Sewing for belly dance

sewing and tailoring

Purchased dress or glitter dot dress

So now you have either bought a straight stretch dress, or made the glitter dot dress on this website. How to do the inserts to give it that flash and flair when you spin?  Insert some inserts, of course!  Here is how............... 

Start with a dress made out of stretch fabric, purchased or make the glitter dot dress.  Try on, mark with safety pin the part on your thigh you want the top of the insert to be.  Keep in mind that sheer fabric inserts will show everything underneath, so not to high.  A couple of inches above the knee is good. 

Lay the dress on its side on a flat surface, floor is good, and make sure the side seams line up straight down the center.  See diagram-

Measure from hem to thigh mark.  Mark this measurement across thigh of dress in these spots .......side seam........back of thigh.  Undo seams up to this mark, where there are no seams cut up a straight line.  When finished the dress should look like this.

Make an insert pattern of paper, or scrap fabric.  Once you have yourself measured for inserts the size rarely changes.  This makes it easier for you to make your next costume or skirt.

To make this insert, use measurement of the cut slits in dress.  To make width at bottom use the width of fabric you have as a guide.  The wider the insert the wider the flair on the finished dress.  Minimum measurement I would use is 24 inches.  That is 1/2 the width of regular 45" width fabric.  The curve on the bottom is to account for the hem may drag up in the center after sewing.  It is at least 2 inches longer in the center than at the sides.  You can always cut it straighter later, but you won't be able to fix it if it is too short in the center.  The wider the insert, the deeper this curve should be.  When making the pattern, fold the paper on the center line so both sides will be cut even.  The center line is the grain.  This means this line should be parallel to the edge of the fabric.  This keeps the insert hanging straight.  Here is the layout for cutting the inserts. It all depends on the size of your fabric.  Don't forget cut 2 at once to get 6 inserts.

Six inserts for 5 slits cut in the dress?  Two inserts get sewn together  for the back seam.  It gives the dress a little more kick and twirl,  It's a little flat with only 5.

Sew the inserts

The secret to sewing inserts is the pins. Mark the center of the insert 1/2 down from point . Mark slit 1/2 up from cut. Pin the top of insert, right sides together ( the sides that show on the outside).  Start with one side,  the center of the insert is pinned to the center of the top of the split.  Then pin the bottom of the insert of the same side to the hem of split.  Pin the center between pins and then pin the center of these pins until the whole thing is pinned.  This helps you to keep the slackness you will experience while sewing even.  This slackness is caused by a bias edge ( the side of the insert) which means the fabric was cut on an angle, being sewed to a straight edge ( with the grain or thread weave of the fabric).  Sew starting at the mark center of the insert keep the edges of the fabric together.  The way you have pinned it will help the keep the parts you may have to stretch or manipulate to keep them even and together small ( you are working at the spaces between pins) remove the pins as you finish with each little section.  Why bother with this?  This technique is known as easing,  it is also used to put in sleeves at the shoulder , collars on shirts, and any where else curve meets curve or straight. If you just sew and cut off the extra that stretches out because the insert is cut on the bias, it will not hang straight and will twist your dress. 

To start the other side. Pin the same as the first side.  Wiggle top of insert between your fingers until you manipulate it to line up with the unsewed side.  Put the needle down in the place exactly where the stitch ends at the mark.  You will find this a little hard to do at first, you may try making a tiny cut in the dress up to the locked stitches at the top of the insert.

  Start sewing.  When finished, you should be able to trace one continuous line from one side of the bottom of the insert to the other.  Finish by topstitching the seam allowances( the edge inside sewed together) flat through the insert.

Use a pivot turn at the top of the insert.  Sew up one side.  At the point where you need to turn down the other side, stop.  Put the needle down in that point.  With the needle in, lift the foot, turn the work (dress ) around until the new path you want to sew is facing the right way for you to sew down.  Continue stitching.  You will have one unbroken line.

Full mermaiding

This is to be used for a short skirt or dress. You can make the glitter dot dress short, or the straight skirt in Skirts and Veils short.  We will cover ruffle mermaiding, and circle mermaiding as well as how to make the mermaid skirt dip up the front and still keep the lower skirt part hanging evenly.

Circle mermaiding requires a lot of wasted fabric, so I try to make sure I either get the fabric cheap or it is a heavier weight.  Glitter dot is perfect.  I find sheer fabric doesn't have enough body to hold the circle nicely.  It sort of falls flat.  When using chiffon or other such thing, it's better to make ruffle mermaid, unless you are willing to add a couple of layers to give it some body.

Ruffle mermaiding

You will need a short dress or skirt.  The end of the hem should land slightly above the knee.  Movement will be restricted if you use anything but stretch fabric on the body.

Chiffon  or organza -  Measure from hem to floor, add 1 inch ( seam allowances are 1/2 inch each)  Multiply by 5 ( more if you want a fuller skirt).  Divide by 39 to get meters (canada)  .by 36 to get yards(u.s.)   You should end up with a number around 3.5 or 4 yards, give or take.

Start by cutting the pieces as shown in the diagram.  The measurement of each piece is the same as the hem to the floor plus 1.


Join together at the short side to make a very large circle.

Use gathering technique on the top part.  Do not lock stitches, set machine to largest stitch.  Sew between the seams, 2 rows of stitches, 1/4 inch apart.  Leave long threads at either side, and do not cross lines of stitching.  If you use a good quilting thread ( heavy and slick)  you only need one row.

Next holding the long threads, push the fabric along the threads to make it pucker and ruffle.

Do this until the ruffled part fits around the hem of the skirt or dress.  Pin so that it is spread evenly, push and pull gently to get it to fit.  Don't forget to allow for ease if the dress or skirt is made of a stretch fabric. .  Pin right sides together.  The outside of the garment should be on the inside. Ruffle to skirt. 

Sew with regular locked stitching stretching as you go , as the green in the diagram shows.  Hem with serger rolled hem or hankerchief hem.  Your skirt is now finished.  Great for spinning.

Here is what your finished skirt should look like.

Full circle mermaid

As with ruffle mermaid, use short dress or skirt.  Hem should fall a couple of inches above the knee.  I prefer to use a heavier, not sheer fabric for this pattern as it would take a few layers and a lot of wasted fabric to make the circles.  But if you gots the cash, and you want it, go for it.

Start by measuring around the hem of the skirt, write it down.  Divide by 4. Measure from the hem to the floor.  Write it down.   Use a large piece of paper to make the inner circle pattern, the paper should be large enough to make the full measurement of a circle around the hem of skirt.  Fold the paper into quarters.  Measure the skirt hem side to side, with the skirt flat, divide by 2.  Use this measure to mark a quarter circle from the center corner using a compass type setup.  Use a measuring tape and marking pencil.   Hold edge of tape at corner, and trace with the measurement as you hold pencil to the correct measure on tape.  Use the measurement around divided by 4 to check and make sure the measure is correct on the curve you have just marked.  If they are not the same adjust it evenly, it doesn't matter how many lines you have drawn on your paper , it's the cut that counts.  Use the same method as you would to make a circle skirt, but use the paper pattern as the inside circle.  The reason you have cut a full circle pattern is that some fabrics are much wider than others and you may be able to cut the circle from one piece of fabric without joining.  You can also make 4 pieces to the circle and join it.  Just make sure you leave 1/2 for seam allowance each side, every time you join pieces.   The measurement from the hem to the floor is marked evenly with compass type setup.  Your marked pieces should look like this.

circle cut from one piece, fold in quarters like paper pattern.

circle cut from two pieces

circle cut from 4 pieces

To make layers, cut more than one set of circles, for chiffon, I prefer 3..  Gradually make each layer a little shorter, longest inside , shortest outside.  This gives it that nice fluffed out look, it is also advisable to roll hem with a serger the final hem on the circles of layers as this also adds a little body to the hem.  Sew the layers together before adding to skirt.

Join pieces as needed to make one circle. 

Join to skirt, be sure to make the seam smooth, no kinks, ruffles.  The seams cut from two pieces of fabric should be at the sides. Remember to ease with pins.  Pin front center, back center, side center and side center.  Then pin in the middle of these.  Then pin in the middles again.  Manipulate, and stretch the fabric as you sew to make one smooth seam.  Now you see why you needed to be so careful with making that first circle paper pattern.   If you have to make adjustments that leave wrinkles, do it in the back where you are less likely to see it.  Try on and hem as usual.  Dragrams to come

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