Quilted Petticoat

The quilted petticoat was a ubiquitous item of women’s 18th century clothing, and spanned all social classes being worn by both the wealthiest elite and the very poor.  However, this does not mean they all looked the same.  Those who could afford them wore satin or plainweave petticoats quilted in pretty and fanciful designs with silk thread.  The cheaper versions were made of rough woolen fabrics quilted in simple designs such as a lattice work pattern.

The example I am constructing combines a garment pattern from the Colonial Williamsburg costume collection found in Costume Close-up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790, pp 35-38 and one from the Museum of London.  The Williamsburg petticoat is dated 1750-75 and is of English origin; I therefore considered it eminently suitable for my project.  The quilting design for the petticoat is taken directly from an artifact at the Museum of London that I charted myself.

 

Materials:

- dark cream coloured (tea stained by me) silk satin

- untreated wool batting (you can still feel some lanolin in it!)

- off-white coloured plain weave wool for the backing (which I starched and pressed with a hot iron to achieve some semblance of the ‘glazing’ that is typical of extant examples.  I think it partially worked)

- off-white silk filament thread

                                                                                           

Day 1

The silk satin I’m using for the face of the petticoat actually comes from a series of scraps I happened to already have (this project on the whole has the added benefit of helping me out a little with my stash).  This meant there was a lot of piecing to do, although I thought this very fitting considering how much of this one sees on extant garments.  However, this also meant that I spent most of this first … you guessed it – piecing.  I sewed the scraps together in as logical a fashion as I could manage using small running stitches and pressed the seams open in accordance with much of the fabric piecing I observed first-hand.  I didn’t bother to finish the edges of the seam allowances since the entire garment will be lined.

Once this was finally finished, I cut out the lining pieces from the wool and sewed the selvedge edges seams up.  To do this I simply overlapped the edges and sewed them up with long running stitches. 

edges overlapped and running stitched
edges overlapped and running stitchededges lapped and slip stitched

Day 2

Today I started off with sewing the 2 halves of the wool backing together on one side to make one long length of cloth.  The edges were cut and raw so I lapped and slip stitched them.

edges lapped and slip stitched

I had now done all the sewing I could for the moment since such petticoats were quilted while the cloths were still flat.  So I turned to the quilting design and enlarged it.  I traced over the design with ink so that I could erase the pencil and not end up with it accidentally trasferring to the silk (because you just KNOW that would happen, no matter how unlikely it would seem).

I have to admit that I do not know how quilting patterns were transferred to the fabric in the 18th century.  If anyone reading this knows (I’m kinda lookin’ at you Julia), please let me know and I will switch methods.  The technique I am using involved poking through the lines of the design with a very large, thick needle.  I then started transferring the design to the silk using a fading fabric marker (I bet they would have loved to have these back then!)  I only transferred one repeat of the pattern at this time.

I then layered all the materials together and pinned around the part of the design I would start quilting; I don’t have a frame to stretch the petticoat onto, so pins will have to do (at least for now).

I started quilting and got this far:

Apparently the example in the Costume Close-Up book is quilted with 10-12 stitches per inch.  I’m managing 8 stitches per inch at my best.  I’ll be keeping an eye on whether this changes throughout the progression of the work.

Day 3

Today’s work was pretty straightforward: I quilted.  I got the lower portion of one repeat finished.

Day 4

This is how far I got today:

I quilted the upper portion of the first repeat, and

the lower portion of the second repeat.

I think it’s looking kind of like a retro bedspread so far, and that this impression will increase the farther I get into it.  However, I have to say that I think it will look pretty fabulous once it’s all made up into a petticoat!

If you click on the above picture to see it full size you will be able to see some of the design marked in purple (that’s the colour of the marker).  However, some of it looks more orangey.  This is because I got a little experimental with starting to transfer the second repeat.  From somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered someone telling me cinnamon was good to use for this sort of thing because it’s so fine.  I took a scrap of my linen fabric I use for linings and made a little sachet.  I dabbed and rubbed this over the paper pattern, but when I lifted it up saw that the colour of the cinnamon goes a little too well with the dark cream of the silk and it barely showed.  It also seems that with the satin weave the powder mostly just sits on top of the fabric surface anyway.  However, still feeling a little adventurous, I got out some paprika (which I actually bought in Hungary!) from my cupboard and tried that since it’s a much brighter colour.  It showed up a little better, but there was still the problem of the surface resisting the powder.  There was enough of it that stuck on though so as to slightly colour the marker markings I made afterwards – oops. 

Day 5

I had to start today with re-drawing the rest of the main pattern section of the 2nd repeat.  Humph.

I finished quilting the bottom portion of the 2nd repeat.  I then prepared the upper portion of the repeat and got it quilted.  So, 2nd repeat is done.

Day 10

 Yes, I do mean Day 10.  I didn’t think there was much point in going through every day since 5 as it would have been almost all the same.  Suffice to say that by the end of Day 9 I had completed 6 repeats of the pattern. 

Today was for fixing a problem, this problem:

The satin ended up short compared with the lining and batting.  I’m sure that using a frame would have prevented this, but that just wasn’t an option for me at the time I needed to start.

Fortunately, I had some scraps of the satin fabric left, though not in one piece that was large enough.  Even more fortunately, the piecing of fabric for garments was widespread at the time so that this actually adds  to the “authenticity” of the piece!

Once that was taken care of, the remainder of the day was given to working on quilting the 7th (and final) repeat.

Day 11

I started today by finishing the last (7th) repeat.  Hooray!!!  I cannot imagine living with the tedium of having to quilt petticoats 12+hrs per day, 6 days per week as my occupation.

To prepare for making the petticoat I trimmed the edges of the wool batting and extra fabric, and pressed the quilted length.

I started the petticoat construction with seaming up the length into a tube.  The seam will be at the centre back.  This was done in 2 steps:

1. I sewed through all layers with backstitch to create the actual seam:

2. I turned under the seam allowance in a fashion similar to a felled seam and sewed it down (through the lining layer only) with slanted stitches:

The top edge of the wool lining is actually some inches lower than that of the silk fabric.  The top of the lining is linen, and I added it at this point with running and slanted/slip stitches.  I believe the reason behind this practice was to reduce bulk right up around the waist.  I don’t have pictures specific to this step, but you’ll see the linen, and where it is in some of the following pictures.

I next made the pocket slits by cutting into the fabric (which made me nervous after all the quilting work I’d done!)  and binding the cut edges with linen tape using running stitches to attach the binding on the right side and catch-stitching it to the underside.

I then moved onto binding the hem; I used a braided wool tape.  First, I stitched the binding to the right side of the hem with running stitches approximately 1/8 inch from the edge.

I folded the binding around the bottom edge of the petticoat and back up into the inside.  I then stitched it to the lining with running stitches.

This is how it looks from the right side

The final task was binding the waist.  I pleated it up and sewed the wool tape onto it in the same manner as I did the hem.  I used 2 strips of tape – one for the front and one for the back.  Each strip was cut longer than the waistline section it bound so the ends could be used as ties.

And with that the quilted petticoat was finished!  I think this is the piece I am most proud of.  It really looks like something out a museum.  After finishing it, and looking at it mounted on my judy I just kept thinking to myself: “I made that… I made  that…… I made that.”

Here are some studio-setting shots of the petticoat:

43 Comments »

  1. Julia Said:

    Err, sorry to disappoint you, but I only know about the beginning of quilting transfer patterns in the 19th c. The Collection doesn’t have anything quilted from before then, so I never had to learn. However, Google brings this up:
    http://lists.whatwg.org/pipermail/h-needlework-ansteorra.org/2004-January/011806.html
    Sounds plausible. Surely Beverly would be able to tell you for sure?

  2. brocadegoddess Said:

    Oh, I knew you’d come through for me one way or another Julia! What kind of search did you do on google to get this? And how freakin’ funny is it that her name is Carolyn!!?? I did a double take when I started reading!

    And feel like a dolt that I didn’t think to work from the underside – that makes so much sense with regards to the pouncing. I’ll have to try and find me some powder that will work – maybe my paprika will work better on the wool, lol.

    Thanks again!

  3. Julia Said:

    You’re welcome. Yesterday was a good Google-fu day.

  4. Cynthia Kruitbosch Said:

    What kind of frame would you be using – I have a wooden frame that rolls the material out from the bottom and over the top as I work on my porject. My frame is +/- 3 feet wide -is this what they would have used for quilting? (or something similar)

  5. brocadegoddess Said:

    That’s an excellent question Cynthia, and I wish I had the answer for you! Thus far I have not come across any specs with regards to the frames used for quilting, I just know that they used them.

    I am, unfortunately, not even using a frame….yet. I haven’t been able to get a hold of a wooden one – could I maybe borrow your’s? ;o) If one thinks logically about it, people in the 18th century sought practicality and efficiency the same way production does today. So, if you find your frame to be a good size and method, I would hazard to guess it’s likely they used something rather similar.

    If you happen to find the answer to your question before I do, please pass it on!!!

  6. Julia Said:

    Check this out:
    http://www.vintagemartini.com/clothing/victorian/pages/7910.html

  7. brocadegoddess Said:

    That’s pretty cool, what a gorgeous petticoat it must have been! It’s a pity they’re splitting up the pieces though, that kind of cheeses me off. I’d be interested to see the actual backing too, I haven’t yet seen or read of any 18th century quilted petticoats being backed with what we now know as muslin.

    Where/how do you find this stuff?

  8. LadyInoui Said:

    I don’t know if anyone ever answered your question, but Williamsburg has an entire display of 18th century petticoats on display at their museum. I visited it this weekend, and they had a video showing the quilting process. The Mantua Maker poked holes in the paper pattern, and then used some sort of cheese cloth filled with cinnamon (it doesn’t stain), and patted it over the paper pattern. This left small little dots that she then used as her sewing guide.

  9. brocadegoddess Said:

    Well, I’ve done the same thing as far as making a paper pattern and poking holes. I also tried using cinnamon in some loose weave fabric (I’d heard about cinnamon from somewhere). The problem was that it didn’t want to adhere to the fabric – being a silk satin it’s too slippery a weave/surface for the cinnamon. I tried paprika after that (it’s a brigher colour), but it didn’t work any better.
    So I’ve decided to just keep going with my fading fabric marker. According to what I have since found out (can’t remember where at the moment, bad historical/scholarly blogger!) at the time they used powdered ink, I wonder if stuck to satin better.

  10. Lizzie Said:

    This is lovely work! I’m glad the exhibition’s worked out so well – wish I could have got over there to see it.

    Hope you won’t mind if I ask questions about the quilting process? How did you arrange the layers when you quilted? Did you put satin over batting over wool lining and quilt through all the layers together?

    I remember reading somewhere once that they worked these skirt panel by skirt panel and they didn’t have batting in rolls as such then. According to this source they carded the wool, arranged it bit by bit on the back of the satin, pressed it lightly to make it hold together enough to tack it in place on the edges of the silk panel. Then put the frame over this, tacked the whole petticoat panel into the frame and somehow turned the whole shebang over. I can’t think where I read this but it sounds counter-intuitive to me. Working panel by panel, fine. Carding wool onto the back of the panel then plopping the frame on top, fixing it there then turning it over? Not so sensible.

    But is this true? What did you see when you looked at originals. How did you do it?

    Sorry to have written so much on so very little! Lizzie.

  11. brocadegoddess Said:

    Hi Lizzie, thanks for your comment.

    I’m not sure I quite understand what you’re describing. When you refer to working skirt panel by skirt panel, do you mean each panel is quilted separately and then all of them attached together? Or that the batting was added to the back as they came to each repeat?
    How ’bout I just tell you what I’ve read and observed, and maybe it works out to almost the same thing anyway.
    From what I understand the outer fabric layer and the wool or linen backing were each made up into the final length/width of the petticoat. The wool batting was sanwiched between the two layers, it was mounted into a frame, then the quilting was done through all layers from the underside. The original examples I’ve examined support this method: the top silk and wool lining layers were pieced independantly of each other, and the quilting was through all layers and was unbroken at the seams except for the centre back where it was sewn up into the tube that made it a skirt.

    However, it may be that the wool batting was added in with each repeat of the quilted pattern, or at other intervals.

    I would hazaard to guess instead that there was not just one way to do this. When it comes to making clothing there is rarely ever only one way to do something, and methods certainly change over time. So perhaps at one shop they decided to card and lay on enough wool batting to do the whole thing, at another shop they didn’t. Then as now, life and work were next to never black and white.

    Is this something like what you were looking for?

  12. Liza Said:

    The style of writing is quite familiar to me. Did you write guest posts for other bloggers?

  13. brocadegoddess Said:

    Hello Liza,

    Um, no I never have been thus honoured.

  14. Mary Spencer Said:

    I am sure this is horrifying to you, but I am an historical reenactor who does not possess the skills to hand quilt a petticoat. I also do not have the funds to buy such a luxury. I must make one using a pre-quilted, diamond pattern silk. My problem is that I can’t find any such fabric in a SOLID PALE BLUE/ICE BLUE/SKY BLUE, OR A ROYAL BLUE, to go with the gown I already have. I sure would appreciate a source for purchasing a quilted silk in the appropriate color, if you can help.
    Your petticoat is gorgeous beyond words, and something I can only lust after! Best Regards, M. Spencer

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Thanks very much Ms Spencer for your kind comment. I’m afraid I have no idea where to find what you’re looking for. Because I quilted this myself I didn’t look for any pre-quilted fabric. The only suggestion I can make is maybe try looking up ‘marseilles’ fabric in addition to quilted. Marseilles work was a type of ‘faux’-quilted fabric used to make less expensive petticoats and I believe the term is still used today. Best of luck!

  15. K Griffee Said:

    This method is certainly not one that was used in 19th century, but it worked well for me in a garment factory. It should work as well at home. The punched-paper pattern is the same of course, but the media in the cheesecloth bag is now a fluorescent powder. (available at http://www.homespy.com/powder.htm). When viewed under a UV lamp or ‘blacklight’, the stencilled pattern is visible. It leaves no ordinarilly visible markings.

  16. Rachael Said:

    This is extremley beautiful, i am incredbly jealous! I wish i owned something like this, let alone had the skills to make it. I love that you handsew so much of your garments, and i really cant imagine how much time it must take!! For all that quilting! its incredible. Well done :)

  17. Lytle Markham Said:

    I’m guessing here, but I have a quilting “frame” from the early 1900’s that certainly could have been made back in the 18th century. It consists of four long boards–maybe one by twos with holes running the lengths of each. The boards are afixed into a square with wingnuts. With the holes you can make it most any size, including rectangles. Strips of cloth can be tacked down the boards and your projects–quilt, petticoats–can be pinned to the strips to hold the fabric for quilting. These were sometimes attached to a pulley system so that the frame could be raised to the ceiling to be out of the way for everyday business. Also it can stand against the wall. I love your petticoat! I’ve been wanting to do one myself, and You’ve given me the impetus to get started. Cinnamon was used for the “pounce” method of quilt marking, but be careful–some of the more colorful spices will stain!! re the one comment–quilting from the back would be a good solution as the cinnamon might stay better on your lining fabric and you wouldn’t have to worry about the markings showing.

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Wow! That sounds like a really great frame, and ideal for this work. I certainly could have used one when I was quilting this petticoat. I know (now) about marking and working from the back side of the petticoat; unfortunately I discovered that bit of info after I was already halfway into it. I had wondered how they had gotten cinnamon (or anything) to adhere to a fabric like silk satin.

      Good luck with your own endeavor, I’m so pleased to have been a motivational inspiration!

      Carolyn

  18. Lin Peiying Said:

    Hi hi may I know how many layers does Rococo costume have? Hope to hear from you soon. :]

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Hi there,

      The number of layers can depend on the ensemble. I believe, however, the standard is about 3 or 4. First is the chemise and tie pockets, then the stays and hoops, then the petticoat and dress (those could be counted as one or two layers I suppose depending on your point of view). There are also additional bits depending on type of outfit, time period, and occassion. For example, handkerchiefs/neckerchiefs were very popular to wear tucked into the bodice neckline in the 1770s-1780s.

      Hope that helps some.

      Carolyn

      • Linda Dudley Said:

        Your quilted petticote is absolutely gorgeous! Nothing like diving right in and making do with the supplies at hand. Kudos!

        An additional reply to the previous post –
        Another layer is a plain modesty underpetticote called a ditto. It is shorter, at or just below the knees and of a smaller close circumference (check your stride at the knees).

        Worn over the chemise and stays, it was designed to keep a lady’s modesty if she tipped over and her p’cotes went flying – remember that there was no underwear!

        As for the pockets (not pocket hoops), if I’m wearing multiple layers of p’cotes, I’ll sometimes tie them on over the next to last layer. Trying to get through multiple pocket slits can be quite a challenge. Another variation, depending on the station in life (particularly if you’re a basket seller), is to tie the pockets on under your apron.

        A detail sometimes overlooked is how the p’cote is tied. There are two different ways: edge to edge with short ties as your lovely p’cote is done or overlapping with long ties that reach all the way around. To overlap, tie the back panel in front (off-center to keep a smooth appearance) with the fabric edge just back of the pocket slit, then tie the front panel with the fabric overlapping the back – some ladies like to tie off in back, while others come around to the front (again tied off-center, then tucked inside). The waist size is very adjustable and the pocket is out of sight yet easily accessible.

      • brocadegoddess Said:

        Thanks for the comment, Linda. I’m particularly interested in what you say about a ditto. I’ve been confused by this word in historical records. I had thought for a bit that there were times when it wasn’t just being used as ‘ditto’ in the usual sense of a duplicate of something, but as an actual thing. But I didn’t get anywhere with this. Would you be able to tell me your source for this underpetticoat? If it’s something as simple as in one of the Cunnington books, I’ll admit I still haven’t read them cover to cover, lol. Thanks again!

  19. Lin Peiying Said:

    Hi hi..

    May i know as in for Rococo era, the basic for the whole Rococo period, what are names of all the layers. Do you mind telling me in order. Hope to hear from you soon. Your help is much appreciated. :] Hope to hear from you soon. :]

  20. Lin Peiying Said:

    Rococo happened in 1700 or 1800? Is it in the 17th century or is it in the 18th century?

  21. Rich Said:

    Hey there: I came across your blog when I was looking for rococo designs. I’m very impressed with your work. The petticoat is quite beautiful.

  22. Mary Spencer Said:

    Re-visited, to see your petticoat again and marvel at your talent and persistence. Do you wear the clothing you so lovingly make???
    SO BEAUTIFUL, sigh….
    Kind regards,
    Mary
    http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

  23. Lisa Blosfelds Said:

    The way I mark quilting lines on silk, satin or anything similar is to place the pattern on the material and then trace around it by scratching firmly along the lines with a needle or long pin two or three times. This leaves a scratch/furrow line to quilt along andis impossible to see after the work is done.

  24. Steph Said:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the process. One question: what type os satin did you use? Duchesse seems too stiff, charmeuse too drapey, and China too dull and sheer.

  25. Carla Gade Said:

    This petticoat is gorgeous. What a labor of love!

  26. Christie Manussier Said:

    I commend both your wonderful stitchwork, historical dedication and excellent descriptions for the rest of us! I wonder if you have encountered, in your travels through historic clothing methods, what sort of patterns that “the lesser sort” would have quilted. I presume it would be less intricate, but how much less? I could guess, but would like to have some basis for creating my own cold-weather re-enacting petticoat! (I’m looking at using a couple of layers of blue & tow striped linen around some wool — http://www.wmboothdraper.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=31&products_id=1068).

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Hi Christie,

      Simpler, less expensive quilted petticoats seem to most often have had a basic trellis or diamond pattern. They may also have just had horizontal bands of stitching around the hem, or possibly some combination of the two.

      Carolyn

  27. cigaliere Said:

    Hello, i deam to make a quilted petticoat, can you say me how long it take you ? I think it was also a difficult draw isn’t it ? Did you all make whitout a machine ? i dram to make one only hand made ?
    Thanks

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Hi there,

      I cannot remember exactly how many hours right now, but it took a long time. It was, indeed, all hand sewing – no machine. The design (drawing) was copied from a petticoat in a museum that I traced onto the fabric of my petticoat, so it wasn’t that hard. Making the whole thing is not so much hard either, as very very time consuming for one person alone. Thanks for your comment!
      Carolyn

  28. How heavy is it?
    It looks amazing! Hand-quilted too!

  29. [...] Make a Quilted Petticoat – by Rockin’ the Rococo [...]

  30. Laura Said:

    Can you please tell me what undergarment you use to support the quilted petticoat? I just finished my quilted petticoat and I am torn between setting it up for pannier hoop, pocket hoops or bum roll. Any direction would be of value. The petticoat looks best on the panner hoop becasue it is spread out more, but I know that was not a norm for the era. Thank you.

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Hi Laura, thanks for your comment!

      It would depend on what part of the century you’re dealing with, what kind of silhouette you want to achieve. I do have a hard time picturing someone wearing a quilted petticoat over the really wide hoop petticoats of the 1740s, but don’t see why more modest pocket hoops couldn’t work – that’s what I supported it with! For post-1770 you’d probably want to go with a bum roll. Of course, one of the most important things I think I’ve learned during my research into people and their clothes of this time period is to be reminded that they were real people. I bet some days they were more or less willing to deal with a hoop under their quilted petticoat than others. Most people did not follow fashion slavishly, it was hard to afford even for the prosperous. Myriad considerations would have influenced their choice(s) of specific garments and assemblages each day (for the elite: each part of the day) depending on the weather/season, what you planned to do, who you were going to see, how you wanted to be seen that day/time, what your time constraints were for certain activities, age, etc, etc.

      Essentially, I believe that is a long-winded way of saying – do what appeals most to you, with this period a certain flexibility can actually be more accurate than following some strict guideline, just like today. If you’re trying to be de rigeur for a specific date, I probably can’t help you – I’m not at that degree of antiquarianism, lol. Good luck!

      • Laura Said:

        Thank you very much for your help. I agree, that women at the time where not sticklers and probably wore what undergarments they wanted that day. The quilted pattern is c 1750-1770 and the jacket is going to be sack back, so middle of the century is where I am going . I will probably hem it for a small pannier or pocket hoops since my character is upper class. I will adjust the hem to work for both the hoop and bum roll so I can alternate jackets that arrived later during the century.

        Thank you again. Love your projects, keep up the fantastic work.

        Laura

  31. [...] Brocade Goddess’s exquisitely constructed 18th century petticoat [...]

  32. Your petticoat is beautiful! What fabulous stitching… and all by hand! I hope to one day make a hand stitched petticoat. Right now I have so many things in the sewing queue I just like to sew them by machine to make them quickly. :) I also appreciate the amount of information you have included, and commented with, regarding your process and research. Really, really fabulous!

    Quinn

  33. […] want flannel interlining. Interlining is sometimes quilted to the linings. Think of those gorgeous quilted petticoats you like so much. I could totally do something like that! I should quilt a “Q” onto the […]

  34. […] more info on Quilted Skirts try Rockin’ the Rococo, Reconstructing History or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of […]


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