Drafting and Sewing the Skirt
This is going to be the first of many posts about my civil war ensemble starting with part one of the skirt. I still haven’t finished it 100% because I am still waiting on the buttons to ship and to fit it over my corset. I have the constriction down and it looks amazing!
The first part of making the skirt was cutting the rectangular panels which were 42″L x 45″W. It was a bit tricky doing the math but I was able to figure it out. I had to do a ton of calculations for the width and the length but thank God for calculators. Here is a stupid diagram I drew when I was trying to figure it out.
For the length, I measured from the center of my waist to the floor and then I added for seam allowance and hem. My base measurement was 39″, so I added 2″ for the top and 1″ for the hem because I am using a facing (39+2+1=42).
My fabric was 45″ in width and my hoop-skirt hem circumference is 130. I divided 130 by 45 and rounded up to the next whole number which was 3 (130/45=2.8888) . I then cut three panels of fabric that were the width of the fabric 45″ and 42″ in length-measuring down the selvage edge.
I then pieced the three panels together using the lengths of the selvage as my side and center back seams, leaving the top 8″ of the center back seam open for dressing. Because I used the selvages I’m not going to do any seam finishes because it saves time and the skirt is fine without them.
The hard part about this was matching the plaids, which I did both vertically and horizontally which took forever but it looks really neat and even all around the skirt and I’m really happy with it. I used 1/2″ seam allowance which ended up making the plaids lay even which helped a lot when I matched the panels up.
After I had the seams done up, I began working on the hem. For this I cut polished beige cotton 6″L x 45″W and seamed them together with 1/2″ seam allowance. I pinned it right sides together with the hem of the skirt and stitched it at 1″ seam allowance which I then turned and pressed to the inside. After, I turned the top edge underneath 1″ and hand-hemmed this all around the bottom. This created a hem facing which is important to give the hem weight and strength as it gets dragged along the ground. It makes sense logically because them hem gets all the wear and tear so the facing can easily be replaced to keep the skirt in good condition.
Next I made the waistband and whoa…that was a process. I cut a rectangle 4.5″L x 45″W in both the fashion fabric (plaid) and the polished cotton. I hand basted both rectangles together and then stay-stitched 1/4″ around all the edges. My waist measurement with a corset is 41″ but with petticoats I wanted to be safe so I made it 42″. I turned the short sides over 1/4″ and then each side got folded over to bring the waistband to 42″. One side folded over 1″ and the other was folded 2″ so it overlapped which is where I will place my hook and eyes so I have a nice flap to cover them. I then turned the top edge under 1/4″, pressed, and then turned under 1/4″ again to get a nice clean finish. I hand-hemmed around all the edges of the waist band except the bottom which is where it will be attached to the skirt.
Pleating the skirt panels was part fun and part hell but I got it done somehow. I decided I wanted to cartridge pleat the waist, also known as gauging. I was a bit nervous but I tried it on some scrap and it looked good so I went for it. First I folded the top edge 3″ to the inside, which not only finished the top edge but doubled the fabric to make the pleats stiffer. I used upholstery thread in a cream and I used the plaid as guidelines for my stitches. I ran three rows of thread all across the skirt and pulled it down to 42″.
This did not work at all. Like major epic fail and I was freaking out. It looked kinda funky and wasn’t laying right but the worst was that I couldn’t space the pleats evenly. I really was getting super frustrated and I ended up accidentally cut into my stitching and all of the pleats came out which made me cry a bit.
I took some time to breathe and came back to it after I did some more research. I found another method which worked perfectly-thanks to Jennifer Rosbrugh of HistoricalSewing.com-her posts on cartridge pleats are amazing.
I divided the waistband by three and then I pleated each panel separately to that measurement (42/3=14). So after I ran the three rows of basting again I pulled each panel down to 14″ and then pinned it to my waistband. This made spacing the pleats a dream and it laid so flat and perfect and I had no trouble at all sewing down the pleats. I used the same upholstery thread to secure each inside pleat to the bottom of the waistband and then flipped it up. I whip-stitched the top of the pleats up to the top of the waistband and then using tiny stitches in red thread tacked the waistband down from the front over the rows or pleating. I pressed lightly on the pleats with my hand so they laid flush against the body.
This was the basic construction of the skirt and my next post on it will be about decorating it and the finishing touches like the trim and buttons. I did a quick fit and it hangs beautifully and sits nicely on my waist.