Category Archives: Sewing

Accessorize! Making Armbands and Stoning Tips

So here’s the second installment of the costuming post. My Latin dress looks like this, and it’s pretty rad: 

The body of the dress is covered in slung sequin fringe (basically fringes of different length in red and holographic orange made out of sequins). It’s crazy fun to dance in, because the movement is insane, and it makes cool noises. I was dance testing it the other night at the studio and when I was walking back to the teachers’ room to change, one of my co-workers said, “it’s like applause every time you move!” SO TRUE. And who doesn’t want to take their own applause with them?

I bought it used off the interwebs, and it’s been an interesting reclamation project. When it showed up, it was definitely a fixer-upper (and hence cheap, which is why I could afford it!) – there’s a funky sort of nude panel on the left hip that wasn’t fringed, but just left open. I suppose it might look cool on the right person, but it looked weird on me. Clearly it looked weird on the last girl, too, because she had hot-glued these giant orange bird of paradise fake flowers on the hip? It was a very strange choice, and the ass flowers did not enhance anything. The side cutout was also too high in the waist (granny panties height) and the minimal stoning on the dress was cheap plastic shit.

So after I ripped off the ass flowers and most of the cheap-o stones, I sent it to a costume alterations house to be recut (because you have to know how to keep correct tension in the bodysuit as you do it, and you have to be able to sew the right kind of elastic – far beyond my present skill level). But I did the cosmetic alterations myself, including:

  1. adding new fringes and filling in that strange open hip situation (friends, I just typed ‘open hippo’ by mistake which is awesome; the idea of a sparkly fringe-y ballroom dancing hippo reminds me of the hippos in Fantasia who were my FAVORITE*)
  2. Pulling off the ugly cheap plastic “stones” and re-rhinestoning in the only acceptable choice, Swarovski
  3. ACCESSORIZING!
I mostly want to talk about #3, since you can save yourself a LOT of money if you know how to make your own ballroom jewelry and accessories. Last time we talked about how to do those fancy rhinestone bracelets you see all over the place; today we’ll talk about how to do armbands.
Like basically every Latin costume ever (and a lot of the smooth ones, too) comes with armbands. They’re super easy to make – exactly the same premise as costume straps, just with wider elastic and stoning.

Anastasia Trutneva rocking some armbands.

First, go ahead and sew a long piece of one inch elastic inside a lycra casing that matches your dress. (Don’t know how to do that? Learn here!)
Figure out how much you’ll need and then just add like six inches and do the whole damn thing at once, it saves time. After you’ve got your big giant lycra elastic snake, feel good about yourself for a minute. You did it! Yay for you!
Okay, now GET REAL. This is where there is high potential for you to fuck it all up.

Figure out how many armbands you want – I did three. An upper arm, an elbow, and a wrist (the wrist one being essentially a bracelet that does not move). It is important that you figure out how tight to make them: tight enough so that they stay in place when you dance and don’t move BUT not so tight that they cut into your arm and make it look weird and lumpy. Not even rhinestones will fix that.

The way I did it was to guess as closely as I could, leave an extra inch of elastic or so, cut the piece off from the snake, and then just futzed with it on my arm until it stopped looking weird. This is SCIENCE, people. It is SUPER precise. Even with all the futzing, my elbow one still sometimes slipped. But fortunately this costs you like six bucks so if you totally blow it or you need to make different sized ones later, it’s not the end of the world.

When you have the circumference of your arms figured out properly, pin those bitches and then sew them closed. I decided to sew the upper arm and elbow ones closed completely, but to put a hook-and-eye closure on the wrist one. It doesn’t make any difference – I could have sewn that one shut too. But don’t hook and eye the bigger ones; if you need to make them open and closeable, use velcro. (I’ll probably do that next time anyway, since it gives you more flexibility on the sizing. But I was concerned that my stupid dress would get stuck to the velcro, so. We all make life choices.)

Next step, try not to be a huge idiot and sew your hook and eye on backwards.

Oops, is it too late for that?

Well, I guess you can try just leaving it and hoping.

No? That didn’t work? It flew off your stupid arm every time you extended it? Well, then, dumbass, looks like you better re-do it the right way.

Once you’ve done that, stone the shit out of those armbands. You will lose a little elasticity with the stoning, but not too much. If you’re super concerned, stretch it out as you stone and then release it to dry.

I elected not to stone them solid because I felt like it would be too much and take too long and I would run out of stones and I did NOT want to go back to the fashion district and buy more. So I did mine like this:

Then, of course, after they were dry I was like, needs more stones! And I went back and glued more on. Which was obviously the right decision.

And that’s it, really! Not tough – the hardest part with these bitches is sizing them correctly so they don’t look stupid.

* NB the ballet hippos from Fantasia are a future post for sure; it turns out there is all SORTS of interesting shit to be said about them.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Team Crystal AB Alert!

Oh my gosh you guys, Swarovski has an INTERACTIVE COLOR WHEEL on their website that tells you what color rhinestones are compatible with each other. It’s like the greatest thing ever. In order, it now goes:

  1. Swarovski rhinestone color wheel thingy.
  2. Sliced bread.

Using this whatchamacallit, you get a main color, harmonious colors, contrast colors, and a pearl color.

So. If my main color is Peridot (which is BEAUTIFUL, I used it on another girl’s dress and I still am, har har har, GREEN with envy):

then apparently my harmonious colors are Lime, Olivine, and Khaki:

and my contrasting colors are Rose and Fuschia:

(Apparently my pearl color is Crystal Light Green Pearl, which is of zero interest to me. I say, who cares, buy a gross of AB and toss it on there. Peridot AB is pretty stunning.)

 This is a fun toy to play with – plan out your next stoning project!!

P. S. Note to other members of Team Crystal AB – I seem to recall a pink smooth dress that is pretty close to this color combination! Throw in some topaz and it looks like a big winner.

Tagged , , , ,

Accessorize! How to Make Ballroom Jewelry, Part One

As promised, here’s the next installment on costuming, as I learn to replicate expensive ballroom costume crap in the comfort and fabric-scrap-strewn luxury of my kitchen. Last time, we looked at how to make the straps that hold costumes together – today, it’s bracelets and armbands!

An essential component of any costume is bling. You have to accessorize your dress, or it looks half finished. The costume department on Dancing With The Stars has buckets of them so Karina can stack them up her tiny arms every week.

Trouble is, those accessories can end up costing as much as the dress – mostly because high quality Swarovski rhinestones are expensive, and gluing those little bastards onto things is a time intensive process.

At my most recent competition, I checked the price on regular bangle bracelets with a couple vendors, and the average market price these days is about $50-$60 per bracelet. That seemed pretty steep to me, so I decided to try making my own. I already had to make armbands for my Latin costume, so what the hell, right? I had taken the time to check out the bracelets and it seemed like it was just lycra wrapped around a stiff material to give the thing structure, and then stoned.

I decided to use 1/2 in plastic dress boning (hur, hur, BONING) as the stiff material (I know, I know). I cut it to size in strips and then ran a line of glue down the center of the boning strip so that when I rolled the lycra around it, it would stay put. I did the first one with E6000, but that was a little too much firepower, so for the second bracelet I used Gemtac and that was fine. I only needed enough glue to hold the fabric in place for a bit while I wrapped the lycra, not enough to permanently secure it through the zombie apocalypse.

I hand-sewed through the lycra and the boning along the inside of the strip, just to make sure that it stayed attached.

After I ran the stitches all the way down the strip, I cut off the extra lycra and figured out how to make the strip into a circle.

The first thing I tried was just joining the ends together and whip stitching it closed. But that did not work at all because the boning sat in a teardrop shape instead of the circle that I wanted. So I pulled it all out and figured that I needed to have some overlap of the two ends in order for the circle to stay intact once I sewed it shut.

I overlapped the two ends about 1/4 of an inch and hand sewed (hand shoved my needle – that was a lot of crap to sew through!) the thing closed, which ended up giving me a pretty satisfactory circle. I tried to keep everything as tacked down as possible so that when I was ready to stone the bracelet, there wouldn’t be any extra fabric or thread or loose ends of things fouling up my stoning.

Then I stoned it with Swarovski – I ran a line of Crystal AB 20ss down the center and filled it out with Crystal AB 16ss on either side, which fit just about perfectly. The 20ss go much faster, but the 16ss give more sparkle, and also I had more of them, so that’s what happened.

I’m really happy with the way they came out – they look exactly like the ones the vendors sell (except that mine are slightly different colored lycra and the stoning is better). And God knows I saved some money! It literally came out to about ten percent of the cost. If I had more ambition, I would do some bracelets and sell them. Maybe a summer project?

Total cost for 2 bracelets – $11.95 (versus $110.00)

4 way stretch lycra – $1.05

Plastic boning (ha!) – $0.40

Gemtac, stones, thread – $10.50

Total time – about three hours (but only because I was learning – the second bracelet I did in about an hour start to finish)

The finished product, shown here with Latin fingers so you get the full effect. (You will also note that I have not one but two different kinds of fake tan in the background – that’s ballroom for you, baby. You can also see the plastic boning strips in their raw form on the left – they worked really well, and I have a giant roll of the stuff that only cost $20. It would probably make about 23948290384023 bracelets.)

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Dress Repair 101 – Strap it on!

So you know those nude straps that hold essentially every ballroom costume together?

Every ballroom costume made after 1989, that is.

I pulled some pink straps off a smooth dress and was trying to replicate them in nude:

 

(The bottom one is the original strap from the dress – the top is one of my failed attempts.)

It was 100% trial and error – I knew that basically, you had to wrap 1/2 inch elastic in 4-way stretch lycra and zig-zag stitch it, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. Here, presented for your entertainment, are some do’s and don’t of how  to sew nude costume straps.

 

(1) DON’T make a sausage casing. 

So my first idea was to make a sort of sausage casing/pillowcase for the elastic and just slide it in. This is a terrible idea for a couple reasons. Firstly, lyrcra is a slippery bitch, and trying to get it to stay still while you sew it is ridiculous. Secondly, there’s no way it will be tight enough unless you sew it smaller than the 1/2 inch and then you have to shove the elastic through and it does not stretch properly. Plus, the elastic will slide around inside the lyrcra and just generally look like crap. It’s like a bizarre elastic condom. Nobody wants that.

 

(1a) Don’t use lycra that’s too soft.

I started off with this 4 way stretch that is actually swimsuit lining (I think) because the color was closer to what I wanted. But it was so soft, it kept tearing at the needle puncture sites when I stretched the elastic. There’s no way it would be tough enough to stand up to ballroom wear. So I ended up going with sparkly nude instead that was a little darker, but much more durable. I also experimented with red – it turns out that it doesn’t matter at all if the grain of the lycra lines up with the elastic, it all stretches great no matter how you slap it together. So that’s nice.

 

(2) DON’T just assume that because you cut it wide enough, the edges will meet. 

I thought, you know, just fold it and kind of push the edges together as you sew and it will work out! Here’s why that turned out to be a stupid idea: LYCRA IS SLIPPERY AS A MOTHERFUCKER. It slides around and the edge you THOUGHT was attached turns out not to be, so the fabric doesn’t actually wrap all the way around the elastic. It will look good from the front, and then you turn it over and swear a whole lot because that turned out to be a total waste of time.

 

(3) DON’T pull the elastic through the machine.

So I have my mother’s old sewing machine (which incidentally I had NO idea how to thread or do anything with, so thanks internet for helping a sister out) and when I was about ten, she was teaching me how to sew pillowcases and curtains and whatnot. She would always tell me not to pull the fabric through – guide it through from the front of the machine, don’t pull it from the back. And then she would swear like a sailor because she actually hated sewing and it was a pain in her ass and why wouldn’t the motherfucking bobbin sit in the goddamned thing fucking correctly etc etc. 

Turns out that lesson (plus the profanity) are still constants in my sewing efforts. I was attempting to pull the lycra tight around the elastic, but in the process of trying to wrap a stretchy slippery fabric around a substance whose entire point of being is to elasticate, I ended up pulling it and the zig zag stitch I was laying in didn’t fall properly – it ended up with this weird warped sort of thing happening, so the strap would not have lain flat once it was attached to the dress. Bummer.

 

(4) DO pretend it’s a burrito.

Cut the lycra a little wider than double the width of the elastic, and fold one side over the elastic so that it’s flush with an edge, and then fold the other side over. Hold that bitch tight and run a quick line of stitches across the top of the elastic so that nothing moves. After that, sort of keep folding it over as you go down, folding one side in to stay close to the edge of the elastic and pulling the other side all the way across. Because it’s wider, the extra fabric will actually go past the elastic – this is totally fine, don’t stress out about that. After you’ve gone all the way down, set a similar line of stitches on the bottom of the elastic. Then trim off the extra fabric close to the zig-zag stitch – this is easy because you can just pull on the lycra and sort of run your scissors along and it comes right off and doesn’t fray.

Finished product:

 Yay! Learning by doing.

Next time: attaching sequin fringe and making armbands.

Tagged , , , , , ,