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Category: Corset making

  1. Cupped corsetry with scraps

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    cupped corset with silk brocade

    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.

    mercy packThere 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.  

    covering corset cups
    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.

    cup placement on corset

    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.  

    dante corset by Mr Pearl for Mcqueen

    (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.

    nearly done

    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:

    binding

    • 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?

     

  2. New year, new projects!

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    Its been a busy start to 2016 after a very busy end to 2015!  For many years we've been trying to source the popular rosebud coutil that many makers favour for making historical corsetry or sleek underwear.  Late in the year we found the mill !

    black silver rose corsetry coutil gold clasp corset busk red and black spot broche corset coutil

    The rosebud coutil comes in five colours currently. 

    Black with champagne roses
    Black with silver roses
    Black with red roses
    Ivory with gold roses
    Ivory with ivory roses (damask)

    This coutil can be used on its own to make a very sturdy single layer corset good for underwear and suitable for everything from bridal to boudior!  I like to use it to make co-ordinating bone channels too.

     

    Gold plated busk fastners go so beautifully with our gold eyelets.

    These are currently in three sizes

    10" (25cm)
    12" (30cm)
    14" (33cm)

    They look amazing with the ivory and gold rosebud coutil.  Our gold eyelets now come in two sizes and four formats.

    4mm in kits or loose
    5mm in kits or loose

    The new black spot broche with red spots is to die for!

    It's much stiffer than the other spot broche coutils because it comes from a different mill.  In the spring time we have asked the factory to ensure they put some of the new colourway aside for us.  Black with purple spots!

    This is also good for single layer corsetry or you can use it with a lining for an extra smooth and luxurious finish.

     

     

    super duper kit small ivory

    Super Duper!

    The pretty rosebud coutils are available by the metre or half metre or as part of our new 'Super Duper Corset Kit'.  This kit is a superb starting point for beginners to corsetry and includes all the tools and materials you will need to make a Sophia Underbust Corset. 

    Click here to see our other corset kits!

    design tip

    Use our new Prym bias binding makers with coutil to make matching bone channels for your corsets!!  These Prym bias makers have a wider nose which means you can work with thicker fabrics.  Our Sew Easy bias binding makers are better for delicate fabrics such as silk.
    facebook header

    Dont forget to check the Sew Curvy Facebook page.  It's packed with tricks, tips, tutorials and conversations and I often put special offers and news there first!

  3. Q&A - What size busk do I need?

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    Q:  I want to order a corset kit  - what is the busk measurement I need? I am not sure what to measure.

    A:  Busk size depends on the corset pattern you are using - all of the corset kits on this website have details of the correct busk size needed, except the 'deluxe kit' which does not come with a pattern.  The delux corset kit is a generic kit designed for use with any pattern so that people can work with patterns not available on this site, or their own patterns that they have made - the busk size therefore must be determined before purchase.

    Commercial corset patterns will always have busk measuring instructions included because busk size is pattern specific - it depends upon whether the corset is an underbust, mid bust or overbust, and then it depends upon the sub-style - longline, plunge, closed front etc.,    Patterns will include instructions on how to alter the pattern if required and then whether or not the busk size should be altered.  If your busk size needs to be altered, then it is likely that your bones will need to be longer or shorter too.  Nevertheless, commercial patterns cater for the average body and in most sizes fit well with the busk size provided, regardless of alterations required.

    If you are making your own pattern then you must measure your torso whilst sitting down, from where you want the top edge of your corset to be, to where you want the bottom edge to be, making sure that you leave enough space at the bottom to be comfortable when sitting and to ensure that the corset is not too long for you when seated otherwise it will rise up and buckle in a very unsightly way, or prod you in your nether regions, and we don't want that!

    Useful links:

    What is a corset busk?

    Corset kits - a full range of complete corset kits which contain everything you need to get you started with an obsession

    Two part busk fastner - stainless steel split busks in a wide range of sizes to fit every size of corset.

    Flat busks - Sturdy wide flat metal busks in various sizes which are suitable for flat front corsets - ie: corsets which do not open at the front

    Corset patterns - A range of corset making patterns which work first time with no fuss and bother.  I only stock patterns which work for beginners first time and all of the patterns have the appropriate busk size listed in the description, even where this is size specific.

    corset busk

  4. What is the best sewing machine for corset making?

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    Janome 1600PQC Sewing macine

    I'm often asked what the best - and worst - sewing machines for corsetry are so i'll tell you my thoughts garnered from my own experience and that of the students who come to my classes with their own sewing machines.

    img_2961 lvintage bernina sewing machine
    This lovely vintage Bernina 720 made an appearance in the Sew Curvy Cottage last month.  It may be old but it sewed like a dream, stitch perfect every time and better than many other machines.

    Bad news first.  The worst machines for corsetry are, in the beginners category, domestic Brother machines.  I myself started with a Brother as these are often the most easily available, from shops such as Argos and other department stores, with the highest profile aimed at the craft hobby market.  People are familiar with the Brother name and therefore trust the brand.  Fine unless you want to sew corsets.  Unfortunately, the only problems I ever have in class with machines that cant cope, are with Brother machines - they can't keep pace, they labour over every stich as soon as more than 2 layers are put before it, and since those layers are mainly thick coutil, a Brother machine is prone to going on strike just when you don't need it to.  I have also encountered many tension problems with Brother machines, not just from their owners!  In short, Brother 'entry level' sewing machines are fine for sewing light dresses and the odd piece of home furnishing, but as soon as you progress to more complicated things, they just cannot cut the mustard, which is surprising given that the best industrial machines are also made by Brother - I don't understand why the technology doesn't cross over.  

    So when I started to make corsets, it was time for an upgrade.  I did a lot of research, found a machine I thought suitable and then asked a sewing machine company what they would recommend having briefed them on my requirements and budget.  They came up with the same machine I had thought appropriate, and a match made in sewing heaven was born. At that time,  I spent around £250 on the mid range Janome 5124 machine and it's still going strong in my studio now - it has everything required for mid range sewing - it can cope with several layers of coutil and bone channelling, has several decorative stitches and several zig zag stitches including a three step zig zag which is useful for sewing elasticated items such as lingerie. 

    singer 201k  

    The Singer 201K is renowned to be the best sewing machine ever invented.  
    This one dates from the early  1950's and cost me £16!

    Later on I tried other corsetry techniques and other sewing machines.  I got myself an industrial Brother machine which was excellent but too big and noisy for my house so it had to go.  Cue the Vintage Singer 201K which my local sewing machine man recommended in leui of the Industrial.  These machines are fantastic for corsetry and tailoring - they are beautiful, fast and economical and the closest you'll get to industrial quality on a budget.  Unfortunately the trend for 'vintage' has pushed the prices of these old machines into the stratosphere - where they used to be shipped out to Africa by the skip load because nobody wanted them, these beautiful machines are now highly prized items earning ££££'s for the loft raiders of ebay.  Honestly, don't beleive the hype, vintage Singers are not 'rare antiques'.  The Singer factory in Scotland turned them out by the hundreds of millions in their heyday from the 20's right up to the 1960's. If you do fancy getting one, make sure you stick with the black cast iron models which are pre 1960.  The brown 201K machines are not nearly as good.

     

    janome1600pqc

    Nowadays I have my wonderful wonderful semi industrial Janome 1600PQC which is a domestic/industrial hibrid.  It's pricey, but it's fast and professional whilst still being portable.  It has a knee lift which saves a mountain of time, and an auto thread cutter which saves many threads.  It also has a high shank which means that industrial sewing machine feet can be used with it as well as the extensive range of sewing machine feet and attachments supplied by Janome.     The machine actually comes with a straight stitch foot, a fantastic wide (industrial style) seam guide, screwdrivers, oil, spare needles and bobbins plus a huge extension table and knee lift lever.

    When I first started teaching and didn't have a set of brand new Janome machines at my disposal, my students use all of these machines - the vintage Singers, the mid-level Janome and the new Janome 1600PQC.  All of them are easy to use and perfect for sewing perfect stitches in perfectly straight lines through many thick layers of fabric.  The Singers and the PQC will also both sew through layers of leather with ease.

    photo

    The Janome1600PQC sews through leather and layers with ease.

    Over the past years i've noticed from my students that amongst the more experienced sewers, the most popular machines are Janome, Pfaff, and Bernina - these are all good quality brands and sometimes turn up in their vintage forms which are every bit as good - if not better - than their modern counterparts.  Janome machines are literally 'bomb proof' - heavy, sturdy and the preferred machine for schools due to their quality and lower price range.  If they can cope with year on year of teenagers thumping through them, then they can cope with corsets!  However,  if you're serious about corsetry, want to go pro or semi-pro but don't have the space for an industrial machine, then I can't recommend the 1600PQC highly enough although as it's a straight stitch only,  you will need a domestic back up if you like fancy stitches or need a zig zag... But then what better excuse to start a new sewing machine collection?  I myself have around 10 machines and I love them all :D.

    In summary, a good machine for sewing corsets will be sturdy and reasonably heavy, preferably made of metal, and will not be in the 'beginners' class of machine.  Generally you can band sewing machines by price.  Low range are priced up to about £250-300 depending on brand, mid-range from £300 to about £600 and then top range can go as far as up to £3000 for the most up to date, all singing and dancing computerised machines.  Anything below mid range will be generally unsuitable for corsetry.

    Useful links:

    Sewing Machines Direct.   Where I've purchased two of my Janome machines and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

    Janome UK - home of the Janome Sewing machines which I also recommend - here you can find information on which one might be best for you

    How to restore a vintage sewing machine - written by me some years ago on my old sewing blog "The House of Marmalade"

    More links about vintage sewing machines, where to find them and what to do about them from The House of Marmalade.