Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happiest Of Halloweens!

All I could do this year was dig through my closet. No new costume. But Im going out into the 21st century in a wonder. Moving staircases underground to a place far away in a matter of minutes. Blimey!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Etsy, Etsy, Etsy!

Ive got new things up on Etsy! Ive got a pile of skirts and pants ready to be sewn up in many sizes, and as soon as I get my back orders under control,  I'll post garments as I get to them!

SuperModel of the day: Lisa Hyde of Deshret Dance Company

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cruel Universe

I swore - swore with all my heart and soul that I wasnt going to be one of those know - the ones who make baby clothes. I mean, then what next - DOLL CLOTHES? I know this makes me sound un-baby friendly, but this isnt the case. I love the cute little things, and I'll love my grandchild, but I dont want to be a designer of baby clothes. Thats not where my focus lies. And certain people are thinking that I just naturally will want to fill my spare time with making baby stuff. What spare time, I ask you..............

So what do I do? Buy baby clothes patterns. Now I have to dig out my vintage patterns and find the little girl dresses. Im starting to get obsessed. When am I going to have time to do all this sewing? I have no idea. But the bug has bit and now Im distracted by little tiny things. Tiny hats. Tiny dresses. Tiny coats. Tiny buttons. I guess she'll have to have a tiny pair of Fluffie Rufflies. A tiny choli. A tiny ghawazee coat.

I guess it could be worse.
I hope she likes to dance.
She'll have to learn to shimmy just like Grandmama.

If only I hadnt received funeral expense junk mail on the very day that my son announced that they were having a baby. Yeah. I kid you not. And an AARP card. Thanks, Universe! Thou Art So Cruel!

 I hate the sunflower hat - but I like the little baby bonnets. I see a future for all my scraps here!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pricess Farhana's Words of Wisdom

The economy has been hitting everyone hard. Im feeling it. My designer brothers and sisters are feeling it. Some of us are wondering what the hell we are gonna do. Im not giving up, but Ive had my moments of "oh my God - do I have to go work at MacDonalds?" It always works out and I believe faith in yourself and what you are doing usually wins out in the long run. Still......its scary. And thats why if you are going to be having something made by me, you had better believe that I know you are usually spending your hard earned money on what is considered by you to be a luxury item. And you had better believe that I do my best to make it last. And if this means that you have to wait a while to get your garment or item - Im putting as much quality into this as I can, and this takes time.

I just found this article written by Princess Farhana, and Im passing it along to you dancers out there who are also stretched beyond your means and are wondering what the hell you are going to do as well:


People all over the globe, in every income bracket, are feeling the effects of the failing global economy… and belly dancers are no different! The belly dance world has been experiencing the fallout of this recession just like everyone else. Un-employment is high, and many are losing jobs. People are cutting back on necessities, not to mention luxuries and leisure expenditures. In general, it seems that belly dance students are attending less classes , and in turn, studios and instructors are experiencing lower overall attendance, which means less income. Restaurants and clubs have cut back on nights featuring live entertainers- belly dancers and musicians. Across the board, belly dance suppliers and vendors have noticed a drop in belly dance costume, prop, DVD and CD sales. Merchants are complaining about having less buyers, and buyers themselves are frustrated that they can no longer afford “luxuries” like belly dance costumes, DVD’s, and the like.

Yes, our county’s financial situation is dire, but there are things we can all do to make sure we can keep our careers, favorite hobby or dance practice alive. Sometimes, it just requires a little monetary juggling or re-thinking where and on what you are spending.

When I first began dancing almost twenty years ago, I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band, already leading the life of a “starving artist”… in other words, I was flat broke! Out of necessity, I had to get really creative about the ways I was going about moving my dance career forward, and figure out means for taking classes, getting myself costumed, and promoting myself. It was always a scramble to do this on a practically non-existant budget, but somehow I made it happen.
Recently, I began to recall all of the things I did “ back in the day”- my tricks for cutting corners and being able to afford music and costumes so I could do to achieve my goals… and I thought perhaps some of this might help other dancers get through these financially tough times, so here are some ideas.

There are many things you can “afford” by using barter or trade, and that includes your continuing dance education! Ask your local studio if you can trade some volunteer time in exchange for classes…maybe you can offer to tidy up the studio, or sit at the desk to take attendance for regular classes or workshops, or do office/ administrative work in exchange for classes.
Want a private class but can’t afford one? Think of what you could offer your teacher. If you have a skill, it could be a straight exchange: are you a photographer, make-up artist, seamstress or web designer? Any of these talents could be traded for belly dance lessons. Or perhaps you speak French, or are good at gardening, book keeping, child-care- whatever! Think of the skill set you have and see if they could possibly be performed in exchange for private dance lessons.

Make a Dance Play Date with a friend. This is like a private lesson, essentially: two dancers get together and figure out what they want to learn from each other, book an hour or two of rehearsal time in a studio (or just get together at someone’s house) and give each other a private lesson in each other’s specialties, say sword technique for fan tips, Hip Hop or jazz dance know-how in exchange for a Saidi choreography, even a Cabaret and Tribal movement swap. We all have skills and talents that we want to learn or wouldn’t mind sharing. Just ask!

Carpool to classes- enough said! This saves on gas and gives everyone a chance to socialize and hang out, too. You can also car-pool to major dance events, and for road trips, of course, share hotel rooms. Bring along cooler or two and save some dough by bringing along your own water, snacks and munchies. This is usually healthier-and way less expensive- than buying food on-site at dance events.

Many instructors are happy to give private lessons to two students at a time, or even a small group, for the same price that a single person would pay. Ask around about it and you might be able to get private instruction for less than the cost of a regular class.

Combine printing and promo costs. Say you and a friend both want business cards- print them double-sided (one dancer per side) and split the cost down the middle. If you have an event coming up that is fairly close to another scheduled event, contact the other promoter and see if there is a way to cut promotional costs by sharing a website, graphic designer or by printing up both events on one flyer or post card. This will reduce your expenses, and also open you and the other person up to a whole new range of potential students, business contacts, or ticket-buyers.

Share props and costumes with your trusted friends. Own a shamadan but need some fan veils for an up-coming performance? See if anyone would be interested in a temporary prop-swap…this would save you having to buy the props if you are only going to use them a couple of times.
If you are ordering a set of Isis Wings in silver, see if someone else in your area has them in gold (or red, or whatever) and ask if she would be willing to trade them on a per-performance basis, so they could be used by each of you with more than just one costume…and you wouldn’t have to spend on two sets of wings! Or, you and a pal or two could go in together on buying an expensive costume or prop, and decide who gets to use it and when. Some friends and I were all going to buy expensive Sally Rand Ostrich plume fans, and before buying them, we all co-coordinated who ordered what color so we could interchange them for various shows based upon our individual costume needs.

As someone who makes a living from teaching dancing both live and on DVD, I don’t at all advocate illegal copying of any DVD’s or CD’s… but I do think it’s perfectly fair for individuals to buy instructional or performance DVD’s and CD’s and share them with each other. Either swap your DVD’s after a few viewings or have a “workshop” day or “DVD party” at your house and invite a couple of dance pals over to view the latest instructional or performance DVD.

Make sure to take care of all your costumes and props, keeping them clean, repaired and in working condition. This will help not only in extending the “life span” of whatever you own, but should you decide to sell it, it will keep the re-sale value of the item higher.
Hand-wash your work-out and class wear- this will not only save on energy and electricity bills, but the garments will last longer, because the color and fabric fibers get broken down in the clothes dryer.
Belly dance costumes can also be hand-washed , too, and a clean costume will definitely last longer. Many dancers are afraid to try it, but do a spot test first, to make sure the color won’t run. To wash your costume, fill a bathtub about a quarter full with cool water and a very mild hand-washing dtergent, like Coollove or Woolite. I myself use baby shampoo. Just swish the costume around a little, rinse very well, and lay it flat somewhere safe to dry. On highly embellished costumes, this may take up to a few days, but the costume –and it’s fringe-will sparkle like new.

Think of ways you could re-work older costumes to make them new and fresh again. Replacing worn-out fringe - or even taking fringe off completely- can make it look new again, and costs much less than buying a new one! Gather up all your un-used veils and sew them into a full gypsy skirt… if you have a costume with sleeves, see if they can be removed and made into gauntlets… try dying older or stained veils- most dye well, and the sequins will retain their original color…mix and match the costume pieces you already have and see if you can come up with new ways to wear them.
Get your wigs and falls re-styled instead of buying new ones. This will not only prolong their life-span, but is much less expensive.
Re-sole your suede-soled dance shoes with a thin layer of “dance rubber”- this will extend the life of the shoes as well as protect your feet.

Sort through your costumes mercilessly and figure out what you can part with. Sell old items or those that never fit quite right on the Internet, or in your local dance studio. You can definitely “find” some money this way- or be suddenly able to afford a new costume.
Organize a costume; accessory and prop swap with your dance friends- one dancer’s trash is another gal’s treasure!
Shop at second-hand stores for old evening dresses or accessories that can be used to make or enhance costumes. Take a hard look at what you own, or what you want or need, and figure out a way to get it, either by making it, or incorporating it in some way…like cutting off appliqu├ęs from a brides maid dress you bought at a garage sale!
Ask your local dance studio or gym if they have a discount “class card” or will offer a special price on a block of classes paid in advance. Many studios and gyms do this already.
If you are professional dancer, you might already know that larger companies like Capezio or Mac Cosmetics offer a substantial professional discount if you present a business card, or register into a “Pro” program. Work this option, girl!

Many on-line vendors have a mailing list you can sign onto that will notify regular customers of costume and prop sales- sign up and save some serious greenbacks! As for festival vendors, if you are coveting a pricey costume you can always have a word with the vendor about your purchasing options- some vendors may reduce the item’s price after a few months, or be willing to charge less if you pay in cash, or will put it on lay-away for you.
Explore ordering belly dance supplies whole sale. You and a few friends want new hip scarves, CD’s or need finger cymbals? Contact vendors and see if it’s possible to get a wholesale price on an order with multiple pieces.

If you have dance items, props, craft supplies or even old materials or trims you are not using, consider donating them to a student dance troupe, local theater companies, drama classes, kid’s day camps or even women’s centers. It will not only clear out your closet, you will have the great satisfaction of knowing that someone will be getting some good use out of whatever you don’t need!
Above all, don’t let the bad economy prevent you from doing something you love! Have fun, get creative and keep belly dancing! The world- no matter what the financial climate- will be a better place because of you!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Ive been on a pattern buying binge again. I got this pattern on Etsy and the seller is in my faves. I like the round helmet. Not so fond of the rest of the hats offered, but the helmet will do me just fine. What I want is a 20's style cloche. I dont want a pdf pattern - I wanted a good old fashioned tissue paper one. I almost bought a cloche the other night, but it was a tad too small with my dreads. I just need that basic head shape and Im too time challenged to start from scratch - even though it would be easy enough, I suppose. I can tweak this one into something fun for the new vintage inspired fall wardrobe that will magically appear in my closet one day soon.

Never give up hope.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sexy Severe

I bought this pattern on Etsy today. (its in my faves if you want to find the seller) I love the vintage pattern illustrations. This one grabbed me. Was it the red dress? The high neckline and somewhat sexy severe look? The ridiculously unreal wasp waist? The sleeve length? The fantabulously full skirt? The great cut?

All of the above. Another good basic for me to tweak and make into something fun one of these days!


Im not sure if everyone knows, but Samantha Emanuel is the namesake for the SamPants and they were originally her idea. She needed something fun to practice and teach workshops in. We ran ideas back and forth and I made a couple samples and she decided on a final product. For lack of a better name, we called them Sampants - the name stuck, people saw her wearing them and that was that! The ruffles have changed a bit since, the fabric choices as well. Ive been making a lot of them and improving them as I can, but the original was Samantha's idea.

In fact, the whole fluffy thing started - at least for me, with a bin of my lace and Sam needing something to audition in for the BellyDance SuperStars. I know Ive written about this before, but I like to give her credit when I can because she really brought me to a different level with my business. Shes' such a lovely person!

Samantha will be back in the spring to teach at Tribal Fest 2010! A lovelier lady there cannot be!

In this photo, Sam is wearing a lush stretch velvet version of Melodias. I have been telling everyone that I wont make them - and in truth, Ive only made a few pairs for BDSS ladies. But if you want flairs and can afford a custom pair of pants, call me. This stretch velvet was very pricey - purchased at Britex. I have no other source for the really nice, thick stuff. Oh, but they are amazing on!

Sam's vest is black silk velvet: boned front, sides, and back in Victorian fashion, and fully lined. She took some Victorian doilies, vintage buttons and embellished the vest just beautifully. I would like to make more, but simply have not had the time. :(

Someone asked me why I boned this vest so much if its just a costume for stage, so little, and who would even know - why put all that effort into such a little thing.

If you have ever held a weighted dress, or anything put together with steel bones, you would know that it FEELS good to wear! It has weight, foundation, substance. It looks nicer on the body. It holds its shape and you move differently in something well made. Well, thats my theory anyway. And I know that I, personally, move differently in better made clothing.

Silk velvet is amazing. The good, thick, heavy stretch velvet is amazing. These two do not seem a good match, but both together can be stunning in a tribal costume!

Model/dancer: Samantha Emanuel
Photo: Polstar

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I just like looking at my stuff sometimes. It makes me happy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

KathleenCrowleyCostumeCouture And The Great Black Lotus Clothing Collaboration

Finally! A few moments to blog about the beautiful dress I made together with Christina Molcillo of Black Lotus Clothing!

Ariellah came to Christina to have her make a dress for her September 2009 Wedding. Christina designed the dress but decided to enlist me in the making of the body of the dress itself and she would embellish it and do the sleeve details. How could I resist!

Ariellah and Christina went to Lacis in Berkeley, then purchased the most exquisite antique trims and textiles to create the Art Nouveaux feel that was desired! Vintage tulle with huge pearls - so fragile and lovely! Black jet appliques and all kinds of sweet goodness!

Then Ariellah came to me with her idea, She wanted to somehow incorporate her mother's wedding dress into her gown. While this was not the original idea ( the original was very simple and far less time consuming), I could not resist. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing! There really wasn't enough yardage in the mother's dress to create the fullness needed for Ariellah's dress, so we compromised and I used the bodice of the old dress and created the base of the new bodice with it. I used as much as I could of the old dress as interlining and facings. I think this is all very symbolic and pushes good Karma points towards building a new foundation for the bride's new life. Call me sentimental and superstitious!

I put my two cents in on a few design factors that I wasn't sure would work well, and between Christina and I, we came up with what you see in the photo. Now, the model is not Ariellah, and I do hope that I get a photo of her soon, but the fit is close and you get the idea - just gorgeous! And very much like Christina's original sketch.

Christina and I took the dress back and forth to each other after we did some shopping together for the fabrics. We ended up deciding on a gorgeous silk charmeouse at Thai Silks in Los Altos. Much of the tattered lace was purchased by Christina near her home and we all got together for several fittings, which went really well. I purchased a lightweight lining fabric and boned the sides and back of the dress. Christina tea stained all that yardage to give it a more vintage feel. I cant believe how she stained all that yardage in one batch so evenly - there was really only one spot that looked a little blotchy and I was able to work around it. I was verrrrrry impressed!!!

I carefully took her mother's dress apart. If you have ever taken apart a vintage garment, you know how tiny the stitches are and how easy it can be to rip into that old taffeta. Now, I love doing this kind of stuff, but you have to be so careful. It can be very painstakingly slow at times when you come up on a backstitch or something.

I flat-lined the charmeouse with a fabric of similar weight, then incorporated the mothers dress in on top of that when I could. I felt that the dress was going to need to be flatlined as we wanted that shimmery drapey feel, yet it needed body to hold up under all that lace, applique, and beading. We considered other fabrics, but this seemed to be the best solution for the feel of the dress.

I took Ariellah' measurements and made a mock up that fit like a glove. We made notes on the dress with a sharpie pen. I raised and squared off the neckline. I put more ease in the armholes. That step in the process went well.

The only real problem we had with this was that Ariellah was out on tour a lot and I would have preferred that she be around for more fittings. As this was a skin tight dress gown, she had to be careful not to gain or lose any weight. But we did what we could with time constraints, and by the time my job was done with the gown, Christina had plenty of time to add on all that gorgeous vintage tulle and tatter all that beaded lace. You cant really see the detail, but Chris's work was fabulous!

I felt like this was a successful collaboration. I thought the dress turned out beautifully. And the bride was lovely inside and out!

I'll post a photo of Ariellah in her dress as soon as I get one!
photo: Christina Mollcilo

A Collar Well Turned

There is nothing like a well turned collar.

I copied a raincoat for a woman in this lovely wool. Her original coat was that awful plastic that after a while just starts disintegrating. The collar was a metallic plastic that was eventually all over everything in my studio. It was flaking off and falling apart before my eyes - it was one of the strangest things I had ever seen. I dont know what could have caused that to happen. Body acids? Heat from sitting in the trunk of a car for months? It kind of grossed me out. But I gritted my teeth and set out to do what I said I would. This was the first time that I have ever been happy to use my little cotton gloves!

I made the pattern directly off the ratty raincoat. I didnt take it apart, but long ago learned how to take patterns from garments. It was a great design with hidden buttons down the front, so I could see why she wanted another one. Its a very flattering shape. I flat-lined the wool in a lightweight cotton to give the wool some body. I'm a huge fan of flat-lining. This is where you sew or baste two pieces of the same shape together to give a lightweight fabric some body and allow it to do what you want it to do - rather than sag and droop. I like hand basting all pieces together as this gives me better control of the fabric when Im working with it. It also has a better drape. Its more work, of course, but the end result is nicer. As you can see in the front of the coat, there is some puckering at the bottom where I topstitched and that had to be fixed of course before sending it out. This coat was lined in a butter colored silk.

I love making coats. I love working with wool. And I never used to, but I sure love a good plaid.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Want You To Jump For Joy

This is how I want everyone to feel when they wear my things. I want them to feel alive! I want them to jump for joy!

Thank you Brenna Crowley, for sharing your photo with me!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rumination Of The Day

OMG - I do apologise to any of you who I have not returned a message to - or invoiced like I said I would. I have been having email problems and all kinds of nonsense - like colds and vending misadventures. So I spent hours trying to catch up today, but its looking like it will take a few days more. Such is life. And of course, this takes out of my sewing time. I had Kae helping me with the admin for a while, but it ended up that I had to put my money towards sewing help. I miss Kae and I feel bad. Hopefully this economic downslide will slow down some. I think it already has.

Lara of Barefoot Belly Dance just sent me this photo of her in my Fluffie Pantaloons. Just Lovely! Photo by Mark Slagowski

I do see signs of recovery, but its going to be slow going. Im glad everyone got to get some Fluffies and Sampants at a discount last month (or I should say, ordered at a discount). This was great. And now Ive got to run to catch up. Always running....isnt that the way......always worrying that I'm going to make someone mad or upset because they have to wait. But this isnt mass production. Like my room mate says....Bird By Bird.

We're having a Salome's Suitcase meeting tonight to discuss our January road trip to Texas. Im so excited I could SQUEEK! God, I LIVE for this stuff! Its going to be fun bringing our wares to a part of the country I personally have never been to!

I must say, being able to tweak how my blog works - so easily is making me a little giddy!

Plague Day. I Mean Art Day.

Well. I'm sick with the plague thats going around and I was just too ill to vend at Sigil, although my things were at the Salome's Suitcase booth. I vended at Baxtalo Drom the night before at the DNA with SS and I had a little fun, but thought I was gonna die. If you saw me slumped over my iphone in my section, that was me trying not to die! I kept gravitating to the hats at the table next to ours that were a wee bit too small for my dread head, or I would have spent all my money that night on adorable cloches.

I have so much to blog about, and just have not had the time. Id like to write about Ariellah Affalo's wedding dress, my September Sale, my impending search for a bigger studio now that I'm all settled into my abode, my crazy neighborhood, my desire to continue dancing, my approaching grandmotherhood,; the state of the world, the state of my wardrobe, the state of YOUR wardrobe - and so much more. There is just no time for it all right now - because I have to sew up all this stuff that everyone ordered last month! What was I thinking!

Today was art day at Albion House. Kristine made art from bones and hearts and I put lace and buttons on some vests that I FINALLY finished. I should have been doing about a million other things, but I know I got this nasty cold because I needed to slow down. And this is exactly what I did. Sometimes nothing satisfies me more than sitting down and doing hand embellishing while watching murder movies on tv. . I don't get to do enough of this. I have learned from watching so much murder and survivor tv that in order to survive an attack from another human, you have to either fight back or play dead - and I guess you have to use your instincts on which to choose. Lets hope none of us ever has to worry about that - but I find I cant stop watching it!

Not a lot of energy for much else tonight, I redid my blog. Being technically challenged and having an old geezer computer, I thought I was heading for trouble, tears, and hair pulling - because some things are just best left alone. However, I couldn't resist. I discovered Shabby blogs last week and they made it so easy to change my blog's look, that I might just redo it every now and then when I need that "facelift". I don't like the white background, but its alright for now. I'm just so glad I found some templates that were fun and easy to use. Its like a little perk that I never expected would happen!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Salome's Suitcase

Salome's Suitcase will be at Sigil this Saturday night - October 10th!
Lots of beautiful, high quality, artisan made items for your perusal!

Medina Maitreya
Katherine Summer
HiBeam Bindis

Metro Opera House
630 3rd street
Oakland, Ca.

Photo: Christina of Black Lotus Clothing
Model: Sarah White