Sunday, October 7, 2012

Something a Little Different... The Making of a Corset!

Being the history nerd that I am, it was inevitable that I would eventually sew a corset. I already have a plethora of historically accurate colonial garb, and I absolutely had to have a corset added to my collection.

I thought it would be cool to show how I made my corset, as it at first seemed like a daunting task, but actually turned out to be a fun project! Hopefully this can be used as a reference for anyone else who wants to make a corset, and if you have any questions, feel free to comment!

I sewed everything on the family sewing machine, circa 1940. I also had two helpers, who were always willing to bat around pattern pieces or get tangled up in the lacing.

Tigger, watching over his yard outside

Dusty Rose, waiting patiently for lunch

I used Butterick pattern B4254 for my corset, and I used view C. (It's the one on the bottom right)

I used three different fabrics; a light muslin for the lining, white duck cloth for the middle, and white linen for the outside.

I cut out all of the pieces...

...and sewed them together, so that I had four half corsets, and then sewed the halves together. At this point in time I had a good idea how the corset would fit me, as I could hold it up around me. It should be noted that I did make a mock-up out of muslin ahead of time, since pattern sizes can be fickle. I found that I made the size corresponding with my measurements, but that I had generous seam allowances for the best fit.

While cutting out all of the pieces and trying to piece everything together, I found it helpful to use sticky notes to keep straight which pieces were which, what sides were the right and wrong sides, and which way was up.

At this point, I was ready to add the corset busk. I had to punch holes in the fabric, so I used an awl, and applied Fray Block to keep the holes clean.

Half of the busk, the awl that I used, and some of my sticky notes to keep track of my pattern pieces

It's important to make sure that the busk is snug in the holes, because it won't be sewn in right away.

Now comes the fun part - sewing in the boning! I have used boning before, and so I opted to make some alterations to the pattern at this point. I always leave the boning in its fabric casing, and from past experience, I know that the stitches will not be the prettiest thing ever. So, instead of sewing on the inside and outside, so that the stitches will be seen when I wear it, I only sewed the boning to the inside lining. When the corset is worn it will fit snugly, and this will not look strange. It's always a good idea to test out ideas like this on scraps first though!

Some of the boning, cut to the proper lengths

After the boning was put in, I sewed the entire thing together, and put bias tape around the edges. DO NOT use 1/4 inch bias tape like the pattern instructs, use at least 1/2 inch. There is a lot of fabric here, as well as the boning, and 1/4 inch will not work well.

 At this point, my corset really looked like a corset, and the only thing it was missing was the laces! So, using the awl and my seam ripper, I punched the holes where they were marked, and then applied Fray Block again. After that dried, I got to break out my (pink!) tool kit, to hammer in the Dritz eyelets. All that was left to do then was lace it up, and put it on!

Always test things on scraps before doing it to your garment!


My finished corset, worn with my shift