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

Tag: waistband

Homework 31: Quilted petticoat – pocket slits and waistband

Pocket slits

I had been putting this off for a while. I have to admit I was very nervous to be cutting in to the petticoat which had taken hours to quilt. Eva’s petticoat had slits in too, so I had a good chance to inspect and see what she had done.

I planned it all very carefully, working out how long the slits would need to be so that they would clear the bumpads and give you enough room to get your hand comfortably in and out. I had pleated the petticoat with the intention that the slits would be partially hidden in one of the folds on each side.

The pleated petticoat was only tacked on the petersham.  While the petticoat was on the stand (over the bum pads and underpetticoat) I undid a few tacks, pinnning securley so the pleats would not slip. This was to give me access to mark the slit line. I wanted the slit line to fall down the centre of one of the ovals, so I marked a dotted line from the waist to the end point using a soluble marker.

Blue dots mark where the pocket slits will go

Side of petticoat - the blue dots mark where to cut the pocket slit

I cut through the waistband following the dotted line while the petticoat was still on the stand, but this became awkward, so I decided to take it off to cut on a table.

Starting to cut the pocket slits

Starting to cut the pocket slits

I had visions of the whole quilt unravelling, so I had stay stitched down either side of the line, just in case.

About to cut through the quilted oval

Stay stitching down each side of the cut. About to cut through the quilted oval.

Phew, it was all ok, but I thought I should get on with the bias binding asap. I used one complete length, pinned in place and just bent around the bottom and back up.

Bias pinned in place round the bottom corner.

Bias pinned in place round the bottom corner.

I just turned over and slip stitched on the other side. Next time, I think I will apply the binding to the outside first and slip stitch on the inside.

Finishing the bias binding for the pocket slits

Finishing the bias binding for the pocket slits

Finished pocket slit

Finished pocket slit


By cutting the waistband when making the pocket slits, I had divided it into two pieces, a back and front. I had to extend the petersham on the front piece as it needed to be longer so it could overlap the back.

I used the same fabric as the rest of the petticoat and cut two 14cm deep strips just longer than the front and back measurements. Folded them in half and then pinned in place ready to hand sew.

Waistband covering pinned in place to go over the petersham

Waistband covering pinned in place to go over the petersham

I hand stitched going through all layers to make sure it would be secure. Trimmed the excess and slip stitched the other side. I did not close the sides, just turned in,  so I would have a channel for the tapes to be threaded through.

Back of petticoat. You can see the tapes used to tie the petticoat and the pocket slits at the side.

Back of petticoat. You can see the tapes used to tie the petticoat and the pocket slits at the side.

To put on the petticoat, you would have to  do up the tapes for the back first, and then bring up the front panel and tie the tapes overlapping at the back. Theatrically, this might not be the ideal fastening if you have to get in for a quick change, and the tapes could come undone easily, but I do prefer the look if this was to be seen.

Side of petticoat - you can see the front panel overlapping the back

Side of petticoat - you can see the front panel overlapping the back

Homework 29: Setting in the sleeve and gathering the overskirt

Today I set the calico sleeve in the bodice shoulder. This toile was based on the basic sleeve block we had cut in January. I wanted to see how it fit and what adjustments I would need to make.

Setting the sleeve

To make the period shape, there needs to be two pleats on the back of the join. I tried very hard to make the pleatsline up with the seams joining the bodice pieces.

Calico toile sleeve set into the bodice with two pleats.

Calico toile sleeve set into the bodice with two pleats.

Unlike most sleeves today which are usually straight tubes or funnels, 18th century sleeves that went below the elbow had tucks or seams to bend the sleeve in to a gentle L shape. Often they would also have large cuffs.

Sleeve pined to make a bend at the elbow and folded back to make a cuff

Sleeve pined to make a bend at the elbow and folded back to make a cuff

I played around to see if I could get the ‘look’ as the toile had a fair amount of fabric to play with. If I had cut the sleeve differently, or used a separate piece of material, I could have made the cuff bigger, but I was planning to have slightly gathered lawn cuffs showing from the sleeve too.

Gathering the overskirt

Previously I had agreed with Claire that I would gather rather than pleat the overkirt. At this point I was  happy to do it this way as it was quite quick, and as the fabric is fairly light, it ruffled up well. As the left and right vertical edges were on the selvege edge, I was able to turn over 15mm and then 15cm to make a self facing and tacked them in place before gathering the waistband.

Front edges turned in to make facing

Front edges turned in to make facing and tacked in place

The overskirt was starting to fray heavily, so I zig-zag stitched the bottom to try and keep it under control until I could get around to hemming it by hand.

Zig-zag stitching the edge to stop the hem from fraying

Zig-zag stitching the edge to stop the hem from fraying

As with the under petticoat, I gathered in sections to help avoid the threads breaking and then I machine stitched on to a petersham waistband  which was the waist measurement plus 70mm extra on each side, so that the overskirt could be fitted.  In the picture below you can see how much the fabric is fraying.

Gathers sewn on to petersham waistband

Gathers sewn on to petersham waistband

Homework 29: Quilted petticoat – pleating on to waistband

Now the bottom of the quilted petticoat is finished, I have to concentrate on the top. First thing to do is to get rid of any excess wadding above the quilting line. The quilting on the petticoat only touches the waistband at the front, around the side and the back, the quilting doesn’t start until it drops off the roll of the bumpad.

Once all the excess has been removed, I double checked the waistline markings and the laid the quilt out flat on the table. It was folded in half with the centre front and centre back on the crease. After that, I carefully added seam allowance and marked parallel to waistline. Next thing to do was carefully cut.

Excess seam allowance cut parallel to waistline

Excess seam allowance cut parallel to waistline - you can see the hump for the bumpads.

Pleating on to waistband

It would  have been easier to gather, especially as the waist would not bee seen much, but I had read a lot about petticoats of the period would have most likely been pleated, so I wanted to do that. I also thought it would look better with the pocket slits.

Trying to remember the pleating tips Claire had told us earlier in the year, I ended up pleating  and repleating 10 or more times as I didn’t want them too big or too small. I also had a tendency to leave the petticoat too flat at the front so that it looked like a big upside down U.

Pleating on to waistband, but with too much fabric at the back, so the front looks too flat.

Pleating on to waistband, but with too much fabric at the back, so the front looks too flat.

I realised if I had more fabric at the front, the fabric would fall in more of the period shape.

Pleats too wide

Pleats too wide

I wanted the pleats to look even, but I also wanted the quilted ovals to match and line up in places and this drew me to make larger or smaller pleats than what was required.

Back of the petticoat - showing the oval meeting up on the pleat folds

Back of the petticoat - showing the oval meeting up on the pleat folds

Once I was happy with it, I tacked it on to the waistband ready for fitting.

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 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 3: Measuring and samples continued, plus bum pads

In the morning we remeasured, in different groups from last week, so that we could see the variation in peoples different techniques and workout if we were being too generous or not.

Afterwards we continued with samples:

Bias binding

Bias binding are strips of fabric cut at 45 degree angle (on the bias) to the grain of the fabric. You can purchase it in many colours and fabrics and it can come in flat, single or double folded strips.

Making your own bias strips

  1. Cut fabric straight on the grain and fold diagonally to find the true bias.
  2. Using the fold as a guide, mark parallel lines the desired width apart. Make sure you allow for seam allowance, or if making folded bias binding, allow for the amount you wish to turn over.
  3. If you wish to fold the bias, it is easier if you use a bias tape maker as a guide.

Joining individual strips

  1. Take two strips and mark a 6 mm seam line on each.
  2. Place strips right sides together and match the seam lines (not the edges)
  3. Pin, stitch and press open.
Joining individual bias strips

Joining individual bias strips

To make continuous strips

  1. Take the marked fabric, join the ends right sides together of set by one strip on each side. The marked line should meet the next and coil around so there is one continuous line (not lots of individual rings).
  2. Stitch a 6mm seam and press open.
  3. Cut along the marked line until you have one long strip.


Piping can be used to finish edges decoratively, but are often used on hems that need to be a little more robust, or on seams where a bit more structure is required.

To make your own piping

  1. Cut strips as you would for bias binding. The width measured our must take in to account the seam allowance and the width of the filling/cord used.
  2. Wrap the strips around the cord and match the raw edges.
  3. If you do not have a piping foot you can use a zipper foot to sew close to the encased cord edge. Be careful not to sew on the filler.
Making piping

Piping in the making

Piped seam

A piped seam

Piped hem

The layers of a double folded piped hem


Poppers/press studs

  1. Once you have decided where the popper should go, make a small back stitch to secure the thread.
  2. If the popper is on facing, make another stitch that  catches through the outer layer so that the popper is held in place.
  3. Work around sewing from each hole to the outside of the popper with 4 or 5 stitches for each hole.
  4. Once you have sewn on one side, use a pin through the centre hole to help you correctly place the other side of the popper.
  5. Sew on the other side of the popper in the same way as the first.
  6. When sewing more than one popper, alternate male/female sides. This will stop them all popping open if accidentally pulled.

Hook and eye (video instructions)

On both the hock and the eye, you should use 5 or 6 stitches to go round each ring. On the hook, you should also ensure the top of the hook is secured by a few stitches.

The hook is normally attached to the top layer of fabric with the hook facing towards the body.

Thread chain (to be used instead of eye with hook)

  1. Secure thread at the top.
  2. Using double thread, use basic crochet technique to create the desired length of your chain (some further instructions here).
  3. Secure at bottom of loop
Hook and eye, and hook and loop fastening

Hook and eye, and hook and thread chain fastening

Mini bum pad sample

  1. Cut fabric on the bias, this will give a smoother curve.
  2. Double stitch as the pad should be well stuffed and so the seams will be under strain.
  3. Lay fastening strips in seams on the inside when sewing.
  4. Do not sew to a point in sharp corners – make one ‘blunt’ stitch across. This will make it easier when turning out.
  5. When turning out and stuffing use a knitting needle to push in to the corners.

Double stitch around edge, leaving an opening big enough so you can turn though and add stuffing.

Snip in to the seams, so that when you turn though the edge will be smooth.

Mini bumpad stuffed and ready to go.

Petersham waistband sample

Hems and seams should be finished before the waistband is applied. This type of waistband is commonly used on gathered or pleated skirts or petticoats and is very durable.

Generally, you would try and match the colour of the Petersham to the garment, but in my sample it is black as I had run out of white. The Petersham goes on the inside of the waistband and the cotton tape on the outside. The Petersham could be covered with velvet ribbon for a more luxurious finish. Petersham tape is usually made out of polyester and is also known as grosgrain tape.

The tapes should be longer than the desired length of the gathers or pleats, so the ends can be turned in for a neater finish. On a real garment, the tapes would normally overlap at the fastening, so that a hook or button could be placed. The bottom of the Petersham is where the waistline should sit.

Pinning to the drop to the Petersham.

Pin to the gathers on to the Petersham, making sure the centre and the ends are in the correct place. The Petersham should be on the wrong side of the fabric.

Sewing Petersham on to the gathers.

Sewing Petersham on to the gathers.

Petersham sewn on to the gathers

Petersham sewn on to the gathers. You can see the stitch line is in between the two rows of gathering stitch.

Top of cotton tape sewn on to Petersham tape

Top of cotton tape sewn on to Petersham tape. When you do this, remember to turn in the edges of the tapes to get a neater finish.

Cut off excess fabric from the gathers

Cut off excess fabric from the gathers

Waistband sample ready for the cotton tape to be sewn down.

Waistband sample ready for the cotton tape to be sewn down.

Stitch in the ditch on the petersham side to catch the cotton tape.

Stitch in the ditch on the petersham side to catch the cotton tape.

Finished petersham waistband sample

Finished petersham waistband sample

Planning a petticoat

Claire explained the formula to create a layplan and draft petticoat pattern. Read my write up planning an 18th Century petticoat pattern.

Hand outs:

  • Information on bum pads
  • Page 28 from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen‘ : Bum pads
  • Seam neatening/Flat fell seam/French seam/hems/cutting&joining bias binding/piping/press studs
  • Tools, sewing machine and parts.


  • Make waistband sample and full size bum pads (x 2 pads) using pattern H from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen’.
  • Calculate measurements/dimensions for petticoat body and frill using formula.
  • Draw out layplan.

© 2019

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑