Saturday, February 11, 2012

DIY spats pattern

The 1890's cycling costume that I'm working on right now shows off a bit of leg, so I need to pay more attention to my footwear than normal.  I usually just wear a pair of black pumps and black stockings with my Victorian costumes, but I decided to make myself a pair or tall spats, also known as gaiters, for this costume.  I actually have a period pattern for knee-high gaiters taken from a Victorian fashion magazine, but I've discovered from previous attempts to make them that my ankles and feet are way too big to fit the pattern very well.  So instead of making a lot of alterations to that pattern, I thought it might be fun to show you haw to make your very own spats pattern.  These work great with steampunk and neo-Victorian outfits too if you are not into the historical costuming thing.
Step 1: Figure out what shoes you are going to wear with you spats or gaiters.  Basic pumps with a high vamp work the best, but spats cover a world of shoe flaws, so you could make these to go with a lot of different styles.  Bonus points if you can find some pumps with spool heels.  Put on one shoe, then find a sacrificial pair of stockings and cut it off at the thigh.  Put the stocking on OVER your shoe.

Step 2: Get some duct tape and start wrapping it around your leg.  Start at the ankle first, then work your way up.  DO NOT pull the tape too tight so that it squeezes the flesh in your leg.  You just want it to be snug and fit smoothly - not reshape anything.  I prefer to use smaller cuts of tape that don't even reach all the way around my leg because there is less wrinkling that way.  Since most of your leg is shaped like a cone vs. a tube, it helps to angle your tape diagonally instead of trying to wrap it in perfectly horizontal rings.  Switch directions with the tape and layer the pieces until you cover the entire surface of your calf (or however high you want your spats/gaiters to go).

Step 3: Next, you will start covering the foot with tape, but leave the ankle alone for now.  Start by creating an anchoring strip that wraps around the entire foot at the instep. This keeps the stocking from shifting around on your foot while you work.  Continue covering the top and sides of the foot with smaller pieces of tape going whichever direction will give you the flattest surface.  You don't need a ton of layers, but try to make sure that your foot is covered with 2 layers in most areas to make sure the tape doesn't stretch or slide.  You don't have to worry about covering the toes or the sole since these areas are not included in the spats.

Step 4:  Start filling in the area between the ankle and the leg.  Try to use an X pattern with the tape to cover the larger spaces, then fill in the gaps with smaller cuts of tape.  Don't be afraid to cut narrower strips if that helps - especially for the front or back of the ankle where the curve of the foot is the most extreme.   Make sure you are standing or at least have your leg at a right angle to the floor for this step or else your finished spats won't fit right.  Once you get the ankle covered, try not to walk around anymore since it will cause wrinkling in the tape if you bend your foot too much, and that makes it more difficult to trace an accurate pattern.

Step 5:  The heel is one of the trickiest parts to cover since it is so round.  I wrapped a single piece of tape around the back then snipped the tape every inch or so and overlapped the cut edges to make it lay flat over the curve.   You could also cut narrower pieces of tape to cover the heel since the smaller the tape is, the less it will wrinkle.  It doesn't have to be PERFECTLY flat, but you just don't want large wrinkles or places where the tape gapes away from your foot.

Step 6: You now have a fully wrapped leg. Hooray! Take a sharpie and draw a line down the middle of your leg in the center-front and center-back. If you have somebody who can do this for you, it is a huge help. If you don't have anybody there, all you really need is the center-front line, and then you can draw in the rest once it is off your foot.

Step 7: With a pair of sharp scissors, cut the tape and stocking down the center front line. Once you get past your ankle, you should be able to slip the entire thing off, and then you can put you hand inside of the taped form so that you can better guide your scissors to make sure you don't cut your shoe. I also recommend marking the opening of your shoe on the tape before you cut it off so that you are sure that you spat or gaiter is big enough to cover the edges of your shoe. I couldn't feel the edge of my shoe through the tape while it was one me, so I had to wait until I could remove my foot and then I could feel the edge and trace it.

If you didn't do this while the form was still on your body, draw a line down the outside of the leg for the button opening. I started drawing this opening like Victorian button boots where the edge curves to the front of the foot, but then I looked up some pictures of tall spats, and I realized that this line should be straight and end between the heel and the buckle that holds the spat on your foot. I corrected this before I cut it out. You will also need to draw the shape that you want the bottom and top edges to be. Some period spats had a little dip where the strap that goes under your foot attaches, but others are smooth all the way around the bottom.

Step 8: Cut your tape pattern along the center back and side button lines and lay the pieces out on paper. The tape pieces will probably not lay completely flat, but smooth them out as much as you can and trace around the pieces. You will need to add an underlap on the side opening for the buttons, and a seam allowance to the center front and center back seams. If you are making your spats out of a fabric that frays, you will also need to add seam allowance to the top and bottom edges unless you are going to use some type of binding for the edges.

BTW, I ended up with a curve in my pattern when I cut the button opening line down the side of the leg.  I haven't noticed this shape in period spats - it is usually very straight.  I'm not sure if I am going to keep it curvy or try to straighten the edge out some more.

Step 9: Make a mockup and try on your gaiters or spats.  I made my mockup out of craft felt, but anything sturdy like thick denim or upholstery fabric would also work great.  Pin them closed on the side, then mark any areas that need adjustments.  On my gaiters, I had to take out some of the curve over the calf, and I also tweaked the shape of the flap over the foot a bit.  Transfer your adjustments back to the paper pattern, and if necessary, make a 2nd mockup to test your changes.

Congratulations!  You now have a custom pattern for Victorian or Edwardian spats!

Traditionally, spats and gaiters were made out of wool felt, leather, or canvas, but you could also make them out of other types of fabric.  And if you didn't want them to button up the sides, lacing or buckles would do the trick nicely as well.  At this point, I need to go buy some fabric and buttons, but then I hope to come back with Part 2 of this tutorial to tell you how to construct your fabulous footwear.


Unknown said...

I have often thought that spats would be appropriate footwear here in WI. where its cold much of the time and the ice, salt and sludge can get pretty nasty. Not to mention I just love the look of them:)

Clever pattern technique. I am enjoying seeing your costume come together.

Amanda said...

"wrap it in tape to make a pattern" is one of my favorite techniques!

Julia said...

This is so cool. I was looking for something like that, thank you very much.

Carol Lindsey said...

I would have never thought of this in a million years - genius!

Lumikettu said...

I once made a corset for a friend using the same technique! How wonderful a tutorial!

Unknown said...

Brilliant! And just what I needed - thank you!

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I can't wait to try this. Thanks so much for posting.

Cellandra Zon said...

Since there were three pieces in the picture. I was actually a bit confused as to which piece connected to the next one.

Anonymous said...

What an ingenious way to make the pattern! You are very clever. Thanks for sharing I'm going to try making these for the upcoming Ironfest event. It will be much cheaper than trying to find victorian style boots too!

Jeff said...

Awesome tutorial! Thank you so much! I used your tips and I made these gaiters:'s%20Gaiters.jpg

Diane said...

This is such a great tutorial - thank you!! So much simpler than some of the other pattern-based "instructionals" out there! I am a sewing virgin, attempting to make various pieces for a steampunk costume and I am in the process of making these spats/gaiters at the moment. I made the form just last night, actually! One tip I found that helps: I stuck my duct tape forms (once they were cut out) to grid pattern material (I didn't have any paper suitable for pattern piecing) and then weighted them down with heavy books overnight. This morning, they are lovely and flat and ready to cut. I just pulled the stocking carefully off the inside of the tape forms before sticking them down. I suppose I shall see how this works - ha ha!!! Thank you for being so kind in putting your hard work up here for us all to see and share in!! Your are wonderful!!

Diane said...

BTW – Jeff... your gaiters are fantastic!! I love them! I might have to attempt a buckled version of these for myself! What a great way to adapt and create something SO unique :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great idea. By the way, a gaiter is not the same as a spat. A gaiter is a type of boot that covers the shoe and lower pants leg to protect from rain, mud, etc.

M'lady said...

Did you ever finish making these up? I was just wondering as going to make some myself.

Jen Thompson said...

I never did finish them - sorry! I'll get to it someday.

Pacific Flyway Gallery said...

Thank you for such a greasy tutorial.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial! Nothing beats bespoke patterns. I'm just getting into steampunk, and this will help enormously. Thank you again!

Lucy W, Kent ~ England said...

Brilliant tutorial thank you.
I'm wheelchair bound and have to keep my legs
up and angled, so I'm going to wear these spats
under my pretty skirts :~)

Evelyn said...

That is so Awesome! I'm sorry if that sounds cheesy but Thank you so much!!

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