Friday, September 19, 2014

(Hand-sewn) Corded Petticoat

I thought I'd make a post about my pride and joy, my corded petticoat. Every stitch is hand-sewn. It's made of about 3-3.5 yards of white cotton (I bought 4) and probably about 130 yards of Peaches and Cream yarn. I used the giant 700-yard cone, and I haven't made a noticeable dent in it. I bought it all at my local Walmart, and it was a pretty inexpensive project in terms of materials, probably about $10-$15.

Isn't it lovely? I apologize for the wrinkled state of it and my comforter.
I worked on it from early June to (very) late July. It probably took upwards of 60 hours, which seems like an eternity, but I watched tons of period movies and miniseries on Netflix (I highly recommend Wives and Daughters, Bleak House, Jane Eyre, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

I'd originally planned on doing 100 rows with no spaces in between them, but I quickly decided against that. I ended up doing 55 rows in this configuration from the bottom up: 15 rows, a 2-inch space, 10 rows, a 2 inch space, 15 rows, a 2-inch space, 10 rows, a 2-inch space, 5 rows. Well, the spaces may not be exactly 2-inches; I used my spool of thread as a guide. Close enough, right?
My first row of cord. I felt so accomplished.
I started by ripping the cotton into 1 yard pieces. I then made two "tubes", using the selvages as the seam allowances. I sewed the two tubes together at the bottoms; this forms the nice clean hem. I started the cording at a seam, pinning the yarn in place and then sewing it. It's a bit fiddly to pin the cords between the two layers, but once I got into a good rhythm, I was good to go. To pin the rows, I'd turn the petticoat around to where the opening was facing me and felt my way around to pinning the yarn. This takes a bit of practice for it to not feel awkward. I'd then turn it back around and stitch the cords into place.

 After the first row, I ran into a dilemma. The seam allowance from the hem seam was getting in the way and bunching up, making the second row difficult to pin. It took me a few minutes to think of trimming the seam allowance. I trimmed it very close to the stitching of the first row, and the second row was infinitely easier to pin and sew.

A detail shot of the beginning/ending of section
At the end (and beginning) of each section, I made a small knot in the yarn, and stitched around it a few times before starting the actual row. (See photo). The photo isn't all that descriptive, because it is difficult to photograph white-on-white details. And it doesn't help that my only camera is my iPhone. My stitching along the seam-lines is less than great, I'm sad to say. It's rather difficult to sew through a million layers at one time. I promise the rest of my stitching is much better.

After I finished sewing in all the rows of cording, I trimmed back the inner layer with pinking shears, but I'll probably trim it down again, closer to the cords. This left me with about 0.5-1 yard of cotton, which has become a few petticoat waistbands and a pair of chemise sleeves. I finished it off by gathering the waist, adding a waistband, and sewing on a button. I haven't sewn a buttonhole yet. I will when I finish my corset and finalize my waist measurement.
Sewing in cording
Even a few rows added some body.

The petticoat falls to about my upper-mid calf, which is perhaps a tad short, but that's how it happened. It measures to be about 88 inches wide. I wanted it to be 90 because I like round numbers, but I could only find 44 inch wide cotton.  The cording comes up to my upper thigh/lower hip, which seems to be within the range of the period. I've seen some 1820s-30s corded petticoats with cords in just the lower 1/3 (like this), and I've also seen some later ones with cording all the way or almost all the way to the waist (like this). 

Overall, I'm very happy with it. It's less than perfect, but it was my first real historical piece of clothing, and I'm very proud of it. 

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