Part 2 – The Petticoat
In the last post I talked about my greatest ‘making’ achievement yet – my wedding dress. I decided to make this so I wouldn’t let my future-self down, and I’m so happy I decided to go for it! The dress itself was fun, and aside from the corsetry techniques I picked up as I went along, was fairly straightforward.
I never, ever intended to make the petticoat. I’ve tried (and failed) with petticoats before, and I hate working with netting! I even found a very reasonably-priced lady that makes petticoats in every colour under the sun, Petticoats-a-Plenty, and talked about placing an order. But for some reason I found myself looking at tutorials thinking it could be do-able, and ordering 125m of netting.
Other than always-having-to-do-every-single-part-of-something-myself, the reason I didn’t order a bespoke petticoat was my complete inability to choose which colours I wanted to use. I thought if I could see the colours first, things would start to slot into place. I had already chosen two pairs of shoes and yarn for a cover-up cardigan (that’ll be the next post!) and I needed everything to match, obviously.
I ordered five 15cm x 25m rolls of premium netting from Raindrops Boutique which arrived the next day. Bias binding was more of a tricky decision, as I knew they’d show and need to match the shoes and yarn, so they all came from various shops. My favourite was from Sew and Sew in St Nick’s Market in Bristol, it wasn’t cheap at 50p a metre, but the drape (can a ribbon drape?) was lovely. I also ordered a binding foot after watching this tutorial, which I can honestly say saved my sanity.
The petticoat tutorial I followed was from this one from Sugardale, and it’s really well written. The basis is that you have a series of strips of tulle in various lengths, sewn into circles, and these are gathered and sewn to each other to form the petticoat.
Because my tulle came in 15cm wide rolls, I had to adapt slightly. The lengths I used were 12m, 6m, 3m and 1.75m, and then the final tier was made from 1m of cotton.
After working out a system, things got easier, but I was very grateful when my Mum offered to come and help. I think had she known what she was letting herself in for, she may have kept quiet! Thanks Mum
I cut my tulle by rolling out pieces to measurement – loosely folding the tulle into Z shapes as I went, so I could easily sew the length into a loop knowing it wasn’t twisted. With the 12m lengths, this was a godsend! I marked every metre with a small line to make things easier to line up when it came to sew the tiers together.
That picture on the left below is all my different lengths of tulle neatly rolled up, to be sewn into individual petticoats.
Then we got to work. After a bit of playing, I managed to set my sewing machine to just the correct tension to gather the tulle by 50%, so each loop of tulle would be roughly the right size to pin to the next (smaller) tier. As mentioned in the Sugardale tutorial, it’s vital that the tiers are completed separately, so sadly you can’t go doing all the gathering first and then move onto the joining.
My preferred method to attach the tiers to eachother was to lay the longest loop around the ironing board, then set about lining up it’s metre markings to that of the one it was to gather to. We then tacked each piece about 2.5cm below the gathering line, and reset the sewing machine to the right tension to sew without bunching. I found it much easier to sew the tulle with the flat piece on top, and the gathered piece underneath, so the foot didn’t go crazy and jam up.
There were originally 5 different petticoats in total, but I took one out on the morning of our wedding. The peach just wasn’t doing it for me, and it was a smidgen too poofy. It took the best part of a weekend to sew these, with two of us on the Saturday. If you’re less anal about getting your all gathers even, it might be quicker!
With the binding foot and the help of the tutorial, the bias bindings were attached quite quickly, maybe 10 mins per skirt? It takes a bit of getting used to, so I would recommend practicing this first. Hand finishing them is also a faff to hide the all ribbon edges.
Once all the skirts were complete, I cut a cotton layer to wear underneath to the same 175m measurement as the fourth tiers. Then I cut a strip of cotton 1m x 15cm and gathered all 5 skirts, plus the cotton under-layer to this, then pinned and sewed the whole lot together. Finally I made a wide hem in the top layer and added elastic.
Hopefully I’ll find some occasion to wear this part of the dress again!