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

Tag: samples

Class 3: Measuring and samples continued, plus bum pads

In the morning we remeasured, in different groups from last week, so that we could see the variation in peoples different techniques and workout if we were being too generous or not.

Afterwards we continued with samples:

Bias binding

Bias binding are strips of fabric cut at 45 degree angle (on the bias) to the grain of the fabric. You can purchase it in many colours and fabrics and it can come in flat, single or double folded strips.

Making your own bias strips

  1. Cut fabric straight on the grain and fold diagonally to find the true bias.
  2. Using the fold as a guide, mark parallel lines the desired width apart. Make sure you allow for seam allowance, or if making folded bias binding, allow for the amount you wish to turn over.
  3. If you wish to fold the bias, it is easier if you use a bias tape maker as a guide.

Joining individual strips

  1. Take two strips and mark a 6 mm seam line on each.
  2. Place strips right sides together and match the seam lines (not the edges)
  3. Pin, stitch and press open.
Joining individual bias strips

Joining individual bias strips

To make continuous strips

  1. Take the marked fabric, join the ends right sides together of set by one strip on each side. The marked line should meet the next and coil around so there is one continuous line (not lots of individual rings).
  2. Stitch a 6mm seam and press open.
  3. Cut along the marked line until you have one long strip.


Piping can be used to finish edges decoratively, but are often used on hems that need to be a little more robust, or on seams where a bit more structure is required.

To make your own piping

  1. Cut strips as you would for bias binding. The width measured our must take in to account the seam allowance and the width of the filling/cord used.
  2. Wrap the strips around the cord and match the raw edges.
  3. If you do not have a piping foot you can use a zipper foot to sew close to the encased cord edge. Be careful not to sew on the filler.
Making piping

Piping in the making

Piped seam

A piped seam

Piped hem

The layers of a double folded piped hem


Poppers/press studs

  1. Once you have decided where the popper should go, make a small back stitch to secure the thread.
  2. If the popper is on facing, make another stitch that  catches through the outer layer so that the popper is held in place.
  3. Work around sewing from each hole to the outside of the popper with 4 or 5 stitches for each hole.
  4. Once you have sewn on one side, use a pin through the centre hole to help you correctly place the other side of the popper.
  5. Sew on the other side of the popper in the same way as the first.
  6. When sewing more than one popper, alternate male/female sides. This will stop them all popping open if accidentally pulled.

Hook and eye (video instructions)

On both the hock and the eye, you should use 5 or 6 stitches to go round each ring. On the hook, you should also ensure the top of the hook is secured by a few stitches.

The hook is normally attached to the top layer of fabric with the hook facing towards the body.

Thread chain (to be used instead of eye with hook)

  1. Secure thread at the top.
  2. Using double thread, use basic crochet technique to create the desired length of your chain (some further instructions here).
  3. Secure at bottom of loop
Hook and eye, and hook and loop fastening

Hook and eye, and hook and thread chain fastening

Mini bum pad sample

  1. Cut fabric on the bias, this will give a smoother curve.
  2. Double stitch as the pad should be well stuffed and so the seams will be under strain.
  3. Lay fastening strips in seams on the inside when sewing.
  4. Do not sew to a point in sharp corners – make one ‘blunt’ stitch across. This will make it easier when turning out.
  5. When turning out and stuffing use a knitting needle to push in to the corners.

Double stitch around edge, leaving an opening big enough so you can turn though and add stuffing.

Snip in to the seams, so that when you turn though the edge will be smooth.

Mini bumpad stuffed and ready to go.

Petersham waistband sample

Hems and seams should be finished before the waistband is applied. This type of waistband is commonly used on gathered or pleated skirts or petticoats and is very durable.

Generally, you would try and match the colour of the Petersham to the garment, but in my sample it is black as I had run out of white. The Petersham goes on the inside of the waistband and the cotton tape on the outside. The Petersham could be covered with velvet ribbon for a more luxurious finish. Petersham tape is usually made out of polyester and is also known as grosgrain tape.

The tapes should be longer than the desired length of the gathers or pleats, so the ends can be turned in for a neater finish. On a real garment, the tapes would normally overlap at the fastening, so that a hook or button could be placed. The bottom of the Petersham is where the waistline should sit.

Pinning to the drop to the Petersham.

Pin to the gathers on to the Petersham, making sure the centre and the ends are in the correct place. The Petersham should be on the wrong side of the fabric.

Sewing Petersham on to the gathers.

Sewing Petersham on to the gathers.

Petersham sewn on to the gathers

Petersham sewn on to the gathers. You can see the stitch line is in between the two rows of gathering stitch.

Top of cotton tape sewn on to Petersham tape

Top of cotton tape sewn on to Petersham tape. When you do this, remember to turn in the edges of the tapes to get a neater finish.

Cut off excess fabric from the gathers

Cut off excess fabric from the gathers

Waistband sample ready for the cotton tape to be sewn down.

Waistband sample ready for the cotton tape to be sewn down.

Stitch in the ditch on the petersham side to catch the cotton tape.

Stitch in the ditch on the petersham side to catch the cotton tape.

Finished petersham waistband sample

Finished petersham waistband sample

Planning a petticoat

Claire explained the formula to create a layplan and draft petticoat pattern. Read my write up planning an 18th Century petticoat pattern.

Hand outs:

  • Information on bum pads
  • Page 28 from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen‘ : Bum pads
  • Seam neatening/Flat fell seam/French seam/hems/cutting&joining bias binding/piping/press studs
  • Tools, sewing machine and parts.


  • Make waistband sample and full size bum pads (x 2 pads) using pattern H from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen’.
  • Calculate measurements/dimensions for petticoat body and frill using formula.
  • Draw out layplan.

Class 2: Sewing samples, taking measurements, and project briefs

Today Eileen gave us an introduction to the college Bernina sewing machines, asked us to make samples, and got us to practice taking measurements on the other people in our tutorial group. Patsy, Mathilda and I are in the yellow group.

In the last part of the afternoon Claire spoke more about the project briefs of the 2 modules we will be working on this term and must complete by the 11th of January.

1 Sewing machines:

  • Machine safety
  • Overview
  • Setting up the machines

2 Samples

The samples we did today will be used to demonstrate our skills and understanding for this and one of the other modules.

  • Seams
    • Plain seam
      Machine or hand stitch seam and press open.
    • Double top stitched seam
      Make a plain seam and press open. Stitch close to the seam on both sides on the right side of the fabric.
    • French seam
      On outside stitch a 3mm seam from seam line. On inside crease along stitched line and make a second seam which encases the edges.
    • Flat felled seam
      Stitch plain seam on outside, trim one edge to within 3mm from stitching. Turn in other edge and topstitch encasing the trimmed edge.
  • Gathers/Frills
    • Two thread method
      Machine stitch two rows of long loose running stitch.

      2 rows of machine stitch using a long stitch on a loose tention

      Two rows of long machine stitches on a loose tension setting

      Fasten threads on one side by wrapping round a pin in a figure of 8.
      On the other end, pull the top thread from each row carefully (so they do not break).

      Once you have secured one end, pull top threads from each row at the other end

      Ease the fabric up and even gathers out.

      You can gather the fabric tightly

      Tight gathering

      When I have gathered to the correct length or fullness, I run an awl up and down the gathers to help even them out.

      Gatherswith a ruler

      Or space out to the desired width. Try and get the gathers evenly spaced all along.

    • Cord method (for when fabrics are to heavy or thick to use the two thread method).
      Using piping cord, use a loose zigzag stitch over the cord. Be careful not to catch the cord with the needle.
      You should be able to slide the fabric and threads over the cord to gather.
  • Pleats
    • box pleats
    • inverted box pleats
    • knife pleats
      Measuring 1" pleats

      Measuring 1" pleats. Remember to finish hem before pleating.

      Pinning pleats in to place

      Pinning pleats in to place.

      Once the desired number of pleats have been made, machine stitch along the top to hold in place, and then press.

    • pin tucks
  • Placket
  • Hems
    • Slip Stitch Hem
      Turn hem under and stitch raw edge, pin and edge tack. Slip stitch in place.
    • French dressmaker hem
      Overcast hem edge, drawing up any fullness. Press hem, Turn overcast edge back 6mm (1/4”), slip stitch loosely to folded over edge catching only one thread of the base layer and only one or two of the hem.
    • Machine top stitched hem
      Best used when only a small hem is required. Press up hem and turn under 1cm, baste then machine stitch close to edge.

3 Taking measurements

We were using the instructions from Jean Hunnisett’s book ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen‘, but too be honest there was a little confusion when it came to taking the ‘Nape to ..’ measurements – should the tape measure lay against the body when doing nape to waist front?; and J to K is only from the shoulder to the elbow, not from the nape to elbow, but it is not all that clear from the chart below – I guess I should have looked more closely at the diagram.
Page 10 of Jean Hunnisett's Period costume making for stage and screen - 1500 to 1800

Taking measurements from Jean Hunnisetts period costume for stage and screen 1500 to 1800

4 Project Briefs:

Separate folders can be kept for each term.

Technical and practical application

Show that we have a good understanding of:

  • Tools
  • Fabrics
  • Sewing
  • layplans

Developing pattern construction skills module

The brief is to make the polonaise undergarments referencing Jean Hunnisett book.

We will have to present:

  • one finished corset
  • one petticoat with bum pad
  • learning log (link/relate/review)

The undergarments, if made well will be a good foundation for the rest of the polonaise costume. Design references should be cited.

Hand outs:

  • Project Brief: Unit 7: Developing pattern cutting skills – Foundation Garments for the Polonaise 1770-1785.
  • Material list for term 1
  • Petticoats with bum-pads (4 pages)
  • pages 11/12 Period Costume for Stage and Screen – Taking measurements

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