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Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

Machine-Sewing Sequins

by Dina Lydia

 

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The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

How can I sew sequins on with the machine? I saw some items at a show and they had the trims sewn on with a machine?

--Orange Mama

 

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The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Orange,

It's easy to sew sequin trim on with a machine. The metal is soft enough for a needle to penetrate. The sequins can be pinned or loosely basted on, then stitched close to the center, or both sides if the sequinned strip is wide. This will dull the needle more quickly than usual, so it may have to be replaced.

Who wants to spend hours tediously sewing sequins on by hand, when we all have more important things to do, like painting our toenails, or finishing that dissertation?

It may be worth the effort, at times, for several reasons. When you sew a strip of sequins by machine, the needle makes a row of holes and a line of stitching in the sequins. That's fine if the sequins are at the hem of a skirt, for instance, where they won't be viewed closely.

Be sure you sew them on correctly the first time, because if you make a mistake and have to resew, the sequins will have twice as many holes and look pretty grubby. You should start over with new trim. It can't be picked off and re-used on another garment, for the same reason, and this is a consideration if the trim is ornate and expensive.

There are parts of your costume - the bra cup, for instance - which would be difficult to fit under a machine presser foot. Handwork is necessary here. And it really does look nice to have a seqinned trim invisibly affixed with hand stitches.

Some manufacturers sew their sequins with a beautiful invisible chain stitch, but I believe this requires a special machine. Unless you plan to become a manufacturer of costume wear, it probably isn't an option.

If you do machine sew sequins onto a small costume piece such as a gauntlet, a pant leg or a bra strap, it's easier if you do it while the piece is flat, before any seams are sewn.

My words of wisdom on this subject are running out, so I hope that you're ready to run to your machine and finish whipping up that orange sparkler. Send me a photo!

--The Costume Goddess

 

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Additional Comments from Shira

I usually use a large needle (size 16) for machine-sewing sequins.

Using needle lubricant can reduce the amount of friction the needle experiences as it pierces the sequins. I recommend applying it several times while sewing the sequins in place.

If you examine the trim closely, you'll see that the sequins overlap each other slightly. If you have a slant-needle machine, it will be very important to pay attention to which end of the sequins you feed into the machine first.

If you feed them into the sewing machine with the raised part of each sequin sticking up toward you, as shown in the "Do" diagram, you'll have an easier time with less needle breakage than you will if you feed them through the other way. That's because a slant-needle machine's slant will cause it to slip off the sequin and bend or break if you feed the sequins through with the raised edge away from you as shown in the "Don't" diagram.

Pointing Up

Do

Pointing Down

Don't

 

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About the Costume Goddess

Dina has been sewing for more than twenty-five years (yes, she started as a toddler!)

She's also an artist (Maryland Institute of Art) and perfected her sewing techniques apprenticed to various designers, freelancing for small theaters, restyling vintage garments, and altering wedding gowns.

Dina fell in love with belly dancing costumes upon her very first lesson. Now the pleasure of wearing her own designs, and seeing others wear them, offers as much pleasure as dancing. She's become expert as well in altering those troublesome ready-made Egyptian costumes, and modifying designs to flatter individual figures.

She holds workshops in Seattle to teach design and construction of cabaret costumes, and analysis of figure characteristics. She will also give private lessons, or resize or repair a secondhand costume. She's thus earned her Costume Goddess title.

Photo of Dina Lydia, The Costume Goddess

The Costume Goddess Tells All Costuming Books

Dina has published six books of her own on belly dance costuming as well as writing nearly all the costuming section for The Belly Dance Book. For information on her series of books, The Costume Goddess Tells All, see her web site at www.costumegoddess.com. For reviews here on Shira.net of some of her books, see:

Photo of Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Costume Goddess Photos

To view a photo gallery featuring pictures of Dina, costumes she has designed, and her friends, either click on the choices below or visit her web site:

 

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The contents of this page are copyrighted 2009 by Dina Lydia. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.

 

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