Sewing Challenge: Petticoat

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So another on a list of things I volunteered to make for people… In some of our dance comps in the year there are Rock’n’Roll competitions and I volunteered to help a friend of mine out by making a skirt to match a leotard that she had bought. This post talks about what I have done so far to make it. There are photos and instructions which should be able to be used if anyone would like to make their own.

The leotard in question is red, orange and yellow in a flame pattern and has gold reflective spots over the top of it. Very bright, so it needs something to go with it which has some complementary colours, but isn’t overwhelming.


The idea that I came up with was to make a circle skirt and a multi-layer petticoat to go under the circle skirt to give it some volume and add colour to the outfit.

The inspiration for the petticoat came from this tutorial from Rock’n’Roll bride of a petticoat, which makes a multilayer rainbow petticoat. This skirt will either have 2 or 3 layers, depending on how much volume it gives the skirt. On top of this there will be a circle skirt, either lycra or something non-stretch such as satin or polycotton.

I made a trip to fabricland and purchased a couple of meters of dress net in three colours (red, yellow and orange) which are the main colours of the leotard. I got 25mm satin ribbon in matching colours (the orange wasn’t in stock though, so I have to go back and get that later), and some lining fabric for the top of the petticoat. I haven’t got the fabric for the outer skirt yet as I haven’t decided the construction. But these match nicely with the leotard.

A small underskirt was made to attach the petticoat layers to. This was made from poly satin, a simple rectangle with a channel at the top, elastic is threaded through the channel. The width of the rectangle panel was just wider than the hips, as this is non-stretch material, and the length of the skirt was approximately 1/3rd of the desired length of the petticoat (with a bit extra for the channel and seam allowance). The proportions of the length can be changed depending on the amount and shape of flare that you desire.



To make the petticoat layers I cut 4 strips of the net 14″ inches wide (this is approximately 2/3rds of the length of the petticoat + S/A) and the full width of the net fabric in length. The strips were then sewn together on the short end, so the join lies flat. All four strips are attached round in a circle. This gives a circle of net that is 14″/35cm inches wide and approximately 215″/540cm round.

To gather the fabric together for the petticoat I tried a new method which I was very pleased with. This involves quite a lot of stitching, but it’s quite straight forward to do.

Take the net circle and some thick embroidery thread, it should be possible to remove the thread at the end if you are careful, but if not it will be hidden in the gathered seam so it shouldn’t be too visible.
Place the net under your presser foot about 1cm from the edge and stitch a few stitches with the widest zig zag stitch you can on a long stitch length.
Then place the embroidery thread under the centre of the presser foot. This should allow the zig zag stitch to stitch over the top of the thick thread but not catch it.

Tip: once you have stitched a little way secure the embroidery thread by wrapping it around a pin in the fabric, otherwise it is possible to pull the thread out. Keeping a bit of tension on the embroidery thread should allow you to feed the net freely through and keep the thread in the center of the foot.

When you reach the end, ensure you do not stitch down the ends the embroidery thread as these need to be pulled through to make the gathers.

Now carefully pull the free end of the the embroidery thread through to gather the fabric along the thread. As I had 4 equal pieces of net in the circle, each piece of net should be gathered to the length of 1/4 of the lining piece.

Once I had roughly gathered the net I found it easiest to mark the quarters on the lining skirt with safety pins and pin each net seam to one of the quarter mark points. Then I could pull the embroidery thread to the same length as the lining fabric and even out the gathers along that length.


Now zigzag stitch over the line of the embroidery thread. You are again trying not to catch the embroidery thread in the stitches although it is more tricky this time as the gathers can be harder to control through the foot. A walking foot could possibly alleviate this problem. As you stitch along each quarter try to make sure that the gathers are evenly distributed along the section and that the stitch line is parallel on the lining skirt.

Once you have stitched the whole circle on, either attempt to pull the embroidery thread out, of snip the end off and leave it in the seam.

As the edge of the net can be quite scratchy I wanted to bind it to enclose the raw edge. This also gives a little bit more colour to the layer. As the edge of the net is straight it can be bound by ribbon. In this case I used a 25mm satin ribbon in the same colour as the net. The was simply folded in half over the edge of the net and straight stitched down the open edge of the ribbon. The ends of the ribbon were sealed using a lighter as this is easier than folding and pressing. *Test this on a scrap piece first though!* Once completed this gives a much cleaner and defined look to the skirt.


The second layer was completed in much the same way, except the net strips were cut approximately 1/2″ shorter. They were connected and gathered in the same way and stitched on to the lining skirt approximately 1″ above the first layer. When stitching an additional layer on, you just need to be careful about the position of the bulk of the skirt so you don’t catch it in the stitching. (Luckily I noticed fairly quickly…) The binding in yellow finishes off the second layer to give a nice contrast.


I think my lining skirt is possibly a little long, so might need adjusting at a later stage, but for now I put it on my mannequin with one of my circle skirts over the top. I think it goes really well with the leotard and gives a lovely shape!


The skirt that will actually go over the petticoat will have a narrower waistband than this one, but I think a simple lycra circle skirt will be the best option. In addition to this it may want some extra decoration, possibly satin bias binding or some form of sparkle.

I haven’t yet decided if a third layer of net will be necessary. The orange net is a slightly different stiffness to the other nets, so I’m not sure how it will fall. Due to this I will create the orange net on a separate underskirt so it can be placed over the other layers and if it works successfully then the underskirts can be stitched together to form one layer.

Hopefully the last layer and the circle skirt won’t take too long to complete and then the outfit will be ready to go 🙂


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