Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Tag: 18th Century petticoat

Quilting on the quilted petticoat finished!

Gosh, that took a fair amount of time. Now I only have to sort out the waistband and pocket slits. Anyway here are a couple of pictures of the front and back before I pleat it on to the petersham.

Front of quilted petticoat

Front of quilted petticoat

Back of quilted petticoat

Back of quilted petticoat

I was so proud, I added to the Quilt of Quilts on the V&A website:


Quilt of Quilts

Reproduction 18th century quilted petticoat

Reproduction 18th century quilted petticoat

View this quilt on the V&A website

Class 24: Fitting Eva’s quilted petticoat, and quilting

Eva had finished quilting her petticoat, some by hand and some by machine, and it looks beautiful.

Claire had explained previously that once the quilting was finished, we should:

  • sew up the centre back seam leaving an opening at the top (so we can get in and out during fitting)
  • temporarily gather and tack the waist on to a petersham waistband for fitting

As Eva had done this too, I got to help fit the petticoat to check the hemline is even and at the correct length for the period silhouette. The quilted petticoat is fitted over the bum pads, under-petticoat and corset. Ideally, shoes with the correct heel height should also be worn during fitting.

Front of Eva's quilted petticoat during fitting

Front of Eva's quilted petticoat during fitting

Back of Eva's quilted petticoat during fitting

Back of Eva's quilted petticoat during fitting

Using a meter ruler, I checked the evenness of the hemline. Generally the hemline was good, a little lower at the back where the bum pads don’t push out so much, but this is common and looks ok.

However, we decided that the length was too short by about 8cm. Luckily, Eva had left a large seam allowance at the top, so there would be enough to let the petticoat out, but only just enough.

After the fitting, Eva will take petticoat of the waistband and pleat it on to another waistband, making the petticoat opening at the  sides rather than the back, so she can have accessible pockets under the petticoat.  She will also finish the hem using either bias binding or petersham.

I spent the rest of the class quilting – there is still so much to do. Started on the bottom border, but you can see between the first and second photo below, I didn’t really manage to get much done in class.

Starting the bottom border of the quilted petticoat
Starting the bottom border on the front left of the quilted petticoat
Bottom border of quilted petticoat

Bottom border of quilted petticoat

Class 21: Transferring the design and starting to quilt the petticoat

With all my good intentions, I still hadn’t started quilting the petticoat. To be honest, I was quite scared – mostly because I have not found a technique to transfer the design which I was comfortable with.

Some people mark and sew the design on the back, but Claire said it would be better if we marked the outside as then you were quilting what would be seen. This seemed to make more sense to me as I would be hand quilting and so would want the neater stitches on top.

If I was going to be marking on to the top fabric, I needed a marking technique which would not be visible at the end, which rules out using some transfer methods. Needle Crafter has an article of 10 Common Transfer Methods, which I found quite useful.

First experiments in transferring the design on to fabric

1. Dress makers carbon paper and tracing wheel

Eva, one of my classmates who is also making a quilted petticoat, told me it took her a day to transfer her design using the yellow carbon paper and smooth tracing wheel (they are about 1meter x 3meters). She also cleverly did this before basting the layers together. I had tried with my basted layers and with all the wading it just destroyed the pattern and hardly left a mark. On Eva’s darker fabric you could only just see the faint lines, and Eva was only able to quilt in daylight as she couldn’t make out the marks in artificial light.

I used this method for my hand quilting sample (where I transferred before basting). I found that I was not able to remove the yellow lines by rubbing or with a damp cloth. Looking at the instructions on the carbon paper, it did seem like you would have to machine wash the fabric to get it out.  I have a feeling my petticoat will be dry clean only.

2. Poking through and marking (Pouncing)

Not sure if there is a better name for this method (just found it – Pouncing), but it basically involves pressing through the pattern with a fairly blunt point (tapestry needle or blunt pencil) and then marking with something like an erasable fabric pen, powder, or possibly chalk or a quilting pencil.  I tried this with 2 types of fabric pen, a water soluble pen and a disappearing pen, as well as several quilting pencils. I found the pencils were better if you were drawing straight lines and found them hard to rub off.

The advantage of using this method with pens is that as long as you have tested that the ink will disappear or dissolve in water with the fabric you are using, then there should be no marks left on your fabric. *Always test the pens on scrap first*

First I pinned the pattern to the fabric, then I poked through with a blunt pencil (making sure it would not leave a mark on the fabric). Then I used the pen to mark the fabric through the holes on the paper pattern. To save time, I guess you could just use the fabric pen to poke through the pattern, but as it is a bit like a felt tip, I didn’t want to ruin the pen.

You can see from the pictures below, the pattern didn’t really transfer all that successfully on my first attempt using the disappearing pen. Luckily ink faded away completely when I left it open to the air for a couple of days.

Design 'poked through' with fabric pen

Design 'poked through' with fabric pen

Marks on the fabric - you can see that the design is not all that clear

Marks on the fabric - you can see that the design is not all that clear

I had another attempt making the dots closer together and using the soluble marker. It did come out much clearer.

Second attempt with the poke through method

Second attempt with the poke through method and water soluble fabric pen

Once I had finished quilting the area, I used a cotton bud to dab on plenty of clean water to each spot so that the ink would dissolve. When it dried, you couldn’t see a thing.

Removing the water soluable pen marks using a cotton bud and clean water

Removing the water soluble pen marks using a cotton bud and clean water

I was still not totally happy with either of those methods and did some research online and found this video demonstrating the Clover transfer mesh and Karisma fabric pencil.

After seeing this demonstration I looked around for the items, but couldn’t find a UK supplier for the Karisma fabric pencil. I ended up ordering a the transfer mesh canvas and Clover chacopel pencil set from Sew Essential, but they haven’t arrive in time for today’s class.

Starting the hand quilting

I was kind of hoping to wait for the transfer mesh, but Claire said I should just get started in the lesson. I realised that I had not basted my centre front and quarter lines, so I squared everything up and put those in using different coloured thread than the basting thread.

Using an angle ruler to mark the quater lines of the petticoat

Using an angle ruler to mark the quater lines of the petticoat

OK, now that I had no more excuses, I had to get on with the quilting.

This week the 43cm x 43cm Sew Easy frame I had ordered from an ebay shop arrived, so I set the section of fabric in to that to hold it in place.  I thought the plastic frame was quite expensive (£14 including shipping), but it does work well and can be taken apart so it doesn’t take up much space when you are not using it.

I choose one of the bud flowers fairly near the bottom of the petticoat, but quite close to the centre front and marked it out with the blue soluble marker in the pouncing method (the same one as in the pictures above).

Once the pattern was transferred on to the fabric, I loosened the fabric on the frame so that it would make it easier for me to be able to do the rocking motion of the quilting stitch that I had been studying in the youtube videos.

And I was off…

Hand quilting the first flower bud motif on the quited petticoat

Hand quilting the first flower bud motif on the quited petticoat

You can see in the picture above that I snipped the basting stitches out of the way as I moved in to that area.

The muslin (under) side of the finished flower bud motif

The muslin (under) side of the finished flower bud motif

Wow, that only took the rest of the day to complete.  I think I will have another 40 hours  of stitching to complete the petticoat.

Period shoes

Claire also asked us to look out for period looking shoes to wear with our costumes.  I started to do some research and found that the heels in England in the 1780′s are not as chunky as I thought.

The Charm of Rococo – Bata Shoe Museum

Pictorial history of shoes

Class 20: Quilted petticoat front panel design

Unfortunately Claire was not in today, but we were all in the middle of something, so we could just get on with it for the day. I still hadn’t finished the design for my quilted petticoat, so I could at least start quilting that next week. I am not really used to drawing, and started off quit slow. I think part of it was confidence to get going.

Claire’s advice, as well as other peoples I had read online, was to start quilting from the middle and work your way out. It makes sense as then you deal with any issues at the edge, if the fabric has stretched or shrunk. Also, I think it would make it really hard to make lines meet if you had a very structured or repetitive design.

I finished the front panel design as homework and this was the result:

Quilted petticoat design - front panel

I think one of the reasons it took me so long to finish the design was that I was apprehensive about how I was going to transfer the design on to the fabric.

At the end of the day, I left early and went to Peter Jones to buy cotton thread. I had bought some viscose thread, but had read that you should really try and use the same fibre for the thread and the fabric, because if one is stronger it will cut through the other. Also, the viscose thread was very fine and after looking at some of my classmates quilting, it did look better with a thicker thread. Threads nowadays are also much finer than they would have been in the 18th century.

at the edgeat the edge

Homework 19: Preparing petticoat for quilting

I haven’t bothered to enter homework much on the blog. It is not that I haven’t been doing any, more that I have just been doing bits and pieces most nights each week. However this weekend I ended up on a mammoth task of preparing my fabric and wadding ready for quilting.

As I have not quilted before, earlier in the week I spent a fair amount of my evenings researching quilting techniques (hand and machine), types of quilt wadding (or batting), and how to tack the quilt layers.

Quilt wadding or batting

Historically a quilted petticoat would have most likely been padded with cotton or possibly wool flocking, but not many woollen ones have survived because of moths (quilt history).

Most of the class have bought polyester wadding, but I’m not keen on this idea as I would rather use something natural. The problem is polyester is so much cheaper than the natural alternatives.

I decided to research various paddings and found these links very helpful:

I was worried that polyester would be difficult to quilt, but I discovered that actually cotton is quite hard to push the needle through, wool is easier, and polyester is not too bad. I also remembered I had a old duvet which was looking rather ratty and taking up space in the cupboard.

Very old polyester double duvet.

A rather stained, old polyester double duvet.

Once I unpicked the seams and took the cover off, the wadding didn’t look so bad. It was thin and worn in places, but overall it was too thick, so I had to separate it in to layers. It was quite difficult to do this evenly.

Separating the layers of the wadding

Laid out on the living room floor so I could separate it in to thinner layers .

After I separated the duvet in to two layers, I put it round my dressform to see how it looked and if the hem circumference was wide enough.  The duvet is 2 meters x 2 meters, but to fit over my under petticoat which has a hem of 2.5 meters plus a frill, the quilted petticoat will have to be over 2.6 meters, so I will have to use more than one drop.

Duvet wadding on bluebell (my dressform)

Duvet wadding on bluebell (my dressform). You can see I will need to extend the drop to get the desired hem circumference.

Tacking the layers of the quilted petticoat

I found Sharon Schamber’s videos very helpful, especially her one on hoopless hand quilting. The video below is Sharon explaining her method of tacking (or basting depending on which side of the pond you are on).

On Saturday morning I went up to B&Q to try and get a couple of bits of wood as Sharon describes in her video. I thought I was going to have to buy a £9 pine shelf and cut it in half, but luckily in the end I managed to get two MDF offcuts for 20 pence. The MDF pieces were slightly larger than needed and quite dense, so heavy, but I couldn’t argue with the price.

After sewing together two drops of the muslin base fabric together, pressing both the muslin and the blue cotton top fabric, putting both fabrics on the MDF boards, and placing the wadding between them, it was on with the tacking. Easy really (just time consuming).

Starting with the herringbone tacking

Starting with the herringbone tacking

This is how it looked at the end of the extended version of Gladiator.

Herringbone quilt tacking - 3 and a bit hours in.

Herringbone quilt tacking - 3 and a bit hours in.

Taking on the underside of the quilt

Taking on the underside of the quilt

As the blue cotton top fabric I am using is 2.6 meters wide, I realised rather than making another panel, I could just extend the wadding in between the muslin and cotton layers.

Only a bit more tacking to go. YOu can see the MDF boards I am using.

Only a bit more tacking to go. You can see the MDF boards, thimbles and basting thread I used.

And after all 5 episodes of Kirstie’s Homemade Home, it was done…

All the basting done - 3 meters x 1.2 meters in just 9 hours

All the basting done - 3 meters x 1.2 meters in just 9 hours

Basted fabric draped on Bluebell

The basted petticoat fabric draped on Bluebell

Now I just need to sort out the quilting design.

Class 19: Overview of quilted petticoat

There wasn’t too many of us in today, but everyone who made it is going to make a quilted petticoat, so Claire asked us to work on our petticoat designs and explained a bit more about the process.

Overview of quilted petticoat

  • To find the required diameter of the quilted petticoat, put the bum pads and the under petticoat on the stand and wrap the wadding/batting round. You will need to leave additional allowance as after quilting the length will be reduced.
  • Pin together the three layers: Cotton (top fabric), wadding and muslin (bottom fabric); and baste the centre front and quarters.
  • Put additional basting lines to firmly hold the fabric in place before applying the design.
  • There are quite a few different ways to transfer the design, but I think I will either be using dressmakers copypaper, or a quilters pencil poked through the pattern paper to make the outline (more info about these when I have had a chance to try them out). Some people use quilters chalk or disappearing ink, and some even draw freehand. Transferring the pattern, can be done all at once or in stages depending on what you find easiest and if the marker is likely to rub off or disappear.
  • Next step would be the sewing. This can be done by machine or by hand or a combination of both. Claire would prefer us to hand quilt, so that is what I am going to do.Ideally you start in the middle and work out. This allows you to make any adjustments if the pattern gets skewed or the fabric is not taken up by the quilting evenly.

I haven’t quilted before, so I ended up having a look on youtube and found some very helpful videos about hand quilting by amyalamode, the first one is Hand Quilting 1 — Getting Started, but there are many more:

Quilted petticoat design

Last week I did a lot of trawling online to find pictures of 18th century quilted petticoats. Many are very elabourate and others are just diamond patterns. Lots of examples of silk petticoats, but also a few in cotton. Powder blue seemed a very popular colour of the time.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has three good examples of 18th century quilted petticoats displayed online.

Yellow quilted petticoat

Yellow quilted petticoat (click on image for more info)

Woman's quilted petticoat

Woman's quilted petticoat (click image for more info)

My favourite is this one:

Silk quilted 18th century petticoat - Musum of fine art Boston

Silk quilted 18th century petticoat - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

You can see in the first draft of my design, it is going to be quite similar.

First draft of quilted petticoat design

First draft of quilted petticoat design. The left side where it is higher will be at the front, sloping down to the sides.

This week I need to finish the design, so I can start in class next week. I don’t have any tracing paper, so this is making it quite tricky.

I feel it is quite ambitious as I have started a small quilted sampler, which has already taken a few episodes of being human and is still not complete. After the first hour, I went online and bought some quilting needles, leather and rubber thimbles.

Hand quilting sampler

Hand quilting sampler

Class 10: Petticoat construction – waistbands and pleating/gathering on the stand

Finding the waist

  1. Set up the stand (dummy) You can either set up the stand so the the waistline is at the correct height, or shorter so the distance between the floor and the waistline is the actual intended length of the skirt i.e. the hem sits on the ground. The second method makes it easier for you to get the hemline level all round with out having to use a ruler.
  2. Arrange the petticoat Once you have the right height, put the petticoat on the stand and level it out. Arrange the fabric of the petticoat roughly how you want it to end up, especially paying attention to the amount of fabric at the front sides and back, as more fabric will be required at the sides to go over the bum pads, and you may wish to have less fullness at the front of the skirt. Gather at front and pleat at the back. Too many gathers at the front will make it fall in.
  3. Mark the waistline When you are happy with the draping, use a water soluble marker (normally blue) draw around the waistline. The blue line goes at the bottom of the petersham waistband which should sit on the actual waist.
  4. Take the petticoat off the stand and lay flat. As the fabric was gathered when you drew the waistline, the blue line will now appear as dots or dashes. Connect the dots on one side, and then copy to other side and ensure they are even. You will see the line going up over where the bum pads would be and lower at the front an back where it is flatter.
  5. Add 7.5 cam seam allowance at the top and cut off the excess fabric. Keep cut off as this can be used again as a template for these bumpads.

Applying the petticoat waistband

Using a Petersham strip for the waistband, take the waist measurement and add 1.25cm for ease, and another 7.5 cm at each end for fitting (better to be too long than too short). Mark cf and quarters.

Pin on bum pads and petticoat drops to stand.

Starting at the back, pin the right hand side of the placket opening to the CB mark on the petersham waistband.

Using double thread tack top and bottom of pleats on to petersham. This allows you the machine stitch from the petersham side without the pleats folding back.

See my petersham waistband sample for more detailed instructions (with pictures).

Tips for pleating/gathering on the stand

  • Do one side and then the other (pleats normally face towards the back)
  • Gather front and then let out to ease. Gathers might be good between pleats and front
  • You can use your fingers to measure the depth of a pleat and check that they are even
  • You can often see at the bottom of pleat or drapes if they are out or uneven
  • Chevron pleat – front first, last to back
  • Edge of deep pleats face centre back
  • Yokes may be used for bigger petticoats


  • practice pleating/gathering petticoat waistband on the stand.

Class 6: Petticoat – Finding the waist and inserting the placket.

You can put in the placket only once the waistline has been established on the petticoat to ensure that the depth of the opening stays the same.

Draping on the stand to find the waist

  1. Waistline is established by using measurements to set up the stand accordingly and then draping the petticoat on the stand over the bum pads.
  2. Using cotton tape around the waist to hold up the petticoat, arrange the fabric to give the desired length and shape.To manage the fabric, often pleats or gathers are used to manage the bulk of material at the top. Usually there will be more pleats or gathers at the side and back than at the front, as this will be more flattering the the wearer.You do not want to have the front completely flat as this may cause the petticoat to ‘cave’ inwards at the front.
  3. Once you are happy with the arrangement and the length of the petticoat, use soluble marker to draw a like or points round the waistline.
  4. Removing the petticoat from the stand and laying flat folded in half (CF to CB), you can see the marker with gaps (where the fabric was folded).
  5. To make the waistline you just follow the point and join them up making sure that the line is similar on both sides and meets at the cb and cf.
Pin bum pads to the stand

Pin bum pads to the stand

Petticoat arranged on the stand

Arrange the petticoat on the stand

Marking the waistline with soluable pen

Marking the waistline with soluable pen

Joining up the dots to mark the waistline

Joining up the dots to mark the waistline

Inserting the placket

  1. The placket should measure 30cm x 2.5cm when finished.
    To achieve this you will need a 63cm x 9 cm strip of fabric as a ‘facing’ is required. (2 x length of placket + seam allowance / 2 x 30cm + 3cm = 63cm).
  2. Measure down 30cm from the waistline. Sew from the hem to this point (or open th seam from the waist down to the point).
  3. Press the seam allowances flat on the petticoat closure at cb before inserting the placket.
  4. Press both long sides of the placket facing to wrong side of fabric by 1.5cm so that both sides are reinforced and the centre is flexible enough to fold over application edges.
  5. At the bottom of the cb closure point, snip the seam allowances so that they can lie flat.
  6. With right sides together, ‘straighten out’ closure at cb so it becomes a straight line and lay the placket along the right hand side of the opening, attaching the facing with a 1.5cm seam allowance and continuing to the top edge of the left hand side of opening.
  7. Press seam allowance towards facing
  8. Fold the placket over to encase the raw edge. If there is any excess, this should be hidden on the inside.
  9. Edge or sink stitch to neaten.
  10. At the bottom of the placket, stitch a diagonal line from the fold up to approx 2 cm at the edge. This will help the placket to lay flat.

Class 5: Petticoat – Gather and sew on frills.

Aim for today was to set frill on to the bottom of the petticoat. It ended up looking like this:

Knife pleats with gathering underneath

I did this by:

1. Finishing the hem of the gathering fabric:

  • Sew gathering drops together (about 7.5m)
  • top edge: turn 6mm (1/4″) and then 6mm (1/4″) again, and sew.
  • bottom edge: turn 12mm (1/2″) and then 25mm (1″), then sew.

2. Put in the gathering stitches:

Using 2 rows of longest machine stitch. The top row was 20mm (3/4″) below the hem, and the second row below was the width of the sewing machine foot 12mm (1/2″). At each seam, I pulled the threads loose so I would have something to grab on to when I was gathering.

3. Gather sections of the drops.

As the petticoat circumference was quite long it was best to do the gathers in shorter sections to reduce the risk of threads breaking. I had 5 drops, so I just did it in 5 sections, but we could have done it in 4 quarters.

Using pins to secure the threads at one end, I pulled the drop sections to the desired length. I divided the circumference of the petticoat by 5 so that I knew how long each gather length should be (250cm / 5 = 50cm).

I found that the gathers were too tight and so had more gathering material than needed. I used Kate awl to run back and fourth along the gathers to try and get them even.

Pinning gathering to petticoat. You can also see the pins securing the the gathered sections.

4. Pin gathers to petticoat.

Started at the back seam and worked round to front. I marked the half and quarter points on the petticoat and the gathering so that it would be even all around, but as I had too much material, in the end, these points did not match up and I just had to cut off some material at the end and then close the gathers with a seam at the back. This was a shame as I had originally made a loop when finishing off the seams for the frill. If you did not have too much excess when pinned, then you could just ease in the difference.

5. Sew on the gathers to petticoat.

Starting at the back, I tried to sew in the middle of the gathering stitches. I had to remove the pins holding the gathering threads at each seam as I went along.

Close up where I attached the gathers to the petticoat. The attaching stitch was meant to be in the middle of the gathering stitches, but as you can see it is a little wonky.

Class 4: petticoat – checking formula, draping, cutting and construction

Today Claire checked our formula and layplans, explained the order of work, and after draping the calico over the bupads on the stand, we started to cut out the petticoat pieces. The draping was done so that we could start to get a feel for it.

Layplan for a basic 18th Century petticoat (using my measurements)

The planning an 18th Century petticoat pattern page has more details about the measurements used, the formula and layplan.

Constructing the petticoat

Sewing order for petticoat:

  1. Seams
  2. Hems
  3. Tucks
  4. Frill

Cut out the fabric for main body of petticoat. Press cf and sides so that there would be a visual guide to the quarters.

Sew up cb to roughly where the placket would start.

Measure and mark out the lines for the five horizontal pin tucks and sewed them in to place.


  • prepare frills
  • sew joins
  • hems (do not gather).

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