Q&A about corset making

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  1. 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 

     

     

  2. Victoria corset project

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    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

  3. 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?

     

  4. 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.
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