I have no intention of creating any Arabian tack tutorials anytime soon. It’s not because I’m trying to “hoard all my secrets” or something like that. It’s partially because I’m still rather new to costume-making, and will be the first to admit that I still have lots left to learn!
Another reason is that I owe A LOT to other costume makers who have shared their tips and tutorials online. Creating a tutorial would basically be repeating what others have already done, and I’d rather not step on any toes that way.
I know it’s probably really frustrating and annoying, but instead of saying no over and over again, I figured I would make a sort of reference post, featuring the help that got me started, along with some things I’ve figured out on my own. None of these methods are the ONLY way to do certain things. In fact, most I’ve modified to suit my own work better. Tutorials are great starting points. When you make something over and over eventually you begin to form your own methods. 🙂
The first thing I want to say is do research! Find LOTS of reference pictures! Sometimes you have to be really creative with your searches to find what you’re looking for.
IMHEA has some good descriptions on different styles of costumes, as well as what’s required for the show ring. I’m not 100% sure how current this info is so be sure to do some research elsewhere too.
Supplies and where to find them
Luckily, most supplies can be found at any craft store. (Joanns and Walmart’s sewing section for me, yay) I’m ALL for making everything from scratch, but some things are just easier to buy.
TWMHC – hardware, stirrups (I strongly prefer these over Rio Rondo’s) mini turkish rugs…
Rio Rondo – sells all sorts of things, from buckles to stirrups to etched shark’s teeth charms
The rugs are usually called “miniature turkish rugs” or “dollhouse rugs.” They come in several different sizes and all sorts of colors and patterns. I’ve always purchased mine on ebay.
Braided Halter and Breastcollar
This method by Marston Art is what I used for my first few pieces… back in 2004/5ish.
Now I create the halter and breastcollar base by making several long braids from embroidery floss, then sewing them together to create the right thickness. This was based off a tutorial written by Melissa of Arabesque. (formerly “Adiva Arabians”) The tutorial no longer exists, unfortunately, but she has several other costume-related tutorials on her website.
I make my tassels from a method Jennifer Wilson shared on Blab a long time ago. Basically, you take a few pieces of floss and tie them in the middle with a longer thread. Then, fold that bunch in half and wrap together with another thread. Trim off the excess and hooray! You’ve made one tassel! Repeat a couple hundred times and you may have enough for a costume!
Terri Wright shared how to make tiered tassels as well. Part 1 Part 2
Cowrie Shells and Medallions
Here’s another tutorial by Marston Art. Those I make now aren’t true beads, as I found that way too frustrating.
Cowrie shells are fiddly to make and require a lot of patience and time. Don’t sculpt them in a warm room… I promise you’ll get irritated. If your clay does get too warm and sticky, leaving it alone to “rest” for a little while helps, as does popping it in the freezer for a minute or so.
I’ve been using micro beads to decorate mine with, but you can always sculpt tiny beads from clay. I’ve also used these to decorate the ends of tassels, but I don’t like it much because every time I move the piece, beads go everywhere. I need to experiment with it more. 🙂
Shark’s Teeth Charms
You could always buy these from Rio Rondo, but if you’re feeling adventurous why not try making them yourself? A while back I wrote a tutorial on making shark’s teeth. I make my charms from large sequins now- they look the same but are a bit sturdier.
Another method by Marston Art – I think I tried this once and wasn’t happy with it, but you know, it’s just another option. 😉
Twists and Braids
I use this method for a lot of pieces.
I’ve also used four-strand braids and chevron braids in my work. Experiment and find out what works best for you!
On embroidered costumes, honestly, the best thing to do is gather reference pictures and try to copy what you see. It’s tough and it’s tedious, and if you’re new to sewing that can double. (or make you want to chuck it out the window)
I’m not a seamstress so I just make stuff up as I go along. It’s just how I learn! XD I use the basque stitch, backstitch and running stitch most often. I also came across a nice website that has instructions for all sorts of fancy stitches, which is helpful as well.
Seats are what I struggle with the most, and the things I’ve tried I’m not completely happy with yet.
I’ve made some seats by cutting a rectangle out of sheet metal (soda cans work ok) like a picture frame. I’ll bend it into shape, pad it up with layers of felt, then cover the entire thing with fabric I’ve embroidered beforehand.
Another way is to sculpt the seat before covering. I’ve tried this using Crayola Model Magic, and I was pretty happy with it, as it’s easy to use, air-dries and remains flexible even after it’s cured. I imagine you could also sculpt a seat using an oven-bake clay (like Sculpey) or with an air-drying epoxy. (people seem to love Magic Sculpt!)
Really though, experiment, find what works best for YOU and go for it! One day I hope to make nice seats. It’s a long process but I think I’m getting closer.
How to Books
If following lots of tutorials and experimenting isn’t for you, and if you’ve got some extra money to spend, there are a couple of how-to books out there as well. I’ve never read these, (I’m stubborn and like to figure things out on my own…) but it might be another good place to start:
Jennifer’s book isn’t being sold anymore (someone correct me if I’m wrong) but every so often it’ll pop up on ebay or MH$P.
Hopefully this post was helpful? If anyone has any other info or tutorials I missed, please leave it in the comment section and I’ll update this post. 🙂