Q&A about corset making

Frequently asked questions from customers about products and services.

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  1. coloured corset busks

    2016 was not a great year for Sew Curvy.  Between Brexit in June, and having to register for VAT in April,  it’s been a bit of a struggle.  I've done my best to keep prices stable considering the volatility of the the Euro and the fact that all my steel comes from Europe.  I've also had to find ways to efficiently continue and expand the business while keeping costs down.  

    Black busks are an essential part of my range and have been for a very long time, but the factory in Europe charges me over £1.00 per peice to coat them and I have to order 100 of each size as a minimum.  This obviously means that they are extremely expensive and that is the reason that i’ve had to stick with black in only 3 sizes for all this time as it’s the most popular alternative colour.  Those black busks are powder coated and the factory in Europe have always offered to supply any colour but as you can imagine, buying 100 of each size, in a variety of colours is going to be uber expensive and not sustainable for a small business such as mine.  

    So one day about 6-7 months ago while pondering various business conundrums, I had a lightbulb moment!  I googled 'powder coating metal’ or similar, and to my utter surprise, discovered not one, but two operations in the small West Oxfordshire village where I live,  both established for over 20 years and both providing a metal powder coating service.   I immediately visited said establishments, explained what I needed and with some amusement it must be said, they sampled black busks for me, along with a few other colours which they matched from samples of coutil that I gave them.  Although the cost isn't hugely different, and there are still minimums to meet, the minimums are not based on size, so I can now have a full size range of powder coated busks which means greater choice for my customers at no extra cost to me or them! Win Win!

    However, because my busk stock is the most expensive outlay for me at Sew Curvy, I still have to be quite careful with it.  I simply don't have enough to hand enough over to the powder coaters to get every colour in every size right this minute! So coloured busks will be a slow roll out over the coming months.  We already have black and white in every size, and to come will be red, cream, grey and purple.  Flat colours only to match the coutils in stock.  Get your black or white busks by clicking on the picture below:

    black and white corset busks

    I'm not the only person looking to inject a bit more excitement into the humble busk though.  And I'm not about to do custom colour matching or anything other than the plain flat colours.  Why?  Because stock, and because I don't do it myself.  I just dont have time, the will, or the resource, but I know a girl who does and that person is called Nikki, and she runs "Narrowed Visions".  Nikki, also an accomplished corset maker specialising in reproduction antique corsets, does glittery busks in jewel-like colours, in metallic finishes and also holographic finishes which have incredible depth!  Because she powder coats the busks herself, with her own equipment, she can provide a truly personal service to any corsetiere who needs something special and bespoke.  You can find her shop by clicking on the picture below:

    metallic powder coated corset busks

    Ofcourse the busk revolution really started with another amazing lady who lives in Australia and is the mastermind behind luxury clothing brand Vanyanis.  Lowana decided that she wanted to bring back the patterened busk loops of antiquity, methods for which have so far eluded many a corset maker who had tried in the past.  However, Lowana worked for months to find a way of doing it and she wasn't about to stop until she found a way.  You see, the busks of old were stamped with designs, because in Victorian days, busks were made with different metals and processes, and you could simply stamp a design onto a busk loop to define your brand - in much the same was as a hallmark works.  Nowadays, busk loops are chromed steel and you can't stamp them.  Either they will not take an impression, or the chrome coating will shatter leaving something very unattractive behind.  Not a good look for your bespoke corsetry.  Lowana was determined, and she found a jeweller to work with, and between them they pioneered the modern engraved busk.  These busks are available to buy from Lowana directly and many a bespoke corset maker has done so.  Because the designs are laser engraved, it means that you can supply your own artwork to Lowana and therefore have your own branded engraved busks, just like the old days.  Amazing. The engravings come in three colours too so you can get really personal.  Why stop at busks though?  Lowana also takes apart her busks by hand, and uses the engraved loops to make earrings and necklaces for the true corset obsessive.  Check out Lowana's shop on her website by clicking the picture below!

    engraved corset busks by Vanyanis


  2. We've started the new year off with a bit of a bang!  The most important and exciting news is that we will soon be branching into BRA MAKING SUPPLIES!  Watch this space for more news.  I've been to the wholesalers, I've selected all the things, i'm now waiting on pricing info and stock.  Here's a picture of all the samples bundled on to my work table to whet your appetite!

    lingerie supplies

    Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 09.27.05


    Bees wax conditions and smooths thread.  Simply run your thread through a block of beeswax, iron the thread, and use.  No it doesn't make your work greasy, but it does make your thread super smooth and super strong!  
    New! Pure 100% Paraffin wax is offered now as a vegan alternative and is on site now!  

    Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 09.30.32

    Due to popular demand, I've added a new beginners corsetry class to the schedule in MARCH.  Three places have gone, and three are still available!  These go very quickly so do hurry and book if you want to learn corsetry this year.  The next available beginners class will not take place until much later in the year.


    In addition to bra and lingerie making supplies, we have powder coated coloured busks coming which will match and tone with the coutil fabric we stock.

    Coloured busks

    But i'm not the only place where you can get special corset busks!  I'll be writing a fuller blog post next week telling you all about the "busk revolution".  In the meantime, here's a taster pic!  Stay tuned to find out more on where to find coloured busks, bespoke colour matched busks, and engraved busks for all your projects!

    powder coated coloured busks

  3. 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

  4. 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:


    • 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?