Thursday, May 3, 2012


So my sister's pirate wedding was last weekend. My costume looked SO GLORIOUSLY FABULOUS, everyone kept asking me if I'd had it commissioned and I proudly said "I MADE THIS LOOK WHAT I MADE I TAUGHT MYSELF ON THE INTERNET!!!"

Me and my sis... I hadn't put on my belt and dagger and bracelets yet:

Me and the best man:

Back of the costume. See? You can't even tell the zipper is off-center:

Close-up of the dagger from when I tried on my whole costume for the first time:

I had to buy the chemise because I was just too burned out to make my own. I think it looks better than the gold one would have anyway.

I was really afraid that my costume would be too plain compared to everyone else's, but it was hands-down the best one there besides my sister's gorgeous costume.

I am so proud of myself!

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 4 DONE

I can't believe it's been more than a month since my last update! Actually, I can. I got married, had a weekend off, went to my sister's bachelorette party in Galveston the next weekend, continued working like mad on my costume, and then went to her actual wedding last weekend. It was glorious!

So the bustling with ribbons actually didn't work out very well in practice. I finally did what one of my coworkers suggested, and cut the waist hole bigger so that the front would be the length I needed it, and then I knife-pleated the back to the waist tape, sewed in a zipper and some hooks, and was done.

Step 1: Cut the hole bigger. I had to cut it like an oval so that I could keep the length in the back.

Step 2: Pleat it onto waist tape.

Step 3: Sew double-fold bias tape onto waistband to keep fabric from fraying. Install zipper. Try on skirt and discover that even though you were SURE the center back seam was... centered, it and the zipper are now off-center by a couple of inches. Sigh. OH WELL. Try on and decide nobody will notice.

Next post, my full costume!!!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 4 BUSTLING

Man, there's a lot of stuff to do in the last few weekends before a wedding. Fortunately, that gave me time to mull over my overskirt and toss around bustling ideas in my head. It's almost done! I've worked it out!

What I finally ended up doing was:

1) sewed twill tape inside of the waist to stabilize the fabric.
2) sort of folded the fabric up to shorten it and laid it flat against the waist and sewed it in place.
3) pinched enough fabric on both sides to draw it to the back as a sort of bustle.
4) put a safety pin in place where I will sew ribbons to tie the bustle back.

I think it'll look good! It's longer in the front than I wanted, but I actually don't think it will look disproportionate, especially when I have the corset on. You can see the hem of my petticoat showing underneath the underskirt. I will need to buy some lace to trim it with so it doesn't look so weird.

I was also fretting about the small panel of goldish fabric on the overskirt, and how it looks so different from the more ivory colored fabric. And then I realized... JUST TURN THE SKIRT AROUND SO THAT THE GOLD FABRIC IS IN THE BACK AND COVERED BY THE BUSTLE.

So I just need to sew on the bustle ribbons and then a couple of hooks on the waistband. I should really learn how to install a zipper but my progress on this project has slowed down so much that I can't be bothered with that right now. The opening is on the side but tying back the sides into a bustle hides the opening, which is convenient. I also should put a proper waistband on, but the twill tape will do for now, and the corset will hide the unfinished edges.

I've finished my corset completely... The last part was putting the grommets in for the straps, which I have done!

Last thing to do is make the chemise. Which I really hope I can get done because after my wedding next weekend I will only have two weeks until my sister's wedding, and one of those weeks will be my honeymoon project of putting in a 144-sq ft garden in my backyard with my soon-to-be husband. So likely no sewing that week.

WAIT I just checked the calendar and I will have THREE weeks until my sister's wedding. No problem!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ways to Bustle a Skirt

So I'm still hemming and hawing about my overskirt. It makes me nervous and anxious. I'm sure I'm thinking it's way more complicated than it actually is. This morning, I remembered that Google is my friend and decided to explore ways to bustle a skirt.

This etsy vendor makes circle skirt bustles and uses drawstring ribbons inside the skirt to hike it up. She also has one with a strap from the waist that can be used to draw up the fabric. Wow, $95 for that? Maybe I should set up an etsy store.

 This one uses ribbon ties on the OUTside of the skirt.

This tutorial uses drawstrings on the sides and pleated & pinned folds in the back.

That looks pretty darn good.

This one uses drapery tape. It looks a little too complicated, but starts out looking simple. But I like the idea of using drapery tape--I bet there's a simpler way to use it for bustling.

This isn't a tutorial on how to bustle a pre-existing skirt, it's how to create a bustle skirt from scratch, but it's so cool I have to include it here.

Here's a page showing all the different ways you can bustle a skirt. Very interesting! The Austrian bustle sounds like it might work for my skirt and looks like this.

That's all I have time for right now, but I have lots of food for thought.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 4

I don't know what I'm doing. I thought it would be so easy to just cut a hole in the round tablecloth, stick a zipper and a waistband on it, and there you go.

I cut the hole out. That was easy. But when I tried it on I discovered that the tablecloth covers all my lovely fringed layers. I tried bunching it up, but it was too bunchy. The diameter is too big. I experimented many ways of bunching, folding, etc. and all the messing around with the fabric caused the hole to stretch, so now it's like 5 inches bigger than my waist line. Which made it harder to try it on and drape accurately because I was having to overlap the cut edges where the zipper would be, but then anything I did to make it drape would be skewed when I sewed the final thing.

Well, I finally figured out a way to bunch it while maintaining the waist line that I want it to be (at least I think... I thought I was doing an accurate waist line on the underskirt and it's about 3 inches bigger than it should be, so now I need to make some sort of a yoke to attach it to and just drawstring it. How do these things happen?).

I bunched it and pinned it with giant quilting safety pins. I feel like that's a step in the right direction. However, I feel like it's proportionally wrong. Like, it seems unbalanced in proportion to everything else. Maybe it's the angle of the camera/mirror? I don't know.

 None of this would be a problem if I didn't have the plain cotton of the bedskirt showing above my fringed embellishments.

I thought about ripping out all the seams holding the gathers together on the underskirt and just basically cutting and pasting my overskirt material onto it and then gathering it up again. But then I remembered that the underskirt has 4 yards of fabric. And there's no way I'm getting 4 yards of fabric out of the overskirt!

I think I just need to sew some twill tape to hold the waistband for now, and then sew some ties to bustle it up in the front. And then hopefully the angels will sing and the overskirt will be done.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 3 - DONE

When I tackled the valance pinning again, I realized if I pinned the end of the valance so that it was flush with the one it was supposed to join up with...

And then folded back the excess so that it was even all along...

And then sewed down along the overlap, pulled the flap back and trimmed the overlap...

 and then rejoined the flap with the piece it was supposed to meet with... That it would WORK!!

Here it is!! Now I have to get working on the overskirt, which should be pretty easy. Cut a hole in the middle of the round tablecloth, stick a hook and eye in it to fasten, then it's ready to wear.

I didn't have it on the waistband yet when the pictures were taken, so it has slipped some in the back. It really does look better than this.YOU'LL SEE WHEN IT'S ALL PUT TOGETHER!!!!!

Look how lovely the overskirt fabric (i.e. round tablecloth) looks with the underskirt. I LOVE red and brown together!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 3 - FFFFFFFUUUUUUU

I sewed the open ends of my skirt together, stopping about 10" from the top so I could slip into it easily. Then I pinned the new valance so it adjoins its twin perfectly.

Pinned it along the length of the skirt, certain that it was straight all along. Well, it was straight.

But it wasn't even with the top edge of the skirt. It didn't meet up with its friend at the end like it should have. I DIDN'T MEASURE IT ALONG THE WAY LIKE I ALWAYS DO. It started out 11.75" from the top of the skirt, and ended up 14"-ish from the top.

My project for the evening is to pick out two rows of tiny stitches by the light of the fireplace, so I will feel like a pioneer lady. Of course I'm being nit-picky about my sewing of this costume after seeing the horrible things being sold in the thrift store a couple of weeks ago. So I sewed the fabric on with a 3/8" seam, and then went back over it and sewed the very top edge of that fabric down right along the edge. It looks awesome. Not so fun for seam ripping.

Okay, it didn't take me THAT long to rip the seams. After I did that, I pinned the valance to the skirt again, carefully measuring from the top every few inches. When I got to the end... still a lot of "underlap". Damn it.

But the good thing is? I didn't get ragey. Yay!

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 3 - I GOT LUCKY

Update on Skirt 3. The valance I found to sew onto the skirt to overlap the decorative part of the bed skirt wasn't enough to cover the whole skirt. I knew it wouldn't be, the skirt has like 3 1/2 yards of fabric. The valance is about 60" long. But I thought that once the skirt was gathered it would be enough to cover the front, and then my overskirt would hide the back. Nope.

So I got another valance from the thrift store ($1.99). This one is 55" long. It was kind of a cream color, but the same kind of undulating hem trimmed with fringe. I thought for sure this would do the trick. Nope. There is still a yard of fabric that needs to be covered.

I could take out the extra yard of fabric, but I really wanted the full skirts. I think a lot of costumes look sort of meh if the skirts aren't full enough. Or, I could search the Internet to find a duplicate of one of the two valances already attached to the skirt. I tried, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Or I could try another thrift store and see if I could find another valance that was ivory or cream and trimmed with fringe, sew that on, and hope it didn't look too stupid to have three different fabrics overlying the skirt. Two, okay. Three, probably not.

So I trudged back to Goodwill hoping I could find another similar valance. I looked twice through their racks. Then I looked one... more... time, and a package on the top of the racks caught my eye. It was a valance. Cream colored. Trimmed with fringe. For $3.99. Good enough.

I couldn't believe it when I compared it to the valances already on the skirt. It is the PERFECT MATCH of one of them. That NEVER HAPPENS!!!!

I'm going to go finish my skirt now!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Skirt 3 - Underskirt

For my pirate skirt 2.0, I went to the Goodwill just down the street. I found a lovely brown bedskirt ($8.99) with "microstripes" of red & gold shades. The fabric content is a silk/polyester blend. Score!

I also found a fringed ivory valance ($2.99) that I thought I could attach to the bedskirt above the brown silk fabric to look sort of like an overskirt. Then I found a  cotton/polyester blend red & gold brocade round tablecloth ($4.99 or $6.99, can't remember) that I think might make the perfect overskirt, because it will have the coverage without the bulk and there are instructions online for how to turn a round tablecloth into a circle skirt.

The tablecloth matches the bedskirt so nicely!

Right now, I want to say something about using household linens as costuming materials.

I used to work as a living history interpreter. I did it for less than a year, it was all new and exciting to me to get paid to play dress up and pretend to be a pioneer. The lady that made my costumes is enormously talented. I was very fortunate that I didn't have to pay for any of it. My employer paid for my costuming expenses.

Here in Texas, all the old Indian Wars forts have living history days throughout the year. Lots of people attend--volunteer interpreters, paid staff, and regular people that just like to dress up in old-timey clothing and walk around feeling special and different once in a while. Kind of like Renaissance festivals. Some costumes are amazing, some are awful.

The big names in historical costuming would laugh/sneer at the costumes that were obviously awful. I was one of them. I remember hearing one of the historical gurus say something about how she read on a blog or forum of some sort that someone was giving instructions about how to make a skirt out of sheets or something like that. And you could hear the major CONCERN in her voice, like "this has to be stopped!"

There was one lady who they singled out. Her outfit was, frankly, the worst thing I've ever seen. I've seen Halloween costumes at Walmart that looked better. Her skirt wasn't full enough to accommodate her hoopskirt, it was made out of cheap "faux" satin fabric like what cheap negligees are made of. Very overweight, and no corset. And one of the costuming gurus told her he wanted to take her picture and I don't remember what he said, but she immediately responded, "What, so you can make fun of me?" And he said no, something I can't remember, but she let him take her picture. And he was taking her picture precisely so that he could use her as an example of how NOT to do living history clothing. He was also taking her picture to make fun of her.

Okay, as I've said. I laughed along with the rest of them. It's easy to do that when you're not having to pay for your own gorgeously, authentically recreated historical clothing.

That job didn't last long, I moved onto other things, and 7 years later found myself buying a lovely medieval-style dress to wear to a Renaissance festival with my sister. I loved the experience so much that I decided to start making my own costumes, even though I have zero experience in sewing clothes, because there was so much stuff that I wanted and I couldn't afford to buy all of it. And that is when it hit home.

Fabric is expensive! It's so much cheaper to get your costuming materials from thrift store bedding and household linens than by the yard at the fabric store.

Now, granted, there were a lot of bad costumes I saw at the ren fest. Stuff that would have looked nice if... (...if they hadn't used broadcloth, if the skirt had been fuller, if the skirt had had a petticoat, if the bodice had been in proportion with the person's figure). The point of it all was that people were having FUN.

I have high standards and try to accommodate them the best I can within my means. I can't afford silk or cotton damask, brocades, or velvet by the yard. But I have a creative mind and a good eye, and so I figure that if I find something at the thrift store linens section that looks more "period appropriate" than poly-cotton broadcloth, I should be able to make a decent looking costume out of it. Which is so incredibly wonderful for someone like me who is on a limited budget and whose latest obsession is making costumes.

In the end, FABRIC IS FABRIC. Does it really matter whether it's been used to make curtains or a kirtle?

So... Eff you, snobby, elitist living history interpreters. Including my past self. Time to have fun. Time to be creative. Time to say, "You know what? I've always wanted to go to the ren fest in costume. I'm going to do it!" And do what it takes to get you there. Who cares what anyone else thinks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Corset/Bodice DONE(ish)

My corset/bodice is DONE for the most part. It's wearable! But I still need to attach the shoulder straps. And buy ribbon for lacing the back. And find something to embellish the top with so as to hide the fact that one side is a little higher than the other. I would also like to find some way to embellish the center seam to make it fancier. I figure a pirate lady is going to want to wear jewelry, if she's anything like me. But it can't be something that could strangle her (necklace) or cut off her fingers (rings). So brooches would be good.

Okay, I guess I'll have to post the rest of the pictures tomorrow, because Blogger seems to be having issues right now. I've spent the last 30 minutes trying to upload pictures and it freezes every time I do.

Wait, now it's working. I published my entry and now it's working again. Although I had to load one of the pictures twice AT LEAST IT'S SHOWING UP.

Look at my frown line. I've been doing facial exercises (this program is seriously amazing) since July and they've made a ton of difference (I stopped doing them for a couple of weeks over Christmas break and omg I looked so rough, so I know it's for real). But the frown line is still horrible.

The corset meets at the top of the lacing strips. If I make this pattern again, I'll have to reduce the angle in the back. At least, I think that will solve the problem. The other parts are good enough. I think I can loosen the top enough to make the sides of the lacing strips parallel without being too loose in the bust.

I look back at the pictures of the corset I based this one off of, and it just amazes me that a total stranger living half a continent away could make something that fits so well without ever seeing me. Just thinking about sewing on commission makes me hyperventilate. My gorgeous wedding dress is being made by a vendor (thank you Jill from cherrypievintage, you are so effing awesome) on It is so lovely and I just can't even imagine ever, ever, ever sewing for other people.

Look at how well this fits! Costumers of the world who take on commissions without ever seeing the person who is paying them... You are amazing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pirate Wedding - Corset/Bodice BINDING COMPLETE!

I'm so excited! I figured out how to bind the tabs of my corset. Cathy Hay's method wasn't working for me, and I'm wondering if it's because the tabs are just slits in the fabric of the corset--there is no space built in between them, in the pattern.

Previously, I had been attaching the binding by opening it up, sewing along the outermost fold using a backstitch (or something like that), and then folding it around to the inside and stitching it down. Like this:

But I figured out that the girl who made the prototype of this corset basically made a sandwich with the binding, using the binding as the bread and the corset as the meat of the sandwich.

I was able to finish binding my corset this weekend! I've attached the two halves together and I'm so excited. I'm almost done! I still need to do shoulder straps and a modesty panel and grommets. But the bulk of the work is done!

It looks absolutely horrible from the inside. Obviously I have issues with attaching the binding at start & finish, but I'll work that out on my next corset, which will be from a proper pattern. But who cares about the inside, because the outside looks pretty decent! The top edges don't match up perfectly, but I figure I can put a bow or some other kind of embellishment to hide it.