Friday, December 11, 2009

Finally Dancing on the Web!

I have finally completed the unexpectedly epic struggle to get a video of one of my improvised performances up on the net. *whew* First I had to covert the iDVD movie my student graciously gave me into mp4 format with new software just for that purpose. Then I needed to split it in two so I could separate my performance from my student Vashti's drum solo. That meant going through 3 more pieces of software until finally using iMovie (with much struggle). If you should ever find yourself about to embark on this journey, learn from my efforts. YouTube has a handbook with all sorts of useful information about file size, format, camera angles, lighting, uploading, etc. IMovie works with iPhoto. Import your newly converted mp4 file into iPhoto and then you have easy access to it in iMovie. You can copy/paste the selected section of the clip that you want into a new project and then in the Share menu you can select a number of options including YouTube.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reflection and Goal Setting

I have been thinking quite a lot about my dance lately and about how I want to grow as a dancer. I haven't seen a lot of workshops come through my area lately and while I love teaching my students, I miss having a teacher of my own. When time and resources allow, I travel an hour to Denver to study with Eva Cernik. Her 7 week class on zils was a major challenge for me. I have a few goals that I can work on in the immediate future but that will likely be areas for growth for many years.
I stink at zils. Or at least, I think I do. I must find a practice routine that works for me and USE IT! I owe it to myself, to my audience, to the art and most of all to my students! So far they aren't good enough with them to have exceeded my ability to teach but that day will come and I feel it's my job to grow as a dancer so that they have more to continue learning from me. Part of my reluctance is that I don't like the sound... it hurts my ears *whine* If I ever find a pair of zils that have a low sound perhaps I will fall in love :)
I want to deepen the emotive quality of my dance. I'm already a fairly emotive dancer as far as it goes but I'm so used to dancing to live instrumental music that I haven't pushed myself to research song lyrics so that I could bring that new layer of understanding to my dance. I have begun looking up lyrics for my restaurant sets. We will see where it takes me...
My ability to choreograph and not just improvise... Well, I've made some strides there too but I must push myself further. I have found Garage Band to be remarkably helpful in noting the phrases within the music. I can also record additional tracks for counting and calling cues which makes for an excellent learning tool. Recently I have also rediscovered how much easier it is for me to build a choreography when I have a partner to help me visualize and bounce ideas. My near goal is to finish the veil poi choreography I started. Then perhaps at least one other new piece for our proposed student show in June 2010.
It's not all weakness and faltering. I am grateful for the strengths that I have already developed. My students have access to pretty extensive costuming and construction and I'm pretty good at organizing. We've got a Yoga for Belly Dancers workshop lined up for mid-January and a whole list of interesting workshop topics like bead embroidery, silk veil dyeing and others for skirts, harem pants and arm ornamentation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Let the Steampunk Influences Creep In!

The brown velvet Eman style costume is really starting to take on a life of its own! My students have decided that they want to try to put together little top hats for the Cirque du TribalTique show and I wanted to add something around the neck that filled the space better than a choker...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eman Inspired Brown Velvet Belly Dance Costume

As you know, my dance company has been invited to participate in a circus themed belly dance show. We aren't fusion dancers so my challenge was to come up with something theme appropriate that we could use again at other venues. Each of us chose a different color/combination of velvet and sheer sparkly knit. We'll all have the same basic shape but each will be ornamented differently. Here is my brown and red/gold costume.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Status Report- Aka, I'm still alive!

Well, October is over and I'm still breathing :) I think I may have had a different costume for every weekend of the month! Let's see... First we had the Rock Star Party:

Then there was the Corn Maze Craziness:

The following weekend there was the Wild Goose Masquerade Ball where we dressed as Beauty and the Beast:

And for the last weekend of the month, there was our 1940's theme party where I wore my grandmother's evening gown and my boyfriend wore his grandfather's WWII uniform:

After all of that crazy wonderful costume goodness you'd think I'd be done for a little while but FAT CHANCE! Now my students and I must prepare for Cirque du TribalTique which happens in a month and a half. My costume is more than half-way done and the choreography is off to a good start. Barring disaster we should be on track for something fantismo! :D

Register on

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cirque du Tribal Tique

My student dance troupe has been selected to participate in Tribal Tique's annual Holiday Hafla which has a circus theme this year. Last night I finally pinned them down on a costume choice and we all went fabric shopping. Since then I've been working on my digital pattern (printable on letter sized paper, then pieced together). It's not quite where I want it yet. It needs a how to for construction, the tiled pages need to have numbers so you know how to tape them together, and I couldn't seem to get the crop marks to show on every page so you'd know where the overlap was. I'm thinking I'll print it out tonight and give it a test run. Stay tuned for construction stories!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bead Embroidery Book Reviews

This is by no means comprehensive but I have recently acquired 3 books on the subject of bead embroidery. It is my intent to put on a small bead embroidery workshop for some of my students and these books are research for that event. In no particular order they are:

Art of Bead Embroidery

Bead Embroidery

Designer Bead Embroidery

All three have excellent photos and illustrations. "The Art of Bead Embroidery" is geared towards beading jewelry for collars, pendants and bracelets. "Bead Embroidery" is like a sampler book with patterns to use while learning the effects of different stitch and bead types. It's great as a library of stitches and should prove very useful for technique instruction. "Designer Bead Embroidery" is written with clothing embellishment in mind. Because of that it takes into account laundering needs and durability for wear. Its designs have less 'wow' factor than those in "Art" but the functionality information makes it a more than worthwhile investment. So basically, I have three books with very different but equally great technique ideas, one that is huge for inspiration, one that is perfect for practice work and instruction and one that addresses the unique challenges one encounters with beaded dance costumes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And the Green Monster Sparkles On...

This is how the leaves start- micro suede, rhinestone strands and beaded whip stitches.

Then they get filled in with sead beads, bugles and sequins.

Here you see them against the Green Monster skirt fabric. There is a distressing lack of contrast between one super sparkly surface and the next. I will be debating options on bead choice for the stitches that will be used to attach the leaves to the finished skirt. I'll thread some beads up and lay them next to the two fabrics to decide. I'm thinking that clear iridescent beads might be bright enough as they'll look kind of white like the rhinestones in the center of the leaf. Once the leaves are mounted to the skirt, I plan to sew a dime sized AB crystal or slightly smaller blue button like the ones used in the center medallion to the point of the leaf. Then I will hang a few strands of fringe from it :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bead Hypnosis

I've been beading up a storm lately. Something about the light reflecting off the varying surfaces entrances me. Leads me to just keep beading... It's a good thing too because man have I set myself up with a project. Above you see what I hope to make into the center medallion of a dance costume bra. I've since replaced the center copper piece with a very shiny rhinestone covered button since it goes better with the rest of what I'm doing. The bead diagram you see on the left is some plotting I was doing for bead looming. I want to loom some beads for the waist band, extra waist straps, halter strap and extra (asymmetrical) top straps. I'll scan my drawings and new bead progress for another post. Anyway, this costume is currently planned to have cutouts which intimidate the heck out of me, beaded palm leaf thingies and a beaded waist band and hip straps. I can only hope my interest lasts and so does my collection of beads... I'm having a ball but I'm notoriously short on attention span ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vintage Vixen

Ooh lala! has offered up a free pattern for a vintage style swimsuit that is EXACTLY what I've been looking for!

Luckily one of their members who is quite handy with sewing has taken the slim to none instructions and created her own step-by-step that is quite helpful. Per her advice I lengthened the torso by at least an inch and a half. Measured the hips and despite having followed the sizing guide, I had to add quite a lot to the hips. Partly to drop the leg down a bit so my rump wouldn't hang out and partly to accommodate the circumference of my hips. Let this be a lesson to any of you tempted to create your own suit (or anything I suppose). Measure the pattern and compare it to yourself!! This is especially important for armscyes, torso length and bust/waist/hip dimensions.

So far I have the pattern altered and cut from paper and all the fabric pieces cut out. The side seams are joined and the crotch assembled. Next up either leg binding or bodice insert. This one is made in dark royal or bright Navy (depending on perspective) spandex with a white bodice insert. I think I'll do something different with the little band that gathers the center front of the suit. Not sure what. Either rhinestones over the fabric or maybe some knotted cord to play up the nautical colors... Might just sew a charm to the fabric for that effect too... decisions, decisions...

Here are some examples of suits using this pattern or one very similar:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yes. I'm pretty sure we did have "Too Much Fun". My glitter scales did not get washed off before bed time and were cause for a big laundry day for all the sheets. Glitter head to foot on my boyfriend. Glitter on my dog. Glitter in the left over salmon that we grilled. After our party had wound down a small group of us headed over to a drumming and dancing party. Yeah, mermaids and pirates belly dancing together... freaking awesome!

Friday, August 14, 2009


My latest project :) This weekend my boyfriend and I are hosting a pirate party. I have enough costume bits to put together at least 6 pirate costumes but I just couldn't do it. Instead I will be a mermaid! I have a scaled mermaid skirt from Halloween a few years ago and I've been working on my shelled, trimmed and beaded top. At the moment, I have all the fringe and shells sewn on and I have one cup left to line. Victory will be mine!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Project: Costume Rescue has slowly begun

I've got all the soiled pieces closed up in a guest bathroom so the cat can't revisit her handiwork... First I tried a costume that had metal medallions and relatively washable fabric. Put it in a lingerie bag on the 'handwash' machine cycle with a little OxyClean and some of our Seventh Generation detergent.

No rhinestones were lost and I couldn't smell the cat pee. I turned the spin cycle off of course so it was dripping wet. It's now placed on a special drying rack in the guest bathroom bathtub (again, kept away from the cat). We'll see how it fairs once dry. I think the bra should be fine but the belt may have lost most of its stiffness. If that's the case, I should be able to add a new layer of super stiff interfacing and a lining and it'll be good to go. That's one life saved!!

Next up, a few veils. They were all synthetic. One had beaded edges and one had sequin edges. The fabric fared fine, but the cat pee is still very noticeable. These were clearly peed on directly, possibly more than once. The sequins lost some of their color around the edges but the beads look ok. I'll have to wash them again- this time with vinegar I think...

The last thing I had time to try was a load this morning with a velvet vest/bra that had sequin trim, beaded fringe and hand embroidery. The velvet was already a bit worse for the wear because it's my oldest cabaret costume and needs to be rebuilt. So far the velvet doesn't look any worse than it did before (but again, it's still very wet) but the sequins lost all color.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disaster Strikes!

*Big sigh* I came home last night all excited because I'd just found the perfect plastic storage totes for my costumes. I've been keeping them in an under-the-bed storage tote but they were overflowing and the lid no longer fit. Not to mention they'd get all jumbled and tangled every time I took one out to wear.

A few months ago I moved in with my boyfriend- much to the jealous distress of his cat. At first I thought she'd be content with just hissing at me whenever we made eye contact. Then I found one of my undyed silk veils completely saturated with cat pee (long since dried). Thankfully, some very thorough rinsing seems to have done the trick for that. At this time my collection of dance costumes were being stored in the guest bedroom. Since the lid wouldn't fit, they were uncovered. Every time I'd make a fuss over the cat getting in the room with them, I was told not to worry.

Turns out I was right on the money. As I started to separate costumes from the under-bed-storage tote pile, I caught a whiff of bad smell. I've never had any of my cats pee inside, let alone on my things so it didn't click immediately.

Part or all of every single costume I have purchased or created is now crusty with vile cat pee. I now have ONE complete costume that I can wear and I have performances at least every other week. Some of these are beaded and embroidered velvet and I am at a complete loss as to how I'm going to get the cat pee out of them without ruining fabric or beading :(

I can't possibly be the only dancer who's had this happen... So I enlisted the help of my friends at The main consensus seems to be vinegar in cold water in the bathtub. Though some suggest Nature's Miracle (in addition to vinegar? Instead?) and one whole thread was devoted to those daredevil souls who have washed bedlah (bra and belt sets) and beladi (dresses) in the machine on the gentle cycle... Drying seems to involve gently rolling up the costume pieces in fluffy towels and then air drying (with various fruit acting as support devices for bra shaping...) before storing.

I'll document the resusitacion in the hopes that my efforts help someone else...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And She Soars!

Well folks, my coin costume is born again and holy rollin'! I don't know exactly the difference but the new 'curved rectangle' pattern somehow manages to carry the weight of the coins at the bottom of the belt and DOES NOT give me muffin top!! Sorry, I'm a little excited about that... I put the last few stitches in the morning of the show I was producing. *whew* Just in time. This project has been a major success. No redo's, no construction regrets. My boyfriend introduced me to this freaking amazing Industrial Velcro that doesn't snag! I'm not kidding. I smooshed the 'rough' side against some polar fleece and it slid right off. Whoa... Anyway, fan-girl gushing aside it was actually strong enough to hold on my coin belt and lemme tell ya, that hummer is HEAVY! I just tried to find a link for you (it was already out of the box when I stole it from him) and so far nothing conclusive. A backpacking forum calles it Omni-tape and says that Joann Fabrics and Crafts calls it 'no snag Velcro', go figure. For more pictures you can visit the Student Show album on my facebook Fan Page.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Phoenix Rises- the update!

I'm sooo close! The coins have been detached from the fragments of the original, flimsy bra and hand sewn one by one to the new sturdy bra that I covered with lycra. The gold braid is sewn in place, the straps are attached and ready for the tiny bit of machine sewing that will make them functional and the wild cotton batik lining is in. Now I just have to finish the straps- possibly by covering them with more gold braid trim and do the belt... I have the material and I know how I want to do it... Now I just have to manage the time. First I'll draft a new belt pattern with my dress form. I've made a 'curved rectangle' belt pattern before but it didn't seem to work quite right so I'm trying again. Once the pattern is drafted then I'll cut out lining fabric, stiff and thick fusible interfacing and more of the lycra. Then I'll machine sew the sides and top edges (right sides together!), turn, press, tuck under raw edges on bottom edge and press and then topstitch. At that poing I get to decide if I want to use gold braid along the top edge to match the bra and I get to hand stich through some of the split rings joining the coins of my belt. I don't think I'll have to take any of the links apart. I'm hoping that some industrial strength velcro backed by some skirt hooks will be suffcient to secure the belt. Dress rehersal is tomorrow and I've got a family dinner tonight so I'd better sew like the wind!! (pictures will be added shortly)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ooh.... Sparkles... o.O

I should never have followed the link from Bhuz... I've been wandering around Spandex World filling my cart so I can browse my preferred swatches at my leisure and I'm afraid I may never recover. I've found this green tiger striped holographic spandex that has me completely entranced... I can't decide if it's the most amazing material I've ever seen or the genesis of the world's ugliest belly dance costume.
I've been longing for a rich, dark green dance costume for years but never found just the right one. I've just about come to grips with the realization that I will have to build it myself. Bear in mind that I have the (posted below) teal coin costume in progress and the fixin's for an ivory crushed velvet costume with pearls and iridescent crystals that are just sitting there stewing in a bucket, waiting for their turn to be created... I don't NEED another project in my line-up. But this green tiger stripe... is it something amazing? Could I make it miraculous? Or will it just make it look like my costume is permanently wrinkled and my butt twice as wide? Help!! Opinions? If price is what sways you, this material is $14 a yard and I'll need at least 5 to do my flounced mermaid skirt pattern, 3 if I do a gored and godeted mermaid skirt (seams from waist to hem with triangles of material inserted for fullness at the hem)...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coin Collection Turned Costume

Today I finished the hand-sewing on the material covering my soon to be coin bra.
Now I'm debating on whether I want to use gold trim along the top edge of the cup and if I want to remove the coins from the piece of the old bra (now cut up and slightly visible as a dark forest green) and resew them all one by one to the new, recovered bra. I also need to get the straps functional so that I can debate the attachment point for the tummy drape and determine if I want to go ahead and drill the coins that I set aside to cover the rest of the bra in a lighter layer of coins. More of a 'chain' of coins rather than the overlapping scale arrangement at the top of the bra. I pretty much never know exactly what the finished costume will look like. I like to have a general concept that gets developed as I go along. It lets the costume tell me what it wants to be instead of me forcing the costume to line up with what I thought it should be... I know. I'm weird :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

The trials of change...

I've been completely fixated on getting back to my coin costume project and starting what I think will be the next project in line- an ivory velvet with pearls and iridescent crystal creation. But first? I must put my sewing room back together.

I just completed a move to a new town and my sewing area is a complete shambles. Went down in the basement (sewing area) a few days ago thinking I could start setting things up and noticed two rather... critical..things. I have no outlets. Absolutely none. and I have one bare light bulb and a window well for lighting. *pulls hair and cries*
For the short term solution I will be stringing an extension cord down the stairs with a power strip on the end for my sewing equipment and lamps. My darling boyfriend has promised to wire me some outlets and lighting as his next project. Yay! In the mean time, I'll torture him with my sewing equipment being set up occasionally in the main area of the house. It has to be done.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Phoenix Rising

One of my very first belly dance costume projects was to cover a bra with coins. I had no idea what I was doing and in retrospect I'm pretty sure I chose the worst possible bra ever. I didn't cover the cups with new fabric. I didn't reinforce anything and I didn't replace the straps. It was litterally a bra with coins. Eek. Thankfully, at least the arrangement of coins was flattering...

Several years after that I went through the painstaking process of building myself a coin belt. I loved the way it looked. When it wasn't on. Unfortunately, the weight of the coins would pull the belt as low as physically possible, leaving me with the dreaded "Muffin Top" where the flesh of my hips was puffed over the top of the belt. Not flattering.

Here's a picture of the costume.

While wasting time on eBay one day I stumbled across an inspiring image of another coin costume. I loved the arrangement and it didn't seem to have any of the troubles that my failed attempt suffered from. (I later discovered who made the costume and was in the picture, but that's another story!)

I had already begun the process of rebuilding my ill-fated coin costume based on this picture when I stumbled across Ozma and her costumes on facebook. What should I find within her treasure trove of information but this very costume and step by step pictures of how she remodeled it! This find was just in time to help me solve some of my construction dilemmas.

Here's where I'm at so far: I've cut the coins off of the floppy, unreinforced satin bra with the scandalous demi cups (can we say too much exposure!!). In replacement, I have purchased a WonderBra and recovered it in dark teal lycra dance fabric. We'll see what happens as I go, but for now I am thinking of adding some braided trim and resewing the previous coins that only cover the top half of the bra. I've also created a tummy drape from coins and some jewelry findings.
Any vote on whether I should completely cover the bra material with coins or allow the current amount of teal to be visible? I'm leaning towards leaving it visible. I feel like completely covered bras sometimes make people look flat chested... Thoughts?

The belt hasn't been touched just yet but I've just purchased some cool lining fabric and crazy stiff interfacing to go under the teal lycra so there should be progress soon.

The coins come from all over the world. The majority of them were a gift from my Great Aunt Martha who has brought them home from her life of extensive travel. China, Japan, Kenya, France, Mexico, Ireland, Portugal, Australia... I love my coins. Because I have no intent to spend them anywhere, I have been free to 'deface' them by drilling holes. I have a drill press and a magswitch for this part of the process.

I'll post again soon with pictures of my current progress, an image of the drill press and magswitch in action and whatever else I think might be of interest.