Quick and Dirty petticoat “tutorial”.
I decided to do a quick write-up on how I made this petticoat, because I had a lot of trouble fining a tutorial online that I could actually understand. I figure I probably wasn’t using any of the correct terminology to find what I wanted, so I ended up messaging jhartdesign on Facebook and asking for a low-down on how he made this masterpiece of a petticoat.
Fair warning: Mine is nowhere near as professional and I took lazy shortcuts. This probably isn’t the ‘correct’ way to make a petticoat, but it’s a damn good start.
Step 1: Math-ing
Huehue (sorry I’m not funny). So first we need to know how long we want the petticoat to be. I wanted mine to be 15 inches long, so each of the 3 tiers needed to be 1/3 of that, plus 1 inch for seams (.5” on top and bottom). I believe J.Hart’s is 4 tiers, but I didn’t really notice that until now. If you want to do more sewing, feel free to have more tiers on the petticoat.
Now the petticoat has 3 layers, each are identical, so with a 3 tier petticoat, you’ll have 9 strips of fabric, plus the yoke (basically a waistband). The bottom tier on mine was 28 yards, 14 on the middle and 7 on the top layer. The yoke should be about 4” tall and double your hip measurement.
Here’s what you’d have to have in fabric:
Step 2: Fabric
Generally, petticoats are made out of stiff netting such as tulle, crinoline or organdy. I wanted to use organdy, but I had a lot of trouble sourcing the fabric, so I decided to use tulle that I already had. I’m actually a bit of an idiot and used cotton broadcloth for the bottom tier, which was a huge mess and I don’t recommend it at all (not like I actually recommend making a petticoat…)
Anyways, how much fabric you need depends on how wide your tiers are and how wide your fabric is… You’re basically alone for this one. I ended up using 14 yards of broadcloth for the bottom layer alone, and about 10 yards of tulle for the other 2 layers. They sell bolts of tulle on eBay for $15-$25 which would probably be enough fabric.
Step 3: Gathering
This is the least awful step of the whole petticoat-production-process. Each of the 9 lengths of fabric need to be gathered. Largest tier down to 14 yards, middle tier down to 7 yards, and the top tier down to the length of your yoke (let’s just say 80” for convenience).
The absolute best way to gather is to use a presser foot with the opening in the center, and to zigzag stitch over non-stretch 1mm cording, OR 50 lb test fishing line (the non-braided stuff, it’s extremely cheap).
Tie a really good knot at the end, and measure how much you need, and get sewing. The cording is going to stay forever so you probably want to make sure it matches. You’ll have to pull on the cording along the way to make the gathers (you can do this while you are sewing it, I normally count to 4 and pull on 5, then start counting again).
Step 4: Putting It Together
In my opinion, the least confusing way to do this is to do all the gathering in one go, then sew the bottom tiers to the middle tiers (all 3 layers), then the middle tiers to the top tiers.
Once you do that you’ll have most of a petticoat. The correct way to hem the bottom layer is to bind it in hem tape, but if you don’t hate yourself that much you can do what I did (a rolled hem with my serger), or even use a rolled hem foot on your sewing machine.
At this point you should have 3 giant piles of fabric, hemmed and gathered. I had an additional step of serging the bottom tier to the middle tier to prevent frays.
Now we have to sew them shut. To make it look professional, the edges should be bound in bias tape (3 guesses who skipped this step). Now you should have 3 massive skirts. Sew the yoke closed as well- it should now be a tube of fabric. The next step is to sew each of the 3 layers onto the yoke, 1/4” apart. This can get pretty messy if you don’t have a long-arm sewing machine, but if you pin everything really well you won’t have a problem.
Hopefully this helps explain how to sew the layers on (except they will be tubes, not flat).
ALMOST DONE!! What you should have now is a skirt that’s way too huge for you. All you have to do is sew the top down and put elastic in (I really hope you already know how to do this). Because of the layer of broadcloth on mine, it’s extremely heavy and a draw-string would probably be beneficial. You can now cry yourself to sleep in the ruffles of your glorious petticoat.