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!

Making a 16th Century Kirtle, Part One

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

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

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

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



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

Here are all the pieces cut out.


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


Then the pieces were sewn together.


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


The edges got turned over and stitched down by hand.


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


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


And I did up the side seams with eyelets!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo on 2-3-15 at 10.33 AM

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

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


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


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

Thanks for reading!

Making a pair of Bodies

My first “The making of” post for this year! I think it has been over a month since I’ve done one of these, which is crazy! I have quite a few things in progress right now, and two dresses i’ve completed, but I thought I would start with I finished yesterday: A pair of bodies.

As I mentioned in my last two posts, i’m going to be making a tudor ensemble! It will consist of a chemise, a pair of bodies, a hip roll, a farthingale, kirtle, sleeves, and a dress. I decided to start with the pair of bodies first, then built up and under from them.

“Bodies” were the 16th century equivalent of stays or corsets. A stiff foundation garment to give your body support and to create a conical shape, which was all the rage in the mid 1500s.

My pair of bodies isn’t meant to be seen, which is good because visually it didn’t turn out very well!! Like most of my attempts at foundation garments, it was a not complete success. But they fit, and are functional, which is more than I can say for some of my creations!

The pattern i’m using is from Norah Waugh’s “Corsets and Crinolines”. This pattern is labeled as being from the early 1600s, but i’ve seen very similar ones used for recreations from the mid 1500s, so i’ve decided to use it for just that!


For materials I decided to use a hand embroidered linen napkin. I was given this a while ago and it was either embroidered by my grandmother or great grandmother many years ago. It is very pretty but stained and a little worse for wear, so I decided to repurpose it!

I’m using yellow thread for the boning channels, plastic boning, a canvas base, and green broadcloth for lining and bias tape.


I copied the pattern from the book, then altered it a lot. I let it out almost two inches, changed the straps a bit, and made it longer in the waist. The tabs had to be adjusted as well.

Eventually my pattern looked like this!


I cut everything out from the canvas first.


Then drew out all the boning channels with pen. I also marked out where padding would go in the bust.


I used the canvas as a base to cut out the top material. I tried to get this as symmetrical as possible – I thought I did an okay job, but it was almost a half inch off, boo.


I stitched all the boning channels and ended up with this mess! You can’t backstitch with these things so all the threads have to be tied off and buried by hand.


The fabric puckered really badly but it (luckily) ironed out with a bit of water.


Unfortunately without me realizing the top layer of fabric slipped, and the pattern slid up half an inch on one side. Which makes the pattern difference almost one inch, since I cut them unevenly as well. It is my own fault for not checking the front of the garment between stitching, but still, i’m annoyed!

Here one side has the threads buried – can you tell which one I didn’t iron?


Here all the pieces are just before adding boning! I was pretty pleased with how it was coming along, despite the embroidery not really lining up…


Then disaster struck. I was using a purple sharpie to mark the boning lengths and a little spot got onto the front of the fabric. I, oh so cleverly, jumped into action and dabbed at it with alcohol which faded the mark completely! Unfortunately the alcohol lifted all the pen ink I used to mark the boning channels. Within minutes my tiny sharpie mark had turned into this…


I scrubbed at it with dish soap and a toothbrush. I tried a bleach pen too, and it just made things wore. This was really frustrating, even though this garment won’t be seen I was trying hard to make it look pretty.

On the bright side, this has taught me a valuable lesson: Never use ink on a garment again. I don’t wash my dresses since they don’t get much wear, and it honestly never occurred to me that detergent or alcohol or potentially even water would lift the ink and damage something beyond repair.

I tend to use pen since I don’t  mind permanent markings on the interior of things and it doesn’t tug at fabric the way chalk and pencils do. But after this is experience i’m going back to wax/chalk pencils because I don’t want this to EVER happen again!

For salvaging the garment, I attempted to put patches over the mark, but the patches had raised edges which could create bumps and make the dress worn over it look a little lumpy. Which I definitely didn’t want.


I tried patching it with muslin, but the ink stain showed through, and I couldn’t patch it with the linen because it frays too much. I ended up using a scrap of cotton sateen, trimmed the edges with pinking shears, and fused it over the spot. A few people suggested I dye the whole garment blue, or to add a patch on the other side, but both of those things felt wrong to me. I don’t think a mistake should effect your entire project, so I covered it and moved on!

I made bias tape from green broadcloth and stitched it on by hand.


Before attaching the bias tape to the top layer, I padded the bust with some quilt batting.


Then added the bias tape.


I cut out the pattern from green cotton and assembled it. This is the lining.


I sewed on the tabs and then pinned the lining in place.


And whip stitched that in place.


Then it was time for eyelets! I haven’t sewn a bunch of eyelets in a while, and after trying to do fifteen in a single evening my fingers were not happy with me. It took a few days, but I got them all done!





It definitely isn’t the prettiest thing i’ve ever made, but it is functional, and when it comes to foundation garments that is the most important thing!

Here is how it looks worn.

(Without a chemise, because I haven’t made one yet)


Now I just have to make the understructure for the skirt, the chemise, kirtle, sleeves, dress and headpiece. Yikes. It is kind of scary to think that this was one of the easiest pieces of the set and gave me so many problems! Hopefully I ran into all my problems on this piece, and everything else will be easy.

Thanks for reading!