How to Sew Perfectly Straight Boning Channels into your Corset
One of the more challenging aspects of corsetry is sewing straight boning channels with boning tape on the reverse of the corset without being able to see the front. Unfortunately, the best things in life take time. Fortunately, there are ways to make difficult things, easier!
|Here is a tutorial about how to sew couture boning channels into your corset with perfect results every time. This is a method used by many professionals for their bespoke work.|
You will need (see notes below for further info):
Mark where you want your boning channels to be on your cut fabric.
Iron your boning tape then center it over the marked line on your pattern, or over the seam it will be sewn over.
Pin perpendicular to the edges of the tape as shown.
Baste your tape as close to the edge as possible on both sides of the tape and as straght as you possibly can. You could sew through the middle but this may not give such accurate results.
You want to be able to sew with your machine just inside the basting lines. This should give you ample space for your bone. The boning channel must be 2mm wider than your bone. So if your bone is 7mm, then your channel must be 9mm wide.
|You must sew very straight lines because your channels will be sewn from the RIGHT SIDE of the corset and these basting lines are guide lines for your sewing machine.|
Now for the tricky bit. Stitch from the right side of the corset, close your basting stitches as you will get a smoother and neater finish if you top stitch from the right side.You can use a normal sewing foot, or a zipper foot if it makes it easier for you to see your stitching lines as you stitch the boning channel on the corset. Alternatively, some sewing machines come with a clear 'applique foot' which you can also use for sewing straight bone channels.
Remove the basting stitches after machining and you will be left with a perfect bone channel.
Further useful links on what to buy:
All about corset making and corsetry components
A blog with plenty of information on Corset Making and corset making supplies.
A new "From the Archives" series will be published every Wednesday and Saturday from 25 February 2023, until 26 March 2023, and these posts will contain 'old' information on corset making which will be updated for the revamped Learn Corset Making information portal whereever that may be.
Category: Corsetry Components
So over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed that our regular herringbone cotton coutil fabric feels a bit different - a bit softer, a lot softer actually.
First of all PANIC NOT! This is not a bad thing. The thread count and quality of the fabric is still the same. The sizing has changed - what is 'sizing'? I hear you ask...
Size is the glue product which is put onto the coutil fabric during the finishing process to make the material stiff and therefore suitable for corsetry. In the past, to be honest, I think the fabric has been oversized which has resulted in a really cardboard like feel to the fabric. However, this over-sizing did have benefits too because it meant that you could dye the white herringbone with ease and the fabric would remain firm even after several washing cycles.
Now, we have a softer product but no less strong and certainly still the best fabric to use for making a corset.
If you do wish to dye the coutil, you can still do so but will need to use starch in order to get a crisp result.
The new softer herringbone corsetry coutil allows you much more flexibility especially when it comes to fusing other fabrics to it (ie: silk); before you would end up with a really stiff and bulky cardboard like fabric which would permenantly crease if you weren't careful. With the softer base, this will not happen.
For tips on fusing, click HERE
Customers often ask for 'fan lacing sliders' which are not that common these days and I am unable to find a factory in Europe that makes them now. To source them in China would require me to find a warehouse here to store them in, such are min. qty amounts from factories in China! I even spoke about 'opening a mould' with a fellow British indie lingerie brand but we decided that even between us, the expense was prohibitave.
Ladies wot Lace
So I thought we could talk about fan lacing - how it came about, how to do it, different types, and how the same (or better imo) effect can be acheived without those pesky metal slides.
Although the Victorians dabbled in several models of front fastening corsets, it wasn't until 1908 when fan lacing became popular and took off as a viable alternative to the traditional back lacing corset. In that year, Samuel Higby Camp of Jackson, Michigan, invented a new system of fan lacing using a special metal buckle which was mounted with loops and was patented in the US in June 1921.
Metal fan lacing slides - difficult to obtain in the 21st century
Camp System diagrams
Camp's system with the metal buckle uses one single corset lace which is passed through the looped metal tab several times. The angle of pull means that the pulley effect of the lacing is effective over a wide range and this means that tightening the corset from the front is extremely easy. The other side of the fan lacing slide attaches to a belt which fastens at the front or side of the corset using special sliding buckles which are low profile and therefore sit smoothly underneath clothing. These are still used today in waistcoats.
Front fastening corsets
The Camp fan lacing system on the left is bulkier but uses only one lace passed through the special metal slider. The Jenyns fan lacing system on the right is flatter but uses several laces all stitched to the controlling belt.
Camp patented his unique slider but that didn't stop other manufacturers copying the idea, the most successful of which was an Australian firm called Jenyns who in order to circumvent the patent, simply stitched the apex of the 'fan' onto a strap. The main difference in this system is that sevaral individual laces are required to form an effective closure. This makes for a prettier effect but it means the system is not quite so effective. Nevertheless, this was also a popular and successful design and seasoned wearers of both models at the time, report the difference as completely negligible. Jenyns licenced the UK factory Symingtons to make this type of corset for the European market, and here is one such example I handled and photographed myself in the Symingtons resource centre.
1911 Jenyns corset in white coutil. Low waisted and deep over the hips featuring elastic gussets at the bottom front. This was one of the first styles made under the Symington franchise.
photo © Julia Bremble
Front straps. The corset has a long graduated busk and spiral supports and four wide fancy adjustable suspenders.
photo © Julia Bremble
Below is a diagram from a blog post by American Duchess which clearly demonstrates how the laces are attached to the 'strap' system of fan lacing. This system was first seen in Victorian times, but made popular much later in the early 20th century. The blog post describes how to convert a traditionaly laced corset into a fan laced corset using a corset made from a Red Threaded pattern. Please go and read it!
I can feel a tutorial coming on myself as I'd like to explore this system more in practice and ofcourse the creative options are limitless - I mean, multicoloured lacing for one!
Here's some modern interpretations of fan lacing.
Asphixia Couture Dark Garden Lovesick Apparel Pure One V-Couture
Hopefully that's got your creative juices flowing! Here are a few more resources for you to have a further read.
Fan lacing tutorial by Serinde Corsets on Live Journal
More on the Symingtons 1911 Fan lacing corset by Curve Couture
Vintage Fan lacing girdle from the blog of Period Corsets
As one of the most important 'ingredients' of a corset, boning tape is one of my main fixations in life when it comes to sourcing the good stuff for my own work and consequently, for you, my lovely customers - I've said it before and I'm saying it again, I only sell stuff that I use myself. It's tried, tested and given my seal of approval for learners and pro's alike.
So, boning tape. What's on the shelves here? Lets take a look and talk about each type and their pro's and cons. If you want the quick version, just take a look at the video here.
Herringbone Twill Tape
This is the cheapest type of boning tape that I sell, and it comes in three colours and three widths. It took me ages and ages to source this stuff, and I have only ever known one British wholesaler who sells it how I like it - all others are inferior versions or they are not cotton. So what I have here, is pure 100% cotton twill tape which is densly woven, strong, durable and not bulky. The twill tape at Sew Curvy is acutally made for upholstery projects, not corsetry, and that is what makes it strong and durable. If it's good enough to support your armchair, it's good enough for your corset... but don't be fooled. This twill tape is not bulky or clumsy in any way.
Herringbone twill tape for corsetry - can be used as lovely strong boning channels or for busk facings and waist tapes.
- 100% cotton twill tape, easy to sew, strong, durable and smooth.
When to use it and what to use it for:
- 10mm - for fine boning 4mm-6mm widths of both spiral and flat
- 15mm - for regular 7-12mm widths of both spiral and flat boning
- 25mm - for double or triple boning channels depending on the width of your boning - this is especially popular for double boning channels in Edwardian corsetry.
Cotton herringbone twill tape is good for all sorts of corsetry, but particularly for Edwardian corsets where the boning channels run vertically up and down the corset, and not along the seams as in Victorian corsetry.
This twill tape can be used in single layer corsetry, but I and others prefer to use this when the finished corset will be lined. It's a good tape but it's still a 'budget' option.
All widths can also be used as a strong waist stay although not my preferred choice for that.
- Not the prettiest tape, and can fray at the edges if cut too soon before binding.
- Not good for uber curves as there is no stretch or tolerance in this tape.
- Not comparable to the tapes you'll find in antique corsetry.*
*Lets not forget that the corset industry in Victorian times was big business. There were coutil mills all over England and Europe, there were lots of different steel factories all over the place because busks and (later) steel bones were in huge demand. There were special machines, special materials and special processes that were created for corsetry, that we don't have these days because there isn't the demand there was back in the day. Nowadays we have different materials, processes and machines - they are different but not inferior and that's what we have to work with now. It's no big deal. Times change. We still have twill tape suitable for boning, it's not the same as Victorian boning tape, neither is steel, neither is coutil - there are literally only one or two original steel factories and coutil mills left in the world none of which are in England whatever you may hear. Trust me. I've looked for them, and they don't exist.
Tubular Boning Tape
This is a cotton viscose blend tape which is basically a flat tube in which you put your boning. It has 'tracks' on both edges which makes it easy to see where to sew.
This tape comes in two colours and one width (it is available in other colours and widths but as yet, not at Sew Curvy).
This is a very fine boning tape which is also very strong. It's much smoother and prettier than the herringbone twill tape, and it's also alot more expensive.
tubular boning tape, smooth, strong, luxurious
- Strong weave cotton/viscose blend which fully encloses the corset bone once stitched into place
- Adds another layer of 'protection' between the bone and the outer layer of the corset
- Is smooth and professional looking - can therefore be used without a lining.
- Has a small tolerance for curves due to the special weave.
When to use it and what to use it for:
- For wedding and pale corsets where the grey steel of boning can show through - this tubular tape adds a nice dense layer between the bone and the coutil so there is no show through.
- In corsetry where a smooth professional finsih in unlined (single layer) corsets is required.
- It's expensive and not always necessary if you're making a corset where the innards will be covered up.
- Whilst it's better quality than the herringbone twill tape, it doesn't do a better job than twill tape, it does a different job.
Self made coutil boning channels
Coutil boning channels are the best for strength and durability and, they can make very pretty boning channels and reduce waste - they are a fantastic way of using up your odd bits of coutil ensuring very very little waste and therefore economising in the process. They can be made in several ways for different applications.
First, and most obvious is the plain 'bias' strip. I say 'bias' in inverted commas because I rarely actually cut the boning channel on the bias. I cut it on the straight grain, and put it through a bias folder. Several reasons - the straight grain is stronger, non stretch and less prone to 'wrinkling' through stretch. Only on the most uber curvy bits (ie over a large bust or big hip spring) would I use this tape on the bias. To make a good size channel for 7mm boning, you need the 12mm bias maker, cut strips 2.5cm wide, and iron them through.
Coutil boning channels made with a bias maker look so lovely and are a very economical option as well as strong and durable. Use up your scraps!
The second way to make your own coutil binding is with pressing bars - and there are two ways to do this. First, you could make a tube - again on the straight grain - press the seam allowances of the tube over the pressing bar, and apply the channel over your seam - this is good for external boning channels or sheer corsetry where you want your bones to be invisible but need strength.
A corset made by my friend and colleague Izabela of Prior Attire. She folds her fabric around the pressing bar, centres the resulting strip over her seam, stitches it down in the ditch, then stitches either side.
Otherwise, you can simply use your pressing bar as a folding device, cut your boning channel to the required width (this is a particularly good way to do double channels), then press the sides over the pressing bar, making a crisp outer edge. Line up the centre of the tape with your seam, stitch in the ditch, then stitch down each side. Bingo - perfect double boning channels on your corset, matching, and minimum effort.
Pressing bars are therefore good when you're using less bulky coutils, or when you're using fused fashion fabric on coutil.
- Coutil boning channels are strong, durable and colour co-ordinated if you want them to be.
- Economical - use up your scraps!
- Easy and satisfying
- Can be bulky depending upon the type of coutil used and the method
- Can be fiddly if you don't like making tubes and strips! (practice makes perfect)
Cutting out a corset and boning strips uses most of your fabric that wouldn't otherwise be used. I call this "fabric economy".
What NOT to use when boning a corset?
Well there are several things that I don't think work well for corset boning channels.
Grosgrain ribbon, polyester ribbon (even double faced) and seam tape - these will work if you have absolutely nothing else and no other option but they do tend to wrinkle in a very ugly way if you're not uber careful. They are also quite thin and can fray/wear quite easily if you don't secure them well enough at the edges under the binding. I have tried them for a fancy option and whilst not impossible, they are quite difficult to deal with. Having said that, sometimes a thinner option like this is the only way to make a channel where the 'look' is more important than the purpose, ie: when you need to fold over the edges to acehive a 'floating' effect, as in this sheer corset which has narrow grosgrain ribbon for it's boning channels.
Corset: Julia Bremble, Sew Curvy Couture. Image and retouching by Inaglo Photography, not to be used without permission, model is Valis Volkova
Tailors tape - this can be used for a waist stay because it's fine and non stretch, but although tightly woven, it's a bit too thin to use as a boning tape unless your corset is for light wear only.
Tailors tape - brilliant as a waist stay, not so good for boning channels.
Fashion fabrics - unless your fashion fabric is very dense, or is interlined with something strong yet light, you will get bad results with fashion fabric on it's own with regular corset boning. Having said that, if you use very fine boning, it could work OK on light use corsets.
So there you have it. There are many opinions about boning tape on the interwebs, some of them quite ill informed because they come from a very narrow viewpoint. As a shopkeeper, I am lucky because I get to explore all the options and bring the best ones to you, my fellow corset making addicts!
Find all the bone casing we have on our shelves here
Tools for making bone casing:
I said this in 2014, and I'll say it again - read more to understand the context of why I said it and why I stand by the statement that plastic boning corrupts over time and simply does not stand up to the job.
photo copyright : Julia Bremble, please do not use without permission
I've talked about steel boning at length all over this website, and will soon write a blog post on plastic boning for your interest and information. As ever, I present no pre-conceived conclusions and encourage experimentation at every step of your sewing journeys which is why it's no secret that I do not agree with the statement "plastic boning is better than steel". It isn't better and it isn't worse, it's different. I stock various types of plastic boning and lots of different types of steel boning because each type is useful and apart from anything else, it isn't in my interests to persuade you one way or another. In my quest to be a good shopkeeper and educator, I personally test everything on my shelves and I do extensive research not only because I want to pass the information on so that customers can make an informed choice, but because this is my passion too. My overriding aim is and always has been that YOU choose what is best for your practice, and you make your choices after research, experimentation, experience. It's your call, I can only give you information, inspiration and my own opinion based upon what I have found to work best for me.
Dior dress foundation photographed by veteran corset maker Alison Campbell
of Crikey Aphrodite who was commissioned by a collector of vintage couture
to examine and reproduce an authentic Dior style dress foundation.
It was during this project that we sourced cotton bobbinet for Sew Curvy which
exactly matched the material in this original Dior garment.
Photo copyright: Alison Campbell - please do not use without permission
So lets talk about dress foundations.
When I wrote this article, dated March 2014 it was a long time before the current popularity of the plastic material known as 'synthetic whalebone' and I was referring to the more commonly available Rigilene, the plastic boning of choice for many a dressmaker over many a decade, a product which at that time sold in much more quantity than synthetic whalebone (or 'whale' as we call it at Sew Curvy HQ). It still sells by the heap and because not all of my customers are corset makers, attracts queries on an almost daily basis, the most common of which is 'what's best for boning this wedding/prom dress i'm making, rigeline or spiral steel?. I always reply that, in my opinion, steel is best but sometimes I will recommend the synthetic whalebone as a suitable alternative to steel - it depends on the purpose and desired outcome.
an order for sample boning received yesterday - someone's experimenting!
Rigilene has its uses but is no good for serious dress foundations because it wont stand up to the job. Lets look at why that is and why infact, steel boning is the boning of choice for couturiers.
Here is a Dior dress foundation photographed by me during the V&A Ballgowns exhibition a few years ago.
Foundation of a gown from the V&A Ballgowns Exhibition a number of years ago - you can clearly see that it is lightly boned with narrow spiral steel because the grey of the steel is showing through the pale foundation fabric which is made from a few layers of tightly woven cotton bobbinet.
Here is another example of a dress foundation boned with spiral steel, and I am particularly interested in this one because it has toile panniers which I have been fascinated about ever since hearing about them from my showgirl friend and vintage couture conniseur, Immodesty Blaize who found them in the vintage wedding dress she wore to her civil wedding ceremony in France. This dress foundation also uses steel boning, again clearly visible by the grey colour under the net bodice, and there is a very good reason for this.
This dress foundation has multi layered tulle petticoats and toile panniers to support and give structure to the heavy satin dress which will go over the top of it. source
As you can see from this particular example, this dress foundation is doing alot of work - As a whole it is transforming the body by smoothing the torso with the corsolette and creating the illusion of larger hips with the petticoats and panniers. The bodice is not only smoothing the wearers body, it is also supporting those petticoats and panniers and the whole thing will then support the heavy satin dress that goes over the top of it. Dress foundations therefore serve two purposes.
- They smooth and shape the torso ensuring a smooth foundation for the wearer.
- They support the garment itself, improving shape, structure and comfort. The garment, as well as the body of the wearer is supported.
Boning is used because without it, the foundation would collapse and would not support the weight of either the petticoats or the over garment. Steel boning is usually used but in some cases, sturdy plastic boning such as synthetic whalebone could also be used. Rigline boning cannot stand up to the job because it is far too thin and flexible.
The boning of choice for couture houses from the golden age, right up to the present day (and I supply many of them with steel boning, never plastic), is steel. Why? Steel boning is more widely available than decent plastic boning and it is much more flexible for curvy areas such as over the bust. Also, steel does not degrade in the same way that plastic does over time, and what I mean by this is that spiral steel retains it's original properties for a very long time, plastic does not. So although we all know that once plastic is made, it can never be 'unmade', the properties which made it useful when new, will degrade over a relatively short period of time. Therefore, apart from the other environmental considerations, plastic boning will not produce an heirloom garment.
This dior foundation is light and 'fluffy' and boned with 5mm spiral steel.
You could probably use synthetic whalebone 6 x 1.5mm but would it last 100 years on a body?
â¸ Alison Campbell
What about the argument that plastic is lighter, and that metal can rust? Both of those statements are of course true, however, in a couture foundation, 5mm spiral steel boning is commonly used in combination with fine cotton bobbinet which is strong yet very light. In other words, a dress foundation, although it performs light corsetting duties, is not heavy but it does need to be strong and durable. The steel will never rust if the garment is looked after properly and also because it is galvanised to protect against rusting and because of it's structure (two flattened springs squashed together) it's properties will not change over time. It is possible to use plastic whalebone for the same purpose and with the same effect but the integrity of the material over time is not so guaranteed and of course where steel could rust if not looked after, plastic can warp if not looked after. The pros and cons are almost equal so again, we come back to choice when it comes to your own work.
no boning caps - don't faint!
â¸ Alison Campbell
Having personally examined a number of couture dress foundations, and having had clients with collections of vintage couture, and friends who have not only studied fashion but have also studied couture garments for particular reasons and having customers from famous couture houses and production companies who order steel boning by the roll, I can quite categorically state without a shadow of a doubt, that spiral steel boning is more common in couture dress foundations than plastic boning because more often than not, it is the best thing for that particular job.
So I am standing by my statement with the following caveat perfectly captured by Robert Dyer in his seminal book "Wasited Efforts' which includes a whole chapter on couture dress foundations that he has studied from the House of Dior who routinely use 5mm spiral steel boning and cotton bobbinet:
"Interestingly, as scholars research and analyze the techniques of master coutiriers, it is often forgotten that the couturier is a master because they abide by no rules but are so confident with the art of sewing and cutting, that decisions are made depending on need not formula. Sewing after all is simply a series of seams, some straight, some curved. The crucial part is that the stitcher must become profient at doing them"
And so it is with this exquisite dress by Yves St Laurant for Dior which was created in 1958.
The materials listed are silk, metallic thread, glass and plastic. We can assume that this 'plastic' refers either to the bead and sequin embellishment or the boning used for the bodice that supports a very etheareal and airy, sheer dress which is supposed to look like it is swinging off the body.
"Creating the trapeze silhouette for Dior, Saint Laurent has a rigid understructure veiled under a fly-away cage. A boned corset anchors the dress but allows the delusion of a free swinging cone"
Without examining the finer details of this garment in person, we can only imagine that if the creator preferred to use plastic boning here, he did so because it was important for the final effect; I would say that in order to preserve the light qualities of the garment, boning channels designed to hide grey metal boning would have been deemed to 'heavy' whereas plastic boning, being white, would give a more effortlessly etheareal result.
"Thus, in both surface decoration and in structure, Saint Laurent gained the effect of ethereal, bouyant freedom while retaining the structure of the couture. From the earliest works at the house of Dior through the designer's accomplishments in his own house, Saint Laurent has practiced and perfected this modernist wielding of couture construction and proficiency to seem wholly unfettered"
So here we have a shining example of where, contrary to traditional streams of thought, the designer may have felt that plastic boning was best for this garment and used it instead of metal boning. The effect is sublime and as ever proves the point that we should use the things that work best for us and for the project in hand.
- Not all plastic boning is created equal
- Rigilene boning is too thin and flimsy to support a functional dress foundation and it will not stand up to the job
- It's a scientifically proven fact that plastic will degrade over time, faster than steel.
- Some sturdier types of plastic boning can take the place of steel in a dress foundation and do the same job with the same effect.
- The best type of plastic boning for dress foundations at the current time, is 1mm-1.5mm thick synthetic whalebone. The thinner types also will not stand up to the job.
- Metal boning is undisputedly the go-to choice for couture houses to use in their dress foundations.
As ever, context is important. Where plastic can be used, use it if you want to. Where metal is more suitable, use it if you want to.
There are no rules.
The next article will be all about the pros and cons of plastic boning.
Links for further info:
A whole page of 'pins' concerning dress foundations old and new
A Threads article where Susan Kalje uses steel boning as support in garments in surprising ways (probably some of which I would use plastic boning for)
A blog post where a home sewer makes her own wedding dress with a really good technique on how to make really lovely sheer bone casings
Anatomy of a modern gown with a bobbinet dress foundation by Morua Corsetry and Couture
A few blog posts on How to make a dress foundation in several projects by me - including a post where I use rigilene boning in partnership with steel boning to make a moulded bust curve - a technique which I still use in some of my corsetry projects today. This link also includes more details on the John Cavanah dress which is pictured at the top of this blog post and dates back to a road trip to the Symington archive that I made with friends around 5 years ago.
I've been struggling to find inspration this year as i've been so busy with one thing or another, not least going VAT registered in April, swiftly followed by the horror of Brexit (for small retailers this has been a pricing and cashflow nightmare with the fluctuating currency - affecting all things from supplies to courier postage). SO... I've been a bit overwhelmed and 'pre-occuped' one might say. Luckily I have good friends who have been helping me through the creative doldrums in an attempt to get my juices flowing again. I am lucky!
And so one day upon opening the door to Sew Curvy HQ, a big parcel was on the mat, and it was from my good friend Izabela of Prior Attire. She very kindly sent me what I call a "mercy pack" containing one of her lovely and greatly sought after dressmakers notebooks and a bunch of silk fabric and lace offcuts - Izabela makes big dresses so her offcuts can sometimes be used to make several corsets!! Better than chocolates and wine any day.
There was quite a selection to choose from but in the end I chose to work with three of the fabrics first, the beaded lace, half a metre'ish of duchesse silk satin in gold, and a tiny scrap of beautiful silk brocade which probably cost asumidontwantothinkabout knowing Izabela. I love a scrap challenge at the best of times so I got to work thinking how best to use these tiny snippets of glory.
It soon became obvious that the small amount of brocade would best be used at the front of the corset, and whilst there was enough to do a complete front overbust panel, I wanted to make the corset a little bit more spectacular than that and I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided that cups were the way to go - I wanted to practice this area and here was the opportunity only there wasn't QUITE enough of the lovely brocade to do a full cup cover... imagination required, I dug into my 'retro files' for inspiration and came up with this 50's inspired cup design where the top and sides are framed with plainer fabric. The brocade is gathered at the sides of the cups, not because this is easier than making a separate cup pattern (which it is) but because it was the best use of the fabric. All hand basted in place with black silk thread, it was ready to hand stitch down finally and yes, you have to do it all by hand.
Dislcaimer: Proper cupped corsetry is quite difficult because you have to understand how a corset and a bra work to the best boobular advantages, however, you can cheat by using covered bust forms which is what i've done here - this is a good option for when you need to make a sample or practice techniques or for RTW corsetry where you dont need a perfect fit or where sizing is average. As usual in corsetry there are many many variables.
So once the cups and front panel were done I had just over half a metre of the silk duchess in gold to make the rest of the corset with. As this will be a sample corset shot on a model, it's a small size - 22" waist. And yes, you might notice the silk here is not gold nor particularly luxuriant looking as silk duchess satin should be. That's because I made a mistake. I decided to fuse the silk to some stiff canvas, but I fused said silk on the wrong side. Argh! There's no going back from a mistake like that but luckily the 'wrong' side is just as nice in it's own way - rich ivory instead of gold, and looks more like tafetta than duchess, but still... it looks lovely nevertheless.
You can see the boning channels are quadruple stitched. This is a detail I learned from hours of examining this corset by Mr Pearl (for McQueen) at various museums over the last few years.
(unfortunately when I met Mr P himself last year, we had a bit of a party and I drunkenly gushed this revelation to him ... so embarrasing, hopefully he cant remember).
SO, now we have, standard corset pattern adapted, cups covered, brocade front panel done, silk fabric fused the wrong way, boning channels like Mr Pearl. All that is left to do is embellish it. Which I've nearly done. I've also added straps incase the cups aren't modest enough on their own (it's always difficult to tell when you're not making a bespoke item for an acutal person). At the moment it looks like this - I'm quite pleased and it has most certainly done it's job of revitalising my creative direction. In a big way. If you have a friend in the creative doldrums, dont give her chocolate or wine, give her scraps and a challenge.
And here I'll list the 'ingredients' of this corset incase you want to try a similar project yourself. Note - I had enough silk to do the binding but it is very narrow binding at 2.5cm! It must be hand sewn to get it in the right place neatly - observe:
- Fabric scraps - I had half a metre'ish of silk satin, a tiny scrap of brocade and a tiny scrap of beaded lace. There is enough silk fabric to make a short halternetck strap (wide bias strips) and the bias binding (very narrow)
- Cups to cover - I used Prym double underwired bust forms
- Strength fabric - I used stiff cotton canvas - once it's fused to silk it's light and crisp but strong as steel
- Bondaweb fusing web 90cm wide
- Boning channels made from stiff cotton canvas (unfused)
- Silver eyelets with washers about 40 (should really have used gold in hindsight)
- Spiral and flat steel boning (7mm regular spirals at front and sides, 6mm flat at back)
- Double satin ribbon lacing in gold
- Stiff wide busk for the front (12"), held down with 25mm cotton twill tape
- Lining is soft coutil from my stash (also sewed 'inside out/back to front' because i'm a twit).
Have you ever made a corset (or anything else) from scraps and leftovers? And if so, did you find that it really lifted you out of a rut and turned you in new, sometimes unexpected directions?
Summer is about weddings, and weddings are all about having the right foundations! At Sew curvy this means interfacings, nets and fusibles! We've got several types of quality fusible interfacings all made by Vilene which is the British equivalent of the US Pellon brand. Woven fusible cotton is handy for making flimsy fabrics a bit heavier, and our new Bondaweb two sided heat activated webbing comes in 90cm widths! Big enough to fuse half a metre of fabric at a time!
G700 Viline fusible woven interfacing is glue backed cotton in black or white. It has a grain and is easy to use. Full instructions in the product listing. Use it for adding body to flimsy fabrics, for dress facings or for interfacing a lighter corset fashion fabric. Works best with natural fibres. Light but stiff canvas interlining is commonly used in wedding dress foundations as the inner corsolette material. Use it with spiral steel boning to smooth out the sillhouete under a light retro style dress which needs a good nip on the waist for max effect! We have new 90cm wide bondaweb! A double sided fusing web for bonding two fabrics together which saves much faffing! A much better width for corset making. Use it for bonding fashion fabric to coutil to make a tough, but fine underwear corset or bodice. The best way to use woven fusible is to lay said material on your fabric, lightly spray with water, cover with thin paper, and press press press. Do not rub. Just press. The water creates steam which adds heat and improves bonding properties. You can do the same with bondaweb just remember to sandwich the web between your two layers of fabric.
This lingerie strength powernet is used by several British manufacturers of vintage style lingerie. It comes in black, nude or white. 90cm wide and stretchy in both directions. More colours will be coming in soon! Use it to make comfortable dress foundation panels for wear all day, every day!
Bobbinet is used for authentic vintage foundation wear such as waspies and gown foundations. Ours is 100% cotton, 90cm wide, and comes in black and white. Use with spiral steel bones or fake whalebone. Use it to make couture gown foundations or light underwear corsets.
Rigid corsetry net comes in two colours, natural and black, and two weights. Heavy is best for regular corsetry while light can be used for waspies and stiff petticoats. Use loop pressing bars to make external bone channels for your sheer corsetry. Use the net to make sheer corsets, or stiff peticoats which will give a skirt more body.
The split busk, or two part busk, was invented by the Victorians. It was at the time a revolution for women because for the first time they were able to put their corsets on un-assisted. There are many types of split busk. The regular 'flexible' busk which is the most widely used and the one with which people are most familiar. These are about 12mm wide on either side, and coated in a white powder coating - this white powder coating, as a matter of interest, has replaced the older plastic coating, as it is more environmentally friendly. In Victorian times of course, all busks were made of uncoated steel.
The other types of busk are variously made from galvanised steel or stainless steel. There are wide busks which are an inch wide on either side, conical or tapered busks which are true to the Edwardian period and Spoon Busks which are true to the Victorian period. In modern corsetry, different types of busks can be used for different purposes depending upon design, body type, and effect
I find the story of the fabric known as bobbinet quite fascinating. Like coutil it is a very rare, difficult to find material and it is only made by a very few factories in the world. Like coutil there is a certain 'snobbishness' tied to it when put into the context of couture and fashion. You must have 'genuine' bobbinet and it must be made of the right stuff and in the right way.
Luckily, here at Sew Curvy we have genuine bobbinet, manufactured by one of the UK's only remaining factories and even more luckily, because I was able to get a narrower (but no less useful) width, the cost per metre is extremely competitive - the best you'll find anywhere on the net I think (haha! pun intended!)!
Bobbinet is a very special tulle fabric - sometimes even known as 'genuine tulle' it has been around since 1806 when it was invented by a very clever man called John Heathcoate. Mr Heathcoate coined the term 'bobbinet' from two words, 'bobbin' and 'net' because it is a lace type net fabric - lace is made with bobbins - but made on a machine which he also invented. Modern lace is made on similar machines and these days, the design for bobbinet machines, like many Victorian inventions, is largely unchanged from the original Heathcoate design.
The structure of bobbinet tulle is hexaganol and this is what makes it so strong and durable.
Bobbinet tulle is constructed from warp and weft yarns, but unlike regular woven fabrics and nets, the horizontal weft yarn is looped diagonally around the vertical warp yarn to form a regular and distinctive hexagonal mesh which is completely stable, has minimal stretch and is durable, sheer and very very strong in comparison to it's weight. This is why it is ideal for foundation garments within dresses and has been favoured by designers since the early 20th century for supporting haute couture gowns. It is the hexagonal mesh which makes the difference here, without the hexagons, it's not bobbinet.
Bobbinet was originally made from cotton, and it is now available in many different fibres including silk, nylon and special 'technical' fabrics. The threads of bobbinet can be coated in all sorts of non fabricy things including metal and this makes it's range of use outside the fashion industry quite vast! It is used for theatre back drops, military applications, medical patches, parachutes, cryogenic insulation, electromagnetic shielding, flexible electronics, fishing nets, high quality wig making and a whole other raft of 'craft' applications including porcelain statue decoration - who knew!!??
Dior dress foundation with bobbinete corselette
In fashion, which is what we're interested in of course, bobbinet mesh is still used for couture style dressmaking including bridal wear, corsetry and lingerie or as a base cloth for fine embrodery. In the world of costume, bobbinet is used in wig making because it is fine, strong, and more or less invisible when hair is woven through it.
Balmain gown inside and out, with bobbinet corselette foundation
What to use bobbinet for? I would use it for dress foundations (sometimes called a built in corselete), and I am intending to try it out in light corsetry or as a stand alone corselete. You can use bobbinet for petticoats but if I were to make a floaty tulle petticoat I would use a more standard silk tulle - not a specialist silk bobbinet. Why? Because regular silk tulle is much less expensive than silk bobbinet and just as effective, it also comes in a wider range of colours. The point of using bobbinet in dressmaking is for strength and lighness to create something fine and elegant. Bobbinet is not really a fabric to be used for it's looks in any application.
A post from Gerties Blog for Better Sewing regarding bobbinet corselettes in haute couture dress foundations. I actually disagree that underwear should be worn in a dress with a foundation - a properly constructed couture dress foundation negates the requirement for separate underwear.
Interesting post by Alison of Crikey Aphrodite on the OCOC blog about a lace factory in Scotland. Lace is mounted on net and these machines are very similar to dedicated bobbinet machines. A very interesting article with a nice video.
Pictures of a beautiful beaded and goldworked Balmain gown bodice with bobbinet foundation that I found on my quest for bobbinet knowledge. This is just superb!
grey spot broche coutil - 'silver screen - sleek, elegant, ethereal
Coutil is a fabric which was especially invented for corsetry back in the 1800's. It was also known, at that time, as "Jean". It is commonly a herringbone weave but it also comes in other forms. The reason coutil is special is because it is a very densly woven fabric which makes it very strong and durable - able to stand up to tension, but can be very smooth and luxurious.
Coutil fabric for corsetry comes in several different 'weights', and also different compositions. The best coutil is 100% cotton or at least a cotton/viscose mix (though some people are allergic to viscose). You can get polyester coutil or polycotton coutil. I do not recommend those as they do not 'breathe' as well as natural fabrics. There is a bit of a myth that the best coutil comes from England. This certainly used to be the case, however, I am sad to report that there are no coutil mills left in England. All coutil is made abroad nowadays, some in India, some in China, and some in Europe. I believe that some coutil is made in America too, although we in the UK do not tend to import from there and many American corset makers prefer the European coutil. You may have heard of 'German coutil'. It is important to use coutil for many reasons. Not only is it the best material to make corsets from, and incomparable to other 'strong' fabrics, but it is also a dying industry. It is expensive because it is a good quality fabric, and we must support the production of coutil, to keep the few mills that are left in Europe open. Many industries use coutil, however, most corsetry components are not made for small production or for fashion, but for the medical industry.
Broche coutil is the heaviest type of coutil available from Sew Curvy, alongside the cotton sateen coutil which I also stock - it's basically the broche without the viscose design. Fine herringbone coutil is the closes substitute to genuine antique coutil and is quite common in Edwardian corsetry. It is very fine but deceptivly strong and therefore suitable for lighter single layer corsets or training corsets - smooth, light and dense. Perfect!
fine herringbone coutil fabric for corset making