Let's talk about stiffened hems! For Renaissance Faire costuming, it's widely accepted that farthingales and/or bumrolls are the way to go when you want to keep your skirts from looking limp and lifeless. But what if there's a third option? Because there totally is.
I'm not going to pretend I came up with this concept, because I definitely didn't. Fourish years ago, I was scavenging the furthest reaches of the internet because I was about to make my very own Italian working class costume. And I didn't have to go very far before I stumbled on Anea's article on stiffened hems. If you haven't seen her site, I highly recommend you take the time to look at it. Her articles are well-researched and packed with great information. I'm also not going to give you any references or examples of stiffened hems in artwork or extant clothing because, frankly, it would be a rehash of Anea's writings and why am I going to bother giving you evidentiary support when you can literally just click the link and have it all right there.
This is my quick and dirty method for creating the doppia with a machine, with no visible stitch lines. There are multiple methods for stiffening a hem; this tutorial is but one way to do so. Adding these extra layers really makes an enormous difference to your skirts! Your hems will have wonderful life and body, while still maintaining graceful folds that were particularly popular in 16th century Italian clothing. If you want to get extra fancy with your hems, you can add single-fold bias tape between the outer layer and the lining, and then go back once you are done and make little snips perpendicular to the hem. These little picadils really finish off a costume.
(Sorry for the bad pictures. Bad lighting, bad camera. But hopefully you get the idea.)
What You'll Need
Your skirt fabric
Your skirt lining
A 3” strip of felt equal in length to the circumference of your skirt
A 2” strip of felt equal in length to the circumference of your skirt
Step One: Stack your two different strips of felt on top of each other. Stitch them together down the length of the strips. You can run just one line of stitching, or you can do multiple lines – the choice is up to you. More lines of thread will make the felt slightly stiffer. Many lines will make your felt super stiff.
Step Three: With the wrong sides of your garment facing up, stack your felt strip on top of your lining fabric and butted up against the seam, making sure that your skirt’s seam allowance is laying underneath the felt. Stitch the felt to the lining, making sure to catch the seam allowance. I prefer to sew about ¼” away from the edge of the felt. Do the same thing to the other side of the felt strip.
Step Four: You’re done with your hem! This is what the skirt will look like with the skirt fabric and lining laying open. The lining should have two lines of stitching running parallel to the hem. Now it is time to press your hem!
This is what your skirt hem will look like as you’re wearing it. (Pretend I actually bothered to press it) See how nice that is, with no stitches showing?
And this is what your hem should look like from the inside. Two tidy stitch lines that no one will ever see – especially if you use thread close in color to your lining fabric.
Et voila! Beautiful hems that stand away from your body with no visible machine stitching!