stitched September, day 22

Self-Stitched September, day 22 & 23

I know, the focus is crap, but that’s probably a good thing ;).

Self-Stitched September, day 22

Self-Stitched September, day 22 & 23

Top is the short-sleeved Lydia, which I’d actually almost forgotten about; it has the same gapy problem around the bust from the too-long armscye, but the short sleeves don’t seem to bind as much as the full-length ones do, and wearing it with the Bullet-Proof Bra does seem to help “fill it out” a bit. Of course I mainly wear knit tops so I won’t need a bra, so combining the two is a bit counter-intuitive in my books, but if it makes a wadder workable, I’ll go with it. For now.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Something old, something blue…

  1. “Of course I mainly wear knit tops so I won’t need a bra…”

    Did I ever mention how annoying you are? Sheesh. Why do I even come over here?

    (kidding. mostly.)

  2. Love the ATS outfit. I too, bellydance and ATS is one component of what I do. Love your blog.

    http://marylandbellydance.com/mianaja/tribe_gallery.php

  3. wow that’s some involving beading!!! gorgeous costume and i’m with you….over SSS right now. too much pressure from all sides (lab and self-expectation).

  4. Wow! You look amazing and the costumes are gorgeous, love the beading!
    For SSS – if I didn’t have to work everyday and instead, could spend the month building up a great Fall wardrobe it would be a lot easier. (Wouldn’t that be something?)

  5. funnygrrl

    Beautiful job on the beading. So involved…wow.
    I’m with Tasia. Next year take September off from work and household responsibilities and just sew everyday to keep up with SSS. :)

  6. Pingback: How many ways to bind a buttonhole? « Tanit-Isis Sews

  7. I was looking for shisha images for a workshop I’m teaching tomorrow and came across your blog. Wow, amazing work. And “hobby-slut”? I like it!

  8. Pingback: Slow and steady… | Tanit-Isis Sews

  9. Pingback: Thank you, ElleC | Tanit-Isis Sews

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