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Monday, January 21, 2013

Making a Tucked Petticoat - Part 2

Note:  This is entry is being re-posted from an old history related blog I used to write, but no longer have the time nor the energy to keep up.

To begin working on my tucked petticoat, I consulted Elizabeth Stewart Clark's article on how to make a basic petticoat.  Basic, as in, no tucks.  I knew I would have to figure that part out on my own by searching the Sewing Academy forum and good ol' trial and error.  There are apparently detailed instructions on tucked petticoats in ESC's book "The Dressmaker's Guide, Second Edition", but alas I work as a historical interpreter earning minimum compensation and cannot afford it.  This makes me sad. I also knew that if I wanted to recreate the original tucked petti from the MET I would have to carefully amend a few things in ESC's instructions. 

I started by studying the original and trying to gauge the ratios used to form the design.  


When I looked at the tucked area up close, it appeared to me that there are 2 sections of 5- .5 inch tucks, with a .5 inch space in between each tuck.  If the tucks are .5 inch, that would make each section including spaces in between 5 inches long.  This was important because it also appeared the hem line was just over an equal length, meaning I would have to make the hem deeper that ESC's recommendation of 2.5 inches if I wished for it to appear balanced. 

In between the two sections of tucks is a section left untucked but decorated extensively with embroidery.  Upon taking my sewing gauge and laying it upon my computer monitor, it was equal in length to each section of tucking, so 5 inches.  Just above and below the embroidery is a small span of "blank" space equal in length to one tuck, .5 inch each, making the embroidery section add up to 6 inches total.  As I would not be doing the embroidery, I decided to take that middle section and the hemline down to 5 inches to match the tucked sections.  It would go 5" hem, 5" of tucks, 5" blank, 5" tucks. I work well with balance. 

Please notice that all my math depended on my assumption that the length of each tuck was .5 inch though out this whole planning process.  This will come back to haunt me later...

Following ESC's instructions, I determined my panel length to be 58 inches.  This included my adjustments for a much deeper hemline and adding 10 inches for all the tucks.  (A .5 inch tuck actually uses 1 inch of fabric.  As I don't have the Dressmaker's Guide, I had to do a small tuck on some scrap fabric to figure that out.  Oh how I wish I had a mathematical brain.) 

I also decided per her chart that I wanted to make a 4 panel petti, which with my fabric being 44" wide, would bring me to just under 176" in circumference factoring seam allowances.  This is on the fuller end of the spectrum when it comes to petticoat circumferences, but I tend to be a tad lofty with my dreams when doing projects like this.

I had already pre-washed, dried and ironed my fabric (to minimize shrinkage in the finished garment) so I set to cutting my panels using ESC's ripping method. I then seamed my panels together, leaving about 10" unsewn on the last seam to serve as a placket. I then put in my 5" hem "on the round", meaning as I measured, ironed and pinned my hem line the fabric was being pulled around my ironing board as opposed to being laid straight across had the end panels not been sewn together.  I started hemming this way a few months back during a wool petticoat project, but didn't realize there was a term for it.  I was so glad to see it mentioned on the Sewing Academy Forum and that it is a recommended way of doing things like hems and tucks.

Working "On The Round".

After the hem is put in, ESC moves on to balancing and gathering the waist in her basic petticoat instructions, but as I had 10 tucks to do, I was kinda on my own.  I wasn't (and am still not) sure if there is any correct way to do a tuck, but I finally figured out a way that seems to work for me.  I laid my petti on the ironing board (still working in the round) with the wrong side facing me.  I then fold over the hemmed edge whatever distance I need to get the correct measurement for the tuck.  In this case, I am going 1.5 inches past the previous stitch line to accommodate for 1 inch total of fabric for the .5 inch tuck, and the other .5 inch is for the gap in between tucks.  (I am so sick of typing "tucks" right now!)

Direction to fold fabric for tucks (my way).

Measuring out next tuck length.

I use a sewing gauge to get the initial length right, measuring from the last seam to the fold.  I only use the gauge once to accurately measure what number it brings my hem to on the yard stick I've laid in between the fabric.

In this case, by adding my 1.5 inches from the last seam line, my hem line now falls to 14.5 inches on my yard stick.  This is how I gauge for the rest of the ironing process.

To more advanced sewists than I, it probably seems as though I have taken something very simple and made it very complicated.  However, I am very much a "show me" type person, and unless I can be shown hands on or have a detailed pictorial, I have no clue what is going on.

I began my tucks, ironing at the 1.5 inch line then running a 1/2 inch seam on the machine to actually create the tuck.

I wasn't actually doing a tuck when I took these, so I apologize for not being exact on my fold and things being a little wonky.

Things progressed fairly smoothly for me as I continued making tucks up the petticoat, and after doing a couple I started timing myself.  To measure, iron, pin, sew, unfold and iron flat each tuck, it takes me about 50 minutes.  I don't know if that's good or bad, but I'm pretty consistent with that speed.

I was pretty pleased with my progress, but by the time I finished my first section of 5 I realized something was off.  If I were to continue, my top section of 5 tucks would end up somewhere around the middle of the petticoat, instead of stopping much closer to the bottom as in the original:


Then it hit me: I had based all my measurements on the assumption the tucks were .5 inch.  Only, based on how I was doing, they were really twice as deep as they should have been, making the original petti's tucks more likely around 1/4 inch.  I felt sick.  I had been so careful, and now my beautiful petti was all messed up. 

I don't know why I had assumed .5 inch from the beginning, but looking at the original on the MET's site the only measurement given was the center back length of 44.5".  That number alone along with the fact the tucks stopped so low to the bottom should have told me they were smaller than I was assuming, but my brain doesn't work like that.  Ugh!

I literally mulled over what to do for an entire day.  I toyed with the idea of taking all the tucks out and starting over, but that wouldn't be kind to the fabric and would take forever.  I pondered continuing as is and having the top of the tucks end in the middle of the petticoat, but I really didn't want them up that high.  Or, I could continue as is but leave out the gap in between the two sections and just have a series of tucks going up, which design-wise seemed rather boring compared to that of the original.  In the end, I decided to let go of my hopes of recreating the original and going with the third option.  I put in the rest of the tucks going straight up the petti all in a row.

That's where I have stopped so far, but will begin balancing the waist, gathering the waist and putting on the waist band hopefully sometime this week.  At least I don't have to think about tucks or the word "tuck" anymore.

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