Condo Blues: How to Make a Jester Costume

Sunday, September 22, 2019

How to Make a Jester Costume

One of the things I love about sewing costumes is the challenge and I try to do that with every jester dress I make. Normally I cut each piece of my sewing pattern out of a different color fabric to create a color block jester costume, I load it up with jingle bells, and I’m good to go with a costume that’s close to jester’s motley.

I need a new jester costume for renaissance festival and historical performances and when I want to dress to empress on Halloween.

This time, I went for the Crazy Person Challenge of sewing a jester costume with a homemade diamond pattern quilted fabric. I made new everything from the skin out:bloomers, hoop skirt, skirt, bodice, and hat. This project took four months to complete.

Which just goes to show you I don’t just play a fool on weekends, it’s more of a 24/7 lifestyle. I’ve never quilted before and after this project I may never quilt again!

how to sew a jester costume
Pin this costume tutorial to your Pinterest boards for later! Share it with your friends! 
Photos by Jay Robinson and Checkmate Photography

How to Make a Female Renaissance Jester Costume

What I used to make this project:

100% Cotton Broadcloth fabric – I like using heavy weight broadcloth for my jester costuming because the bright colors do not fade as quickly, it’s easy to clean so I can roll in the dirt if the laugh requires, it’s comfortable in the heat, and unlike fancy court fabrics it can get wet in the rain.

Sizzix Big Shot

Sizzix Diamonds 60 Degrees Sides Die – this is the exact quilting die I used and recommend. There is no way I would have cut hundreds of identical size diamonds with a rotary cutter without going insane.

Rotary cutter – I have this exact Fiskers rotary cutter and recommend it!It is so much easier to use and cuts much better than my first rotary cutter that works so well it never sees the light of day.

Self healing cutting mat

Clear sewing ruler like this one

Simplicity Pattern 3782 Elizabethan Costume Dresses – I used this pattern because I have it and I know the bodice fits. If you don’t’ feel comfortable hacking ready made sewing patterns try Simplicity Sewing Pattern 5582 

Spring steel corset boning – it is much more comfortable and durable than plastic boning – honest!

Corset bone casing

Grommets and grommet setting tool


Thread – There is no way I can match the thread to all of the crazy colors of my jester’s costume. I use this as an excuse to use up all of the half spools of thread I bought for other projects and haven’t used since

Seam ripper – because I made so. many. mistakes.

Straight pins

Sewing machine

Fabric Scissors

Iron and Ironing board

Jingle bells

Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Channels (you can try Amazon Prime Channels for FREE here!)to watch while you work on this project. You will be behind your sewing machine for a loooooong time.

(Disclosure: I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience)

Step by Step How to Make it Tutorial

1. Use the Sizzix Big Shot and Diamond die to cut diamond shapes from the fabric. I can’t tell you how many I used because when I got tired of sewing I’d spend an afternoon cutting diamonds and fabric strips.

2. Using the rotary cutter, self healing mat, and sewing ruler cut 1 inch wide strips of the color fabric you want to use to connect your diamonds.

3. Determine the color order of your diamonds, take a photo,  and write it down! You’ll lose track of the order throughout the project. Trust me on this.

4. Sew the diamonds to the 1 inch fabric strip.

how to sew a diamond pattern

Tip: I should have used a straight stitch to quilt my diamonds to make fabric instead of an over locking stitch. I thought the over lock would be more durable but I didn’t expect the stitches to show when I pulled the fabric taught to wear the bodice. Live and learn. Don’t be me.
5. After ironing the diamonds and fabric strips flat with the iron and ironing board, put the fabric on the self healing mat, line up the sewing ruler to the edge of a diamond and use the rotary cutter to cut the fabric strip at an angle. Continue this until all of the diamonds have a little angled tab.

6. I found it easiest to do sew the diamonds in as a quilt as you go situation although it meant that some of my blue diagonal lines may match exactly because I’m a first time quilter. I’m OK with this because my real focus is the diamonds and I’m a jester. I often make some of my garb and props a little wonky on purpose.
how to sew a diamond quilt
You'll want to use the sewing ruler and rotary cutter to even out the sides before you move to Step 7

7. Press the seams of the sewn diamonds, pin it to a 1 inch long strip and use the sewing machine to sew it into place. Press the seam when you are finished.

8. Repeat Steps 1 – 7 as needed until you end up with 4 quilted diamond panels of fabric – one for each bodice pattern piece piece.

how to sea a diamond quilt pattern fabric
This is the quilted diamond panel before I pressed it. I know some of the blue doesn't line up perfectly (first time quilter remember?) but the diamonds do and that is my focus for this project. As always, your mileage may vary.

9. Following the Elizabethan bodice pattern of your choice, use the quilted fabric panels and sewing supplies to make your jester bodice. I cut my solid front bodice pattern up the center to make it a front lacing bodice. I also free handed a triangle pattern to make my jester point sleeve cap and bodice skirting and finished each point with a jingle bell.

10. Sew the diamonds together in a strip to make the skirt border.

how to sew jester motely
This is before I pressed the quilted skirt border

11. Follow underskirt pattern in Simplicity Pattern 3782 or the skirt pattern of your choice to make the jester skirt and sew on the border you made in Step 10 to the bottom of the skirt.

how to sew a quilted skirt border
Hi everyone Lacey here! Lisa's skirt has dark spots because it was still a little damp from steam pressing it before she took the photo.

12. Quilt another large square of fabric and use Elizabethan Italian Bonnet Pattern (this is similar to the out of print pattern I used) to make the jester’s hat. Trim it with more jester points and bells or as desired.

how to sew a jester hat
I made this Gigantic English Bonnet as an homage to my jester mentor who wore a huge flat cap. To this day, I follow his guidance when performing. 

13. Use Elizabethan Lady’s Underpinning pattern to make the farthingale (hoop skirt) from muslin fabric. I took apart my store bought hoop and used it as a pattern. If you’d rather buy than DIY, you can buy ready made hoop skirts here.

14. Use Simplicity Pattern 2777 (or similar. I hand drafted my bloomer pattern and bought my shift – shirt) to make bloomers and a shift (blouse.)For a more Elizabethan look on this shift pattern close the sleeves at the wrist with elastic or a drawstring These aren't renaissance period bloomers but the kind that cover all of your modern underthings and that may show when you accidentally trip on your skirt and fall flat on your face (this happens more than you know no matter what character I play.) This you'd rather buy than DIY, you can buy bloomers here and buy a renaissance women's blouse here

15. Be there with bells on and fool around!

how to sew a jester costume

If you’d rather buy than DIY a jester costume, check out the following options – and more! – below!

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Anonymous said...

Wow! You are so talented! This costume is fabulous.

Teresa B said...

So pretty! I love the skirt. Thank you for sharing the tutorial at The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned.

Frugal Hausfrau said...

How cute!! My gosh you are so talented!! Thanks for sharing with us at Fiesta Friday!


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