HSF #0: Starting Simple

January 2nd, 2013

New year, new petticoat. Yep, I’m still me.


Amid the holiday rush, I managed to find a few hours each day to “zen out” on handsewing. The result, a long overdue petticoat for a swath of 1850s-era “guipure” crochet edging I finished more than a year ago. Why now, you ask? What exactly motivated me to finally get this done?

It was the Historical Sew Fortnightly, organized by The Dreamstress, who is one of my very favorite bloggers even though I’ve never met her (I always feel a bit uneasy reading the blogs of people I don’t actually know — sort of like I am stalking them).

Anyways, the idea is that participants are challenged to sew an historical (pre-1938) garment every two weeks for the next year — 26 in all. Each fortnight has a theme around which to organize your project. And best of all, there’s a bustling Facebook group to share research, inspiration, and lots of delicious pictures of the completed projects! This petticoat is my contribution for challenge #0, the pre-challenge. It’s title was “Starting Simple.” Make something fairly easy, and/or something that you’ve made before.

catrtidge pleating

It’s a basic mid-19th century style top-layer petticoat. I used three breadths of 45 inch cotton, sewn up the selvedges and cartridge pleated to a buttoned waistband. Based on this gorgeous example from The Metropolitan Museum, I decided to include 6 tucks above the edging.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Petticoat

As is obvious from the picture of my deflated petticoat at the top of this post, I still need to put my cage crinoline together. I blush to admit I was in such a hurry to finish this, I committed the curatorial sin of using an extant cage crinoline (circa 1860-1865) from my personal collection to balance the petticoat. But I did resist the urge to get it out again for the photograph. I was also too lazy to put on my corset to figure out where to sew the buttons…

Just the facts, Ma’am:

The Challenge: #0 Starting Simple

Fabric: Cotton muslin

Pattern: Based on period directions and extant garments

Year: 1850-56

Notions: 2 mother-of-pearl buttons (I need to learn to make thread buttons!)

How historically accurate is it?About 90%. It’s impossible to get completely accurate materials — for example, the quality and size of the cotton are a little off, and I have a feeling the thread I used for the crocheted edging is the wrong size (it was the right number, but seems a little on the large side). Otherwise, it’s completely hand-sewn with period plain-sewing stitches.

Hours to complete: 20-30. Thanks to those six tucks, I figure I put upwards of 1,200 inches of sewing into this petticoat. Much of it running at 18-stitches-to-the-inch…

First worn: Not for a while yet — I need to finish the cage and/or crinoline, not to mention a whole bunch of other pieces to complete my 1850s wardrobe. This petticoat, along with others, will eventually be part of a mixed-media art exhibit as well.

Total cost: Counting fabric and crochet thread, about $15.

petticoat bottom

  • Wow. Just wow. That is just gorgeous and amazingly constructed. I am in awe! The Met petticoat you used as inspiration is pretty much my favourite petticoat ever (mmmm…paisley).

    I’m tickled pink that you like my blog so much. Don’t feel funny reading it! I write it to be read by a wide audience, and while I do aim for the tone to be personal and personable, everything is edited for public consumption 😉

    Best of all, I’ve gotten to ‘know’ (and occasionally meet) people who read my blog (and I theirs in turn) in real life, helping to build the global costuming community.

    • eva says:

      Gosh, thanks! I’m a total sucker for mid-19th century petticoats, especially broderie anglaise with lots of tucks…

      And I’m glad to have your sanction for continued enjoyment of your delightful blog. I’ve met one or two people who knew me first through my website. It was a surreal experience. But they did turn out to be awesome folks.

      And thanks also for starting the Historical Sew Fortnightly group. What a great idea — and great sewing motivation!

  • Melissa says:

    Wow, that’s amazing Eva! I’m continually impressed by your hand sewing skills. Can’t wait to see the rest of your Fortnightly projects!

    • eva says:

      Thanks!!! I know most of the stuff you do is a little later than 1938, otherwise I would have sent you an urgent alert. But if you ever feel like talking a walk on the historical side…

  • Lorna says:

    Great petticoat, I too am moving into the 1850s this year, I have my underpinings and cage, the cage was bought from an historical costumer, my petticoat os similar to yours, tucks but no lace. I’m also loving the Historical Sew Fortnightly, so many creative people,

    • eva says:

      I adore the 1850s. It’s such a time of transition. Fashion was being democratized and mechanized, but there was still a feeling of “anything goes.” I’m actually looking more into the first half of the 20th century this year myself — it’s like we are swapping! (I just took an awe-inspiring peek at your site.) My move is mostly inspired by the need to process all the clothing and accessories I took from my grandmother’s house…plus I love the styles and haven’t ever had a chance to really explore them. What drew you to the 1850s? I look forward to seeing what you make!

  • […] as I learned from the mixed up hem on this petticoat (my next petticoat had 6 generous tucks and a proper hem), I also took a few pointers from a previous petticoat […]

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