For “The Nutcracker” in 2004, I volunteered to make new petticoats for Clara and the “Party Girls.” The old ones were mismatched and pretty ratty, while some were so limp, they didn’t look like the girls had one on at all. I tried to find a pattern on-line, but wasn’t successful.
I began with a couple Butterick patterns, one for adults and one for children, just to help me get my bearings. The original patterns wanted you to cut a bunch of rectangles and then sew them back together again (as if!). What I did was to use full widths of the fabric (less cutting & piecing that way!), and I also added to the circumference, to make the petticoats fuller.
The finished product was a fairly full petticoat, almost a full circle, and the length was about mid-calf for all the girls. I would have liked to have made the petticoats from georgette, but my local fabric store, JoAnn’s, doesn’t carry anything remotely like that (at least, under $5/yd). I ended up buying a silky lining fabric and tulle in a matching color.
How I Did It...
I used 44" wide lining material and 54" wide net/tulle. All the pieces, except the topmost tier (the yoke), used full widths of the fabrics.
(You need 2 middle tiers, each approx. 140" long by 18" high)
Bottom tiers: 12 full widths by 10" high
(You need 2 bottom tiers, each approx. 270" long by 10" high)
Tulle bottom tier: 6 full widths by 10" high
(You need 1 tulle tier, approx. 325" long by 10" high)
The construction is pretty basic:
Sew all the tulle pieces together end to end.
Sew half the bottom tiers together, end to end; then sew the other half together, end to end (you should have 2 very large loops).
Using my serger, I “hemmed” (just used a 4-thread overlock) one edge of each of the three bottom tiers (2 fabric, 1 tulle). For the tulle tier I took an extra 1/2" or so off, so that it wouldn’t show below the fabric.
Optional: Since the fabric I used had a great tendency to shred, I serged the other edges too.
I gathered the top edge of all three tiers and set aside for now.
I found the easiest way was to use a long zig-zag stitch over dental floss. When you are done, the floss will quite easily slide (being waxed and all), making the gathering a breeze.
I tried two other methods of gathering, which I personally didn’t find as easy:
Used elastic thread in the bobbin, which while easily gathering the top of the tier, was a pain to hand-wind on the bobbin and caused the tier above it to pucker too;
I gathered the tier using my serger, but the amountof gather never exactly matches the amount you need - it’s either too much or too little. Then you spend a lot of time fussing to match the lengths, so you may as well have gathered it the “regular” way.
Sew half of the middle tiers together, end to end; and then sew the other half together, end to end (as with the bottom tiers, you should now have two large loops).
Attach one bottom tier to one middle tier: adjust the gathers and sew or serge together.
Attach the other bottom tier to the other middle tier: adjust the gathers and baste together. Attach the tulle tier to the wrong side of fabric bottom tier, adjust gathers and sew/serge all three pieces together.
Take each of the middle & top tier pairs, place them wrong side together and baste the top edges of the middle tiers together. Treat as one piece from now on.
Gather the top of the middle tier.
Sew the side seam of the top tier/yoke together.
Hem/serge the top of the yoke (and optionally, serge the bottom).
Attach the middle tier to the bottom of the top tier/yoke: adjust the gathers and sew/serge together.
Fold the top of the yoke over the amount required for the elastic. I used 1-1/4" pajama elastic, so I made the casing 1-1/2" wide. Sew the casing, leaving a 2" opening. Insert the elastic and sew closed the opening. I also stitched down the elastic to keep it from rolling, by using a long zig-zag stitch down the middle, which stretching the elastic and material tight.