Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ballroom Bangle Tutorial

This post provides a simple tutorial for creating a stitched and glued bangle bracelet for competitive ballroom dancers.

Jewelry with prong settings can catch in fine knit fabrics, styled hair, lightweight chiffons and georgettes, lace, and even the wool crepe or stretch knit of a partner's sleeve, so usually, competition jewelry is made in the same way costumes are, by using adhesive instead of prongs to attach Swarovski sparkle.  Another advantage to this particular bangle is that is can flex a little without problems, good for dancers and wrist connections as well.

To make this bangle, you will need Rigilene boning, 1 1/4" binder clips, and E-6000 adhesive to begin. In the USA, Rigilene is produced by Dritz and is called Flexicurve Polyester Boning, available in most fabiric stores.  I used the 1/2" width.  It comes in both black and white, but I only use the black for black bangles, and white for all colors.

You will also need stretch mesh in the color of your bangle, and Swarovski (or your brand of choice) flatback crystals to apply. You can use a nude mesh for any color, but I think the results are much nicer with colors if the mesh matches the stone.  Nude looks great with Crystal AB. I use GemTac to apply my crystals.  You will need a sewing machine, some skill with it, basic dressmaking tools, patience, and courage.  We'll talk about each tool and supply as its use is demonstrated.

One of the benefits of making these bangles for yourself is the possibility to customize them to your size.  I am very small boned, so mine would be smaller than what is commonly made to be sold at competitions.

Measure around the widest part of your hand, with your thumb tucked snugly against your fingers. Safety pin the tape measure to the measurement you get, and test to make sure you can squeeze your hand into the loop.  My inside bangle measurement would be 7 1/4", but today I am making bangles for a client with a larger hand.  Her inside bangle measurement is 8 3/4".  My client would not be able to put my bangle on, and her bangle would fly off on hand in movement.  Custom fit is a great thing!

I measure out the Rigilene, on the inside of it's curve, and make a pencil mark at the intended size, and another 3/4 larger than that size mark.  So, for my client,  I marked at 8 3/4" and at 9 1/2".  I cut at the 9 1/2" mark with craft scissors, and made three more, with a plan for Henry Ford assembly line efficiency.

With my binder clips at the ready, I apply E-6000 between the mark and the end of the Rigilene, curl it into a bangle, and put on the clip to hold it in place to dry.  Do the best possible alignment job you can.  It helps to have a third hand to apply the clamp, although its possible to do it by yourself.

Do not worry if some adhesive squeezes out.  Better a little too much than a starved and weak bond.

Take your bangle base(s) (because 4 or 6 or 8 or 10 are way more fun than one) to a place far away from you and your pets to fully cure.  E-6000 fumes are carcinogenic.  I have worked with it for 28 years, with a very healthy respect, but it is not something you want to breathe for extended periods.  I put mine in my basement bathroom, with the door shut and exhaust fan on, for several hours, and then let them finish curing there overnight.  Open the clip too soon, and the bond will not hold.

While the adhesive is curing, cut 2" wide strips of your stretch mesh, at least an inch longer than your bangle measurement.  You must cut these along the lengthwise grain of the mesh, parallel to the selvedge edge of the fabric.  The little honeycomb openings align along the lengthwise grain.  I'll enlarge it below so you can see what I mean.  Stretch mesh is available from any of the Ballroom fabric providers in England, but a good USA source is Spandex House in NYC.  Order at least 1/4 to 1/3rd yard of each color you need, depending on the size of your wrist.  You need a lengthwise strip at least 8.5" long for the smallest of wrists.  There is a minimum order of $20 at Spandex House.

I draw lines to cut along, with pencil or colored pencil.  I made my strips 10" long.  You will trim away excess, so a little too long is better than too short.


Take off your clips, and if there is any glue ooze...

Trim it away.  If you have an imperfect bond, you can machine stitch it to reinforce it, but if it will hold together through construction, three lines of machine stitching will secure it permanently.

You need to find out which way your mesh strip edges will curl by gently stretching it.  You want it curling up, toward you and not down and away.

Thread your machine in a thread color matching your mesh.  You need a medium sized needle, (I use a Schmetz 12) and a normal length straight stitch, about 12 stitches per inch. Place the join of the Rigilene about 1/4" ahead of the end of the strip, and put it under your pressure foot, aligning the mesh so just a tiny bit of the color is visible.  Sometimes I baste the mesh in place to get a clean start, and sometimes I backstitch to the back edge, like I did here.

And from the other side, so you can see how to get the Rigilene under the foot. The Rigilene loop will probably not fit easily under your machine housing, and will squash a bit. Below I am about half way around the bangle. I stretch the mesh just a little bit (and control its placement) with my right hand, while controlling the Rigilene and guiding it through the machine with my left.

Stitch all the way around the inside of the bangle form, with the edge of the mesh 
sticking out about 1/8" so you are sure you are catching it with your line of stitching.
Continue stitching to about 1/4" past the thick join, and back stitch.

Then trim away the excess mesh length.

Also trim away the tiny bit that sticks over the edge of the Rigilene, careful not to trim the Rigilene.

Now fold the mesh around the inside of the Rigilene, and back across the outside. You will have one layer of mesh on the inside of the bangle form, and two on the outside, with double that at the join to protect you from any sharp edges and bits of poly cord in the Rigilene. 

Sometimes, I hand baste the overlap here, to get a clean start with the machine. 
Keep your grain running straight around the bangle.

Starting at the mesh overlap, stitch all the way round the inside of the bangle, about 1/8" from the edge.  You should have about 1/2 inch of mesh to hang onto and keep the mesh gently stretched around the bangle form.

A little puckering is hard to avoid, but bigger problems should be ripped out and redone.

Then trim away the excess mesh with good trimming scissors, as near to the stitching line as possible, but don't cut the mesh beneath.

It should look like this! 

Then stitch the other edge in the same place, again from the inside of the bangle.

That completes the form.  Now it's time for the sparkle!

You will need ss16 crystals if you embellish your bangle just like mine.  There are multiple possibilities, and I'll show you some others at the end of the post.  This size fits neatly 3 across the bangle for the look of pave.  It takes about 6 to 6.5 rows of 3 stones for each inch of your bangle, so you will need at least 18 ss16 flatbacks for each inch of the outside dimension of your bangle.  This will be WAY bigger than you think, so measure first.  My 8 3/4" bangle has an outside circumference of 9 3/8".  This is why we use MESH, and not Lycra, which would both make the outside huge and lumpy, as well as making the inside considerably smaller than you want it to be.  Two of my bangles took 165 crystals, and two of them took 168.  Better to have a few too many than not enough.

I put my bangle on a cardboard tube, weighted with my craft scissors (or sometimes my GemTac bottle) for easy and continuous embellishing.  Make sure all your thread ends are neatly trimmed before you begin, or they will hold your stones up and out of place.

I use a syringe to apply my glue.  Fill it only when the barrel is empty, 
and not ever more than half full.

Squeeze the adhesive in, put in the plunger, and let the glue run down toward the plunger 
before you push out all the air to prime the syringe.

You could also use the applicator tip on the bottle of GemTac, but make sure the hole you cut is small if you try to do this.  Apply enough glue to squeeze out slightly around the crystal, but not excessively so.  Make dots and not stripes of adhesive, for the greatest flexibility of the finished bangle, and to avoid crystals popping off.

I begin at the middle of the join, with a row of three dots, just to calibrate my eyes and fingers.  I use a Pick N Stick to transfer my crystal to the bangle, but there are many possible application tools available. 

After my first row is on, and straight across the bangle, (make any necessary adjustments in placement with the wrong end of the application tool) I apply 6 or nine dots of glue at once and then put in the crystals. I make sure the crystals line up both horizontally and vertically.  I gently rotate the bangle away from me, and by the time the first crystals are ready to go under the tube, they are generally cured enough not to be damaged by the gentle weight of the tube and scissors.  I am careful not to drag them against my work surface, carefully lifting and placing the finished portion of the bangle.  I often put many bangles on my tube at once, but I just did the one here for clarity in demonstration. Doing more than one bangle at a time, the additional work gives the crystal adhesive even more cure time.

At the end, you can spread out the crystals a little if necessary to fill the space. A little further apart is no problem, but crystals lapping over each other are both unsightly, and likely to catch on things and come off.  I usually make a line of crystals along one edge when I am about an inch from the starting point, to determine how many rows are necessary to finish. Then I fill in each row, as on the turquoise bangle below.

After your bangle has a full 24 hours to achieve a complete cure, BRAVO!  You did it!

I was replacing four missing bangles for a client of mine, and this is the complete set, plus a pair of earrings.

There are a multitude of other possible flatback crystal arrangements for these bangles, but big sew-on jewels do not work well over the curves. Here are four other possibilities, from the upper left clockwise, 1) staggered ss20, 2) ss20 with ss30 in the middle, 3) ss16 with ss34 in the middle, and 4) ss16 with ss40. You can experiment and make up your own arrangements, calculating for 1/2" of width.

Enjoy your bangle making and please tag me (Marsha Wiest-Hines) on facebook to show me your beautiful bangles!  You are free to use this bangle tutorial to make bangles for yourself, but please do not copy and distribute my tutorial, or teach it, as that would constitute violation of my text and image copyright.

Bonnie's Black

It used to be no one wanted a black ball gown for competition.  Black is the color of almost every gentleman on the floor.  Universal belief is that the man is a frame and the woman should be a picture.  SO... a black picture in a black frame?  But when champions and winners wear something, then everyone wants it. Lots of winners have been wearing black lately, and Bonnie is a woman who looks great in black.  She has striking blonde hair, great skin and beautiful features.

When she told me she wanted a black gown, I had to agree it would be beautiful on her.  But I also know that she will wear this gown for a while and wanted her to be visible, and not instantly out of date, when this trend shifts, as they all do.  I encouraged her to add a color to her black gown, at the very least white, or lots of crystal AB sparkle.

After lengthy negotiation and multiple re-designs, we finally landed on an acceptable solution, which included the addition of both a partial white side and a red accent.

Black soft boning hem adds shape and movement.

The gown converts for International Style Ballroom by means of the skirt becoming a float.  Another scarf float attaches to the center back of the necklace, designed just for the Ballroom.  Bonnie has a simpler necklace for use in the American Smooth style.  Isn't she lovely?  I have the best clients!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holiday Hostess Mary Christmas says THANK YOU for a Great Year!

Thanks SO MUCH to all Made for Movement clients for a great 2015! My 2016 is almost entirely booked, and really, over-booked for the first half of the year, so if you are thinking of a gown in the coming year, call fast!

Many of my clients may know Mary as humble Waltzing Matilda, studio fixture devoted principally to holding skirt panels and bodice pieces for me until they are assembled for other more shapely dress forms.  So she was thrilled to be tapped for the job of Holiday Hostess.

I don't know all of Mary's history. But I do know she had a previous owner, who had a substantial backside and not much in the bust department.  SO, being a UniquelyYou model, I let out her cover at the front, and provided her with free implants, a service many of my clients would also be familiar with. :)

Then her cover was re-fit to her new and improved shape.

I provided her with a new external skin with a nice tan, and and a tube top of bright red panne velvet, draped and pinned into shape.

With the help of my husband, she got a crinoline of dart-folded chicken wire, with a spring steel boning hem line for strength, and a skinny, chic green wire belt.  I know I took a photo of her crinoline before I started covering it, but sigh, it is gone. Here you can see just the top of it and the twist ties holding it to the wire belt.

Then, beginning at the bottom, over the spring steel, I cable-tied pine garland, up to the halfway point of the 36" chicken wire shirt.

Poinsettia garland was swagged to create the illusion of panniers, and I began filling she space between the poinsettias and fir with an iridescent bay leaf garland. I filled in above the swags with holly garland, and down the front and back with random silk sprays from the myriad boxes of holiday florals I have collected for years.  I contemplated lights, but decided she was sufficient to the task and also heavy enough.  But I did add some baubles and bows.  A friend had sent me a gift tied with a lace bow, and that became her neck edge.  More baubles and berries were pinned in place for a necklace and our Holiday Hostess was complete!

Mary and I wish you The Merriest of Holiday Seasons, and  Happy 2016!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Waiting List Only for 2015

I am sorry to say Made for Movement is booked completely for the remainder of 2015.  If you are looking for a custom-made competition costume, I can put you on a waiting list, in the event that someone who has reserved my time cancels her project.  If you would like to take a look at Made for Movement gowns currently for sale by their owners, please see the gowns for sale on my website at  I also have a very small selection of gowns for sale here in my studio, and you may call to ask about sizes and styles at 952-595-0003. Otherwise, I will begin taking projects for 2016 in the Fall. Thanks so much for your interest in my custom dancewear.  -Marsha

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last Chance for Menswear and Gently Used Gowns at Minnesota Madness

Dear Clients Past and Present,

In the interest of beginning to move toward my retirement, I have made the decision to eliminate some portions of my business and focus on others.  The biggest changes are:

   1)  I will be eliminating menswear.
   2)  I will not be vending at events any longer.
3)  I willl no longer offer a consignment service for Gently Used costumes.
   4)  Instead of 40-45 projects per year, I will take about 20.

My final event as a vendor will be the Minnesota Madness, October 19th, 10:30am until 8:00pm, at the Medina Ballroom.  The event runs until 10:30, but I will stop selling at 8:00pm.

I will be contacting you all to encourage you to tell me your lowest imaginable selling price, so that I can sell as many costumes for you as possible, without having to contact you for negotiation,  I will mark each gown with the price you name.  I encourage you to think big, because after this event, I will ask you to pick up any unsold gowns.  I will be happy to keep them listed on my website, if you like, but potential buyers will constact you to schedule appointments to try on your gowns at your home.

I will mark my existing menswear down 20%, and may increase that markdown as the event progresses.  Michele is no longer working with me and no more of our menswear will be made.

Thanks to all of you for 28 great years, and I am looking forward to working with you in the final years of Made for Movement.

Fondly, Marsha

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Success for Less for Sally!

This post is to show you that you do not have to spend a fortune to look great on the dance floor.  Sometimes a cocktail dress can become a costume with minimal tweaking.  This great little dress is from Cache, shown at the link in black.  My client Sally found it last fall in Steel Grey, and asked me to adapt it for her as a Rhythm gown.  It had tremendous potential!  The best dresses for adaptation have some things in common.

1)  Made of stretchy fabric.
2)  Fits you beautifully or fits some places and is too large elsewhere.  There is NOTHING to be done if the dress is too small.
3)  Is sleeveless, or if it has some sort of sleeve, you can raise your arms without the dress moving up on your body.  We can add a sleeve cut for movement, but dresses you buy are cut for standing-around-looking-good, and this means you cannot raise your arms to dance if there are sleeves.  Sometimes, existing sleeves can be replaced with something else, or adapted themselves.
4)  Has a lining, which also stretches, and can be made into a leotard beneath the gown.
5)  Has its tags still attached and can be returned if I tell you it will not work.
6)  Is one of several so that a second one can be purchased if additional fabric is required.

Sally brought in her dress, matching all the above criteria, and I gave her a big YES, and she immediately bought a second one to scrap for parts and fabric.  After that first Steel gown, Cache recreated it for Spring 2014 in a fabulous orchid pink, and Sally called again. This is the one I will feature here.  (I apologize, I COULD NOT capture the color in my studio accurately without hauling out the studio lighting, and I didn't do that.  It is a blue pink, not this coral-ish!! As many of you know, it can be very hard to capture neon color with a camera.)

What the Cache dress lacked was interesting movement in the skirt, although the front and back drapes were pretty fabulous.  Also, the straight hemline was tight, and did not allow for kicks and big movement.  So the first thing to do was to cut the hemline diagonally, in sympathy to the lines of the gown, to create a bigger movement potential.  Then I chopped off the overdrapes from the second dress, and they became the drapey skirts.  I installed a bra for suppport, and created a leotard out of the interlock lining, after stablilzing the fabirc to prevent running.

Then we discussed embelllishment.  Rather than weigh down the drapey bits and turn them into spinning Ninja-quality weaponry aimed at her partner, we decided to embellish the parts that did NOT move, in a way that would be visible in motion, but not entirely when standing still.  A peep show of sorts, animated by action.  We both thought floral and tropical, because of the great hot orchid color, and we both scoped out loads of possible images.  I took her ideas, and my own, and began sketching, working to create something that met our joint criteria, and would be reasonably easy to stone and dazzling when finished.

In addition to the peekaboo bits at the left side, I removed the rhinestone cup mesh on the shoulder, replacing it with a shaped piece that boldly stated our motif.  I also wrapped my design diagonally across her back hipline, a place where cuban motion would animate the stoning and call attention the strong action of her back.

Sally has been doing her own stoning for MANY years, so she is an application pro.  I sketched the design on brown craft paper for her, and pinning it to the gown in the correct position.  Then I showed her how to cut open my pattern and fold it back to draw outlines for her application work.

I think she danced in it with the back drape hanging down like this, but we had discussed tacking it up as it is shown in earlier images, and for what it's worth, I personally would prefer just to shorten that drape, leaving it free.  But clients should get what they WANT!

I also patterned and made a cuff for her, for her right wrist, to diagonally balance the shoulder piece.

Sally did a great job with following  my stoning plan on this motif, and I am really happy with my design work.  The rest of the gown could certainly be embellished as well, but it is just not always necessary to be dripping in sparkle.  Sometimes having your own unique look is worth as much, or more on the floor.

So here is stunning Sally, and the gown in the RIGHT COLOR!  I wish I could let you see it move.

Due to starting with an existing garment, and Sally's time spent on rhinestone application, the cost was super reasonable on this project, approximately 1/4th of the cost of a new, custom designed and made from scratch project, including the cost of the two off-the-rack Cache dresses.  If you want to give this a try, give me a call and let's discuss how you should shop for some possibilities.  And call right away!

It has been a while since I posted to this blog!  I have two posts started, which I MUST finish, and many more to catch up with.  Being on my own in my studio due to Michele's accident has forced me to focus on dressmaking, but Michele is back, healthy, and ready to work, so make sure you get on the fall schedule if you want costumes for Minnesota Madness, Ohio, Holiday Classic, The Snowball, or anything else this year!  We are filling fast.