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What If I Can't Sew?

Dear Dina,
I am a beginning bellydancer in New York City. I love your website and your great ideas for costumes, the only problem is that I don't know how to sew!

Do all of your books assume a basic sewing knowlege or is it something I can easily teach myself? Is there a book/video/website you could recommend that teaches sewing for beginners? I am very anxious to try the beautiful designs on your site, so any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated.
Clueless About Sewing

ANSWER: The Costume Goddess books assume a basic knowledge of sewing. The exception is #1, Flattering Costume for Bellydancers, which is advice for choosing and designing a flattering costume, not making one.

Although the other books include a glossary of basic sewing terms, I can't teach someone how to sew from scratch in my books. That would make each book twice as long and at least twice the price, plus drive me nuts!!

Do you need a teacher?
You can teach yourself how to sew, but it's like learning dance, computer programs, guitar, or anything else.Without a teacher to correct you, you ay make mistakes, waste time, get frustrated, and end up with a less than ideal result. I taught myself how to do many things from books, experimentation and practice, but having a teacher would've been much faster and easier. Of course, private lessons are the best, but also the most expensive.

In New York or any sizeable city or suburb you should have no problem finding a basic sewing class. Many sewing stores hold these classes, because they want to sell sewing machines!! If you buy a new, expensive machine, many times there are free classes that go with it. But I don't advise you do buy a new machine, at this point. Get a decent used one at lower cost. These are advertised in the classifieds, or most sewing machine stores sell reconditioned older ones.

Call sewing stores in your area and ask. It's important the class be small, so the teacher has time to address your particular difficulties, if you have any.

Skilled hand sewing is as important as machine sewing in bellydance costume. A book is very useful if it has clear line drawings of the various hand stitches. They're sometimes hard to see even if you're watching someone do it. I don't have the name of a book at my fingertips, but do a search on Amazon, or try the library. I found an old book at the library meant for theatrical costume designers that had excellent illustrations of all the stitches.

I haven't done a search, but there must also be instructional websites and videos...keywords "basic sewing instruction" or something similar.

There are hundreds (thousands?) of user groups on Yahoo or Google or AOL, on the subject of sewing, crafts, designing, costuming, etc. You could join one of these and ask the members; such people love to share advice and tips. The same goes for bellydance discussion groups like those on Bhuz.com .

You might also advertise to find someone who has experience sewing and offer to pay for lessons or exchange for some other commodity, such as computer work or cooking lessons.

Ask around among the bellydance community in New York, there must be many of them who sew. Have you tried the NY bellydance website, New York Bellydance hosted by Stella. She lists many local resources. ~ Dina Lydia

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