Q&A about corset making

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Category: Product Spotlight

  1. Boning tapes - what to use, where, why and how

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    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

    Herringbone twill tape for corsetry - can be used as lovely strong boning channels or for busk facings and waist tapes.

    Pros:

    • 100% cotton twill tape, easy to sew, strong, durable and smooth.
    • Cheap

    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.

    Cons

    • 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

    tubular boning tape, smooth, strong, luxurious

    Pros:

    • 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.

    Cons

    • 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 bone casings in corsetry

    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.

    Double boning channels made with pressing bars

    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.

    Pros:

    • Coutil boning channels are strong, durable and colour co-ordinated if you want them to be.
    • Economical - use up your scraps!
    • Easy and satisfying

    Cons:

    • 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)

    fine pencil for dressmaking

    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.

    floating boning channels on corset
    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 not suitable for boning channels in corsetry

    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!

    Links:

    Find all the bone casing we have on our shelves here

    Tools for making bone casing:

    Prym bias binding maker
    Pressing bars
    Coutil

     

     

  2. Valentines Inspiration

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    rosy red corset with gold busk
    Red rosebud coutil corset with golden busk and golden eyelets.  A perfect combination of colour and style.

    It's nearly valentines day and we have lots of RED things to celebrate!  Here's a few little pallets of inspiration for your valentines projects.

    First of all, we got some beautiful Rosebud coutil in a rich red.  I can't help but call this "Rosy Red" coutil - it's just so rosy and so red!

    Rosebud corset coutil in red

    We also have a bright red satin - this has a more 'orange' tone than the rosy red which is definately a blue toned red and ofcourse there's the staple favourite rosebud coutil which is black with red roses.

    valentines corsetry inspiration
    Red satin coutil paired with a selection of black guipure trims.
    Also pictured are red knicker elastic which can be used as a frilly trim
    and our red picot binding which is just gorgeous and so easy to use.

    Our red accessories all go beautifully with all red and red patterned coutils - our sturdy plastic zips come in a few lengths and are very good for corsetry.  To use them, stitch them in the CF of the corset as you would any other zip, but make boning channels either side of the teeth (the zip fabric is wide enough to do this with our 6mm flat steels) to keep the front nice and straight.

    valentines special corsetry inspo

    Red zips, black busks, suspenders clips, and red roses.

    Trim your corsets with red satin binding, or picot edged binding, or even red grosgrain ribbon which is my new favourite type of binding.  The picot binding is super easy - you just sandwich the edge of your corset between the fold of the binding, clip down with wonder clips, and stitch down.

    Couldn't be easier!

    grosgrain binding
    Red 25mm grosgrain ribbon is a) a perfect match for the rosy red coutil and also a lovely way to bind a corset.  I also use it as a waist tape.

    To use grosgrain ribbon as your binding, take the appropriate length required, fold in half and press with an iron - not too hot as the ribbon is polyester and will distort if the iron is too hot, then fold the edges in towards the centre crease and press.  This is what I call 'extreme binding' because it makes a very thin but very elegant binding - you have to be quite confident to give it a try but practice makes perfect!

    Our black lacy trims are all perfect for your classic red and black boudior feel and all are easy to use.

    And to celebrate Valentines properly, we've introduced 3 special edition valentines corset kits which are limited in number and will only be available until 14 February!

    Victoria Valentine corsetry kit Saucy Sophia kit Sophia Valentine Corset Kit

    The "Victoria Valentine" kit includes rosy red coutil, red trimmings and our pretty Victorian style velvet ribbon and lace trim.  This will make a pretty Victorian style mid - overbust corset (depending on bust size).

    The "Saucy Sophia" corset kit includes rosebud coutil in red and black, with red trimmings, suspender elastic, and suspender grips.  This will make a beautiful lingerie / boudoir corset

    The 'Smooth Sophia' kit includes red satin coutil, a gold busk with gold eyelets, red trimmings, and some pretty "little crowns' guipure lace trim in black.

    To finish, we have some super silky flossing thread new in!  It's the Seta Real brand which is my favourite and comes in lots of colours now which will go with all the red things!

    What will you be making for Valentines?

    Links:

    Buy your Valentine a corset kit:  Valentines Special Corset Kits

    Video Tutorial : How to use wonder clips with picot edge binding

  3. Inspiration - Sand and lace

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    finished bridal corset sand coutil with ivory net

    As you may know, I only stock products at Sew Curvy that I myself would use - and therefore I like to use them too.  I sometimes have so much inspiration that it's hard to focus on one idea at a time - such is the creative mind, and I imagine that if you are reading this, you are like that aswell!  So, for selfish reasons, not least because i've discovered that making things for fun is good for my stress levels, I've decided to indulge myself a bit and make some inspirational blog posts using materials from the shop.

    Being a shopkeeper I have to stock practical things as well as pretty things, and sometimes certain colours can seem a bit 'hmm' until you've played about with the possiblities; our Sand herringbone coutil is one of those 'hmm' items and probably one of the most difficult colours to pair up so that's where i've started! 

    ivory net and bows

    The sand coloured herringbone coutil on it's own isn't exactly inspirational - It's an odd colour truth be told - made for the medical market to replace what is now the vintage staple corsetry colour "tea rose" which is that salmony pink shade so common in corsets and girdles from the 1940's right up to the 70's, and which was the go to 'nude' of old.  Well this 'sand' colour (also once known as 'nude' and in Europe known as 'skin') is the replacement.  For medical corsetry, this colour was thought to be more compatible with a more multi-racial range of skin colours. 

    I call it 'sand' because it isn't like any skin colour i've ever seen, unless you count American Tan, but it is like a rich honey shaded builders sand.  It goes beautifully with ivory and also black as a base 'skin' tone type colour - it can melt away underneath a sheer underlay, and under ivory, becomes a very pretty bridal option. 

    In my first project,  i've teamed it up with our floral lingerie net, and two of our pretty guipure trims, along with a white busk and a cute little bra bow from the bra making range.  I like to mix and match shop supplies so that they are good for multiple uses and when I started stocking bra making supplies, I visited the warehouse to ensure that I could pick products that could be used for both bra making and corset making in a number of different ways.

    cutting out with no turn of cloth

    The most exciting thing I have to tell you about this project is that there is NO ROLL PINNING !!  Why?  Because the lace fabric has a slight stretch to it, so if you incorporated turn of cloth as you would a normal non-stretch fabric, you might get a bit of unsightly bagging.  Fabric with a slight stretch can cope very well with turn of cloth so no pesky fiddling about with those seam allowances and no tedious pad stitching as some people do. 

    Simply cut out both layers of your corset pattern at the same time, and stitch the coutil and lace together within the seam allowance.  Easy peasy and an excellent place for beginners to start with multi-layer corsetry!

    inside with garter tabs and bias boning channels

    I can't bear waste (ha!), and in my classes I teach what I call "fabric economy".  With this in mind I can literally use almost every single scrap of coutil from half a metre or a metre - whatever i'm using to cut the pattern.  Because 12mm bias strips, which I use for boning channels, are only 2.5cm wide before being processed, you can get alot out of the surplus material around the corset pattern and  when you're paying anywhere between £10-30 for a metre of fabric it pays to be thrifty let me tell you - especially with the more expensive coutils such as the rosebud coutil.

    In this picture you can see that i've used self made boning channels from 2.5cm wide coutil strips, and I've used 15mm satin ribbon stitched into the binding as detachable suspender loops. 

    Using matching coutil for your boning channels gives a single layer corset a very tidy interior negating the need for a separate lining and therefore making sure you end up with a light yet strong and durable corset.

    bias maker and strips of coutil

    I use the Prym bias binding maker for making the bone casings because it has a wide gap in the 'nose' - other bias makers can't take the thicker coutils, and I find that this little maker works very very well.  You cut your strip of coutil on the bias OR on the straight grain - it doesn't matter as long as you use a bias strip over particularly curvy bits.  Then you feed your strip through the little thingy, pin the end of the tape to the ironing board, and pull the contraption along your strip until you have a double folded peice. 

    I'll be making a video on this as soon as it stops raining!

    The bias strips are then used as boning channels and everything is stitched down with my 'wonder thread' - Guterman no 722 - it is literally invisible on a very wide range of fabrics!  Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren fame discovered this and I've also been a devotee of the colour ever since... It literally disappears into any neutral coloured fabric including a number of the coutil we have at Sew Curvy:   Mink, Sand, Biscuit, ivory/gold rosebud, nude/silver rosebud, dessert orchid brocade, biscuit spot broche and small weave herringbone.  Amazing!

    bow and white busk

    The corset fabrics are all set off rather nicely with a white busk and a little cream bra bow.  Unfortunately, our black and white busks are currently on limited stock as my coloured busk project is on hold - basically the original factory mucked it alot of things up and i've been talking to another local place who have yet to provide samples for me.

    Here are some other palette ideas for the sand herringbone - black spot net, with black 'little crowns' guipure and either a Victorian style guipure with our 'latte' satin ribbon woven into it (good for lacing too) or the black tulle 'scrolls' trim.  Both look pretty and all of these options will go with our suspender elastics very well.

    black net and ribbons black net and scrolls trim

    SO! if you want to have a go - you can do this with any corset pattern at all, and these are the ingredients I used to make this cute little nude underbust.  All she needs now is a name - I think "Daisy" seems quite apt.


    Estimated material cost for a 22" corset approx £40 (excluding tools) if you had to buy everything - but see what's in your stash and have a play! It's good for the soul.

    shopping list 

     

     

  4. Victoria corset project

    Posted on

    Victoria steelboned corset

     

    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:

    back of the Victoria corset