Saturday, February 1, 2014

HSF '14: Challenge #2- Innovation (or a Marseilles cloth petticoat)

If you reference my HSF '14: Challenge #1 post, you'll see that my fist attempt at a Marseilles cloth petticoat (usually called "matelasse" today) turned out less than perfect. First too long, then too short, then finally made to work by adding a printed band around the bottom.

So, for Challenge #2- Innovation, I've decided to make a more length appropriate (and all hand sewn!) petticoat. Before we get to the petti itself, let's talk about the idea behind this challenge, and why I chose to use it as an opportunity for a new Marseilles cloth petticoat.

Who doesn't want a lovely quilted petticoat, right? You get that awesome fullness of the skirts without having to wear a ba-zillion (technical term) petticoats, and it keeps you toasty warm when it's -48° Fahrenheit due to the polar vortex that has kindly visited Illinois this winter! .... but back to reality- who has the time to hand quilt a petticoat?! (Unless you are Carolyn from Rockin' the Rococo- jealous btw!)

Back to our innovation research: In the early 18th century, Marseilles was very well known for it's quilting manufacture and for good reason: Marseilles quilting is beautiful!  Marseilles quilters worked pieces in yard goods for clothing or in pieces for use in bedding. Some day I will get around to making my very own Marseilles quilting inspired hand quilted 18th century petticoat.

That day is not today.

Thankfully for me (and all of those other 18th century quilted petticoat saps) England's all about keeping it in the country; In 1760 the Society for the Encouragements of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in England began offering money for those who could figure out how to replicate via a loom the look of "Marseille quilting." By 1763 the first patent is registered, and it is noted in 1783 that the use of Marseilles cloth was " extensive...that few persons of any rank, condition, or fix......exist who do not use it in some part of their clothing."

Knowing that in the 1760's and early 70's Virginia is seeing huge amounts of cloth imported from London, and there are quite a few references between '63-76 in the Gazette regarding "Marseilles quilts" being imported, I figured that I could reasonably have a Marseilles cloth petticoat in Alexandria, VA at this time.

Now, onto the petticoat itself.

Front and side view of my Petticoat. It's very full (a little more so than I expected.)
I didn't iron it prior to the pictures, so what looks like a big seam across the
middle is actually a fold line. =P

The Challenge:  Innovation
Fabric:    2 yds Diamond quilted Matelasse (100% cotton)
Pattern:   None. Just my standard 18th century petticoat petticoat instruction.
Year:    1776-ish. Could work for a pretty good range.
Notions:       3/4" linen tape, linen thread
How historically accurate is it?  As accurate as possible (at this time). I'd like to dig a little deeper into the manufacture of Marseilles cloth sometime in the future. However, based on the research I was able to tap into via the internet and my current library collection, she's as close as I can get to what I think is right.

The petticoat is entirely hand sew in the typical manner of an 18th century petticoat. I used linen tapes to attach at the waist as the waistband, and there is a very narrow turned hem. Many quilted petticoats are hemmed by applying tape and turning to the inside, but I didn't have any I thought suitable on hand. I'll probably keep an eye out for further research and proper tape and this will be an easy fix, if need be.

Doing a spaced back stitch- that fabric is kind of thick!

Whipping the tape down to the backside. Made sure to
catch all of the pleats as I went.

Hours to complete:   6hr 20 min. Not bad considering I probably could have been more productive if I'd shut the TV off. I finished it Tuesday.
First worn:   Will be worn for the first time today, at Military History Fest. I'll update with pictures later!
Total cost:  $0.00. Everything was already in my stash. I think I got the Matelasse a long time ago on sale for $6.00 a yard or something to that extent. The linen tape I purchase by the roll to have around when needed, but probably $8 ish in tape.

If you're interested in more information on Marseilles petticoats, check out these two articles which helped me quite a bit with my research.

This article by Loren Dearborn via YWU. Unfortunately, if you do not have a membership, you will not be able to view the whole article. =/

This lovely blog post by the Ladies' Repository Museum.

If you're wondering what I consider my standard 18th. century petticoat, check out this tutorial  by the Ladies over at a Fashionable Frolick. They do some amazing work. =)


  1. Very, very nice! It turned out beautiful.

  2. Thank you. After wearing it, I will say it was rather warm but I did enjoy the volume it gave :-)


I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts on all this, so please feel welcome to comment here :-)