Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

How To Make
A Triangular Head Scarf
For Your Folkloric Dance Costume




A triangular-shaped head scarf is the perfect accessory for many folkloric styles of Middle Eastern dance, including Saidi, debke, Nile Delta fellahin, baladi, Alexandrian, Red Sea (Esmailia), and others. Depending on the fabric and decorations used, the scarf can be either glamorous or very folksy.

In the photo to the right, the scarf and dress are made of a fabric called tulle bi telli, often called assuit. A row of lightweight faux coins decorates the edges of the scarf. This costume would be appropriate for Saidi style of dance. Click on the photo to see the scarf in more detail.

PHOTO CREDIT: This photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.





  • Thread
  • 1 Yard or 1 Meter of Fabric. See below for recommended fabrics
  • Optional trim for outlining the entire scarf: 3 1/8 yards or 3 meters.
  • Optional trim for the two shorter edges: 2 yards or 2 meters. See below for suggested trims.


Suggested Fabrics

If you will be wearing this scarf with a specific costume, it can be a good idea to buy extra fabric for the dress so you can use the same fabric to make the matching scarf. Or, buy the same type of fabric as you bought for the dress, but in a coordinating color.

These work well for costumes that you want to give a bit of sparkle to:

  • Charmeuse (Satiny sheen and drapes beautifully)
  • China Silk (Inexpensive, nice sheen)
  • Tissue Lame (Very sparkly, but a bit stiff)
  • Foils (Often called liquid gold or liquid silver)
  • Crepe (Not shiny, but drapes attractively)
  • Brocade (Heavy, but attractive)
  • Velvet (Heavy, but pretty)
  • Velveteen
  • Chiffon
  • Georgette (Not shiny, but drapes beautifully)
  • Lace (Especially if it has a bit of sparkle)
  • Nylon Lycra (Shiny and stretchy)

These work well for a more earthy aesthetic:

  • Cotton gauze
  • Tulle bi telli (often called assuit)
  • Cotton broadcloth
  • Velveteen
  • Sari fabric
  • Other textiles from India


Suggested Trims for Outer Edge

  • Single-strand sequin trim (as shown at right)
  • Soutache braid (sold in packages in the Notions department of fabric stores)
  • Various sparkly trims sold by the yard
Single-Strand Sequin Trim


Suggested Trims

The scarf can be worn without adding special trim to the edges, but many people like to add it.

Possible fringe trims:

  • Rayon chainette fringe
  • Chainette sequin fringe (resembles chainette fringe, but contains sequins embedded in the fringe, as shown in photo to the right)
  • Some upholstery trims may work, but choose carefully. Some look tacky.

Avoid using beaded fringe like the kind sold for use on costume bra/belt sets. It's too heavy, and causes the scarf to hang badly.

Chainette Sequin Fringe



Constructing the Scarf

Cutting It Out

Open up the fold in the fabric and spread it out flat.

Carefully cut with your scissors along the cut edge of the fabric to even it out to make a perfectly straight edge.

From the corner of the fabric, measure 32 inches (or 82 centimeters) along the cut edge. Then measure the same distance along the selvage. These will represent your two short sides of the triangle. (In geometry, these would be the "legs" of the right triangle.)

Next, draw a line connecting the two measured points. This will be approximately 45 1/4 inches (115 centimeters) in length. (In geometry, this would be referred to as the hypotenuse.)

Cut out the triangle.

Cutting Diagram



Turn under 1/4-inch (6 millimeters) hem on all edges. It may be easiest to do the long edge first. Click here for instructions on how to make an easy hem. Some dancers like to turn this hem toward the right side, instead of the wrong side, then cover it up with the trim. This eliminates having a visible hem on the wrong side.

The long edge (the hypotenuse) will be a bit stretchy because of being on the bias of the fabric. The easy hem at the above link helps control the stretch, and therefore make the hem on this edge easier to sew.


Decorating It

If sewing fringe on the short ends, attach it before adding the trim around all the edges. This will allow you to use the trim to cover the top edge of the fringe.

If sewing paillettes on the edges, attach it after adding the trim around all the edges.

To Attach Chainette Fringe

Cut a piece of fringe that is the width of the two short edges added together plus 3/4 inch (2 cm) extra. Turn under the band to the wrong side 1/4 inch (6mm) on each end of the fringe and take a few stitches to hold it in place.

Stitch the band that the fringe is attached to onto the two short ends of the scarf. On each end, where the fringe was turned under, stitch back and forth several times across the turned-under section to make sure it will never have an opportunity to begin unraveling.

To Attach Trim By the Yard

Sew a row of single-strand sequin trim, soutache braid, or any other trim by the yard around the outer edge of all three sides of the scarf. Some trims can be attached using a sewing machine, while others look better if attached by hand.

If the trim is narrow and lightweight, a second row can be added inside the first row, using a contrasting color. Alternatively, instead of sewing the second color all the way around all four sides, it could be placed on the short ends only, followed by a third row that either repeats the first color or introduces a third.

Paillette & Rocaille Bead Trim

Follow the instructions for the Dangling Paillette Trim to attach paillettes evenly spaced across the two short ends of the scarf.

For a variation, sew about 6 or 8 paillettes to very center of the scarf on the long edge (hypotenuse). When wearing the scarf, the center goes across the forehead, and those paillettes will sparkle on the forehead.

Paillette or Faux Coin Trim Without Rocaille Beads


  • Knot the thread and draw through the edge of the fabric to the right side at one end of the scarf.
  • String a paillette on the needle and pull it through.
  • Take a stitch through the fabric about 1/2 inch (or 12 mm) away from the first one and string another paillette.
  • Continue across. Keep the thread somewhat loose between stitches so that the paillettes or coins have some freedom to dangle.
  • Repeat on other end.

Click on the photo to see the coin trim on this scarf in more detail.

PHOTO CREDIT: This photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




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