Making a Silvery Blue Dress, Part Three

This is the final post about making this dress! I originally posted about it at the end of January, almost two weeks after I finished it. It’s inspired by Madalena’s wedding dress in the show “Galavant” and has a Renaissance/Fantasy flair to it.

There is more information about all that in the first, and the second posts about this project! I would suggest reading those first, if you haven’t already.

In my last post I had just completed the bodice and sleeves, which meant it was time to focus on the skirt! The skirt is made entirely from the greyish “mystery” fabric. I had quite limited amounts of fabric, so I couldn’t make the skirt as full as I had hoped. It ended up being a rectangular front panel, with three gored panels in the back. Skirts like this can be cut from three and a half yards of fabric, which is super handy!

I gave it a small train – I would have made it longer if I had more fabric, but it only ended up being around sixteen inches.


 I had planned on cartridge pleating the top, so I cut strips of flannel on the bias to back the waistline with. This will give the fabric more volume which makes it pleat nicer!


I hemmed one edge, then stitched it onto the skirt. One end folds over a half inch, and the other is one and a half inches long.


Unfortunately even with the backing this fabric really didn’t want to pleat nicely. I ended up with really tiny, sad looking gathers and I wasn’t pleased with them at all.


So I decided to pleat the top instead. I had hoped having a gathered waist would help differentiate it from the dress I used as inspiration, since i’m not trying to make an exact copy of it. But sometimes you have to do what works with the fabric, even if it isn’t part of the plan!


This is it all pinned! One large box pleat is in the center, then knife pleats on the sides.


Then it was time for hemming! I marked one inch inside the hem and folded the edge to touch it, then basted it down.


Then I turned that edge inward again, until I had an even one and a half inch hem. I did make the hem a little deeper towards the back, so I could get really smooth curves.


I stitched it by hand with a cross stitch to make it nice and pretty!


I turned the top of the back seam edges over to create a slit.


I finished the edge with bias tape and sewed hook/eye closures every one and a half inches to keep the skirt closed. I don’t think I got any photos of those, but below you can see the markings I made for them.


Then the skirt got pinned on!


And finally sewn on. I did this by hand to try and hide the stitches, but both of these fabrics are very pucker prone so i’m afraid it isn’t as smooth as I had wanted!


Here is the finished dress – all it needs is a good ironing!


I’m probably most pleased with the tiny gathers on the sleeves.



I decided to pair this dress with the silver crown I got on ebay last year. I’m a little annoyed because it has started to turn gold in some areas which is really bizarre. I’ve heard of fake gold turning silver, but never the reverse! Luckily it kind of comes off with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

I also wore it with a bunch of rings I got from ebay and forever 21, and a pair of earrings from Charlotte Russe.


After wearing this dress for a bit i’ve decided there are two things I want to change. The skirt REALLY needs a liner of some sort, the fabric is too flowy and looks very lumpy, even over a smooth petticoat. It also caves in at the bottom so I think adding six inch horsehair in the hem would make a huge difference.

I’d also like to pick up something to cover the waist seam – next time i’m in NYC I’ll keep a look out for silver lace!

Here are two pictures of the finished costume. We got some snow I thought it would make for a pretty backdrop!

Silver 2

Silver 1

Thanks for reading!


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Making a Fluffy, Feathered Dress, Part One

I’m really excited about this project! Not only is it a new project, it’s also the first dress in what will hopefully become a series.

This year i’m focusing on bigger projects, which are more detailed and elaborate. Which is great, and something I find really exciting. Unfortunately big projects take longer, which means I don’t have as much to blog about and don’t have any content for my youtube channel since the bigger the project, the harder it is to film.

So my new goal is to make a “Simple” project once a month – it’s can be a dress, jacket, skirt, or any combination of those things. Ideally the project will take less than twenty hours, incorporate items from my stash, and be completed in less than a week. Not only will this help break up the tediousness of elaborate historical costumes (which I love doing but can get tiresome) it will also give me more to blog about and something to film!

Now onto this specific project,

I’ve been watching old episodes of project runway recently, and it’s left me wanting to make something kind of…normal. As in not historically inspired at all. It actually has me feeling a bit inspired by Georgina Chapmans wardrobe of Marchesa dresses – they tend to involve a lot of lace and mesh, and have a light, airy quality to them. Something I wanted to incorporate into this dress.

At a trip to Joanns I took advantage of the presidents day sale and got some ivory mesh fabric with a laser cut floral chiffon print. I found the texture really interesting and paired it with a few materials I already own.

One of them is this crazy ruffled/gathered/sequined/striped jersey i’ve had for YEARS. I bought it with a project in mind when I first started sewing. It was crazy cheap for having so much texture (maybe $6 a yard?) but the project fell through and i’ve had it sitting in a bin for ages. I almost put it in a “Fabric I regret buying” post last year so i’m shocked and very pleased to find a project that suits it!


I decided to pair that with some other materials I already have. They include: Feathers glued to buckram (why did I buy these?!), various beads, sequins and very pretty lace that I was given!


And here is my original sketch, inspired by the textiles I chose. Some things ended up getting changed (mostly the sleeves) as I worked things out.


So this post in particular is about the skirt! My dress actually ended up becoming three pieces, a jersey underskirt, a dress with a sheer overskirt attached, and an illusion neck mesh bodice with sleeves. The video that shows the process of making it is posted HERE!

 I’ll be going over the dimensions and process in more detail below.

The fabric i’m using this is a very strange sheer, striped, jersey with ruffles stitched in rows across it all. There is woven sequin trim dividing the ruffles every four and a half inches. I kept this all in mind when cutting my skirt pattern.

skirt 4

Due to the nature of my fabric i’m making this a rectangle skirt with a ruffle. Rectangle skirts are the easiest skirts to make, since all they require are three rectangles of varying sizes. One rectangle for a waistband, another for the skirt “body” and another for the ruffle.

The general “Skirt Math” I use is that each rectangle measurement should be at least three times bigger than the last. So if your waistband is thirty inches, the skirt “body” should be at least ninety, and the ruffle should be two hundred and seventy (paired with whatever length you desire). This makes sure you will get a very full skirt!

I ended up making my skirt even fuller than that. And due to the amount of fabric I had the skirt “body” was cut as four panels instead of one. So here are the pattern pieces for the skirt I made:

One 29″x4″ rectangle (for the waistband – this is my waist measurement plus seam allowances)

Four 28″ x 20″ rectangles (for the skirt body)

Two 5.5″ x 160″ rectangles (for the ruffle)

And a three inch wide strip which I used to make bias tape.

Here are the panels for the main part of the skirt.


And the strips cut to turn into ruffles! I cut these in the opposite direction as the main panels, hopefully this will add more texture.


I had originally planned on hemming the strips before making ruffles, but a bit of experimenting with scraps made me realize I could get this fantastic effect by cutting off the woven trim. It creates this really neat fringe-y look which I LOVE. Suddenly the fabric I didn’t like but was trying to use up turned into something really interesting.


Gathering it just made it look better!

skirt 11

I gathered it the same way I always do, by shoving it under the foot of my machine as I go. Not the safest or most precise way, but It is fast and I love the results. I gathered this down to be the same length as the hem of all the main panels sewn together.

skirt 10

After sewing the panels together (which took a while, I was careful with pinning and did my best to get all the stripes/ruffles to line up) I pinned on the ruffle.


I sewed it on and gathered the skirt at the wasit. I gathered the top of the skirt by hand…then realized it was a couple inches too long, so I hiked it up at the waist and gathered it again. Another pro of rectangle skirts!

I was so ridiculously pleased with this that I decided to make it a stand alone piece, instead of being attached to a bodice/part of the dress. That way I can wear it with other pieces too. I see so many options with the skirt!


skirt 15

Once I decided to make it a separate piece I went about making the waistband. I made it four inches wide, so I could fold it in half and sew the edges together to finish them.


To finish the bottom edge I cut three inch wide strips of fabric on the bias, then folded the edges inward, and folded it in half. This creates double fold bias tape.


Before sewing the waistband on I folded the top eight inches of the back edge over, this will get left open when I do up the back seam so I can get in and out of the skirt easily.


Then the waistband got sewn on!


And I did up the back seam. I chose to close this skirt with a single eyelet at the waist, leaving a slit in the back. Since this will be worn under things i’m not too concerned about the slight opening.


The raw edge got finished with the bias tape I made earlier.


And the skirt is done! Looking back I should have reinforced the waistband with interfacing, it has the tendency to sag and warp in certain places due to the skirts weight. That was a mistake on my part. But other than that I really like this skirt!



Now for the overskirt! The overskirt is made up of an eighteen inch long, seventy two inch wide rectangle, and two slightly gored panels that are the same length. I had originally wanted to make this as a three quarter circle skirt, but fabric limitations prevented that!

This mesh doesn’t fray so I left it unhemmed. I cut it with a wavy pattern to make it look more…natural I guess, I wanted it to flow over the underskirt softly instead of ending in a harsh line.


I sewed the panels together and gathered the top down to my waist measurement.

skirt 14

I tried it on over the underskirt and there was something missing. I decided that thing was sparkle, so I stitched on a scattering of sequins across the lower half, focusing on the hem.


Sparkles make everything better, and this skirt was no exception!


(at this point the underskirt was unfinished)


I folded the top eight inches of the back edge over and sewed them down, I did this for the underskirt too. It will be left open when I do up the back seam so I can get in and out of the skirt easily. This doesn’t matter if you have a smaller frame, but I have big hips and big shoulders so a six to eight inch slit at the waist is a necessity for all my skirts.


…And that is all for this post! I thought there was more, but it makes more sense to include the information on attaching the skirt to the bodice in the blog post about the bodice. Which will hopefully be up next week! This project is complete I just need to get around to editing the videos about it.

Here is the finished ensemble, as a bit of a teaser picture!

Dress WatermarkThanks for reading!


Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Original Designs, The Making Of


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Making a 16th Century Kirtle, Part Three

The kirtle making continues! This post is about making the skirt, I have two posts about making the bodice which can be read here and here.

I ended up using a lot of guess work to make the pattern. I decided to have a single gored panel at each side and the rest would be made from rectangles. This is loosely based off of the pattern used to make my farthingale.

When I had the pattern figured out I took all the proper measurements to make sure the length would be correct. Then I lopped thirteen inches off each measurement, since the lower thirteen inches will be cut from silk.

DSC_2562The reason i’m cutting it partially from silk is to save fabric (and money!) the majority of the skirt will be from polyester taffeta, with a front panel and hem made up of silk dupioni. Once the dress is worn over the kirtle the only part that will be visible is the front bit, and maybe the hem if the dress skirt ever gets lifted.

The rest can be made from whatever you want, and then you don’t have to spend $50 on four yards of silk that will never be seen. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this technique, but it’s covered in “The Tudor Tailor” which is where I got the idea!

(seen on far left)


Here are (most of) the taffeta panels, the triangular ones will be on the sides and the rectangle will be placed at the back.


There are also  smaller rectangles that were sewn onto the front side of the gored panels. When sewing them together I left a eight inch slash at the side seams,  these will let me get in and out of the garment.

After they were stitched together I did a poor job of pleating and pinning them onto my dress form. I didn’t love the shape, but it had a really good amount of volume, so that was a major plus!


Then I cut out the front panel from the silk.


And pinned that on the dress form too. It looked a bit silly at this point, like a reverse “mullet dress”!


These are the bottom pieces, cut from silk.


They got sewn together and then pinned onto the bottom of the skirt. I had only left a half inch seam allowance but both fabrics frayed so badly that I ended up french seaming it.

Unfortunately this made my one and a half inch hem allowance get much smaller, so I ended up having to use bias tape to finish off the hem.


Here is the skirt partially assembled – the front panel still isn’t sewn to everything else, but it shows progress! At this point the side “slits” had the edges turned over and interfacing surrounding them, so they wouldn’t fray. I had also gotten a decent idea of how I wanted to pleat everything.


The front panel (finally) got sewn on!


And the pleating began! I changed things a little bit but the end result is quite similar to this, lots of 3/4″ knife pleats with a box pleat at the back.


This is the back with the final pleats sewn down!


And the front.


When the pleats were sorted out it was time for the hem! A few things ended up causing my hem allowance to be smaller than I had planned. So I opted for a hem finished with bias tape.

Step one was making the bias tape – I cut three and a half inch wide strips of silk and turned/ironed the edges inward.


Then I pinned it on. And I actually sewed it on by machine! That is a rarity for me, I always hand stitch hems, but this part won’t be visible from the outside so I figured it would be okay.


NOT SO MUCH. I changed my needle shortly before starting this and was expecting it to go fine – the forums I read online swore silk dupioni was easy to sew. LIES.

Actually, I guess it is pretty easy to sew, it just looks like absolute shit once you are done sewing it.

Those puckers! I could cry.


After an hour, yes one hour of ironing I got the hem looking pretty smooth – most of the pulls in the fabric came out. But I hand stitched the other side.


Once the hem was done it looked really nice! I was quite pleased with everything.




The last thing to do was sewing it onto the kirtle bodice. This went really smoothly!


And it was done! Well, pretty much done. I ended up weighting the front of my farthingale, which makes it dip closer to the ground in the front and higher at the sides. So now the kirtle is an inch longer than it should be in the front, and an inch too short at each side.

But when i’m standing perfectly straight it’s hard to tell! Here it is from the front – unfortunately the only pictures I took this way include my hair being up in a stupid bun that I forgot to take out.

I might end up hemming it shorter at the front, but for now i’m calling it done!



DSC_2716Side-ish back?


And the back!


Thanks for reading! I’ve had some setbacks with making the dress for this project, so I’m not sure when my next post about this costume will be. Hopefully I can work things out soon, but it might be a while.


Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Historically Inspired, The Making Of


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Making a 16th Century Kirtle, Part Two

The making of a kirtle continues! Part one of this project can be read here, it talks about making the bodice, this post is going to be about embellishing the bodice.

I also have posts about making the Bodies, Chemise, and Farthingale which belong to the same outfit.

I thought this would be a good time to talk about the materials for this costume. I got almost all my materials in the NYC garment district. The two main fabrics for this costume are a gorgeous silk dupioni, and a polyester floral damask fabric. This is my first project with a large silk component, so that has been horrible, frustrating, awful interesting!

The damask is for the dress and the silk is being used for the kirtle, sleeves, and hood.

I’m also using quilting cotton for lining and polyester taffeta for the parts that will be hidden.


That trip to NYC also included a stop at Beads World, which is where I got the embellishments for this costume.

I was aiming to find red and yellow glass crystals but they only had red and white. I didn’t think I would need to use the white ones on this costume, because I had so many red. But when planning out the beading pattern it looked much better with the white ones worked in.

This is very inaccurate. They are imitation diamonds, and they were unable to consistently cut diamonds until the late 1500s. In this case i’m prioritizing visual appeal over accuracy, but I can tint them with alcohol inks later on if i’m bothered by it.

I bought the glass crystals in a variety of sizes, along with cream and orange seed beads.


I couldn’t find cheap pearls on my shopping trip, so I ordered some from this shop on etsy!


And those are the raw materials! Onto the progress!

At the end of my last post I had a very simple silk kirtle bodice trimmed with lace.


love the lace used, but the more I stared at it the more I felt it looked a little out of place on this particular garment. I didn’t want to remove it, but it definitely needed an extra “something”

So I decided to bead it! I stitched cream seed beads around the neckline, then stitched a row of pearls and orange seed beads on top. It took a few hours but I think it makes the bodice look much more expensive!


When I felt happy with that I moved on to planning the real beading, which will be about an inch wide and span across the front neckline.

I did this by getting out a beading mat and dumping a good amount of the crystals and pearls onto it. I used my fingers and pliers to arrange a pattern that I felt was well balanced and really pretty.


I also fiddled around with a smaller pattern, which I want to turn into a necklace and beading on the dress waist. But I think it might take up too many red stones so i’m not sure if that will work out.


I liked the first beading pattern enough to make an actual pattern for it, something that can be used as a guide to make sure I got it right. I just used a ruler and paper to mark this out.


And then it was time for the actual beading! Which was kind of terrifying. Nothing can really go wrong, it’s hand sewing and pretty much everything can be ripped out without damaging the beads or fabric.

But this is me we are talking about, so I was totally expecting something to go wrong.

Somehow, things went really well! I started from the center and did the right side first. The left side definitely looks better, but they were both passable on my first try!


I sewed the pearls on three at a time, then tacked them down with thread. All the other beads were sewn on one at a time.

I’m really ridiculously proud of this, it looks so pretty!


I didn’t want to waste too many of the fake gems on the shoulders, so I came up with a different beading pattern that was mostly made up from pearls. And now I don’t have enough pearls for the jewelry. But luckily I can easily order more!


The only downside to this collar is that it makes the bodice very heavy, and now when it’s worn it droops a little in the center. So if I were to make another one of these I would put interfacing or buckram in the lining to give it some support.

(though it wouldn’t be a problem if the bodice was an eighth of an inch smaller)


With the beading done I could finally stitch up the shoulder seams. A fitting in between proved they needed to be let out a half inch, i’m really glad I left so much room for that!

Photo on 2-8-15 at 11.18 AM

Photo on 2-8-15 at 11.17 AM #3

The straps of the kirtle are actually smaller than the straps of my bodies…which looks pretty bad when the kirtle is worn on its own. To try and make this a little less obvious I stitched lace around the arm holes.

With that finished, the bodice was pretty much done! Here is the complete front.


And the finished back.



And a photo of the messy lining for good measure – the beading looks good from the front, but is pretty messy from the interior!


So that’s the bodice! I really enjoyed making it. Unfortunately the dress bodice hasn’t been as much fun, but i’ll talk about that on another day.

Thanks for reading!


Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Historically Inspired, The Making Of


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Making a 16th Century Chemise

I wish I had something more exciting to post today, but it’s come to the point where I have to blog about the most boring aspect of this costume: The chemise (also called a “Shift” and “Smock” in the 1500s).

The title is kind of misleading, due to certain circumstances I didn’t end up doing any research prior to making this. I used this blog post as a reference point and made everything up. Which is a shame because there are some really gorgeous shifts from the 1500s and 1600s.

Embroidery was such a big part of everyday dress and the undergarments were no exception. The blackwork embroidery often seen on shifts was so delicate and lovely. Over the last few days i’ve put more effort into researching them and they can be stunning garments while still being practical. Making a more elaborate one is now on my list of eventual historical sewing goals!

But this chemise in particular isn’t going to be seen at all. Not even the neck or cuffs. The only purpose of it is to provide a layer between my skin and the bodies, and to keep the kirtle/dress/sleeves clean. So it’s about as plain as you can make a garment.

I ended up flat drafting the pattern, two panels make up the body of the garment (one at the front one at the back) and it has gathered sleeves with cuffs that lace closed. I feel a bit silly about drafting this since my additional research led me to realize I have several historically accurate patterns hidden in Janet Arnold’s books which I own. Damn.

Anyway! Here is the pattern, this is the front panel. The neckline was based off the pattern of the pair of bodies with a few adjustments.


And the back panel. Both of these need to be cut on a folded edge.


These are the sleeves, cuff, and collar facing.


Step one was cutting everything out. I used cotton gauze which I had purchased at Joanns, which isn’t very accurate but I LOVE the texture and weight of this fabric. It’s an absolute dream to work with and I would definitely use it for more undergarments in the future.

When everything was cut out I started working on the front panel. The front got slashed a few inches down the center and I pinned the edges over.


Then the edges got stitched down.


I cut out rectangles of the gauze and turned the edges inward. Then those were whip stitched surrounding the slash to reinforce the edges.


 I moved on to the back panel, which is gathered at the neck. I actually misread the pattern I made and gathered it down to four inches instead of eight. I didn’t realize the mistake until I was a little farther along but luckily I was able to fix it without any problem!


Then I sewed the shoulder seam, which secures the straps to the back panel.


Now the neckline was ready to have the facing added. The top edge will be encased in a seam but the lower edge had to be folded over and finished by hand.


I attached the top edge of the facing into the neckline by machine, sewing it the typical “right sides together” way. But I stitched the lower edge by hand to avoid having any visible top stitching.

When the facing was sewn in I did up the side seams. I used french seams to encase the raw edges even though this fabric doesn’t fray much. I also hemmed the bottom edge by turning the edge over a half inch and used basting stitches to secure it. Then I turned the hem in a little more than an inch and whip stitched it in place.

Lastly I sewed eyelets down the slashed front.


And then it was time for sleeves! The sleeves on this are really quite simple, they are loose and gathered so fit isn’t really an issue which makes them a lot easier.

After cutting them out I gathered the lowed edge by hand. I think this edge was gathered down to six inches including seam allowance because I have weirdly small wrists.


I turned the bottom three inches of the edges inward. When the side seam is done up i’ll leave the bottom few inches open to allow my hand to slip through and it’s easier to finish that edge before sewing the seam.

Then I attached the cuffs. These are just small rectangles with the edges turned over. After they were sewn on I used even smaller rectangles to line them.


Then the side seams got done up with french seams, as I mentioned earlier I left the bottom few inches open.


Then they got sewn on to the body of the chemise. Lastly I stitched eyelets onto each side of the cuffs and it was done! Overall I really like this, it was easy to make, kind of fun, and turned out pretty well. Certainly a much better end result than my pair of bodies and farthingale!




Thanks for reading! That’s the end of my tudor undergarments so now I can move on to more exciting things. Hopefully the next post will be more interesting, I think it will have something to do with the kirtle that goes with this project.


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Making a Spanish Farthingale

The making of a set of tudor undergarments continues! My first post in this series talked about making a pair of bodies and can be read here. This time i’ll be delving into the process of making a spanish farthingale. This project was one that required a lot of fiddling and several moments where I nearly gave up before making peace with it. Somehow I ended up being happy with the end result, even though it’s kind of an ugly beast.

There are two main types of farthingales, the most famous are French, or Great farthingales which look like big wheels. Spanish Farthingales came a little earlier, and look a lot less silly. They are a specifically shaped hoop skirt that resembles a cone with a flat front, which is what I need for my tudor ensemble.

I own a book (“The Tudor Tailor”) which a spanish farthingale pattern in it – this seems to be the go-to for a lot of historical seamstresses but the end result doesn’t have the exaggerated silhouette that I’ve seen in so many paintings. So I decided to not use that pattern, and instead I followed the instructions posted here.

The pattern featured in that tutorial was made for someone ten inches shorter for me with a much smaller frame. I wanted mine to be proportional so I made my panels a bit wider. Here are some doodles I made before starting – I didn’t end up following them all, but I found drawing it out was easier than frequently referencing the tutorial.


I decided to use polyester taffeta for this project, with cotton sateen boning channels. I wouldn’t recommend either of these fabrics for a farthingale, they did work but the end result isn’t the prettiest or most practical. Cotton or linen would be MUCH better with twill tape as boning channels.

First I cut two pieces of fabric that were twenty six inches wide and ninety four inches long.


One piece was immediately cut in half to make up two twenty six by forty seven inch pieces. These will be used to create the gored panels later on. The remaining piece of fabric got folded in half and will eventually be used for the front and back panels.

DSC_2204The folded piece of material also got  cut in half. Instead of being precise rectangles they have slightly rounded edges to create a smoother hem.

The two twenty six by forty seven inch pieces got cut on a diagonal, one being slightly larger than the other. This is all covered in the tutorial I linked at the start!


I assembled it like the tutorial said – I did goof up and ended up sewing the back gored panels from bottom to top, so I had to trim a few inches from the top instead of at the hem. This means my hem will be a little larger than it should be, but I’m okay with that since I wanted a larger than average bottom hoop.



Construction was actually surprisingly easy – lots of straight half inch seams. I made things a little harder for myself by making every seam a french seam, but I don’t regret it because polyester taffeta frays SO MUCH, it needed to be contained.


I got the front and back completely assembled before I ran into my first problem – and it’s a doozy. Because I made the pattern bigger the diagonal seams were much longer than they should be. For the side seams you have to attach a diagonal cut piece of fabric to a forty seven inch piece of fabric.

Which would be fine, but my diagonal piece of fabric was fifty three inches long, a six inch difference!


I had to lop six inches off my front panel. If I had been smart I would have added a six inch panel to the back and called it done, but that didn’t occur to me. Instead I cut off six inches from the front panel and big shock – my farthingale ended up six inches too short. Damn.

I continued with construction anyway, I sort of just hoped it would work itself out. I mean it could totally grow overnight! Or I could shrink! Miracles do happen!

After assembly was done you could kind of see the shape – I ended up trimming the hem to be smoother shortly after taking this photo.


I turned the hem up a half inch.


And then it was time for boning channels! I chose to make my own from cotton sateen, which will be bad in the long run since cotton sateen can stretch. But so far it’s been a couple weeks and I haven’t noticed any stretching, so hopefully this will be okay for a while longer!

I cut strips that were a little less than two inches wide and turned the edges inward – the same method you use for making bias tape!


I used chalk to mark the lines where the channels would go. The lines were drawn seven inches apart so there ends up being a little more than six inches between each bone. This is far apart by farthingale standards, but i’m tall, so I think it was a good decision.


Each channel got pinned on and stitched down one at a time. I made the bright decision to wear shorts while working on this and my legs were a scratched up mess after – it’s such a big skirt and the dozens of pins make it deadly.

(Not really, but it’s close.)

Here is what it looked like with all the boning channels sewn! They are actually pretty sloppily done. I injured a toe on my right foot a day before starting this project which left me unable to use the pedal. I ended up controlling the pedal with my left foot and I don’t have nearly the speed control, so it was kind of a disaster!


With the channels done I turned to figuring out the closure. Since my bodies close up the back I decided to do the same with the farthingale. I regret this since I later wanted to add a bum pad, which is difficult to do with a back closure. A front closure would have been much better in my situation but oh well, you live and learn!

I slashed the back open and sewed bias tape onto the opening, then stitched the end up in a tapered seam.


I made a waistband too, it’s two inches wide and made from leftover taffeta. The taffeta was stiff enough that I didn’t choose to use interfacing or anything.


I gathered the top of the skirt and stitched into onto the waistband. The seam was a mess so I encased it in matching bias tape.


Now it was time to try it on the dress form – without boning it looked really sad!


Unfortunately with boning it looked even worse. I measured the boning channels and cut my hooping wire to be the same length. I tipped the wire with tape and threaded them through the channels.

I didn’t get the desired effect. Instead I ended up with this can shaped disaster.


I removed several inches from the top three bones and ended up with much better results. The silhouette was surprisingly good but from the front it had a  terrible shape – almost like a “C”. It was very narrow and not as wide as it needed to be.


The bottom hoop didn’t sit evenly either…it’s was kind of a mess! I fiddled a lot more with the hoop sizes but ultimately decided regathering the top would help with the shape and fix the narrow front.

Which it did, the front looked way better. But with the newly added gathers to the front the farthingale tipped forward which is the exact opposite of what I wanted.


Luckily someone very clever on tumblr suggested weighting the front, which was brilliant! Now the hoop is flat but wide at the front and slopes down and out at the back. Perfect.

Since I was finally happy with the shape I moved on to the finishings. The waistband got reattached and I made a six inch ruffle from leftover taffeta with hopes it would fix the length problem.


They definitely helped, but the ruffle doesn’t hold it’s shape the way hooping wire does. So the skirt will have a slight tendency to cave in at the bottom which is frustrating.

I used scissors and a binder clip as a stand in weight since I didn’t have a proper one haha.


I also made a bum pad – which was on my dress form for all the above pictures. This is supposed to help tip the skirt backward but I don’t think it helped that much.

I made it from cotton sateen and stuffed it with quilt batting scraps. The edge was finished with bias tape and two snaps to attach it to the farthingale.


I secured the hooping in place (to make sure they don’t shift too much) by stitching through them with cord. The cord knots on the interior of the farthingale. This only works with hooping wire that’s pressed between layers of buckram, since you can stitch through buckram.


I also finished the interior of the waistband with bias tape, since I didn’t do that after regathering the top.


And l I stitched on two snaps to secure the bum pad. Not very pretty stitching on any of this – I was kind of over the project at this point.


The main closure for the farthingale are two eyelets. Once those were sewn it was officially done!


I ended up creating pockets out of cotton sateen for the weights, I stuffed one with metal cameo frames from an old costume and the other is a heavy as hell spool of beading wire. Not the most professional solution!

Both pouches are sewn into the interior center front. I have one on the second hoop and another on the fourth hoop to get the desired effect. This picture was taken before I sewed them to the inside.

I was worried this would make the front too flat, but I actually really like how it looks with my kirtle over it! I can also remove one of the weights later on to soften the shape.



here it is being worn over a chemise.


And this is it paired with my pair of bodies and kirtle. The kirtle was drafted to fit over the unweighted farthingale, so the skirt hangs a little long in the front and a little short in the sides. But i’m not too bothered by that – i’m honestly just happy the shape looks good!


What a project – lots of frustrations and I felt like it was going to end in failure. But it actually turned out pretty okay! I think I would like to make another farthingale someday. Now that I have a good idea of the shape I like and how to construct one. I think making another one would be much faster, easier, and yield better results.

Thanks for reading! And I hope you are all enjoying the holiday, or at the very least having a nice weekend!


Making a 16th Century Kirtle, Part One

A couple weeks ago I posted about making a set of bodies, which are the first piece I needed for my 16th century ensemble. There are a few other undergarments required for this project (a bum pad, chemise, and farthingale) but I felt like writing about something more exciting: The kirtle bodice.

In the 1500s kirtles were a dress worn over the chemise and petticoats. Sometimes the kirtle would have a support structure, other times it would be worn over bodies. If you weren’t very wealthy the kirtle could be a stand alone dress, but for 16th century royalty they were used as an underdress, which is the function mine will have. It will be made partially from silk, partially from polyester taffeta, and in the end you will only see the collar and front of the kirtle peeking out through the dress.

Step one was drafting the pattern. I used the pattern for the pair of bodies I made as a base, then altered it to have a higher neckline, side openings, and a much shorter front. I also switched it so the straps connected at the front instead of tying on the shoulder.

I made a few mock ups before finalizing the pattern – you can see all the stages it went through!



Since I was working with limited amounts of silk, I decided to make the majority of the garment from polyester taffeta and only have the collar be made from silk. This technique was shown in the book “The Tudor Tailor” and I thought it was very clever!

Here are all the pieces cut out.


I used interfacing on the collar portions to add a bit of stiffness, which should help when beading it later on.


Then the pieces were sewn together.


I turned the side edges over and added two pieces of boning, spaced a half inch apart on each side. These provide support for the eyelets. I also stitched a half inch away from the edge at the top and bottom of the garment, these serve as a guideline for where to turn the edge over.


The edges got turned over and stitched down by hand.


Then I cut out the lining – the lining was cut as two pieces instead of four, since I had plenty of fabric to make it all one piece.


Before sewing in the lining I added a some lace (like a lot of the lace i’ve used recently, it was from my grandmothers stash) around the neckline.Then the lining got stitched in, also by hand.


And I did up the side seams with eyelets!


At this point I decided to try it on. And that’s when I realized things weren’t going as well as I thought. The ease of my final, interfaced fabrics was much different than the cotton I used for the mock up. And I feel really super extra dumb that this happened because one of my new years resolutions was to be more careful about the fit.

It was too small at the sides, but the biggest problem was the straps being an inch too short and the neckline not being wide enough. The kirtles in the mid 1500s would often rest so far on the shoulders they almost look like they are going to fall off! (Seen here)

I didn’t want mine to be that dramatic…but the proportions of this bodice were definitely too far off to be salvageable. I would have had to add extra material at the center front and at the shoulders. There is no way to make that look good.

So despite my hours of pattern drafting and hand sewing I threw the bodice away.

I tried to get a photo first, but it was impossible to even get it on properly.

Photo on 2-3-15 at 10.35 AM #2

So that brings me to bodice attempt number two! The key changes here are that I made the neckline almost an inch wider and added more space to the side seams.

To fix my strap troubles I cut them as part of the front bodice panel and added an extra half inch in the center of them. To make sure they would still be long enough (even if the fabric becomes stiffer with the lace and beading added) I left a one and a half inch seam allowance at the back. That better be enough!

On top of that I was also pleasantly surprised to find after cutting the kirtle skirt I had enough material leftover to cut the entire kirtle bodice from silk! Unfortunately the front and back panels aren’t cut on the same grain line, but it’s better than having it from two separate fabrics.

Here is the first try on – they were actually too big! I ended up stitching a quarter inch seam up the center back and took them in a quarter inch on the sides, so the whole bodice became over an inch smaller.

Photo on 2-3-15 at 10.33 AM

When all the alterations were done I stitched boning into the side edges, and stitched a half inch away from the boning to create a guideline for my eyelets. I did a really poor job stitching these, so it’s a good thing they will get ripped out later!

I also turned all the edges over by a half inch.


I sewed lace around the neckline and recut the lining. It got stitched in the same way it was on the first bodice. I left the bottom edge of the lining open so the skirt can be attached later on.


That’s it for this post! This bodice is far from finished. It will eventually have elaborate beading at the neckline, but i’ll save that for another post.

Thanks for reading!


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