{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

an eighteenth century quilted petticoat

an 18th century quilted petticoat

quilting pattern based on extant pattern

silk twill, cotton batting, cotton (lining), silk thread

The holy grail of the 18th century
re-enactor - a hand quilted petticoat. It's proved to be quite a challenge. Thanks to the shine of the fabric I can only work on it in natural light and the large hoop requires some funky sitting positions to wrangle it.

I have one panel (of 2-3) finished
but can't seem to bring myself to carry on ... someday I'll finish this.

Currently on hold.



The Dress Diary:

February 27 2005

I picked up the cotton batting for my quilted petticoat at Jo-Anns yesterday. It was seriously on sale so that was good timing.

I haven't decided how I'm going to construct the petticoat. The quilted petticoat in Costume Close-Up has all the layers seamed to the desired width, layered and then quilted, like a modern quilt. I'm thinking seriously of quilting separate panels and then sewing those together to make the petticoat. It would make it easier to manage as I'm working, expose the silk to fewer "spill" opportunities.

I think it's probably more accurate to quilt post-assembly, though. You would really have to if your front and backing were different widths, as period silk and linen are. However the pre option might be a bit more practical in my case.

March 6 2005

I can't make up my mind on what I want to do for my quilted petticoat. I know I want to use this green silk but the design is proving a bit more fiddly to pin down. Too many good ideas out there really. Originally I was thinking perhaps a garland of leaves. Foliage seemed appropriate for the mossy green silk.


The pic from Costume in Detail is my original inspiration for this project. I love the bottom leaf or feather shape, lovely! The second petticoat is from Arnold and what I really love about it is the top zig-zag design. So simple but elegant.

March 9 2005

Today I pulled any and all costuming books that *might* have a quilted petticoat in it and began going through them systematically. This time I was smart and put little sticky notes on all the pages with quilted petticoats on them so I could reference them.

I was amazed at how many I was able to find in my home library. Revolution in Fashion has the most, interesting enough. Although I found lots of examples, I've discovered the tricky thing about quilted petticoats is that you can rarely make out the pattern. The contrast of thread and fabric is low, on a mannequin there are always folds and frequently gowns are covering most of the petticoat anyway. Someone really needs to write a book about quilted petticoats, with lots of close-ups and scaled patterns!

In my squinting and frustration, I have noted a few things. The designs tend to be either very rounded or very spiky, you don't really see round and spiky shapes in the same design. I also noticed there are two main techniques used to execute the design:

The first is the way modern quilts are done, where the design is more or less an outline. It's occasionally filled in, but usually just left as an outline.


The second technique is a reverse of that, where the background is quilted in narrow lines of stitches and the design becomes the area that is not quilted, similar to voided needlework. It is tempting to do a "voided quilt" design, but that would be at least 4 times the work and I was trying to go for simple. *sigh* It sure would be pretty though ... .

At the moment I am hunting for "feather" and leaf quilting motifs to play with. I've found a few at Quiltmaker.com that I like. I was hoping to have the petticoat to a starting point so I could take it on vacation with me, but that is not going to happen now. Moo.

March 11 2005

I'll be putting this project on hold for a little while. I've been offered some period quilt tracings for inspiration from a dear friend so I don't want to proceed on the design until I have those in hand. I hate to put a hold on this project but I'm sure the wait will be worth it!

July 1 2005

My pattern tracings have arrived! I'm so excited - they are lovely!!

July 11 2005

I made a trek to G Streets today so I have the silk thread for my quilted petticoat (huzzah for a decent match on my custom dyed silk!). I'm all ready to start on the petticoat as soon as I can get the design finalized. I really should do that as I don't have a needlework project now. I could be making progress on something while I watch movies at night if I had anything to work on!

July 17 2005

I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to come up with a design ditty similar to the one on pg 24 of Costume in Detail. I wanted something like it to fill in my main feather design. I'm a bit discouraged about the whole idea now as I don't really like anything I've come up with so far. Blah I say!

Since I'm having such bad design-block I think I'm just going to set the whole thing aside for a while. To be honest I'm getting less and less enthused over the whole project. Part of it is that there is slim chance that I will finish it in time for the ball (the original concept). I was thinking I would try having it done for the Christmas season but at the moment there are other projects I'd rather be working on. Maybe I should just save it for later or make it one of those no-deadline leisurely-pace type things.

November 12 2005

I really need to get off the stick and just start this project. I'm to a point were I'm ready to set aside my grandiose plans and just use one of the lovely tracings Suzi was so kind to send me as is instead of for inspiration. I want my green silk petticoat!

November 14 2005

You may want to sit down for this one - I actually started the quilted petticoat tonight! Aren't you'all proud of me? *heehee*

I ended up using one of the tracings Suzi sent me months ago, the one labeled "Allandale feather". I haven't decided what to do at the top (diamonds, hatching, zig-zags) but I figure I'll get the bottom started and worry about it later. :P So the bottom design is all ready to go now; all finalized, tweaked and re-sized. Now I'm off to measure and prep the skirt panels.

I'm so excited to be finally starting this project!

November 21 2005

The question of the hour ...

Lets say you were making an 18th century petticoat out of silk with cotton batting (and you are too cheap to use linen) what would you use to line it? And how exactly would you hem the bottom?

*think, think, think*

November 24 2005

Thanks much for your excellent replies to my query. I'm just going to go with cotton I think, it will be simple and unseen anyway!

I was going to work on my quilted petticoat tonight but I don't think it's meant to be. The fabric is all cut and ready to go, which is a step in the right direction. Well actually torn into approximately the correct sized panels would be more precise - I've learned it doesn't pay to cut too exact before quilting, the stitching always throws something off. I'll trim and hem once the quilting part is done.

The pattern needed a bit more prep work than I thought it would. Some general cleaning up of lines and re-marking where the little sheets of paper have been printed out and taped together. The hardest part has been trying to reconcile the space where my pattern repeats. I don't know how the original pattern repeated (only have the single design) so I'm making that up as I go along. I need to play with it a bit more. *sigh*

November 27 2005

Yay! The quilted petticoat design is finished!! The finial version of the sucker is printing out as I type. Now I just need to transfer it to the fabric and I'm ready to start stitching.

January 22 2006


I basted all the layers together with safety pins and started on the quilting tonight. I'm starting to find my stride but I think I'm going to quit for the evening. The silk is lovely but it creates glare that makes the washable pencil hard to see. I need to try and work on this mostly in the day time I think.

January 22 2006

Okay so I lied - I did work on my petticoat a bit more last night. I rested my eyes for a bit and then couldn't stand it any more and picked it up again. I'm pretty pleased with how quickly this is going. Quilting is so relaxing and brainless. It's a good thing because although it's simple and goes quickly I have a lot of surface area to cover - this panel is one of two remember! The petticoat is looking so cool though - I can't wait to wear it!

Thank you so much for all your kind comments on this project. You guys are so sweet!

January 23 2006
I didn't feel like doing anything else this evening so I quilted. I got quite a bit done actually - I'm really whaling on this project. If I can keep the momentum up I'll have it finished in no time!


It won't happen but it's a nice thought, yes?

January 26 2006
I had to take one of the cars in for a safety inspection. So I got to quilt for 50 minutes while I waited. I'm almost ready to move that huge hoop over to a new section which makes me happy. This is really going much faster than I thought it would. I keep forgetting that the part I hate and take forever on with a quilt is the piecing, not the quilting.

January 27 2006

Progress pics! I spent my evening working on this project again. As you can see I've done enough to have to move the hoop. I started on a bit of the diamond pattern tonight. It turns out to be fun to work - at least it's nice to have something straight forward after all those curly-cues.

I don't know. Now that I have most of the bottom design done I don't know that I really like it. Maybe I should just have a simple diamond-patterned petticoat and save the fancy bottom for a later project ... ummm.

January 30 2006

I have gotten discouraging little done this weekend. Lots of headaches these days - stupid weather! I worked on my quilt - not as much as I'd like of course but still - it's progress. Thanks to your comments and advice I'm mush more reconciled to the Allendale pattern at the bottom. It's definitely growing on me.

February 8 2006

It has been a very long week, with Mom's knee surgery last Tuesday and my taking over the household chores for her. A very long week indeed. Mom is doing well but it's going to be a long recovery for her so I guess I better get used to all the dishes and grocery shopping. *sigh* I swear my costuming is the only thing keeping me sane these days, even as little time I have to I work on it.

I've made progress on the quilted petticoat this week which is nice. I love how I keep having to move further away to get it in frame for pics. Pretty cool, that! As you can see, I've finished the feather design on this panel and have moved on to the diamonds. Nice and brainless.

February 12 2006
Tonight I turned my hand to the quilted petticoat only to discover that the section of diamonds I was working on were off. As in crooked and not the same shape as the ones I've done so far. Some how my measuring was off I guess. I tried to compensate and correct the shapes as I stitched but that was making things worse so I finally gave up. So now I need to take out all the work I did this evening, wash off the markings and do them again.

I couldn't deal with anything more today so I packed everything away, took apart the bee diadem napkin rings (deconstruction is a wonderful thing at times), tidied my room and am waiting for a new week to begin. *sigh*

April 27 2006
I finally got around to un-pinning and washing the marks off my quilted petticoat. I think I've been in denial about it all this time. The washable pencil marks wouldn't come off with a wet rag so I ended up throwing the whole thing in the washer for a rinse cycle. I've hung it up to dry so I can work on that this weekend.

October 5 2006
After all the running around I've been doing this week, I was feeling a little run-down so I decided to take a "personal day" today. I stayed up late last night watching movies, slept in super late, spend the afternoon re-marking and pinning my quilted petticoat before going out to dinner with a friend. A very nice day indeed!

October 6 2006
I finished another two rows of quilted diamonds! It feels so good to be working on this again, I can't believe it took so long to re-mark the pattern so I could carry on.

I'd forgotten how similar to crack quilting is though; once I start I can't seem to put it away and stop. It probably doesn't help that it's cold, rainy and gloomy out and I'm a bit headachy. All I really want to do is curl up in a fluffy sweater, drink hot apple cider and quilt. I must possess some self discipline as I haven't spent my whole day doing just that ... just most of it. *grin*

October 9 2006

Pic update - yay! We got home from Williamsburg last night and all I felt like doing was quilting, so I did! It's looking pretty good. Some time soon I shall have to do some serious measurements to figure out where the batting needs to end (no batting at the waist line - I have enough natural bulk thank you! :>) and figure out how many rows of stitching I want at the bottom to I can trim that up.

I'm trying to decide if my originally planned two 45" panel petticoat will be full enough. It doesn't look like it to me. I don't want an overly full petticoat but I don't want it to look wimpy either. I should double check what my current petticoats actually measure around ...

January 24 2007
Could someone please remind me why I started that petticoat thing?! Ack! It's going so slowly and the silk is shiny so it's hard to see the markings at night. The markings that are not off (again *grinds teeth*) or worn away because I've been working on it so long. And I still have another full panel to do. *chokes*

If it weren't for the vision of me in it at the Underwear Breakfast I would have turned it into a lap blanket by now. Drat my grandiose imagination!

January 26 2007

B was kind enough to take some pics of my quilted petticoat as is. Not too much change since the last time you saw it but I assure you progress has been made!

It's the wretched sides. I can't use the large quilting hoop so at first I tried without a hoop at all - do-able but incredibly slow going and fiddly. I have found a smaller, oval hoop that works, I just have to move it every diamond and a half. Tedious but I am getting through it.

If I had to do it over again I would certainly sew all the seams together and then quilt, rather than this quilting then piece method. If I had I'm sure I could have been almost done by now! Oh well.

August 18 2007

I don't know why I thought I could just blaze away and get my quilted petticoat panel finished today. I am so close!!! No matter what I do though it's a wretchedly slow business, working on the pestilential thing. *razenfrazen*

I finished the "padded" bit and cut off the batting (so that I don't have bulk at the waistline.) I think 2 more rows of diamonds should do it, at least I hope so. My brain is to starting to feel like mush so I'm going to set it aside for a while though.

I don't know how I'm ever going to make it through a whole other panel! *whimpers*

August 18 2007

My friend Elizabeth asked me a bunch of questions about my quilted petticoat - yay a distraction from the having to go work on the wretched thing some more – and as my answers might be of interest to others I'm posting them here.

How many layers of fabric did you use and in what order did you lay them?
Three layers - first a cotton lining, then the batting, then the silk.

What kind of padding are you using?
Cotton batting. The brand name is Warm & Natural - you can get it from any Jo-Anns. Technically it's 95% cotton, 5% poly but whatever.

Did you use a basting spray? If so on all layer or one?
Nope, basted all the layers together with safety pins. Basting spray only works for projects that need to be basted for 1-2 days max in my experience - a basting spray would have never held up for the 1.5 years I've been working on it.

How many yards of fabric for the petticoat?
No idea. I was working from bolts of fabric, ripping off panels I needed according to my waist-to-hem measurements and seam allowances.

I think you mentioned the petticoat is in two pieces? Right?
Yes, I'm almost finished with one panel. When the second panel is complete I will sew up the two to make a tube. I'm not convinced this is a period way of doing it but it was a more convenient method for me so there you are.

How far from the bottom did you begin?
I don't remember exactly but it was a good 5" I'm thinking. Way too much. You only need about 3" to be super safe, way less than that if you are going to bind the bottom. I'll be doing much less than 5" on my second panel.

Are you going to hem the petticoat or bind it?
Hem. The first panel is already done - should be pictures of in the diary somewhere. I will be keeping scraps though to bind it when (yeah not if) the hem starts to show wear however.

Will the top of the petticoat be gathered or pleated.
Pleated. I always pleat my petticoats, it's prettier and period correct.

Finally, what or how did you trace the design?
My silk was thin so I just place the design underneath the silk and traced the design in washable pencil. I originally did that with the diamonds as well but found they were way off about half way up. When I re-traced them I simply used clear rulers to mark the straight lines. Some of those lines end-up a little off toward the top as well though. I think for the second panel I will make a stencil of my diamonds and see how that works.

August 18 2007

I have 5 more diamonds to go on the petticoat - I will finish tomorrow. I'm so excited.

August 20 2007

The first panel of the quilted petticoat is done!!! *throws confetti* It's in the wash now, losing it's pencil marks. I'll take pics once it's dry.

Golly that feels good. I'm not going to worry about getting started on the second panel right away ... I have other more interesting projects I want to work on now. Once it gets cooler maybe I'll be more interested in the quilting thing. I still feel like I can cross something of my list - yay!



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