Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Silk Taffeta Petticoat (and jacket shhh)


Fabrics are another unknown piece of the puzzle. I knew the main differences between polyester and natural fibres, and that some are blends of the two. I didn't know much about what fabric were used for which by which class and so on. As was evident from the fact I made a robe a l'anglaise from linen. (The petticoat at least is Historically Accurate as linen petticoats are common)

I'm sure the women at my favourite fabric store (The Fabric Store, oddly enough) must have thought me very strange, moving back and forwards through their little shop and fingering dozens and dozens of different fabrics. It gave me quite a good idea of what kind of fabric actually feels like, and drapes like. In the process, I decided that silk is a ridiculous option for 18th century clothing, being so drapey and fine, and that silk taffeta is gorgeous and much better for the job. Since then, I have learned more about the different qualities of silk that were available: 17th-early 18th century silks were much thicker and stiffer, like our upholstery-quality silks (note that for the next time I visit my favourite upholstery fabric store - I know they have some silk curtain fabric at $50/m...) and that later in the 18th century, more like the 1870s, the silk became finer and more like the tissue-thin quality we find today. Also, I had not come across the fact that interlining is my friend, which of course changes the way that silk acts.

I have always loved stripes. Especially 3cm stripes. I found a short piece of a red self-stripe (if that's what its' called...must research that too...) in a floaty silk and decided it would make a perfect little jacket. I just pictured a vibrant red petticoat to go with it, and a silk-taffeta would be just the thing. 3m of this, a little red linen for lining and I was off home to find a pattern...

I decided to use the same little 1770s jacket pattern I had used in the past by JP Ryan (see my pattern review page). Probably a mistake as I hadn't been all that happy with the last one. In fact, this is probably the worst mistake a sewer can make: repeat the same mistakes instead of learning from them! The jacket is made up with modern bag-lining technique (another term I have to research to make sure I'm using correctly). The sleeves were sideways as I had matched seams instead of notches, nothing sat straight, and it was next to impossible to get on without getting a cramp in my neck. This, I found, is a common injury for getting into costume unaided!

I pulled out the sleeves, reset them, and it still doesn't fit properly. I'm embarrassed to even include the photo, but I guess that's what this blog it about...the process. So there's one or two below just to chuckle at. The whole thing was hand-sewn for some stupid reason, using a gorgeous red silk thread. What a waste of time...

As for the petticoat, what a joy. No pattern of course - I just do the same (18th c?) knife/box pleat combo each time. One thing I do need to figure out is the tying strategies. I do the whole tie-the-front-round-the-back-and-the-back-round-the-front thing. But I have 2 questions: How do you get it to stay tight when you're doing it yourself, and What do you do about the knot bulges? Put that onto the research list...

For some reason I had a picture of a wide flounce around the bottom of the petticoat. I used every single mm of fabric, figured out how much I actually needed to go around the circumference (don't ask me how I worked it out) and came up with a width that would use up the remaining fabric. Or maybe I worked out the width to cut it out, and then figured out what size box pleats I could make using that length of fabric... Nobody understands the mind of a historical sewer...I thought box-pleats seemed to be the thing to do (again, don't ask me why) and that a little flounce at the top would be about right. I hand sewed the whole thing, including the side seams, as it was so nice to use. The flounce was pinked top and bottom - first time pinking, and I'm sure it's addictive!

And finally I decided it was much too long and that pin tucks would be just the thing, so did three of these, also by hand. I just adore them, they are so sweet.

Below are the photos of the finished result. I'll slot the jacket photo in between in the hopes that no-one notices it.

Red silk taffeta petticoat


Flounce and pin tuck detail
 Just for interest's sake:

  • Jacket silk 50cm $15
  • Petticoat silk taffeta 3m $60
  • Red linen 50cm $10
  • Red silk thread $7
  • TOTAL $92

Future notes: 

  • Rip apart the jacket.
  • Learn how to mock up this jacket pattern properly, and how to set sleeves traditionally.
  • Interline the silk.
  • Just one or two minor points to learn from...

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