Plus-Size Steampunk

Maximum Fabulous – Minimum Budget

Archive for the ‘Apprentice Tutorials’ Category

November 27th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Curtains: 1912 Evening Gown–to Sew or Not to Sew

Start with what you have and then see what you can make with it.  I found some lovely items while on my last thrifting trip: a wedding dress with train and veil, a gold sheer curtain panel, and a white brocade curtain with valance and lace sheer.  I dyed the wedding dress except for the sleeves, but found another use for them, which will be featured as a later project.  The items are pictured below along with some other fabric I had, because as I draped and played with the curtain pieces I came to a dillemma: To SEW or NOT to SEW?


$15 thrifted wedding dress with train and veil, pearls and lace Curtains, veil, antique satin and random cloth

Curtain panel with lace sheer, brocade and scalloped edges

I have these two curtains, one of which is a lovely golden striped panel and the other is ivory with a lily design in brocade and scalloped edges. I draped them over my dress form and saw how lovely they looked together, and almost figured to make a string-tie, no sewing dress, but then I wanted it to look a bit more fabulous than that. Then I found a pattern (Simplicity 1517) and decided to do more research. It’s  close  enough for steampunk, but I like doing research, as you can see below. For one thing, my verson looks much heavier than the pattern.


Front view of no-sew 1912 dressSide-view of no-sew 1912 dressSimplicity 1517 Lady Mary pattern from Downton Abbey c. 1912simplicty-1517-detail

Fashion Gallery ca. 1912, the year the Titanic sank. Click thumbnails to see larger images.

So I’m still deciding about sewing a dress–not a difficult project–or making it with safety pins and and string. I suppose I could do it both ways–first with the string, as shown above, and then cut and sewn. I’ll have to cut the fabric either way, and that is what is stopping me. I can’t go back and get more if I screw it up.

So, dear Steampunk Reader, you can see that I have the same trepidations as anyone else.

sketch of no-sew dress.

Here’s a sketch of how it would work with string and safety pins, along with a brooch or two to keep the shoulders together. The gold panel will have to be cut the short way to go around me–I’m not wearing horizontal stripes! But it could be pinned together to make a tube, and then use stitch witchery to make a hem and a channel for a string to tie it over my boobs.

I’d have to cut a hole of some kind in the veil for my head. I would either leave that just open and ragged, or glue some lace or even seam tape to it.


One panel of the brocade curtain will be split lengthwise so that both pieces will have an outside scalloped border and the design will be right-side-up on both sides. I would cut it across the short side as well, making four pieces, and then fuse the raw edges together at the shoulders.  I would also use stitch witchery to fuse a hem on the non-scalloped side to make a nice finish.

Then I would take the short panel of the curtain, or use a coordinating fabric,  and tie it just under my boobs for an empire look. The “sleeves” of the veil and the overdress, would just be caught up in the belt, and the veil would then hang over the gold curtain, under the crossed brocade curtain pieces. I would arrange the scalloped pieces across my belly front and back, and voila! A new dress.

I’m not sure how I would make it if I decided to sew it. I like the Lamaonva dress above as well as the Hollander. Which one do you like?

Would you prefer tips on sewing or on non-sewing projects?

September 24th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Ancient Artificer Secrets

Steampunks are practical and sensible folks who have imagination. The artificer secrets, rules, guidelines, values, whatever you want to call them, are listed below.

1. You can do this.

 You will get more notice for making your own stuff, so stand up proud, take a deep breath, and repeat the Maker Code:

    1. It can be done.
    2. I can figure out how to do it.
    3. If I have gumption, there’s no way it will not get done.
      (with apologies to Robert M. Pirsig)

2. Keep it Simple, Steampunk! 

Start simple and work up to an assemblage of stuff that is more than the sum of the parts.

3. Easy Does It.

Remember that whatever you make should be comfortable. No one should suffer for steampunk.

4. Use Good Craftsmanship.

Take a bit more time and make it to last.

5. Be Safe.

Slow and steady is much better than a quick trip to the emergency room. Use your head.

6. Open your mind.

 Think of what that bit of flotsam could be, not what it is.

7. Practice Safe Scrounging.

One woman’s scrounge is another woman’s theft. If you go dumpster-diving or road-side picking, ask first.

8. Remember the Budget.

Don’t buy anything you don’t have a use for in the short term no matter how cheap it is.

9. Some things are worth paying for.

You may want to save up for that one fabulous piece that you can’t easily make. See what you can do on your own.

10. Have fun.

 Get some perspective and have a good time, both making and cosplaying nice with others.

Safety-Pin Plus-Size Steampunk Bustle Skirt

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