Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | May 6, 2010

That’s not a runner, it’s boning…

Creative costuming means you look at found objects in new ways…And then you have that moment when you see the bamboo table runner as an endless supply of boning for bodices. You see, I was thinking about this boning article:

As I was sorting and packing up the Les Mis costume project supplies, I succumbed to the itch to plan a project where I get to sew something the right way and in great detail.  It is the beginning of faire season and I keep hearing about others making their outfits.  I let envy get to me.

But being unemployed means that I have no money to invest in a new outfit.  Stash must be used.  For everything.  Fabric, thread, lining, and boning.  See?  There’s the connection to that bamboo table runner.

In my stash I found a beautiful brown and blue fabric (old curtains from a friend) that I’ve been envisioning as a new kirtle. (Look a new vocabulary word!)  Yep, a new Scottish/Irish bog dress is for this year.  With sleeves!

Of course I had to think about the colors.  This outfit won’t really go with anything else I have except for one blue underskirt and cream colored leines.  But I’d noticed that out guild had an awful lot of green and very little red and blue.  I found some red twill for one of my faire daughters to have a new dress.  So I guess I go blue-ish.    (Okay, I did make a new hot weather leine in a butter color, but it’s just the under layer.  But I’m craving something that is girly pretty!)

Ok.  So off I went and found my bodice pattern that my friend Cate cut to fit me when we first met.  Luckily, I haven’t changed size much in 2 years.  (For the newbies:  You find a basic pattern from Simplicity – and ignore the stupid fabric choices and colors-, cut out the basic pieces in muslin, pin it together and then fit it to the body and adjust.  You learn all sorts of things about “modern” ease, that you can adjust a commercial (cheap) pattern, and that some shapes are okay for the Renaissance period, and that you can get rid of non-period darts.  Here is a great internet source on how to draft out the darts: BTW, we started off using Simplicity pattern 5582 in size 16, which was nearly perfect for me because of the modern ease.)

Also, because I’m very limited in the amount of this brown fabric, I wanted to see what kind of construction information was available on the internet.  There are some great sites for learning about construction:

I found a lot of information by looking at articles by people researching medieval or renaissance clothing.  Remember, things were a lot simpler in construction because fabric was very dear.  I figured if I had enough to do the kirtle’s bodice I can fudge on the skirt part that attaches.  It can be shorter and rounded at the front to show off the underskirt.  (Why yes, a liability can be turned to an asset.)

And then I started to hear the voices in my head…”Do the burn test!” For you newbies wondering what in the heck I’m talking about, it’s about being fire safer at faire.  There are long skirts and flame.  Bad combo if they are brought together.  You need to know what the fabric is that you are wearing because you would prefer if the fabric 1) resisted flame (wool), or 2) at least burned cleanly and didn’t stick (silk, linen, cotton, hemp).   Acrylics are nasty things that melt…and stick to you when melting.  You just don’t want to have that on you when around fire.

Right.  Now, I know that the fabric used to be curtains at a dear friend’s house and she was known for using natural fabrics because she loved them.  To my eye and memory, I knew that she used a lot of linen and silk.  The fabric looks a lot like silk to me because of a sheen it has and the way the fiber unspins in the strands.  (Yep, my spinning experience here at work. )  But I kept hearing “Burn, burn, burn!!!”

I pulled up our friend Google and typed ” burn test fabric content” and got this great website: How to determine fabric content by using the burn test,  A chart!  Yeay!

So off I went to the kitchen sink, outfitted with a metal bowl, metal tongs, fabric sample and lighter.

I lit the fabric.  Steady flame, yellow to orange.  Fabric went out when flame source was removed.  Ash: grayish and soft powder when rubbed between fingers.  Smelled…woody? hairy?  both??  Okay.  I compared my observations to the chart.  Seems a lot like silk with a little linen thrown in.    I then thought about doing the bleach soak test but it seems that it doesn’t much matter at this point.  (Although I’m having fun with being a mad scientist this morning.)  So the brown is cut for the bodice.

Next I checked out the fabric for a coordinating skirt   I found a lovely grayed blue, lots of yardage (about 8 yards).  I thought it was cotton…but it failed the burn test!  Little lumps of blackened plastic decorated the bottom of the bow.  Damn.

Off to the garage and sorting through the totes of fabric.  Ignored the totes of yarn and wool (no time for spinning yet, much less additional knitting).  At the bottom of the 4th tote, I finally found it.  A nice weight blue.  A little brighter than I wanted, but still a period color.   Just enough for the petticoat.  I also found a brown canvas to line the bodice and stiffen it up.

So the pieces are cut and the skirt seams sewn.  I’m onto cartridge pleating the skirt of the dress.  Yes, really, I’m taking the next step!  Cartridge pleating!

I’ll see you in a while after the pleats are in, the grommets found or eyelets poked, and the bamboo runner repurposed.  Wish me luck!


P.S.  – if you hear of a job opening in the East Bay for a great basic office assistant, let me know.  I really shouldn’t have this much time for sewing.



  1. As always you inspire me. XOXO

  2. And I just dropped off the pink – PINK! – wool to my friend who is going to dye it for me. It’s good to have friends who do costuming work and don’t think I’m insane when I tell her it needs to be in a period color in the wine range.

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