The Making of ‘Royal Milk Tea’ – Sakizou Artwork – Part 1 Conquering the Bustle

So I have a new project, a huge project really, that is finally deep enough in progress share with you guys! But first I want to mention that the next convention I’m attending is Katsucon, which takes place in February. Since I am an ambitious bugger, I have really huge plans for this convention and have a half dozen things to make before the con, including a ball gown (I get excited just typing that omg).

I should be pretty active in the blogosphere (allegedly) since lots of sewing will be going on. I’ll do my best to keep you guys updated!

For this project since it’s so…elaborate, I’m going to make the first few posts limited to one part of the costume. I will have a post devoted to the sleeves, a separate one for the corset, one for the tights, one for the wig and headpiece, and of course a part relating to the bustle (this one!).  In total this costume should be posted in seven…or maybe eight parts, depending on how things go.Hopefully this format will allow (and force) me to update more frequently.

The character is “Royal Milk Tea” from the Tea Time artbook, and is designed by the amazing artist Sakizo, who is infamous for her ruffly food inspired designs.

Now…this is a dream costume of mine. It’s also something horribly out of my skill range. I know it’s stupid to take on something so elaborate when I’ve only been sewing for a few months…but i’m a little bit insane, so it makes sense.

The design:

God it’s so pretty. 

If you are reading this with the intention of making this ridiculous beast of a bustle, I want to tell you it requires over 220 yards (yes YARDS) of hemming. And if you are sitting there thinking, “Oh, she’s just exaggerating”  I am not. It takes a ridiculous amount of time, effort, thread, and patience. I can’t really recommend that you attempt this, but if you do – I wish you great luck.

This project takes six and a half yards of taffeta, seven yards of tulle, and a couple yards of muslin, along with regular sewing tools (machine, thread, needles, scissors, etc.) Good luck!


I started out with the cheapest crappiest muslin I own,  made a pillow case shaped thing, and stuffed it with polyester filling. I safety pinned my home made rectangular pillow to the pair of shorts I was wearing and drew on the rough shape I wanted  on with a sharpie.

Then I added more filling and refined/evened out the sharpie line, tried it on again, and repeated until I like how it looked. I pinned around my line and sewed across it, and then cut off the excess material.

At this point it wasn’t very pretty, but I liked the shape it gave.

When I decided I was pleased, I took a 40” long strip of plastic boning (the length of my hip measurement) and covered it with a scalloped lace trim to make it look a bit nicer (this becomes the band holding it up). I also cut a piece of white muslin and sewed a cover for the pillow portion, which I hand sewed into place.

Now it looks much better!

And when worn:

Once the pillow portion was finished I started trying to figure out how I wanted the top skirt to look. After a few attempts I realized the bustle I had made – although a good base was never going to give me the shape and poof I really wanted. This is how it looked with a skirt base over it, can you say awkward?

I wanted lots of slightly visible ruffles and a ridiculous explosion of delicious poof – not a shelf coming out of my ass.

Though at this point I didn’t really have a clue what to do,  I went ahead and decided the only way to have a ruffly explosion was to create ruffles. Aren’t I smart? 




So now we can move onto the serious stuff – the art and science behind making ruffles. My “method” (which isn’t really mine, i’m sure thousands of people do it this way, but I did discover it myself) requires a silly amount of machine sewing and is very time consuming, so it’s probably not the best method…but it makes super fluffy ruffles and you have a lot of control over the gathers (which I like). It’s also pretty easy once you get the hang of it….and I like things that are easy.


Please note, unless specified elsewhere, this is the method I’ll be using to make ALL the ruffles on this costume. So it’s something I will probably refer back to in later posts.


Sadly, when it comes to ruffle making, you have to start with math. (The horror) To keep it simple, a finished ruffle will be 1/3 the length of the material you started with. Twelve inches of fabric = a four inch ruffle, 36 inches of fabric = 12 inch ruffle. Decide on the ruffle length you want, multiply it by three, and that’s the strip length you will need to start with.

I wanted to make each of my ruffles 120 inches long, which means each length I was working with was 360 inches long (I’m going to refer to it as 10 yards from now on). Since my fabric is 60 inches wide I needed six strips sewn together to get the required 10 yard length.

Once that is figured out, decide the width you want, then add on one inch for the hem and half an inch for a seam allowance. I wanted two inch ruffles, which means I cut the strips 3 1/2 inches wide.

At this point I didn’t know it yet, but I ended up wanted 11 tiers of ruffles, which means I cut out 66, 3 ½ inch wide and 60 inch long strips. In total it took six-something yards of material to cut out all the strips I wanted.

Okay, icky math stuff is over.

To save myself -some- sanity on this project, I only worked with four 10 yard lengths at a time, so that’s all you’ll see here.

So here is the first batch of strips. Aquatint yourselves well, you will be seeing a lot of each other. 

 I sorted them out into piles of six.

And got them all sewed together. Having four 10 yard lengths is much easier to manage than 24 strips.

Now it’s time for hemming. Hemming isn’t something I hate…but it isn’t something I enjoy, especially when there is so much of it. I like to get my headphones on, turn a CD on reply, prepare four bobbins and speed through the whole process as quickly as possible. It makes it -slightly- less tedious.

I think hemming is something every seamstress has done before, so I won’t give anything more then the very basic explanation which is: Flip over half an inch of the material and sew it with a running stitch. I would highly, highly, suggest you guesstimate the half inch as you go. If you can, save yourself the hours and hours that pinning and marking require.

Also, if your ruffles aren’t going to be touching the ground, set the stitch length to something a bit longer (like a three) and lower your tension. This will make the process go slightly faster.

Once that is done, flip the hem over another half inch and sew it again. This will give you a rolled (or ‘double’) hem, which traps the unfinished edge inside, preventing it from fraying.

Once that is done congratulate yourself and prepare for the next, far more grueling step. (Mostly joking, it isn’t quite that bad)


Okay, time for gathering, the whole bit that actually turns a strip of material into ruffle.

I’m using what I guess could be called the “zig zag” method. For this you are sewing a zig zag stitch over a piece of thread*, (creating a tunnel for the thread*) and then pulling it, thus creating gathers. Now the problem with using thread is that it breaks if it catches on something, then you have to start over again. It can get frustrating really quickly when you keep having to restart.

So I would not recommend using thread*.

*For alternatives you could use embroidery floss, string,  (thin) yarn, or even fishing line.

I’m not sure what I use would be called (if you have the ‘proper’ name please comment with it), I originally purchased it to use as piping, but it’s actually what fine fringe trimming is made of, and you can buy 500yd spools for $20 in NYC. It’s slippery, doesn’t break easily, comes in lots of colors, and is a really nice width for the task.

Cut the piece of thread/string/twine/floss to the length you want your ruffle to be + a few extra inches for wiggle room.

Set your sewing machines stitch length to something very small, then secure the twine, string, thread, or whatever you have decided to use to one end of your fabric strip.

For the actual zig-zag part you’ll probably want to significantly up your stitch width, I usually sew with a four. Which I find works really well, anything larger then that becomes a bit too wide for such a tiny ruffle (at least in my opinion). But play around a bit and figure out what works for you!

Once your settings are done, go ahead and begin zig-zagging over the piece of filament, make sure to pull steadily on the filament well you sew, well guiding the material along with your left hand.

You can rearrange these ruffles later, make them tighter, looser, whatever. Don’t worry about keeping them even while your sewing. The reason you need to pull on the filament is to keep it moving and out of the way so you don’t sew over it.

Hopefully all that made sense, the tricky stuff is over now!

Congratulations, you now have made ruffles!

Once that was finished I sewed five of the ruffles onto a piece of tulle that was 4 1/2 inches wide and 120 inches long. I used a zig-zag stitch to avoid fraying. The other 6 ruffles were sewn onto 6 1/2″ wide tulle that is the same length.

 Then I folded each 4 1/2″ strip in half, giving me a 60 inch long double layer of tulle, with the two layers of ruffles pressed against each other (right sides facing out).

I stitched across the tops of the ruffles, holding the ruffles and tulle together.

Volia, the pile has changed (slightly)!

Once you have made the amount of ruffles you need [In this case I made 40 yards] and attached them to tulle,  you can start sewing things together.

So, the ruffles attached to 4 1/2″ tulle are the ones you’ll actually see- since they are at the back of the garment. They are stacked on top of each other, offset by two inches.

[how it looked when three of them were pinned together]

Now, the problem with this (once it’s sewn on) is that the ruffles actually cave the bottom inward instead of outward.


It’s more obvious in the back – I should have taken a side shot.

So now we have delicious ruffles, but lack the poofy part.

To combat this, I took the six ruffles that had been attached to 6 1/2″ tulle and sewed all of them together in one long strip which was then folded it in half. I sewed across the ruffle tops, and then gathered the top of the tulle with the method I showed earlier,  resulting in a ruffled 70 inch strip.

Needless to say, it was super dense and poofy. Just perfect for what I wanted.

In these pictures it’s the strip is just pinned, but I think the difference is pretty incredible.

And how it looks when worn!

And that is IT! I still have some hand sewing and tacking down to do, but for the most part this piece of my costume is complete. I am so ridiculously happy with the results..I can’t even get it out into words. There were a few points where I wasn’t sure this would work out…so, yeah, I’m thrilled.

I hope you are as fond of it as I am, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Part two will talk about the sleeves and should be up in the next few days, it’s already written.


13 thoughts on “The Making of ‘Royal Milk Tea’ – Sakizou Artwork – Part 1 Conquering the Bustle

  1. Kat says:

    PS I have just begun sewing a month ago, there is so much to learn and so fun to be able to make whatever turns my fancy (or attempt!) Thank you for your blog and sharing all your hard work and incredible photos, simply gorgeous!

  2. Katharine says:

    WOW. You are everything I ever wanted to be. I am so impressed o.O If you have any tips for a beginning seamstress on a budget, please share!!

  3. Cami says:

    I would like to ask xD Is there a huge differs between silk taffeta and normal taffeta? I’m myself going to use this material and I can’t get a hold of silk taffeta 😦 and now that I have to get it online (they don’t sell things like that here) I want to be sure that I’m getting the right fabric x’D What did you use? Normal taffeta or silk taffeta ??

    • Angela Clayton says:

      I actually used polyester shantung for all the ivory…but at the time didn’t know materials well enough to tell it wasn’t taffeta. For the blue I used silk taffeta.

      Silk taffeta is much thinner (almost slightly sheer), more difficult to sew (prone to puckering), and more narrow. It also has an iridescence to it. If you are draping something I would suggest silk taffeta, but if you are making a skirt or bodice I much prefer regular taffeta.

      For shantung the only really difference is that silk shantung has a larger slub and a two tone effect where poly shantung doesn’t.

  4. Namitha Lakshmi D. Gubbi says:

    Hey Angela! I had a question about the closures on the bustle. I know you said that you used boning covered in lace for the waistband, but I was wondering what you used for the actual closures and how study they were. Thanks a bunch!

  5. Alix says:

    Just gorgeous! Have you ever tried a rolled hem foot for your sewing machine that would eliminate the two step process? it might save you time, but I’m not sure if they come in the wider hem width. I have one for my 1905 machine, but my modern machines only have narrow ones. It still amazes me how you have the ability to get these from your mind to reality.

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