Petticoat with ruffles and adjustable waistband

Sometimes I get crazy ideas for projects that I don’t know whether they are possible to create or not… And sometimes it happens too that I’m forced to make something I’m not at all sure about, because the always-too-low budget sets too tight frames for my work. Today’s sewing tutorial falls into both previous categories: it’s about my attempt to sew a petticoat that has adjustable waistband and is made with the minimum amount of materials (Spoiler alert: I managed to do it alright ;)).

The petticoat whose making I’m going to discuss today was for my sister’s graduation dress, which I will be blogging about in the near future. The dress has an A-line shape and for this purpose I needed to have a petticoat that is very full at the hem. But why make a petti that can be only used by one person and with one skirt? Absolutely no point (I’ve been there once and don’t want to sew again a hideous amount of ruffles that gets attached under the main skirt and hence is impossible to use with other dresses). That is why the waistband needed to be adjustable and the color and length the most versatile I could possibly get.

I don’t like very short skirts and neither does my sister, so the perfect length for the petticoat was approximately on knee. The ruffles on the hem ended up being light blue because it was not only the color of the graduation dress but also very close to my favorite color (cerulean; a grayish shade of blue) so I figured it would match quite many of my future skirt projects.

But again, enough with the babble and on to the sewing!


My plan was to maximize the potential of materials by making the petti with two separate layers of tulle that each get two tiers of organza ruffles at the bottom. Sounds confusing? This is how I envisioned it in my head (sketch doesn’t include organza tiers) :


To put it differently, layers 2 and 4 are only one tiers long. What is great with this design, is that it makes a total of four tiers of organza at the hem but the minimal amount of fabric at the waist! The reason why layers 3 & 4 have three tiers instead of two is because I didn’t want the seams to be at the same height as in layers 1 & 2 (I find it creates a shape that has weird angles where all the gatherings pile up in the same level).

The amount of tulle I had for the project was 2 and a half meters. It was incredibly little, considering I had planned on making four tiers of ruffles at the hem… I somehow magically turn into Scrooge McDuck every time I step into a fabric store, which leads to problems when I’m about to cut the items I have bought. But it’s okay to be concise with consuming when you’re good at math! The 2 and a half meters were just enough for the fullness I wanted when I carefully planned the cutting. Here is how I made the material suffice (seam allowances included):


The yellow and green pieces were for the layers 1 and 2, white, pink and blue for layers 3 and 4. Obviously the green and blue pieces were divided into two as layers 2 and 4 were the same size as the tiers underneath them. Tier 2 on layer 1 + layer 2 are made of two strips of tulle (green pieces) and tier 3 on layer 3 + layer 4 are made of three strips (blue).

The freshly-cut strips of tulle were then sorted into piles that got labeled (my biggest sewing idol Angela Clayton taught me to be organized with making ruffles). I also cut 15 strips (6 cm x 150 cm) of light blue organza to be the bottom-most tier of every petticoat layer.


I began the work by sewing the short ends of organza together. For the two first layers I sewed three strips into a loop, for the two top-most I used 4 and a half (the 15th strip was cut into two). After ironing I couldn’t get my eyes off them; they were so crinkle-free!


I finished the other edge of the organza loops by folding it twice inward and then started to assemble the tiers of tulle. The strips of tulle were sewn with zigzag stitching because I couldn’t trust straight stitches holding them fast enough together.


Next thing to do was to pin the tiers of organza to the tiers of tulle. I wasn’t too precise with this but tried to be as even as I could be by eye.


I sewed the seam by machine. My favorite method for gathering ruffles is to push the fabric under the presser foot while sewing (this, too, was taught to me by Angela). As the ruffles wouldn’t stay put without extra work, I had to add a row of straight stitching to keep the organza from twisting underneath the tulle.


To be able to take the petti on and of, I left 20 centimeters or so of the back seam open on the pieces of tulle. The piece on the right is layer 3 (tiers 1 +2) and the one on the left is layer 1 (tier 1). The two paper-pieces that align show the point under which I sewed the zigzag.


When the back seams were done, I sewed on the lowest tiers of tulle that had organza ruffles on them. Layers 2 and 4 were zigzagged a few centimeters below the seam on layers 1 and 3 (they were sewn onto the tier of tulle that was the same size, but required the tiniest bit of gathering, however). The picture below shows only layer 1, I forgot to photo the step were layer 2 was attached to it.


For the waistband I cut a strip of cotton à 5 cm x 102 cm and folded the short ends inward (and also secured them with machine stitching). Then I folded one centimeter on the upper edge inward to create a channel for the ribbon that serves as a closing mechanism. The bottom edge was finished with a plain zigzag.


I wanted to have a layer of opaque fabric underneath the transparent tulle, so I cut the biggest part-circle of the same cotton as the waistband as I possibly could. It wasn’t that big of a piece as you can see, the next picture shows it folded in half.


I sewed its back seam, leaving the 20-ish centimeters open like on the layers of tulle. To finish the raw edges on the gap, I folded them inwards and secured them with machine.


Speaking of raw edges, I didn’t want to leave the openings on the tulle unfinished, so I sewed a strip of lace on them.


Now that all the layers of the petticoat were ready, I began assembling the petti itself. The first thing to do was to sew the waistband to the cotton layer right sides facing each other. The tricky part was to attach the layers of tulle, because I wanted to sew them on right sides facing upward, too. To get them sewn the way I wanted, I needed to pin them this way:


Layers 1 +2 were sewn a centimeter above the seam between the waistband and the cotton layer, and layers 3 +4 were sewn a centimeter above this seam. With all the layers on, the petti looked like this:


The petticoat was so floppy at the point that I decided to add boning into the cotton layer. I folded 2 centimeters on the bottom edge inward to create a channel for it.

I have the habit of replacing plastic/spiral steel boning with 1 centimeter-thick zip ties because they are cheaper (and more easily accessible where I live). The ones I always buy are 40 centimeters long, and after cutting off the closing mechanisms and trimming the ends they end up being 35 centimeters or so. To make a loop that’s big enough for the petticoat I taped multiple zip ties together with duct tape. I think I used a total of four zip ties for it, and the last seam of the loop was of course taped after I had inserted it into the cotton layer’s channel.


The last thing to do was to thread a thin cotton ribbon through the channel at the waistband. By it my cute and ruffly petticoat was done! Here it is on my mannequin (who is by the way called “Lola”).


I was not too content with the fullness, so I ended up adding three godets to the cotton layer and one zip tie more to the loop of boning. Unfortunately it was one of those famous last minute changes, so I didn’t remember to photograph the upgraded version. Maybe one day I’ll update this post with the most recent picture of it (I just need to get the petticoat back from my sister first).

Thinking back on it, why did I ever think it would be impossible to create a petticoat that would have an adjustable waistband? It was not at all difficult and the end result works very well. I guess sometimes often I worry about all the things that don’t need worrying.

Thank you for reading!


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