How to Sew Ye Olde Ren Wench Bodice

So, you’ve got a basic ren wench bodice pattern.  Yay! Now it’s time to pick some fabrics and sew it all up. 

During this demo, I use the following skills:
  1. Setting Eyelets for Doll Clothes
If you're working to human size, use these instead:
  1. Hand-worked Eyelets

You’re going to need supplies:

  • Outer Fabric
  • Lining Fabric
  • Interlining Fabric
  • Boning
  • Thread to match your Outer Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Something to cut the Boning
  • Machine Needles
  • Hand Needle
  • Pins
  • a Variety of Pokey Implements (knitting needles, round tipped needles, chop sticks, etc)

Let’s talk a little about that list, starting with what kind of fabric you might want….

If you’re working to a doll size, you want to stay relatively light: I’m using broadcloth for my Outer and Lining fabrics, and muslin for my Interlining.

If you’re working to a human size, cotton duck is a really solid choice for an interlining. Your outer fabric should be a mid to heavy fabric, like cotton duck, brushed cotton, corduroy, or some sort of festive upholstery brocade. Your lining fabric can be something light and cheap, like cotton broadcloth or even muslin.

In either case, you don’t want anything with a lot of space between threads. Also, fabrics with chenille (fuzzy) threads tend to be bad because they ravel like the dickens! If you’ve never made a bodice before, stick with cottons. They’re less expensive, they wash and wear well, and they’re easy to work with. Also, no matter how tempting it is, don’t try making this in leather or suede until you’ve made a few and know your way around the construction and you can do the whole thing without pinning. Smooth-faced leathers, like vinyls and pleather, do not “heal” when you stick pins through them. You make a hole, you get a hole.

I often use the same thing for both my Outer and Lining fabric when I made bodices like this, because it’s less obvious if the lining shows that way. (Cheating, possibly, but also clever.) I really don’t tend to work with upholstery brocades or patterns in this type of bodice, though. If I did, the cost would convince me to use a different lining fabric.

Do not prewash your fabrics for this.

What? But we must ALWAYS PREWASH EVERYTHING! My mother/sewing teacher/friend/grandmother said so! She wouldn’t lie!

I don’t prewash fabrics for corsets and boned bodices. Prewashing shrinks the fabric. Normally, that’s good, because you don’t want your skirts getting shorter in the wash.  In corsets and boned bodices, it’s bad. Think about your favorite pair of jeans – they’re tighter right out of the wash than they are a few hours later. If that sort of relaxing and stretching out happens with a boned bodice, it loses the ability to provide support. If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to sew without prewashing something, wash the outer fabric only.

Now, how about boning? For a bodice like this in a human size, I use jumbo zip-ties. You can get them at your average DIY super-store. They’re between 36 and 48″ long, and about 1/2″ wide. You can cut them easily with a tin snips. (They will eat your sewing scissors for breakfast, so don’t even try…) For the light amount of boning we’ll be using in this bodice, Ridgeline and strimmer line will not be appropriate. For a doll, I was planning on using normal-size zip-ties, but they’ve all mysteriously disappeared from the garage, so I cut up some plastic canvas into little plastic rods. They worked fine, and can be cut with scissors.

plastic canvas for boning

Dolly boning, cut from plastic canvas.

For doll fabrics, you’ll need a size 10-12 machine needle. For human fabrics, you’ll want a 14-16. Generally speaking, your sewing will be improved by using the smallest needle that will reasonably work. I used to be a total 16 addict, because fatter needles don’t break as often. Unfortuantely, they also punch gracelessly through the fabric, and things get kinda jumpy and seams get a little squirrely. Thinner needles are able to slide better into the spaces between the threads of your fabric. The right needle size is more about how tight the weave of your fabric is and how tiny the threads in it are than about how thick it is.

For human sizes, it’s safe to guess you’ll need a yard each of your outer and lining fabrics, and a hard and a half of interlining. You will probably have significant leftovers. For dolls…. You know, most dolls are really tiny, and the bigger problem is that fabric stores don’t like to cut less than 1/8″ yard (4 1/2″). That is more than adequate.

I’m bored with words now…. Let’s sew!

cutting layout

Place your pattern on a folded piece of fabric and cut, so you get two of each piece. Do this once for the outer fabric, once for the lining, and twice for the interlining.

Next: Sewing the Boned Interlining…

One thought on “How to Sew Ye Olde Ren Wench Bodice

  1. The Kirtle | kirtletheturtle says:

    […] A.k.a. the big, challenging, holy-sh*t-I-swear-the-sewing-machine-is-cursed part of this project. Because I’m oddly shaped and didn’t figure that a commercial pattern would be worth the money I drafted this from scratch, using resources from Drea Leed and Missa the Semptress. […]

    2 years ago | Reply

Leave a Reply to The Kirtle | kirtletheturtle Cancel reply