my crazy life

Archive for the category “How to”

Bustle Tutorial- Sort of

In a previous post, I showed a picture of the blue and brown bustle dress I’ve been working on. On my Facebook page, I had a couple friends ask how I managed to make it. Now I don’t profess to be an expert by any means, and there are millions of ways to drape a bustle, but this is how I did mine. (Coincidentally, it was easier to write this and make a second bustle than the first, 3o minutes versus about 9 hours of fussing)

So mini tutorial, ready set go!

Fabric, pins, scissors, measuring tape, thread, and of course your victim. Mine happens to be an American girl doll that was near my sewing table.

When I made the brown bustle, I used about 2 yards of 45 inch wide fabric. It is a synthetic taffeta, and since I didn’t want a hem weighing it down, I just singed the edges until they melted a bit. You can line your bustle if you would like, just bag line it or flat line it and finish the edges with bias tape, it’s all up to you really. For the doll’s bustle, I just took the dimensions of the brown bustle and shrunk them down using some questionable math techniques and ended up with a waist band of 2 inches by 12 inches and the bustle part of 14 inches by 20 inches. Disclaimer, I did not finish the edges on this bustle in the pictures, because I’m terribly lazy and this was just a mock-up to show how I made it.

So essentially two rectangles, super fancy I know. Also, forgive the super wrinkly fabric, this was just made from scraps

Mark the center back on the larger rectangle, and make tailor tacks or just mark about every three to five inches (I did about every eight-nine inches on the brown one. Again it’s up to you, depending on how many pleats you want and how deep you want them) I marked the measurements with an orange sharpie just to make sure it was clearly shown. I wouldn’t suggest it on your expensive fashion fabric.

Mark center back and where you want the bustle skirt to start on the waistband, I started mine near the sides, rather than in front.

Pleat the skirt onto the waistband, sew it together then flip the waistband down and slip stitch it together so there are no raw edges showing.

Yes my thread was green, just to make it easier to see what I was stitching to what. Now here’s the draping-ish part. With the first finger and thumb of your left hand, pinch the first mark you made on the skirt closest to the waistband.

Like so

With your first finger and thumb of your right hand, pinch the second mark you made on the skirt and bring together, transferring both pleats to your left hand so your right hand is free to grab the next pleat.

Continue this pattern with all of the markings, bring them all together and pin it while you prepare to stitch them together. Make sure you have each pleat lined up with the others, or you could skip a pleat without intending to while sewing.

I just whip stitched them together, but you could put loops on the inside of the skirt to allow the pleats to be pulled up or down.

Stitch that section to the center back of the waistband or you could attach a hook and eye to allow it to be pulled up or down.

Attach hooks and eyes to the waistband and you’re done!Well, what do you think? Are there any other inventive ways you’ve discovered to make a bustle without complicated instructions that make you want to scream?




Because I’m such a hobbit, this is how I manage to sew:

Alternatively titled: Mainstream patterns never fit, and I’m so desperate, I’ll alter girls’ patterns to fit.

I posted about the brocade zouave shrug on Thursday and promised to show how I altered an 1863 girls’ pattern to fit me. Well, real life got a head of me and now it’s Sunday and I’m barely starting this post. Ah well!

I bought this pattern to make a dress for my little sister. Can be found at

So the pattern looks like this, for a child’s jacket:

It’s actually pretty small, more so in the front than the back.


And here’s my modifications to make it hobbit sized:

As you can see, I lengthened it a bit and also made it wider in the shoulders and under the armscye

Also, you get to see my totally ghetto way of patterning. we’ve had this wrapping paper for years, and I hate it, so  the best way to get rid of it is to use it for pattern paper. (It’s also cause I’m a total cheapskate) So basically, I just enlarged it to fit my shoulder dimensions and length, pretty easy. I’m sure you could do it via computer, but it was just as easy to do it manually. I lengthened the front more than the back, just to deal with the boob factor, but overall it turned out very nice.

Also, my ghetto way of patterning sleeves, as commercial patterns are always wrong in some way

Yeah… that is an old sleeve from a shirt I wore years ago. The thing is, it fits with no modifications needed, so it’s my magical sleeve draft for everything.


So there you  go, you know my magical secret! By the point, I’ve given up on commercial patterns, it’s easier to fight my way through drafting my own pattern than to mess with altering a commercial pattern.

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