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Aug 3, 2011

Crinolines on Parade!

Goodness, my demi-plié isn't what it used to be....

Oh, you're here!

Friends, I am happy to announce that my crinolines are nearly finished.  Yes, you read that right: crinolines -- plural.  As I was gathering my 10 yards of nylon net yesterday and realizing I could wrap my entire living room with it, twice, I came to the conclusion that it would make more sense to make two crinolines, which could be worn one on top of the other, or separately.  Eureka!

Perhaps you're wondering: what is the difference between a crinoline and a petticoat?  Basically, nothing.  People often use the word crinoline to mean a stiff net petticoat, or underskirt.  And crinoline is often what people call the stiff nylon net fabric (as opposed to tulle, which is soft net).  But here in Chelsea, at least, we use the words interchangeably.

Part of the challenge of making the gathered tiers, which a number of you alluded to in your comments yesterday, is that working with a ruffler foot, one can only gather so much.  Setting the stitch length down to the tiniest stitch made the gathers much denser, since there's less space between the ruffles, but there's a limit.

Many commenters recommended gathering by hand, and in theory I get why that would create a denser ruffle.  The problem is that it's very difficult to put a pin through the net I am working with, so how do you "anchor" the gather once you've pulled your gathering threads, or if you need to adjust it?  The weave is so wide that the pin usually falls right out.  The other challenge is that the denser (and higher) the gather, the harder it is to fit it under the presser foot of my sewing machine when you're attaching the gathered tier to the next higher tier.

Anyway, I made two crinoline petticoats, and I love them.  I still have to bind the seam allowances with ribbon.  The seams themselves are very strong, but the raw edges are a little rough to the touch.  If the bottom crinoline were worn with the raw seam allowances facing up, and the top crinoline worn with the raw seam allowances facing down, would I have to bind those edges at all?   Isn't that basically just for show?  Anywho, I will definitely bind the seam allowance where the top net tier attaches to the fabric, since the fabric (sort of a cotton batiste) frays.

Here's the cotton yoke.  There's nothing to it, though I did use a piece of the Simplicity petticoat pattern I have, since I had it.

One crinoline has an elastic waistband in a casing.  Here's the yoke without the net attached.

For the other, just to keep things interesting, I stitched grosgrain ribbon to the top and ran twill tape through for a drawstring.  A drawstring's a little classier than elastic, no?

One short cut I discovered was this:

The tutorial I followed has you close up each tier into a cylinder before gathering and attaching to the next highest tier.  This means that the tiers (one gathered, one not) must be precisely the same circumference (like easing in a sleeve).  I found that I could get the the same result by attaching the two tiers flat (like attaching a sleeve with the torso still open).  That way, if there's a little extra net on one tier or the other at the end, you can simply cut it off.

Then, after all the net tiers are attached, you can simply make a single vertical french seam up the side.  Since the net is very flouncy and gathered -- not to mention that it's worn under a skirt (or another petticoat)-- the seam doesn't affect the drape of the crinoline, not in my experience anyway.  (You can actually sew the net to the cotton yoke open as well.)  It just makes the whole thing easier.

I am so glad I pushed through this, though, like I said, there's still some trim to add, which I hope to put behind me today.

You may be wondering how the crinolines look under the strapless cocktail dress.  Wonderful!

In closing, readers, now that skirts for men are taking the world by storm, can the crinoline be far behind?  I may have hit upon the next big thing in men's fashion.  At least in big cosmopolitan cities and Fire Island. 

If you have any questions about crinolines, please feel free to ask.  I may not be able to answer them but somebody out there will, no doubt.

Have a great day, everybody!

Anyone out there wearing a crinoline?


  1. The last picture, combined with all the pictures of you, made me think that one reason to make the crinolines pretty would be to wear them outside a slim skirt, with a pretty gauze on top. A bit like one of those glass shapes with the transparent laser images inside. You could see so many interesting shapes with this sort of see through skirt/dress.

  2. Oh my DD loves Crinolines, i use stiffer net as she wants it as puffy as possible.

    For making ruffles on the crinoline, as i am not so privileged with so many machine foot for my Sewing MARS 5800 model, i use my normal presser foot, this is what i do,

    1. Set the tension to highest possible (5) and 2. Press the screw to the left of the snap on of the presser foot with my left hand(i am a right handed person) Yes you read it right, press it slightly by being careful that you are nowhere near needle (don't worry if you do it properly you will be nowhere near it) This technique works for me whenever i have to do ruffles, depending on the pressure i put, the ruffles are more dense or scatter as i desire!

    Necessity is the mother of inventions right, since i did not have access to specialized foot (except for a zipper and peco foot)i make use of whatever is available and invent methods of getting results i desire!

    At last after lot of searching i did find a post where in i have showed the underskirt or petticoat or crinoline as one would like to call it. This was for the B'day ball gown made for my DD's last b'day (she is 4.5 yrs old now)
    Crinoline for B'day Ball Gown

    I would also like to share Cotton Candy Skirt made using soft tulle but 4 yards of it went into making a 13 inch long skirt with waist round of 22 inches! The skirt in itself is a petti-skirt kind of so need for crinoline under this!
    Cotton Candy Skirt

    Have i shared too much info on a comment, couldn't stop myself from sharing all those that came to my mind regarding crinoline, as i am very fond of them, coz they give the 'X' factor to all those ball gowns my Darling Daughters loves flaunting around!

    BTW, i have a VOGUE Tote giveaway happening at Cute Confessions of a Sew Addict. Click HERE if interested

  3. Gads, I'm old enough to remember how ITCHY those sewn in crinolines were in the dresses I wore as a kid!!! I would sit in class and squirm and scratch! Anyone else remember?

  4. Thank you so much for posting this. I definitely feel a crinoline coming on since my last vintage inspired day out, and your tips will be very useful indeed x

  5. Gosh, after all that work I think you should do the ribbon trim. Think of how lovely it will look.

  6. I'm afraid my net is a little softer--hence multiple crinolines. I'm finishing my seams on my serger, and just adjusting the stitch length down. Hopefully, I'll be able to get it sewn together tonight, but it's a question of just how tired I am after the girls go home!

  7. To anchor hand-gathered netting: I use quilting thread for the gather, and if the netting is particularly slippery or large-holed I tie each loose end around a pencil or whatever's handy so nothing can slip out. Then I adjust the gathers as I wish...most netting will stay in place once it is tightly gathered. Then I pin over or near the gathering line to whatever piece the gathers need to be attached to. If pins are still slipping, I sometimes pin through a layer of tissue paper or tearaway interfacing, to give them something to bite into.

  8. A friend of mine showed me the easiest way to ruffle fabric. Set your machine at the longest stitch length, then while sewing put extra tension on your top thread by pinching it with your fingers after it comes off the spool. The tighter you hold it the more ruffle you will get. What's great is that you can adjust it after you're done. It saves so much time not having to sit there and pull up all those ruffles and it doesn't pleat like the ruffler. It works so well that now I don't hate gathering.

  9. Not quite sporting one just yet but it's in the works! You and the tutorial inspired me to finally make the skirt I've been dreaming about for years. I was up all night working on it and I have miles more to go. :) Yours turned out so lovely!

  10. Your ruffler must have the opposite problem of mine. Even in the loosest ruffle setting and a long stitch length I still get a 3-1 gather. So 1 yard of fabric gathers to only a foot. It's makes it really useless for anything but petticoats (which, incidentally, is the only thing I've managed to successfully use it for).

  11. Just to pick a nit - crinoline is actually a type of really stiff horsehair and linen fabric, used to make petticoats. Of course, usage evolved to include stiff petticoats made from fabrics/nets other than crinoline, but that's where it all started.

    But whatever you call it - yours look great! And you've obviously conquered the fear since you made not one but TWO!

  12. And duh on me - I see (now) you've actually linked to the Wiki definition of the word. So, nevermind. ;-)

  13. Another thought re binding the higher-up seams. It was probably done for looks more than anything - think Jitterbug dancing and the girls' underskirts showing. If Cathy's not going to kick up her heels and they are comfortable to wear otherwise, save yourself some time.

  14. I never thought I'd be reading a sewing blog featuring a man in shorts modeling a crinoline. It's looking good and if Cathy ever gets a wedding gown you've got the underskirts.

  15. Awesome. I am not worthy.

  16. I am so happy to hear that skirts for men are fashionable now. That is because I saw a middle aged man wearing a dark brown skirt with a ruffle at the bottom at the Chicago Institute of Art museum on Sunday and am dying of curiosity. He is with a woman his age and a child. My first thought is that he doing it for medical or health reason...

  17. Your dress projects are coming along nicely. Net isn't that awful to gather by hand /because/ its slippery. I find it easier than dense fabric to space out evenly. Gathering other fabric types by hand is torturous.

    Yeah, I'm up north (and into lolita and victorian fashion) and I generally take crinoline to be a stiffer net fabric. Petticoats for me are softer, can be one slightly ruffled underskirt (as has been illustrated by knitting patterns from the late 1800s and 1900s), fabric, or the tulle.

    I think fashion needs to expand a LOT for the male scene. There's not too many options for men in comparison to female fashion. I support skirts on men! (masculine skirts, and more feminine skirts.) I was hoping the comeback of the kilt would ease the fashion industry into bringing full on skirts (or squorts?) to male fashion. I'm still waiting, fashion industry. :/ I mean, I haven't seen a guy in a skirt on the billboards of new york city.

  18. Your crinolines look wonderful - I can't wait to see them with the dress! I hope the photo shoot is going to be soon!

    I'm not sure the skirt thing for men is going to catch on. The last one looks like something out of a Mad Max movie - I kind of like it :)

    It's too hot for my crinoline, I had to hang it up until it gets cooler!

  19. Is it just me, or does that tropical t-shirt skirt/dress thingy look kind of cool (literally *and* figuratively)?

    As for the crinolines, you've got more patience than I can even dream of.

  20. I agree that tropical t-shirt dress guy looks cool - he brings to mind Taylor Lautner in roman dress. I think Gerald Butler has great legs for dress as in Attila and for skirt as in the YouTube video of him modeling a leather kilt. :)

  21. The petticoat/crinoline looks lovely and will adorn Cathy. I'm jealous. My mum had a sense of proportion and I'm very short and built like a teapot, so she said quite rightly 'no sticky-out petticoats for you dear' and gave my sister the yellow net three tiered job with the pink lace trim. On her (she's a Cathy too) it looked beautiful but apparently it did itch badly. I think your Cathy may end up with a slip under her crinoline/s. Longing to see THE DRESS.

  22. Peter, you crack me up. Love your comment about Fire Island. You go!!
    P.S. Thanks for naming a recent blog post after me - haha.

  23. Other people have mentioned part of this trick, but when I have to gather, I also turn my tension way up and lengthen my stitch. But if you really want to kick it up a notch, stick your finger behind the presser foot as you sew.

  24. Congrats on conquering crinolines! We all knew you could do it.

  25. Wonderful job!
    I have been known to wear a skirt or two (a frock sometimes) but the crinoline is all yours, er, I mean Cathy's.

  26. After seeing how much you accomplished with it, and after hearing other bloggers sing its praises, I may have to buy a ruffler foot. All of the issues I have with hand-gathering (you call it "denseness" I just accepted, but seeing how gorgeous the crinolines are, I think I'll convert. Thanks for sharing. =)

  27. Beautiful plie in first position there Peter, I think you missed your calling... ;)

    Great job on the Crinoline though, they can be such a headache!

  28. I love the last picture! *wink*

    Yay for crinolines (err... petticoats... whatever!)! I love how yours turned out! Now I'm eagerly awaiting my net to get here (a gorgeous, buttery yellow. Well, it actually came the other day, but they messed up my order and sent me 1 yard instead of the requested 5! I am not a Barbie doll... 1 yard will not do! ;)--you've inspired me! Now just to figure out if I want to bind the edges with matching or contrasting ribbon...

  29. This is wonderful. And you look fantastic ! Really, really, love your blog.

  30. Ok what u are making are Alice Long petticoats out of netting(named from a woman who danced on the Lawrence Welk show and wore these petticoats) Our mother made us these in 1956 and we had them in many colors. Criniline is a type of fabric...sort of like netting only denser...feels starched..and has a sort of 'crinkle' to it but isn't netting and was also used to make petticoats without as much gathering and a lot noisier. Sandra Archer Garland Texas. 972 4950121. 8)

  31. Just discovered your blog--3 years after the fact, but perhaps you haven't discovered this tip yet.

    Gather with two rows of stitching creates a more uniform and more manageable edge (the gathered fabric isn't rampantly going every which way). However, it is twice as tedious to stitch the second row plus manipulate the first one if it started to gather up on its own.

    So, I've occasionally used the "walking zig-zag" stitch--the one that "zigs" 3 stitches to the right before it "zags" 3 stitches to the left WHILE also running over two lines of heavier thread (weight depending on the fabric) which I run through a foot with appropriately spaced holes for laying down threads (eg, couching). I would place the threads so they would fall under the outer stitches leaving the center stitch blank. When done, just draw up the threads to gather as desired.

    Note: having the right foot for guiding the threads is critical in order to avoid accidentally stitching through your gathering threads.

  32. inspiring.oh so pretty.i just may dig out the sewing machine.

  33. I believe the trick to "keep the pin from falling out" is to wind your thread around it in a figure 8. That should hold it until you're ready to pull it. Have a dim recollection of my mother doing this.


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