PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dress Diary #1 - Petticoat

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I mentioned before about the fact that Neese and I were going to join a Civil War reenactment group. While I've had some second thoughts about that plan, the costuming bug had already gotten under my skin, so I had to do some kind of sewing. So I decided I'd make my petticoats, because they can be used under my RenFaire costume just as easily as a CW costume, should I never get up the guts to actually start reenacting.

I started with an old set of cream-colored, 100% cotton bedsheets, which I bleached. This not only turned them white and got rid of a few stains, it had the added bonus of making them smell all chlorinated and pretty, like they came fresh from the hotel.

To start, I cut the elastic off the fitted sheet and ripped open the corner seams so it would lay flat. I followed Elizabeth Stewart Clark's pattern, and cut the pieces at 42 inches x 45 inches. I wasn't overly exacting with my measurements, as any slight deviations can be fixed in the hemming process, and it's really hard to make fitted sheets behave perfectly on a cutting board. I only did three panels because I'm not a large girl, and 135 inches of circumference is plenty for me to be hauling around. Anything more and I'd likely look ridiculous.

I straight-seamed the pieces together, leaving a ten inch placket in the back, and then hemmed the bottom of the skirt. This is where the whole "not being exacting with your measurements" thing can come back to bite you, but it ended up not being too bad this time. It has a two and a half inch hem, which may seem like a lot, but helps weigh the petticoat down and makes it flow better. I'm usually not the best at making my hems straight, but this time I took my time, and it turned out really well.

After that, I gathered the waist by hand, which I'd never done before, but which is actually probably easier than doing it by machine. It's kind of daunting when you're working with 135 inches of fabric (it just keeps going and going and going), but it goes surprisingly quickly, and in the end, you really do have a much nicer gather than when you're trying to pull on the machine threads and praying that they don't break. I think I'm going to use that method for gathering all my skirts from now on.

The worst part of the whole experience was attempting to attach the waistband. It took three attempts and involved a lot of cursing and seam ripping. The first attempt ended in tragedy as other portions of the skirt got caught up in the seam, and the second resulted in several locations where the skirt didn't actually get attached to the waistband at all. Obviously, neither of those were what I wanted, so on the third attempt, I took my time and was careful to stop and pull the rest of the skirt out of the way of itself (cotton is really annoying for how much it sticks together). And it worked!

Finally, I used a running stitch to close the waistband, and then made a buttonhole and attached a wooden button. I used period stitches for the buttonhole, and a wooden button, which may or may not be period. It fits very well, and gives me ridiculously wide hips, which is the whole point. Having tried it on with both Rennie costumes, I'm really happy - it'll be functional as an underskirt with my brown "pirate" skirt, but it works even better as a petticoat under my green skirt, as it spreads the waistband out enough that my black corset doesn't look nearly as lumpy around the waist as it has in the past.

The green skirt itself is my next project - it needs some repairs where I've split the seam under the placket because I didn't know about re-enforcing when I was 14. Not to mention that the intervening nine years have had some impact on my waist-size, and the buttons/snaps need to be moved so that I can breathe without popping it open.

What I'm Listening to: "Catch Me If You Can" by Fall Out Boy