Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Month: November 2009

Class 12: corset – top stitching, tassets, eyelets

With the Rigiline boning applied, and the base and top layers sewn together, I continued with the top stitching along the bone lines which took most of the lesson.

Close up of topstitching around tasset on the outside of the stays

Close up of top stitching around tasset on the outside of the stays

Close up of topstitching threads pulled through so they can be knotted on the inside of stays

Close up of top stitching threads pulled through so they can be knotted on the inside of stays

Eileen explained about satin stitching around the tassets, as this would give them more strength and hold the layers together better; and the formula to work out where the eyelets should be placed.


  • finish top stitching, get until the point of so we can add the eyelets next week.

Class 11: Visit to Victoria and Albert museum

Today the class met at the V&A and explored the British Galleries, textile study room and the theatre and performance collection.

We started by having a cup of tea in the splendid cafe. The cafe rooms interior decoration is amazing, so I would highly recommend taking a break there. The food looks really good, but is more restaurant prices than cafe, so I didn’t have a chance to try.

On to the British galleries. So many wonderful things to look at from James II wedding suit, a flower pyramid, to the most amazing room installations. It was great to be able to inspect the items of clothing on show so closely; but there are also many other artefacts where we could get inspiration for our costumes including the furniture, paintings and textiles. I particularly liked looking at the Spitalfield silk collection, and there were some lovely examples of printed cotton.

Manuta 1740-1745

Spitalfield silks

Spitalfield silks

We tried on a pannier petticoat, tried to tie a cravat, and I designed my own textile. I am planning to make my pocket at some point and upload a picture to the website.

The theatre and performance collection hadn’t changed much since the last time I visited  it at the  beginning of the course, but there is always a new thing you notice when you have a look around.

Unused panel for a man's waistcoat 1790

Unused panel for a man's waistcoat 1790

Shopping: Ikea fabrics

Finally got some top fabric for the corset.

Fabric from Ikea - Berta rand red/white

Last week I told a friend at work that I had been looking at Ikea fabrics online, but hadn’t had a chance to go my local shop in Wembley as they don’t sell the fabrics online. They have quite a few 100% cotton or linen mixes to be used for bedding, draping, and light upolstery, and they seemed to have stripes which I would really like to use.

Luckily a few days ago my friend went to the Ikea in Edmonton as he needed a few things for his new flat. He got me a meter long remnant of the Berta rand red/white 100% cotton for 99p (normally £5.99 per meter). It is fairly heavy and has 5 mm thin woven yarn-dyed red and white stripes.

Class 10: Petticoat construction – waistbands and pleating/gathering on the stand

Finding the waist

  1. Set up the stand (dummy) You can either set up the stand so the the waistline is at the correct height, or shorter so the distance between the floor and the waistline is the actual intended length of the skirt i.e. the hem sits on the ground. The second method makes it easier for you to get the hemline level all round with out having to use a ruler.
  2. Arrange the petticoat Once you have the right height, put the petticoat on the stand and level it out. Arrange the fabric of the petticoat roughly how you want it to end up, especially paying attention to the amount of fabric at the front sides and back, as more fabric will be required at the sides to go over the bum pads, and you may wish to have less fullness at the front of the skirt. Gather at front and pleat at the back. Too many gathers at the front will make it fall in.
  3. Mark the waistline When you are happy with the draping, use a water soluble marker (normally blue) draw around the waistline. The blue line goes at the bottom of the petersham waistband which should sit on the actual waist.
  4. Take the petticoat off the stand and lay flat. As the fabric was gathered when you drew the waistline, the blue line will now appear as dots or dashes. Connect the dots on one side, and then copy to other side and ensure they are even. You will see the line going up over where the bum pads would be and lower at the front an back where it is flatter.
  5. Add 7.5 cam seam allowance at the top and cut off the excess fabric. Keep cut off as this can be used again as a template for these bumpads.

Applying the petticoat waistband

Using a Petersham strip for the waistband, take the waist measurement and add 1.25cm for ease, and another 7.5 cm at each end for fitting (better to be too long than too short). Mark cf and quarters.

Pin on bum pads and petticoat drops to stand.

Starting at the back, pin the right hand side of the placket opening to the CB mark on the petersham waistband.

Using double thread tack top and bottom of pleats on to petersham. This allows you the machine stitch from the petersham side without the pleats folding back.

See my petersham waistband sample for more detailed instructions (with pictures).

Tips for pleating/gathering on the stand

  • Do one side and then the other (pleats normally face towards the back)
  • Gather front and then let out to ease. Gathers might be good between pleats and front
  • You can use your fingers to measure the depth of a pleat and check that they are even
  • You can often see at the bottom of pleat or drapes if they are out or uneven
  • Chevron pleat – front first, last to back
  • Edge of deep pleats face centre back
  • Yokes may be used for bigger petticoats


  • practice pleating/gathering petticoat waistband on the stand.

Class 9: corset boning, cutting out and mounting top fabric, tutorial, designs.

A lot of use were still applying rigiline to our base layers, but we went over mounting top fabric and sewing it to the base layer.

I still wasn’t much closer on the design and didn’t have the top fabric for the corset, but there was still some boning to do, so I still had a little time.


Elaine sat in on the tutorial while Claire and I discussed how things were going, what my plans were, and what I wanted to get out of the course. I said I wanted to apply to do BA (Hons) Theatre: Costume Interpretation at Wimbledon College of Arts . Claire told me about 2 of her other students who are studying there, and advised me about the UCAS process and that I should sign up to attend an open day asap.


I am not so confident in this bit. I find it hard to get my ideas illustrated on paper, there are so many things I could do, but also I am finding it really hard to find fabrics I would like to use.

I am really smitten by stripes, but wide ones and the only ones I can find look like deck chairs as they are printed cotton.

I need to spend more time on this.

Shopping: Fabric shops on Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s bush, London

I went to Goldhawk road to see if I could find some inspiring fabric for my design. I think I went to every fabric shop on Goldhawk Road and had a good look at the ones in Shepherd’s Bush Market too.

I got swatches from these (I will try and get round to taking photos soon):

Classic Textiles

  1. cotton stripe.
  2. plain silk £13
  3. silk stipe £5

Orya Textiles

  1. green and gold stripe £7.50
  2. Red Stripe £7.50

Fabric World

  1. Red Gold stripe silk £10 (45″)
  2. Orange/red/gold stripe £15 (60″)

(Fabric world tried to charge me for very small cut offs of fabric)

The main problem was that they stripes are all quite narrow. The orange/red/gold stripe was lovely, but too expensive for the project.

I was trying to keep an open mind, but there was a lot of polyester fabrics and not really any traditional prints. Not surprising really as they mostly cater for modern dressmaking. Maybe I am just not looking hard enough.

I am still on the hunt (mostly on ebay).

Class 8: Corset – cutting out and marking the drill. Start to apply boning.

The aim for today were to start construction on the stays. Claire taught us in the morning explaining the construction methods for the corset up to sewing the base and top layers together.

Cutting out and mounting the base and the top layers should be done at the same time, but I still had not yet  finalised my design or settled on what top fabric to use.

The order of work was laid out, and by the end of the class most of us were well in to applying the rigilne boning which is really quite time consuming.


  • Continue with boning
  • Start pleating petticoat
  • Continue with logbook

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