Q&A about corset making

Frequently asked questions from customers about products and services.

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  1. A prospective student asked me today how she could better prepare for one of my classes in the New Year.  She told me that she had enroled in dressmaking classes in order to get used to sewing again. I responded that "As long as you are confident with the sewing machine, and comfortable with using one you will be absolutely fine.  Good corsetry is more about organisation, attention to detail, problem solving and accuracy than having amazing sewing machine skills."  It then occured to me, while writing to her, that the way I got good at corset making, was through making bags!

    How on earth, you may ask, does making bags make you good at corsetry?  WELL ....

    Bags are small items which can be made from scrap materials.    Sewing bags is therefore more 'relaxing' than sewing corsets because one of the biggest worries which can impede progress is immediately removed.  Wasting expensive fabric.  That isn't the main reason though.

    Making bags - good bags - involves sewing with lots of layers of fabrics in order to give the bag enough body to be useful and stand up to every day use.  Nobody wants a floppy bag do they?  So a typical handbag will have a good three or four layers inside it.  You'll have an outer layer of strong heavy fabric - perhaps wool, or if it's a light bag, then perhaps a cotton interfaced with fusible webbing.  Then you'll have a middle layer of a very thick interfacing, often this will be the type you use for curtain tie backs - strong enough to add a good deal of body and then there will be a lining.  If you like a challenge, that lining will contain pockets, zips, buttons and other exciting baggy features.  

    bags1

    In addition to sewing through many thick layers, bag making can be quite intricate once you get into more exiting shapes and sizes.  There are sharp corners to navigate (with all those layers), curves to tame, embellishments to add and perfect symmetry to acheive.  Try adding a smooth line of piping or a frill into a small bag with 4 layers already.  

    There are other features about bag making which will challenge your constrcution and problem solving skills you might want a bag with a flat bottom and feet - how to insert a plastic tray to keep the bottom solid, waterproof and strong in that case?   How best to insert your magnetic snap? How to ensure your purse clip doesn't come undone after 2 uses?  How to make a neat transition between bag software and hardware.  All of these thought processes are usefull, if not essential in corsetry, they are just applied in a different way.

    bags for corset making

    And so it was, after I had discovered corsetry, I took a year off work for health reasons, and instead of making corsets, I made bags.  This wasn't a concious desicision to improve my corset making because at that time, a career in corsetry for me was about as far away as Katmandu, it was just a highly creative time  when I had to make stuff which was quick, satisfying and pretty.  Hence bags.  I got good at making them and I can honestly say, that bag making with all it's intracasices - and a fair few were flung across the room in a temper I can tell you - made me better at sewing, and eventually good at corsetry.

    Here are some good bag making resources:

    The woman who inspired a thousand craft businesses - including mine - Lisa Lam's U-Handblog where you'll find lots of bag making tips and tricks to go with her business U-Handbag where you can find the supplies to make said bags.

    Sew Christine is another lady who has lots of bag making tutorials on her blog, and who also has a little supply shop

    There's my old old blog Marmaladekiss which documented all of this frenzied bag making and then progressed into dressmaking and corsetry.  You have to start right back at the beginning to get the good stuff, and in the last 3 years it's been as good as dormant.  However, the odd faithful reader pops up now and then and says how much they enjoyed reading it in it's hey day.

    For other resources, because I haven't made a bag in years, go to The Sewing Directory the go to resource for everyone who's into sewing.

  2. The corsetry net at Sew Curvy is made from a strong polyester fabric similar to nylon, and  suitable for all types of corsetry.  Unlike softer nets such as silk bobbinet or stretchy nets such as power net, this polyester net is like any other non stretch strong fabric and you can make a corset with the standard four inch reduction without worry that it will tear or buckle.   It is sheer, durable and very very strong and can be used on it's own or with lace and other sheer fabrics for extra drama.

    There are some considerations to bear in mind when working with sheer net.  You must use external fabric bone channels if you don't want the bones to show, and you need to consider the inside finish a bit more because unlike a solid fabric where things can be hidden with lining, with a sheer fabric, everything is on show.  However, with some imagination, spectacular effects can be achieved.

    This net can be ironed with a cool'ish iron, and can be sewn using regular polyester thread or with clear/invisible nylon thread, all of which are stocked at Sew Curvy.

    Available in black or natural - the net is BACK IN STOCK! So hurry and get yours, it does have wings!

    sophie corset 2 web

    corset: Clessidra (aka Sew Curvy)
    photographer: Catherine Day

    model: Sophie Roach

  3. At Sew Curvy we have quite a large range of bust forms.  We have them in various sizes, colours and types.

    There are the regular fabric style bust form which are quite 'round' in appearance and are made of a moulded fabric which feels a little bit like a fine felt.  And we have the 'swimwear' version which are more flexible in feel and I think, more realistic in shape.
    photo 


    The regular bust forms can be used in dressmaking, the swimwear bust forms can obviously be used in swimwear and bikinis (or even corseted swimming costumes?)  and both types of bust form can be used in corsetry.  What would you do with them?  You can either use them to make a 'modest' cup under a sheer panel - ie, the panel will still look sheer at the bust but you won't be able to see the 'naughty bits' - or you can insert them into the bust in dresses and corsets for more shape or dimension, or you can use them as a mould for cupped corsets.  The range of uses for these marvellous things is actually quite limitless.  Just think about it.  Use a bust form to drape a cup pattern for your cupped corset.  Once this is done, attach your covered cups to an underbust corset pattern.  Experiment, explore, have fun with them!

    The regular forms come in the cup sizes you may be familiar with but are a bit on the small size, and the swimwear cups come in small, medium or large and look out for a cupped corset masterclass at Sew Curvy HQ, in the Spring with the wonderful Alison Campbell of Crikey Aphrodite!

  4. For good corsetry, you need two part metal eyelets with a wide'ish collar - not too wide so as to look clumpy and bulky, and not so narrow that the fabric soon works its way from under the rim and the eyelet falls out, ruining the corset.  Also the shank of the eyelet must be not too long so the eyelet is loose when set, and not too short so that the eyelet cuts the fabric when set.  It's a fine balance !

    You need two part eyelets because the washer part of the eyelet, sandwiches and encloses the fabric safely and ensures a smooth finish to the inside of the corset.  One part eyelets which do not come with a washer,  are not strong enough for corsetry.  One part eyelets are commonly used for leather work - in belts or as a decorative feature, or in paper craft.  They are made of softer metal and when hammered, the back of the eyelet shaft collapses and can become jagged.  This will not only feel scratchy against the wearer and possibly cause injury or damage to other clothing, but it will certainly decrease the life of the corset substantially by causing wear to the fabric of the corset around the eyelet. 

    My favourite eyelets for corsetry are 5mm wide  however, not all eyelets are created equal!  You need different dies to set different eyelets. Dies are the little tools which help to set the eyelets properly either by pliers or by hammer.   Prym make it easy by providing an all inclusive eyelet kit which includes a set of dies that fit the separate Prym pliers which in turn do a marvellous job of not only punching a small hole for the eyelet, but setting them too, with hardly any effort.  However, these pliers only work with Prym eyelets and the same is true of all other eyelets - they only work with the die's that are made for them.  Annoying, but true.  Therefore, in order to make a good job of setting your eyelets, you do need the correct set of dies.

    Find your Prym Eylets in the shop here:  Prym Eyelets and pliers for corset making.

     

    eyelets