Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Broderie Anglaise Scalloped Edge for a 19th Century Petticoat

Last summer I decided to recreate a 19th century petticoat to enter in the Historical Sew Fortnightly Paisley challenge. I found eyelet fabric that had paisleys on it. I cut it down to later attach to a solid cream that I would tuck to replicate this 1855-1865 petticoat from the MET. The paisley is not a perfect match, but the idea is there.  However the edge was all wrong. It needed a scalloped edge but how in the world do I finish it off? I did some research and discovered the art of broderie anglaise, a form of whitework in the 19th century.


Then my laptop that held all my research died. My sewing research turned to research for new laptops. Then my time went into setting up the new laptop, thankfully with my old hard drive which wasn't harmed...but I have no idea where my research went to. Then life got crazy so I packed up my project and stuffed it in the fabric closet.

This month the Historical Sew Monthly challenge is "Out of my Comfort Zone." Hmmm...that project in the closet waiting for a broderie anglaise buttonholed scalloped edge is definitely out of my comfort zone. After all, how many people jump at the chance of sewing a million and one tone on tone buttonhole stitches? Also, there is nothing like picking up a project nearly a yearr later and trying to remember what to do next. My research began again and this is what I've done.

This is a great reference on broderie anglaise from 1887. Another great resource is the book which is a favorite in my  collection, 19th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh. There are six pages dedicated to this lovely type of stitchery!

How do I do the scalloped edge?

 I lightly sketch in the scallop border with a pencil as I go, about 2 at a time because they fade quickly. Then I put in my needle into that drawn line and come out to the left of the thread.


I lay the thread behind the needle and hold it taut...

I hold the end of the thread nearest to where it comes out of the fabric with my left thumb, while I manipulate the needle with my right hand. (Lefties would reverse this. They would also stitch this from right to left.)

With my right hand I pull the thread through, while my left thumb continues to hold the thread down until all that is left is a loop...


At that point I can let go of the loop (because now there is less chance of the long length getting tangled) and continue to pull the thread...


Keep pulling the thread...


Done with that stitch. Now to repeat that a million more times. Why? Stay tuned...


Meanwhile at the end of all this stitching, I will cut away the excess fabric to create the scalloped border. This is a small test section that I did.


This is why a million more buttonhole stitches are needed to create the scalloped edge.  This length for my 1855-1865 petticoat is 145" long!!! I have completed about 100" of it, some in front of the televsion and some of it in the doctor's office.It is boring but my stitches are getting better with all the practice. I'm over halfway there!


In fact, since I sit at the doctor's office about twice a week, about an hour at a time, I have it packed and ready to go! Along with the eyelet fabric there is a book to lay the fabric on when I sketch the scallops. In the side pocket I store small scissors, a pencil, and lots of thread. The needle is always kept poked into the eyelet fabric where ever I left off.


And now for the HSM details!

HSF 2015

The Challenge: Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fabric: 100% Cotton Eyelet

Pattern: Research from 19th century sources that are described above.

Year: 19th Century

Notions: Thread

How historically accurate is it? Pretty much.

Hours to complete: Forever.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: Honestly I forget since I bought everything a year ago. I probably  spent $20 at the most on this.


  1. Fantastic! That's a lot of scallops to sew! I bet you're grateful you don't have to do the eyelet embroidery as well. :-)
    I became familiar with these techniques very early on thanks to a special issue of a crafting magazine dedicated to different embroidery techniques that me and my sisters pored over for years; but I haven't made it beyond a few simple eyelets yet.

  2. Wow, that's a major undertaking! I'm seriously impressed! By my reckoning, you are about two-thirds of the way there now, so the end is (sort of) in sight.