Here is a quick guide to making a steel boned corset based on the 9769 Simplicity Corset Pattern. This is a quick guide - an overview ... I have put links in where you can see italics, to the 'tips and tutorials
' pages here where there is more detailed info.
First of all, this pattern cinches the waist, by approximaely 2.5 inches. I need a bigger reduction than that, so I start off by tracing the pattern, and reducing the waist size. How? You take the amount you want to reduce - 2 further inches and either take it straigh off the side seam, or divide the amount to be reduced by the three seams at the side and either side of the side. Don't take in the centre front seam or the one next to it, or the centre back seam or the one next to it - the back edges must remain straight and taking in the next seams along, will distort the corset and/or cause a little back pain.
All 12 pieces of the corset are then laid on the fabric, marked up, and cut
The two sides of the corset - right and left, are kept separate, and I work on one side at a time.
This is a single layer corset with no waist stay, so the boning channels
which are not over seams, are sewn on first. It's easier to do them 'flat' as when the peices are sewn together, there are curves to negotiate! I do not sew the channels nearest the front or back edges yet.
After all the flat boning channels are sewn on, I sew all the pieces of each side together. The reason I don't sew the bone channels over the seams right now, is because I need to be able to adjust the fitting if necessary at a later stage.
When working with satin it's best to pin in the seam allowances only. The curvy corset seams are then ironed over my tailors ham...
And here's both sides after pressing ..
Already a corset shape ... now it's time to do the front and back edges...
As the back edge will have 20 eyelets in each side and this is a single layer corset, I am re-inforcing the back facing with some fusible interfacing to make the fabric extra strong.
I like to top stitch all my edges very close to the edge, for extra strength and because I think it looks nice. For corsetry, I mainly use two machine feet - my zipper foot as you can see, and my applique foot, so that I can see where i'm going when sewing bone channels.
After sewing down the back facing, and making sure the final bone channels are in place I mark my eyelets using a template and chalk, on the right sides of the back edges of the corset. After the positions are marked, I use an eyelet punch or an awl, or both, to make holes, and the eyelets are then inserted with a hammer.
When the eyelets at the back are done, I insert the busk fastner
at the front. I always cover my busk first
as this adds strength and a nicer finish.
Now I can insert the steel bones into the boning channels I have already sewn and try the corset on to check that it fits. This one needs a bit of adjustment around the bust area - the front two seams need to be taken in by 1cm each at the top. The bust area is usually where the adjustments need to be made. The waist seems fine - certainly the shape is what I am after. So now, all I have to do is make the adjustments, and then finish off the boning and binding.
Making a corset takes time and precision, but as long as care is taken over each step, it's not difficult. It took all afternoon just to do the bone channels one side of the corset, but I am pleased with the results.
The pattern instructions say that the seams should be 'flat felled' and then the boning tape sewn on, but unless you have enlarged the seam allowances right back at the beginning, to 2cm each, so that the seam can be used as a channel in itself, this leads to a very messy effect on the right side, so I don't follow the instructions to the letter. Here is an example - this is the very first corset I ever made from this pattern - I've kept it for reference!
You can see how wiggly the lines are, and how messy it looks because a seperate bone channel has been sewn over the flatfelled seam. The easiest thing to do in this case, is trim one side of the seam right down, then fold the other side over it - like a flat felled seam, but then I baste the boning tape right over it, and sew in one step. It's therefore more like a welt seam than a flat felled seam now.
It would ofcourse be much easier to press the seam open and sew the tape over that, but this method would not result in a very strong seam - these seams have to take a lot of pressure! The last thing I want is for them to burst open while I'm wearing it!!! That just wouldn't do now would it! ?
I line the boning channel up over the folded seam, and just over the original seam line so that I can 'stitch in the ditch' from the right side, catching just enough of the tape...
I know that when I turn the corset around to sew the other side of the channel, if I line the left side of my presser foot up with the line I have just sewn (in this case, the 'ditch'), the needle is in exactly the right position to sew the exact width I need in order to be able to slide the bone in very snugly.
Here's what it looks like on the other side - and you can see that i've finished off the outer edge by placing bone tape over the back facing to give a neat finish.
Once your corset panels are sewn together, busk inserted, eyelets punched in and bone channels sewn, there are only a few things left to do, but these are the most time consuming! First, the bones need to go in...
There are 20 steel bones in the Simplicity 9769 Corset. These particular bones are made from sprung steel which are then coated in plastic - this gives them the flexibility they require in order to mold your body - note: the bones mold your body, not the other way around! Spiral steel bones will do just as well and provide a little bit more flexibility but no less strength.
I decided to trim a few of the bone channels - this goes on after the bones (so you don't sew through the bone channels!) and before the binding (to get a neat finish).
Now it's time to bind the corset
. This can be done either with bias binding cut from your original fabric, or a contrasting satin bias binding ready made.
When sewing the binding, make sure your bones are pushed up, out of the way of your needle, otherwise you will be in the "House of Flying Needles" !!
I broke FIVE needles doing this part of the corset - my own fault entirely, not paying enough attention because I forgot to move the corset bones up while I was sewing each respective edge. As you can see here, i'm using "sharps". These are special sharp needles, perfect for topstitching all those bone channels and layers. When the top side of the binding is sewn with the machine, you can handstitch the underside neatly in place on the reverse.
Et Voila! A beautiful, Victorian style, steel boned corset!