Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blue and Gold Hell

Hello, good folks.  My apologies for another long delay in posting.

Running a local steampunk group, and the pesky nuisance of having to work for a living, does seem to get in my way of sewing, making, and writing.  I will strive to amend this.  Let's call it ... my New Summer's Resolution.

Today's post is about my brilliant idea to make a cute short bustle out of an alluring leftover scrap of blue and gold fabric that was given to me by a friend (who had used it to make blinds).

This is the piece of fabric ... this is all there was.  So, pretty as it is, I was immediately constrained by size ... there was no purchasing more.
As I mentioned, I thought I'd make a cute mini-bustle.  A sort of stripey poof for my hiney.  Ah, perhaps you're seeing how this may end.

I tackled this with my usual tendency (lacking a pattern) to simply pin it on my model, play around with it, and see how it looked. (After trimming it down to a nice rectangle of fabric, which meant just removing a triangle off the side.

With a lot of draping and pinning and pleating, and having found a technique for pleating up the sides (which I will link here if I can find it again!), these were my various looks:
I decided to go with the last, more poofy form, largely because it seemed the best one to trim out.  For all of these, I pleated at the waistband to distribute the fabric evenly
Different views of the pleating on sides and back

I used a pieces of narrow twill tape to "bustle" the back of the skirt (i.e., to ruck the fabric up), attaching it at centre back waist and at three spots down the centre back (shown below).
I pleated the sides, bringing the fabric upwards for each pleat.
It took a while of fiddling to get the side and back pleating exactly right. 
I had some gold braid lying around from previous sewing projects, and some awesome steampunk buttons from a local store called Button Button.  I found both blue, and a deep blue & gold fringe at Dressew.  I also bought some blueish-gold ruffle fabric to use (either for this or a future project, and I played with the small triangular scrap I had cut off at the beginning.   I pinned everything on first to make my final design choice.
And these are playing with a ruffled fishtail back skirt (which I didn't do)
I opted for the shortest, pouffiest shape, decided not to use the triangular scrap, and selected the blue & gold heavy looped fringe, with the gold braid over top, and the tasselled decoration with the gold button.

These are the final effects of back and side pleating, below.
Once the back pleats were pinned as I wanted, I sewed across the back to reinforce the waist area and anchor the pleats.

To anchor the side pleats, I sewed through all the layers.  

The side pleating caused the edge to fan out, so I had to turn under the edge to straighten it. (left - pleated and fanned naturally; right - with edge folded under to create a straight line.)

However, this created an exception quantity of fabric, and I tried my best to trim all the excess fabric to reduce the volume (seven pleats, and then folded over ... insane).
Well, I tried my best.  I broke a needle attempting this, and never managed to get through the thickest part.  Seven pleats of this fabric, and then folding over, was simply too thick to sew through. (Really?  You'd think I'd have seen that coming.)
Above is the snapped needle, with the point jammed in the machine.  And the fragment once I pried it loose with pliers.

I used grosgrain ribbon as a waistband (double thickness to enclose the bustle's edge), with snap closure.  This will allow me to wear it under a corset or heavy belt with ease.
To help make it pouf out if I so chose, I made a removable bustle pad out of crinoline netting, (the making of which I shall post next).

So.  Here are side views of the penultimate product (missing the button & decorated tassel trim on the sides.  The bustle pad is underneath it for these shots.
 And here is the final rear view of the bustle.
And here are shots of it, at it's one and only wearing debut at Norwescon 35.  The first two are the most flattering angles of the piece.
However, I'm far less happy with how it looked from the back.  It seems ... odd.  
There were also serious logistical issues with it ... it packed badly, and the carefully crafted and pressed shaping in the centre back, and the side pleats, got pretty destroyed even in a bag of soft garments, and what didn't get smooshed in the luggage got smooshed by sitting on it.  

The side pleats kept trying to droop the other way (how odd, gravity works).  You can sort of see this happening in the photo above left.  And finally, the side edges & hem kept curling in on itself, hiding the lovely trim.  Local sewing friends have suggesting hand-stitching in millinery or thin wrapped wire along the hem, to help with shaping.

Does anyone have thoughts?  Suggestions?  

I'm trying to figure out whether to keep it as it is (after trying reinforcing the hem with wire, and after tacking down some of the pleating in the back), or whether to take it apart, and if there is a salvageable quantity of fabric, reuse this lovely small piece of striped fabric in something else entirely - or even work on one of my earlier permutations (I do still have the triangular scrap).


  1. Hi Tracy: Try stitching some Rigelene (I believe it is still marketed under this name. Pardon my spelling...) boning tape to the inside edge all the way from the waist down around the back and up to the waist again in one whole piece. Rigelene is a flat boning tape with thin rods of boning woven in through the length of the tape. Comes in white or black. You should cap all the ends with some bias binding (or dense fabric) to prevent the rods from poking out. It should work like millinery wire but won't get kinks in it like millinery wire. Make sure that it is curving in toward your body or you will get a very bizarre effect. This stuff will bend/flex and bounce back. Down each side, you may want to reinforce with an additional piece of Rigelene before you attach the whole piece so that the ends of the shorter pieces are covered and don't snag stockings or other fabric (although they should be capped with fabric first). A little padding over the Rigelene along the bottom edge may be necessary if you can feel it when sitting down.
    This stuff can be used as light boning in off-the shoulder-bodices and should be sewn in with the curve toward the body or your garment might do an embarrasing peel down. :o

  2. One additional thought....the shorter pieces of Rigelene: You may want to put the curve, the opposite way, to cancel the curve of the long piece at the sides so that it hangs straight and does not poof out at the sides. To shape this over your hips and then straight at the sides may need a combo of two short pieces at the side. One curving the same way as the longer piece at the top near the waist and one curving the opposite way to straighten the piece where you are having the issue with the fabric having a mind of it's own.