Sewing – Simple skirts

Looking back at my sewing, by far the largest part has been simple skirts. I love skirts, and wear them most of the time, to where people actually comment when I’m not wearing one. As they’re easy and quick to make, I have quite a lot, mostly wide and knee-length. So it’s time for a quick overview.

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I think this was the first circle-skirt I ever made. I still like the  colour a lot.


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I love plaid, and this fabric was just too pretty to resist when I saw it.

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I love toile de jouy, so I simply had to make something with it. The only downside is that this fabric creases terribly…

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My cupcake skirt. I don’t wear it that much, but I love how cheesy it is. I think I’ll need to make a proper bell-shaped petticoat to wear underneath.

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A friend of my mother actually gave me this fabric. It actually had a half-circle printed pattern printed on it!

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The latest addition. This was left-over fabric from skirts made for my dance group. It’s an ‘almost-circle’ skirt, because I didn’t have enough fabric left for a full one. I’m really happy with how the lace at the bottom turned out!

All of the skirts above are variations of two simple patterns, either a rectangle pleated to a waistband, or a circle skirt.

As the name says, a circle skirt is made of a circle pattern. You can also use only part of a circle, such as 3/4, or even make a double circle. The basic pattern is as follows:



You can calculate the diameter of the circle in the middle by taking your waist measurement and dividing it by the number pi (π on your calculator). I usually just cut a very tiny circle, see if it fits, and then make it bigger and bigger until I get it right. It’s a bit scary to cut out the whole circle in one go. For a double circle skirt, just cut out two circles (make the inner circle a lot smaller, the exact size would be half of your waist size using the formula), the cut both of them open from hem to middle point and then sew them together.

The other type of skirt is a rectangle, pleated to a waistband. The pattern would be:


The width of the rectangle is the waist measurement times 3, with the only condition that your pleats will be done in such a way that there’s 3 layers of fabric. (there usually is). The height is the length of the skirt. I won’t go into pleating methods here, but there’s loads of tutorials online.

Traditional Costume – Arnemuiden

Arnemuiden is a town in the province of Zeeland, in the very South-West of the Netherlands. Most traditional costumes from this part of the country are known best for their elaborate lace headdresses, and the same holds for Arnemuiden. It is also one of the few places where the costume is still worn daily by a group of women.

Girls in the sunday costume for a special occasion

The costume consists of a black shirt, a colorful ‘beuk’, which is basically a shirt without sides or sleeves, a shawl-like garment of the same fabric, a white under-skirt, a black over-skirt and an apron (either black for Sunday or white/black patterned for work days). The headdress consists of a metal spiral piece of jewelry, a lace under-cap, a small blue cap and a large lace over-cap. The woman almost always wore necklaces made out of red coral and gold. Here are some pictures of the different parts of the costume:

Beuk for sundays

The shawl with the beuk. This would be worn around the shoulders, the front points tucked into the skirt.

A woman wearing the work costume, with the patterned apron and without the large lace cap.

The jewelry worn with the lace cap. They’re called ‘oorijzers’, which means ‘ear irons’.

You can see both the under-cap and the large over-cap. She’s also wearing the oorijzers. The hair is rolled over a hairrat in the front to give it its shape.

The blue cap worn between the under and over cap.

A lace over-cap

A traditional necklace of red coral. The more strings and gold, the richer the woman wearing it.

A group of school girls in 1944

A group of women who still wear the costume daily. (Together with the people who made a book about them)

Inspiration – Spencer Jackets

In december, the pattern company Sense & Sensibility had a sale and as their patterns can also be bought as e-patterns, I couldn’t resist. Paper patterns often involve expensive shipping, but an e-pattern will only cost printing paper, making it a lot cheaper and therefore not so bad if I never get around to working with them. I bought three patterns, the elegant ladies closet, with dress patterns, the regency underthings pattern and the spencer & pelisse pattern. I have a ‘want to-do’ sewing list which is way too long already, so I haven’t made any concrete plans yet, but I’ve started to look at inspiration pictures. Because I would really like a new dress, and I don’t really have proper stays, and it does get cold out without a jacket, and… You get the idea. So for now some pretty pictures of regency spencers.

Met museum

Augusta Auctions

Kulturen, Lund, museum

1807, Robertson – Andrew, Princess Amelia

Sewing – Stays

Last year, I made my first corset. All my previous sewing experience had been with modern of costumy garments, mostly a lot of simple skirts, so it was a challenge. Because I’d no idea how well it would turn out and mostly just wanted to try it out, I was hesitant to spend a lot on a commercial pattern. After looking through many online patterns, I settled on the pattern generator of this Danish website:

I have no idea as to how historical the pattern is, but it creates a 18th century type silhouette, which was what I was looking for. The first mock-up didn’t really fit properly, but I think I managed to get it sort of right. I used construction methods learned from youtube, and sort of guessed where to place the boning, as the pattern didn’t say. Everything considered, I’m pretty happy with how well it turned out.

I made it out of left-over fabric of a skirt I made, it’s not very historically correct, but I love the pattern. I had two layers of strong fabric and one outer layer, used spring steel boning and black bias tape.

I didn’t take too many progress photos, but this one is while binding. I had to be very careful to stay away from the pins. It reminded me of a medieval weapon.

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When I started the binding I had 2 meters of bias band and figured that would be plenty. This was the amount I had left at the end. At least now I know that it takes about 2 meters to bind a corset with straps!

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The finished corset, lying flat, still without the ribbons or lacing cord:


And on my dressform:

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Sewing – Progress on the 1860s dress

This summer I unexpectedly had extra time on my hands, and I decided I’d try to make a 1860 black velvet mourning dress. The only problem was; I didn’t have any Victorian undergarments yet, so I’d have to make those as well. Of course, my planning was way too ambitious and in the end I didn’t even start on my dress, although I did finish my corset and crinoline, and got halfway with the petticoat. I’ll post about those garments later. This Christmas holiday, I finally started working on the dress and made some good progress on the bodice.

The inspiration for the dress was this 1861 dress from the Met museum:

I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the picture. It’s so dramatic, and that without too much details and trimming. As this is my first Victorian dress, I didn’t want to make it too difficult for myself, so it was perfect. I bought the fabric back this summer, and it was actually a challenge to find black velvet of good quality at a reasonable price. There’s way too much stretchy, shiny stuff out there. My usual fabric market didn’t carry what I wanted, but the second one I visited had just enough left in pieces of 3 meters that I got it at a very good price. It’s so lovely!

For the bodice, I decided to use Truly Victorian TV400. It’s slightly later than this dress (early ’70s instead of ’60s), but the shape looked very much the same to me, and this was the only pattern I could get second hand. The only thing I changed was the length of the sleeves, and added the flare at the bottom. My mock-up fit almost perfectly, so I didn’t have to make any alterations to the pattern.

Next up was the scary part, cutting into the velvet. I still get nervous whenever I start cutting, and spend a lot of time rearranging the pattern pieces on the fabric!

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he sleeve pieces. I ended up shortening them even more.

Once cut, I first attached the lining of the front bodice to the velvet in the center, as this is where the bodice will open. Once I got this right (after 3 tries, as my velvet stretched differently than my lining and the machine pulled terribly…), I stitched the velvet and lining together at the other edges to avoid any more slipping of fabrics. Next, I pinned and sewed the darts.

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The front panel, pinning the darts

Next up was stitching the back and side pieces together and pressing open the seams.

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The back and side panels put together

I then sewed the front and back pieces together, cut the boning and sewed on the boning channels. I forgot to make pictures here. I used large cable ties as boning.

Final step of construction were the sleeves. I first sewed the under and upper sleeves of both the lining and velvet together, and cut the flares. I knew there was a way to sew these together in such a way that no seam would show, but it took my 30 minutes of staring at the fabric pieces and 3 attempts when pinning to get it right. The second sleeve only took 2 attempts, so I guess I’m getting better at this… At least it worked out!

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Pinning the sleeves together. How do these fit together again?

Finally, after sewing on the sleeves, I pinned on the buttons and fit if they were placed correctly. I changed the placing slightly and sewed them on. I’m so glad I found velvet-covered buttons in the right size! I was afraid I’d have to cover them myself, and as I’ve never done this it would’ve been very time consuming. Luckily, there’s a shop in Utrecht which is completely filled with buttons and lace and trimmings. Whenever I need something specific, I know that if they don’t carry it, it can’t be found. They’ve never let me down so far.

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Pinning the buttons on the front.

So this is where I’m at now. I just have to sew the buttonholes, and I’m currently debating if I should do them on the machine or by hand. I don’t really care if it’s a 100% historically correct (I did all other seams by machine), but I’m afraid they’ll look too sloppy. On the other hand, I’ve never done them by hand before, so I’d need to practice first. After the button holes, it’s time for trimming! I have the most lovely black lace, so I’m looking forward to this.

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Traditional Costume – Marken

This post will be about the traditional costume of Marken. Marken is a small town on what used to be an island in the inland sea the ‘Zuiderzee’. Around 1930, the ‘Afsluitdijk’ was built, a very large dike (or levee), which closed off the entire Zuiderzee from the North sea, making it into two very large inland lakes now called the ‘IJsselmeer’ and the ‘Markermeer’. This had a large impact also on the village of Marken, as the people lived off the sea. In the 1950s, the island was connected to the mainland with another dike  officially making Marken a peninsula.

A map of the Markermeer and IJsselmeer, including Marken.

Because it was an island for so long, the costume of Marken is quite different from many other traditional costumes in the Netherlands. It is, for instance, the only costume with a corset-like bodice.

The costume exists of a colorful striped underskirt and a dark over-skirt, a blue apron with a checkered top, a shirt with either dark blue (winter) or striped sleeves, an embroidered corset, and a red over-jacket with a square of flowered fabric pinned on. All together, the costume of Marken is very bright and colorful. The following are some images to get an idea of how the costume is built up.

This is the shirt worn under the corset and jacket. Only the sleeves show, so only these were made in the more expensive striped fabric.

Over this shirt, a corset, or bodice was worn. I always think it’s a shame that you can only see a hint of it between the skirt and the jacket, because they’re usually very beautiful.

This dressform is not wearing the overskirt or the jacket, so you can see the corset.

A shorter corset. This one has darker colors and purple, so is worn in mourning.

The red jacket, which is blue at the back, is worn over the shirt and corset.

This was called a ‘bouw’, and was pinned on the center of the jacket. It was always made of flowered cotton.

A drawing including the over-skirt, bouw, apron and the headwear.

Girls wore almost the same as their mothers, boys were also in skirts until a certain age. They could be distinguished from the girls as they wore a checkered instead of a flowered ‘bouw’, and a slightly different hat.

Little boys, 1943

The Marken costume has many variations, most noticeably those for weddings and Pentecost. These are some beautiful pictures of variations of the costume.

A bride costume, for the afternoon church service.

A bride, in the morning.

Pentecost costume

Daily wear for heavy mourning in summer.

The costume also has a very distinctive traditional hairstyle. A large part of the hair is brought forward and cut into bangs, and two large pieces are kept long at the sides to fall down in curls. The back is shaved off and is hidden below the hat. Obviously, this hairstyle only works if you wear the traditional head wear. This is what it looks like without the headdress.

Today, only 6 women still wear the costume and all of them are over 90 years old, which means that the costume will disappear from daily life very soon. The people on Marken still wear the costume on special occasions though, the most noticeable being Koninginnendag (the day when the Dutch celebrate the birthday of the queen), where they dress up in the orange version of the costume. (as orange is the color of our royal house)

The marching-band on Koninginnendag

A little girl on Koninginnendag