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

Tag: overskirt

Homework 31: Overskirt – hems and waistband

On the train up the the Museum’s Computer Group yesterday, I had finished slip stitching the facing on the front hems, so today I needed to tidy up the bottom hem. Normally you would do the bottom hem first and then the vertical ones, as it give better lines if the vertical hems go all the way to the bottom – it just looks better.

I had originally cut the panels with extra seam allowance, because I thought I would fold up a large amount, but when I had been draping the skirt a few weeks earlier, I decided I wanted to keep the extra length so that there would be a fair amount of fabric to drape up. Because of this, I only did a small rolled hem. This would need to be hand stitched as a machine stitch would be obvious and not very period.

I knew the bottom edge was straight and previously I had zig-zag stitched the edge, so I just used that as a guide to know how much to turn up.

Pinning the rolled hem

Pinning the rolled hem

After slip stitching, the hem needed to be pressed.


I had already gathered the skirt on to petersham so that I could check the measurements during a fitting. These were all fine, so I just needed to cover the petersham. I did this in a similar way you would bind using bias (the waistband strip was not cut on the bias) as I had not cut the waistband strip wide enough, but didn’t want to have to recut.

Overskirt waistband - waistband covering already sewn on the outside, ready to be folded over and sewn on the  inside.

Overskirt waistband - waistband covering already sewn on the outside, ready to be folded over and sewn on the inside.

All of the sewing could be done by machine as it was unlikely to be seen, covered by the bodice, and so was a lot faster than for the quilted petticoat. I just made sure I stitched in the ditch. I only hand stitched the ends to finish and add the fastenings.

My waistband overlapped at the front, so I used two size 4 hook and bars to close. Had I wanted to avoid bulk I could have made one side butt the other and used hooks and eyes instead.

Homework 29: Setting in the sleeve and gathering the overskirt

Today I set the calico sleeve in the bodice shoulder. This toile was based on the basic sleeve block we had cut in January. I wanted to see how it fit and what adjustments I would need to make.

Setting the sleeve

To make the period shape, there needs to be two pleats on the back of the join. I tried very hard to make the pleatsline up with the seams joining the bodice pieces.

Calico toile sleeve set into the bodice with two pleats.

Calico toile sleeve set into the bodice with two pleats.

Unlike most sleeves today which are usually straight tubes or funnels, 18th century sleeves that went below the elbow had tucks or seams to bend the sleeve in to a gentle L shape. Often they would also have large cuffs.

Sleeve pined to make a bend at the elbow and folded back to make a cuff

Sleeve pined to make a bend at the elbow and folded back to make a cuff

I played around to see if I could get the ‘look’ as the toile had a fair amount of fabric to play with. If I had cut the sleeve differently, or used a separate piece of material, I could have made the cuff bigger, but I was planning to have slightly gathered lawn cuffs showing from the sleeve too.

Gathering the overskirt

Previously I had agreed with Claire that I would gather rather than pleat the overkirt. At this point I was  happy to do it this way as it was quite quick, and as the fabric is fairly light, it ruffled up well. As the left and right vertical edges were on the selvege edge, I was able to turn over 15mm and then 15cm to make a self facing and tacked them in place before gathering the waistband.

Front edges turned in to make facing

Front edges turned in to make facing and tacked in place

The overskirt was starting to fray heavily, so I zig-zag stitched the bottom to try and keep it under control until I could get around to hemming it by hand.

Zig-zag stitching the edge to stop the hem from fraying

Zig-zag stitching the edge to stop the hem from fraying

As with the under petticoat, I gathered in sections to help avoid the threads breaking and then I machine stitched on to a petersham waistband  which was the waist measurement plus 70mm extra on each side, so that the overskirt could be fitted.  In the picture below you can see how much the fabric is fraying.

Gathers sewn on to petersham waistband

Gathers sewn on to petersham waistband

Class 22: Bodice overview, tutorials, and more quilting

Bodice overview

In the first few weeks of this term we fitted a period bodice toile. Today Claire explained the different layers needed for a period bodice, the materials we would need, and an overview of the processes and techniques which we will be using next term.

The bodice will be boned using flat steels which will be encased within the 4 layers of fabric:

  • Drill  – to go against the skin
  • Cotton lawn
  • Domette (light-weight flat domette)
  • Top fabric

We will need 1 meter of each layer which we should buy ready for the start of next term (19April2010).

Domette is a interlining fleece often used in curtain making to add weight and warmth to curtains.  You can get it in cotton or synthetic materials and it can be flat or fluffy. In the bodice, domette is used to stop the boning from showing, so may not be required if the top fabric is bulky.

There will be more bones on the stomacher than the rest of the bodice, but they are there to act as a stiffener to stop the bodice wrinkling rather than to manipulate the body. We will be making channels in the fabric layers to slide in the bones, but tapes on the drill layer could be used to hold the bones in place.

We will draft our own bodice patterns based on our individual designs and sizes.

1780's Polonaise Design

Draft design for my 1780's polonaise with quilted petticoat

My notes from class were incomplete, but the first few steps of construction are:

  1. Cut out the pattern pieces for all layers.
  2. Mark  bone positions on to cotton lawn layer. The markings will not show as they will be covered by the outer layers.
  3. Mount lawn on to drill by tacking.
  4. Machine stitch to make bone channels.
  5. … more to come.


Patsy, Mathilde and I had our group tutorial today with Claire. We are all at quite different stages, are doing quite different costumes, and came to the course with quite different skills – but that makes it good as we can help each other. It also means we can hear about problems and solutions the others encounter, but we may have not in our own costumes – it is a great way to learn.

Because Mathilde is using a much heavier fabric, she will need to use netting sewn in to her skirt and maybe on the bumpads to help get the period shape. She is also using cartridge pleats along the waistband, which I will be using on my skirt.

For the moment, I just have to concentrate on quilting so I can complete my petticoat. I am the only one in my class who is completely hand quilting. Patsy who is very experienced with textiles is completely machine quilting. Lorna and Eva are doing a combination of hand and machine.

Next term I will have to complete the bodice, overskirt and a fishou to go around the neck.

More quilting

I finished the tree design on the centre front of the petticoat. It felt like quite an accomplishment, but I still have a lot to do.  It has made me think that I would like to only use hand stitching on the petticoat, but I may falter and machine stitch the seams that are not seen.

Hand quilted tree on front panel.

Hand quilted tree on front panel.

Class 18: Working out overskirt yardages

Today Claire got us to work out yardages for the overskirt, gave us some instructions for the quilted petticoat, and I helped to fit Ann’s bodice.

In a bind – corset splitting

I wanted to double check the fitting of the period bodice from last week, but disaster struck when one of my over enthusiastic class mates pulled my corset laces too tightly and one of the seams on the unbound side split at the back. This is one of the seams I so carefully lined up and sink stitched in step J of making an 18th century corset.

My poor split corset

My poor split corset

Claire said I should get some button hole thread (very strong), and starting from the top of the tear, bind the seam back together. Will let you know how I get on.

Overskirt draping and working out yardages

Claire said that we needed to drape the overskirt fabric to see how it would hang, then we would be able to work out how much we would need and a layplan.

Unfortunately, I only had a couple of meters of my top fabric, so I was only able to do a quarter of the waist.

Draping overskirt fabric over petticoat to work out yardages

Draping overskirt fabric over petticoat to work out yardages

Draping overskirt fabric over bumpads and petticoat

Draping overskirt fabric over bumpads and petticoat

I originally worked out that I would need about 7 meters of fabric for the overskirt, but after speaking with Claire, revised this to 3 drops (150cm wide), so would probably need only 4.5 meters. Additional material would be required for the bodice and sleeves to match.

© 2019

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑