I like doing things the “right” way. Hemming by hand, stroking my gathers, proper seam finishes, blind stitching waistbands, all that jazz. In fact, petticoats have proven to be a great place to practice skills like that.
However, I’m also a quilter.
The days of piecing together little tiny blocks by hand are long gone. We live in the age of rotary cutters and jelly rolls. Quilters, by nature, are constantly on the prowl for the next creative way to cut corners without sacrificing the structural integrity of the finished product. And that brings me back to petticoats.
This is my 95” hoop. I did think that the top petticoats I made for my 95” corded petticoat would work great, but sadly, they pull just a little too taught to effectively hide the hoops. It’s the vertical drape of the petticoat that breaks up those horizontal lines. I have some petticoats for my larger 115” hoop, but those are either colored or lacy and that does not jive with a work dress.
Full disclosure: I pulled the initial inspiration for this from Truly Victorian’s free petticoat pattern. I’ve used it as directed on some cheap blue eyelet, but found a few things lacking. It literally only works for double-edged eyelet, which is both expensive and hard to find in the 100% cotton variety. For any other fabric, the pattern fails. It leaves raw edges exposed, it cannot accommodate different lengths, and it’s hard as heck to cut.
So, here we go. My yoked petticoat. This is by no means historically accurate. But it only took me about 4 hours this afternoon and should suffice for all my work dress needs, so who cares?
What you need:
7 yards of light cotton
2 yards of twill tape
Rotary mat and cutter
1. Determine the length of your petticoat: Measure your hoop from waist to floor (let the tape measure drop off) and figure out how long you want it. Also determine how long you want the top yoke section. I wanted my petticoat 38” long overall, with a 12” yoke, giving me a 26” gathered flounce.
2. Cut out your pieces: Add 1” seam allowances to the yoke and flounce measurements and use those as cutting measurements. Cut 2 yoke and 8 flounce strips, selvage to selvage.
(Note: I used different fabrics. Muslin for the yoke, batiste for the outer flounce and cotton gauze for the inner flounce. Yes, I know. Cotton gauze is probably not period. But I also got a ton of it cheap at Hancock’s, it’s 100% cotton, lightweight, gathers great, and has no stretch on the grain. I didn’t want to use 7 yards of batiste on this.)
3. Sew your pieces together: Sew together two, four-section flounces. Just seam them up along the selvages. No need to pin. No need to iron.
For the yoke, sew up halfway on one seam. Iron the seam flat and stitch the edges down to form a front placket. Sew the other side together.
You should end up with three very long rings of fabric. Fold them up, wrong sides out. Seam allowance does not matter here, as long as it’s consistent.
4. Hem your flounces: Get out the hemming foot and go to town. This turns a two day job into about a five-minute one. I love my hemming foot.
5. Test your ruffler foot: Wrestle your ruffler foot onto the machine. Cut a small test section of your fabric(s) and fiddle with the settings until you get a 2:1 gathering ratio. IE, if you have a 12” piece of test fabric, you want the gathered length to be 6”. If necessary, go with a ratio larger that 2:1. If the best your ruffler can do is turn that 12” piece into an 7” piece, that will still work. You do not want that 12” piece to become 5”. That will make the flounce smaller than the yoke section. Once satisfied, move on to the next step.
6. Gather your flounces: Say a prayer to the sewing gods that your ruffler foot won’t eat another needle or destroy your flounces, finagle the top unhemmed edge in of one flounce section, and gather away. Repeat for both flounces.
7. Pin the layers together: Did I mention I’m a quilter? We’re allergic to raw edges. Raw edges make me hurt inside. The easiest way to deal with them here is to enclose them inside the flounces themselves. The idea here is to make a sandwich. Top flounce extending down, yoke up, inner flounce down. The raw edges will extend down, in between the flounces, and we will topstitch below the seam allowance to full enclose them. It’s a similar idea to a French seam.
To get there, lay the yoke out on your work space, right side turned in, folded in half with the seams in the center. Mark the mid point of each yoke section.
Take the outer flounce, right side turned out, and put it inside the yoke. Take the inner flounce, right side turned out, and put that around the outside of the yoke. It should look like this:
Here, the beige gauze is the inner flounce, the flat white muslin is the yoke, and the white batiste is the outer flounce. You can see which is the wrong and right side of the fabric based on the seams.
8. Pin your layers: Match the flounce seams to the yoke seams and yoke mid point. Pin. Eyeball the middle of these four sections and pin. Eyeball the middle of those eight sections and pin. Keep subdividing and pinning until everything is together.
If you calculated your gathers right, these three sections should all be the same size. If your flounces did not come out quite equal, don’t worry. If you follow the subdivide and pin method, you eventually end up with small sections with minimal difference. You can now easily fold the excess into little pleats and pin. It’s not perfect, but it distributes discrepancies in a controlled fashion. (This is what happened to me with the gauze. It’s so stretchy on the cross grain!)
9. Sew your petticoat together: Sew this very carefully, using a seam allowance less than 1/2”. Make sure the layers stay flat.
10. Turn your petticoat out: Grab the yoke and shake it out. It should fall out with the inner and outer flounces both right side out, seam allowances between them. For lightweight cottons, you don’t need to iron, but it is an option if you’d like.
11. Topstitch that seam: Using your foot (or whatever guide you’d like), stitch 1/2” away from the seam, enclosing the raw edges. This is a lot of fabric to shove through the machine. Go slow, occasionally tugging the inner flounce tight against the seam to prevent clumps. I really like the way this helps “set” the flounces.
12. Gather the yoke: Using a much tighter setting, gather the top of the yoke. The best I could get on mine was 38”. Instead of fussing all night, I chose to go with a longer waistband and drawstring.
13. Apply waistband: You can make a drawstring waistband however you like, but this is what I did for mine.
Cut a waistband section 2.5”, and 2 inches longer than the measurement of your gathered yoke. Turn the edges under twice and topstitch. Fold the waistband in half. Iron. Turn one long edge in 1/2” and iron. Pin the non-turned edge of the waistband to the yoke, right sides together, and sew with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press the waistband up and fold over the seam allowances. From the top, pin the folded edge down and topstitch 1/8” above the waistband seam, catching the other edge.
This is how it looks once finished:
14. Add drawstring: Cut a length of twill tape at least 12 inches longer than the waistband. Turn the edges twice and stitch down. Thread through the waistband.
And voila, a yoked petticoat in an afternoon!
The possibilities here are endless. Hand-finish your hems. Hand gather if you don’t have a ruffler foot. Add lace by stitching it to the underside of the flounces after you hem, but before you gather. Make it larger or smaller, with wider or narrower flounces. Just remember to keep that 2:1 ratio in the length of the flounce and yoke sections, and don’t forget to tuck and top-stitch those evil raw edges away.