Amabella Magazine is coming soon!

Today I spent five hours working on a new project I’m very excited about, Amabella Magazine.  This is a brand new, all digital, and absolutely free magazine!  We are starting out on ground zero, but our editorial team is the same group I worked with to put together the definitive guide to belly dance development, Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage.  Photographer Alisha Westerfeld, belly dance teacher and author, Sara Shrapnell, international belly dancer, author and stylist Poppy Maya and I are working together to create a new style of belly dance magazine.

Our mission is to create useful, inspirational, beautiful and, perhaps best of all free magazine.  We are currently working on developing our website and collecting the content for our V0 issue featuring Bay Area belly dancer Basinah on the cover.  We’re still in progress, so this cover is current as of today, but will probably change and evolve as we get our content into the magazine.

Like my first magazine, Costumer’s Notes: Behind the Seams, Amabella magazine will be available for free view on the Issuu website, or you can catch it embedded on this website and other websites.  We’ve already started a subscription list over on the main website, Amabella Magazine.  If you would like to receive notifications of when issues of Amabella are released, just sign up for the newsletter!

This magazine is totally new, so I’m not sure where it will go in the fullness of time.  The focus is belly dance, but beyond that, we are still But for now, we’re filling it with the kind of content the Amabella editorial team enjoys reading.  We’re working towards filling our new magazine with a combination of interesting and informative information.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be spending quality time at my computer working on the layout and design of this maiden issue.

I’ll check back in here when the publication is complete and uploaded to the Issuu website! I’m so pleased and happy, and very excited to take this next step in my publishing journey.

Happy Dance & Costuming,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
May 19, 2017


Event Sewing Kit

Two weeks ago, I attended one of my favorite local events, Bay Area Belly hosted by Sudeep.  My co-authors and I set up our “Portable Book Stall.”  Sara Shrapnell and I manned the booth with the help of Poppy Maya and our favorite photographer Alisha Westerfeld.  It was the first time that both of our 2017 releases, Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage, and Zills: Music on Your Finger Tips are completely finished and on our rack!  While I was at this show, I had a few more things to stitch down on the assiut costume on the dress form.  This ensemble, titled “Assiut & Black Loops,” needed to have the lining of the bra cups installed.
Dawn Devine ~ Davina and co-author Sara Shrapnell

Finishing Costumes At Events

As I worked on these finishing touches, quite a few people showed an interest in my sewing kit.  I frequently take sewing projects with me to events and have been carrying around the same basic tools in an old kid’s pencil box for many years.  At this event, however, I had so many people inquire about the contents of my box, I thought I would take a moment to share it with everyone.  Aren’t we all sort of curious about what other people carry around in their bags and purses?  So without further ado, to my event sewing kit!

It’s a Pink Pencil Case

I’ve been hauling this plastic kid’s pencil box around for many years now and hit has held up great.  What I like about this particular container is the clamshell design, so when it’s opened, both sides are quite deep.  When I’m working on a particular project, I can throw in all the special things that I need to get the project done.  It is deep enough to hold a cone of serger thread or a couple of bags of rhinestones.

Davina's Small Sewing Kit

The Items I Always Carry

When you open my box, you can see that there is plenty of room if I need to hold more, but it’s not as big as carrying around a tackle box.  When I am called to work in theatrical environments or at bridal stores, I bring a much bigger and more complete kit.  For belly dance events, I’m only going to be working with my hands, so the basics are all related to hand sewing and fitting.

Pins and Pins

The one thing that gets pulled out at virtually every belly dance event is my tin of safety pins.  I try to keep an assortment of sizes, but I always make sure to have a lot of sturdy large safety pins for any last minute costuming needs.  A bar pops loose, or a dancer wants the added security of pinning their belt to their skirt or as insurance against a bra popping open, I’m ready!   For sewing purposes, I also carry long quilting pins to hold things together as I sew.

Hand Sewing Essentials

Because I’m never sure what type of needle I will need at any given moment, I always carry a variety set of needles.  I also carry along beeswax to condition the thread I’m working with.  I am often called in to do on-the-spot costume adjustments, so I keep a measuring tape in the box as well.


Tools for the Job

I also have a set of hand sewing tools that live in the box.  A pair of thread snips and embroidery scissors make quick work of cutting threads.  The green item is a seam ripper which is great for unpicking a lining to get inside a costume to make alterations. I carry a seam gauge around with me everywhere and use it on practically every costume project.  Two thimbles for options and different uses and the round tan object is a thread puller which is especially handy when going through the tough multiple layers of a bedlah set.

What’s not shown in these photos is a small baggy of hooks and eyes and three spools of thread in white, mid-grey, and black (which I haven’t refilled yet.)  I learned long ago working in theater, that it’s more important to match the tone of the thread than the color, and, realistically speaking, I can’t bring every thread color along.  If I’m working on a particular assignment, I will pack those items into the box as well.  And that is a tour of my event sewing kit!

Happy Costuming and Delightful Dance,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
May 17, 2017





Designing a Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah Ensemble – Part 4 & Finale

he In the last post, I stepped through the construction of the structural parts of a belly dance bedlah set that I’ve entitled “Lavender Garden.”  (If you arrived here first, you might want to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)  In this post, we’re going to embellish the bra and belt.  For this project, I’m using a “Project Bag” that I had in my design files.  As time passes, I gather supplies that I think would really “go together” well to create a full ensemble.  In this case, the fabric lead to gathering coordinating flat-backed lavender rhinestones.  The appliques were left-overs from the costume I made for the cover of my book, Embellished Bras, and they were added to that project bag.

Start with the Focal Points

Because I was using existing materials gathered over time, I knew I needed to be strategic when placing the design elements.  I picked the most important area and planned that first and then worked outwards from that spot.  Since I knew I was taking a scattered approach to the placement, the center of the bra front was my starting point.  I started with the marrying of a tear-dropped shaped lavender stone, with an earring drop as a frame.  I had 3 pairs of matching rhinestone earrings, so six of these motifs.  I then started moving out from the center in a visually pleasing way that was symmetrically well balanced.

Pin and sew the bra motifs in clusters

One of my best tips for putting together this kind of belly dance costume bra, is to pin a pair of appliques on, then sew them down.  Then pin the next “unit” and sew them down.  This reduces the number of pins your thread can get wrapped around when you work.  In the picture above, you can see that I stitched down the center front and the first pair of appliques before working up the main visual line along the upper edge of the cup.  What isn’t shown is a photo of all the design elements laid out in the pattern I was applying to the cups.  I really got on a roll and plowed through!

Layout the entire belt

Belts, however, are another story.  Because they are flat, I generally lay everything out and pin it down.   For components that aren’t easy to pin, like the flower-shaped jewelry motifs, I use a little double-sided tape to hold them in place while I’m manipulating the design.  Scotch Double Sided Tape does the trick. Just remember to pull it off the backs of the motifs before you sew them down.  As a back-up, just in case the pins and tape didn’t hold it together, I take pre-sewing photos to document the design.  If all the jewelry components slide off, I know how I had planned it out, and don’t have to redesign.

Prep Egyptian fringe with glue

I had an 18″ strip of leftover Egyptian glass fringe.  To make this relatively small length of fringe to embellish both the belt and bra, I cut it into small sections that I positioned below the main appliques.  However, to prevent the fringe from melting away, I prepped it ahead of time, using glue to reinforce the top row.  For this project, I used Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Glue.  I ran a bead of glue along the upper edge, adding extra glue at the places where I planned to cut.

Line the costume

Before I send a bedlah set out into the world to take on the bright lights, I make sure to finish the project with lining.  Linings perform a lot of important jobs.  First, they protect all your stitches from abrasion.  As the performer moves, stretches and dances, the costume will shift and flex against her body.  If there is no lining, the knots and stitches will slide against the dancer’s body and other costume pieces which will add unnecessary strain to your work.  Second, I want to hide all the ragged edges and wacky stitching so that my client, and anyone she shows it to, will see a complete and finished work.  During festivals and large events, dancers often change in communal dressing rooms, and I want my bedlah set to be beautifully finished inside and out.  For this costume, I used basic 100% cotton solid-colored quilting fabric in a coordinating purple.

Voila! It’s finished!

After lining the bra and belt, I adjusted the straps, stitched down any places I had missed, and added the final hooks and eyes and voila!  The costume is feminine and lovely, perfect for springtime performances.  San Francisco/Bay Area belly dancer Shalimar hit the stage at Al Masri nightclub in SF for the costume’s debut.  Although I couldn’t be there, she sent me this great pre-show selfie from backstage.

I am so pleased with the way the ensemble turned out.  In addition to this bedlah set, I’ve made a matching lavender skirt, and soon I will be making a deep purple chiffon skirt that will tie in with the deepest colored sequins. I hope you find this ensemble inspiring and this demo informative!  Good luck on your next costuming adventure.

Happy Costuming & Delightful Dance
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
May 11, 2017

Designing a Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah Series
Step 1 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Planning the Design
Step 2 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Bra Bands and Straps
Step 3 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Belt Base and Bra Covering
Step 4 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – You’re here!