Tag Archives: costuming

Norse Hood (a tale of delayed gratification)

Norse Hood

Norse Hood. Worn over my early-mediaeval bliaut, which would be roughly age-appropriate but not at all culturally accurate.

Last year sometime (or maybe before), my stepsister started dating a SCAdian (again), and thus was once again in need of garb. Early Viking, in particular. At Christmas last year, I was looking for a last-minute, minimal-to-no-cost gift, I had spent some thoroughly enjoyable time researching Viking garb and thought a hood like this would make a lovely, simple, not-overly-fit-dependent gift, with at least a nod to accuracy. Then I had no time and decided I would just give her some bits of vaguely-period-appropriate fabric from stash. Then our Xmas times with the Dads didn’t coincide, so I hadn’t had a chance to give her anything yet. So shortly after Christmas I cut out and started hand-stitching this nice wool(ish) remnant into a hood. It actually didn’t take too long, maybe about a day and a half from first cut to finish. (And then I didn’t see her, and didn’t see her, and then they were going to get married so I thought it would make a decent wedding present considering they were going for the most low-key and under-the-radar kind of ceremony…)

But eventually I managed to deliver it, and so finally I can share a post about it! Not that she reads my blog, that I know of, but you never know. 

Hand-stitching. Never my forte. Not improved by using rough-spun irregular yarn.

It’s a simple pattern—rectangles for the hood part (Or one long one, as I used) and squares for the front and back gores. My construction isn’t quite true to the historical base, but I’m cool with that. I’m less cool with my craptacular hand-stitching, but such is life. I wish I’d had grey matching yarn, but I was sticking with the stash. It also seems to be The Single Most Typical Viking Costume Piece On The Internet. Ah, well. She can get creative and do in depth research for her own stuff. At least it’s not a horned helmet.

Laid out flat

My remnant was big enough for the main part of the hood, with a very narrow strip left over. I was, however, able to cut that narrow strip into four and piece two chunks together to get two squares—the front and back gores. Symmetrical? No. A reasonable abuse of the principles of rectangular construction? I think so.

I did the stitching around the hood last, and I was getting a little better at it by then. It`s still not pretty.

The seams are butted and completely flat. I love doing things like that with heavy felted fabrics like these.

Laid out flat another way. This is more how it sits on your body.

One of the sources I read talked about how well-constructed Viking clothes were, it is often hard to tell which side was the inside. That would be the case here, although I’m pretty sure my coarse stitching would be an affront to any self-respecting Viking seamstress.

Back view

I actually really like how it looks as a whole, though, and the scale worked out well (which is fortuitous since there was no measuring involved, just a quick “I have this much fabric, will it fit if I do it this way?”) I think it’s quite a bit bigger and more drapy than the original find the pattern was based on. Not actually worried about that.

No head-shots please… Xmas holidays are exempt.

It’s actually pretty warm, even just being worn for a few pictures.

Another back view

The hood is quite big, luxuriously so. It hangs over the face in a satisfyingly Sith-like manner.

Give in to the Dark Side, Luke…

Yeah, so. She’d better like it, or next year she’s totally getting bath oil.

(Edit: I think they like it. Based on the argument over who got to wear it first when I gave it to the happy newlyweds. 😉 I should probably make another one so they don’t have to fight over it. Pretty sure I have some other remnants of coating that would work…)

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Historical Dabbling

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Old sewing books

I am not, in any way, a historical seamstress. I don’t even think of myself as a particularly “vintage” one, though I definitely have leanings in that direction (I may be in denial.) The Dreamstress I ain’t. However, back in my hometown, I have Connections. In particular, a local history site my mom has been involved with for yonks, has some antique machines that I wanted to play with. They were amenable to me playing around, and wondered was I amenable to doing a program or two on Victorian sewing? (The house, the oldest in my hometown,* does low-stress, small-scale historical programming, everything from Victorian laundry to kids games. Strictly speaking the time period is 1880s**, but they’re not particularly picky about that.)

Originally I had hoped to play around with some antique attachments on the actual machines in the house. There’s a National machine that fits this set of attachments, and a singer Model 12 that’s, frankly, a caveperson of the treadle world. Sadly, the National is missing part of the tension apparatus so isn’t currently usable (although I have hopes of fabricating a replacement piece in the longer-term), and the Model 12 needs some new needles before I can assess whether it’s skipping stitches because it’s old and gunky or whether it’s just that the needle that’s currently in it is about as thick as a tree stump and equally sharp.

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Drawers.

Anyway, not having the treadle option, I packed up my Featherweight (which has the look and the attachments, even if it’s far from the genuine article) and set about sampling some examples of Victorian embellishment, at least as it occurs on linens and underthings. I figured my goal for the day would be making some samples and, if all went well, starting on a pair of Victorian drawers, which you can see part of in the picture above. To go with the corset I haven’t made yet, you know.

(And to those who are justifiably appalled that I, having just professed myself Not A Historical Sewist, am doing educational programs on historical sewing, well, I did know a tiny bit more than anyone else who showed up that day, and I did read about five different Victorian sewing manuals in the days leading up to the event. If a real re-enactor shows up, though, I’m sunk.)

Drawers draft

Drawers draft

It made for a lovely, low-key afternoon, anyway. I’m oddly thrilled by the experience so far. There’s a lot I could babble on about the styles, my research, and the individual techniques, but a) I didn’t take any good pictures (I did some totally killer lace insertion on a sample, doods. OK, not actually killer, but I’m stoked) and b) I have to go to bed, so I’m going to hit publish and bore you with the obsessive details some other night.

*On its original foundation, which has to be the most annoying footnote to always have to add to a “oldest X” claim.

** People reading in the many, many parts of the world where established human settlement stretches back more than a century and change, feel free to laugh your asses off.

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A tiered skirt workflow

Tiered skirt

Before I get into the meat of this post (the construction of a basic tiered skirt), allow me to philosophize a wee bit. Y’know the best thing about being home? I have my village back. You’ve heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, maybe it doesn’t, but life is sure a lot better when you have one, and not just for the free babysitting. Case in point? My dance class. I bellydance with what just might be one of the best groups of ladies in the universe. I’ve been involved with the troupe for over half my life at this point, and many others have been there longer.

Dancing c. 2005, dodging a very small Syo.

It’s the kind of class where I could bring my kids when they were babies and everyone would hand them off during practice. Where I could show up for street-fair performances with toddlers in tow and never worry that someone wouldn’t watch them while I danced. Where I can talk to the instructor about paying my fees this term in sewing. But the coolest thing since coming back has been the way my kids interact with the troupe now they’re older. Syo, in particular, has decided she wants to dance this year. Not just the kids class. Every class (well, every class that I go to). Which means that most of the costumes I have to make so far are for her, but anyway. It’s so neat to see her following along with the adults, and also the moments in between where one teacher or another takes a few moments to show her something we didn’t do in class, or go over something a bit more slowly.

Which ties into this post only because one of the costume pieces I’ve been making for Syo is a tiered skirt for American Tribal Style Bellydance. And while I’m sure most of you don’t have use for a ridiculously full tiered skirt, well, it’s exactly the same idea as making a crinoline or a fluffy petticoat. The only differences really are a matter of proportion, fabric choice, and fullness.

Fluffy petticoat

Now, this is not a particularly original concept for a post, and I know there’s some lovely tutorials out there (feel free to link your fave in the comments!). I particularly like this one by Sugardale, of the petticoat variety, for the fine finish she gets using ribbon to cover the seams. Zena has a nice post or three on her particularly painstaking (and super-well-finished) method. But I’ve made enough of these, at this point, that I feel like I have at least something to contribute in terms of what works, for me. (And I will confess to being much more slapdash and imprecise than either Sugardale or Zena.) This falls into basically two categories:

I) workflow
II) gathering techniques.

I’m going to talk about gathering techniques separately, so today I’m going to go into my workflow.

1) Design Decisions

Tiered skirt in action

A typical tiered skirt is a layer-cake of gathered rectangles of fabric, smallest at the top. The most common gathering ratio is 2:1—that is, each tier is twice as much fabric gathered on to the tier above it. There’s nothing sacred about this ratio, but it’s a handy starting place. How full (or poufy) your skirt is will be determined by several factors: 1) gathering ratio, 2) number of tiers, 3) fabric. I tend to cut (or rip, for preference) my tiers across the width of the fabric, so I tend to measure my fullness in terms of fabric widths. (Ideally 60″/150 cm)

So, how long do you want your skirt to be?
–A typical Tribal skirt goes from hip to floor. A typical petticoat, maybe from waist to knee. I’m told petticoats should be about 1″ shorter than the skirt they go with, if that’s what you’re trying for. Measure this distance on yourself.

A long, long time ago…

How many tiers?
A minimal tiered skirt has three tiers (two doesn’t work. I tried. It looks like a dumpy mermaid skirt). Personally, being a fan of excess, I like four or five or, y’know, nine. OK, 9 was maybe overkill. (Obviously: number of tiers interacts with your gathering ratio to create fullness: eg. at a 2:1 ratio, if your top tier is two widths and you have three tiers, you’ll have eight widths on the bottom tier. If you have four tiers, the same ratios will give you a bottom tier with 16 widths, unless you reduce the gathering ratio.

For Syo’s skirt, I picked four tiers. I planned for the top tier to be one fabric width (60″/150cm in this case), next tier down two fabric widths, ending up with eight at the bottom tier.

Divide your skirt length by the number of tiers

For Syo, this was: 28″/4—my tiers for Syo’s skirt needed to be 7″ high. Add width for two seam allowances to each tier—for simplicity’s sake, I’ll go with 1/2″ seam allowances, so I add 1″ to each tier. So I’m going to cut all my tiers 8″ high.)

Advanced Tip #1: Some people are particular about where the tiers fall on their body—there’s no rule they all have to be the same widths. It just makes the calculations a bit more complicated. Similarly if you want to allow for a waistband casing on the top tier, or a wider or narrower hem on the bottom tier.)

This skirt has seven or eight tiers and thirty-two fabric widths along the bottom tier. This is overkill.

How full at the hips?
My first few skirts I made as narrow at the top as I could. I’ve since decided this isn’t actually the best look, especially if your tiers are tall (or, like me, your hips need all the help they can get). For Syo here, I used one fabric width for the top tier; I’d probably do this for myself if I made another skirt, at least if the fabric was 60″ wide. If you’re quite large, one and a half widths or even two would be good.

Advanced Tip #2: If you’re concerned with bulk at the hips, you could make your top tier circular or semi-circular. You will have to correct for some bias stretching, but this is a really nice look. This also uses a bit more fabric.

Full Skirt

How full at the hem?

A “typical” ATS tiered skirt is sometimes called a ten-yard skirt—it has ten yards of fullness at the hem. A petticoat could have much less, a crinoline much more. I actually prefer my ATS skirts much more full, in the 20+ yard range. Note that this is just the length of the bottom tier, not how many yards of fabric are required, although skirts like these are still fabric pigs.

Anyway, for Syo’s skirt, I didn’t want to go too overboard (as I have in the past for myself), but I also didn’t want to skimp. I decided to stick with my default gathering-ratio to determine the number of tiers at the hem:

2:1 gathering ratio, 4 tiers

1 width
2 widths
4 widths
8 widths

Since my fabric was 60″/150 cm wide, this will give me a final hem of 13.3 yards/12 metres. Just over my “bare minimum” of ten yards.

Advanced tip #3: depending on the fabric, it can be just as easy to construct your skirt using strips cut lengthwise from your fabric. I find it easier to do the calculations (especially determining how much fabric I need) using widths, but on the other hand there’s less joining together of panels of fabric if you use one or two long lengths rather than eight or ten or twenty short ones.

A very minimal tiered skirt

So, how many fabric widths is that?

8+4+2+1=15.

I will need to be able to rip/cut fifteen strips from my fabric length.

Now, how much fabric do I need?
15 widths x 8″ high = 120″ = 10′ = ~3m. (Ooo, look what I did, switching to metric like that. I wish I had the self-discipline to do it all in metric. I think Imperial is kind of like a drug… awkward and bad for you, but you keep coming back to it…)

I would, however, recommend buying a bit more fabric than strictly necessary. At least one extra tier’s worth. Sometimes, not everything works out according to the math. You may also want to add a waistband casing on the top.

Construction
There are many ways you could go about constructing a skirt like this—mine is what works for me psychologially.

1) Cut fabric
First, I cut or rip my fabric into panels (I’ll keep calling them widths) of the right height. If I can at all possibly rip the fabric, I will, but for this project I was using satin (oh, how I hate satin) and I had to cut.

For this project, I was using two different fabrics—I cut the eight widths for the bottom tier from the purple satin and the remaining seven widths from the black satin.

I always start with the bottom tier—it’s the most daunting, by far, and once it’s complete the skirt is over half done!

2) join panels together.
Join enough panels to make your bottom tier. For troubleshooting reasons, I usually don’t do all the tiers at once.

Finish the seams as you go, using your preferred method (mine is to use the selvedges so I don’t need to finish them. 😉 )

NOTE: I do all the construction for a tiered skirt flat—I will sew the single vertical seam turning it into a “tube” (cone?) almost dead last.

3) hem bottom edge.
I use a rolled hem foot on a regular sewing machine; if your serger does a fancy, easy rolled hem, that would work fine, too. Or, of course, lace or ribbon if you’re making a petticoat. This is a great chance to practice your rolled-hem technique, though, as a) a perfectly straight edge is the easiest to hem, and b) over this many feet of hem, you really won’t care about the odd booboo later.

4) Gather upper edge of bottom tier.
I use a ruffler attachment for this stage. I’ll talk more about the particulars of the different gathering techniques in the future. If you don’t have a ruffler foot, I’d recommend using a zigzag casing gathering technique, which I’ll also talk about next post.

Testing the gathering ratio.

5) Measure gathered length, and make next tier up accordingly.
This only really applies if you’re using a ruffler foot, which produces a gathered length of a fairly fixed ratio. Otherwise just make up your next tier, and arrange the gathers on it.

6) Attach gathered bottom tier to next tier up.
On a ruffler foot, it is actually possible to do steps 4 and 6 together. I don’t usually do this, mostly because I’m chickenshit. Also I feel more secure having two rows of stitching in place. Finish the seam allowance using your preferred method.

Fancy topstitching

Advanced tip: I really like a bit of topstitching to hold my seam allowance up… it smooths things out and tidies the inside. In this case I got to play with embroidery stitches on the fancy machine, so WOOT!

7) Repeat steps 4-6 until all tiers are attached.

8) Sew vertical seam along whole length of skirt. Finish as desired.

9) add elastic/drawstring casing to top edge of skirt.

10) Wear, and sweep them off their feet! 🙂

Ooo lala!

Troubleshooting
I mentioned above not making your next tier up until the lower one has been gathered. This applies if you’re using a ruffling attachment, or using a differential feed on your serger. Although the ratio of gathering it outputs is adjustable and you can (and should) do some tests to make sure your ratio is roughly correct before you start, often (always) there is a slight discrepancy between your calculated gathered length and your actual gathered length. This isn’t the end of the world, but it does require a bit of finessing. I usually make my next tier up to match my actual length, which can involve adding a bit more fabric or shortening the tier by a little bit. A few inches one way or another is NOT going to affect the final look of your project. (Although ask me about the time what I thought was a 2:1 ratio turned out to be more like a 4:1 ratio…)

In this particular case, it turned out I only had enough of the purple satin to make seven panels, not the eight I had planned for. I used a slightly lower gathering ratio… and really no one will ever notice a difference.

The other thing that can be a bit of a wild-card is length, partly because of some simplifications I made in the calculations (not accounting for hem depth or added width for an elastic casing on the top tier), but mostly, in my experience, having to do with how much a fabric stretches under the weight of all those tiers, or shortens (visually) as it poofs out, in the crinoline variety. The easiest way to adjust the length of a tiered skirt is on the top tier, by removing (pretty obvious) or adding length—usually just adding a casting or waistband to the top is enough for the kind of adjustments I’m talking about.

And finally, don’t sweat the small stuff. Tiered skirts of any variety are exercises in excess—there is a lot of fabric involved, a lot of hems, a lot of poof. Small flaws in your hemming or slightly uneven gathering will not be noticeable.

Whew!

Whew! That’s a lot of post. And a lot of memories. Not exactly a tutorial… but that’s how I do it.

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Very Little Hats

The workshop

This past weekend, the kids and I trooped over to my mother’s and made hats.

For the Hallowe’en costumes. You remember.

Little, teeny, steampunky tophats.

Little hat

I used this pattern as the starting point, and then kind of hung a left. It turned out it called for all kinds of esoteric stuff like fusible fleece and craft foam. OK, I did have craft foam, and I actually was looking at the fusible fleece in Fabricland the other day and then decided not to buy any (on account of not having looked up the pattern yet so I didn’t know they were going to call for fusible fleece). And the craft foam I picked up at the dollar store was stupid thin and nearly useless. So we mostly used Bristol board and, well, it’s not exactly sew-able. And I kind of forgot to trim off most of the seam allowances, so our hats ended up a little larger than otherwise. And they probably took longer to make, since I was hand-covering and hand-stitching all the fabric that holds them together. And then sewing on trims and feathers and bits and bobs, and then painting. Actually, there were several iterations of sewing/painting/sewing/painting. I thank my ever-generous mother for her contributions to the trim, and for willingly sacrificing artifical flowers and berries that are probably older than I am to The Muse. I quite enjoyed the painting (it’s been ages since I dry-brushed anything), though of course as soon as we were doing it I wished I had five other colours.

Closeup

All I need to do now is sew on the clips which will (in theory) attach them to the hair of various children come Hallowe’en. Oh, and keep the damn things from getting shredded between now and then.

(Oh, and yes, there are two hats, but I only remembered to photograph one while at my mom’s.

Next up… goggles!

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