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

Tag: hand quilting

Homework 26: Quilted petticoat – marking out the ovals

This week I started on the overlapping ovals that will fill the top area of the quilted petticoat. The design is similar to the quilting pattern called ‘The 7 treasures of Buddha‘ where circles are used instead of ovals, but I am sure it wasn’t referred to as that in the 18h century.


I wanted to make sure that the there would be complete ovals all the way round, so I would not have any that were skinny/fat/incomplete and so the pattern would look even all around.

  1. measure the circumference of the petticoat
  2. work out roughly how big the ovals should be
  3. divide the circumference of the petticoat by the width of the ovals,  adjusting slightly to take up any excess
  4. make a template oval using card (fished out from the recycling box), putting a cross marking the centre/top/bottom/left/right points
  5. draw out on pattern paper and measure to check calculations are correct. Use the cross marking on the template to line up and position correctly to draw one oval to the next.

I am glad I drew out the pattern on paper first. The ovals I ended up with were about 2/3rds smaller the size of the ones I originally thought would be a good size. This obviously means more stitching, but  I think it will look better in the long run.

Transferring the pattern

Instead of using the transfer mesh and chacopel pencil to mark the ovals, I used the card template and a silver quilting pencil along with my pattern master to make sure everything was level.

Marking out the ovals using patternmaster, card template and silver quilters pencil

Marking out the ovals using patternmaster, card template and silver quilters pencil

I started at the centre front above the front panel pattern. In the image above, the quilt is laid out on the table upside down (with the waistline of the quilt closest to me and the hem furthest away). The pattern master is (almost) following the centre front line and I have used the horizontal guideline on the card template to make it level. In the image below you can get a closer look.

First oval drawn over CF line. Template positioned ready to draw the next oval.

First oval drawn over CF line. Template positioned ready to draw the next oval.

I ended using a long ruler to make points to mark the line where the centre of each oval should line up along the circumference of the petticoat. I wanted to make sure this horizontal line would meet up at the centre back before I marked out all the ovals. I knew I would end up following the wrong line if I had to redo the guide marks. The silver pencil is quite faint on this colour fabric, but this is good as I don’t want it to show later.

You can see 3 rows with the ovals overlapping to make the pattern

You can see 3 rows with the ovals overlapping to make the pattern

Having the cross on the template made it a lot easier to line up the template. Each time I drew an oval I would mark the top/bottom/left/right quarter points and use these to place the next, making sure I was also following the horizontal circumference guide points.

Close up showing ovals overlapping and how the cross on the card template helps to position the oval squarely shape

Close up showing ovals overlapping and how the cross on the card template helps to position the oval squarely shape

At the top of the centre back of the petticoat had not been sewn up to allow access to get in for fittings, so I pinned this up carefully, but didn’t draw the centre back ovals. I could see that it would match up, but I will quilt the rest, sew up the seam and then sort this bit out.

Centre back of the petticoat.

Centre back of the petticoat.

Right, with most of that marked out – only 70 ovals to sew!

Class 26: Quilted petticoat – bottom border continued

Not too much to report today, just plodding along with the bottom border of the quilted petticoat. I am just finishing the back where the pattern joins, so it has been a little tricky to make sure the pattern meets and still looks good.

Just to remind myself of the goal it should look something like this:

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

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

The main differences between the petticoat above are that: the one above has a silk top fabric, mine is cotton; and I have a large tree design on the front.

The centre back seam will look more similar to the above image as where the bottom border meets at the back the vines meet at a short ‘trunk’ section.  You can just make this out in the picture below (although it is not too clear as there is a slight crease).

Bottom border 'Trunk' at centre back of quilted petticoat

Bottom border 'Trunk' at centre back of quilted petticoat

Next class (after bank holiday):

  • Starting on bodice, so we need to bring domette/lawn/drill/top fabric
  • Quilted petticoat should be finished (hmm – I still have a lot to do)

Class 22: Bodice overview, tutorials, and more quilting

Bodice overview

In the first few weeks of this term we fitted a period bodice toile. Today Claire explained the different layers needed for a period bodice, the materials we would need, and an overview of the processes and techniques which we will be using next term.

The bodice will be boned using flat steels which will be encased within the 4 layers of fabric:

  • Drill  – to go against the skin
  • Cotton lawn
  • Domette (light-weight flat domette)
  • Top fabric

We will need 1 meter of each layer which we should buy ready for the start of next term (19April2010).

Domette is a interlining fleece often used in curtain making to add weight and warmth to curtains.  You can get it in cotton or synthetic materials and it can be flat or fluffy. In the bodice, domette is used to stop the boning from showing, so may not be required if the top fabric is bulky.

There will be more bones on the stomacher than the rest of the bodice, but they are there to act as a stiffener to stop the bodice wrinkling rather than to manipulate the body. We will be making channels in the fabric layers to slide in the bones, but tapes on the drill layer could be used to hold the bones in place.

We will draft our own bodice patterns based on our individual designs and sizes.

1780's Polonaise Design

Draft design for my 1780's polonaise with quilted petticoat

My notes from class were incomplete, but the first few steps of construction are:

  1. Cut out the pattern pieces for all layers.
  2. Mark  bone positions on to cotton lawn layer. The markings will not show as they will be covered by the outer layers.
  3. Mount lawn on to drill by tacking.
  4. Machine stitch to make bone channels.
  5. … more to come.


Patsy, Mathilde and I had our group tutorial today with Claire. We are all at quite different stages, are doing quite different costumes, and came to the course with quite different skills – but that makes it good as we can help each other. It also means we can hear about problems and solutions the others encounter, but we may have not in our own costumes – it is a great way to learn.

Because Mathilde is using a much heavier fabric, she will need to use netting sewn in to her skirt and maybe on the bumpads to help get the period shape. She is also using cartridge pleats along the waistband, which I will be using on my skirt.

For the moment, I just have to concentrate on quilting so I can complete my petticoat. I am the only one in my class who is completely hand quilting. Patsy who is very experienced with textiles is completely machine quilting. Lorna and Eva are doing a combination of hand and machine.

Next term I will have to complete the bodice, overskirt and a fishou to go around the neck.

More quilting

I finished the tree design on the centre front of the petticoat. It felt like quite an accomplishment, but I still have a lot to do.  It has made me think that I would like to only use hand stitching on the petticoat, but I may falter and machine stitch the seams that are not seen.

Hand quilted tree on front panel.

Hand quilted tree on front panel.

Homework 21: Carry on quilting (and the transfer mesh arrives)

This week I made a big effort not to plan anything in the evenings so I could just get on with quilting. I got hold of some Fred Astaire movies (Shall we dance and Easter parade) and other musicals, so I could just sit and sew and listen.

Each night when I got home from work and after I had some dinner, I was able to settle down around 8-8.30pm and do a couple or three hours of work.

The Clover transfer mesh arrived on Tuesday. It was £8 for a sheet of holey plastic, but it has been well worth it (see the Quilter’s Choice video for more details on how to use it). It definitely helped speed things along.

Chacopel chalk pencil and transfer mesh used to transfer quilting  design

Chacopel chalk pencil and transfer mesh used to transfer quilting design

Tuesday: Finished another leaf set and used the transfer mesh to mark out the next section

Tuesday: Finished another leaf set and used the transfer mesh to mark out the next section

Wednesday: added a berry bunch

Wednesday: added a berry bunch

Thursday: some stem work and a little lone leaf

Thursday: some stem work and a little lone leaf

Friday: you can see quilting chaos has hit the living room

Friday: you can see quilting chaos has hit the living room

Saturday: moving on to the other side. New flowers and leaves.

Saturday: moving on to the other side. New flowers and leaves.

I managed to get most of the front panel tree finished. Only the very base roots remained for me to finish at college on Monday. In all I spent about 20 hours on the quilt this week (including the stitching at college on Monday).

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

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

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