This post is kind of an addition to a previous one where I'm making a purple and black floral 1870s polonaise to wear to a Halloween Walkabout this month in Old Town San Diego. We're all wearing black mourning costumes, and along with having lunch there, we're touring some of the historical buildings and the cemetary.
I'm trying to improve my historical costuming skills by adding more trims. In the past, my gowns were rather plain. Because of this being a busy print on the fabric, I wanted my trim to be a little more subdued. So I decided on a pleated trim around the neckline and sleeves.
My first idea was to buy some wide black ribbon, and pleat it on my sewing machine with the expensive pleater foot I'd bought. Except I couldn't find the ribbon in my sewing room, which I'd just purchased a couple weeks ago. So next best thing was cut strips of black silk taffeta I had and make my own ribbon, which I'm really happy with! I cut three inch widths of it, then folded it in half and pressed.
Next I tried my expensive pleater foot *note sarcasm* but the best I could get was a rather loose 1" pleat, and it looked more like a ruffle. I know I must be doing something wrong because the photo on the box shows a lovely 1/4" pleat. But times a'wasting.
So I went back to the manual method of pleating, and found a piece of plastic zip tie that was the perfect 1/2" that I needed.
I folded in the outside end of the ribbon, laid the zip tie next to it, and folded over the ribbon, then back to create the first 1/2" pleat.
I slide the tie to the right, since pulling it through was catching on the threads with the rough edges of the tie. After pinning it down, I placed the tie next to it, and started the next fold.
It’s a slow process, and I need about 40” for where I want to trim the dress.
After I had about 30” pinned, I sewed down the pleats with my sewing machine so I could pull out all those pins, and pressed it.
I recently read that spraying a mix of ½ vinegar and ½ water on it, then pressing, will hold the pleats forever. I’m going to test this on a piece of my fabric and see if I can do it without damaging the silk.
I finished enough length of the pleats, so that I was able to pin it on my bodice to see what it’s going to look like.
I really liked it going down the front where it set off the buttons, so I decided to make more pleats and continue on down the front to the hem on both sides. I think I've now cut 6 lengths of the 60" wide silk taffeta.
Once I was done making all the pleats, I basted it along the inside edge of the neck, front closures, and sleeve ends, then top stitched it just near the edge of the fabric.
Now that that's all sewn on, instead of finishing off the raw edges of the ribbon that are on the inside of the gown, I'm going to use my scalloped scissors and trim it off. I used those before on silk taffeta and it doesn't unravel then.
*See my upcoming blog on the completion of the Purple Floral Polonaise.*
This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**
- Time Traveling in Costume
- HI, my name is Val. I'm a membor of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.