Making a Grand Pannier

Today I’m talking about 18th century skirt foundations – or more specifically, making a grand pannier.

This post was written as an accompaniment to my video on this project, where I switched between speeded up footage of the process and clips of me talking about how things were progressing as I worked on it. There are way more construction details (and frustrated rants) in that video than in this post, but I wanted to talk about it here too.

I took on this project because I decided mid last year to make an 18th Century court gown. I bought fabrics for it (for a total of $49 for 13 yards – still giddy about that deal) but at the time I had just finished an 1860’s ball gown, and took on an eleborate 1880’s evening gown a few weeks later. So there wasn’t a good time to start on it. Until now.

But before starting I needed to sort out the foundations. And it just so happened that Simplicity – who sell a grand pannier pattern which is a bit famous in the historical costuming community – emailed me and asked if I was interested in any of their patterns. So of course I said yes!

(For the record, I wasn’t encouraged to talk about this pattern and I bought all the other materials myself.)

You can purchase the pattern from their print on demand service here. Or try to find copies of the discontinued tissue paper version, the pattern number is EA363501.

Also for this project I used 5 yards of hot pink broadcloth, 10 yards of 1/4″ hooping steel, satin ribbon, and twill tape.


I folded my fabric to be four layers thick, then cut out all the required pieces once. It was faster doing this way, but pretty hard on my scissors so I wouldn’t recommend it!

At this point I notched the pieces, but didn’t think to mark the circles or boning channels. I blame not having followed a commercial pattern in years for this oversight.


I immediately – like, within five minutes got confused about one of the instructions and kind of did my own thing instead.

The pieces were all sewed together with flat felled seams – which was super frustrating. I found the notches extended past the half way point of the seam allowances, so raw edges stuck out and it was really hard to get them even. If I remade this I would definitely add a half inch to each seam, then sew down french seams or do wider flat felled seams. Something to make it a bit easier!

Aside from that, assembly was pretty easy. I found the instructions a bit confusing, but the construction was pretty intuitive when I ignored those.

After everything except for the side seams were sewn, I finally drew the boning channels and other markings onto the pieces. My fabric was thin enough that I could trace the design through the material which made it really easy to do, even this far into the project.


Then the side seams were done up – as you might be able to tell, the top few inches of the centerfront were left open. This is how you get the pannier on and off.


Instead of using the recommended bias tape, I made boning channels from twill tape and ribbon since they will be less prone to stretching. I also added a boning channel to the hemline, to give the skirt more support.


The top edge was finished with bias tape, then I threaded ribbon through the bias tape to gather it down to my waist measurement. I’m not thrilled with this, I find it’s really prone to slipping down in the back, and it’s hard to gather evenly. I might swap it out for a straight waistband with an eyelet front closure in the future.

I also sewed all the ribbons in at this point. These ribbons are sewn just above the boning channels and tied to shape the skirt. The instructions said to do this after the boning was in, but that seemed frustrating so I did it beforehand.


I boned this skirt with a mixture of things. I mostly used the new hooping steel, but the second boning channel has hooping wire in it, and the third tier has normal steel boning, which I will be swapping out very soon. I misread the material list and didn’t buy enough boning, so I had to compromise.

Also I ranted about this in the video, but feel the need to mention it again. What was commonly used for hoop skirts (hooping wire) was discontinued a year or two ago. It was made from two bands of steel covered with buckram or plastic. It was incredibly strong and supported skirts of any size beautifully. It was also around $1.50/yd.

The only “replacement” I could find was from They advertised this as a great alternative. No. It’s not. It pretty much sucks. The more I think about it, the more bitter I am. It behaves more like corset steel than hooping wire and is very flimsy. The bottom few bones in this skirt are collapsing a bit in the worn pictures – and that’s without a dress on top of it! I’m really worried that it won’t support the dress, which is frustrating.

It’s also much thinner than hooping wire (.25″ or .29″) and more expensive at $29/$36 for ten yards. I think using two bones per a channel would help, but that means buying more of this ridiculously expensive poorly performing steel.

It would probably be fine for smaller hoop skirts, pocket hoops, lobster tail supports, etc. but I was really disappointed in it’s performance in this skirt. I will try gluing buckram over corset steel, or doubling up the zip ties they use in shipping before buying more.


Anyway, I carried on despite that annoyance and tied the ribbons to shape the skirt, which worked remarkably well.


And that’s it! I was originally very happy with the shape of it, but after getting worn photos I’m not as thrilled.

I feel like the top portion should be wider – it’s probably fine for 95% of people, but I’m tall, have broad shoulders, and don’t find the proportions as exaggerated or flattering as I had hoped. I don’t think that’s really fixable at this point, unless the petticoat performs miracles on the amount of volume there!


I also need to take the bone in the hem in a little, so the overall shape is smoother. But that’s an easy fix.


Other than that, I really liked this pattern. It wasn’t too difficult to put together and the most challenging parts, like the boning channels and ribbon placement were well marked and easy to transfer onto the fabric. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to make a grand pannier, though I would suggest a few of the alterations mentioned in this post.  Like the additional bone in the hem, extra room in the seams, and twill tape for boning channels instead of bias tape.


Thanks for reading! I should have another “Making of” post up soon, maybe even tomorrow if I can get it together on time!

Making Turn of the Century Foundation Garments

So this post is probably going to be really long. And it’s also long overdue – most of these pieces were completed back in January!

These were made to pair with a few turn of the century gowns that I had planned (including this taffeta dress), and were some of the first things I made in 2016. My goal was to have a full set of foundation garments that would work for the 1890s and the early 1900s. That was supposed to include a corset, chemise, bloomers, and a petticoat.

That didn’t really end up happening. My corset has the wrong silhouette, i’m not very happy with the chemise, and I never ended up making the bloomers. But I invested a lot of time into these pieces and I ended up wearing them with a few projects, so I thought I should write about them anyway!

All these pieces were made primarily from a white eyelet cotton fabric I purchased in the garment district. They are trimmed with white lace from my stash, a pink embroidered lace I got on etsy, and pink ribbon in various widths.

We’ll start with the corset. Usually I use corset patterns from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines* – which is what I should have done here. But I was feeling a bit lazy, and I had recently come across a corset I made for a class a few years back. The corset didn’t fit me very well (too large in the stomach, and too tight across my ribs) and wasn’t a style I could pair with historical costumes.

So I decided to take it apart, make a few alterations, and reuse the boning to create a more historically accurate silhouette. And I wouldn’t have to cut or tip any boning as long as I kept all the boning channels on my altered pattern the same length!

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I also added seam allowance for a busk at the front, and changed the neckline. Then I cut the pieces out from denim and marked the boning channels.

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 I cut out the top layers of fabric, which consist of muslin and eyelet cotton.

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And sewed all the boning channels.

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Then the pieces were sewn together…

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And I had something that looked like this!

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Before sewing the front panels to the rest of the corset I added the busk, well first I prepared the fabric for the busk. See all the gaps in the seam? That’s where the hooks will poke out.

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And here it is sewn in place. Someone on instagram said I sewed it in upside down, but it was a little late to change it by that point and it doesn’t really effect the wear of the corset so i’m not too bothered.

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Preparing the other side. I made the holes, then fray checked them and waited for that to dry before inserting the busk.

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I trimmed the denim seam allowances down to a quarter inch, then added the boning.

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The top and bottom edges were both finished with two inch wide facings that were sewn on with half inch seam allowances.

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At this point it was starting to look like a corset!

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Next step were the eyelets – I chose to hand embroider them, as per usual, since I prefer them to metal.

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I used pink thread for this but they look like a weird off white color in photos, which sort of sucks!

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At this point I could do my first real first real fitting. It was slightly too large in the bust, so I added a dart to either side, but other than that it was fine.

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Which meant I could start decorating it! I decided to use some chantilly lace across the top edge – this is a cheap one I got off etsy.

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I cut it into two forty inch lengths, then folded the ends inward and sewed them down by hand so they wouldn’t fray.

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I turned the top edge inward by a third of an inch, then sewed it down to create a channel for ribbon.

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I threaded some pink ribbon through it and used that to gather the ribbon down. The end result looks quite delicate and pretty – or at least it does in my opinion!

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I sewed that on by hand.

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Then the corset was lined with muslin.

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And that’s it! I left the ends of the ribbon long so they can tie into a bow at the center front. I think it’s the prettiest foundation garment i’ve made – it’s so frilly, I love it. And i’m actually pretty fond of how it looks worn. It just isn’t right for this period.

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It doesn’t give nearly the amount of reduction it should and it looks quite bulky when dresses are worn overtop of it. I think it will work nicely with dresses from the late edwardian period, when more natural waists were becoming acceptable, but it definitely doesn’t suit the variety of eras i’d hoped it would. I’m going to attempt making something more suitable soon, this time following an actual historical pattern!

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Also, i’m aware tying corsets is the front is bad for them, but I can’t tie them tight enough without help and since I usually only have them on for short periods of time i’m not too bothered!

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Now for the chemise. I made this before doing any real research on the 1890’s, from fabrics I had around, and based it almost entirely off this image. Looking back I wish I had made a fuller chemise, with some lace inset work, but my hope was that this slimmer design could be worn with fitted dresses from later periods, making it more versatile.

Instead of doing lace inset, I made a lace collar that the fabric falls from. I made a pattern for this, then pleated lengths of lace so it fit inside the pattern.

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The pleats were sewn in place, then I trimmed the ends so they line up nicely.

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I sewed ribbon down the center of the lace, then sewed the lace together at the front.

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The body of the chemise is one piece, with a seam at the back.

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The arm openings were finished with bias tape.

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Then the top edge was folded outward, and the lace collar was pinned on.

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I sewed it on by machine.

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Then covered the stitching with a ribbon lace from Jo-anns, which was sewn on by hand.

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The hem is a simple double hem.

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Which I covered with ruffled embroidered lace.

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Then I sewed  on the lace I had leftover from making the collar, this covers the top edge of the ruffled lace.

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And it’s finished off with ribbon and ribbon lace.

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The back seam is done up with a french seam and that’s it!

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I think this looks quite pretty when worn with the corset – but In the future I would like to make a more traditional turn of the century chemise using some historical methods.

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And the final piece i’ll be talking about today is the combination set. This combines the chemise and bloomers into one garment. I hadn’t originally planned on making this, but my chemise was too long to be worn with my cycling costume, and I wanted something to fill out the cycling bloomers that wasn’t too bulky.

I draped the bodice on my dress from, then cut it out from more eyelet cotton. The neckline was gathered down, then straps were sewn on and the seam allowances were covered with lace tape.

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The collar is covered with an embroidered lace applique that a reader sent me a couple years ago, and the rest of the visible edges are covered with ribbon.

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The back closes with six hand sewn eyelets, and I attached little bows to the straps because I really like bows.

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Here is the finished bodice.

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The bottom portion is a slimmer, shorter version of the bloomers pattern I drafted a while back. This was sewn together with french seams.

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I left the bottom few inches open so I could get my legs into them.

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Then I sewed mesh lace onto the cuffs with a one inch seam allowance.

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Then the seam allowance was sewn down to create a channel for ribbon.

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Ribbon got threaded through that to create adorable ruffly little cuffs.

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I sewed the shorts to the bodice, then covered the raw edge with lace tape – this creates another channel, which will also be used for ribbon.

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I sewed up the back, leaving the top few inches open. There is also a half inch opening at the waistline, which is where the ribbon will be threaded through.

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Here is how it looked when I was done! This was a lot of fun to make. Since I cheated and did most of it by machine it came together in less than a day.

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It’s also really practical, i’ve been wearing it with a bunch of projects since it’s so comfy and the straps can easily be tucked down for off-the-shoulder dresses (like my civil war era ball gown). I see myself getting a lot of use out of it!

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And that’s it for this post! Three projects, fifteen hundred words, fifty-ish photos, and lots of frills.

If you want to read even more about frilly foundation garments, the blog post about making a matching petticoat is here.

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Thanks for reading!


Making a Petticoat, 1890’s Foundation Garments

It’s been a while since i’ve written about making foundation garments – the last post on the topic was almost a year ago! But now i’m once again venturing into an era of fashion I haven’t worked on before, which means making a new set of foundation garments to achieve the proper silhouette.

Petticoats had a variety of different shapes between the late 1880s and early 1900s, which made my attempts in picking a design difficult. I really wanted a petticoat that was versatile enough to wear with very full turn of the century dresses, slimmer edwardian gowns, and everything in between. This is partially because I don’t like making petticoats all that much (they are time consuming and take a lot of material), but it’s also because I don’t have a lot of storage space.

In the end I decided to make a three tier single layer petticoat from cotton and shantung, without any netting. The petticoat has a very wide hem which means it can be layered over petticoats I already have to add fullness but it can also be worn on its own to add a little bit of flare to the hem of a slim gown.


Petticoats in the 1890s were glorious. Often they were ruffled with very detailed hems that were decorated with lace and embroidery. Unfortunately my petticoat didn’t end up being that pretty. I made this right after my giant fabric haul so I wasn’t eager to spend even more money on raw materials, much less on lace trim for an undergarment that won’t be visible in the end.

Maybe someday it will get a mini makeover and lace flounces, but for now it’s quite simple.

Here are the rough dimensions for each piece. It’s a pretty basic design, the top half is made from four panels of cotton and the ruffles consist of thirteen strips of shantung. Each piece is a rectangle or has straight edges so I didn’t bother creating a pattern. Instead I drew guidelines for each piece directly onto my fabric with the help of a ruler.


I decided to tackle the ruffles first. Here are the larger strips cut out of shantung…


And the smaller strips.


The strips were then sewn together with a half inch seam allowance. This left me with one 18″ x 240″ strip and one 8.5″ x 540″ strip. The wider, shorter strip was set aside while I began hemming the longer strip.

The hem is a pretty basic one, I started by turning the raw edge inward by a quarter inch and sewing it down. Then I turned the hem inward again, so the raw edge is hidden.


And then the strip got gathered down, so it was roughly half its original length. I did this by pushing the material under the presser foot as I sewed since I didn’t need it to be very precise or pretty.


I pinned the ruffle onto the hem of the eighteen inch wide strip.


And sewed it on with a half inch seam allowance.


This looked good from the front side of the fabric, but the back was a frayed mess. I trimmed the edges so it was a bit tidier, then sewed lace seam binding overtop.


After doing that I folded the ruffles up and set them aside so I could start on the top half of the petticoat!


One of the “features” of this petticoat is an adjustable, partially gathered waistband, which is created by having the back panels gather with a ribbon. Though the process should be pretty straightforward I hadn’t done it before, so I decided to do that before anything else.

Step one was cutting out the back panels – which was super easy since they are just big rectangles. Then I turned the top twelve inches of the back edge inward by a quarter inch, then inward again by a half inch so the raw edge was hidden.

Then I turned the top edge of both panels inward by a half inch, then inward by a full inch. This creates a channel for the ribbon.


I sewed across the bottom edge to complete the channel.


Here is the back edge, all nicely finished. This portion will be left open so I can easily get the petticoat on and off.

It’s important this edge is finished before the top edge is folded over. If you do it after then the ribbon won’t have an opening to go through!


I threaded ribbon through the channel and that was pretty much it for the back panels!


Then I made the front half of the waistband. This is just a twenty by four inch rectangle of interfaced cotton which is folded in half. I originally folded the edges inward, which is what you see below, but that was a mistake. Luckily I realized the goof up and fixed it before it became an issue!


I cut out the rest of the petticoat pieces and sewed together the front and side panels with french seams.



I left the centermost ten inches of the front panel flat since I didn’t want a lot of volume near my stomach. But the side panels, and half of the front panel were evenly gathered down until the top edge measured twenty inches.


Then the front waistband was sewn on and the raw edge was finished with bias tape.


And the side back seams were done up with french seams. At this point it didn’t look like much and I wasn’t happy with how blocky the back panels were, so I did a bit of trimming before moving on.


I measured the hem of the top half of the petticoat, then gathered my shantung down to that length.


And sewed it onto the top half of the petticoat. Then I trimmed the edge and finished it with lace binding to control the fraying.

Now it actually looked like a petticoat! But this photo is pretty deceiving, since this is it layered over a cotton/netting petticoat that I made a while back. On its own it has very little volume.


I decided to add a bit of detail to the seam between the shantung and cotton, which I did by sewed on some ruffled eyelet lace and a thin pink ribbon. It isn’t much compared to most 19th century petticoats, but it looks better than nothing!

The final step was sewing the back seam, which was also done with a french seam. I tapered the stitching off as I neared the top twelve inches of the edge, which were finished by hand earlier on. And that’s it!

(these photos also show it layered over a small cotton/netting petticoat)




But since I mentioned versatility earlier on I thought I would show you a few of the different shapes this petticoat can have with the help of some extra layers and safety pins.

Here it is layered over two cotton/netting petticoats. It has a very full A line shape, with a nice rounded slope at the hip which was common during this period.



Here it is with an (unfinished) skirt thrown overtop. It collapsed a bit after I hemmed it and added the facings, but the shape has stayed pretty much the same.


But if I take out one of the netting/cotton petticoats, and use a safety pin to gather the bottom edge of the back panel it takes on a MUCH different, more narrow shape.



Which works well for the slimmer shape from the late 1890’s – like this plaid project i’ve been working on!


The only downside is that it’s a bit too long to wear on its own. In this picture i’m on my tip toes and it’s still more than a inch too long. Which means in it’s current state I can’t wear it underneath Edwardian style gowns.

But i’m going to fix that! My plan is to sew two eyelets into each seam and at the center front. The eyelets will be placed vertically, about six inches apart. Then ribbon can be threaded through the eyelets (one piece of ribbon per each two eyelets) and tied to adjust the length.

I could also use the eyelets to adjust where the volume is, like I did with the safety pin above. Hopefully i’ll get to that soon and be able to share the process in another post, along with better photos of the finished product!


This post was probably longer than it should be considering the subject matter, but clearly I get excited when writing about petticoats!

Thanks 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!

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

Making Half-Boned Stays, 1776

So I guess this counts as another Stay Study post! But I’ve decided to drop that title since I failed miserably at keeping up with that series. It was supposed to be a study of stay patterns from the book “Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh, with the final project being a fully boned set of 18th century stays. But that didn’t happen and I haven’t even mentioned the series for a whole year. Oops!

But this post is about making a set of stays from the book “Corsets and Crinolines”!

I’m making these stays for an 18th century ensemble that I’ve had in the works for the last few weeks. I already posted about making a shift for this project, and this is the next layer! I decided to base my pattern off of the one shown below.


I copied that pattern onto paper and made a few alterations. I added a half inch to the back, and a quarter inch to the front. I also took it in a little at the bust and removed the horizontal bones. I realize those add extra support to the bust but I didn’t think they were necessary for my body shape. After making a mock up I chose to lower the neckline as well.

The alterations were really minor, other than being slightly to small this pattern is pretty much perfect for me.


I traced the pattern onto twill canvas (a cheaper alternative to coutil) and added half inch seam allowance around the outline. I used the twill pieces as a guide to cut out the front layer of fabric, which in this case was lightweight muslin. I added seam allowances to the muslin too, so the muslin layer ended up being a bit larger than the twill layer.

Then I marked all the boning channels with a colored pencil and pinned the layers together.


And it was time to stitch all the boning channels! I used a beige colored thread because I was running out of ivory.


When the boning channels were sewn I went ahead and added the boning. I used a mixture of flat steel bones and plastic boning, with the steel bones placed at the center front, center back, and sides. Only one of the diagonal boning channels has steel in it.

I tipped the metal bones the way I usually do, with athletic tape dipped in nailpolish!



Then the seams were “bound” which means the seam allowance was turned inward and sewn down with a whip stitch. This is why I cut the muslin layer to have larger seams. The muslin can wrap over the twill seam allowance to create a finished edge with less bulk…which sounds very confusing but makes sense during the process!

The finished edges were stitched together with heavy duty upholstery thread.


Here you can see what the bound seams look like on the inside. At this point I trimmed all the edges and covered them with bias tape binding.  I managed to get really smooth curve on the top edge, but I wasn’t so lucky on the lower edge.



The lower edge has tabs. Tabs are horrible things which I hadn’t encountered before. I knew they wouldn’t be fun to finish, but they ended up being way worse than I had expected.

I waited until all the other edges were finished before cutting them out to prevent any fraying.


I pinned and sewed bias tape to the front edge, then turned it under and sewed it to the underside. I gathered all the sharp curves because I figured I could get smooth edges that way. I was wrong!

My biggest problem was not looking at how other people do binding. I realize now that most people use really small binding (a quarter of an inch wide) and mine was twice that width. When the binding is very thin you don’t have to gather it over curves, so looks much smoother.


But I persevered! They don’t look very pretty, but they are functional! At least I’ll know how to do a better job next time.



In the photos above you can see the eyelet holes are marked, which should be a clear hint about the next step! The back edges were turned over and sewn down. Then the eyelets were punched out with grommet pliers, made larger with an awl, and stitched.



And it was time for the final step: lining! The lining was cut using the same pattern. All the edges got turned over and pinned down at once. Usually I try to attach my lining in sections to avoid having a million pins in a garment at once, but this time it was unavoidable.


But I managed to stitch it down without pricking myself to much. Okay, that is a lie. I pricked myself a lot. But I didn’t get any blood on the stays!


So that’s it! They are done! I’m pretty happy with these because they actually fit. My last two attempts at making stays ended up in the trash – one was uneven and too long in the waist, the other was too big and never got finished. So this being functional is a huge improvement haha.

And even though they aren’t the prettiest thing in the world, all the things I don’t like about them can be resolved if I make another set. So I feel like I learned a lot!


Here they are worn – I took these kind of quickly and didn’t end up with a front on shot, which is dumb. But there will be more photos taken of these at some point, i’m sure.



There are about four inches open in the back when laced to the point where they are supportive. Which is perfect! It also means I could lace it a little tighter if I was aiming for any waist reduction, or if the stays stretch over time. In this picture they are laced the modern way instead of the historically correct spiral lacing. I find it a lot harder to get an even gap with spiral lacing which is why I did it this way.


I think that’s everything! Thanks for reading!

Making an 18th Century Shift

I’m starting on a new historical project, which means it’s time for another set of foundation garments! I’m going to be making an ensemble inspired by this painting, which means I need proper 18th century underthings. That will consist of a shift, stays, bum roll, and a quilted petticoat. 

The most boring garment for this project is the one i’m talking about today: The shift. I used the pattern posted here which was really helpful!

I was originally going to use cotton gauze for this because it’s fantastic stuff. Super cheap, very lightweight, comfortable to wear, and easy to work with. Unfortunately it’s also very delicate, the tudor shift I made from cotton gauze has already required repairs at the seams.

So I decided to use a few yards of medium weight linen that I’ve had for ages. It’s a little heavy for a shift but it worked out okay!

As I said above, I followed the pattern and measurements listed on this site but I added an inch in some places because I’m assembling it with french seams. I also made the sleeves a little wider because my arms are wider haha. The rectangles are for the side gores (will be cut in half on the diagonal), the larger squares are for the sleeves, and the smaller squares are underarm gores (will also be cut in half).


Then you need a very large rectangle to make up the body of the shift. I ended up cutting mine down by four inches because it was so wide, and even after doing that it’s still huge! I know they are supposed to be loose but this is a little too loose.

Sorry for the dog – the blanket was in a nice little pile but apparently she wanted it to be a big pile.


She was upset that I didn’t have a bed set out for her. It was in the washing machine so she had to sit on a blanket like some wild animal. She glared at me for two hours before going to sleep.


Anyway! The gores got attached to each sleeve with french seams.


And the larger gores were attached to the sides of the shift, also with french seams. I’m going to stop mentioning that part, because every seam is a french seam on this piece!


The sleeves got attached.


And the side seams were done up! I made a small slit at the neck so I could try it on and make sure it fit alright, which it did. The body was pretty huge on me but the sleeves fit nicely.


For the hem I rolled the raw edge over by a half inch and basted it down.


Then turned the edge up by two inches and whip stitched it in place.


For shaping the neckline, I cut a small slit that allowed me to get into the garment, then I laced my stays overtop. Once everything was arranged nicely I used a pen to (roughly) draw out where the neckline should be on one half of the shift.


I took that off and marked the neckline with a colored pencil. I cut half of it out, then used the cut pieces a guide for the other half.


I folded the raw edge inward by a quarter inch, then folded that edge in by a third of an inch. I whip stitched the edge in place to create a channel for ribbon. I also left a small opening at the centerfront where I can thread ribbon through.

Beneath the opening I stitched two eyelets, where the ribbon can be poked through and tied into a pretty bow!


This is what it looked like with the ribbon in place! I used a bobby pin to thread it through the channel. I use bobby pins to threat my corsets too, they are very handy!


The final thing to do was hem the sleeves. I had already turned them under by a half inch but they had a raw edge on the interior and were too long. So I turned them under by an inch and a half and sewed that.


And it was done!


I had hoped to have some worn photos but it’s been a very overcast day, which means my sewing room doesn’t get much light and the photos don’t turn out very well. I’ll include worn photos in my blog post about making the stays which should be up next week!

In the mean time, here is how it looks on my dress form.



I’m pretty happy with it! Not the most exciting project but it only took a day to make and it went really smoothly. I’d use the pattern again to make one with a different neckline…Though I would probably make it sixty centimeters wide, not eighty. And maybe use lighter fabric.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Cinderella Inspired Petticoat

I thought this post would be fast to write. I was wrong. Somehow I ended up with fifty photos and two thousand words written about this project. Oops…


Speaking of this project, it’s a new one! I saw the live action Cinderella film a couple weeks ago and really enjoyed it, especially the costume design. It was stunning. Have I mentioned that I want to be Sandy Powell when I grow up? Because I do, she is really great.

I loved everything about the blue ball gown in the film. The shape, the color, the size, it’s gorgeous! But if I was going to put that amount of time (hundreds of hours) and money (hundreds of dollars) into a project, I would want to do something more original or something inspired by my favorite paintings.

So instead I decided to make a short party dress inspired by the gown in the film. This will fill my need to make something blue, sparkly and ruffly, while not eating up months of time.

 And because I fell in love with a silvery fabric (it was on a really good sale – irresistible!) I’ve decided to make a dress inspired by the ball gown from the original animated film as well. So that’s TWO Cinderella inspired dresses. And of course they require an obnoxious ruffly petticoat to go underneath them, which is what this blog post is about!

This was my fabric haul. I also had some glittery organza bought many years ago, and ordered a yard of silver lamé online. In total, seventy dollars of raw materials for two dresses and a matching petticoat – not too bad! That includes notions and beads as well, but i’ll share those in another post since they weren’t used for this petticoat.

My materials for the petticoat included: ten yards of blue netting, two yards of opalescent lamé, three yards of glitter organza, one yard of silver lamé, a yard of polyester shantung, a WHOLE spool of thread, and two yards of hooping wire.


When the fabrics were figured out it was time to decide on the layers and do some petticoat math. I’m making a petticoat with has six layers, and each layer has three tiers.

The first tier is a piece of netting that gathers at the waist and gets longer towards the back. The second is a strip of netting which gets gathered at the top and sewn to the first tier. And the final tier is made from fabric strips, with a rolled hem and gathered top.


The normal “petticoat math” is that each tier should be two or three times wider than the last. So if tier one is three yards wide,  tier two should be at least six yards wide, and tier three should be at least twelve yards wide (before gathering).

Unfortunately I ran low on fabric and had to make some sacrifices which resulted in some of my strips being shorter than they should have been.  I have a few very non-ruffly ruffles on certain layers 😦


There are six layers (labeled 0-5 because I made a mistake and was too lazy to rewrite things haha) worn over a hoop base. Each layer gets longer and wider as they go. A few layers are the same length but most are a half inch to an inch longer than the last to account for the volume the layers beneath it provide.

I wrote all my petticoat math out before. And I had a list of everything that needed to be cut and from what fabrics.

Before cutting the the fabric for the layers I decided to make the hoop base. This is just to enforce the elliptical shape of the skirt and also prevents the skirt from getting tangled in my legs. This isn’t a big problem with shorter skirts, but I figured it couldn’t hurt either.

I made a pattern very similar to pannier patterns, with a flat front and large back. But instead of the flat side facing my hips, it would be at the front.


I rolled the bottom edge over by a half inch, then over by one inch. This creates a channel to feed hooping wire through.


I did up the front seams and added the hooping wire. Now you can really see the shape!


The top got properly gathered and I had a functional base!


On a whim I made a four inch ruffle from netting and sewed that onto the bases hem. This will give me the correct length to start building off of.

I could have made the fabric part of the base longer, but then it would show if I decided to spin in the skirt. And the whole point of this petticoat is to have majorly wonderful spin factor, with most of the volume coming from ruffles.


I should also mention that the petticoat base has a eight inch slash down the back which will be how I get the petticoat on and off.

This is it with the netting ruffle sewn on!


Now it was time for cutting the netting! As I mentioned above I wrote out everything I needed to cut ahead of time so I could do it in one go. When each piece of netting was cut it was put in a pile, then pinned to a label. I think I’ve said this several times before but it’s still true,  organization is VERY important in petticoat making.


I also cut out all the strips for the soon-to-be-ruffles. For these I used a sharpie to mark all the lines, then zoomed through them with good scissors. I’m still scared of rotary cutters, which is unfortunate, they would have made this process a bit faster!


When the fabric strips were cut they also got labeled right away!



After all the cutting was done it was time to begin sewing! Actually that is a lie, before sewing anything I made ten bobbins of thread. Which didn’t end up being enough, I think I went through eighteen before this project was finished.

When it was time to sew the first thing I did was sew all the netting strips together with french seams. Then they got pinned back to their labels. I repeated this process with all the fabric strips because it’s way easier to get that out of the way at the beginning.

And then it was time for hemming. A lot of hemming…

I did a one quarter inch rolled hem, by eye, for all of the fabric strips. I don’t have a hemming foot for this, so I do it manually by running the fabric through the machine twice.

First the edge gets turned over by a quarter inch and sewed down.


Then it gets turned over again and stitched down as close to the edge as possible.


And this gets repeated for about a hundred yards of fabric! I’m not even exaggerating with that number. These are the lowest tires for layer one and two (the shortest layers) fully hemmed.


Once those are hemmed it’s time for gathering! There are lots of ways to make ruffles, but I do mine by pushing the fabric underneath the presser foot as I go. These don’t make the most visually pleasing ruffles, but it’s relatively fast and gives me a lot of control over how dense the gathers are.


And that gets repeated until sixty yards of fabric strips are turned into pretty little ruffles.


Then the ruffles are sewn onto the strips of netting.


Ideally the tops of these would be finished with bias tape or a serger. But because this petticoat is for personal use and I don’t need it to be super durable, i’m just top stitching the ruffle to the netting.

Except for layer two and four, because lamé is is so prone to fraying. Those layers have organza ribbon topstitched over the raw edge.


And that gets repeated until all the ruffles are attached to netting layers!


This process took me a few days and I didn’t have enough desk or drawer space to store my piles of ruffles. So they got pinned onto my then unfinished, uniquely you dress form and I had this bizarre looking ruffly statement piece in my sewing room!


The tops of the netting strips were gathered down and sewn to the top layer of each tier.


And lastly, the tops of each layer get gathered down to twenty five inches. Now you can see some real progress as these get built up over the form!

This is layer 0 with a glitter organza ruffle.


This is Layer 1, also from glitter organza. You can tell that it’s longer than the last layer, which was intentional.


Layer 2! This layers ruffle is made from silver lamé.


Layer 3, the last layer of glitter organza ruffles.


Layer 4 is made from the opalescent lamé which I love. It’s so pretty. At this point I realized a little problem, the back of the dress actually had less volume than the front! Which is the opposite of what I wanted.



So I decided to make my petticoat be two separate pieces. The second piece would be attached like a backwards apron, with the tulle being heavily gathered in the back instead of all the way around.

Which meant I could finish off the waist of this skirt! Some of my measurements were a little off on the tiers which resulted in me having to lower the center front and back to get a smooth hemline. This meant I couldn’t do a traditional rectangular waistband, instead I had to make something curvy with a pointed back and front.

But that’s okay. Curvy waistbands are pretty fancy and I think it ended up looking intentional.

I draped a mock up waistband over the petticoat, then copied it to paper and added seam allowances.


I cut it out from polyester shantung and backed it with fusible interfacing.


I used my machine to stitch a guideline a half inch away from each edge, then turned those edges inward.


The edges got stitched down and my waistband was complete!


I stitched it onto the petticoat and it was almost done! It wasn’t close to being done.



Once I declared it finished I realized it was very flat near the waist. This is bad. I wanted a lot of volume near the waist. Not only does added volume near the waist give a more accurate silhouette, it also makes your waist look smaller by comparison. And I wanted a really small looking waist.

So I cut strips of leftover netting and stitched them together. Then I hemmed them with half inch wide horsehair braid and gathered the tops down to ten inches. I made two of these, one for each side of the skirt.


 I hoisted up the top three petticoat layers and pinned them out of the way. I find this picture so amusing, it looks like a petticoat disaster gone wrong.

Am I doing it right? 


 I pinned the horsehair additions to each side and sewed them down. These added soo much volume, I love it!


And now the skirt had a much different, less A-line shape, which was perfect!



That was before adding the second petticoat, which i’ll talk about making in a second.

 This is WITH the second petti overtop, it adds a lot of volume to the back!



Now it came to making the second petticoat…or petticoat fluffer…or reverse apron, whatever you call it! All I did was cut a large rectangle of netting which the lower two tiers got attached to (these tiers were originally assembled for layer five). Then the top was gathered down to around twelve inches.

I made the waistband from a strip from a rectangle of shantung.  It was folded like double fold bias tape, but cut on straight grain.

Here are the folded strips. The top one is actually the lining for the first petticoats waistband.


Then eyelets were stitched on both sides.


Because of how it was folded there was a pocket between the layers. The raw edge of netting was inserted into that pocket, then it was sewn shut. And it was done!


And because I didn’t show it earlier, here is the first petticoat with the lining pinned in place. It got sewn on shortly after, then eyelets were stitched in as a closure.

I was originally going to have it button closet, but i’m wearing this over a corset, so there is some size fluctuation depending on how tightly i’m willing to lace, which wouldn’t pair well with buttons.


And the question i’m sure is on everyones mind, does it pass the twirl test? I think it does but i’ll let you decide for yourself, because I have a short clip of it in action posted here.

Final Notes: After draping the skirt to go over this, I don’t think the back has enough volume. Eventually i’ll make another horsehair/netting ruffle and sew it onto the “reverse apron” which will fix this. I would have done it before posting this, but i’m out of white horsehair and pink would look out of place!

Also the method covered here can be used for a full length version of Cinderella’s petti. Though I would highly suggest using a small hoop as a base, which I did with my Christmas Angel Petticoat. Otherwise the petti will tangle between your legs really easily. You should also use petticoat netting or organza for construction, they are both stiffer and provide a lot more volume than the crappy netting I got from Joanns. They can be bought in bulk here.

I think that’s it! Thank you for reading!

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.

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!

Cotton Sateen Corset, 1860s

This was a surprise project from November.  My plan for November was to make two nineteenth century themed ensembles, which didn’t end up happening. But I did make this! Which kind of counts.

I was in the mood to do a lot of machine sewing and stitching dozens of boning channels seemed like a good way to cater to that mood. So I decided to make a corset. I used a pattern from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets & Crinolines” and altered it to fit me.

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I have plans to make several gowns from the later half of the 19th century, including one dress which is already in progress. Making a proper early victorian corset to wear under them has been on my mind for a while, even though it wasn’t a main priority.

During the time period i’m aiming for corsets were mostly used for support but definitely transitioning into giving some waist reduction as well. I didn’t want anything too major, but I was aiming for a defined shape and two inches off at the waist, which is pretty easy to achieve on me because i’m squishy around the tummy.

After I got the pattern drawn out I made a mock up. This was made following the pattern exactly…just with an extra inch of material on both sides of the back, because I don’t have the 23″ waist this pattern was originally made for!


I ended up taking it in a bit at the bust and hips and raising the neckline by a half inch. I left a few fingers worth of room at the top and bottom because the shape from the boning will push fat down/up to create the defined waist. Which makes your waist measurement smaller, and your bust/hip measurements larger. In the past I haven’t left room and been left with spillage around those areas, which isn’t very pretty or comfortable.

When my alterations were done I cut the pattern out from a very finely woven pillowcase linen. This previously belonged to my grandmother and it feels very different from linen i’ve seen before, but it makes a great backing for lightweight foundation garments.

I marked out all the boning channels on this layer.


I cut the top fabric from a deep red cotton sateen.


Then I had the brilliant plan to sew all the boning channels with cream thread, because I thought it would look fantastic. I’ve seen corsets done this way and they were lovely.

Clearly I need to stop browsing pinterest before starting on projects – just because master corset makers of the 19th century could stitch high contrast channels beautifully, doesn’t mean I can.

(Spoiler: I can’t)

These are just the straight boning channels.


When those were sewn I marked out the curved boning channels.


I sewed those as well, then assembled the corset by machine.



When that was finished I cut out the many pieces of boning. I’m using mostly steel, but some plastic in the curved seams where I don’t really need two strips of metal side by side.

I should also mention that I replaced the busk with four pieces of boning, which should have pretty much the same function.


All the boning was labeled, then tipped with tape and dripped in nail polish. I let them dry overnight before adding them to the garment.

Here is the corset with all the boning in place.


And here it has the edges turned over! I did a quick try on and it was too big on the lower edge at the very front. It was gaping away from the body, which wasn’t good.

Luckily is was an easy fix, I  just whip stitched darts into the front, each one took in a little over a quarter inch of material on each side.


The fit seemed much better, so I moved forward! The next step was sewing on some lace and stitching the eyelets. I think these compliment the cream colored stitching quite nicely.


Then it was time for lining. I was dumb and forgot to cut out the lining at the same time I cut out everything else. Since my pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, those have to be marked out with a ruler after the pieces are laid out.

I could have saved myself an hour if I used the cotton sateen pieces as a guide (since the seam allowances were already drawn out on those).

The lining was assembled and sewn in by hand, the same way I always do it.


It still seemed like it was missing something, so I made some matching piping and attached that. This was a huge pain and I ended up stabbing my right thumb with the needle during the process…which led to an infection under the sewing callus i’ve developed. So that hasn’t been fun, but I think it’s okay now.

I actually really like how the finished product looks, even though it isn’t my best work construction wise.

A few people gave me some great tips on tumblr so I think my next corset will be much better quality thanks to that! Apparently fusing the fabrics together helps. And so do better quality fabrics. The thought of ruining silk shantung with my sloppy stitching makes me cringe a little, but if the end result is better i’ll give it a try!



And the fit test – without a chemise so I could show off the fact I don’t get any spillage from it. People more experienced with corsets than I would probably disagree, but I really like the fit of it. I got what I wanted – a defined shape and a bit of reduction.

My photo from the front disappeared somewhere, so here it is with a bodice I have in progress being worn over it! I know it’s really terrible to tie things at the front, but i’m completely incapable of tying tight bows or knots behind my back.

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A little bit of back creasing, it could probably do with a modesty panel, but aside from these photos it will never be worn without a chemise, so i’m not too concerned!

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Thanks for reading!