Tuesday, 16 July 2013

1780's scalloped petticoat- finished

Here are the scallops! A total pain in the butt to sew, but worth it.

I'm not sure how these would have been done in the 1780's. Every extant 18th century garment with scalloped edges that I have ever seen has raw edges that were cut with a pinking tool, but this seems a poor choice for a hem that drags along the ground. Perhaps the whole edge was finished with buttonhole stitches, like cutwork. But these are just guesses. Neither one of those would work on my fraying-prone rayon anyway.

I couldn't find any extant examples of this type of petticoat (plain white petticoats aren't the sort of garment people generally save) so I really have no idea how those hems were made.

Since there wasn't much hope for historical accuracy with this project, I just copied the look as closely as possible. In order to get the hem I wanted I would have to sew some kind of facing to the hem so that the scallops could be turned and all the raw edges hidden away.

I made my first sample with two pieces of the rayon.
Nope. Wrong fabric. Making samples is always a good idea for this very reason.
The different layers of rayon were way too obvious. The drapey nature of the fabric also made the hem wobbly, which was plainly visible even when there was no light shining through it. Something sturdier but more invisible was needed.

I had recently received several big bags of fabric from my mother's friend and amongst all the fabulous natural fibers was a piece of this stuff:
I had no idea what it was but it was sheer and very crispy. I assumed it was synthetic because it had such a plastic like texture.
Yay! Much better.
It worked wonderfully. It was sufficiently sturdy and sufficiently invisible.

It only took 3 strips of the crispy stuff to go around the entire hem. One straight piece for the front and two curved pieces for the back/sides. I had cut the hem to length in a swooping shape so the two curved pieces were cut to match.
I sewed the ends of the front piece of facing to the forward pointing ends of the side/back facing, leaving the two ends at the centre back free. I lined up the centre front points on the front panel and the front piece of facing and pinned the facing all around the hem of the petticoat.
I drew little scallops on the facing in soft pencil. I drew them freehand because using a piece of cardboard to trace them would not have made the finished product any more uniform.

Then I sewed along the whole scallop-y line using a very small stitch length.
7 down, only 99 to go!
It was not much fun.  I could only sew a few stitches before I had to turn the fabric slightly. The presser foot went up and down more times than I can count and the foot pedal became uncomfortably hot from all the starting and stopping. My mother suggested I use the free motion foot, but that would have made it very difficult to control the stitch length and these scallops must be sewn with tiny stitches.
When I stopped sewing there was still a one scallop wide space at the center back where the two free ends of the facing were.
Now I could sew the two ends together in the right place. I pressed the seam open and sewed the remaining scallop.
Only one scallop left.
I trimmed the edges down to a couple of millimeters and cut a notch in between the scallops as far up as I could.

I sprayed the hem with water and turned the scallops inside out.
They bore a strong resemblance to cartoon dinosaur toes.
It was around this time when I noticed that the crispy stuff I had assumed was synthetic was behaving very strangely. I had never known a synthetic to become so limp after being sprayed with water. I did a burn test, and found that it was actually silk. I had never encountered silk organza before, but that's what the crispy material turned out to be!
If I had known that earlier I could have done a better job ironing it. No wonder it took so long to get the wrinkles out on the synthetic setting.
The scallops being ironed.
Ironing the scallops was a bit tricky but it made them very smooth and flat. I turned the edge of the organza down and hand sewed it like a regular hem.
I was afraid that the scallops would pucker and begin to turn inward again the next time they got wet so I went around the hem with edge stitching. It was no fun at all but it made the scallops more secure.
Structurally sound scallops.
From a distance you can barely tell that there is facing.
This picture shows the wobbliest scallop.
The scallops aren't perfectly even but since they average a width of 3 cm I think most of them are pretty good. It's actually hard to see the unevenness when the hem is moving and you are looking down at it.
Just out of curiosity I counted the scallops. There are 106 of them.
I'm so glad it's an even number!
The blue petticoat that I am wearing underneath this one shows through a little. It also doesn't "poof" quite as much as I would like. I'll need to make a few more long white petticoats to wear under this one.
The hem is a bit lower in front than the ones in the fashion plates but it should be at the right level when I eventually get proper 18th century shoes.
You may have noticed that my shift no longer has sleeves. I cut them off in frustration. (Don't worry, 'twas a crappy shift already.) I was working on the toile for my next project, a jacket, and the sleeves of the shift bunched up horribly inside the jacket sleeves. I think that they were too big and baggy.

Does anyone have any advice on making shift sleeves fit under outerwear sleeves?
The Challenge: #15, Colour challenge-White

Fabric: 3.5 m of rayon, 3 not-particularly-big strips of silk organza, 2 very small rectangles of tightly woven cotton.

Pattern: None. I cut the swoop of the hem based on the measurements of the purple petticoat, but with a slightly shorter train.

Year: Late 1780's-early 1790's

Notions: 3.4 m of cotton twill tape.

How historically accurate is it? Not very. The only hand sewing is in the waistband, the pocket slits, the ends of the twill tape and the inside of the hem. The materials are not accurate either. The only accurate thing about this petticoat is the look, which is based on the fashion plates I posted a few days ago.

Hours to complete: 24 hours and 40 minutes. No surprise there.

First worn: July 15th.

Total cost: $0

I am quite proud of the fact that I only spent 3 days sewing this 24 hour petticoat. The 22 hour cap was also done inside of 3 days. I'm not normally able to work so efficiently because I am usually quite sleep deprived (I have terrible insomnia. I can go to bed at 10:00 and still be awake at 2:30) but I slept in that week and so was able to catch up on the challenge.

I finished the petticoat on July 9th which put me 20 days ahead of schedule. The extra time is important because the project I am working on for the next challenge is my first jacket ever and it will take a while to figure out. I am convinced that I can do better in the second half of the HSF than I did in the first. I missed a bunch of challenges, finished a bunch of things late and created some new UFO's. I will make an effort to procrastinate less on the remaining challenges.
I'm working on the second toile now and the pattern is starting to resemble something reasonably decent.
That's all for today. More on the jacket later.


  1. I love scalloped petticoats. No matter the era, I think that all petticoats should have scallops. There's something special about getting a glimpse of scalloped hem under the skirt. :D

    Also, 3 cm scallops! Egads!

    Excellent job. I'm very excited to see your first jacket, as well. :)

    1. Thanks! I love scallops too, but if all petticoats had them a lot of costumers would probably have nervous breakdowns. Unless the scallops were really big.

  2. Your scalloped edge turned out really well.