14 February 2005

Valentine's Day! The Bum Roll and Farthingale

This seems like an auspicious day to begin such a romantic and daft project, so I shall gather together all the fabrics I can find, and if at all possible, start snipping into the undergarments!

I thought I would start the sensible way with the Simplicity pattern and do the basque with the bum roll on it.  The bum roll on this set goes UNDER the farthingale, which needs to be fitted over it to make the hem the correct length. This seems to run counter to all advice I can find elsewhere and all other available patterns.  But before I could even think about this, I needed to visit the stash for fabric.  Up in my loft was (amongst many others, I do confess!) a crate of 'white' fabrics...  Out of it I dug various lengths of fabric I thought might do for the underpinnings of this project.  One was a bit of heavy twill woven furnishing cotton in natural cream, two generous yards in length, and an oddment of boiled calico from a previous project.  It's always good to hang on to anything you think might come in handy...  From these two bits I cut the Simplicity bum roll and bum roll base.

Simplicitypatternpices.JPG (123528 bytes) I started by cutting out the size 16 bum roll and base, as I thought that if I shrank a bit while the project progressed, I could just do it up a bit tighter, whereas if I didn't quite shrink enough to fit the size 14, things could get a bit uncomfortable...
Bumrollstitched&clipped.JPG (125210 bytes)

bumrolsturned.JPG (142641 bytes)

Then I stitched and trimmed the bum roll, clipping the seams so they would be smooth when the thing is stuffed.

Once turned through, it didn't look very fat...  This is going to be a pretty meagre bum roll!

edgestitchtwill.JPG (105686 bytes)

basestitched.JPG (91313 bytes)

Here you can see the ridges of the twill weave of the base.  This is very similar to a cavalry twill weave, so should be very hard wearing.  I wanted a firm fabric, and this has very little 'give' in it.

Once this part was complete, I sewed on the Velcro: when doing this is it wise to avoid the scratch factor, and sew the hook side facing out and the loop side facing in!  I really hate sewing Velcro to things!

Velcro.JPG (196544 bytes)

stitchedrows.JPG (107371 bytes)

Once the lines of stitching for holding the layers of fabric together and the Velcro were on, it was time to try it on...  And it fitted perfectly!
stuffing.JPG (56608 bytes)

Stuffingin.JPG (80745 bytes)

Next came the interesting task of stuffing the bum roll itself...  This was quite difficult, as I needed to poke the stuffing well into the points and make it quite firm..  Margo recommends making the bum roll about the consistency of a ripe tomato, so that's what I aimed for.  It's not a matter of just shoving in handfuls.  You have to do it in stages, working each one into the whole to try to leave no hard lumps or thin patches to go flat.
stuffed.JPG (101391 bytes)

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Once all the stuffing was in and even, the gap had to be closed...  And so did a few popped stitches!  

Doing this has taught me to think about the construction...  Most of this curved seam is on the bias, so needs to be sewn as a bias seam.  It would be better to sew this with a small narrow zigzag rather than a straight stitch, as then the seam would have some built-in 'give' like bias fabric, and would be less likely to give these problems.

Pinning the gap shut and sewing it isn't as easy as the instructions make it sound, either!  You need to grip it hard to get the pins in if it is properly stuffed!  I found it impossible to use a slip stitch, as the instructions would have it done: it wasn't possible to get them in, and I felt it would not be strong enough, so I whip-stitched all the gaps closed with a double thread.

harpbumroll.JPG (90337 bytes) Pinning the roll to the base was a lot more 'interesting' than it looked in the pictures on that sheet of paper too!  I ended up playing it like a harp to get those pins in, and later, some of the stitches too!
curvedneedlein.JPG (125045 bytes)

curvedneedleout.JPG (120078 bytes)

To pin the roll to the base requires large pins and strong fingers, and the pins need to go in from the INSIDE!

At least they do tell you to sew the roll to the base from the inside, but there is no indication of the best stitch!  I also found a large curved upholstery needle and some upholstery thread a good move!

bumrolldone.JPG (112685 bytes) Once done, it both looked good and felt comfortable.  You do need to sew it carefully, and not pull the stitches too tight.  That would make the whole thing smaller round the attachment line - not a good idea!

So, that's the first bit complete.  It went together remarkably easily and well, and all the pattern pieces fitted each other.  It was also an excellent fit.  It isn't historically accurate, but it's very comfortable, easy to make and wear, and if it gives the correct look at the end of the day, it's useful to know that this method works.  Later there will be pictures of this on the dummy, and possibly on me, but not yet...

15 February 2005

Today has been quite an eye-opener in many respects.  Long stretches felling seams gives time for thought, and I have thought quite deeply about some aspects of this project.  Today was farthingale day...

My first task was to choose a fabric.  From the vast stack of white I dragged out of the loft yesterday, I chose a pale cream mercerised cotton poplin, 60" wide.  I cannot now remember why I bought it or how much it was, but I know it would have been less than 2 a metre as I am such a skinflint!  I strongly suspect a shirt making idea that never reached fruition.  There was almost six meters of it, and another bit at 45" wide, so there is plenty left to use for another project.  It's a lovely dense weave with a very high thread count, to while it's quite fine, it's also substantial and strong, and very difficult to stick pins through!  I also suspect it's an Egyptian cotton: it has that almost silk-like texture of good Egyptian cotton that has been mercerized.  I may be a skinflint, but I know a bargain when I feel it!

After laying out the cotton, I cut out the pattern...  Lots of bits of pattern!

farthingalelayout.JPG (114759 bytes)

firstcut.JPG (159297 bytes)

First there was the puzzle of all those pieces...  Why were the back and side fronts cut with a seam across at hip height?

Well as I put them together, I could see the reasoning: there are six lower skirt panels, all exactly the same, but the upper panels come in three differently shaped pairs, to accommodate the bum roll.  The different length is required at the TOP not at the hem: shaping it this way takes account of this, and should ensure a nice level hem.

In addition, as I laid the pieces out, I could see that cutting it this way was more economical of both fabric and pattern paper.  As this farthingale is supposed to have been modelled on an extant one, the economical cutting made a lot of sense. When fabric is hand woven you want to waste as little of it as possible.  Some interesting thinking has gone into both the construction of the original and the production of the pattern, and some useful things have been preserved because there really is no better way to do them!

trimmingseam.JPG (73771 bytes)  firstpress.JPG (46198 bytes)

secondpress.JPG (48766 bytes)  fellingseam.JPG (81645 bytes)

finishedfelledseam.JPG (156983 bytes)


The instructions for sewing the seams are peculiar.  I am not at all sure why they tell one to sew the seams, then clean finish the edges by either zigzagging or serging, press to one side, and then sew down from the outside...  I puzzled about this for a while, and then thought that if I just made a felled seam, it would be just as strong as a serged seam (and after all, why bother to sew the seam first if you are then going to serge it?), and flatter than the stitched down mock felled seam they proposed.  It would also be much neater on the inside, and take less time, as there would be only two passes through the machine rather than three...  We won't even mention the miles of thread saved by not serging and stitching a seam you are going to stitch a second time anyway...

There are full instructions for felled seams on my seams page: these pictures just show how nicely it worked on this crisp cotton.

toplineup.JPG (161130 bytes)

middlelineup.JPG (60378 bytes)

hemlineup.JPG (74955 bytes)

This pattern is very well drafted.  If cut out and sewn accurately, all the pieces fit together beautifully.  Here you can see that where the waist edge, the hip seam, and the hem line up, there's no trimming needed.  I was lucky that unless you tug quite hard, there's no more give in this cloth than in a sheet of paper, but looking at the pattern with my engineer's genes focused, I can appreciate this aspect of the it. 
liningup.JPG (86551 bytes)

measuring.JPG (118067 bytes)

linemarking.JPG (94987 bytes)

While felling seams and admiring the draftsman ship of this pattern, I had another argument with the instructions.  I really could not see the point of sewing up the back seam before stitching on the tape for the hoop casings.  Marking and stitching these casings would be far easier if the fabric was flat.  OK, so neatening off the back opening might be slightly less easy, but compared to the convenience of marking and sewing all that casing on a flat thing rather than a cone shaped thing, it was nothing.  So this is what I have done.  If you don't like this idea, do it the pattern's way.  But then don't come complaining to me about the tedious awkwardness of sewing the tape into a funnel!

I measured the level of the hip seam, and marked this on the front panel in blue chalk pencil.

tapepinning.JPG (114779 bytes)

tapestitching.JPG (79964 bytes)

curvedtape.JPG (116621 bytes)

The tape was pinned with the lower edge just over the seam line, so that when sewing, the needle misses the thicker fabric layers.

It was edge-stitched over the pins (my usual habit!), and despite the seam being curved, the tape went on nice and flat.  In fact, this seam has quite a gentle curve, and sewing both the felled seams and the straight tape wasn't difficult.  A little easing here and there prevented tucks and wrinkles.

  lengthtrim.JPG (112038 bytes) In the end I didn't put in all the lines of hoop casing.  I sewed five rather than six, as I needed to take the hem up six inches as it stood.

I trimmed off three inches, after marking the hem line I wanted.  As it is, the hem is more than two and a half inches deep and has two channels and hoops in it.

gaplines.JPG (154779 bytes)  gapcut.JPG (126671 bytes)  gapressed.JPG (142060 bytes) Here's the start of the gap in the hem for threading the bottom two hoops through.
hempinned.JPG (49477 bytes) Then the hem was pinned up.  I left the hem at this point, rather than sewing it, as I needed to complete the waistband so that I could try the farthingale on to ensure it was the correct length.  I shall insert a couple of hoops for this operation, one in the hem and one further up.  It isn't rocket science and doesn't need to be accurate to three zeros!
gathers.JPG (55227 bytes)

markedWB.JPG (119600 bytes)

I gathered the waist on the traditional two rows of stitching.  I know we all cheat and only use one a lot of the time, but two really takes very little more time and gives such superior results that idleness cannot be pardoned in this small area!

The waistband is made of two layers of 'grossgrain ribbon', according to the notions list...  I substituted Petersham, as I had it in stock, and I felt it was better able to hold up the farthingale than ordinary ribbon.

pinsin.JPG (100388 bytes)  WBoutsidestitching.JPG (57671 bytes)  bentoins.JPG (60753 bytes) I like to use glass headed pins for pinning gathers, as they are easier to see than the plain sort, and much easier not to miss when taking them out!

It was easier to ensure the Petersham was properly stitched from the outside, so that's what I did.  One does risk scratching the machine bed more doing it this way, so don't try it if your machine is too precious!  You will not, for example, see me doing this on the Featherweight!

Oh, and pins bend!  These were bent pinning them in, not sewing over them!

morepins.JPG (90356 bytes)  WBcomplete.JPG (90369 bytes) I pinned the Petersham facing in place, but had to remove the pins, as the stuff creped slightly as it was sewn on the first pass.  This wasn't a problem, as it was more a matter of the pins taking up fabric than anything else.  This makes a very strong and very flat waistband, and is a good trick from the theatre costumers.

So far, this pattern has been remarkably user friendly.  All the bits were the size they said on the packet, and they have all fitted together extremely well.  For a purist, the lack of strict historical accuracy in both construction and cut could be annoying, but for those folk there are some exceedingly good patterns about, and enough published detail for them to get stuck in and make something just as they want without using this pattern at all.  For the wardrobe mistress of the school drama club, the local drama society, and the costume hire shop, there is enough historical accuracy for it too look good done in the right fabrics, and the ease of use of the finished pieces makes up for a great deal.  There's no need for special corsetry as this can be worn with modern underwear, and the while stitching the over and under skirts together on the waistband makes for a very heavy pieces for sewing and handling, it makes a very easy piece to dress in when one doesn't have a bevy of maids to encase one in one's grand court outfit.

Make no mistake: this is not a simple project, and it isn't a quick one.  There is no especially difficult technique required for it, but the sheer volume of sewing is enormous.  There are 8 pieces of fabric in the bum roll combination, and the stuffing and finishing take time and patience.  There are seven panels in the skirt, six of which are made in two parts, so a total of 13 pieces of cloth, plus the waistband, miles of tape for channels, and the bones themselves to insert.  All those seams, however you sew them, will take time.  I seriously considered simply serging them together for speed, but I felt that felling was a more elegant solution, both from the engineering and the aesthetic stand.

16 February 2005

It's a good job I only wanted to poke holes in 3 hoops!  This was a lot more difficult than the instructions lead one to believe...  I was using this nylon boning with reinforcements in it, and that was a major part of the problem.

markedholes.JPG (166690 bytes)

newmarks.JPG (109218 bytes)

rattail.JPG (130877 bytes)

I marked the ends of the bones with where I wanted the holes, but Alan thought they needed to be more precise...

The rat-tail cord is plenty strong enough for the job, but the diameter caused a severe hunt through the drill bits to find one the right size!

drillingblue.JPG (86016 bytes)  Box.JPG (70225 bytes)  drillstand3.JPG (134974 bytes) Drilling proved to be 'interesting'...  The translucent bits of the boning are fairly soft, and the white ribs are a LOT stiffer, so the drill bit slid off as soon as it hit them!  Alan's first attempts did not satisfy him, so he found a better box, and then the drill stand!  This was still not wholly satisfactory, even with a drill bit designed for printed circuit boards rather than metal!
threading.JPG (115008 bytes)  Eventually he produced some holes we could thread the rat-tail through...  However, it is the considered opinion of the man who made the holes that a punch might be a better option for drilling holes through nylon bones...
boneholes.JPG (108959 bytes)  boneribs.JPG (125257 bytes) Here you can see where the drill slid of those ribs and in between, where the nylon is softer.  The second shot clearly shows the cause of the problem!
rattied.JPG (146237 bytes) And here is a hoop tied together with rat-tail!  It worked!  Now, I just hope this stuff is man enough for the job...

I chose this way of closing the hoops rather than the single hole sewn through that Simplicity suggest as I thought this would be easier to remove for washing and storage.

Simbumrolfront.JPG (47658 bytes)

Simbumrollback.JPG (44574 bytes)

Simbumrollside.JPG (52156 bytes)

Here's the bum roll on Helena, one of my dressmaker's dummies.  Yay!  This is one of the smaller ones!  Well, OK, her hips and waist are almost maximum size, but at least I'm into the size 8-16 model, rather than the XL one these days!

I have checked Helena's measurements with the tape and they are correct, but this thing fits me better as we are different shapes!  At lest it gives you an idea of what's going on with it.  As you can see, If I lose an inch or two before the project finishes, I can snug this tighter with another row of Velcro, and there's room to sew that on without having to remove the roll from the base.

Simfarthingalefront.JPG (87284 bytes)

Simfarthingaleback.JPG (87102 bytes)

Simfarthingaleside.JPG (86633 bytes)

And here's the farthingale from three sides, with only three hoops so far.  I have enough nylon boning for one more large hoop, so it will go in row five, the first above the hem.

I'm hoping the hem will look a little less warped when the channel is stitched and the other hoop goes in the hem.  This is still only pinned.

I think I'll try to get hold of something a bit more substantial for the Margo Farthingale.  This is OK, but I have a feeling it might buckle under a really heavy skirt.

Again, if I shrink before the project finishes, I can just move the bar for the hook on the waistband, and overlap it a bit more.

Well, that's it so far!  I'm afraid you will all have to wait a while before I can get to finishing this farthingale: I'm out of hoop boning, and out of time!  I have a town crier's cape to make, and his hat to trim, and 23 poly voile panels 4.5m long to make before 4th March!

22 February 2005

Quick up-date:

I was away visiting the Frozen North over the weekend, and managed to drop into Dainty Supplies, and ask their bridal specialist for some advice about boning.  I bought a whole reel (25m) of a triple fold poly boning that seems a lot stiffer in use than it looked.  She uses it for boned bodices, hooped skirts, and all sorts, and came up with an interesting idea: for crinolines and the like, she uses a single steel hoop at the hem, and this stuff all the way down for weight saving.  For this Simplicity farthingale, I shall stay with the poly boning all the way down, using this stuff to complete it, and try that on the Margo farthingale.  I shall experiment with this stuff in the Simplicity bodice, and see what it's like.  If it looks good, I shall use it in the Margo corset.

The other thing I did was undo the tie on the lowest hoop and slide it closed a bit more, after sewing the channel.  This has fixed the slightly warped and sticky-out look of that bottom hoop.  I now need to persuade Alan to drill a new set of holes...

I also bought some more poly stuffing, and the hook and eye tape needed for the Simplicity set.  I got some fine poly chiffon for partlets, as it was a third of the price of the silk chiffon.  It won't be as nice, but it will look good in the photos, and is a lot better than the crinkle poly stuff the Simplicity pattern recommends!  I failed to get the right kind of ribbon, so may have to do an internet shop for that...

Alan remarked that my hobby was both bulkier and more expensive than his (he builds plastic aircraft!), so I pointed out that it was cleaner!  Son James gave a hollow laugh, and remarked:  Not when you start throwing fabric about!


By the way...  Never try to sew a farthingale with the hoops in!



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