Sewing a Keystone Victorian Skirt

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Unboxing a Vintage Singer from Ebay

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Bootstrap Dress form – Finally Complete


It’s been a long time coming for this Bootstrap fashion dress form to be completed. Unlike other projects that sit in the UFO pile for a while, this project was actively holding up other projects that I needed to drape! Click here to see my previous post about this project.

I’ve had my old dress form for maybe 10 years. It was given to me by my Mum and I’ve been using it to hang knitted parts of jumpers before I sew them together. But it was useless for draping. It is made from fabric stretched over plastic and will only hold a pin if I push it in at a steep angle so it’s hard to be precise. Also when I enlarge it to my size it leaves gaps in the exact places where I need to put pins. However, the biggest problem was that I could never get the darned thing to fit my shape.

But now I have finished, and she is finally here in all her glory. If I behold her, I may just have to squint a little to ignore some of the defects that have made this project imperfect. But despite these issues I am super happy with the result.


  • All of my draping dreams will now come true (maybe)
  • Squishy
  • My size
  • Not full of spiders (like my old one)
  • Pretty fabric
  • Used up a lot of cabbage (coleslaw stuffing)
  • Makes everything I put on it look stylish
  • Massive arse


  • One shoulder is a bit lower than the other (my imprecise sewing)
  • The fabric was damaged a bit when I had to unpick areas so there are some bumps
  • It’s a little odd seeing your shape like a doppelganger with no head.
  • Massive arse

For this project I did have to break out my sewing machine. The hand stitching just wasn’t neat enough and caused puckers. Although if you would like to read about my outlandish opinions on sewing machines, click here.

This project started off well, I was leisurely and aiming for high quality workmanship. I cut out my pattern pieces from paper and laid them on my pre-washed fabric for a long time while I arranged everything. I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t have enough fabric for the bust sections to be pattern matched. But the fabric was expensive so I’m glad I had enough (1.5m) for all the pattern pieces.

Pattern pieces – bootstrap dressform

I didn’t have seam allowance on the pattern (it’s optional – I prefer not to have it) so I cut out each piece with a generous allowance. I then cut out the pattern pieces flush from the iron-on interfacing. That way I could use it as a guide for sewing.

Unhappy interfacing – bootstrap dressform

Well that was the plan!

As soon as I received my order of iron-on interfacing I knew this would be a problem. Firstly, it was lighter than I expected. Secondly, the surface of the interfacing made me physically recoil. It just felt gross to touch. Slippery and fury and like squeaky plastic. I ironed on each pattern piece to its interfacing and hoped I had done with the worst of it.


Ripping out the neck seam – bootstrap dressform

After doing the first few seams I gave them a damn good press with the iron. And the interlining started to move and bunch up and reattach to the fabric in strange ways. I was not a happy bunny. I’m 95% sure this is why my shoulders are uneven.

Two back pieces sewn together – bootstrap dressform

Anyway I soldiered on, pressing my seams less heat and worked my way through the instructions.

Insert your own montage music

I found doing the internal support part the hardest. I just had to wing it and hope for the best. If it was terrible, I could unpick it. But found it was ok first time.

Stuffing it is the MOST fun part of the project. It’s really difficult to visualise how it’s going to look in 3D while you are making it. So when you add stuffing is really when the magic happens!

It was only when I got to the lower part with the stuffing that I realised, Damn, I have a big arse… It looks quite out of proportion without my full shoulder width to balance it out.


  • Pattern – £16.65 (after conversion from $) – Bootstrap fashion
  • Fabric Robert Kauffmann – Sky, 1.5m £30.95 – Misformake (I have expensive tastes)
  • Interfacing 2m -£7.00 – William Gee
  • 2x 6″ Zips – £4.31 for a pack of 10- William Gee
  • Jumbo Car Sponge (for the neck) £2.69    Ebay
  • Push fit Waste plumbing pipe 32mm width £5.85    Ebay
  • Filling – Mixture of stash toy stuffing (1kg bag) and cabbage – £0.00
  • Stand – I used the original stand from my old dress form – £0.00

Total – £63.99 – Not cheap but still cheaper than a professional dress form! If I was doing it again I would choose a heavier, cheaper fabric and not use interfacing.

Would I do it again? Yes. It was a fun challenging project and the resulting dress form will be used for many of my future projects. I could always use another.

What would I do differently? Use thicker interfacing. Remark all the pattern points before using each piece. Check twice, sew once. Don’t work on it when I’m tired. Use sturdy card on the arm holes and *check before you sew* if any printing will show through the fabric.

Have I inspired you to make your own dress form, custom fit for your specific measurements? Or maybe you have one already and use it for draping projects. If so let me know in the comments!

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Being Trash for Bernadette’s Shoes

I did the thing. I knew I would. The temptation was too much.

I’d been waiting for the email to drop into my inbox for me to pre-order the new American Duchess Bernadette’s in Blue/Black.

I already have a pair of Cherry tone Londoners so I was super excited to have a similar shoe in a cool tone. It also seemed like a perfect jumping off point for a project I’ve been thinking about for a while: A complete handmade historybounding inspired wardrobe.

The first part of the project will be starting with the shoes (both pairs) as inspiration, I want to create an Edwardian style outfit with a modern edge.

With that very thin excuse to dive into Pinterest, I’ll be off to draw up some sketches and document the process in the coming months in time for the release of the shoes in December.

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My Wedding Dress

So, recently I got married. Yes, despite Covid, despite lock down, despite the restrictions of ceremonies to 30 people and weddings being banned for more than three months. We were booked in to get married in March. But lock down in Britain was suddenly announced 5 days before the big day and we were forced to pick a new day at random. We chose August and hoped that weddings would be allowed by then. Luckily weddings started again in July with heavy restrictions. Only 30 people and no reception afterwards. But we were just keen to be married.

My dress is called Elodie and is from the Modeca 2019 La Papillon Collection. It is a tulle ballgown with and externally boned sweetheart bodice and illusion neckline with cap sleeves. The bodice has layers of ruched tulle and lace and embroidery over a blush lining.

The skirt has 7 layers, from the inner lining of white satin, through several layers of poofy tulle, topped with a last layer of tulle with embroidered appliqué of flowers and butterflies on white, blush and gold thread. There is a long train and the edges of they layers are gently gathered to form a gentle poofy cloud that almost floats along the floor.

Custom Dressform from Bootstrap Fashion

I found Bootstrap Fashion on an Instagram post and instantly knew I’d discovered something special. In a nutshell, you add your measurements to the website and the website creates a pdf pattern for a custom fit dressform you can make at home. This is one of those ideas that makes your realise technology is amazing.

But wait, there’s more! It’s not just dress forms. There are garment patterns for women’s dresses, tops, jumpsuits, bridal, corsets, coats, jackets and lingerie.

But wait, there’s more! Men’s shirts and jackets and children’s dresses. ALL CUSTOM FIT!

I was so excited about it I decided to become an affiliate and spread the word.

Reasons why I’m so excited about my dress form pattern:

  • It has lots of different settings, not just measurements but options like shoulder slope, posture and *cough* belly protuberance. So you can get a real body shape.
  • It’s very size inclusive. For example the hip measurements can be anything from 18″ and 68″. Also height options between 4’7″ and 6’8″
  • It’s very affordable at only $24.
  • It’s quick. The website boasts only a 20 minute delivery time for you pattern to be emailed to you. My order only took 6 minutes which is amazing.
  • You can create a soft dress form suitable for draping onto. Most dress forms available are plastic which is not very easy to stick pins into for draping fabric.
  • You can make it with some awesome fabric.
  • You can use the patterns commercially. So if you decided to start a business making custom dress forms for customers you could totally do that.

So I downloaded my pattern and printed it out without a hitch. I requested an A4 pattern but I was tempted to go for A3 as I can print A3 at work. You can get your pattern in a wide range of paper types which is quite impressive.

While I waited to get to a printer (I’m only in the office when I have a meeting because of lock down) I started the search for a fabulous fabric to make my dress form with. I settled quite quickly on this breathtaking digital printed quilting cotton from Robert Kaufman’s Sky collection and ordered 1.5 metres. I am a sucker for painterly techniques and this fabric is like an atmospheric oil painting of a seascape. If I’m totally honest, I was a little disappointed when it arrived. It has more of a yellow tinge to the lighter areas.

After washing and ironing my fabric, I laid out my pattern pieces. Because of the pattern I had to fold the fabric cut edge to cut edge, rather than selvage to selvage. I was really relived that I had enough fabric to space my pieces where the colour gradient could flow from the bottom to the top. Also these pattern pieces are without seam allowance so I need a but more fabric to cut out around the paper.

So the next step is to cut out the fabric pieces and interface them. I’m waiting for an order of iron on interfacing to arrive so I will leave this blog post here for now. I also need some more bits and bobs for the project. It’s also going to affect all my other projects that I need accurate fitting for so this is actually holding up all my projects at the moment.

Keystone Jacket In Yellow Wool – Part 1 – The Back

I really wanted a short, smart spring jacket. One that I could put on over a nice dress if the weather got chilly. I was thinking cotton moleskin or velvet in light blue or grey. But while sorting through my stash of fabric I found 1.5 metres of mustard yellow wool. Which is the complete opposite of that I had envisioned. But when you have a top quality fabric to hand and is the right length and weight for what your making, you taketh what the Sewing Gods giveth.

I bought this fabric 13 years ago. Yikes! I only really remember it because I had just finished my first week of bar work paid in cash and walked home past a fabric market stall. After spending most of my wages on a variety of wool fabrics, I went home very happy. I had not realised that I had this piece still tucked away.

Firstly copied over the pattern onto fresh paper with a tracing tool and a sharpie. I had drafted the jacket with a length of 32 inches which was too long for this project so I chopped it off at the hip line. I did take pictures of this process but my trusty phone died and I lost a lot of the most recent photos.

I laid out the pattern pieces on the fabric and pinned it down. Then I roughly cut out the parts with a generous seam allowance so I had space to make adjustments. For each individual piece I drew the outline in tailors chalk, then thread marked these lines in black thread. These will be taken out later.

Chalked and thread marked pattern pieces

I then realised I didn’t have the right colour thread for this project. This is what happens when you make random last minute fabric changes… When the thread arrived I could start hand-sewing the back pieces, starting at the centre back. I was careful to sew my seam just next to the black thread marking. That way it would not catch the black threads and I could just smoothly pull them out afterwards.

Hand sewing the thread marked pieces

I continued sewing on each section until the back was complete and ironed each seam open.

Back pieces together.

Next I had to do some fitting adjustments. These mostly consisted of taking some fabric out of the seams where wrinkles were forming. Also as a stylistic choice I decided that the lower back flared out far too much so I took out some of the fullness. It’s actually going to be about three inches shorter in length when I get to hemming it.

Back pieces on a dress form

I took the black thread marking out after that and ironed it all thoroughly. While I was doing this I realised there were some supplies I still needed and ordered some contrasting lining fabric and some horse hair tailors canvas interfacing. The canvas smells really strongly of horse which I am not a fan of.

Contrasting navy lining fabric

Next I will start making adjustments to the front pieces and start pad-stitching the collar and lapels. However I need to do some more research and I’m currently waiting for a book to arrive on Victorian tailoring techniques. So I will end part 1 here and hopefully have more updates and pictures next week.

Keystone Jacket and Dress Cutter – Charles Hecklinger – Part 2a – Drafting

So now to the drafting process. Which is similar to asking your elderly aunt for instructions after she’s been at the Christmas sherry. This blog is late because getting it into a presentable format was a massive pig of a task. Also I’ve decided to split it into two parts. Or more … we shall see how it goes.

Things to take note of:

  • Although an alpha-numeric code is used, don’t expect it to be in alphabetical/numerical order.
  • Also don’t expect the jacket drafting points to be the same notation as others in the Keystone book. I’m pretty sure he just picked out scrabble tiles for notation points.
  • Expect to jump about from one side to the other.
  • Sometimes he gives set measurements for all sizes. I’ll make that clear in bold type.
  • Sometimes he talks of using the breast measurement, when he really means half of the breast measurement.
  • Everything is measured in inches.
  • For this example I’ll use the example measurements from the book, not my own.

What you will need:

  • Large sheet of paper – I used wrapping paper. The width needed is half the breast measurement plus about 4 inches, The length will be 35 inches as we are drafting a 32 inch long jacket.
  • A long ruler, 1 metre or yard
  • Standard 30cm/12 inch ruler.
  • French curve
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie or felt tip
  1. Draw a line across the top and down the right edge of the paper. Where they join is point O. Measure down form O, ¾ inch and mark point 1. This is the point at the back of the neck.
  2. Measure down from point 1 with the “Back of neck to natural waist measurement” which is point B. The book gives the example of 16 inches. Then measure down from point 1, 32 inches which makes point C. Using a set square, draw across from these points.
  1. Measure up from point B with the “Height under arm” measurement, given in the book as 7.5 inches again draw across from this point.
  2. Measure across from point B to find point D. The books gives the measurement as 1/12 of the breast. But here he means half the breast measurement (because we are only drafting half of the pattern) So the given breast size is 36 inches, divide by 2 is 18, divide by 12 is 1.5 inches. So B to D is 1.5 inches. With a long ruler draw a line from D to A. This is the back seam. Measure left from point D 1.5 inches to point 6.
  1. From points D and 6, draw a line straight down to meet line C. Label these points 7/8 and 5/8 respectively. Draw a gently curved line from point D to C. Measure the distance from C to 7/8, then use this measurement left from 5/8 to find point 10. Then reflect the curve between points 6 and 10.
  1. Mark the point A1 where the back seam crosses the line at point A. From this point measure across with the “blade measure or front of arm”, given in the book as 10 inches. Mark this point H. Through H draw a vertical line to meet line O and line B, Label these V and J respectively.
  2. Now it gets complicated. To find the measurement between H and the new point F, we take the blade measure and multiply it by 1.5. Then divide the result by 4. So for the example given we have a blade measure of 10. Multiplied by 1.5 is 15. Then 15 divided by 4 is 3.75 inches. So from H back towards A by 3.75 inches is point F.
  1. Measure the line between point F and the unnamed point on line O, lets call if Jeff, divide this measure by 2 to find point M in the middle. Then do the same to find the middle between point M and Jeff, this is point K. Then again in the middle of point M and K, mark point L.
  2. The measurement from O to 2 is the blade measure multiplied by 1.5 and then divided by 8. So for the example again with the blade being 10 inches, multiply by 1.5 is 15 inches, divide by 8 is 1.875 inches. Use a French curve to draw from 2 to 1.
  1. Measure from O to point N which is one third of the half breast measure. So with a full bust measure of 36 inches, halved to 18 inches, divided by 3 is 6 inches. Draw down a line to be level with point M. This is point 4. Draw a curved line from point 6 to just right of point 4.
  2. Mark point 7, one inch left of point 6. This is a set measurement. Draw another curve, starting from just right of the previous line nest to point 4 and point 7 below.

Well that was a lot… I will continue in part two very soon. Hopefully this will have given a rough guide of how to approach the rest of the drafting. I have to reiterate how amazingly good this pattern is and completely work all this effort!

Current Projects – July 20

Just a quick update to show what I’ve been working on. We are in a weird semi-lockdown at the moment. The shops and bars are open but I’m still working from home. So I have a lot of time to work on projects.

Keystone Drafting

I’ve been working on the post for drafting the Keystone Jacket but hit a bit of a brick wall when my enthusiasm fell off a cliff. It’s in progress and actually fully drafted. It’s just the illustrations showing step by step it really complex.

Keystone Jacket

Keystone Jacket

Using the pattern drafted as above. I was originally going to make this is blue cotton. But then I found 1.5 metres of mustard yellow wool in my stash (which I had completely forgotten about) so decided to use that. Currently the back is sewn together and fitted. I’ll work of the front darts next.

Modern Combinations/Pyjamas


These are all in one pyjamas based on a 1910 set of underwear. Sounds weird? Well yes it’s a bit odd. I’ve been looking at Edwardian fashion and the multitude of people who have recreated a pair of “combinations” so I decided I wanted to try it. They are typically lacey, soft and delicate. Then my brain suddenly thought: These would make great onsie pyjammas. So I bought some cotton flannelette and started to make those instead.

More to come…

Keystone Jacket and Dress Cutter – Charles Hecklinger – Part 1 – Measurements. (Or how to interpret a Victorian gentleman vaguely describe female anatomy)

Keystone System for Victorian Pattern Cutting

I stumbled onto the Keystone guide, available free as a scan of the original 1895 book as above, through Bernadette Banner’s Lady Sherlock project last year. I bookmarked the page and filed it in my head under “Future Projects”. As lock down continues I have plenty of time to indulge the reading of obscure Victorian dressmaking books, as you do, and realised it’s pretty flipping complicated.

To those who might be new to this book I’ll give a quick overview. The Keystone Method uses a set of measurements from your body to be able to draw out a complex dress pattern from scratch with just a ruler, pencil, paper, and a set square for good measure. This method differed from the growing range of paper patterns available through magazines at the time because of the fit. Paper patterns were very good for loose fitting garments like shifts and chemises, but the outerwear had to fit snugly to achieve the desired silhouette, so a number of “Systems” were devised. The Keystone System is only one of many.

I decided to write an overview of the Keystone Jacket and Dress Cutter as a primer to anyone who wanted to dive into this very rewarding resource. Going through it myself there were many points at which I was baffled, bewildered and befuddled. So I wanted to “translate” the key parts for a modern reader.

In this post I’ll only be covering the body measurements. Foolishly thinking this would be the easy part, I soon discovered that even something as simple as tape measure could be overcomplicated by the Victorians.

A few things to consider before we dive in. At first I found the illustration in the book unhelpful, an 1895 woman in full corset, petticoats and floor length dress with leg of mutton sleeves makes it difficult to find the physical marker points underneath. I concluded at first that this was prudishness on the part of the publication. However after I sat and stared with complete puzzlement at the assumption that a figure with a 28” waist would have a 46” hip measurement I realised that the illustration was correct. Measurements are taken over the clothes. Specifically, over the corset, shift, bum-pad, petticoats, corset cover, etc. that creates the hourglass silhouette and drastically changes the measurements taken.

For this pattern drafting I’ll be using my own “normal” measurements. I want to create patterns that fit me without any Victorian shapewear so I can wear them as my normal clothing, modern with a historical edge. I hope to show that this system can be translated into a modern setting, making clothing that fits without a commercial pattern.

The natural waist is smallest part of the torso and will be in different places on different people. The book recommends putting elastic around the waist to make sure the measures taken are precise and level. The waist is the most important part of the silhouette and the basis from which all the measures are taken.

The mystery of the “small square with a short tape measure attached” was complex. It seems to have been a common enough to not really be worth elaborating on in the book. I found an illustration in another book Which showed a rigid ruler joined to a flexible tape measure at a right-angle in a “T” shape. I’m not sure if it’s useful to make one, but just knowing where it puts the end of the flexible measuring tape for the two following measurements is helpful.

Taking your measurements

Back Length – measure from the bottom of the back of the neck, where a collar seam sits, down the spine to the natural waist. If you don’t want a high neckline, don’t be tempted to adjust now as this is a set measurement in drafting. You can always adjust the drafted pattern later.

Front Length – from the top of the back of the neck, same as for the back length, curl the measuring tape around to the front and over the side boob (I’m sure there is a better way of expressing it but currently I’m at a loss) to the waist line. This strange measurement is used to check if adjustments need to be made for a “Stooping” (petite) of “erect” (tall) form as these have their own separate instructions. I usually class myself as petite but didn’t need to go for the Stooping drafting option as the “Height under arm” measurement shortened the pattern for me.

Keystone Front of arm – blade measurement

Front of Arm or Blade Measure – This mystified me for a long time. It seemed to measure neither the front nor the arm, but across the shoulder blade to the spine. Blade measure is a better name but the two names are used interchangeability throughout the book. The 1891 edition has a better description this is the shoulder blade measurement from the “front of the arm” to the spine. The “front of the arm” is not where you would expect the side seam of a garment to be, but further forward to include the width of the armpit. Using the “small square with measuring tape” hold the ruler vertically against the shoulder with the tape running under your arm to the back.

Height under arm – from the armpit to the natural waist. It’s worth noting that historical garments fit quite high under the arm. Place the end of the tape measure higher than in modern clothes but not right in your armpit. With the ruler of the “small square with tape” hold it horizontally under your arm and let the flexible measuring tape hang down along the side seam.

Breast measure – all round the fullest part of the bust.

Waist Measure – The book tells you to take this measurement tight. This is because the waist is the smallest part of the Victorian silhouette and they wanted clothing to be smooth and taight in this area. For modern clothing I’ll just take a standard, not too tight, not too loose measurement.

Hip Measure – this is taken 6″ below the natural waist which may or may not be where you are fullest in the hip. This won’t be too much of an issue as with all these patterns, they all flair out backwards over the hip to accommodate a bustle. It is instructed to be taken loosely but I’ll do the same standard measurement as the waist.

Arm Measures – Measurements are taken from the body around the elbow and wrist as well as the length from the underarm to wrist. The top of the sleeve head isn’t taken from the body but from the bodice pattern after drafting. Arms are drafted separately to the bodice.

Next I’ll start using these measurements to draft the pattern. I’ve done this several times now and I think I’ve worked out all the kinks. I hope this blog post helped solve some Victorian mysteries for you.