Every so often my friend Izabela of Prior Attire comes to visit. We enjoy sewing together as we share similar interests that are completely non-conflicting! ie: we both love corsets, but she is interested in authentic period corsetry and I am interested in very modern corsetry. The shape unites us! So when she comes to visit, she brings stock items to make for her shop and I take the time to experiment.
The Victoria corset made from pale nude broche with black spots
With the arrival of several new fabrics in the shop I decided to formulate a new kit using my Sew Curvy Victoria pattern (#sewcurvyvictoria) and the new spot broche in nude/black which I have been lusting after for literally years!
Izabela also fell in love with said fabric, and decided to make some stock Edwardian corsets for her shop, using my new Sew Curvy Edwardian pattern - this is a pattern that I made for classes a couple of years ago, but have yet to write the instructions. I will be doing so soon so that we can add it to our catalogue of British made corset patterns. Here's her finished Edwardian corset.
The Sew Curvy Edwardian pattern will be in the shop just as soon as I write the instructions!
This new spot broche coutil is a lovely stiff fabric, which is also very smooth and fine. It's therefore perfect for sturdy single layer corsetry, not least because in addition to it being very strong, it also hides a multitude of 'sins' - if you're a beginner, or worry about the odd squint stitch - this fabric is for you!
Izabela wearing the Sew Curvy Edwardian Corset
Izabela wearing the Sew Curvy Victoria Corset
These are some of the lace trims we have in stock, which go beautifully with this lovely corsetry fabric.
For the new corset kit, I decided to include the 'Little Crowns' guipure trim, which I offset with black flossing along the bottom edge. The inside is boned out with tubular boning tape (don't say I don't make things easy for you), with a grosgrain ribbon as a waist stay.
The bow is a little added extra which I think finishes the corset off perfectly!
For more insights on our day of corset making exploits, do pop over to the Sew Curvy Instagram account and look at the story highlight called "sewing day" - there you can see the story of our corset making day with useful hints and tips on corsetry including the best colour of thread to use for this coutil, why you need a taperd awl, which busk is Edwardian, the best use for a zip tie, how to insert a busk, and in progress shots of both corsets being made and worn!
Here's a corset I made recently when testing out a few components on site, not least the recently released Victoria mid bust corset pattern. I've adapted the pattern slightly by changing the shape of the top line slightly, and adding some suspenders. I re-drew the bottom line of the corset so that at each point where I wanted a suspender, the line flowed nicely into the elastic ends. That's all I did, so it was pretty easy peasy.
It's a single layer corset - the boning channels are made from scraps of the same coutil (offcuts from cutting out the pattern!). These are cut into 2.5cm strips and then run through the Prym bias binding maker to make boning channels. I cut the coutil on the straight grain as this is best for scrap use and for stronger boning channels, however if you had a particularly deep curve over the hip (using another pattern perhaps) then you may want to use a bias grain for your self made bone channels.
With regard to sizing of the Sew Curvy patterns, go with the waist size first - it is easier to adjust the top (bust) and bottom (hip) than it is to use the correct size for those and then adjust the waist - so this is opposite to what a normal dressmaking pattern will tell you.
The components I used for this project are all listed with links here:
Victoria corset pattern - this is a mid bust pattern with very simple single layer construction instructions and includes a bit about how to alter the corset into a full overbust.
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 !
The rosebud coutil comes in five colours currently.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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