October 11, 2011

Sewing Your Custom Drafted Hoops

I showed you how to draft a custom hoop skirt pattern here.  You should have ended up with a pattern that looks something like the following image, plus a list of hoop circumferences.

Now I'll show you how to sew it up.  It's really quite simple.  Here's the quick and dirty instructions in nine easy steps, followed by the slightly more complicated process I used for mine (partially by choice, partially because I screwed up), with a few photos-

1.  Trace out your pattern on your fabric.  It's easiest if you just use one long length of fabric so you only have to make one seam.  Make sure you mark the lines where your hoops are going to go.

2.  Sew your side seams together so that you have one big tube of fabric.  You'll want to flat fell your seam or stitch down your seam allowances so that your hoop boning won't get stuck in that space between the fabric and the seam allowance.  Trust me, it's a pain in the ass if you don't.

3.  Hem the bottom edge.

4.  Make a casing for a drawstring at the top by folding the fabric over and sewing it down, leaving enough space to run your drawstring through.  Just prior to doing this, you can make two button holes at the top center front for your drawstring to pass through, or you can just leave a small gap as you're sewing the casing.  In previous projects I've entirely forgotten to do this and ended up ripping small holes in the casing to get the drawstring in.

5.  Sew lengths of bone casing or grosgrain ribbon down along the lines you drew for your hoops.  Sew along the top edge and the bottom edge of each length of casing or ribbon, leaving enough space between for your boning to go.  Be sure to leave a small gap unsewn so you have a place to insert the boning.

6.  Cut your hoop boning to size.  You found the circumference of each hoop when you were drafting the pattern; add 1" to that measurement so that you can overlap the ends of your hoops.

7.  Feed your boning through the channels you made, overlap the ends by 1" and join the together with hoop connectors.   I believe it's easiest to start with the top hoop and work your way down.

8.  Run your drawstring through the waist casing.

9.  Your fabric will probably be gathered and bunched on the hoops strangely, giving them a misshapen and lumpy appearance.  Put your hoop skirt on a mannequin or a willing assistant and adjust the gathers so that they are evenly distributed around the hoops.  This takes some fussing, but in the end you'll have a beautiful hoop skirt shaped exactly as you wish!

Of course I had to make it slightly more complicated than that. 

Step 1.  Remove cat from fabric.  De-fur as best as possible.

They're still carrying this in the utility fabric section of JoAnns if anyone is interested

I used a striped cotton pillow ticking I picked up at JoAnns.  With a coupon it came to about $3 a yard.  It's finer and more tightly woven than regular ticking, and I love the combo of florals and stripes!

Plastic covered spring steel hoop boning and hoop connectors

You'll need some sort of spring steel hoop boning.  There are several kinds, but I tend to use a medium strength variety that consists of two bands of spring steel coated in plastic.  You can find it at corsetmaking.com.  They have another kind that is similar, only coated in buckram, but I find the plastic stuff is easier to cut and is a little stronger than the buckram stuff.  1/7/18 ETA: Two or more years ago this type of boning disappeared from the market entirely due to the death of the owner of the only machine producing it. Now there's a new company called Hoopwire.com that produces the plastic coated version. At this time they do not make the buckram coated version, though I'm not a fan of trying to stuff that type into fabric channels anyway. 

I know that Farthingales has heavier duty spring steel boning, but I've never used it so I can't say much about it.  You can figure out how much you'll need by adding together all the circumference measurements you came up with when you drafted your hoops (add an extra 1" for each hoop to allow for overlap). To my displeasure, corsetmaking.com doesn't carry hoop connectors, so I purchased mine in person at Lacis.  

Awesome cheap boning cutters from Lacis.  Possibly the only thing that is cheap at Lacis.

I got my boning cutters ages ago at Laci's for the dirt cheap price of $10.  They cut through the plastic coated steel like butter, but may not be as effective on the super heavy duty stuff.  

It's easiest to use one long length of the fabric so you only have to make one seam, but that would mean I'd end up with horizontal stripes instead of the vertical ones I wanted, so I sewed multiple panels of fabric together to get one long panel of the appropriate width.  Then I followed step 2 and sewed up the sides to form a tube.  All of these seams were flat felled so that the hoop boning wouldn't catch on seam allowances later on when I fed it into the channels.

Step 3. Remove other cat from fabric.  Attempt to de-fur fabric again, give up.  Consider at least getting matching cats next time.

At least piecing is period, right?

Step 4.  I realized I hadn't paid attention to my measurements earlier and had cut my panels too short, so I pieced in extra fabric at the top to bring it back to the right length.  Again, I flat-felled all seams.

Step 5.  I used a narrow rolled hem foot to hem the bottom.  It takes a little practice to get the fabric feeding in correctly, but it makes a very pretty, very narrow turned hem.  You can see a photo of a rolled hem foot in action here.

Step 6.  I made two buttonholes near the top center front, then turned the top edge down twice and sewed it to form a casing for a drawstring.  

Step 7.  I started out using bone casing purchased from corsetmaking.com, but I ran out after the fourth hoop casing.  I grabbed some grosgrain ribbon to finish off the last four casings.  

Step 8.  Unwind all the cats from the ribbon and kick them out of the room so the last casings can be sewn on in peace.

Pleats vs gathers.  Pleats look meh, gathers win by a long shot.

Step 9.  I had decided I wanted to use some excess fabric to make a pleated trim to go around the base, but upon pleating a small scrap to test the idea I decided that it looked like crap.  I'm kinda bored of putting gathered ruffles on things, but I had to admit it looked better than the pleating, so I hemmed and gathered 6 yards of fabric and sewed it to the base.

Step 10.  Quickly open door and throw some catnip toys to the yowling furbeasts to appease them.  Shut door before they can get back in.

Step 11.  I cut my boning to size (adding 1" to allow for overlap) and started feeding it through the channels.  I started at the bottom and worked my way up, but I think it's easier to to it the other way around.  Before I inserted each hoop I stuck a bit of tape on the end to cover the rough edges so they'd glide through easier.  To join the ends I overlapped them and taped them securely.

I finished each join by using pliers to clamp metal hoop connectors tightly over the taped area.  Those suckers aren't going anywhere!  

Step 12.  I inserted the drawstring, accidentally pulled the opposite end all the way through and had to start over.  I used a 1/4" wide grosgrain ribbon I had lying around as a drawstring.  The texture of the ribbon seems to keep my bow from untying itself when I tie it tightly, but keeps it from over-tightening itself to the point that I can't get it undone when it's time to take it off.


Step 13.  I wish I'd taken a photo of the lumpy mess that was my hoop skirt directly after I finished inserting the hoops, but you'll just have to imagine.  The fabric gets all gathered up on the boning while you're stuffing it in and those gathers need to be redistributed evenly around the hoops to get a nice even shape.  It's easiest if you have a mannequin or somebody willing to wear a hoop and stand still for a while so you can work on getting those gathers distributed right.  Both my mannequins were at work when I first finished my hoop, so I very nearly had my boyfriend put it on for me.  The photos would have been hilarious ;)  Eventually I got it all sorted, and the end result is pretty damn awesome.    

There's just one part that didn't work out for me.  While I was at Lacis I found some fine silk ribbon in the exact same shade as the stripes in my fabric.  I purchased it with the intent of making little bows to adorn the top of every fifth pleat or something, but since I did a gathered ruffle rather than pleats I don't know what to do with it.  Bows look a little silly on top of the ruffle.  I'm considering using it to trim my chemise, bloomers and petticoat so that all of my underwear matches, but then I'd be tempted to make a new corset so that it would match too.  I should probably bury the ribbon somewhere deep in my stash till such crazy thoughts subside...


  1. You never cease to amaze me with your talent =) Nice job!

  2. Ditto to you and your lovely knitted creations!

  3. Oooh! It's so fabulous! And what a great tutorial!

    I vote trim chemise, bloomers and peti with ribbon. You'll need a new corset soon enough!

    When I first saw the striped fabric I thought that you would be doing the stripes horizontally, so that the boning channels ran with each stripe. I bet that would actually work, and not look odd like horizontal stripes usually do.

  4. Thanks so much!

    I thought about doing horizontal stripes, but this time I really wanted vertical ones. I've seen a corded petticoat done with stripes on the horizontal though, and it was beautiful! The best part was that the horizontal stripes made it easy for each cording channel to be stitched- the seamstress just sewed along the line of the stripe! I can't wait to use that technique for a corded petticoat of my own.

  5. OMG This tutorial helped me too much, thank you!

    I'll make a 1851's dress and the shape of this hoop is perfect!

  6. I'm glad it helped you! Post some pics of how your hoop turns out :)

  7. WONDERFUL tutorial! Thanks for this!
    It's been a number of years since I tried to sew with furbeasts in the house... once my allergy surfaced they had to go live in a more hospitable environment, and my fabric became instantly cleaner, although MY environment was far less entertaining!
    Auntie N

    1. I'm glad it's helpful :)
      I don't know what I'd do without my furbeasts!

  8. This is amazing. I'm about to attempt my first hoop skirt for a class and I was able figure out the right amount of boning to order. I can't wait till I have some time to peruse the rest of your blog to see all your pretties. I'm about to purchase fabric and I'm wondering if the grain should run vertically as usual, or horizontally in order to cut down on seams within the boning channels. Is there any reason one or the other works best? Thanks for your help!

    1. I've done it both ways and it's worked just fine. So long as you flat fell your seams, you won't have any issues when pushing your bones through the channels. If you don't, the boning will get caught!

      I'm happy this tutorial is useful for you. Good luck, and when you've got it complete post a link so that we can all see your awesome work :)

    2. If you have time for another question...do I need to sew miles of ruffles all over the skirt so that the hoops don't show through the dress on top? I will be draping the dress, so the hoop skirt needs to be complete before I start the dress.

    3. You could sew on ruffles, or you could wear a petticoat over the hoop skirt to keep the hoops from showing through. I tend to wear one petticoat made of cotton organdy over mine, and it disguises the hooplines perfectly. However, depending on the shape and number of your hoops, you may need more petticoats.

    4. Thanks so much for your help on my project! My dress went to a jury of professionals in the industry (for our school fashion show) and I'm told that the judges loved it! Also, I ordered my hoops from corsetmaking.com and I got them within days. I'm very impressed. Here's a link to my dress...the next picture is the front, and the third is the sketch. Pretty close to the end project! The dress isn't period at all, but I made it to fit in with our theme of fairy tales. I would have had a really hard time doing this without you! Thanks again.


    5. Oh wow what a fabulous shape! I love the skirt concept too, you did a really awesome job. I'm glad to have been helpful :)

  9. Hello, you are incredibly talented and seem to know what you're talking about! I was curious if you have any pointers on how to make an open-fronted hoop skirt. You can reach me at unregularchan@gmail.com. Thank you! :)

  10. Hello! I think you're very talented and seem to know what you are doing! I was wondering if you could give any pointers on constructing an open-fronted hoopskirt! I'm trying to finish this dress, but am a bit lost on how to make the skirt keep its shape. http://s272.photobucket.com/user/rplarpstuffs/media/Serpcostumeele.jpg.html This is what I am constructing. Please get back to me if it's not a bother. :) unregularchan@gmail.com

    1. Thank you! The skirt support you're looking to make is certainly a unique challenge. I wonder if you can use internal ties to keep the front edges from bowing out (like panniers are held in their shape by internal ties). Perhaps tying the ties much looser would keep the skirt support round, rather than the flat shape used for pannier? Here's a photo from the Idle Hands blog that shows the ties- http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-pagNoZUIGLA/TidM2TUaOsI/AAAAAAAAAIA/DfJHS3cV-bs/s320/P1020666-w.jpg


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