Making A Corded Petticoat
I'm sure there are about a million and a half ways to make a corded petticoat, and I make no claims to this being the best method, but since it worked quite well for me, I thought I would go ahead and share it. Please note that my goal was to make myself a petticoat that would work for 1830s-40s projects that I have in mind, so my research is based on that time frame.

Planning Your Petticoat

In researching for my corded petticoat, I only found images of three examples of corded petticoats surviving from the 1830s-1840s era. One had many narrow rows of cording placed closely together, while the other had far fewer rows which were wider and further apart.
Left: 1830s Petticoat from Kyoto Costume Institute's "Fashion"
Center: 1840s-1850s petticoat sold at Karen Augusta's site
Right: 1830s petticoat that was sold on eBay a while back
(I personally went with the narrower cording because I liked how delicate it looked, and so I can't give detailed information on what would work for the petticoat with the wider cording. Maybe some time I'll go back and make one in that style, and if I do, I'll add the info to this little tutorial.)

In addition to choosing what sort of a cording plan you want to pursue, you also have options as to the waistband/closures. The Kyoto Costume Institute example doesn't have a separate waistband, but rather just a drawstring closure. The second two examples have waistbands, but still tie closed.


Fabric: I went with white cotton. The exact fabric I used is called "quilters only" from JoAnn's. I've no idea why they call it that, because it worked just fine for my purposes. I selected it because it was the nicest 100% white cotton fabric they had, (they were sold out of everything else except muslin and bargain broadcloth - as usual!) How much should you buy? That depends on your cording plans! I did a sample with my cording and discovered that a row of cording takes up 1/4" of fabric, and that I would need to leave 3/4" between rows (due to the width of my machine's zipper foot), and that gave me an estimate of how long my panels should be, but I cut the panels extra long, just in case! As far as how many panels to use? I'm using two full widths of the fabric, because three would be too many, one too few, and anything other than two full widths would have required seam finishing, and I've seen petticoats successfully made from two widths so knew it would work. But again. . . It's up to you, and what you want your petticoat to look like!

Cording: I went with white crochet cotton. It's the same thing I already use for piping bodices, and I knew it would work because my friend Katherine has made a gorgeous corded petticoat (hand-sewn!) using it. I've bought it in AC Moore and Wal-Mart, and I'm sure it's available in pretty much any fabric store! (Note: When my petticoat is done, I'll add information on how much yarn it required).
If you are planning to go with the wider cording, I suggest checking out the home decorating section. I've found some cording meant for piping pillows and such that I think would work perfectly for this project, and it comes in a variety of widths.
Notions & Such: Thread, and a lot of it! Also, you'll want some sort of closures - button(s) or hook/eye(s) if you are putting a waistband on your petticoat, or some sort of twill tape or ribbon if you're going with a drawstring closure. The Kyoto Costume Institute petticoat has lace trimming around the bottom, and so that's an optional decorative touch you might choose to do.


1. Pre-wash and iron your fabric.

2. Cut your panels, and a strip for the waistband as well, if you have chosen to have one. (Another option would be to turn down the upper edge of the petticoat, creating a channel for a drawstring).

3. Mark your channels with a washable marker (or whichever method you prefer). On my petticoat, I knew I needed about a 1/4" width channel to accomodate the cording, and the channels would need to be 3/4" apart (the width of my machine's zipper foot), so I drew lines that were 1" apart, and these will be my stitching lines. In order to keep them as perfectly straight and parallel as possible, I used my gridded cardboard "superboard" and a large, square, clear plastic ruler (can be found in the quilting notions section of your fabric store), and first marked lines that were 10" apart, and then filled in the lines in between. That way, if some of my lines were a tiny bit off, it wouldn't result in every single subsequent line being off as well!

4. Sew your panels together, being sure that the side with the markings on it is the right side. Because I used the full width of the fabric, I just pressed my seams open and didn't have to worry about finishing seams, but if you chose to cut the fabric, you may wish to finish the seams at this point.

5. Starting with the bottom row, take an end of my yarn, place it on the wrong side of the fabric, and fold the fabric around it, securing the yarn snugly in place with a pin on the right side of the fabric, placed right on the stitching line.
Continue doing this all the way around the first row.
Using your zipper foot, stitch along your stitching line, right up against the cording. . . And voila! A row of cording. Continue doing this for the rest of your rows until your petticoat has as many rows as you want it to have.

- At the end of each row, I left an opening and extra cording hanging out, and went back afterwards and finished it by hand. You could probably overlap the ends and pin them in place so that you could sew it by machine, if you wish - I have yet to experiment with that!

- Watch that you don't catch any fabric that shouldn't be sewn as you are going along!

6. Either make and attach a waistband, or if you prefer, fold the top edge over to form a casing for a drawstring. Sew on your closure/insert your drawstring.

7. Hem the bottom edge of the petticoat. If you want to pep it up, add lace around the bottom, like in the Kyoto Costume Institute example.

8. Make yourself another petticoat or two (a flounced one, perhaps?) and then you are ready to make something beautiful to wear over your new petticoat! ;)
This page © 2010 by Jennifer E. Lithgow