Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 18, 2010

My big summer sewing project

This summer has been full of costume sewing, but I ended the season with a really big sewing project.  At the beginning of the warm season, I made an Irish bog dress.  Not perfect, but pretty good.  I learned about cartridge pleating and hand sewing armholes.

Then I took on a big challenge. I had to make an English Renaissance outfit for a historically-based English Ren faire.  Although I didn’t have to make everything, I did have to sew most of the major pieces – the shirt, a corset, a bumroll, then the kirtle, a Tudor apron, and finally the sleeves.  In about 4.5 weeks. (What is it about 4.5 weeks?  I did the school play in that deadline as well. )  Oh and remember, I don’t do things the easy way.  I also made a couple of extra shirts and a couple of half-a**ed corsets trying to figure out the sizing I really wanted, and half of a smock as well. )  I planned on using a coif, straw hat, shoes and cloak that I already have.

Anyway, I thought maybe some of you Gentle Readers might be interested in seeing the project.  Here it is.

The shirt is a high-necked shift with pleated collar and sleeve ruffles.  I chose this high-necked style so that I could forego the partlet layer.  It will give me enough sun protection without an additional layer of cloth.  (Always consider the heat factor.) Over it goes the corset that finally worked.  (If you want to see all three, you’ll have to go look at the Great Corset Experiment post – coming soon.)

The shift is just about knee length.

The bum roll is an optional piece.

The bumroll should be tightly stuffed to hold its shape and help hold the weight of the skirts.

With it the silhouette is more pronounced.

Petticoat with bumroll underneath. I'm still undecided about practicality.

BTW, the petticoat is the one from my Irish bog dress  – knife pleated. I sewed it earlier in the season, so it is pretty new and goes well with the English kirtle.

The kirtle can closed in the back or front, with a closed-front or open skirt.  I opted for the front opening (for easier dressing) with an open fronted skirt (to be cooler).  Also note that I used an overlapped bodice closing that is fastened with hooks and eyes instead of lacing.  It is a closure style listed in the Tudor Tailor.  I was so excited when I saw it – especially since my size goes up and down and my bust and waist measurement changes.  (I may yet change this to a laced front, but I was under a time constraint, so hooks and eyes were the initial solution.)

The kirtle goes on next.

The sleeves are a fashion statement for the English of the period.  You would change the sleeves to create a different look for your outfit.  They could be attached or detachable.  I opted for detachable because I get so warm, especially when spinning.  They are of the same fabric as the gown and lined in cotton.  Please note the cording.  I made the cording with a lucet. Very period.

Sleeve attached at shoulder with lucet braided cording.

And here they are attached.

Kirtle with the sleeves attached.

A nice, neat Tudor apron finishes off the ensemble.  The ties for it are 1/4 of the way in from either corner.  This creates that drapey look and makes it more practical for bundling things in it while I’m wearing it.  That was a nifty tip that I learned from some nice history/costume snobs I met this season.

The apron goes on top to finish the ensemble for Spinner Margret.

What am I most happy about making this outfit?

  • I got really good at making eyelets by hand.  Nice, neat eyelets.

The secret ingredients are a jump ring under the thread and lots of patience.

  • I got cartridge pleating to a decent level.  Nice rounded pleats.  And they are very strong and give a great shape to the skirt.

Cartridge pleating with the canvas reinforcement strip.

This is how the finished cartridge pleats look.

  • I learned about detachable sleeve construction and placement.  This one isn’t perfect, but pretty good.
  • Lucet cording.  Yes, another tool and skill.  I made the cording for lacing my sleeves with a lucet and embroidery floss.  Surprisingly strong and flexible.
  • I learned about the squish factor and how “scaffolding” affects how a garment can look.  I was pretty amazed at the shape my body took with corset.  No, the dress dummy doesn’t show this shaping, but trust me, I ended up with the correct Elizabethan silhouette.
  • Learning how a simple apron can be so much more practical with a small change in design.  It is easier to hold something in a bundle with this loose corner construction.
  • Working largely from stash and minimal costs for new materials.  I scored the blue fabric for $3 total at an upholstery shop that was liquidating it’s stock.  I got boning from OSH…plastic ties used to hold lumber and pallet goods together.  A good cotton sheet from the thrift store became 2 shirts.
  • Details matter.  (I thought long and hard about the color and construction.  BTW, blue WAS a color that was used by non-apprentices, so check that myth at the door, please.)

But here’s the kicker…yesterday, the day before the faire that this outfit was made for, I got a stomach virus.  No faire for Spinner Margret.  All the work learning about Elizabethan language, religion, and village life…it was really interesting and fun.  Therefore, it was such a bummer that I couldn’t go.  But it won’t be in vain…Just wait til next year!




  1. That’s really nice! I don’t know about bum rolls . . . I was never a big fan of bum rolls; I prefer farthingales.

    • But a working woman wouldn’t be able to handle the farthinggale thing…heck, not even sure the bumroll is practical for doing work in.

  2. Love the outfit, it looks great, and you really are coming along well in working up the different aspects, from hand eyelets to the cartridge pleating.

    But may I suggest getting rid of the bumroll, and if you can, put straps on your pair of bodies. The bumroll is not giving the right look for 1560s working class as far as I understand it. I know some ladies swear by them, but I don’t like them except for certain later styles.

    Straps on the pairs of bodies will help keep the bodies up on you, instead of it shifting downward and digging into your hips. My first pair of bodies had no straps. My current one does, and man is there a difference in comfort on the hips.

    I look forward to seeing this on you next year, when we both make Sebastapol. And get well soon. Stomach flu is no fun.

    • Yeh, I’m pretty sure that I won’t use the bumroll. But it had to get a pic taken ‘cuz it was a finished object! I think I’ll consider the strap idea. My concern is strap placement so that it doesn’t show under whatever kirtle I end up with. But hey, I’ve got a while to think about it now that the deadline is over.

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