Q&A about corset making

Frequently asked questions from customers about products and services.

 RSS Feed

» Listings for 2018

  1. 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. advanced corset class 17 2 It came to my attention over the weekend, that the content on my School of Corsetry webpage for Sew Curvy Corsetry Courses, has yet again been copied verbatim by a sewing teacher jumping on the corsetry bandwagon, but as usual, being unable to understand the content enough to be able to deliver it herself in a meaningful way.  

    This last case was one I actually spotted last year when the owner of said establishment, apologised profusely and promised to rectify the situation immediately.  A year down the line, and here we are again.  She didn't rectify it, and the offending copy is still on her website.  It should have been removed immediately, so obvious is the plaigarism and intellectual property theft.

    copycat corsetry courses

    The one on the left is the copycat, on the right is my own copy written more than 6 years ago.

    But how do I know all this?  The usual way I find out.  Their students are coming to me deeply dissatisfied at having attended the 'fake' course and asking me to teach them.  Properly this time.  They have been so confused that they haven't even been able to verbalise what they were taught when I asked them! 

    The first was a novice to sewing so one might think perhaps she was too new ... but the most recent is a seasoned fashion designer, and she is just as mystified. 

    In view of this, I thought I'd write a fool proof guide on how to find and research the best corsetry teachers and courses and how to spot a fake corsetry course from a mile off.  

    First of all, and most obviously, look for pictures.  

    When you find a corsetry course, are there any pictures advertising said workshop?  If there are pictures what are they?  For example, I have recently seen courses advertised using pictures of factory made corsets from chinese manufacturers.  If a teacher has no work of his or her own to show, then don't go there.  It's as simple as that.  How do you know where the pictures are from?  Image search on Google if they look even mildly 'product' like.

    So, there are pictures that seem to be of corsets made by the person presenting the course.  Yay!  But lets be sure about this .. Is it a picture of a corset, or is it a picture of a bodice that looks like a corset? 

    If it's a proper corset, there will be a definate hourglass shape, it will be an extreme looking shape if displayed on the correct type of mannequin.  If there is a 'normal' shape on a regular mannequin, it's not a corset. 

    Expect to learn how to make a bodice that looks like a corset.

    green and black3

    A real corset on a wasp waisted mannequin.  An authentic corset will not fit on a regular mannequin smoothly.  You need to look for shape if you want to learn how to make a genuine corset.

    How many pictures are there of actual corsets?  One?  Two?  Lots?  This is important.  Corset making is addictive - if someone is qualified to teach corsetry, they will have ALOT of corsets to show in the pictures.  Whether they are good or not is a matter of taste and judgement.. if you don't like them, find a teacher whose work you do like.  The important thing is that there are pictures of proper corsets, preferably on people. Even more preferably, on people in prior classes.

    Once it is established that the pictures in the course description have indeed been made by the teacher, and that they are proper, shape defining, waist reducing corsets, you need to make sure you know which one you will be making on the course.  This should be clearly stated. 

    The teacher should have a pattern you can follow.  Yes.  You need a pattern.  I'll come to patterns later.  If it isn't clear which corset/pattern you're making,  those Spidey senses should be going off.

    Are there pictures of a class in progress?

    If not, why not?  It may be the teachers first class, but honestly, i'd expect a few action shots because most people who teach corsetry will have started off small, perhaps with a few friends and/or collegues.  There should be pictures of corset making in action or proud owners wearing their freshly made corsets.  If there isn't, ask yourself why there isn't.

    If all that checks out, check the copy. 

    The course description should be coherent and make sense.

    If you're unsure, or you want to double, triple and quadruple check,  just copy and paste some of the text into google and find out if it appears anywhere else.  If your text appears below another bunch of identical text, then it's a copy, because google will always prioritise the original text. Which actually makes copying somewhat pointless in the first place.

    If a teacher cannot write their own course description, it is highly likely they can't teach their own content either!  It's all very well saying "that's how all corsets are made" but it isn't actually.  Everyone does things differently and there are enough professional corsetieres in the world teaching corsetry their own way with their own course descriptions, with excellent work behind them.  I should know, I made a whole Conference for them and part of the creative process for a corset maker is finding these processes that work for them.  If you can't describe them yourself, you can't do them, and you certainly can't teach them.

    Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 15.10.53
    A few years ago, a state run higher education establishment copied me.  They absolutely refused to admit liability because litigation, but they swiftly removed the content and the 'teacher' of that course was given no more work.  Their excuse was "she worked for McQueen" .. Sorry, what?  She still copied my work.  What did she do at McQueen?  Wash cups? draw roses? scrub the floor?  Who knows.  But the fact that Alexander McQueen himself had his corsets made by Mr Pearl in Paris, tells you what you need to know about that.  

    Now lets talk about patterns...

    Corset pattern drafting is an extremely complicated business.  It takes a whole day to teach my method and that's before we've even looked at half a metre of calico for the toile.  There is maths involved.  There is much head scratching and brow wrinkling.  My mantra during my corset pattern drafting courses is "don't worry, keep going, trust me, it'll all make sense in the end" ... They keep going and indeed by the end of day two, it all makes sense in the end.  That's how long it takes to teach the very BASICS of effective flat patterning for corsetry.  Draping corsetry on the stand is even more complex in some ways so don't accept that as an easy way to do it. 

    In short, any corset making course which promises to 'draft your pattern from your measurements and make a corset in two days" is rubbish.  It's not possible.  It just isn't.  Trust me on this.  I've been teaching for nearly 10 years, I'm good at relaying complex information in a simple way, but teaching corset patterning is very very hard and it just isn't possible to teach a class how to produce a good bespoke pattern that fits, in one day.

    Corset patterning class 17 These gorgeous four ladies came to the last pattern making course I ran last summer - I only ever teach it on request these days because it is so hard.  It took them two days to get here.  You know, they are all clever girls.  Kath on top left has been to several of my classes and is very familiar with corset making, Chris top right is a high flying professional, Danute bottom left is the head couturier of a very famous couture house, she can drape things you can't even imagine,  and Renee bottom right is literally a Rocket Scientist.  These are the patterns they created over 2 days.  And we were all exhausted by the end of it!

    There is only one course I know which will teach you how to make a proper corset pattern followed by a proper corset.  It takes a very intense 5 days, and it is my own Summer School course.  There may be others that I don't know about, or some in Higher Education or costume courses, but even they are not so specialised.  Top designers leave corsetry to the pros - that's why we have Mr Pearl.

    How much should I pay?

    A good corset making course will cost.  I'm sorry to say this but you get what you pay for.  Anything under £300 for 2-3 days will not be worth the paper your money is printed on.  Why?  Because corsetry is a skill.  It takes years of obsessive study to learn and perfect.  To teach it, you have to be able to answer any question that is thrown at you.  More importantly, you have to be able to demonstrate why that is the answer, and if you can, give alternatives and promote discussion, and inspire further investigation.  This valuable skill should not be handed out free.  Yes, there's a place for free tutorials on the internet and there are plenty of them, but I have yet to see a single professional corset maker (myself included) who gives their trade secrets away for nothing.  You don't go to work for free, so please don't expect this sort of specialist knoweldge to be cheap.

    Craft studios, sewing teachers and fashion designers who do not specialise in corsetry cannot teach it. 

    So where to learn?

    Costume corsetry - on the whole - is not the same as authentic, body modyfying modern corsetry but there are some good costumers who can teach historical corsetry and some who can teach both.    There are plenty of proper corsetieres all over the world who teach corsetry.  They may not even advertise.  It's always worth an ask.  And better to learn from someone who's work you love - and therefore to support that work, than to spend money on a bandwagon.

    So my main advice here, if your'e looking for a course, check the points I mention here, check the testemonials, check everything out thoroughly.  If you can't find a course near you, or one that looks authentic, then find a working corsetiere who's work you like/admire/respect and ask them.  You have nothing to lose.  You'll flatter them even if they say no.  But they might not say no. And then you'll be helping sustain and support a beautiful art for future generations to enjoy.

    Here is a list of people I know who teach corsetry and who I would wholehearteldy recommend over any 'design school' , or craft outfit who do not specialise in corsetry. 

    The Oxford School of Corsetry - my own teaching practice, based in Oxfordshire, UK, and the only place in the world dedicated fully 100% to teaching many different types of corsetry including one day masterclasses, private tuition, and entire summer schools.

    Crickey Aphrodite - based in Scotland, teaches classes whenever she can find a suitable venue.  It's worth keeping an eagle eye on her website.  She will also teach in your own home or teach indviduals in her home.

    Morua Designs - based in Chicago.  Teaches perhaps once a year but it's a top notch class and very sought after.

    Vanyanis School of Couture - based in Australia.  I myself mentored Lowana's early teaching practice and she, like me runs classes regularly at different levels and has many happy returning students. 

    Skeletons in the Closet - based in the Netherlands offers classes occasionaly, keep a check on her website. 

    Prior Attire - based in Bedford.  Izabela sometimes runs courses on how to make an authentic Victorian corset to go under your costume.

    School of Historical Dress - Based in London also run the odd corsetry course although these are very old fashioned - even using vintage machines and other antique techniques.  These courses are what they say on the tin - for realy history geeks!  You wont find a modern corset here or many modern methods.  But they are real authentic corsets which do the job.

    Oxford Conference of Corsetry - a bi-ennual gathering of the worlds top corsetieres from Mr Pearl down.  Meet here to discuss techniques, share knowledge, make friends and have fun.  For all levels of corset maker, be they hobbiyists, professionals or icons!  The next conference will be in August 2019.

  3. 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