Sunday, 1 April 2012

How To... Make A Hoop Crinoline

There has been so much going on at our house I'm not really sure where I am or where to start.

The Lady of The Shrine has been finished up and sent to her new home in America. I'm really glad my customer was happy with how she turned out, and I'm really hoping she gets there soon and brings some smiles to her new home.

It's been tough trying to keep working on my dolls with all the dirt and dust and chaos at home caused by us getting a big load of repairs done, and the resulting decoration. It did delay me with The Lady, but only for a few days, a I had a dread of getting her cream silk tunic dirty.

Where our roof was leaking after a few tiles blew off has now been repaired and the dining room and kitchen have been repainted. Luckily we've managed to get everything back in there where it belongs and all my supplies and tools are back where they should be in my cupboard in there. Believe me, it took an age to get everything back in there and I'm still not sure how I managed it.

Our living room ceiling no longer has a hole in it from when Hubby and his dad left all the doors open on a windy day, and is now a perfect expanse of white smoothness. Cris had a hard day yesterday with my lovely Dad-in-law getting everything prepared for the plasterer that's starting here tomorrow who's going to cover over all of the hideous artex on our living room walls (Why? Just why was this done in the first place?). Then we can get the whole room re-painted and everything moved back in. It's hard not having our pictures up on the walls, and all of our books are packed up in the spare bedroom. They've chased all the wires into the walls, bricked up the old fireplace (can't afford to put a nice one in yet), sunk in all the power points, removed the mantle and curtain rail, and generally covered the whole house with nasty black plaster dust. I can't wait to have everything back to normal. I hate having to wear shoes indoors, but right now I just have to put up with it.

I thought you might be interested in a little How To this week. I've started my next doll, and she's wearing a hoop crinoline along with other period style underwear. I figured out how to make these myself and don't follow a pattern of guidelines, so thought you might be interested as it's not as difficult as you'd think. So here is my How To Make a Hoop Crinoline :)

Step 1 - You'll need to find a strong flat metal banding or wire to make your hoops. Something that's flexible and springy but that won't bend so easily that it will get kinks and bends in it. The metal should be just flexible enough to pull into a hoop, but not so flexible that you can bend it to an angle by hand. The metal banding I use is about 4mm wide and around 1mm thick. It's hard to cut and I normally have to ask for some help to get through it, but this size works well for my largest dolls. How many rings you'll need depends on how many you want to add and how heavy the fabric you'll be using for the dolls gown will be. Generally, I've found 4-6 rings is enough to hold out the layers of skirts and petticoats that will go on top. This one has 4 rings as it's not a very big crinoline. The huge Scarlett O'Hara style skirts need a little more support. And the finished skirts will have another few inches thickness (or more), depending how far you want to go adding ruffles to the following petticoats. So make sure you take that into consideration when deciding on the size of your largest ring. Crinolines were made for support, but were not the only support used. You wouldn't ever see the rings through the final skirts as there would be at least 3 ruffled and very gathered petticoats on top of it between the crinoline and gown, the first of which would normally be a thick calico or rougher cotton to make sure the expensive silk petticoats and the crinoline itself would be protected.

Step 2 - Each hoop needs to be a few inches smaller than the one before. The largest sits just above ankle height, and the smallest at just below mid thigh (although you can fiddle this to get the clothing shape you want), so they need to be sized to create a graded shaped bell or dome. I can't really describe exact sizes as it all depends on how big you want your crinoline to be. This one has a slight gradient to it as I'm making two ruffled petticoats to go on top of it which will add a lot of width to the skirts, but as long as you have an idea of the largest and smallest hoop size you just have to cut the others to fit between them.
Step 3 - Once you tape the ends together with an overlap of about 1inch you can start covering the hoops with ribbon. I use 9mm satin ribbon so that I can make sure that the covering stays tight and fitted. It's also easier to be able to catch the ribbon at the edges when you stitch it together so that the fabric doesn't pull. You can use very narrow strips of fabric to do this, or even wrap the hoops in glue soaked fabric or ribbon if you find it easier. Where the hoop ends join the hoop will obviously be thicker, so I sew one layer over the join with the stitches facing out before covering the rest of the hoop with ribbon with all of the stitches on the inside.

Also, yes, my needle is very bent. I use the same needle until it snaps in two as I prefer a needle that has worn and bent in the middle until it sits nice against my thumb. Every now and then I run the point through my knife sharpener to make sure it stays nice and sharp. It doesn't take me long to get a needle into this shape as I'm not too gentle with them. And it's always a shame when they finally break and I have to start over with a new straight one.

Step 4 - Once all the hoops are covered it's time to measure out and fix the straps that hold the whole thing together. Because of where the hoops need to sit, the lowest at just above ankle and the highest just below mid thigh, with a little help and maybe an extra pair of hands you can work out the overall height of the crinoline hoops and divide the measurement into the number of hoops you have so that you can make sure they are all of an equal distance apart. I've used 6 straps for my crinoline, but again you can use as many as you want.

Step 5 - Leaving about 1cm free at the end of the strap (I'm using a narrower matching ribbon) mark the distances between hoops by inserting a pin or by using tailors chalk or a disappearing fabric marker. I'm old fashioned and always just use pins. You need to make sure you leave enough strap free at the top so that they can be attached to the waistband. Until you can try the crinoline on the doll it's difficult to say what this measurement will be so I always make sure I leave plenty free. After marking regular intervals around the hoops for the number of straps you have you can then start sewing things together. I use a trial and error technique using a ruler to measure gaps until I have them all equal, but any way you get the regular attaching points that works for you will be great.

Step 6 - Starting with the largest hoop sew all of the straps into place at the sewing points using the 1cm left at the ends to wrap around the hoop and create a neat finish. Once all the straps are added to the largest hoop then they all need to be attached to the next largest. Putting it together one hoop at a time can be easier than sewing one strap at a time to all the hoops as it's really easy to get the order mixed up and get things tangled, as nothing will lay where you want it until everything is together. The next hoop and all following hoops get sewn onto the straps with a cross stitch through the strap and around the hoop, catching the fabric that covers to hoop, to make sure things stay where you put them. Continue until all the hoops are attached, making sure that all of your hoop joins stay in line at the back. The final strap that's at the back of the crinoline does not continue up to the waist band so that the doll can be positioned to sit. So cut this strap off leaving about 1cm that you can tuck around the hoop and make a nice finish as you did with the bottom band. If you leave this strap in place then you'll find that the skirts will flip up when you try and seat the doll, just like the ladies in The King & I. Not good for a Victorian lady's sensibilities!

Step 7 - As you can see here, it's a little difficult to make sure all of the straps stay taught when the crinoline is done. But as long as most of them are then everything will work just perfectly. Most of the hard stuff is done now. And the only thing left is to attach it to the waist of the doll. If you want it to be removable so you can remove it to package up or store the doll, or so you can use the crinoline to display a number of different dolls, then you need a waist strap. If not then you can attach it directly to the doll at the under-petticoat waistband. But both methods are roughly the same. Put the crinoline on the doll and pin the straps to the waist, making sure that the bottom of it reaches to where you want it. Do this for all of the straps as best you can. They do all come out different because of the size and space inside the hoops, but it's easy to fix and make sure the whole thing hangs right. Once you have all of the straps pinned, remove the straps while making sure you have the attach points you've found marked with a disappearing marker or with pins. Measure each and find the longest one, then change all of the measurements for all the straps to this.

Step 8 - Once you have all the waist points marked on the straps you can either stitch them directly to the waist, tucking a little bit under to make it neat. Or make loops like I have here so you can thread a ribbon or strap through which can be tied at the back and make the whole thing removable. And that's it. All done easy peasy :) It might seem like a waist of time as most ruffled petticoats would create a very similar look. But you do get the added advantage with a crinoline that you never need to fluff up skirts and they always stay in place. It creates the proper swinging movement and shape to the dolls clothes whether you display them standing or sitting. Below you can see how the hoops collapse together when you seat the doll - Still giving support to the skirts that will be added over the top.

This lady already has her split legged, crotchless drawers, a wide necked off the shoulder shift (quite proud of myself I managed to get the fit right on this as I make them quite rarely), and her long gathered under-petticoat that will protect her legs from the hard hoops and make sure the crinoline stays clean. I've started on the next layer, a stiff calico petticoat with a wide ruffle around the bottom to create extra width, which I'll add over her corset once that is fitted. After this I'll make her a coloured cotton petticoat with a number of smaller ruffles, a fine fabric petticoat trimmed with lace and ribbons, and then get started on her gown.


  1. I love tutorials and this one is excellent!

  2. Oh my! This was a wonderful tutorial and you have such an amazing project going. Will we get to see the other stages? Her shift looks beautifully sewn. Thank you for taking the time to write these instructions out.

  3. Thank you both :-) I'm glad you liked it.
    And yes, I'll show more pics as I go along with her. I've finished her calico petticoat so I'm now lost in the ruffle hell that is her next petticoat. Hoping all that hemming doesn't take too long.