How to Floss a Corset

A step by step guide on how to apply flossing embroidery to your corset, including information on the tools you need to make it easier, and some professional hints and tips on how to get the best finish possible.

Corset flossing tools

The Victorians had special machines to floss their corsets in factories, but these days we have to floss our corsets by hand and a variety of materials can be used.  I love flossing corsets, I find it extremely relaxing and it makes the resulting corset feel really special.  My favourite is self coloured flossing where the flossing thread is the same colour as the corset - this is quite a modern iteration of corset flossing which gives a really elegant and understated finish. 

I have found that John James Embroidery needles are best for flossing because they are uber sharp, smooth and sturdy.  You may need some bees wax or dressmakers wax to strengthen your embroidery floss.  Draw the thread through your beeswax, then iron the thread so that the beeswax (or paraffin for vegans), sinks into the fibres.  This isn't always necessary, it depends how fine your thread is.  A multi-ply buttonhole type thread wont need this treatment.

As for what thread to use for corset flossing - there are lots of options.   Button hole twist thread or "top stitch" thread (the same thing) is the most easily available and comes in a huge array of lovely colours.  It is very strong and durable, easy to use and doesn't cost the earth.  The other good type of thread to use is perle cotton which comes in various thicknesses, or pure silk thread, preferably multi-stranded - this is harder to come by and can be pricey - you do get a beautiful lustre with it though.   You can use regular embroidery thread but in my opinion, it really isn't strong enough for corset flossing.  Linen thread is an 'authentic' thread to use for older styles and also comes in a variety of colours.  Linen thread often needs conditioning with beeswax thread conditioner.

A measuring tool is handy for ensuring that your flossing designs are regular - both in the same place on the corset, and the same size over the corset.  Watch the video for a cunning trick to make a failsafe template without the use of a ruler or other external marking tools.

A thimble is pretty essential for protection while you're working, and a needle puller is even more vital when flossing through many layers of coutil - in the video above, the corset I'm flossing is made from coutil bonded to silk, with coutil boning channels - pretty heavy duty for a little embroidery needle! This is why good quality needles are an absolute must, along with your needle pulling tool!  I don't recommend using pliers to pul the needle through - some people do use them, but they can damage your needle, and they can damage your corset (or your fingers!) if you slip.  This could quite easily ruin your day - if not your whole week.

Practice makes perfect

You can practice new flossing designs by making a flossing sampler.  All you need is two squares of coutil, with boning channels sewn through.  I use scraps of boning left over from other projects to bone the sampler.  It's a good idea to bind the sampler when it's finished, not only to finish it off nicely but also to practice invisible binding stitches.  

Download my free flossing sampler with full instructions HERE or just follow the instructions below.  And check out our Flossing Inspiration page for more information on the origins of corset flossing and some more design ideas.

Make a flossing sampler

  1. Cut two squares of fabric, one coutil, one fashion fabric and stitch together through the middle where the boning channels are indicated.  Leave enough space at the edges for binding - use the above, actual size image as a template.
  2. You can place bones in the sampler or not - for economy, try plastic bones, this will give the limitations of metal boning without the weight or the expense - if you do bone the sampler, leave space at the top edge to insert the bones and then stitch down so that they don’t slip out.  Feel free to add more boning channels or make a sampler with external bone casings.  Do experiement.
  3. Bind the edges with bias binding - use different techniques to see which you like best, experiment with different types of thread.
  4. Use the flossing templates to practice your flossing, and/or stitch lace over the middle to practice invisible applique stiches.
  5. Make lots of samplers and stitch them all together to make one huge sampler
  6. Make a sampler for each corset you make - soon you will have a library!
flossing sampler template