Friday, February 11, 2011

Experiments in Petticoats

No, I've not turned into some deranged mad scientist, conducting bonkers experiments to bring women's undergarments to ungodly life! (Although that might be something to try later...) I've actually been trying out various ways of making petticoats and various materials to create different skirt shapes. I'm currently working on a 1950's style dress and wanted to see the various ways in which its circle skirt could be supported. This first picture is one of my basic circle skirts without any support. However you can make it much more obviously voluminous  and change its silhouette by adding various types of petticoats.

The first petticoat I tried is a fairly classic ballet style net petticoat. A long strip of net is gathered along the top edge onto a waistband and wrapped around the waist, in this case creating two layers. This is the kind of long multi-layered tulle skirt that is often seen in ballet productions. I used fairly stiff dress net and gathered it very heavily around the waist with my ruffler foot, which produces a bell or dome like shape that then falls fairly straight to the hem. 

The second type I tried was a very pretty three tiered design made in shot red and black organza.  This is a very 1950's style, with the bottom tier being about twice the length gathered onto the middle tier, and the middle tier being twice as big as the top tier, and the top layer being twice the waist measurement. I used a ruffler foot on this petticoat as well, as it is a lot less work than hand gathering. This technique produces a very light but full petticoat that produces a more triangular shape, with less fullness at the waist and increasing out to the hem.

The last petticoat is a bit of a can-can extravaganza! Made from light-weight taffeta and gathered by hand this, like the organza petticoat, works with each tier being twice the length of the tier above. I edged it with some black lace that I have had lying around for years to get that totally crackers can-can effect! Whilst using a lot of fabric this petticoat is not very full, producing a more gentle triangular shape. The material is probably a bit light for a petticoat and even gathered up does not "stick out" in the same way as the organza or net. It is however ,a lot more comfortable to wear against the skin as both the organza and net can be a bit scratchy and in a slightly heavier taffeta would produce more volume.

My last bit of experimentation was with ways of finishing the edge of the fabric.  net doesn't need an edge finish as it does not fray but both taffeta and organza fray like mad so have to have the edge treated. Hand hemming takes forever and machine hemming or overlocking takes a vast amount of thread. So I finally got out my soldering and tried a technique I've been wanting to try for ages but have just not got around to-using a soldering iron to seal the edge of man made fibres with heat. I have to say it works brilliantly! Not only is the edge sealed from fraying but you can cut the strips of fabric for the petticoat tiers out with the soldering iron thus saving time and money on thread-bonus! One downside is that heating up the fibres tends to give off some rather foul smoke, so you have to wear a respirator... Not only does make you look a total prat, but it also makes you sound like Darth Vadar on helium!

It does however produce a nice smooth finished edge that does not fray. You can just about see this on the picture, but unfortunately I do not have enough hands to take a photo hold the solder iron, ruler and fabric all at once, so you'll just have to take my word for the fact that it does work! Who knows maybe I'll give up my sewing machines altogether and just solder everything together now....

1 comment:

Little Harriet said...

Would *love* to make my own clothes but lack the patience! They look lovely :)