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.

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Category: Tutorial

  1. From the Archives : How to dye corset laces

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    This tutorial has been kindly written for Sew Curvy by Maria of Kitty O'Hara Corsetry.  Thank you Maria!

    How to Make Your Own Coloured Corset Laces

    screen shot 2013-03-06 at 20.50.36

    Firstly, order your length of laces from Sew Curvy!  They are 100% cotton and so accept dye readily.  Synthetic laces will not dye so easily.

    Use a hand dye rather than a machine dye in order to penetrate the laces properly.  Dylon hand dye colours are very close to the colour on the outside of the packet.  

    The packet states that the 50g bag will do 250g of dry fabric, but because the laces are relatively small and weigh so little  a bit of maths is required to figure out the right amount.  Four metres of lacing  weighs approximately 10g so for every 4m length of laces you want to dye you will need to reduce the amounts of the other ingredients by the amounts shown below.  Or if you’ve just got a big bundle of lace and want to dye the whole lot just weight it and work out the amounts from there.

    For 4m of laces you will need:
    2g dye
    20ml water
    240ml water
    10g salt

    Double this for 8m of lace, triple for 12m, etc.

    Now it’s pretty easy, you can just follow the instructions on the packet, which are:

    • Wash laces thoroughly and leave damp.
    • Dissolve 2g of dye into 20ml warm water.
    • Fill bowl with 240ml warm water, add 10g salt.  Add the dye mixture and stir well.
    • Submerge fabric in water.
    • Stir fabric constantly for 15 mins then regularly for 45 mins.
    • Rinse in cold water, then wash in warm water and dry away from direct heat and sunlight.

    Hints & Tips:

    Because corset lacing is a flat tube of woven fabric, you have to make absolutely sure that the dye penetrates right through all surfaces of the laces otherwise they may come out patchy and tie dyed.  To make sure that the dye gets right through them, wash the laces first in water, and then wring them under the water until all the air bubbles have come out.  Do the same when they are submerged in the dye.  This way you can be absolutely sure that all the water/dye has completely penetrated the inside of the laces as well as the outside.  Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the dye.

    The laces will naturally tangle up around themselves so do make sure you loosen any actual knots, otherwise you will end up with tie dye laces!

    When your laces dry they will probably be a bit crinkly and need ironing.  A really quick and easy way of ironing them is to run them through some hair straighteners.

    Et Voila! You have custom coloured corset laces!

    Alison Barlow has kindly supplied the table below which takes the guess work out of how much dye/water/salt you need for the amount of fabric/laces you are dying.  Click on it for a downloadable PDF.

    screen shot 2013-06-11 at 10.26.54

  2. From the Archives : Binding a Corset

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    The finishing of your corset starts with binding the raw edges for a neat finish.  It is easy to do this with bias binding.  Further embellishments, such as a beaded or feathered fringe, can be incorporated or hand sewn on top of the finishing binding.

    You will need:

    - Your corset
    Bias binding
    - Zipper foot
    Pins, needle and thread
    Corset binding can be self made, using the fabric of the corset, or pre-made in a contrasting fabric or colour.

    This tutorial uses pre-made cotton bias binding.
    binding1 First of all, make sure that all your raw edges are neat, with no dangling threads or rough edges.  You may need to trim some of the edges so that they are smooth.  Make sure that each side of the corset is completely symmetrical and that the bones are pushed up from the edge you are working on, in order to give the sewing machine needle maximum room, and minimum risk of breaking by hitting a bone.
    binding 2 Measure the appropriate length of binding plus 1 inch spare at either end.  

    Unfold one of the folded edges of the binding so that it is flat, fold over the spare inch at the end, align the raw edges of the binding and corset right sides together and pin into place.  When you get to the other end, fold over the spare inch again and pin in place.  Make sure that each edge of binding is also aligned with the edge of the corset.
    You may find it handy to use the zipper foot for this because of the bones
    When stitched all along the edge, fold the binding over the edge to the other side, and press into place, making sure that binding on both sides is even all the way along.
    There are a couple of options for finishing at this stage.  You can either hand sew the binding in place (my preferred method), or you can "stitch in the ditch" for a totally machined look.
    To stitch in the ditch,   pin the unfinished  side of the binding in place from the RIGHT side of the corset -  make sure that the pins catch the binding and hold it in place, on the wrong side.
    Then from the right side of the corset, stitch the binding in place along the seam which you had sewn previously - the ditch. This will ensure a neat finish on the right side - you should not be able to see the stitches....
      ..whilst the binding on the wrong side of the corset should be just caught and held in place showing a  neat line of machined stitches.
    The ends of the binding should be handstiched together to give a lovely neat finish.
    Et Voila!


  3. From the Archives : How to sew boning channels into your corset

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    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.
    tools-for-sewing-corset-boning-channels copy

    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.

    boning3 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:

    • Boning tape - At Sew Curvy we have plain herringbone twill tape, or tubular boning tape.  Either can be used.
    • Hand sewing needle - The sharper the better - coutil has a habit of blunting needles very quickly.  You cant go wrong with John James needles which is why they are the only needles I stock and recommend.
    • Thread for basting - Silk thread if you are sewing fine fabrics and dont want to mark them.  Otherwise regular basting thread will do the job.
    • Dressmakers chalk - to mark boning channel guide lines on the reverse of your corset.  Magic chalk is good for this because it completely disappears as soon as you iron it! 
    • Pins - I use glass head pins as they dont hurt my fingers and are very sharp
    • Measuring guage - I use the Prym guage for all the things!
  4. From the Archives : A quick overview of how to make a corset - c. 2009

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    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!
  5. From the Archives : Article by Rosie Dennington on how to use knicker elastic c. 2013

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    The Wonders of Knicker Elastic!


    Rosie Dennington of Rosie Red Corsetry and Couture

     In all honesty, elastic used to frighten me. I had previously played about before with making smocked dresses and elasticated summer tops, but it was always very trial and error. I really wanted to master knickers and swimwear, but just wasn’t very sure of where to start…

    I have now come out the other end! I feel I have managed to master the use of knicker elastic, and I want to share with you three different things knicker elastic can be used for.

    1.  Knicker elastic can be made to make knickers or panties! 

    Knicker elastic is most commonly used around the waist and legs of a pair of knickers. I found it most useful to study pairs of pants that I owned and to look at where the elastic had been used. This is because styles will vary. For this explanation though, presume I am talking about your bog-standard panties. So, how much elastic is needed? This baffled me until a lecturer I had at university explained to me that the simplest way to work this out was to literally get a length of elastic and hold it around that body part (waist or leg) until it felt at a ‘comfortable tightness’. This can then obviously be used as a rough guide for future sizing; if you wear a size 12 you are likely to be able to make all your size 12 knickers with these measurements. I have included photos to demonstrate this

     rosieknickers3 rosieknickers2   rosieknickers1
    Too tight - this is going to hurt! Too loose - not tension at all! Just right, comfy and stays in place
    rosie knicker elastic

    The next obstacle is now that you have your lengths of elastic cut, how much ‘pull’ is needed when you sew?  The first time I made a pair of knickers, they would have only fitted a doll, as I had pulled far too much. Take the waist for example, fold the elastic in quarters, this will give you markers for the side seams and CF and CB. These can either be pinned in place, or markers can be drawn onto the fabric. Again, I have included photos to demonstrate this.

    Finally, it is important to mention the stitch to use. A three step zig-zag stitch works best but if you do not have a three step zig zag on your machine, a plain zigzag is the next best thing.  The zigzag stitch allows the fabric to stretch with the elastic; it just isn’t possible with a straight stitch. The width and length of the stitch I have found, is purely a matter of choice. I often like to use a chunky zig-zag stitch in a contrast colour, as it works as a bit of a decorative feature.

    Tip:  Fold both knickers and elastic in half or quarters to make your own markers. This can then be pinned in place so you know how much ‘pull’ is needed   photo
      Most domestic machines have a three step zigzag

      2. Knicker elastic can be used to shape garments

    Knicker elastic can be used to shape soft cups in nightdresses and sundresses.  A big positive to this is that it really works for any size chest.  You may find it easiest to either flat pattern a cup, or to cut on the stand. When I say ‘cup’ it can be as simplistic as a triangle shape, commonly associated with bikinis. Work out the length of elastic you will require, and in a similar way to making the knickers, use a zig-zag stitch to attach. If you use this same principle and use swimwear fabric, you can even make your own soft cup bikinis.  This is particularly good when making bikinis and first bras for girls starting out with lingerie.

    rosiered bikini rosiered nightie
    soft cup bikini shaped with elastic trim sexy negligee with bust area shaped with elastic

    3. Embellishment and decoration

    This is a bit more of an ‘out-of-the-box’ idea, but I have found that knicker elastic can be used as really lovely decoration. The real advantage of using knicker elastic is that it moves and stretches at your will so easily. I have used it many times to decorate nipple tassels and pasties. Knicker elastic is much easier to manipulate then a standard lace trim, so can be particularly effective for unusual shapes such as hearts. It can be sewn, hot glued or super glued in place.  I find it particularly effective for unusual shapes such as hearts. It can be sewn, hot glued or super glued in place.

    pastie making2 rosie making nipple pasties rosiepasties

    I really hope that this has been of help in showing just some of the ways knicker elastic can be used. Not only is it useful and often pretty, but it doesn’t break the bank either!

    Make your own knickers - free tutorial from the Very Purple Person blog

    Three free printable lingerie patterns from Craftsy


  6. From the Archives : Old links to free corset making tutorials all over the internet

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    free corsetry tutorials from around the internet
    Checkout the Sew Curvy Facebook album
    for more corset making information
    The best online resource on the net (apart from this page ofcourse!)
    The Merry Corsetiere - a live journal community which is not active anymore but which has the best archive of know how from today's best corset makers 'before they were famous'
    using the folded seam method of corset construction, and incorporating turn of cloth with fashion fabric
    by Sidney Eileen
    blog post from 2010 by Katafalk
    free article on Foundations Revealed - a good starting point
    All about seams for corset making from Live Journal
    This is a long one but it contains all the information.  
    Read all the entries and all the comments.  I promise, you'll find some real gems!
    A video demonstrating the use of Clover pressing bars!
    this is from my 'memories' on Live Journal back in the day
    A quick video overview by Prior Attire
    A video overview of how to make a WW1 Edwardian corset including a quick way to create lapped seams for the corset.
    This is a brilliant article by my friend and collegue Kate Moir of "Totally Waisted".  She is still the expert on how to make corsets appear to be totally balanced when infact they are totally different on each side.
    This thread on live journal discusses raising the bust line for a larger bust.
    This method works.  Try it.
    This thread on live journal is packed with information on how to make gussets for the bust area on a fuller bust corset
    If you want all of this information and more under one roof, then my e-book "Corset Making from beginner to intermediate" is the thing.  
    Click here for more info and a preview.
    Fan Lacing Tutorial from The Merry Corsetiere on Livejournal
    Pattern Manipulation - How to re-pattern a corset pattern by Sparklewren on Livejournal
    Related Tutorials
    by Alison Campbell of Crikey Aphrodite
    including chemise, drawers and crinoline cage
    this is the sort of petticoat for a flat fronted skirt with bustle
    this uses the Truly Victorian Pattern available on this site
    This is a tutorial on how to make Truly Victorian patterns available on this site.
    For the more adventurous there are some bizarre antique patterns on haabet - a Dutch site full of interesting bits and bobs
    Sewing and craft related, relevant for corsetry
    A great article with graphics by Threads Magazine
    Another great tutorial from Threads, on the best and most effective ways to paint lace trim
    so that you can colour co-ordinate your projects and let your imagination run completely wild!