January 24, 2013

Making a Corded Petticoat


In the middle of all the craziness that was Dickens Fair and the holidays, I got the irresistible urge to make a corded petticoat.  I am obviously not sane.  Here's how I went about it.

First off, I chose to use cotton organdy.  I've used this stuff for years as an interlining in bodices, but it's also great for petticoats!  While the cords do most of the work of making the petticoat stand out, there's no reason you can't help them along with your choice of fabric.  I got my organdy from Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley.  Most of the time I've gone there they've had two kinds; one is a very fine, high quality fabric (with a price to match) that I use as an interlining for nice bodices, while the other is cheaper and perfectly fine for petticoats and such.  Beware, the cheaper one feels like rough paper and is too stiff straight off the bolt.  Once it's washed it has a much better feel to it, and it retains the perfect amount of stiffness. 

There are two main ways to hold your cords in your petticoat.  You can make a single layer petticoat with tucks to hold the cords.  Maggie's fabulous corded petticoat would be an example of this method.  When using tucks, you'll need to make your petticoat much longer to start with, as it will get shorter with every tuck sewn.  Your cords will also be spaced apart at least the width of your presser foot.  There are many beautiful examples of this technique, and I do like it.  However, for this one I really wanted the look of cords butted right up against each other, so I had to use the second method.

An example of corded tucks, using a single layer of fabric.  The
width of your presser foot dictates how close the tucks can be.

If you want your cords packed together tightly with no space between, you'll have to use two layers of fabric.  You can use two separate pieces of fabric, or you can simply fold your fabric in two, with the fold becoming your bottom hem.  I folded up the hem of my fabric about 15" and put all the cords within that space.

An example of cords sewn between two layers of fabric.
This method allows cords to be placed right next
to each other, with no space in-between.

While the above examples use fat cords (saves time, goes quicker), I wanted the look of lots of tiny rows of cording.  I've used synthetic rattail in corded corsets before, but I wanted something in a natural fiber, and something that would be relatively cheap considering I'd be using lots of it!  I ended up using Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn after seeing Koshka's beautiful hand-sewn corded petticoat

I ended up using the whole dang thing,
and this was just a short petticoat!

I started off with a piece of fabric 100" by 45".  I sewed the two short ends together to make a tube about 99" wide, then flipped up the bottom edge about 30" with wrong sides facing together and pressed the fold.  I wanted a bit of space at the bottom before the first cord, so I stitched my first line about 1" up from the folded edge.  I then swapped to a cording/zipper foot.  I sandwiched a cord between the two layers of fabric and butted it up as closely as possible to the line of stitching.

Only two rows in, eleventy-billion to go!

I found that pushing it most of the way into place between the layers, then using my fingernail to push the cord into place from above helped quite a bit (see photos below).

Cord between two layers of fabric

Cord scooted close to finished rows

Use fingernail to snug cord right up against finished rows.

I stitched the cord in, pausing every foot or so to stuff and scoot more cord into place.  Rather than make a full row, then start over on a new one, I just kept going in a spiral fashion.  Had I ended each cord and started a new one, the petticoat would have buckled along the line where all the rows of cording ended.  Spiraling the cord also allowed to just continue sewing without pause until I felt a section was complete.

You can see where I started at the bottom and ended 25 rows later. 

I didn't really plan out a design ahead of time, so I sewed cords until I liked the result, then skipped an inch and started a new batch of cording.  I ended up with a total of 56 rows!


When I started, I was just messing around and wasn't sure if I was making a short petticoat or a longer one.  I ended up deciding on short, so I folded the excess fabric at the top over and flat felled it to the top edge of the layer I'd folded up in the beginning.  That left me with a finished length of about 20".  For the sake of being able to wear it immediately, I put an elastic waistband in.

Felled seam and elastic waistband

A short corded petticoat like this isn't exactly historical, but I thought I might use it under some knee-length skirts for now.  I may replace the elastic with a proper waistband in the future, or I may take the waist out entirely and use this as a corded flounce on a longer petticoat later.  I might also add some lace along the bottom edge.  For the time being, I think it's cute and functional as is! 


Have you made a corded petticoat?  It's a lot of work, so show off a bit and link to your creation in the comments!  

22 comments:

  1. I had exactly something like that in mind to go under some of my 50's inspired drndil skirts. I've got as far as doing tucks n ruffles. Cording with be a future challenge....as I had sew everything at the moment it will take me forever. lol!

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    1. I think a corded petticoat would be adorable under that type of skirt!

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  2. That is so cute! I love the length! And beautiful job on the cording. I'm venturing into tucks this week and cording is somewhere on my sewing horizon...

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    1. Thanks! I love the look of tucks too. I've seen some petticoats that have both cording and tucks and they're super cute.

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  3. Sandwiching the cording between two layers is genius! I'm desperate for a new petticoat to go under a fancy/schmancy mid-century black cocktail dress that I'll be wearing to a wedding later this month. This would be perfect! The smaller cording between two layers looks so much more "done."

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    1. Isn't it fun as a replacement for those puffy petticoats with all the tulle? I'd love to see what yours ends up looking like :)

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  4. I'm giving this a whirl (using size 2 piping cord) for a steampunk costume that needs a fuller shorter skirt (ie not ankle length).

    I'm waiting for my organdy to arrive in the mail as I can't get it locally.

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    1. Good luck! I'd love to see how it turns out :)

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  5. This is absolutely stunning! Incredibly classic yet modern- you did an amazing job!!

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  6. This is absolutely STUNNING! Incredibly beautiful, classic yet modern. You did a WONDERFUL job!!

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  7. Very, very pretty! It's a shame no one will ever see it...

    I worked on my corded petticoat on and off (mostly off) for two or three years before I finished it: http://amostpeculiarmademoiselle.blogspot.se/2013/05/corded-petticoat.html

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    1. Wow, yours is AMAZING. I can't believe you did all those rows by hand!

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  8. I really like the look of your petticoat. I think it is much nicer than the tucked version. Hmm, I've got a couple of old sheets, sounds like it might be time to try one.

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  9. I love your tutorial and I'm planning on using it for one of my costumes but I am a bit confused after sewing together the short ends to get the 99" length. Where is the 30" being pulled up from? And then you sew the cords across the 99" that are left? Sorry for the questions but I'm having a hard time visualizing it. >_<

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    1. Good eye! I misstated a measurement above; I folded the bottom up 15", not 30". So, if I started with a tube that was 45" tall and 99" in circumference, then folded up 15", I had a shorter tube that was 30" tall and 99" in circumference, with a deep hem of 15". The cords go around the tube, so each cord is 99" long (if I had actually cut them on each round rather than going in spiral fashion). Hope that helps!

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  10. Late to the party, but I'm liking this idea for under some summer skirts--but I have a question: you gave 99" as the circumference of the tube, but what is the finished waist measurement? I ask because I am what you would call "very" plus size and will probably need to adjust my hem circumference to get the same shape.

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    1. Well, since I put elastic in the waistband, the measurement changes! But as displayed on the mannequin in the last photo, the waist is somewhere between 30" and 32".

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    2. Awesome, thank you! That gives me an approximate ratio to work from. Imma dig in my stash and see if I have enough fabric to start on this today. ^^

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    3. Great! Keep in mind though, that the cords can only hold up so great a circumference, as they aren't as robust as hoop boning. If it gets too big around the base, it'll just end up collapsing in (very pretty) waves rather than standing further out.

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  11. I've been researching various petticoats and crinolines, trying to find something appropriate to wear under my 50s-60s dresses with full skirts. I absolutely love circle skirts, but they fall flat without anything under them. Since I live in Texas, this looks like an excellent option! I think I'll be getting some cotton organdy and yarn to make one for myself! I was wondering - do you have any pictures of what a skirt looks like over this? Thank you for the inspiration!

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    1. Unfortunately I don't! Not to long afterwards, I needed a little more oompf in my 1830s underwear, so took out the waistband and added a fabric panel to the top to extend this into a longer petticoat.

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