Costuming DIY General

New supplies list page

2018 is turning out to be a big busy year!  We’re three months into the year, with only eight more to go. Every three months, I take a little extra time to go over my notes for few months. Now, at the start of the second quarter of the year, I’m pausing to conduct my quarterly review.

As I move through my business life, I make sure to write down all the comments, critiques, and requests when I’m reading my email, meeting with clients and professional associates. In late January, I asked a bunch of friends and fans across social media, about what they would like to know. I received numerous ideas, suggestions, questions, and advice.  I have spent the last three weeks evaluating this information.

Supplies List

One of the most often asked questions I receive starts like this, “What do you use to  _____?”  From special tools and supplies to essential notions and accessories, it seems that folks want to know what I’m using in my studio today.

Rather than spend the next six months writing a slew different blogs, I thought I would be nice to conduct a studio inventory of my tools and supplies and consolidate it into one master list.

New Master Supplies List


Of course, there’s a lot of information gathered on my Pinterest Boards.  I enjoy collecting ideas, inspirations, and information from around the web.  If you are interested in links to even more tools, materials, and supplies I use in my business, check out some of these

Sewing and Fashion Design Board

Sewing Studio Organization Ideas

Assiut Pinterest Board

Facebook Group

If you would like to join the conversation, I’ve created a group board for costumers to share their projects, ask questions, and support each other as we explore our creativity in the world of design.  This is the place to find me and hundreds of other makers to chat at.

Studio Davina Facebook Group

I hope that your year is going well!  What are you making during the next quarter?  Come join our group and tell us about your upcoming designs.

Happy Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
April 9, 2018






Costuming DIY General

Sewing Machine for My Mum

Last week I traveled to sunny San Diego to spend some quality time with my mum.  We had a big trip planned that included taking a hop-on-hop-off trolly, trips to the beach, a visit to Los Angeles, and much more!  However, I came down with a pretty miserable cold!  So as we lounged in front of the TV watching old movies like “Da Vinci Code” we started chatting about sewing machines.  Turns out her last sewing machine was kaput, and the only functional sewing machine in the house was very limited.

Vintage Pfaff 130

My brother owns a vintage Pfaff 130 sewing machine.  What a wonderful treat for me!  I spent some quality time cleaning this 1930’s vintage work-horse of a machine.  I found a manual for this model on the internet and gave it a good read.  (Digitized Pfaff 130 Manual)    It was a little more complicated to thread than a modern sewing machine, but we got it up and running.  We even stitched together some simple light-socks using this machine.  It was skipping the occasional stitch either due to a timing issue, or perhaps it had the wrong sized bobbin, but either way, it is now at the shop in the hands of a professional getting a good tune-up.

Choosing an Affordable Sewing Machine

My mum, however, doesn’t want to have to rely upon this antique to help her with her sewing projects!  I suggested she take what was left of her vacation budget and see if she could find a new machine. We started out going through this series of questions to help her identify the best machine for her current sewing needs.

What is your budget?  I believe that this is the single most important factor in choosing a sewing machine.  There are many companies to choose from, and there are many options within their lines. Much like cars, there are high-end, mid-range, and budget brands, and within each company, there’s a range of models. Once you establish your budget, you will know which brands are available in your range.

What features do you need? Honestly, I only use a fraction of the features that are on my bottom-of-the-line machine. Knowing what features are essential for your process will help you shop.  Consider the weight of the machine. If you have a dedicated sewing space, a heavy machine probably wouldn’t be a problem.  But if you are sharing space and have to put your machine away between rounds of sewing, you will want it to be lighter in weight for easy maneuverability.

Mechanical vs. Electronic? While this might not seem like an obvious question, it is one that I always encourage people to consider.  An all mechanical machine is less likely to have expensive problems with memory cards, screens, and electronics arriving damaged or developing issues. Mechanical machines are less expensive when purchased, and are also easier to maintain and repair.

What tools and accessories are included? Some machines are basic and just come with an assortment of ordinary feet, a few bobbins, and essential tools.  But sometimes, companies will put together bundles to suit different kinds of sewing. If you are a quilter or a dressmaker, look for combined offers that provide you with the special feet and accessories to suit your craft.  Bundles will save you money over purchasing individual items like feet.

Mum’s New Machine

Once we went down those list of questions, it was clear that what my mum wanted was a super-affordable, long-tabled machine with a walking foot to facilitate her quilting projects.  We went online to find the best deal. Because we were using the unspent “leftover” travel money, we had about $140 to spend.  However, we were happy to find this all mechanical machine from Brother that meets all her needs for much less.  At the time of writing, this was a steal at $113 on Amazon.

Three More Tips for Sewing Machine Shopping

While we went for a new machine purchased from Amazon and shipped to directly to my mum’s home, that might not be the right choice for everyone.  Here my top three recommendations for sewing machine shopping.

  1. Look for instructional classes – Sometimes a small sewing machine shop or sewing center will offer classes with the purchase of machines.  While you will pay more for a machine from these locations, if you feel like you will need help getting used to your new equipment, this might be a good choice for you.
  2. Consider a better quality, but used sewing machine – If you want a better brand, but are on a budget, consider buying your machine on the resale market.  You can find refurbished machines at sewing/vacuum repair stores, locally on Craig’s list and other resale sites, and on sales sites like eBay and even Etsy.  However, be prepared to take a new-to-you, but used sewing machine to a shop for a tune-up.
  3. Shop during the biggest sewing machine sales periods – Like all things, there are regular seasons that sewing machines go on sale.  Like most items, Christmas is a great time to invest in a new sewing machine.  But also consider shopping in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.  If you are shopping on the second-hand market.

The right machine for you is the one that fits your budget and has the features that will allow you to stitch up the projects that you want to make!  What do I use?  I’ve got a 20-year-old Bernina 1008. BOY – did I have sticker-shock when I looked up this model today! Back when we purchased it, it was much less expensive and we got it on sale.  I bought the lowest price model for a top-of-the-line brand.  Considering how many hours of sewing this machine has logged, it was totally worth the investment!

If you are sewing machine shopping, I wish you a lot of luck!  If you have questions about sewing machines, or would like to join our on-going conversation about crafts, costuming, and more, come join us on the Studio Davina Facebook Group.

Happy Sewing!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 7, 2018


Costuming DIY General

February 2018: Winter Catch Up, New Products & Bonus Cats

BOY! This winter has been a rough one!  Although I started the year healthy and raring to go,  I’ve been battling a string of colds and bronchitis.  When your health is poor, it’s exceedingly difficult to stay focused and be productive.  However, even though I was under the weather, here is a run-down of some of the highlights of the past two months.

Bedlah Repairs

Staring on January 1, I picked up this lovely fuchsia and black bedlah sets to make some repairs.  This was a collaboration with dancer/designer Poppy Maya a couple of years back, and it was nice to have it back on my table making some repairs, replacing some hooks and eyes and tightening up some loose jewelry components.

Margo Anderson’s Choli Pattern

I was so pleased to get this new Choli pattern from Margo Anderson of Margo’s Patterns.  Last year, she ran a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of a new line of dancewear patterns. I fell in love the “Cold Shoulder” style on the bottom left. I just think that Margo’s patterns are great. Margo’s patterns are easily assembled, accurately sized, and fit well.  I’m looking forward to putting this pattern to the test in the spring.

Wicked Mojo – Jax the Seam Ripper

My brother, Joe who runs a woodworking company Wicked Mojo Designs, does custom turnings in wood and acrylic.  While I have admired his custom pens, what I really need in my life are some chubby hand sewing tools.  He did a little research and sent me three prototypes including this beautiful tool.  I decided to keep one made of wood, and put this little number on his brand new Etsy store!  Ya know what happened?  It sold before I had a chance to share it on this blog!  These seam rippers are comfortable to hold, and this double-ender comes with both a small and a large end.  Best of all, you can turn the points in to protect the point when you store your tools. I’m so proud and happy for him!  And although I may be highly biased, there are lots of great reviews over on the Studio Davina Facebook Group.

Nancy Hay’s – Booty-Licious Knit Skirt

One of my oldest and dearest friends just released her first knitwear pattern for a skirt on the Ravelry website.  Although I am not a knitter, I’ve seen this skirt in person and it’s super cute!  I gave her some assistance laying out her pattern and creating the .pdf and I’m so happy that it’s finally up and available and I wish her great luck in future sales!  If you knit, be sure to check it out!

Costume Rehab – Berry Delight

On the workbench is a leftover costume project from 2017.  Although this project has been on my bench, I have a reasonable policy of not working on sewing projects when I have a cold or a runny nose.  I know, that’s a bit “TMI” but it’s a good policy.  Since I’m a one-woman shop, when I’m under the weather, sewing projects get postponed.  But I’m now only a few hours away from being finished with this bedlah set and am pleased with the results.

I have to head out of town for family business and will be back at my desk beginning March 8. Watch for a future blog post, where I’ll be sharing some of the images of the deconstruction and remodeling of this “Costume Rehab” project.

Until next month!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 23, 2018

PS:  My Christmas Kittens are now 8 months old.  Stormy is on the top and Silver is on the bottom.


Costuming DIY General

Year-End Review – Inventory and Studio Restock

As part of my year-end review process, I conduct an inventory of the essential tools and supplies for sewing and pattern making. I haven’t done this in quite some time, so this is the year to knuckle down and tackle this project.

Over the past months of intensive sewing, I’ve noticed some of my scissors have dulled beyond resharpening, rulers have cracked, and some supplies I’ve reached for I’ve used up, or worse, are completely missing. I do plan on having a couple of pairs of scissors sharpened, but many of my tools are just simply worn out. My plan at this moment is to purchase these items a bit at a time over the next six months until I have refreshed my entire collection.


Tailor Scissors Set

A trio of essential scissors from a really good company – Graf.  I’m getting a set of these for myself!   What I like about this particular kit is that includes my three styles of cutting tools. I do so much cutting that I do wear my tools out and it’s time for some new nippers! My current collection primarily consists of Gingher brand shears, but I’ve heard great things about Graf brand products and I’m ready to try something new.  On Amazon

Pattern Making Curves

If you’re planning on giving some pattern making or manipulation a try in 2018, now is a good time to pick up a set of curves.  I’ve got a few essential metal curves, I have lost or misplaced quite a few curves over the years. Since I’m going to be picking up this set.  This set has practically everything you would need to make practically every style of garment imaginable! On Amazon

Bias Tape Maker Set

In 2017, I found myself heading out the nearest fabric store to purchase ready-made bias tape. Although I have a bias tape maker, it’s for making really big bias tape!  I’m not planning on binding blankets in the near future, but I do use bias tape for finishing necklines, shoulders, and hems. With those needs in mind, I decided that what I really need is a set of tools so I can make any size tape out of any fabric I like! I’m really looking forward to building a bigger and more versatile set.  On Amazon

Chubby Handled Seam Ripper

There is no doubt about it, seam rippers go dull with use, and are virtually impossible to resharpen. In 2018, I’m going to pick up a new model, but with a nice big comfortable handle. I use the seam ripper extensively during costume rehab projects and having a good grip is essential.  This is probably the first thing I will get on this list.  On Amazon


Hand Sewing Needles

My favorite hand-sewing needles are John James Millinery Needles. I bought my first pack many-many years ago when on a trip to London.  I went to Liberty of London main store and visited the sewing department on the top floor. I bought a few trinkets and small supplies, and part of my tiny haul was a set of hand-sewing needles.  I fell in love and I need to replenish my supply.  I’m going to pick up a craft needle assortment so I have everything I need.On Amazon

Rotary Cutter Blades

That moment when your rotary cutter starts to skip is the worst!  I went through my collection of supplies and realized I have used up my backstock of blades. I currently have three rotary cutters in my arsenal, a 45mm, 28mm and a tiny 18mm.  But it’s the 45mm one that I use for cutting out large garments that seems to go dull the fastest.  Instead of buying name-brand, I like to go down and dirty and buy in quantity.  Will they go dull faster than a an Olfa or Dritz brand blade?  Probably, but I know that the glam belly dance fabrics I use with foiled finishes will dull all blades, why not save some money? 45mm – 10 pack on Amazon


Over time, pins bend, become dull, and just disappear. To keep things simple in my studio, I only use two kinds of straight pins.  I use these Dritz brand extra-fine white-headed glass pins. These are perfect for fine sewing and working with couture sewing techniques on slippery fabrics. on Amazon

I also regularly purchase Dritz yellow-headed quilters pins in the large-sized package.  These are pins are long and sharp and easy to get through even tough fabrics.  These are work-horses in my studio and I use them daily.  on Amazon

This color coding system makes it easy for me to identify the pins I’m grabbing at a glance.  I also use red clips in my process, but since they last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often.  If you’re interested in the clips, these are the set I have in my studio currently. on Amazon

If you are setting up your own sewing kit from scratch or updating an existing kit, perhaps some of the tools and supplies I use will also work for you!  If you would like to join the ongoing conversation about belly dance costume construction, materials, tools, and supplies, join us in the Studio Davina Facebook group.

I hope that you have a fabulous day during this holiday season!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Dec. 21, 2017

PS: THANK YOU!   This post uses affiliate links, and if you click through any of them and make a purchase, you are helping to support this blog.

Belly Dance Costuming DIY General

Yearly Business Review: Costume Design in Studio Davina

2017 Year End Review: Sewing & Design

This year I re-opened my costume shop for business. My aim was to build-up a nest-egg to fund the purchase of materials and supplies for my next big book project.  So I planned to make a costume each month during 2017. I was so successful lining up projects that I’m booked through the middle of next spring!

Over the past year, I’ve also tried to put up blog posts that documented the construction of these projects. However, now that I’m in the middle of my year-end review, I realize that I failed! I was so busy making costumes, that I didn’t always document the process efficiently.

A few times I have a lot of photographic documentation of the building process, but don’t an image of the final costume on the model!   While I didn’t quite make this goal, I am pretty happy with the quantity and quality of the costumes I made. Here are a few of my favorite costuming projects for 2017.

Costumes from Studio Davina 

Shalimar’s Lavender Garden

Perhaps my favorite moment is when someone comes to me and says, “Make me something beautiful.”  This year, I’ve had the privilege to make seven head-to-toe ensembles.  The lavender garden costume I made for greater San Francisco/Bay Area belly dancer Shalimar earlier this year.  In March, I documented the design and construction of this three-piece set in a series of blog posts in case you want some “Behind the Seams” info on the project.

Designing a Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah Series
Step 1 – Lavender Bedlah – Planning the Design
Step 2 – Lavender Bedlah – Bra Bands and Straps
Step 3 – Lavender Bedlah – Belt Base and Bra Covering
Step 4 – Lavender Bedlah – Finale

Shalimar’s Candy Pink

I was happy to work with Shalimar on a few other projects including a lovely candy-pink costume composed of a traditional rhinestone encrusted bedlah set, skirt and finished with a set of matching sleeves using my own custom pattern.

I am pretty happy with the way this ensemble turned out. However, I must admit there was some design drift.  So though it became a lovely costume, the original skirt didn’t coordinate with the pink and “white” design of the bra and belt. So, we postponed the lovely floral skirt, and instead, I made this goblet style skirt. Consequently, I’m working on another bedlah set made from the same base pink material but which will be covered with a floral georgette fabric. In January, I look forward to snapping photos of Shalimar in this georgette floral costume. If you want to read more about how I made these sleeves, check out this blog post.

Costumes from Studio Davina – Anara’s Assiut Tribal Bra

I also worked on a few individual garments including the final garment for our the Kickstarter campaign for the launch of Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage.  So-cal based ATS dancer Anara backed us at the highest level, and I made her a shiny and crusty tribal-style assiut bra. While she was in town for a visit, she dropped into Studio Davina for a photo shoot with Alisha Westerfeld.

Costume Rehab Projects 

This year I’ve worked with more than a dozen different clients to upgrade their wardrobes. They ranged in complexity simple refurbishments changing the linings hooks and eyes on a bedlah set to complete overhauls and two bra enlargements. Rehab projects require a different style of creativity. It’s a challenge to take an old costume and transform it into something beautiful and wearable.

Costume Rehab – Azura in Wine

Bra enlargements are the probably the most common major alteration I regularly undertake. This year, I performed three “bust augmentations” for naturally well-endowed ladies.  Perhaps my favorite was this beautiful berry-toned two-piece bedlah owned by the glamorous Azura of the greater San Jose area.  This designer-made costume was gorgeous, but she had never been able to wear it.  With a little ingenuity and the sacrifice of a few costume accessories, Azura finally got to wear this beauty on stage!

Costume Rehab – Zemira in Blue

For belly dancer Zemira, I transformed a very long beaded lace skirt with a matched pair of sleeves into a bedlah set. The skirt was purchased from Adira Dance and Costume in Willow Glen, CA.  It was crazy-long, and no one wanted it, even when marked down to practically free.  I picked up the skirt for a song, cut it down and shaped the side seams to fit Zemira’s curvy frame. Then I used the scraps and covered a bra. I took a lot of photos of this project, but I never got a blog post written about it. Instead, I shared a lot of the in-process images in my Facebook group, Studio Davina: Behind the Seams.  If you’re interested in hearing more about my sewing projects in real time you can follow posts of my on-going work.

A Race to the Finish!

As 2017 draws to a close, I am finishing up three last remaining projects. So I’m working a few hours every day on one costume rehab project, one new three-piece belly dance costume, and an assiut cocktail dress.  It’s a race to the end of the year!   Can I finish before 2018 arrives?  I hope so, but if not, these dancers will certainly enjoy having new costumes to dance in in January!

Top Left: Zero Waste Georgette Skirt – Top Right – My essential hand-sewing tools
Bottom Left: Assiut Swing Dress  – Bottom right: Costume Rehab: Berry/Black/Gold

Ready Made Costumes and Accessories

This year, I’ve been so busy working with clients, that I haven’t been stocking my Etsy store with sewn costumes and accessories.  Early in the year, I had some assiut hair accessories up available in the shop, but they sold.  As a one-woman workshop, I have a limited number of hours each day to sew. During 2017 I focussed on working one-on-one with local clients.

Visit my Etsy store for sewing patterns, books and more.

In 2018 I’m looking forward to getting ahead in my build schedule so I can make some assiut hair accessories and costume pieces for my Etsy store. In the meantime, you can find my sleeve patterns, printable downloads of the new coloring book over my store.


I’m looking forward to making many more costumes in the coming year!
But now I suddenly have a serious hankering to sew!

Happy Dance and Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Dec. 18, 2017