I’ve been working on the Queen Charlotte petticoat steadily, while tackling Lace & Lacing projects, and modern sewing, and client sewing. There is a limit to how much QC sewing I can do a day, as the taffeta is so stiff that after a few hours my hands start cramping.
The last I left you, I was rescuing my “Ooop! Cut it too short” disaster.
I sewed the extensions on to the top of the petticoat, and was ready to pleat:
I pleated each side of each half down with 6 pleats, each 2″ deep, and spaced 1″ apart, taking the full 175cm width of each half of the skirt down to 17.5″ – enough to wrap a little on each side over stays and paniers (I know, I used both cm and inches as I sew, sorry if it is confusing).
Once I was happy with the pleating, I folded the top of the petticoat down slightly, checked the hem length, and then whipstitched the top of the skirt to cotton tape (I can’t get linen tape in NZ, and can’t justify ordering it from overseas when I own so much cotton tape).
You can see the piecing of my top extension very slightly in the pleats, but it’s pretty subtle, and will be completely hidden by the robe à la française, or any but the shortest over-jacket
Looks rather nice:
And, in other happy news, I have managed to replicate the lovely lacey punched pattern on Queen Charlotte’s ruffle:
OK, not replicate exactly, as my pattern isn’t nearly as delicate or elaborate, but I used Charlotte’s ruffle as inspiration:
After squinting at Charlotte’s portrait and every extent example of an 1760s robe à la française with punched ruffles that could find, I came to the conclusion that the punched patterns were rarely as elaborate as those shown on Charlotte’s petticoat. I borrowed the distinctive wreath/crescent moon shapes at the hem of the ruffles, the star/flower shapes that reoccur just above halfway up, and the holes in each small scallop at the top.
So how did I do it?
First I had to figure out and cut the scalloped scallops. I used a variety of circle sizes to create a cardstock template with a large scallop depth and size that I was happy with.
Then I did the same for the little scallops on the top of the ruffle.
Then there was a lot of squinting at Charlotte’s petticoat to figure out how deep her ruffle is. Based on the painting, it is half the length from the floor to her knee. The problem with this is that 18th century paintings often shorten the length of the shin. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be happening in Ramsay’s painting. I decided that my ruffle would be 12″ long – just over half the length from the floor to my knee.
I trialled my ruffle on some stunt fabric, just to make sure that it looked good, and worked:
I’m cutting the ruffles with a Fiskars scalloped rotary cutter. Running the rotary cutter around my big scallops was easy.
Cutting the little scallops? Evil. So hard!
Once my ruffle was cut I was really tempted to call it good, but it just didn’t have enough dimensionality. I needed to find a way to create the beautiful punched pattern on Charlotte’s ruffle. So how did I do it?
Nine different hole punch sizes, a teeny pair of scissors, a hammer, and a sacrificial magazine (which I actually had to buy from my local op-shop, because I didn’t have anything around the house that I was OK with ruining!).
I drew out my punch pattern on graph paper, and figured out which punch I would use for each hole. Then I punched holes in my graph paper template, and used it to mark all the hole placements on the taffeta with a pencil.
The biggest holes are done with single leather punches and a hammer, with the magazine as a buffer. The littler holes are done with my 6 in 1 turning punch thingee that I inherited from Nana.
The problem with all of these tools is that they are meant for leather, and weren’t really sharp enough for the thin taffeta, so I often had to finish cutting the holes with my little scissors.
The smaller punches got so bad, and my hand got so tired from squeezing it, that by the end I was putting the taffeta between the punch, putting the other punch holers against the magazine to protect them, and hammering down. Other than being time consuming and fussy, it worked a treat, until I accidentally got the end of my taffeta caught between the loose punch holers and the magazine and ended up with a few extra holes:
At least they are at the very end of my ruffle so won’t be too noticeable.
I still need to figure out how to punch the holes that should be centred on the join in the ruffle, and sew the ruffle to the petticoat, and then I’ll be done (hurrah!). In the meantime, Fiss is demonstrating that the ruffle is just the right length to be a kitty-petticoat, but she still prefers her own pretty fur coat: