Constructing a tiered petticoat



I have been asked WHY my petticoats cost so much. OK. Here is an explanation of the cost.

First of all, there are actually 3 types of ruffled petticoats that I make. The first kind is the first that I ever made for sale. And that one is the one we shall address first. This type petticoat is constructed on a bias cut (circular) base. I made a pattern for the base some time back, and it is the pattern I use for a lot of my skirts. I use this pattern because I don’t like a lot of bulk at the waist area. The pattern was made by taking my pattern material and folding it to get a perfect square (think folding a handkerchief or napkin). You then fold it to where the folded edges meet again, making an elongated triangle or cone. Do this again and again (being very careful that you do NOT disarrange the fabric!) until you have a very long, skinny triangle. You then cut a very gentle curve across the bottom about 20” longer than you want the skirt to be. Next you come up to the top of the triangle and repeat that process. When you unfold the fabric, you should have a circle (or half, depending upon the width of your fabric to begin with) with a hole at the center. If making a pattern, you only want to make a quarter circle pattern or half circle at the most, since your fabric will be folded when you cut. OK, that was the start. We have our base for the petticoat. I very seldom (if ever!) make a full circle ruffled petticoat. They are usually ¾ circle. To do this, you cut a half circle and then a ¼ circle and stitch together. Hem the bottom, but leave one side seam open for at least 10" at the top of the seam.  This will be your opening for putting on, taking off.  No matter which style you choose (set in waist band or drawstring waist), you will still need that opening, unless you are making it AWFULLY full at the top - I recommend you do NOT have a lot of fabric at the waist.

Sit down with a calculator and a ruler. You need to figure the length of the skirt, and the length of your ruffles, and how many tiers you will have. Then you need to take into consideration how much of a 'header' you will have before the first tier. Now you need to calculate the length of the skirt and the length of the ruffles so that they are evenly spaced into the remaining area (don't forget to take OFF for the bottom tier - it won't count in your calculations). Now you need to ruffle up your lace for the tiers. If you have a 'ruffler foot' for your sewing machine, it makes it a whole lot easier. Not easy, but easier. Next you need to sit down with the cut out petticoat (side seams stitched together), a ruler and a disappearing marker. From the bottom up (that's the easiest way), start marking your tiers all the way around the petticoat. Use the ruler evenly against the hem and mark on both sides of the ruler as you move around the skirt - this keeps your line even. Then use the marker to "connect the dots". Use this line the same way you did the hem for the next tier up, and so on.


Once you have the tiers all marked, you can start attaching the ruffles. Be very careful, because it is extremely easy to stitch previously attached ruffles (or the base from other areas), to what you are currently working on, making for a mess. If you have a standard sewing machine, not one with a very long reach, it WILL get crowded as you work, so this can be - trying. Be watchful of your underlayers, that they do not get tangled up and stitched in with the top layers. If I sound like I'm harping on this, it is because you WILL find you have stitched things together at some point. I can't tell you how many times I've torn out stitches - and I've made a bunch of these things [grin]. But the end result is worth all of the aggravation and cussing.

The second type of ruffled petticoat is probably the ‘easiest’, in as much as you don’t have to do a lot of marking. That is the ruffled hoopskirt. Since the hoopskirt is a series of “bands”, you simply have to go through the calculation part, and then determine WHERE on the skirt those tiers will be going. You might want to mark if you have tiers going between hoops, just to make sure your rows come out straight!! Also, make sure when you sew on the tiers, that you don’t stitch through your casing for the hoops (YES, take the hoops out of the skirt before sewing. Makes it much easier!).

The third type of ruffled petticoat is the banded (non-hoop) petticoat. It is made a lot like a peasant skirt. It has the advantage of not having a lot of marking to do, and you CAN attach the ruffles to each band before you attach the bands together. The biggest problem with this type of skirt is that you do a LOT of ruffling, and it is very easy for it to get away from you! I made one that came out over 300 inches in diameter! That is a lot of lace and a LOT of ruffling and sewing! I spent over 15 hours of sewing machine time (not including the rest of the steps involved!) making that skirt, and charged $375 for it. A real bargain.  Specially when you consider that it had over 200 yards of lace!

That is another point I wish to make at this time: the lace. PLEASE! Before you get upset with me over my prices, consider the material costs, too! I’m a small operation.  That means I can NOT buy in bulk and get my fabric, lace, trims, etc. for the same prices that the sweat shops in China can!  If you want to get an idea of material cost, go online and price lace – minimum of 150 yards and don't forget the shipping charges (they can sometimes equal the cost of the actual purchase!  Don't believe me?  Haven't shopped eBay lately, have you?).  I’m talking about 8” wide at the very least – I refuse to make one with narrower, since that means more tiers, and the customers do NOT want to pay for the additional labor.

I hope this helps clear up the pricing of my petticoats.  I spend at least 10 hours of labor on each tiered petticoat I make.  I have no idea what you are paid in your job, but my labor rate sucks [grin].  However, I truly enjoy making these lovely pieces of 'lacy froth'.


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