This is a list of tools and supplies that I use here at Studio Davina for designing and making belly dance costumes.  If you are taking a digital class with me through the Belly Dance Business Academy, be sure to check the individual course listings for specific items that apply to your class.  If you are setting up your own sewing, design, or costuming studio from scratch, I have put together a Pinterest board dedicated to sewing studio organization.  This is a not a complete list of everything I use in my studio, but these are my favorites that I use the most.

Cutting Tools

Sewing Shears: I have four pairs of shears that I grab for different kinds of projects.  For decades, I’ve been a devoted fan of Ghigher sewing shears, and I currently have two pairs in my collection.  I’ve got a pair of Ghingher 10″ Bent Handled Shears that I use for most of my fabric cutting.  I also have a pair of Gingher Pinking Shears.

Dedicated “Assiut Cutting” shears: Because I frequently work with assiut, I have a dedicated pair of Kai 8″ shears. I purchased them because they are lightweight and affordable.  When they arrived, I fell in love and they are still sharp after cutting hundreds of assiut pieces.  I HIGHLY recommend these shears!

Snippers: I actually own five pairs of snippers.  I keep one beside each machine, one at my ironing station, and one in each of my sewing kits.  Why do I have two sewing kits?  One is a hand-sewing box that moves around my house with me.  The other kit is prepped and ready for a quick dash out the door.  Here’s a link to see my portable sewing box.

Fons and Porter Thread Snippers – My favorite and easiest to hold.

Gingher Snippers – Next to my machine – still sharp after 30 years!

Generic Snippers – Functional Cheap and Cheerful.

Small Scissors: Like snippers, I have an assortment of small scissors that I keep in various places and use to trim fabrics when I’m hand sewing.

Gingher 5″ Knife Edge Scissors – The pair I use the most because of the sharpness of the points. I keep these near my sewing machine for clipping and notching curves.

Gingher 4″ Embroidery Scissors – These tiny pointed scissors are great for getting into the smallest spaces with precision.  I consider these essential, and they live in my hand sewing box.

Fiskars 5″ Titanium Micro-Tip – These spring action scissors are great for folks whos hands are little more delicate, the spring-loaded blades snap open to reduce stress on joints.

Rotary Cutters: While I like to cut curved pattern pieces with scissors, I do use rotary cutters for straight lines and small pieces.

Starter Kit With Mat, Ruler, and Cutter – If you haven’t gotten into the rotary cutter world and want to start off with a nice complete set, I really love this sit.  If you’re already sold on the rotary cutter experiences, all of these items can be purchased separately.

Small Olfa 28mm Rotary Cutter – This is the rotary cutter I use most often.  It sits at my hand-sewing station, which is covered with a grey mat.  If I need to adjust a piece when I’m making fabric appliques, I find this to be versatile and easy to grab and use.

Large Fiskars 60mm Rotary Cutter – If I’m going to be cutting a lot of fabric in straight lines, like making custom bias tape, this is my favorite cutter.  The “comfort loop” handle is easy to hold and has a nice grip.  Excellent for sore hands that need a little TLC.

Medium 45mm Stick Style Rotary Cutter – An oldie but a goodie. This was my first decades ago, and I’m still using the same cutter.  I replace the blade when it starts to skip and keep replacements in stock.  To save money,  I use these replacement blades which come in larger packs.  If you don’t think you will need this many, see if you can find a friend to split an order.  They hold a great edge

Grey Rotary Cutter Mat – Although I started with a classic green rotary cutter mat, they do wear out over time.  I currently have a grey mat on my worktable and I find it easier on my eyes and more comfortable to work on. Bright and colorful fabrics and trim stand out against the neutral background.

Assorted Tools

Jax Ergonomic Seam Ripper:  My brother (shameless plug) made me a custom seam ripper last holiday season. It has an ergonomic handle that is chubby and easy to grip.  It’s changed my seam ripping life, a chore none of us likes, but we all have to do.  He has started making them for sale via his Etsy store, Wicked Mojo Designs.  (Disclaimer: this is not an affiliate link, but if I’m lucky, he buys me coffee when I am in town.)

Bias Tape Maker – If you do a lot of sewing, I recommend investing in a set of bias tape makers.  I use bias tape when making tops, vests, dresses, and it’s especially nice for finishing skirt hems.  The nice thing about making custom bias tape is that you know it will match perfectly and will save time and money.

Quilting Pins with Yellow Heads – These are the workhorse pin my sewing arsenal. I buy them in large quantities as they do become dull, sticky, bent, or just evaporate.  These are especially good when pinning appliques onto bras and belts because of their length and strength.

Extra Fine White Headed Pins – Some fabrics require finer pins.  So I keep a stock of fine pins with a different color head.  I can tell at a glance what kind of pin I’m reaching for. I like to keep my pins in a sectioned pin cushion organized by color.

Pin Cushion – One of the ways that I keep my sewing studio organized is to use a multi-colored sectioned pin cushion.  I really like this large Dresden plate style so I can sort my pins and needles into groups.  This is especially useful when I’m switching between machine needles frequently.

Fabric Clips – For those projects that you don’t want to pin through, plastic clips are practical.  This set came in a whimsical tin that is easy to identify on my shelf.

John James Needles – My favorite brand from the UK are ultra sharp, hold a point, and are very smooth.  My favorite needles for general sewing are milliners style.  I also keep beading needles on hand.

Large Safety Pins in Bulk – I use a LOT of large safety pins, I take them to shows and am happy to share them with my dancer friends. These are super strong, and so affordable when purchased in bulk.

Essential Notions

Grosgrain Ribbon: I use grosgrain ribbon all throughout my costumes – and I keep four sizes in stock in two colors, black and white.  For standard width straps, I use 7/8″ wide in Black & White. for skinnier straps and strap details, I use 5/8″ wide in Black & White.  To reinforce belts, I keep wider sizes such as 1.5″ wide in Black & White.  I also keep 3″ to make a quick 2 layer belt bases in Black & White.

Thread in Shades of Grey:  Coming from a theater background, I keep a full spectrum of grey from white to black, so that I can pull a coordinating tone for any project, even if I cannot always match the exact hue of the fabric I’m using.  I also keep both standard thread and heavy duty versions.  Coats & Clark Heavy Duty and Coats & Clark Dual Duty.

Elastic: I keep several types of elastic on hand for skirt and pant waistbands.  I like to keep 1″ elastic in white and black.  Also keep 1.5″ elastic in black and white, which I find useful for heavier and beaded skirts.  For some effects, a 2″ wide elastic is a good choice, but rarely use it, and don’t keep it on hand.

Rings for Tribal Bras: I like to buy my rings in bulk from the purse supply depot. They carry a wide variety of sizes and finishes.

Aleene’s Fabric Glue: When I’m sealing in beading, stopping an edge from fraying, or gluing the occasional flat-back rhinestones into place.  I like to keep an assortment of small bottles around because large bottles will dry out if you don’t use glue frequently.  This assortment will give you a chance to try out a variety and see which texture and consistency

Gem-Tac Glue: I like to keep Gem-Tac on hand and use it for prepping Egyptian beaded fringe. I put a dab at the end of the strands to keep them from unknotting. I also run a bead of glue along the top of the string to prevent the strands from pulling loose from the top.

E6000:  This is my favorite glue for applying flat-back rhinestones to places that get high-abrasion.  This is especially useful for gluing stones onto shoes, belts, and accessories.

Sewing Machines + Equipment

Brother Quilting Machine – This is a very basic and affordable sewing machine my I work on at my mum’s house and it’s really nice for an affordable beginner machine.  I love that this kit comes with a wide table extender for making larger garments and 8 feet. Brother XR3774 Quilting Machine.  I’m a big fan of the rolled hem for veils and skirts, so if you pick up this machine, you might want to grab this specialty hem foot.

Bernina 1008 – In my studio, I do most of my machine work on a “bottom of the line” Bernina all mechanical machine. I picked this machine for a couple of factors.  I wanted a basic machine that would last for many years.  I also wanted an all mechanical machine to reduce the number of things that can fail over time.  It was an expensive investment but worth every penny!  Bernina 1008 All Mechanical Sewing Machine.

Juki Serger – Although my exact model is not made, I’m on year 18 with my Juki Serger.  It’s a beast that has finished off hundreds, if not thousands of garments in it’s lifetime.  If I needed to get a new one, I would pick up another Juki and this is the model that’s most comparable to what I currently use.  Juki MO654DE.

Irons – I have two irons that I use for different purposes.  For pressing seams during the sewing process, I use a hot steamy iron like this Black and Decker model D2030.  I have a second cheap and cheerful Iron that I use when pressing fusible interfacing which will eventually ruin your soleplate.  I love this retro-looking iron because it makes me happy, and with that nice price, it won’t hurt so bad when I have to replace it.  Black and Decker model F67E.

Draping & Pattern Making Tools

Pattern Making Ruler Kit – When I first started off patternmaking, I spent a LOT of money on buying individual curves.  Today, you can get a hip curve, armscye curve, and an assortment of French curves in a convenient kit.  I LOVE this kit, and I find it indispensable when working on making patterns from scratch, or for making alterations on commercial patterns.

2″ by 18″ Gridded Ruler- While I love having this wonderful kit, as a US designer, I like having an Imperial ruler in my ruler arsenal.  I have one in yellow, pink, blue, and black so that I can see the lines on various colored paper and fabric.  

Needle-Nose Tracing Wheel – To transfer lines between pieces of paper, I use a needle-nosed tracing wheel.  Unlike a regular tracing wheel you might pick up at your local fabric store, these are extremely sharp and puncture the paper, leaving a row of perforated holes to indicate your lines.

Scotch Magic Tape – This is the green label scotch tape that is matte, so you can write on it with pencil and pen.  I find this tape essential for making pattern adjustments, especially when using slash-and-spread methods to add volume to patterns.

Dress Stand – I like to have a dress stand available for simple draping techniques and to simply see a full ensemble from a distance.  I have two very affordable foam forms on stands that are designed for display, rather than for garment fitting.  These are cheap and cheerful, not professional draping stands.  I like to start with a stand smaller than my measurements and use quilt batting to bulk it up to my size.

If you are a seamstress working with different sized people, you can custom make a form by crafting a sloper to the measurements of your client.  Pad up your stand, with quilt batting and then put a cotton cover made from the sloper onto the form.  In short order, you have a customized stand for your client’s unique measurements and proportions.  I keep a set of Butterick Pattern Basic Fitting Shell patterns in Regular size B5627 and Plus size B5628.

Twill Tape – Once I have a dress stand that is made to measure, I can “draw” on style lines with black twill tape and use draping techniques to create garments.  But, twill tape is also useful inside of garments to prevent stretching, especially around armscyes and neck openings.


All The Other Things

  • End Bac II – I get this from Manhattan Wardrobe Supply shipped ground because it’s aerosol.  This is a great disinfectant for spraying on the inside of your costumes.  While the old tried and true Vodka/Water blend works to a certain point, End Bac II is hospital grade and does a great job of killing bacteria that can cause odors.
  • Custom Labels – I use two suppliers WonderLabel and Dutch Label Company.  Both are quite good but with slightly different options.

SPECIAL THANKS
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