Pirate Vest at the Witch’s Castle

Last August I got to enjoy a few weeks of free time before starting my new job. To make the most of the summer, I rounded up my siblings and we had a lot of fun exploring and going out to places we’d never been.

One of the things we did was go down to Oregon for a day and poke around Portland. We tried to hit up Voodoo Doughnuts but the line wrapped two blocks down the street so we moved on to our main activity of the trip:

Hiking to the Witch’s Castle

The “castle” is located in Forest Park and is actually a rest area built in the first half of the 20th century although there are plenty of stories about the area’s sordid history and its supposed hauntings.

It was a gorgeous, easy hike. Only about 20 minutes from where we parked and with lots of scenic areas to enjoy. Much of the structure was covered with graffiti, some less appreciated than others, but there was a pretty sweet witch.

There were two miracles that happened that day:

  1. That this sweet girl made the whole day, there AND back, without needing to go to the bathroom. I don’t know how (or why) she did but we were sure glad she didn’t have an accident in the car!
  2. That my brother agreed to do a photoshoot.

I don’t know what made him agree to it, but I brought along his pirate vest and accessories and he agreed to put them on and pose!

He’s so handsome! Last August he didn’t have any pants to go with his outfit but he sure does now!

I’ll have to find a way to convince him to dress up again so we can get the full effect…


Pocket Hoops + Petticoats

A couple more pieces from what I wore on Halloween…

Pocket Hoops:


I used this panier-along tutorial for the entire process which was very easy to follow and quick to make. I spent an evening preparing for the project, deconstructing an old pillowcase so I could use its fabric and drafting the pattern pieces out of ads from the newspaper.


I cut out the pieces right before going to bed and had it all done by noon the next day. It was such a quick project that I didn’t think to stop along the way to take progress pictures but here you can see them right after they were finished. I strung them on a length of white cord and tied them around Barbara so I could start measuring for the petticoats.

The tutorial pointed out that adding slits was optional. I chose to add them and spent a lovely day being able to carry all of my belongings around with me and stockpile candy to hand out to the kids.



The tutorial suggests using basket cane for boning which I’d never had any experience with. Shopping around a bit online, I purchased what turned out to be a rather large quantity (750 feet!) of 2.25mm round basket reed. I tried to balance price against diameter but one strand of it was too thin to provide much support.

To counteract that, I used ten pieces of cane bundled together in each boning channel. Ten pieces together were definitely strong enough to support the hoops and my skirts atop it all.


Fabric: Blue, 70/30 linen/cotton blend (recycled from an old pillowcase)

Pattern: Drafted using this panier-along tutorial 

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread, cane, cord to tie around my waist

How historically accurate is it? Accurate fabric content, though it’s a blend which I’m guessing knocks it down a few pegs. Partly hand-sewn.

Hours to complete: 3-4 hours.

First worn: Halloween 2015

Total cost: Fabric ($0), cord ($1), cane ($13) = $14 total.

Under & Outer Petticoat:

To make both petticoats I followed this 18th century petticoat tutorial. Another quick and easy guide to follow, I had them both done in a little over 24 hours. Honestly, the part that took the longest was just hemming all the fabric!

They’re both pleated onto bias tape which tie in the front and the back, leaving slits down the side of each side seam long enough that I can access the pocket hoops underneath.

Fabric: White cotton, green and blue synthetic something-or-other

Pattern: Drafted using this 18th century petticoat tutorial

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread and bias tape

How historically accurate is it? Accurate with regards to cut and shape. Not so much the fiber content, color (?), or use of the machine

Hours to complete: 5-6 hours altogether

First worn: Halloween 2015

Total cost: Fabric (~$15), tape ($0)= $15 total.


As a bonus I wanted to make mention of what I used as stockings that night. If I’d have had more time I would have liked to make a set of stockings and garters but this fell to the wayside and I had to scramble on the morning of.

At first I had thought to not wear anything on my legs but it was too cold that day. My next thought was to wear tights but I was wary of how that would turn out with stays. I remembered a blog post that I had read awhile back (I can’t find its link for the life of me!) where a lady cut the legs off her tights and used them as 18th century stockings.

She suggested cutting them off as far up as you could go, leaving a bit of the different (“control top”) fabric at the top to keep them from unraveling and rolling them down. She had luck with them staying so I thought to give it a try!


I chopped up a pair of pink tights that I hardly ever wore. They rolled right down to my knees and stayed there the whole night. I made a pair for my brother to use as well though he had a harder time keeping his up. He didn’t want to roll them down as his pants pulled up a few inches when he lifted his legs or sat so he just tried to keep them pulled up.


Mine were pretty muddy and stained by the end of the night. It rained some that day and I walked through a few puddles around the neighborhood. I hadn’t realized that the green dye from the shoes I made would run. The stain didn’t lessen at all with washing so I guess they’re  now a pair. The shoes held up great, though!

18th Century Stays (HSM #10)

October was a whirlwind of sewing projects, one right after another, in preparation for Halloween. I started sewing for tonight back in January but, like it always seems to happen, everything bottlenecks in this month. In the past few weeks I’ve made almost a dozen garments so I figured that at least of them would fit for this challenge. Haha.

The prompt, Sewing Secrets, was a rather clever one. I was really eager to participate in it, though I had a hard time coming up with anything overtly secret to make. Thinking on it, though, I realized that the stays that I made for myself had a few secret things about it, however small.


They’re made from Butterick 4254 View A — with a few adjustments. I’d made a pair of stays for my sister from the same pattern over the summer so I had a good idea of how the pattern, without any adjustments, would fit me. So, to make mine, I raised the top three inches and cut two inches off both back pieces. I improvised the boning pattern.

The garment, in and of itself, is a secret one. It’s meant to be hidden under my outer layers so not many people will ever see it.


It’s made up of three layers of cotton duck and one layer of a turquoise synthetic I’ve had forever. One of the secrets in this garment is a busk. I cut about fourteen inches off of a yard stick and rounded the edges (using nail files – I lost my sandpaper!) so that it would fit nicely down the front of my stays. In the past, busks were often intricately carved and decorated and they made great gifts from one’s lover! Sadly, mine is plain but it’s a fun secret addition.

Secondly, I also like to think of the color scheme as a secret. I picked fun colors, not worrying about staying too accurate, and I had fun with the ribbons at my shoulders. The bright pink goes well with the turquoise and ended up matching the flowers I wore in my hair tonight!

I posted a few in-progress shots in my instagram, so you may have seen it along the way.

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Final view. Please excuse the smudges. A pirate wench can’t be too clean. 🙂

I reduced my waist about 4 inches tonight, pretty much the max that I could do and still be comfortable. It takes forever to lace – I guess I put in too many holes – and the string I have to use is absolutely gigantic. About 12 yards long. Eep. I used zip ties and duct ties for boning and I would call the stays fully-boned, although there are a few small gaps here and there.

The Challenge: Sewing Secrets (HSM #10)

Fabric: White cotton duck (1 yard), turquoise synthetic (1/2 yard)

Pattern: Butterick 4254

Year: 18th century (early-mid)

Notions: Off-white quilting thread, off-white bias tape, black grommets, duct ties, cable ties, yard stick (busk)

How historically accurate is it? Fairly. Except for the fact that it’s largely machine-stitched. It’s hard to put a percentage to it.

Hours to complete: 10 days.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: Cotton duck ($6), blue synthetic (stash), cable ties (stash), duct ties ($5), yard stick ($3), bias tape (stash) = $14 total.

I am really really happy with how these turned out. I’d made a pair of very lightly boned stays over the summer, but this was in a completely different league. So much intricate sewing and detailing went into the garment and I put a lot of effort into adjusting the pattern to fit me better. I feel like I’m getting a lot better at making adjustments, which is excellent. In all, I have some that will make me happy to wear, even if no one else can see it. 🙂

Happy Halloween!!

A Passel of Accessories (HSM #7)

This is an extremely belated HSM post but I assure you that I did, in fact, complete these items back in July! I ran out of time to photograph and write about them…but better late than never, right?

1. Jabot

The first accessory that I made was for my brother. A jabot to go along with his pirate vest that will cover the gap between it and his neck stock.


It was quick and easy to make; one evening’s worth of work. I cut up some trim off of an old Victorian bodice and mounted it onto a rectangle of cotton. I read through this tutorial before sitting down to do my work, which helped a lot.


The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Cotton and lace

Pattern: Followed the aforementioned tutorial

Year: Early/mid 1700’s

Notions: White thread

How historically accurate is it? Uh, it looks accurate, overall. Not the fiber content, though. 75%, I’d say.

Hours to complete: 1 hour or less.

First worn: Early August for a photoshoot.

Total cost: $0. All from my stash.

2. Pocket

Next up was an 18th century pocket for my sister. I did a fair amount of research leading up to it and found that styles really ranged according to personal taste and materials available. So, I went with a period technique of re-using fabric from other garments and used up more of the old bodice from the Jabot project.


I drafted a quick pattern on a piece of notebook paper and it was all done over the course of two lazy, summer afternoons.

I bound the edges with red bias tape and stitched a waist-tie to the back. Here is the final product, using my hand for scale:


front back

The sides look weirdly curved in the photos but I promise they’re straight in person! And you’ll probably notice that there’s a buttonhole halfway up the back; it’s to accommodate an insulin pump.

The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Floral fabric of questionable content from an old bodice

Pattern: Self-drafted

Year: 1700’s in general

Notions: White thread, red bias tape, waist tape

How historically accurate is it? Well, it shares the spirit of 18th century pockets. Probably only around 30%.

Hours to complete: About 4-5.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: $0. All from my stash.

3. Silver Shoes

I was content to leave the month’s challenge with what I had already done, but on the second-to-last day of the month I did a bit of shopping at Goodwill and came across just the pairs of shoes I had been looking for. I snatched them up and cleared my schedule the next day so I could get them both done. I did some hasty research and read through this, this, and this tutorial before starting.

First up: a pair for my sister.

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This is how they started out: dyed pink pumps probably worn once for an event and then donated. There’s no wear on them at all! I tore the sole off and used shoe glue to cover the upper with silver fabric.

Then I sliced a couple inches down on both sides of the toe and used duct tape to make a template for an extended tongue. I cut it out of some leftover cotton duck and glued it onto the upper using some shoe glue before covering it, too, in the silver fabric and held it down with with bobby pins.


While it dried I cut out tabs out of the same blue duck.

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Finally I sewed across the bottom, attached the tabs, glued some leather on the heels, reattached the soles, and bound it all up to dry overnight.


Ta da!


The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Silver fabric, blue duck, black synthetic leather

Pattern: None

Year: 1700’s in general

Notions: White thread, grommets, shoe glue

How historically accurate is it? Like 25%. It’s in the ballpark of 18th century shoe design.

Hours to complete: About 5.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: 4.99 for the shoes. Everything else from stash.

4. Mules

The same day I made a pair of shoes for myself. Here’s what I started with:


I cut away the sides to make mules and used some more duck to extend the tongues. I stiffened them with shoe glue and then glued and sewed them on so there was no danger of them coming loose.


Lastly I pulled off the soles, glued some fabric on the uppers, and then sewed across the bottom. I left the heels green and, as one final touch, sewed lengths of cream trim across the tops.


I bound them up to dry overnight alongside the first pair.




The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Blue/gold fleur-de-lis fabric

Pattern: None

Year: 1700’s in general

Notions: White thread, black thread, shoe glue, cream trim

How historically accurate is it? Maybe 35% this time. The shape is more accurate.

Hours to complete: About 5.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: 4.99 for the shoes (with extra 30% off, I think). Everything else from stash.

So there we have it! A busy month with a lot to write about…but I finally got it done!