Pretty much an essential piece
The Tribal Belly Dance Tassle Belt
Almost every dancer wants a tassel belt eventually - it delineates the hips, decorates
the backside, and makes every movement look more impressive. A small hip shake
makes the tassels or fringe swing wildly.
a Tribal Dance tassel belt that ties in front
This assumes some simple sewing knowledge – straight of grain, how to sew a
straight line. I always recommend the first step being to go online and LOOK at
a bunch of tassel belts, to get ideas, decide what you like, what you want to imitate, and what you want to avoid. The best thing I've found is to use Google, and look
under the Images tab, and find “tassel belts”, “tribal belts”, “tribal dance”,
etc,. Do you like a solid straight band with a small triangle peice at hte bottom? A rounded scarf look? A triangle peice with wide trip at the top? Or a belt with several points coming down at back sides, and in between? (The last is harder than you'd think - getting the points to look even with the dart bending the fabric, etc) Looking at what everyone else is doing now
will give you ideas, let you decide what you like and dislike, and what will
fit in with your other dancers, etc.
Making The Pattern –
I recommend you make a paper pattern out of brown paper bag, or newspaper, or
whatever is handy. That way you can use it again if it comes out well, and
makes changes easier to remember. (See *) Measure around your upper hip, where
you’ll want the top edge (#1), and down at the low hip (#2), where you are
fullest. - Measure from the center back of your waistband to the side, at the
hipbone (#3). Measure your tush, from the top edge to where you want the belt
to end (#5), and figure then how long your tassels will be (it’s real easy to
end up with tassels that brush the ground.) Measure down your hip how long you
want it to fall (#4), and then in front, how thin you want the front edge.(#6) On paper -
You want a center back line, where your
fabric will fold, as long as your back belt length, marked on the one side. Measure
down the back from the top edge to the bottom of your belt, and mark that. (#5) This is your center back fold.Measure out at a right angle from the top center point the length
of your low hip, and mark it . This is your belt width. Mark it #1. Moving down the center fold line, make a line out at the point of your low hip, out as far as the top line. This is #2. Make a mark on the top line where your side hip sits – mark this, it’s #3. Draw a line DOWN from that mark towards line #2, as long as your side width of the belt – it’s #4. At the end of #1, in front, draw a line down toward #2, as long as you want the front edge, which is usually pretty narrow. You guessed it, that’s
Now,… For a dart –which many don’t have, but which makes it lay and stay on the hip better! (You know how much it sucks when your belt slides down your tush while you dance!) You can leave this out and it will be ok, but you’ll have that gappy
bit on top of your hip and it will dip in the front, and try to slide down
periodically. So -
Down the #4 line - subtract #2 measurement from #1, and the
remainder (#4) is your dart. From either side of the #3 mark, measure out ½ of
the #4 measurement, and draw a line from there to the bottom of your #2 line,
so that you have a 6 inch deep triangle there. Add a seam allowance! If
you want fabric ties, you’ll want to leave space for the knot on the center
front, so cut back perhaps 3 inches from #1 line at #6..
NOTE for heavier women – if you have a lot of ‘swing’ in back, you
may want to put some of the dart in the center back as well. You may want to
make your darts curve. Just make it fit YOU, the way you want it.
From the bottom edge of the center front, draw a line going back toward your
On the run/no paper pattern -
Cut the fabric your size, (#1) usually
about 6 inches short of meeting in the middle. Wrap this around your hips, and
fold /mark/put a dart about 4-7” long on either side, about 11-13 inches from
the center back to help hold it on your hips. (You curve there, the fabric
doesn’t!) The size of your dart will vary, depending on the difference between
your upper hip and lower hip, etc.
Cutting out -
Fold your fabric in half crossways, so you have your center back
fold on the grain (with the threads straight up and down, not bent around). Lay
your pattern down, pin it or weight it down (I have balloons full of gravel for
my weights) and either cut it out or trace around it with chalk and then cut.
If your fabric ravels, serge or zigzag around the edges. If you have two pieces
of fabric, a top band and a bottom piece, sew them together now. Cover the
edges with trim or bias tape. I like tassel trim on the bottom edge to add extra
movement and visual activity.
I have one that is fabric
ties, two trips of fabric about 6 inches wide by 2 foot long, folded in half, sewn down the
long edge and one short edge to make a point, and sewn to the front edges of the
Another has strips of bias tape sewn across the top and bottom edges and
extended past the ends to become long ties. You can get creative on what to tie
with and how to apply it. Just like every other aspect of these belts!
– You can do REAL embroidery on your belt, (I don’t because I’m
lazy), or you can do some chain stitch designs so it looks East Indian, or try
some running stitches with doubled floss. I think that’s a more Pakistani look,
since it’s what the ‘bought belt’ I have looks like. They did so some cross
stitches here and there, etc, but it’s mostly just running stitches done close
together in great supply.
mirrors - I have made instructions for two methods of doing the mirrors.
I've decided it's just easier to do it traditionally, but cheat and glue the
darn things on where I want them first! When you first start out, use an emery
board to smooth out the edges a bit, so it doesn't rough your thread up, or a
Dremel (makes things SO much faster!). Then arrange your mirrors on the fabric
(something bold, preferably, with a balanced symmetrical pattern to decorate) and
figure out where they are most attractive. Then glue them down with fabric
glue. Method #1 -
instructions, but put more X's across the mirror’s edges than are shown in the
picture. (I only showed them making a box because it is hard to fit that many
lines in a picture without it getting messy, and that stupid picture took all
day as it was!) Use a nice rich colored embroidery floss, and make nice buttonhole
stitches around the edges. The main idea is to hold the mirror down with the
outer edge stitches, then fill in the empty spots with thread.
I’ve tried doing single crochet around a circle of plastic canvas the same size
as the mirror, but it takes a while… if you have a sit down job with loads of
spare time, try that. You can just trap the mirror under it and put a running
stitch around the edges to hold it on.
You can also glue narrow bias tape around the edges of the
mirrors, and glue that down when they are dry. I sew a few stitches across them
to be sure and to decorate the edge a bit. Good for a kid’s belt, or for a
‘quick and dirty’ belt (I have a lot of quick and dirty garb.. I always seem to
be in a hurry for my own clothes!) Cowrie shells - You can get cowrie shells
pretty cheap, but make sure they are ‘cut’, meaning the backs are cut off.
Authentically, they wouldn't be, but if they aren't they are a pain in the rear
to sew on, and they stick out and catch on everything and break easy ( and poke
a lot when you sit down!). I think shells make a lot of difference to how real
the belt looks. You can glue them down, but sew them too. A heavy nylon thread
is best. Bells - I love the little Indian bells that are actually bell shaped
rather than clam shaped. They have more fairy like tinkle rather than a clangy
sound. If you can solder or know someone who does, I suggest putting your bells
on heavy rings about 1/2 in. across, and having them solder the ring closed so it
doesn’t slip off the thread. You can sew bells directly to the fabric, but a
lot of them have sharp edges inside their shanks, and you lose a few that way –
try a small round file inside to smooth that off. Or that Dremel tool again…
aren’t they great?
Try to use a textured yarn for your tassels. Wrap the yard around
a video cassette box or something else rectangular, depending on how long you
want the finished tassels. DON’T pull it snug! Just keep it smooth. When you
have a good bunch of yarn, anywhere from 15 times around for a thin tassel to
40-50 for a fat tassel, cut the yarn at the bottom where you started it, and
slip the end under the wrapped yarn. Work it up to the top of the
box/card/whatever and tie it really tight. Leave a good long bit on either side
of the knot, 3-10 inches, (if you want to hang beads on the string leave the
10). Slide the yarn off, gently, and pull the string with your smart hand, and
stretch the tassel the other way with the other hand, and hold it snug below
where the ‘head’ of the tassel will be. Wrap the yarn around the whole thing
there, several times, and make a good knot. Cut the bottoms of the loops open.
You can play with several yarns in a tassel, make multiple heads, etc.
Leave the tassels room to swing, and tie a knot in the string at the ‘top’
where it will meet the belt. Sew it down above and below the knot, and fold it
over and stitch, etc, what ever it takes to hold it fast. You can put beads on
the strings before sewing them down to give them more freedom to swing. Antique
looking beads, wooden beads, etc...
You can string your bells on beads as well,
or you can put them on big jump rings. To avoid the jump rings letting the
thread slip through the split, you can get Tape Solder at Radio Shack, which is
very thin and melts with a lighter’s heat, and cover the split.
I think that covers most of it. Feel free to write me if you need supplies,
other ideas or info. It's nice to know someone's going to benefit from all the
booboos I made!
* (If you are interested in making pattern in general, I’d recommend finding a
printing company and asking for one of the ‘tag ends’ of paper – the last bit
of a roll that’s too small for them to re-load on the machine. There’s usually
MANY yards of paper on one, and it’s often 36 inches wide. It's stiff, very white, stands up well to lots of uses, and is often free!)