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Feb 23, 2011

Crinoline confessions for a Wednesday morning

OK, Debbie, climb out of that tree and let's get down to business.

Yesterday, I hightailed it to a few local fabric dives to hunt for crinoline supplies. 

I also swung by my local Goodwill and checked under a few wedding gowns -- were you expecting Vera Wang?  One dress, a 3/4 length, had a full slip with two rows of net sewn onto the slip itself.  It looked something like this, with a layer of gathered net stitched midway down, and then another layer along the hem gathered more densely:

It seemed to provide a lot of volume.  I am wondering, wouldn't this be sturdier -- and easier -- than layers of tulle or net stitched to each other?

The alternative, of course, is a traditional crinoline, which I'll probably end up making.  Here's one made primarily of tulle, and you can see that while it's flouncy, it lacks the height I'm looking for.

Net provides the height, but it's coarse and need to be covered up with something.  Both require an underskirt between the tulle/net and one's legs.

Anyway, here's what I've picked up so far.  Not sure if this is exactly what I want, but I think I'm on the right track.  All of it was in the $1-2 a yd. price range.

Stiff net, about 4 yds of a 60" bolt.

Ivory tulle, 4 yds, about 120" wide.

Ivory acetate (or something resembling good quality slip or lining material), 2 yds.

I'm wondering if it would be preferable to use cotton, or a stretch material of some sort for the underskirt.  Thoughts?

What I am envisioning is the yoke/slip top made of the ivory acetate with two layers of net divided into three tiers.  Then I'd cover the whole thing with a layer or two of fluffy tulle.  Ideally I'd like to be able to parachute off my balcony in it and not break anything.

Today I'll be experimenting with my sewing machine feet on these fabrics.  I have a few rufflers but I'm just not sure how well they'll hand tulle or net.  Most of the tutorials I've seen online show the gathers being made by hand using basting thread.  I don't have a gathering foot.

I can also gather with my serger by adjusting the differential feed but I'm not sure if the gathers will be dense enough.

I guess I'll need some trim -- lace, satin ribbon -- certainly something to enclose the rough raw edges of the net where the tiers attach, like so:

I already have elastic as well a few hook-and-eye variations.  It's an adventure, right?

In closing, thanks for all your helpful comments and crinoline resources yesterday.

The variety of these veil-like fabrics available is incredible and there's so much to learn. I know a number of you recommended just buying a ready-made crinoline, but I need to take this on.

When Cathy is ready to walk down the aisle, I want to be ready!

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

UPDATE:  Happy Day -- it works with the net, and on a treadle, no less!

Tulle ruffles too -- top row serger with differential feed adjustment, bottom row ruffler:

I think we're in business.  Veils for everyone!


  1. I use cotton under my net crinolines. I've used the nylon net, once I made one of mosquito netting, but they weren't up to the fully dior-new-look-pouffy-amazing-eccentric-foreign-lady-with-a-pram ideal I wake up wanting to chase some mornings. So I make mine out of stiff, revolting net and I make them pretty with contrast cotton voile yokes trimmed with embroidery, and underline with some nice cotton voile. It breathes more than it would if I used some synthetic nonsense.

  2. Thanks, Steph. Now I just have to look up "cotton voile."

  3. I have one of those made out of the softer stuff and you are right about it lacking volume. Plus it is heavy and tends to slip down my hips. Maybe I need some suspenders to wear with it!

  4. Another thing to keep in mind is the weight of the fashion fabric for the dress, it shouldn't be so heavy that it weighs down the petticoat underneath. The petticoat for that wedding gown is how most of them look, the goal there is a more bell shaped skirt for a floor length gown as opposed to a more cone-like shape for a knee length dress.

  5. Oh that's my dream to make one of those !! so I'm gonna have a close eye on your progress !!!!

  6. I'm making a cotton batiste slip to go under the crinoline. Here's my pattern (I even found one the same size as mine, though I have size 3, too). I'm making 2, 3, and 4. Yeah, even the "does this make my butt look big" ruffle butt panties. I have a few fifties dresses planned, and it'll make the fuller skirts from some of her more modern dresses look better, too.

    Since the dresses in question will be cotton or a bit of lightweight pinwale corduroy, this should work really well.

  7. I love that wedding dress because it has something I haven't seen on a wedding dress, or many other dressy dresses in a long time, sleeves! When did wedding gowns become tube tops with big skirts? Thanks for letting a cranky middle aged woman vent.
    Best wishes to Cathy upon her release. She's much too cute to be wearing prison garb!

  8. I'm so glad that you are going to make one!! OOO and I got excited at the thought of Cathy in a wedding dress :)

  9. Sugardale made a great petticoat tutorial:

    Also check her incredibly amazing ten-layer petticoat:

  10. My mom who was a fabulous teen in the 50's tells me that she wore multiple crinolines at once. You wanted the skirt to have no movement, so that your legs just kicked along under this bell.

  11. Hey Peter,when I made the flower girl dresses for my sisters wedding the skirts had from 10 to 20 meters of tulle in them!(I had to make 5 dresses from size 1 to size 7!)and to gather the miles of tulle I shirred it!Just hand wind shirring elastic onto the bobbin,set your stitch length to the longest length and go for it!if it isn't gathered enough steam the elastic.It saved me soooooo much time.Hope it helps

  12. The one I'll be making is going to be like your drawing. And I'm using some sort of poly lining stuff for the slip portion. And an elastic waist.

  13. What lynne said. My mother was married in a dress that had the bell shaped skirt. It didn't move at all. The dress was made in England, and she said that the fabric was not too heavy as it would weigh down the petticoats. She wore multiple tulle underneath. The dress also had a belt. It was made of a silky fabric.

  14. Okaysofi I have to agree. There bodice of most wedding dresses today are pretty much the same.
    My grandmother made wedding dresses and veils in the 60's on her treadle machine. They were elegant, stylish and they had sleeves.

  15. The ruffler works well on the treadle. I will be watching this carefully!

  16. Hmm. I feel I must bring this blog to Peter's attention:

  17. Hi there Peter.

    Being the mother of a 5-year old girl I definitly feel beholden to my ruffler! It has helped me make oceans of pouffy tulle skirts to go at the bottom of every one of her T-shirts. Instant-dress! (almost)

    Stiff tulle certainly works splendidly with the ruffler, and goes softer and more wearable after washing and tumble-drying.

  18. I have made several net petticoats but find that even the fullest ones do not pouf my dresses out that much. For a 50's bridal dress i recently made I made a built-in underskirt with several layers of gathered net attached and it worked much better, plus you avoid the bulk of an elastic waistband from the petticoat


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