If you crochet or knit you are probably familiar with a picot hem, or a picot edge – a series of looped threads along the edge of your knitting or crocheting, which can be used for functional or decorative purposes. A ‘picot’ is a single one of these loops)
If you are a really dedicated crafter, you might even know the same term from tatting (which is characterised by its use of picots), or know that some types of lace commonly use picots.
Picot edges are less well known in sewing these days, but you should, because 1) they are awesome, and 2) they are a common sewing technique in the 1920s and 30s, worked both by machine, and by hand.
In sewing, a picot edge is a rolled hem with a zig zag stitch sewn over the hem to hold it. It is usually worked on very fine, lightweight fabrics such as chiffon.
When I first saw a picot edge, I thought it must have been a very simple, cheap, low quality finish, such as overlocked hems on modern clothes. However when I interned at the Met I got to see Chanel dresses with picot hems – you can’t get much posher than that!
The use of picot edging for this type of hem seems to have arisen in the 1910s, with numerous retailers advertising picot edged scarves and collars.
It wasn’t just for dresses though. A 1935 advertisement extols the merits of ‘bungalow curtains‘ (how modern!) with picot edges.
The technique was so common and popular in the 20s and 30s that the name picot was even applied to straw woven in small loops.
You can also see usages where picot refers to a zig-zagged or looped seam join – not an edge at all.
The earliest uses of picot (at least that I can find) are not for lace or crocheting, or knitting or hemming or straw at all, but for ribbon. Numerous advertisements from the 1880s market different types of picot ribbon, referring to ribbon finished on the edges with little loops.
You can still buy picot edged ribbon, and it’s still sold under that name.
I’ll add picot edging to my list of tutorials to-do, and hopefully it won’t be too long before I get to it!