Small projects/Pattern reviews

Skirts for peasant ensemble – per Simplicity 3809

A quick and easy Ren Faire first time. I was so excited to get dressed up at all that I consider this to be a success. The overskirt is periwinkle and has a “wet sand brown” underskirt. The ensemble that this was a part of will be overhauled this season. The bodice and chemise were purchased. The wreath was made almost as quickly as it fell apart. The shoes came from a modern shoe store, are super comfy, and will probably be worn with most of my garb.

UPDATE: I added a strip of green trim to the blue overskirt.  It really does make a difference.

Front fastening bodice with split skirting and wings – Margo Anderson


I took a necessary break from my upper class ensemble to work on a new bodice to wear with my skirt(s).  The piece was made from elements I had in my fabric stash, minus the cable tie boning, which I’ve been enthusiastic to try out.  This was also the first project in which the fabrics were pre-washed.  I’ve always been hesitant to wash fabric since I like to get right into projects, but mostly because I’m afraid of ruining fabrics that I probably shouldn’t be using anyway.

I traced the pattern to my custom size, drafting out the side seams, and did a test fit with the lining.  Spoiler alert: I discovered that the back piece was too big in the top before binding the edges, and I had to take it in a bit with darts along the top edge.  Lesson learned – always do the prep work.  The lining is a natural colored cotton, and the bodice is interlined with white cotton duck.  The body is maroon with green binding, and I used some sort of twine for the lacing.  I’m not sure that I did the binding right, but no edges are showing, and the finished piece turned out well, in my opinion.  As is my preference, the eyelets are hand sewn.

As simple as it was, I learned a lot from this project.  I got turned around in the directions a few times, but the finished project turned out as I envisioned it.  After a faire day in the bodice, I found that it’s at least one size too big–there is a myriad of reasons why, but it was very comfortable and all passengers stayed put.

Pyratical pants, originally Venetian Breeches – Margo Anderson (Gentleman’s Wardrobe)

I needed something to go with my top from the Leather Lair.  Low rise, gathered knee Venetian breeches were exactly it.  The hardest part of this project was resizing; I was meticulous in my measurements for obvious reasons.  First, I had to scale down the male sizing starting with the waist, or, rather, the hip bones for low rise.  I knew that crotch length was going to be the biggest challenge since it would be so much shorter with the waistline dropping, too.  I believe the total was 5 or 6 inches from the top, which meant readjusting the buttonholes. I chopped another 3 inches off of the legs because I’m short.  The muslin fit fine once it was cut and stitched, so I got right into the breeches themselves.  The pants are made of black [what I believe is] cotton, and the lining (originally the muslin) is an off white fabric that I’m pretty sure is not cotton.  However, it is thin enough to breathe and I didn’t have anything else lying around.  I managed to end up with the interfacing on the outside of the underlap, so I just flipped the whole fly to the other side of the opening.  I went with the visible button fly so that I could use some wooden buttons that I’ve had in my stash for quite some time.  The fly buttons are larger than the pattern called for, but they work fine, and I only needed two.  The buttons on the leg bands are smaller.

I did have to take the pants in at the waist and leg bands.  The former because I’ve been working out fairly regularly since I last sized myself.  The latter because I was afraid that they wouldn’t fit over my calves when I originally sized them.  I took them in with a simple straight stitch at the seams just before we walked out the door.  This pattern was super easy, and will certainly be used for the Intended’s future garb sets.  The biggest drawback to this custom pair of pants is that I can’t wear them with my normal fitting bodices because  they’re so low.  I can certainly wear them with a shirt and vest when I decide to go this route again.

The picture includes last year’s purchases: a cotton gauze crop chemise and a leather butterfly top from The Leather Lair.

Wool cloak – Simplicity 5794


This is an uber-simple pattern that I used for Little Red Riding Hood two years ago (see Halloween closet).  I wanted something warm for the last weeks of faire that could be used with any class.  I found a purple-ish/maroon-ish wool suiting on sale at the local fabric store and green cotton flannel.  I am always cold, so I figured that being too warm would be fine.  Going in, I also knew that I wanted hidden pockets, but I had never made pockets before, so I decided to wing it.

To make the pockets, I made an outline of my hand, fingers spread, plus an inch all around. I made a straight edge at the wrist, since that’s where the pocket would meet the seam.  The drafted piece pointed at a downward angle, the same way my hand would reach into the pocket.  I made the outer part of the cloak as directed.  When it came time for the lining, I marked 24 inches down the side seams where the pockets would go, stitching everything but that section.  Since this was a learning experience, one pocket is truly hidden, the other pocket has a flap (obviously, the first one sewn).  I finished the cloak without any other alterations.  I didn’t have any spare tassels lying about, so I made one from multicolored yarn and beads to attach to the pointed hood.

The cloak was too warm for the beautiful weather on its debut weekend, but I was still only mildly annoyed that I stayed up until 2:30am the morning of….

Black cotton twill modern kilt –

The newly dubbed “Husband” requested and received his modern Ravens kilt.  The total construction time was probably around 10 hours.  Anytime I got stuck in the manual, I just read, re-read, walked away, re-read again, asked the hubby to read, and read one last time.  I am not kidding.  There were only a few times it happened, but I was on a quest for no screw-ups on this.  There was a fair amount of numbers and geometry involved, and a framing square was required for the sheer ‘anality’ (sure, why not) of creating the pleats.  On the upside, I enjoy geometry.  On the down side, the kilt has to be ironed. Back on the upside, I got a kick*ss new iron out of it.

Plum Cropped Chemise – Simplicity 3809

Starting out, I didn’t think that I had enough cotton gauze to make the full chemise (View B).  In truth, I think I just wanted another cropped chemise.  I shortened the pattern two inches under the appointed waistline and used a standard 5/8 inch hem rather than the 1/2 inch that the pattern calls for.    The second alteration to the pattern was the trim.  I used the cutting scraps to make bias tape and trim rather than buying them separately.  It took a little longer, but the fabric fades when ironed, so this solves future color mismatching.  I could have enclosed the elastic better, but it’s one of those things that I won’t get right until I find a fool-proof method for doing it flawlessly.  I had planned to use ribbon to tie off the arms, waist, and neckline, but I had the elastic on hand.  If I trusted my pattern drafting abilities just a little more, I would have made the chemise from scratch, but I had used this pattern for my first peasant skirt(s) years ago, without issue.

The pattern is easy to follow and I like that the elastic is enclosed rather than stitched to the fabric like the one I spent $20 on at faire.  This chemise was about $5 for materials, since the gauze was on sale when I bought it a few years ago.  The sleeves can be worn on or off the shoulders, which is good for coordinating with different corsets and bodices.  During construction, I didn’t think to sew the sleeves right or left (the gauze doesn’t really have a right or wrong side), so the left sleeve is bunched in the seam a bit, but it wears the same.  This took about two evenings with food breaks.  Sadly, I don’t have enough leftover to make bloomers, but I do have cream colored gauze remnants that I can mix with the plum, which should be enough for a short pair.


I saw the fabric in the red tag area of Joann’s, and I chose not to leave without it.  I picked it up with hopes of putting together an earthy fairy sort ensemble, and the bodice will probably work for that eventually.  I started with the corset generator pattern, following the instructions as closely as possible.  I tested the draft on a piece of poly/cotton (which became the lining), and decided to continue with the rest of the no-tabs version of the pattern.  I used the lining and two layers of canvas with cable ties for boning.  After the boning was in and stitched, I cut the fashion fabric outer layer and a layer of heavy yellow linen for interlining.  I stitched those pieces on and used brown satin ribbon for binding.  I used standard poly/cotton thread for the eyelets, although, I think I may start looking for something like silk going forward.  I was going to add straps to tie on at the back (above the eyelets) and the front (to the outside), but I really like the way it looks right now.  If gravity makes it necessary, however, I can always add straps in the future.  The cording in the picture is temporary, obviously.  I found a nice by-the-spool cording that goes beautifully, but it’s too short.  When I have time, I’ll stand in the cutting line for the length that I’ll need.

The longest part of this project, as always, was stitching the eyelets.  The most tedious and boring part was stitching the boning channels.  With mediocre drafting skills and a sub-standard french curve, creating the pattern was the least exciting, but most rewarding.

The next challenge is decided what to wear this with.  I’d really like to make a pair of bloomers in pseudo-Venetian courtesan style, but I only have enough left over for the front of the bloomers.  Cotton broadcloth would do well for the back (and front lining).  I would probably use Simplicity 3677 or 2777–the former are pant-like, the latter are pajama-like. I could whip together a front opening skirt, but I don’t know what color would even begin to match.

Belly dance costume, “The Olympic Carrier” – Simplicity 2941

This ensemble was created for my first belly dance solo.  The pattern was pretty easy to follow until the section on finishing the vest.  Since I omitted the overlay, I had to re-read the instructions a few times to be sure I was stitching the right layers.

The skirt is two layers with crinkled black chiffon on the top and red chiffon on the bottom.  The original plan was to slit the top layer up to the thigh for panels, but 1) I hate finishing edges on chiffon and 2) I was running out of time.  The idea behind the slits was to expose the red on the turns in the dance–oh well.  Even though I shortened the pattern by three inches during cutting, I still had to cut another two or three during fitting.  The red halter was next, and was super easy.  Instead of doing a liner of a different fabric, I used a second layer of the stretchy red fabric.  I do not like the ribbon closure around the neck because the gathered section and bow are bulky when being worn.  In addition, I had to double knot the tie to avoid shimmying the closure loose during the performance.  I will very likely redo the neck line to match the back closure (hooked back) before I wear it again.  The belt and vest are made of matching fabric that has a bit of stretch (necessary for the vest).  The belt has yellow gold braided fringe and hand beaded red fringe between.  I couldn’t find beaded fringe that was long enough in the store and I didn’t want to risk it not being delivered on time, so I made it.  I used black beading thread, twill tape, fray check for the knots, and glass beads.  It took a few dedicated hours in one weekend to make about 20 fringes(?).  Since I really only got the gold fringe to break up the color between the skirt and the belt, I didn’t embellish the vest.  I’m also short-waisted, so any length I added to the vest would cover most of my stomach.  For the performance, I wanted to pay homage to the sci-fi from which the music came, so I cut a hole in the back of the vest and put a length of red beads down the back.  [Watch Battlestar Galactica for more information.]

The pattern was very easy to modify for my purposes, and even though I had to stray from my original design for one reason or another, construction went well.

Mistcloak 1.0 – Simplicity 9887

The mistcloak is based on an item from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn book series.  The fabric is some sort of soft, light polyester that came  from the red tag section.  The color and weight matched the mistcloak in my imagination perfectly.  Originally, I was going to try making the ribbons, then tying them to a strip of grosgrain and attaching a hood.  I decided that it would be easier to make a yoke and hood and then attach the ribbons to that.  The plan changed once I started the yoke, realizing that it would be painful to sew each strip to the yoke after the fact.

Instead, I made the cloak according to the pattern and stopped at the hemming section.  I cut the rest of the fabric into 2 inch strips.  I started using my rotary cutting machine, but the blade seems to be too dull, so I ended up doing it by hand.  I cut the pieces into 44″ pieces and stitched them, overlapping, to the inside yoke seam.  I hemmed the front edges of the cloak and cut the top layer of cloak into strips.

This cloak is named Version 1.0 because the strips are hideous.  You can tell that they were cut, rather un-meticulously, by hand.  I also think I could have layered them better.  If I find another bit of appropriate fabric, I’ll try cutting the strips to size, attaching the two layers, and then stitching those layers to the yoke and hood.  The top layer of strips is not cut on the bias, and I imagine that fraying is going to be a problem.  For now, this works, seeing as how I don’t actually have anywhere to wear it…figures.

UPDATE: I wore it to a last minute Halloween gathering (Nov 2011). Only four of us were familiar with the character, but I didn’t mind. I need some action shots, cause those tendrils are deadly in a gentle wind….

Shirt & Pants – Simplicity3519 & 4059

I had hoped this combination would be a quick and dirty, taking no more than a day or so the week before faire opening, for a friend.  Technically, it was done over three days (about 14 hours) thanks to my full-time work distraction.  He needed something to wear under the current state of his armor, which will look much different by the end of it’s construction.

The instructions for the pants were pretty confusing, and I found myself cussing at them more than a few times.  To be fair, I think that I expected the construction to go differently because of my work with other pants patterns.  Now that I’ve seen the finished product, I’ll have no trouble making them again.  I used brown twill, grosgrain ribbon, and large gold grommets.  I really like the drawstring cuffs and the ability to tighten the waistline, but the button fly was less than desirable to make.  I hate button holes.

I made a similar shirt for the husband last year, using 4059.  The differences are in the neckline and shoulders.  The husband’s has full sleeves, but this one includes the shoulders in the yoke, starting the sleeves at the top of the bicep, or thereabouts.  I did make a few design alterations at Matt’s request, combining lacing holes with the un-collared version and choosing hook-eye cuffs over the elasticized cuffs.  He picked cotton gauze for the shirt, and knowing that it was going to be worn under armor, I decided flatline the yoke section with cotton broadcloth.  He mentioned that the armor hangs from the shoulders, so comfort and increased durability was a concern.  It held up after a full day of wear, so I assume the extra layer wasn’t a failure.

Striped bloomers/pants – Simplicity 3677

So, I was feeling a little nostalgic for my sewing room after the Tiny Princess arrived, and on my first excursion out of the house, I went crazy.  The fabric was about $2 per yard for the post-Halloween sale, and I had to get it.  Now, bear in mind, I justified the fabric by planning to add black lace to make them look like girly piratey bloomers.  Unfortunately, I forgot to get the lace.

I had to add three sizes to the pattern, but I used the size 6 crotch line and hem, to account for my height.  I should have also removed two inches from the top since they are supposed to sit at the waist, but I’ll be able to wear them with a bodice, if I so choose.  The pattern was predictably easy to follow, and there is only one pattern piece for view G.  Instead of folding up the raw edges in the waist and hem, I serged the edges so that I only had to fold once.

These pants are VERY roomy; I may add elastic to the legs to close them up.

Round Pouch (lined) – Margo Anderson Accessories

The main fabric was some sort of custom display table cover, and there wasn’t much of it.  I used coordinating lining fabric from my remnant bin, a bucket-o-buttons item (to which I added a pearl), craft thread for the tassels (I only had enough for two), upholstery thread, and a cable tie.

The cable tie was a substitution for the 4″ macrame ring that I did not have on hand.  I fastened (or zipped or locked?) the tie down to a four inch ring and cut off the excess.  Then, I pulled the locking bit off and snipped that off.  I [dangerously] cut the tie in half lengthwise.  I overlapped and taped the edges together, after measuring again, and then taped the circle with masking tape.  *Looking back, I’ll use a couple of mini cable ties next time.*

There wasn’t enough fabric to make the second top piece, so I used the lining fabric.  I used a very sturdy cardboard that I believe came from packing material.  It feels like the kind used in a binder.  Construction was easy, although I really need to work on my handsewing because it isn’t pretty.  I also need to consider doing button holes by hand because my machine and I don’t see eye-to-eye.  Other than that, the pouch turned out well, and I can’t wait to wear it.

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