Steampunk Fairy – Part 3 (the bustle)

Hi guys!

So, this is going to be the third installment of my series on making my steampunk fairy costume. I previously showed you my sketches and my initial sewing of the corset and the beginnings of the hoops for the hoop skirt. Since then, I’ve done a lot more sewing, and I have a lot to show you.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

By the way, sorry it’s been so long since my last post! There’s only seven school days left in my sophomore year of high school, and things have been crazy. Well, really I’ve just been lazy. With everything at school winding down, I’ve lost all motivation to do any extra work, including sewing. Bleh.

Now, onto the actual sewing 🙂

I started out by cutting out the strips of fabric that are going to make up the lining of the hoops skirt/bustle, basically what you see on the inside of the exposed skirt.

bustle lining - Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

As you can see, I was very careful and organized, labeling the strips A-F, corresponding to hoops #1-6. And then I realized a mistake.

Basically, I copied down my waist measurement as the 1st hoop measurement and lost the last hoop measurement.



So now I need to go back to the hardware store and buy another hoop. (More on that later)

I was pretty freaked out at this point, so I made a color-coded diagram to scale (down: 1 box = 1″, across: 1 box = 2″) of the dimensions of the hoop skirt.

hoop skirt diagram - Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

And then I figured out the lengths of the strips A-F, finished cutting them, and started gathering.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

I was sewing the gathering stitches so quickly that my sister turned to me and asked “Are you angry?”

bustle construction - Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

Here’s A and B sewn together. From there, I just kept gathering and sewing until all the layers were joined.

Because I was freaking out a little still from messing up the measurements and was worried that something else was going to go terribly wrong, I decided to start pinning the hoops into the lining. (FYI: Initially, I had planned on having the black ribbons and hoops separate from the bustle, but I think I’m going to combine them into one piece now.)

Here’s what it looked like

the hoops aren't bent quite enough, but you get the idea
the hoops aren’t bent quite enough, but you get the idea

I actually really liked how it was looking, so I felt confident enough to start adding the tulle layers. The purpose of the tulle is to give the bustle volume and keep it from collapsing against the hoops.

I cut strips corresponding to A-F of the lining out of this really stiff tulle that made up the underskirt of a thrift store wedding dress my mom got me for Christmas to cut up. (I also made a petticoat out of the other underskirt.)

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

I gathered them like I had the lining. Then I sewed the upper edges of the strips to the seam allowances of the lining. Like so:

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

And I kept going

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

And going

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

And then I decided that the bottom layers weren’t gathered enough, so I added some more.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

And then I put it on Pinhead to get an idea of how it was going to look. In this picture, the bustle is being supported by my petticoat and some padding to imitate the shape of the hoops.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

At this point, I felt pretty confident that the bustle was going to have enough support. Also, I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it looked. Seriously, that is crazy.

I had a couple more things to do before the bustle is entirely done. Okay, a lot.

1. finish the inside seams – I mostly want to do this to stabilize the seam and make sure that it doesn’t get stretched out when the hoops are held taught against it

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

You can see the ribbons sewn over the seam here. I made the ribbon the exact length of the hoop, but the seams had stretched a little, so I had to gather the seams a little under the ribbon. I was super careful with this step because the hoops need to be held taught against the seam, so there can’t be any extra space or stretching,

It wasn’t exactly beautiful, but since it’s going to be behind a hoop and my legs, I figure it’s okay.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

2. sew the black ribbons on, to hold the hoops – This was a total pain because I went through and carefully pinned all the black ribbons, only to then realize that I’d pinned through the tulle layers. So then I had to go back and repin everything. This step took me about a (procrastination-filled) week.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

I wanted to machine sew the loops, but it was a total pain too, so I hand-sewed some of them and machine-sewed some of them and mostly cursed and hoped for the best. Gah.

3. add pockets for the end of the hoops to slip into – these hold the ends of the hoops and keep them from slipping out of place.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached

To make them, I first made a 1″ (ish) tube of white cotton and cut it into 2.5″ strips and sewed one end closed. Then I pushed the closed end into the tube, like I was going to turn it inside out. I stopped once the end of the tube poked out a little bit past halfway. Then I sewed the edges down at the end of the seams.

4. attach the channels for the vertical supports – these channels are on the inside of the bustle at the very edge, right behind the end pockets but on the other side. They will hold stiff wires and hold the hoops in the right position

At this point, I put all the hoops in and started getting ready to drape the bustle. Here’s a view of it without the outside fabric added.

btw, the strings are just to keep the bustle in shape because I don't have the guidewires yet :)
btw, the strings are just to keep the bustle in shape because I don’t have the guidewires yet 🙂

This when I really started to fangirl over this project again. I’ve been sewing so slowly, and I felt like I had lost interest. But once I saw the shape of the bustle with the hoops added, all my enthusiasm started coming back.

You might notice that the bottom hoop is missing. That’s partially because, as I mentioned earlier, I forgot to buy it, but mostly because I’m planning on making the bottom one out of metal instead of plastic. Even though it’s going to make the whole thing heavier, it (plus the vertical supports) are going to help keep the plastic hoops bent correctly.

I started draping the outer layer, but I don’t have enough fabric to do the bustly-ness I wanted. So I have to make another trip to the fabric store before I can drape the outside and finally finish this whole thing.

Steampunk Fairy Costume | Strings Attached
this is more what the outside of the bustle will look like, once I have enough fabric

I do think it looks kinda cool without the draping. Not enough to leave it that way, but pretty cool.

All I have left to do on the bustle is buy more fabric, drape and sew the outside, finish the outside edge, and hem the whole thing. Okay, that’s still a pretty daunting list, but the end is finally near.

What do you think of my bustle so far? Are you as excited about it as I am?

Thanks for reading

Samantha 🙂

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