The “completed” (read: wearable) Son of Ugly Puffer, Victorian quilted petticoat. There are some very beautiful historical quilted petticoats out there. This one will never be beautiful.

After deciding that I didn’t actually want to make 5 (6?) items for my not very historically accurate Dickens Fair costume, that I didn’t have acceptable yardage to spare for that flounce (or the desire to both hem and gather 7+ yards of fabric) I shifted to a Bumpad and Ugly Puffer, similar to what was made by American Duchess. But I didn’t have any pre-quilted fabric as was suggested. I didn’t have any coupons for Beverly’s, wasn’t headed in the direction of JoAnn’s and ultimately couldn’t bring myself to buy the fabric online. Plus I wanted to get on with it already.

To the stash! What I had already were two huge pieces of batting and 10+ yards of raisin-colored cotton eyelet. I suddenly found myself going for a full quilted petticoat, which means no extra flounce on the tiered petticoat (yes!).

My entire plan was to sandwich those batting pieces between two pieces of fabric, quilt them just enough, stitch up the sides, hem, pleat the waist and do a split waistband. The size was dictated by the size of the batting being “long enough” and not “too much” to put in the waistband. That is too say, I didn’t really measure anything. Even the quilting lines are roughly measured / eyeballed (with moderate success).

Now I’d never quilted anything at this point, so what was I getting myself into? In retrospect, I should have sucked it up and bought the pre-quilted fabric. I’m still quilting this damn thing.

Mistake 2, poly batting (mistake 1 was not buying pre-quilted fabric)

It took me all damn day to iron the fabric, cut things out, draw lines and quilt ONE SIDE. Oddly it took me 45 minutes draw lines, pin and quilt the second side.

Here’s where the poly batting is really an issue. It’s too fluffed up / stiff. Particularly at the top. In the images below you can see that the lower two pics show fewer lines of quilting. The top set has more, allowing the shape to “break” vertically and more naturally. Ultimately it really needs a ton more quilting, but at some point the quilting would stiffen the fabric. That means you want less quilting at the top, more in the bottom. Research on extant garments shows this is accurate. I think it would have be less of an issue with cotton batting, which is thinner and less stiff. With less quilting it would fall more gracefully at the top.

Waist is only pinned right now. Top pics show quilting top to bottom every 3″. Bottom pics are from earlier, the top half is quilted in 6″ sections, the bottom at 3″.

I got as far as quilting the bottom, going around, every 3″, then starting to go around at the 1 1/2″ points between. I can finish that after I do the hem and waist.

I hemmed the bottom by leveling things out and stitching on some good 1″ twill tape. It got folded up and stitched in place (I consider this a “free” line of quilting). I decided not to shape the hem for the added bumpad, meaning the hem will tilt up in the back. It will be hidden under my petticoat and skirt anyway and will be wearable without the bumpad for a different era (in that case the hem would fall level). Suddenly my Son of Ugly Puffer was looking almost wearable.

Yes, I used several random shades of purple thread. Don’t judge.

The waist was pleated quickly and messily down to about 14″ per side and stitched to some wider twill tape. I folded it over and top stitched, creating a casing. I won’t be able to quit the top anymore, but I think it works out. Some grosgrain ribbon was threaded through the casing, one piece for the front and another for the back. This will allow me max adjustability and to access my pocket!

Pocket access!

Where are my feet? I’m going to feel huge!

Dressing Dummy. My, there are a lot of ties going on.

Son of Ugly Puffer + Bum Pad = straining the top yoke of the petticoat (but pocket assess)

Project materials, all from the stash:

  • 2 pieces poly quilt batting from (a donation), ~48″w x 35″h each
  • 4-5 yards raisin colored cotton eyelet ($1/yard back in the day)
  • ~96″ twill tape left over from another project (originally $0.25/y?)
  • ~30″ wider twill tape from who knows where
  • At least to full spools of thread, though I actually used about 4 different shades

Final cost = $0 (or maybe $11 originally)

Next posts:

  • Who Wants to Wear a Fricking Bonnet?!
  • One Fast Skirt (at least I hope so)

I don’t know why there is this decades long conspiracy to not give women pockets or to give us tiny, non-functional, or purely decorative pockets. You know the ones. It’s the pants with fake pockets in front, or worse, the “real ones” that are only two inches deep. It’s the jacket that only has pocket flaps. Or the expensive slacks with the well made pocket welts that appear to be stitched shut, but, when opened, don’t go anywhere. This has been going on for ages. I recently acquired a Victorian jacket that has a mysterious slit in one of the front seams. On the inside you can tell that it’s intentional. Turns out it’s for a pocket watch. It’s not a watch pocket, but a watch slit. Weird.

We are constantly told women didn’t have pockets historically. None in Victorian times (pocket watch slit not withstanding). None in the Elizabethan era. No colonial female pockets. But that just isn’t so. There are many examples in extant garments, paterns and paintings, showing conclusively that Women. Had. Pockets.

My theory is that, as various parts of our figures were being hidden in volumes of fabric, so were our pockets. If you can’t see them, clearly we must not have needed, wanted, or used them, right? And of course, what high class woman woman of leisure would need to do something so vulgar as to carry something herself. I also suspect that many women’s skirts and dresses, work-a-day ones that would have been worn out or remade, didn’t survive as often as the fashionable gowns that didn’t strictly need pockets. There are plenty of examples of women’s historical pockets out there, should you care to look. Check out this article on making your own at the V&A and one version of the sexist history of pockets via Medium.

For my Dickens Fair costume I decided to make a quilted, tie on, pocket. I did so because, 1. I don’t want to buy an appropriate bag, which were in vogue at that time, 2. I don’t want to make a appropriate bag, and 3. I don’t want to carry anything. I happen to think every garment should have a plethora of pockets. I chose to make an 18c size and shape quilted pocket because it’s pretty big (16″ x 10″) and I wanted to try out free-motion quilting (I’d never quilted a damn thing until the day before – I’ll get to why I tried it in a later post).

Some ex-sheets are not too bad a fabric choice for Victorian. The bias tape was removed from the bolero I plan to wear. I used all but maybe 6″ of it. Hooray for upcycling.

Huh, my fabric is sort of a combo of the middle top and left second row… I believe this image comes from Vintage Dancer.

My random quilting is ok if you don’t look at the various stitch lengths. There was no plan to the pattern and I basically went as fast as I could without breaking threads. I did learn that free quilting works best on my Kenny with the feed dogs up.

The finished pocket! I took my time and put the binding on correctly #notlazysewing

And there you have it. I have a historical pocket!. To use it, I’ll need pocket slits in my skirt and petticoats.

Dummy wearing a black dress to cover the fact that she’s disintegrating, my Laughing Moon pattern late Victorian waist cincher in silk and coutil, a bumpad and the pocket.

Next time: Son of Ugly Puffer

(The 18/19c Bumpad)

While planning for my quick and dirty Dickens costume, I piled “petticoats” onto my dummy, attempting to achieve some sort of vague fullness. I quickly realized that my sadly narrow skirts just weren’t going to cut it. I also couldn’t find my oddly stiff 360++ degree original faire skirt that I was considering starching into service. I tried cheating by adding a mid-length 50s tulle underskirt. That did add some volume, except the shape deflated from waist to hip and below the knee. Clearly I needed more volume! And in the right shape. This was an era of maximum fullness in skirts. I’m not portraying an upper class lady, but I reason that even most working women would aspire toward fashionable fullness when they go out on the town, to High Tea and whatnot.

Two petticoats, cheater tulle and a faire skirt standing in for the yet-to-be-made top skirt. What sad shape with fullness only in the middle third.

I researched the easiest way to get volume under my 1860 skirt and came across the American Duchess post about her unconventional underpinnings. I too find myself a bit lazy when it comes to underpinnings, impatient if you will. Her comments about always using a Bumpad and the “Ugly Puffer” seemed like an excellent place to start. I thought I’d make the bumpad, use the tulle, and add a 14″ flounce to the bottom of a tiered petticoat, for extra fullness (meaning I needed about 7y x 15″). The Ugly Puffer wouldn’t be necessary, surely?

I first tackled the Bumpad. Using the three section idea from American Duchess and the shape of one on the Laughing Moon #112 Bustles and Hoops pattern, but making it like 8 sizes bigger, I got to work. My materials were a remnant of white dotted cotton, some grograin ribbon, stuffing and a zipper, all from my stash. I didn’t know how much to stuff the bumpad, so I decided the best plan was to make it changeable. Hence the zip.

Only being a two piece item, the Bumpad came together easily. I hadn’t done a zip in ages and managed to leave the top and bottom bits a little outside the seam. Meh. Only I’ll see (#lazysewing). Once stitched together and tried on, I made some stuffing adjustments, took the stuffing out, stitched the seams for the sections and restuffed it. Accomplishment! (Sometimes it’s the little things).

The waist could have been more curved. I hadn’t stitched the sections yet in this pic.

Dummy is now wearing my late Victorian waist cincher (Laughing Moon pattern) and the Bumpad. I don’t have a full corset and am not making one this go-round.

The more full petticoat, Bumpad and stand-in top skirt. Not bad, but a little butt-focused and deflated at the front and sides.

Under the petticoat it did make a big difference, but it was bustle-like and the petticoats still lacked the right fullness. The tulle was already out because it didn’t fit over the bumpad. I’d been hunting up enough fabric for that huge flounce and was unhappy with my options. Perhaps I could skip that extra flounce and make my own Ugly Puffer… By making one more thing I’d have one less thing to make??? What was I getting myself into?

Next time: Bonus pocket

Later: Son of Ugly Puffer!

In the last year, year and a half, I’ve done basically no sewing except fixing a button, then fixing several the buttons on the Lord Mayor’s doublet, then adding more tacking to the slashes on his sleeves and doing little stag thorn stitches over that.

And then people got serious about Dickens Fair. We’re going for a weekend and we’ll be paying, so we can wear what we like, instead of 1840-60-ish. I’d like to make a Gothic period 1840s dress, but what if I never go again? On the other hand, I don’t want to wear a steampunk costume (as much as I’d enjoy pulling that one out again). My compromise is to be 1860-ish in a blouse and bolero I have, a hat I’ll alter from a blank and a skirt I’ll make. Hat and skirt. Simple, right?

Thus began the trip down the rabbit hole, researching, planning, generally going off on tangents and changing the plan. I researched:

  • How not to have to wear a hoopskirt
  • 1840s Gothic
  • How wrong are the sleeves on my bolero and do I care?
  • How to fix the heels on my expensive Victorian boots because apparently no one will do it locally and I can’t find replacement heels anywhere on the interwebs
  • Construction of fan bodices
  • Bust padding (because apparently everyone had to pad the space near the arm hole in 1830s bodies)
  • How to make corded petticoats
  • Sewn in padding in the bums of early Victorian skirts (it’s a thing)
  • How to hem from the floor up (where has this been all my life?)
  • How bodices and skirts were attached (or not, depending)
  • Full Victorian corsets with me in mind, as in not making one for someone else for once
  • Period bonnets hats
  • Fabric selection for 1860s skirts
  • Fabric choices and skirt widths for fashionista vs. working women
  • A whole slew of things related to fabric and patterns in the 1880s (unrelated, but fun – I’ll tell you later)
  • My sad lack of petticoats and the non-period skirt shape I was going to end up with
  • The Bumpad
  • Pockets and pocket slits
  • The “ugly puffer” via American Dutchess
  • Period flower prints for fabric and how not / close is the pattern on those old sheets I have in the stash?
  • Whether Beverly’s takes competitors coupons, because I was headed that way
  • Quilting, free motion quilting, because I cheaped out and couldn’t make myself buy prequilted fabric

And so, dear folks, after thinking I was only making a skirt and considering adding a flounce to an existing petticoat, the plan / to-make list is as follows:

  1. Removing the decorative gray trim from the bolero – done
  2. Opening the sides of the existing petticoat for pocket slits and to make the waist size more flexible – done, but not worth show and tell
  3. The bumpad – done, will post on it
  4. The quilted pocket – done, will post on it
  5. The ugly raisin quilted petticoat, a.k.a “son of the ugly puffer” – WIP
  6. The skirt – TBA
  7. The hat – TBA, blank arrived
  8. Victorian fingerless gloves (mine are all rather chunky knit/crochet) – WIP. First glove is ready to get it’s two seams (because I’m cheating)
  9. The spats – WIP. The base pattern is done. I can probably get away without them though the boots I plan to wear are fairly modern ankle boots. At least they are plain, have toe caps and a stacked heel.

Here’s the sad original plan, back when I thought I could get away with just making a skirt. I’d just sort of pinned the fabric up on the dummy. I’ll have to do a side by side comparison of the original plan vs. the complete costume once it’s all ready. The difference is huge.

Here’s a lady in Finland who had an ambitious project to create knit / crocheted versions of other people in her village. Wow.

Image via Laughing Squid

I’ve thought a fair amount over the years about the difference between art and craft, where the line is (if there is one), whether it’s in the eye of the beholder and the value people often don’t place on craft. As a ceramic artist that was a pretty hot debate and I personally lean towards art for anything made skilfully that isn’t strictly utilitarian (though there can be some beautiful, artistic, decoration on the most humble of daily use type objects). Overall, what it comes down to, for me, is level of skill and innate or learned eye for design. To me, kids mostly do crafts and adults achieve a higher skill level. Except for the ones who don’t, due to lack of artistic skill/talent, imagination, lack of practice/interest, or intent. And of course there are exceptions both ways.

What I’m getting at here is this lady is talented. What she is doing is art. And it’s good. Look at the face of the lady with the dog. She gets the cheekbones and nose right – in yarn! Now the dog, not so much, except the legs. I think he would have been more realistic if the rest of the yarn had been brushed out. The yarn woman has all the right shapes and even seems to have similar weight as that of her real life inspiration.

Never let anyone tell you that your art (or craft – whatever you choose to call it) isn’t valuable. It’s not all going to have lasting cultural significance, but creating with your hands and imagination has lasting benefits, at minimum, for the creator and may just bring a little joy into someone’s day.

Create on!

See this post for additional yarn people creations.

Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak have created an embroidered computer! It uses gold embroidery thread and other traditional crafting materials to create a circuit that performs calculations. And it’s pretty! I would not have guessed it was anything but decorative.

You can read more at the embroidered computer.

Ready to wear never quite fits. Because, honestly, it’s not meant to.

RTW will only ever be your exact fit by happy accident. These items are intended to fit a body type and average size of that customer, graded up or down. Since we’re unique – and changable – we get our own unique fit issues by clothing type and brand. Even sometimes within a single brand…

  • Crotch depth in pants (and waistband gaping)
  • Bum coverage in undies
  • Bodice vs bottom sizing in dresses
  • Torso length in dresses/one-piece bathing suits
  • Bathing suits in general
  • Calf circumference in tall boots or even socks
  • BRAS. Freaking bras.

I hate bra shopping maybe slightly more than I detest pant shopping

These can be reasons we sew, but each of them includes specialized issues and techniques for a good finished product. Just because I can make a corset doesn’t mean I can tailor a suit (or want to spend the time learning to do so). Just because someone quilts doesn’t mean they can or want to sew a dress. I don’t know that I want to make my own bra…

I have a long history of being unhappy with bras (like probably 95% of you). I’m small busted with a small ribcage. My ribs are small enough that probably half the US brands don’t come in my band size. I usually find a brand that runs small and if it comes in a 32, great (but a 30 with the right cups would be better). If not I get a 34 and start on the smallest hook. That means my bras wear out faster.

Last year I bought a couple Warner bras that fit rather nicely. I even started on the outer hooks in a 34! But quickly moved to the middle ones. That was the point where I realized there was no elastic in the band, just powernet. WHAT!#@$??? The hem is folded up and I guess I assumed there was elastic inside. I already knew the bras were on the cheap side (though not MalWart cheap, that’s a whole different low) because the band isn’t lined. Lining can be cushioning, but it also means there are two layers of fabric taking the strain. Elastic helps with that even more. But not this bra. Incidentally, a similar bra in the same line, but in the previous year’s model, does have elastic. That version is lasting better, no surprise.

My solution is to add elastic. I bought some plush back to match. But how much negative ease do I need? Too much and it will be constricting. Too little, pointless. From the single t-shirt I’ve made I know that a self fabric band collar gets 15% negative ease, so that’s a place to start. But I want to do it once and be done. To the internet!

Whereupon a rabbit’s hole is discovered and an afternoon all but lost. I think I’ve mentioned before that I like research and planning and plans. Today, my rabbit hole is your gain:

  • A highly recommended bra size calculator that gives me a rather different size than what I’ve been wearing forever
  • Bra making supplies here, here and here
  • Discussions of what goes into creating an ideal custom bra pattern and challenges of a bespoke bra startup with Bra Theory (tons of great info in intricacies of underwires, finding suppliers, fittings, shape, etc)
  • Basic bra making at Threads
  • Custom drafting a bra made in your breast root measurements here and here
  • And the info I was looking for in bra elastic negative ease. Looks like that 15% is what I’ll be using.

Next stop, the actual bra upgrade.

Do you make your own bras? Alter RTW?

Also, Happy New Year to you!