The Spanish Farthingale is a stiffened underskirt that gives Tudor and early Elizabethan skirts their characteristic conical shape. You can make a very passable one with a full length gored skirt pattern (either a commercial A-line skirt pattern, or one you draft yourself), a lot of ribbon or bias tape, and boning.
During this demo, I use the following skills:
- Bias Bound Hem
- Ribbon Hem
Cut your gore pieces. They will usually be cut on the fold, like this. You may or may not have a waistband with your pattern.
A simple A-like skirt with two gores will do fine for this project. I drafted this gore with a 73 degree angle to the side seam, comparable to the Alcega farthingale.
Mark the hemline. Mark 3-5 more arcs, each 5-7" apart. It is much, much easier to mark the locations of the hoop channels while the skirt is still flat!
Do this on both pieces. I’m making this for a doll, so I’ve marked the hoop locations every 5/8″.
Pin one side of the skirt and sew.
I've sewn one piece wrong-side-up. I still do these things...
I find it faster and less annoying to rip the seam and resew, rather than remarking the skirt. Once you have the seam in place correctly….
Press the seam open.
On each side of the seam, sew the seam allowances down 1/8" from the edges.
Why do this? It’s going to keep our seam allowances from being pulled wonky as we sew the channels for the boning, but it doesn’t make a large, thick seam that will be hard to sew over.
Pin the second seam. Sew to 12" from the top (1" for a doll).
Secure the seam allowances, as before. This will also make the waist opening look much nicer.
If the skirt waistband is larger than your waist, pleat the extra down neatly. You want the excess near the center back.
Secure the pleats with stitching. If you have to take out more than about 5" (1/2" for dolls), use several pleats.
Finish the bottom of the hoop skirt with a ribbon hem.
A ribbon hem is fantastic here, because it will also form the bottom hoop casing.
Make sure your ribbons overlap at the ends! Fold the final end of the ribbon back under for a neat look. This is important for both the hem and the channels.
With the hem in place, make the hoop casings by sewing the ribbons on each edge. Line the bottom of each casing up with the marks you made earlier.
The casings are mostly a lather-rinse-repeat process. I usually turn my brain off for this part.
I'm essentially using a bias-bound hem as a waist finishing. (I wasn't in the mood to make one more dolly-sized waist band that day!) This will double as a drawstring casing, without adding much bulk.
I am using strimmer (weed whacker) line for my hoops. For a human size, I normally use poly-vinyl tubing or endless zip-tie strip. (Ask someone who works in a machine shop.) You can also use rope, but it can get heavy.
Now, here’s a piece of advice: do not send someone who knows anything about weed whackers to the store to get your strimmer line. They will get something like this, which is great at cutting grasses because of the crazy profile. What you want is the utterly crap round stuff – the kind that grass laughs at. It doesn’t snag so much going through the channels.
Insert the hoop boning into the channel. You'll be able to start this where your ribbon ends overlap.
If you simply cut the boning at the end of the channel, you will get a teardrop shape instead of a circle.
To solve this, cut the hoop boning longer (12" for humans, 1" for dolls) than you need to fill the channel.
Continue threading the hoop boning through the channel until the extra has been pulled in. There is now an overlapped area of boning.
This trick will only work with a gored skirt. It works best if the casing is just barely wide enough to hold the doubled area of the boning. My strimmer is about 1/8″, and I’m using 1/4″ ribbon. The very tight fit acts like a splice between the ends, and it doesn’t really wiggle or shrink. And it’s easy, which I like.
Repeat for the rest of the channels. This is easier said than done - stay calm and work in baby steps.
Thread a cord through the bias tape at the waist.
The hoops being worn, seen from the front.
Hoops being worn, viewed from the side.
In the back, you can see the pleats.