Making a Grey Taffeta Hat

We’re onto the final post about my Ana de Mendoza costume! This piece of the costume was the most time consuming, but it ended up being my favorite part so I think the effort was worth it.

In the painting this costume is based off of Ana is seen wearing a large hat – I tried to research women’s hats of this style from the 16th century but came up with very little information. So I decided to make it up! Sometimes I’m all about research, and I’ll try to read as many blogs and books as I can find before taking on a project. But for this one I was a little impatient, and I wanted to skip that part and get straight to it. So I did. How hard can making a hat be?

I started by drafting a pattern. I made mine a circle at first, then realized it should probably be more of an oval shape. So I trimmed the sides of the brim and crown to make them slightly less circular.

It took me a few tries but eventually I came to a size I liked. Looking back I would have made the crown slightly smaller (maybe by a half inch) so it would have more of a tapered profile, but i’m pretty happy with how this pattern worked.


Then I cut all the pieces out from fusible felt interfacing. I chose this because i’m still out of buckram, and this stuff is available at Joanns. Buckram has to be ordered online and I was far too impatient for that!

I didn’t need the felt to be fusible, but it’s the same price as non-fusible felt interfacing and the glue makes it a bit stiffer. I figured that would be a good thing when making a hat of this size.

I originally added seam allowances to the crown and brim. I figured I could clip these the way you would a curved seam and have them tuck into each other, which would add stability to the hat. I did something similar when making my buckram bonnet and it worked really well. But this material is way thicker than buckram, and this technique would prevent the crown from fitting in place, so I trimmed the seam allowance off.


Then I sewed on the wire! It went around the edge of the crown and brim. I felt like the brim was really floppy still, so I added another piece two inches away from the first one. This was all whip stitched in place by hand, with heavy duty upholstery thread.


The felt doesn’t have a very nice texture, and I was worried it would show through the polyester taffeta I wanted to cover it with. So I placed a layer of flannel between the taffeta and felt. This added a LOT of weight to the hat, but I think it improved the appearance a lot as well.


I used binder clips to hold the fabric in place while I was sewing around the edges.


I repeated this process for all the other pieces as well. The crown was harder to cover because it’s smaller, I managed to do it but it sure doesn’t look pretty on the inside!

Then all the pieces were sewn together, which was not an easy task. My fingers did not appreciate the struggle this involved.

After an hour I had a hat! It’s rough around the edges (literally, the edges are really rough) but I was pleased with it. I got to try it on for the first time and luckily the proportions were perfect – it doesn’t really resemble the one in the painting, but that’s ok. I like the shape and size of my creation better.

I didn’t take photos of this part earlier, but once the taffeta was sewn onto the top side of the brim, I stitched a printed denim on the inside to serve as lining. This was right by the cutting counter and caught my eye. I bought a yard and a half because I liked it so much. Even though you don’t really see it when the hat is worn, I like that this adds a bit of texture.

Here you can see how messy the interior looks, It took a lot of thread to make it look smooth from the outside…


When I was sewing the pieces together I noticed something kind of bad. There was so much tension on the polyester taffeta that every stitch binding the pieces together caused little tears in the fabric, which revealed dots of red flannel beneath it. Probably not bad enough that anyone else would notice, but I couldn’t stand it!

So I cut strips of wool suiting, which doesn’t fray, and wrapped those around the edges.


It got sewn down. My fingers were once again, upset by this process, but that’s okay.


Here is a photo of it worn! It doesn’t fit on my head that well, but I can walk without it moving around. I think a hat like this is more for decorative purposes than anything else, as shown by the way Ana’s is precariously balanced on top of her hairstyle in the painting.


I liked how the wool trim looked better than the tiny tears, but from the top of the hat it was a little puckery. So I hid that with a bit of braided blue trim.


Then I made a matching sash out of silk chiffon. The sash on the top is for the hat, the two smaller ones were ties I made for the sleeves. All of these had the edges carefully turned over and sewn down by hand. No easy task when working with small strips of bias cut silk chiffon!


I tied that around my hat and into a big bow. Then the top and bottom portions were stitched down so it won’t be going anywhere.


I lined the interior with white cotton gauze, but I extended my lining too far out and it was visible when the hat was worn. So I sewed a three quarter inch wide strip of wool around the cotton, which hid this.


Now it was time for embellishments! And feathers! I bought four white ostrich feathers from Joanns and a pack of spiky black geese feathers.


I glued them down in an arrangement I liked. On the left side, which doesn’t have a bow, I hid the ugly bases of the feathers with a bunch of light grey fake pearls.


And that’s it for my beautiful hat! I really love this thing. It’s made me realize how much headpieces complete historical ensembles, and how they can really bring to life a simple costume. I consider millinery to be a little bit out of my skill set and it seems intimidating to learn. But the fact I figured out the process of making this on my own, even without research, has been a big motivator for me.

I have a few costumes coming up that should be worn with hats, bonnets, and a 15th century hennin. I think i’ll put the effort into making them all, and hopefully be happier with the finished costumes.




I also made an eyepatch for this ensemble. I used a sticky note for a pattern and scraps of the fusible interfacing for a base. This eyepatch has a very specific shape, with a sharply pointed bottom. I think I spent longer trying to pattern/shape this than I did on the hat! I wanted it to be perfect.


I ironed the damask print denim onto one side, then tucked all the edges over and sewed them down. I was originally going to use cotton as a backing, but I switched to black wool suiting since I figured the white gauze might be visible.


I sewed some coated black cord overtop and it was done!



And that’s it for this costume. I’m so pleased with it. I think this might be my favorite costume that i’ve made this year. I was so determined to spend months making costumes I’m really proud of, but so far I like my week long projects a lot more than the ones that took months. Funny how that works out, huh?

If you want to see this in motion I filmed a short video on it (it really didn’t come out how I intended, but I know some people might prefer it to photos) which can be watched here.

Ana de Mendoza2

Ana de Mendoza

Ana de Mendoza 3

And that’s it! Thank you for reading!


Making Lace Sleeves

I wasn’t sure what to title this. It is supposed to be a chemise to wear underneath my grey taffeta kirtle, but I didn’t have very much cotton gauze left. So it ended up being a shirt with lacy sleeves.

I’m still working on the Ana de Mendoza costume, which is based off of this painting. If I was following the painting closely and being accurate I should have used satin or chiffon for the sleeves. But I was worried those materials, along with the grey taffeta would look really boring and flat.

So I decided to use lace instead. My lace fabric stash is a little bit limited, so I used a three yard piece of lace trim which I purchased for $5 from this etsy seller a couple months ago. This lace isn’t the best quality, it’s stretchy and has a sheen to it which screams cheap lace, but the pattern is really pretty and it’s very soft.



In case my doodles in my last post weren’t enough for you, here are more that I made about the undershirt. I’m not sure how much sense these make to other people, but they provide enough information for me!



The lace got chopped into five pieces. First I cut two inches off the top of the three yard length, this was gathered down and used on the neckline of the kirtle. The remainder was cut into four equal (twenty seven inch long) pieces. Two will be used for each sleeve.


I gathered the sleeves down to the measurements listed above.


At the ruffly ends I sewed elastic onto the interior. This isn’t historically accurate at all, but it’s way more convenient than trying to stuff your hands through tiny cuffs!


Here are the two bottom portions of the sleeves.


And one of the top portions.


I sewed them together with a running stitch.


Then sewed more elastic into that seam. Now I had cute, puffy, stretchy, sleeves! Can you think of anything better than that?


I set those aside and switched to making the cotton shirt. This is made from an eighteen by sixty inch piece of cotton gauze. It gets folded in half and a slit is cut in the folded end – this will be the head hole and make it easy to get on and off for fittings throughout the process.

I marked ten inches down from the fold on each side, this is where the sleeves will be attached.


I topstitched the sleeves on, then did up the sides with french seams. Now I could try it on! The sleeves were shorter than I had wanted but since the length was determined by the width of the lace trim i’m not too upset with myself. I think they turned out really cute and are certainly more interesting than chiffon or satin sleeves made with the same pattern.


To figure out the neckline shape I laced myself into the kirtle bodice and drew a line with chalk about one inch away from the neckline. I only did this on one side, since both sides should be the same.



Then I took it off and transferred the chalk markings to the other half of the neckline to make sure everything was even.

I’ve decided (after finishing it) that this neckline is really stupid, I should have made it flat in the center (even though the kirtle isn’t). It looks so silly! But it doesn’t show when the kirtle is worn, so I guess it doesn’t matter.


I finished the hem with some cheap, scratchy lace which i’ve been meaning to use up.


And the neckline was finished with a different lace that has a similar price tag and texture.


That’s it! Pretty ugly all by itself, but when it’s underneath my kirtle I think it looks quite nice. I ended up making a sash of pale blue silk chiffon which gets wrapped around the middle of each sleeve and into a bow!


Here is another worn photo which shows off the sleeves a little bit. They really are too short, but they are cute anyway!

Ana de Mendoza2

Thank you for reading! The blog post about the hat should be up on Friday!

Making a Grey Taffeta Kirtle

This is another project that came out of nowhere. I was about to go to bed and thought “I should make a dress based off that painting  pinned on pinterest a few months ago”.  I wrote the idea down so I wouldn’t forget in the morning, and seventy two hours later I had a dress!

This dress is actually an ensemble that consists of a kirtle, undershirt, hat, and eyepatch – that last one might sound a little odd, but it will make sense in a minute. I based this costume off of this painting, it isn’t the most exciting painting or costume but I thought it was very striking when I first saw it, and it’s obviously stuck with me. The subject of that painting is Ana de Mendoza who was a countess, duchess, princess, and prisoner at various points of her life. She wore an eyepatch after an injury left her blind in one eye (she may have lost the eye as well – sources disagree).

She has far more elaborate costumes shown in other paintings, but I decided on this one. I love the hat, the color scheme, and the simplicity to it. Plus I could make it (almost) entirely out of things I already owned, the only thing I had to buy were materials (interfacing, denim, and feathers) for the hat!

Today I’ll be showing how I made the most major piece of this costume (but not the most striking – i’d say that award goes to the hat) which is the kirtle. I made this from six yards of polyester taffeta which I got in NYC at the beginning of last year. It was four dollars a yard and is dark grey in color.

I decided to make this kirtle the “proper” way with stiffening in the bodice. My last kirtle (made for my tudor project) didn’t have any structure, instead it was worn over a pair of bodies. That led to problems later on and I didn’t want to make the same mistake this time!

I used an altered version of Norah Waugh’s bodies pattern. I made the basque waist wider and shorter, lowered the neckline, lengthened the straps, and took it in slightly. I cut the altered pattern out from canvas, which will be the base layer of the bodice.


I marked out all the boning channels and backed the fabric with cotton. Then I stitched all the channels and filled them with quarter inch wide plastic boning.


I pinned taffeta over both pieces. The curves got clipped and folded over the edges, then whip stitched down. This was really hard, taffeta does not have a lot of give to it and it did not want to go around those curves.



The interiors looked like this! The cotton layer was just to back the boning channels, so a lot of it got cut away to remove bulk.


Then I pinned a thin muslin layer to the interior, which will function as lining. I sewed this in with a whip stitch as well. But I used black thread for this, so it didn’t end up looking very pretty on the inside.


I decided I couldn’t stand how puckery the taffeta looked around the the arm holes, but at this point there was’t a lot I could do without ripping everything apart. So I cut strips of wool and sewed those over the arm holes. I think this looks quite nice, even though I doubt it’s historically accurate.

I also bound the pieces together instead of sewing them with seams. I did this because it worked better this the pattern and reduced bulk at the shoulder, which is always good!


I also started sewing the eyelets on the back side seam.


Here you can see the lining job I did (I told you it’s ugly) and how the bound edges look from the interior.


I stitched a gathered strip of lace around the neckline. Historically this would be attached to the chemise, but it’s such a pain to get the lace of an undershirt lined up with a boned bodice and I wanted to avoid the struggle. So I sewed it directly onto the bodice.


Then I added the pearls. These were once again, something I already had around. I bought these from my red and silver “Renaissance” gown (aka my totally un-researched slapped together costume that had a sleeve fall off during a photoshoot) but never used them. I sewed these around the shoulder of the bodice but didn’t put them on the back, since the wig would likely get tangled in them.

You can also see how my eyelets progressed!



For the center point, where the strands of pearls join, I put a brooch. I bought this for my birthday last year, It was a total $2.24 on ebay and suits this costume perfectly.

And when I say “perfectly” I mean it looks really pretty, not perfect from an accuracy standpoint.



With that attached, the bodice was complete and it was time for the skirt! I actually made and cut this skirt out in the middle of the night, so my photos are lackluster at best and nonexistent at worst. But here is my skirt “pattern” there are six panels which get progressively longer towards the back. Once they were all cut out and sewn together I cut the hem into an arched shape instead of the blocky/triangular one this pattern creates.


Two of the panels cut out…


And those are all the photos I have of the skirt being cut out. I told you it was bad! But you can probably imagine the rest, they all got sewn together with the wrong sides facing each other, then the seams were trimmed down to a quarter inch and sewn into french seams.

After the hem was shaped I folded the edge over by a half inch and basted it down.


Then the hem was brought up by an inch and a half and pinned in place.


I sewed it down with a cross stitch.



I knife pleated the top of the skirt down to twenty five inches.


After I sewed across the pleats I pinned the skirt to the bodice. Then I cut a seven inch slit in the skirt, which continues down from the opening in the side back of the bodice. To finish the edge I used more strips of wool.


All that got sewn on, then I pinned a strip of one inch wide bias tape over the frayed edge on the interior of the bodice. I stitched that down and it was done!


Isn’t it pretty?




I’m very happy with it! I was going to wait until Friday to post worn photos but here is a sneaky one since i’m eager to share!

Ana de Mendoza 3

Thank you for reading!

The Making of a French Hood

The first accessory I made to go with my tudor costume is the most famous one – a French Hood. You can see these in pretty much every portrait of royal women that were painted in the mid 1500s. I used this painting, and this one as my major shape and color references. I also used this blog post to get an idea of what shapes make up the hood, and how they are assembled. It was a major help to me and I would suggest reading it!

I had a few resources in books too, which show the variations in hood shapes.


My first pattern was taken from the tudor tailor, unfortunately it didn’t work out for me. It was too small in some areas, too big in others, and all together not the shape I wanted. It took me a good hour of experimenting, but eventually I had a pattern I liked much better.


I cut the crescent out of buckram and the paste out of felt weight interfacing. I would have used buckram for both pieces but I didn’t have very much on hand.


Since I don’t have a sewing machine with a zig zag stitch option, I hand stitched wire around each edge of both pieces. I used a whip stitch for this, and though it was slow it turned out surprisingly sturdy! I’ve had some bad experiences with using wire in the past, but I was really happy with how smooth and easy to shape these pieces ended up being.


I decided to cover the crescent with my orange silk, which was used for the kirtle. I debated about using off white silk (which was more common) but I found several paintings with orange hoods so I figured why not! Since the silk is so thin and delicate I decided to cover the crescent with a flannel weight fabric to smooth out any bumps or ridges.

I actually did this with leftovers of the imitation wool suiting that I bought for my Civil War Era dress.


Then I pinned the silk overtop.


And sewed it on as tightly as I could. The back looked like this.


But the front looked a little better!


I covered the paste with dark brown velvet, the same fabric I used for the oversleeves.


Instead of making a ruffle or frill for the front I decided to use lace. This is the same lace I used on the neckline of the kirtle.


As suggested in the blog post I linked above, I added a bit of padding to the area that would press against the ear. I don’t think this was really necessary (I found the hood very comfortable to wear and it didn’t press at all, even in this area) but I guess it doesn’t hurt to add this anyway.


Before attaching the pieces together I cut out the lining. I used the same pattern I made earlier, but added half inch seam allowances so I could tuck the edges over. I cut my lining out of cotton gauze, since it’s very lightweight, a bit stretchy, and really easy to work with.


And here the pieces are with the lining sewn in. I didn’t extend the lining all the way into the corners of the crescent because I didn’t want to add unnecessary bulk in those areas.


The crescent got pinned onto the paste.


Then stitched on with upholstery thread. The hood looks really lopsided at this point, but I think that’s just because the wire wasn’t bent evenly around the brim.


I sewed a mixture of 6mm fake pearls and 5mm glass montees across the join point between the crescent and the paste. Each one is separated with a small orange seed bead.


Then I made up a beading pattern for the top of the hood. If I had more montees I would have made it more extravagant, but at this point I was running low on them.


With this part done it actually looked the way it was supposed to!


I sewed the back pieces together with a cross stitch. I used upholstery thread for this to make sure it was really sturdy.


Now it was time to focus on the veil. I decided to use leftover velvet so it would match the hood. I didn’t have very much velvet leftover so the hood ended up being narrower than I had planned, but it looks fine when worn!


I turned the edges over by a half inch and stitched bias tape overtop to cover them. The veil should probably be fully lined but I was already worried about how the velvet would hang and didn’t want to add weight. (It ended up being fine, lining would have also been fine I think)


Here is the veil with the back seam done up.


It got sewn onto the back of the paste and it’s done! Overall I’m really pleased with it. If I made another I would make the crescent a little taller and the veil wider, but those are simple changes. Considering this was totally different from anything i’ve made before I’m pretty proud of it!


I think the one change i’ll make is sewing combs into the sides or front. Below is my first “try on” of this costume and you can see the hood slipped really far back on my head. Traditionally they would be pinned to a coif or cap but I don’t see that working for me. The buckram is so thick that there is no way to secure it with pins, even if I had something other than hair to pin it to. So I think combs at the front are my best bet for keeping it secure!


And that’s it for today! Thank you for reading!

Making a 16th Century Dress, Part Three

So I skipped almost two weeks of posting. In my defense, I was traveling for a week of that and fully planned on updating while in hotel rooms. I had several hours to kill most evenings, and nothing to do but blog! Unfortunately that plan didn’t work out since none of the hotels had reliable internet that allowed me to access wordpress, much less post anything. When I got home I had a rough time getting back into my routine, but i’m back!

I really wanted to make this post a progress report, since I have several projects in progress right now and plans for a few exciting ones. But I figured after two weeks a “The Making Of” would be more appreciated. So lets go through the process of adding a skirt to my tudor costume. If you are unfamiliar with this project, the previous posts can be read here.

I’m not sure where the photos of this laid out flat went, but I can’t find them. I think my folder with the first five photos or so got deleted, which is a shame. On the bright side,  the skirt pattern was really simple, two rectangles plus a rectangle with an arched bottom to create a train. If I had another two yards of material (which I planned on having) the train would be longer and the skirt would have two extra panels.

The panels were all sewn together with french seams. Then the lower edge was turned over by a half inch and basted down. Then it got turned over my an inch and a half and pinned down.


Then that was stitched down with whip stitches.


The side edges of the skirt also got turned over by an inch and a half. I stitched down both edges of the fabric with tiny running stitches.


Since this fabric is pretty thin and cartridge pleating works best with thicker fabrics I decided to back the top few inches with flannel. I cut several strips of flannel and folded them in half.


Then I sewed it on.


The top edge was fraying like crazy, so I decided to cover it with bias tape. I had some of the damaged damask leftover and decided this would be a good use for it. I marked out all my two inch wide strips.


Then cut them out and sewed them together.


I ironed the raw edges inward and I had bias tape!


One edge got sewn on.


Then it was folded over the top edge and pinned down.


And sewn down.


Now it was time for pleating! I used chalk to mark two lines that are one and a half inches apart. Then I drew a line every four inches, which is how big the pleats will be. They are massive.


I used upholstery thread to pleat everything so there was no chance of my thread breaking. Here is how it looked after being pleated.




I was really happy with them until I pinned them onto my bodice. After I pinned them I realized cartridge pleats at this size collapse down and look a lot like normal box pleats. They do fold underneath and give a LOT more volume than regular pleats do, but i’m still a little disappointed!


I sewed the skirt on with small whip stitches and upholstery thread…then went over my stitching again because I did a terrible job. I could fit my whole nail between the stitches!


And that is it! The skirt was done and my dress finally had a lower half.


Here is a teaser – in my super dusty mirror – of how it looks worn!


I’ll be taking proper photos (maybe with a nice backdrop, if I can set something up) within the next week or two. But in the mean time, I did a video about this project which shows some close ups and the order everything is worn! That video can be watched below, or through this link.

This project is complete, but I still have a couple more blog posts to write about it, so you’ll be seeing lots more on the topic within the next little while.

Thank you for reading!

Making 16th Century Foresleeves

Today i’m talking about foresleeves. This is the…honestly I have no idea what number this post is, this series has been going on for so long! But all the previous posts about this project can be found here.

Foresleeves (or false sleeves) are a bizarrely shaped piece of material that covers the arm from the elbow to the wrist. They are large and rounded in shape with strips of material pulled through slits at the lower edge and wrist. They are often trimmed with material in a different color and embellished. You can see examples of foresleeves in a couple paintings which served as my inspiration for this ensemble, those can be viewed here and here!

This was a fun post to write because I hadn’t realized how much work went into this part until I was resizing photos. These sleeves were one of the first pieces I began working on, and one of the last I finished.

I started with a pattern. Ignore the tick marks for now, those were supposed to be where the fabric was pulled through to create puffs but I changed the sizing later on.


Then I cut my sleeves out. The body of them is made from silk dupioni, like the kirtle. If I was smart I would have interfaced them at this point, but I put that off until later (which I now regret).


Then I pinned bias tape over the edges. I used my machine to sew down the backside and hand stitched the front.



It looked so smooth and pretty! So smooth and pretty that I decided to not add puffs at the wrist. There are paintings that show puffs only at the bottom edge of the sleeve so I figured that would be good enough.


But then I set these aside for a couple weeks and realized the reason I didn’t want puffs at the wrist is because I was scared I would mess up. And that is a silly reason not to do something since i’m trying to learn. So I marked out the slashes where the puffs would be inserted, then stitched around them to help prevent fraying.


I cut each slash open and bound them with quarter inch wide bias tape. This was tricky and time consuming since I was working with two fabrics that fray a lot and I didn’t have any room for error. But it turned out okay!

Unfortunately I had to add interfacing at this point and couldn’t avoid the wrinkles near the wrist. I’m a bit bummed about this, but oh well, i’ll know for next time.


I played around with a lot of different fabrics in an attempt to find the perfect fabric for the pulls (I like calling them puffs, but that is incorrect, meh). I tried off white cotton gauze, ivory silk organza, a satin material, and even a knit! None of those are very historically accurate but I hated how the linen I had looked. Even when tea stained to be off white it looks very stark and inexpensive compared to the silk and damask.

So I put organza overtop of it. Which added some depth and made it look a little fancier. These are the five inch squares which got gathered down at each end to create the wrist puffs.


Here they are pinned into place! These got stitched down shortly after.


One side done. Unfortunately this step created even more puckers at the wrist, but at least it is less noticeable when worn.


At this point that I decided to turn the top edge over to make each sleeve a little shorter. They actually went past the crook of my elbow which was a bad sign. Luckily this was easy to do and fixed the problem.


Another thing to fix was the huge amount of fraying of the wrist puffs. it wasn’t visible from the outside of the sleeve, but the interior was a mess. So I half lined them with leftover linen.


Then it was time to make the pulls for the lower edge. I decided there would be five puffs on each sleeve, and each one would be made from five inches of material. So I cut two twenty-five inch long strips of linen and organza – one for each sleeve.


Then I gathered the strips every five inches to create puffs.


Which got sewn to the underside of each sleeve. Aside from the puckers, I was really happy with how these were turning out!


With all the pulls done it was time for embellishing. I put a large glass stone and two pearls at the base of each wrist puff.


I was running low on glass stones, and wanted to save the ones I had for the jewelry and french hood. So I decided to keep it simple and only use a pearl and two seed beads between each puff on the underside of the sleeves.


This is how they looked!



The only thing left to do was create some sort of system to attach them onto the main sleeve. I opted for eyelets, since they are easy to do and historically accurate. There are three sewn at the top of each foresleeve.

After trying them on I also decided to stitch up the back of the sleeves so they would sit better on my arm and keep their shape. And that is it! They were done!


Here is how they look worn! This was before attaching the oversleeves to my dress.

Photo on 4-27-15 at 1.19 PM #2

 My next post will be about making the accessories for this project…or maybe it will be about the skirt. I haven’t decided yet, but it will be one of those two.

Thank you for reading!

Making a 16th Century Bodice, Part Two (Sleeves)

The tudor gown continues! We are nearing the end, I only have three posts left to write after this one! If you are unfamiliar with this project, all the previous posts relating to it can be read here.

Today it’s time to talk about making the sleeves. Sleeves were a bit complicated in the 1500s. Instead of being a regular sleeve, they consisted of (at least) three parts. The first is the “normal” sleeve which is stitched into the arm hole. Then there is the foresleeve, these are large, rounded, and cover from the wrist to the elbow. They usually feature fabric strips that are pulled through slits at the wrist and lower edge. On top of those you have oversleeves, which cover the seam between the normal sleeve and the foresleeve.

I decided to start with the normal sleeve. Sleeves are my nemesis, especially historical sleeves with the funky arm holes. I can create a block sleeve for a normal, modern looking garment without too much frustration, but historical sleeves are a concept I don’t understand at all. So I copied a pattern from the tudor tailor. I did everything else on my own, it’s okay to cheat once, right? Right?

This is the pattern. I did make it a little longer, wider, and slightly adjusted the height of the arcs.


I made a lovely mock up from a printed cotton. It has puppies wearing christmas hats on it, which is pretty great. The sleeve fit pretty well, but it did need some alterations.


This is the altered pattern. A little different, but nothing too crazy!


I cut out two sleeves from the jacquard I made the dress with. I also cut out two pieces of polyester lining, which isn’t accurate at all but makes getting fitted sleeves on over a rough cotton chemise ten times easier!


I pinned the lining and jacquard together, with the right sides facing each other. Then I sewed around the top and sides, leaving the straight lower edge open.


I turned the sleeves right side out and tucked the lower edge up by a half inch. Then I stitched a quarter inch away from all the edges. Now I had sleeves with no chance of fraying!


I did a test fitting with the sleeves and they looked great, so I carried on. I sewed three eyelets into the lower edge of each sleeve, these will be used to tie the foresleeves on and keep them in place.



With a pencil I marked one and a quarter inch away from the lower edge (the “cuff”), this is where the oversleeves will attach. Then I did up the side seam and ironed them with the help of a sleeve roll.


I sewed them onto the bodice with tiny whip stitchs.


Then tacked the interior edge to the lining with a cross stitch.


Here is how it looks worn!

Photo on 4-27-15 at 1.14 PM #2

Photo on 4-27-15 at 1.15 PM

At this point I decided I could properly sew the placket on. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this earlier, I guess I forgot! But I did this with upholstery thread so there is no chance of it breaking.


Another change (though this came a little later) was adding a dart to each side of the shoulder. I found this area had a tendency to flare out, though it didn’t look awful it bothered me enough that I decided to fix it!


Okay! Time to make the oversleeves. I bought two yards of brown velvet for this. Originally I was going to use the same material as the dress, but a lot of the fabric was damaged so I didn’t have enough. I think it was a happy accident though, the velvet looks really striking against the copper silk dupioni and the gold jacquard!

This was the pattern I drafted for it. I wanted them to be bigger, because everything on this costume is oversized, but I was restricted by the width of the velvet (42″). That is what I get for buying the nice quality stuff instead of $3/yd 60″ wide stretch velvet!


Since my pattern wasn’t big enough I decided to add extra material to the hem of each sleeve. I did this by cutting ten inch wide strips that get folded in half to create a finished edge.


Then the folded edge was tacked down with a running stitch.


I sewed these onto the body of the sleeve and  covered the raw edge with bias tape.


I sewed up the back edge and the oversleeve was pretty much done!


Here is the bias tape interior, if you were curious. It matches the dress!


For the sake of making things easier on myself, I decided to attach the overlseeves to the dress bodice. Making them detachable would be more convenient for a lot of people, but this costume has so many pieces and layers that having the opportunity to attach two together was something I took advantage of.

So the edge was turned over by a half inch, then sewn onto the line I marked on the sleeve cuff.


Here the bodice is, all nice and complete!


And laid out nicely.


And since this might be my only opportunity, I wanted to mention how annoying this is to get into and why we should appreciate more modern inventions, like zippers, and buttons. This costume has more than a hundred eyelets on it that have to be laced up for every fitting. This layer is the most complicated to lace up, made worse by the four layers underneath it, which also have to be laced into place.

The layers severely limit your range of movement and the beadwork provides lots of things for the lacing to catch onto. It’s a pain in the ass.

But it’s a pretty pain in the ass, so that makes it worth it.


I think that is all today! Next post in this series will be about the foresleeves and cuffs!

Making a 16th Century Bodice, Part One

This is a going to be a long post. This was actually supposed to go up last Monday but it took me so long to write that I didn’t finish it until today!

This project has been on a temporary hiatus. I’m not sure if I mentioned that here, but I posted about it on tumblr. There were a few reasons why, but one of them was because of how frustrated I was over this bodice. I ended up throwing out my first bodice attempt and making a new one, so this post covers making both bodices and details what I did wrong.

If you aren’t familiar with this project, all the “The Making Of” posts about it can be found here!

The first step was drafting the bodice. I used the book “The Tudor Tailor” as a guide on how this bodice should go together. I didn’t actually follow this pattern, I drafted my own based off my kirtle pattern. This book is a great reference to have but the patterns are lacking the exaggeration I wanted my ensemble to have and they don’t fit me without major alterations.


My first pattern attempt looked like this! It’s a little confusing looking but makes more sense when constructed.


I used that pattern as a guide for cutting out and assembling a mock up. There were a few adjustments I had to make, like taking in the placket, but it fit surprisingly well!


My pattern was altered and additional things were labeled, like where the lining would go to, where the eyelets would be, and where the skirt would start.


Then it came time to cut the bodice out. This is when I noticed a few issues with the fabric. The first three yards or so of the fabric I had purchased were damaged due to the way it was stored before I bought it. I thought these were crinkles that would iron out, but I was wrong. After pressing and steaming the fabric there were lots of little marks left behind that look like pencil marks.

They come out with soap and a scrub brush, but that damaged the fabric around the crease and changed the sheen of the fabric. I was left with shiny, lighter, patches all over the fabric where the creases used to be. I ended up throwing away almost two yards of fabric, and used the remaining yard on the train of the skirt where it will (hopefully) be less noticeable.

After this setback I didn’t have enough fabric to finish this costume, which is one of the reasons I haven’t blogged about it for months!


Oh and in the same day I realized the damask pattern looks like a mans face. It totally mocked me as I made mistakes (of which there were many). Sigh.


Anyway! Here are the back pieces all cut out.


And the front pieces.


All the edges were hemmed by hand with tiny stitches.


Then the shoulder and back seams were done up. I also added hook/eye closures onto the side of the bodice.


Then it was time to switch focus and make the forebodies. These lace shut at the center front, underneath the placket (or false front). They help keep the bodice in place while the placket is hooked in and the skirt can be partially sewn to these. It’s kind of difficult to explain since we have nothing similar in modern fashion, but in worn photos it should make sense!

I made them from leftover silk dupioni. At the front there are two plastic bones placed a half inch apart to help support the eyelets, which will be stitched in between them.


And here they are with the eyelets sewn in!


Before sewing up the side seams I decided to cut out the lining. I happened to have enough silk leftover to line the bodice with, so that was nice!


First I lined the shoulder portion of the bodice.


Then the forebodies were sewn on and the side seams were done up. The forebodies cover the unfinished edge of the lining, and the lining for the back of the bodice will be added later to hide the raw edges from the side seams.


If that last sentence made no sense, maybe these photos will help! Here is the bodice when worn over my shoulders, with the forebodies open.

Photo on 2-16-15 at 2.56 PM #2

And here it is shut and laced into place. There are a few problems here, like it resting to high and interfering with the beading on the kirtle. At the time I thought I could pin it lower so I carried on.

Photo on 2-16-15 at 3.04 PM

I went back to working on the placket. I ignored the “Tudor Tailors” suggestion and didn’t add boning to the center front because I didn’t want visible stitching. Instead I added a two inch wide piece of buckram to the center and fused interfacing over the entire thing.

Now, this is kind of obvious looking back, but this made the placket very stiff. It had no give whatsoever. Keep that in mind because it became a problem later on…


I attached hooks to a piece of twill tape and made sure they lined up with the bars I attached to the bodice earlier on.


Then I stitched lining into the placket, and attached the twill tape to the correct side. Now the placket could hook onto the bodice!


This is how the exterior of the placket looked.


With that done and my previous fitting having gone well, I decided to sew lining into the rest of the bodice. Look how pretty it looked! This was my first time using silk as lining and now it’s all I want to use for lining. It’s so lightweight and turned out perfectly.


But not everything was perfect. I pinned the placket on and got into my set of underthings . Then I tried the bodice on and it was a disaster. If you’ve used hooks before then you know you have to pull the fabric every so slightly beyond the bars to get the hooks in place. That means whatever you are trying to hook into place needs to have some give. My placket did not.

So I moved the placket over almost an entire inch so I could easily hook it in place. Of course once it was moved over, it was way too big and puffed out from my body in an unflattering way.

On top of that  the neckline was too high. It had to be moved down so it didn’t interfere with the beading on the kirtle but then the bodice was too low waisted. I tried hiking the edges up but then the basque shape at the waist was jagged and unflattering. The forebodies had to be pushed down so they didn’t hit the beading on the kirtle, but then they stuck out from the bottom of the placket. It as a mess!

I should also mention that this wasn’t the first fitting. During the time of working on this I tried it on between every step and felt confident as I went. I jokingly said on tumblr that I spent more time fitting this than I did sewing it. Getting in and out of this took almost an hour and a half, but I did it every single day to make sure the finished product would fit properly. Which is why this was SO frustrating.

The bodice looks a dozen times better in this photo than it did in real life. It looked terrible in person

I tried really hard to fix it. I cut down the forebodies. I changed the shape of the placket. I spent a solid ten hours altering it but the problem with the hook/eye closure remained and I saw no way to fix it without restarting.

Photo on 2-19-15 at 3.02 PM

So I did. And I lost another yard of fabric. But I did get a functional bodice out of it in the end!

This is pattern number…three? Two and a half? The major change is the shape of the forebodies. But I also changed the method of closing the placket. With this new design it will close through a complicated pattern of eyelets which can gradually be pulled tighter to keep the placket taught.


This is the second bodice all cut out.


All the edges got turned over by hand (again) then the back and shoulder seams were done up. I decided to seal off the edges with strips of fusible interfacing because this fabric is very prone to fraying.

I basted strips of cotton into the the front panels, these are the backings for the boning channels.


The boning channels were marked out and stitched by machine. When it came to adding boning, I used half inch wide flat steel boning which I salvaged from my first corset ever. It’s super strong and doesn’t bend at all so it was perfect. There are three bones on one side (one between and beside each set of eyelets) and one bone on the other side, which is just to keep the fabric laying flat.


The forebodies were made of cotton this time and mostly machine sewn. Once again I added boning to each side of the eyelets, but this time I used more of the flat steel bones instead of plastic boning (which was used on the first set).


My placket is much thinner this time so it won’t interfere with the beading on the kirtle. I finished the edges by hand, then used cotton strips to back boning channels on one side (the side that would have eyelets sewn to it).


Then I cut two pieces of flannel, and sewed boning channels into that. I added the boning to it, then sewed the flannel to the back of the placket. My goal with this was to give the placket more stiffness and thickness, without preventing it from stretching (like the buckram and interfacing did).

If my bodice was made from thicker fabric (which it should have been) I could have pad stitched it to another fabric to add that stiffness. But my fabric is too thin, and even the best, tiniest, pad stitches would be visible from the front side 😦


I sewed cotton lining into the back of the placket. Then I marked out where the eyelets should go and sewed them in place.


I also sewed eyelets into the bodice! When they were done I attached the forebodies and lining (cotton this time). I did things a little differently this time and folded the bottom edge under last to make sure it wasn’t too long at the waist. Then I finished that edge with twill tape, instead of tucking it under the lining.


I pinned the placket on and tried it on. I had success! There are a few ripples on the placket, which I dislike, but think I need to learn to live with. If my fabric was thicker and pad stitched to a base I might have avoided it, but with this particular fabric I think this is the best I could have done. Plus ripples aren’t entirely historically inaccurate, they can even be seen in some paintings!


This is the complicated closure method! Not exactly subtle but you don’t really see it when your arms are down. Unfortunately it’s a pain in the butt to do up yourself, and adds twenty minutes to the already long process of getting into this costume.


Before sewing the placket on I added beading to the waistline. I chose a relatively simple, pearl heavy design that didn’t use up too many of my precious montees. I’m very happy with how it turned out!




And here is a webcam shot of how it looks worn!

Photo on 3-8-15 at 11.47 AM

So that was a doozy of a post. And a doozy of a project! And it still isn’t done! Though we are getting to the end. All that’s left are the sleeves…and foresleeves…and the skirt and the hood! Exciting stuff.

Thank you for reading!

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.

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!