Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Making A Painted Petticoat (or Two)

As promised, a nice detailed writeup on the construction and design of my painted petticoats!
I've named this design the "Anne".
Both designs can now be found in my shop: Charlotte and Anne!

 First off, it's not easy to very precisely date a petticoat, so I'm trusting to museums' judgement in most cases. As far as I can tell, border-embellished petticoats can be found throughout the century, though. Petticoats that are decorated at the hem are relatively common, though there is one primary difference between them and my petticoats: crewel and/or other embroidery is much, much more common than a border that is painted or printed. I believe I found one or two examples of a printed border on a petticoat in the Met, that also had an allover print (but the border design was an obviously separate design).
Pinterest - from the Met
There are, of course, many many examples of painted and printed cottons and silks, both in gowns and surviving textiles, so I decided it wasn't that much of a leap to make painted petticoats. I just wanted to make it very clear that this sort of petticoat isn't 100% documentable!

The first petticoat I decided to make was a relatively simple design, so I could test out these particular inks and see if it would all be a miserable failure!
Pinterest - Killerton Fashion Collection, National Trust, UK
This particular petticoat's dated to about 1750, and is crewel wool embroidery, but I thought it wouldn't be too hard to draw out, and put on a sheer fabric to make it better for a top petticoat for about 1785-95. And it wasn't! Just took time, and good old-fashioned pencil-and-eraser. A lot of eraser. And literal copying, cutting, and pasting! On this one, I drew out the top half of the design and then figured out how to flip it on the bottom so it was almost mirrored but not quite.

At first I thought I might be able to make a stencil for at least the zig-zags and the vines, so I bought a plastic template used for quilting to that end. This would have been a brilliant idea if it hadn't required scissors to cut through. Not so good for detail work!
Hmm. No.
But the cotton voile I was using was obviously sheer enough to see through, so I could trace it - but my design was on paper, and the attempted plastic template was rude enough to smudge even permanent ink, so that wouldn't be good to get anywhere near the petticoat.
Plastic wrap and painter's tape to the rescue!
No, really.
Then a whole lot more tape to stick the panel of voile to my working board - two pieces of poster paper. I am nothing if not high-tech.
I used some All-Purpose Inks from Dharma Trading that I'm very pleased with. They do feather a bit depending on how much ink I've got on the brush, but they dry very quickly on the voile and leave no hand at all. And on natural fibers, they can be heat-set! Not very 18thc, that, but too much work goes into these to have them melt in the rain! And the flowers and leaves are outlined with a very fine permanent-ink pen, just for a little bit more definition.
By this point, you may have noticed the yellow vines and leaves, which aren't yellow on the finished petticoat. That's because I decided to paint blue over yellow for green, as was often done in the 18th century. A fast green dye for plant fibers hadn't yet been invented (Scheele's green was invented in 1775, but doesn't appear to have been used much for clothing til the 19th century), so most green you'll see in late 18thc cotton textiles is either blue over yellow, or blue and yellow pigments mixed together.

Of course, in 2016 I have ready access to green inks! But I thought the blue-over-yellow might be a nice little touch that you don't see often. My painting isn't as precise as the originals, of course, but even on those you do see some blue smudges, or occasional "coloring outside the lines."
 So, since Petticoat the First came out quite nicely, I thought I'd try a second! Bit more involved this time.
Pinterest - strip of painted silk, Met
Based on the size of this textile (140"x12.75"), it was most likely some type of home furnishing, but I thought it would also be very nice on my petticoat! This one was more of a challenge - there's only this one low-quality image of the textile, and I don't do improvisation as well as copying!
Whole lot of yellow in this one...
Whole lot of leaves to outline...
I had a bit more fun with colors in this one, since the original's in black and white in the photo; I had a small army of inks for this petti! Most of which were only used on one tiny flower, which made the whole thing take even longer. But I'm very pleased with it!
And I've decided to call this petticoat the "Charlotte"!


  1. Oh, yes! On my list of things to try! Hand painted and/or stamped images. Beautiful workwomanship!

    1. Thank you! It's quite a bit of work - very repetitive, but I love the results. Highly recommended. :)

  2. Oh, yes! On my list of things to try! Hand painted and/or stamped images. Beautiful workwomanship!