Caroline's corset tips
Here is the info I send out with my corset patterns:
Putting together your corset
1. Print out the sheets on A4 paper ensuring that the ‘actual size’ box is clicked in your print settings. You will need Adobe reader to read the .pdf document. Download this here: http://get.adobe.com/uk/reader/
2. Check the scale – it should measure 10cm (100mm) on the printed paper. If it does not, you will have to adjust the printer settings.
3. Tape the sheets together at the rectangular box line A to B, C to D and so on according to the print layout sheet.
4. First make up your toile to check the fit! This is particularly important as you will have purchased the pattern based on your largest measurement (e.g. hip) so it will need to be adjusted to fit at your smaller measurement (e.g under-bust).
5. Choose how much waist ‘cinch’ you would like – 2’’, 3’’ or 4’’? Follow that cutting line very carefully – see how there is only a tiny difference – over 8 panels it adds up!
6. Choose your bottom and top curve – this pattern includes a few options depending on your preference.
7. Cut out the paper pattern pieces on the line - I use freezer paper – iron this on to the wrong side of your fabric, pencil around the pattern pieces and add the seam allowance, marking the notches and waistline within the seams.
8. Cut your fabric just as carefully! Remember to add a seam. I normally add about 15mm then you have ample fabric to adjust the fit. Note the panel number and L(eft) or (R)ight in the seam. Cut the fabric on the grain-line – the central line in each pattern piece marks the position of the grain-line of your fabric. If you don’t your corset will twist on your body – this is very important.
9. Make the corset using your favourite construction method. Here is my technique for single layer corsets;
- Single layer corsets can be adjusted relatively easily, however it is important to make up a toile first using this patterning process as you will have purchased a size that fits well at your largest measurement with a view to amending the pattern at this mock- up stage. It is far easier to pin and tuck a toile that is too big. Add the changes to your master pattern pieces before moving on to the corset fabric.
- Insert the busk to panel 1. Remember that the studs go on the side of the corset that will be YOUR LEFT. As you are working on the corset with the correct side of the fabric facing up, this be on your right.
- Decide whether you want your boning channels on the inside or outside of your corset. I usually put boning channels on the outside of a single layer corset – you must always stitch on the right side of the corset and you will get a much more professional finish this way. If you put your boning channels on the inside you will have to carefully baste the boning tape or bias binding and then follow the sewing lines closely from the other side. It can be done, but it’s not easy to get that perfect line of stitching on the boning channels working blindly from the other side! Note – if you are adding boning to the outside – stitch your panel with the WRONG sides together (and cover the seams on the right side with the boning channels), if you are adding boning channels to the inside – stitch your panels with the RIGHT sides together (and cover the seams on the wrong side with the boning channels).
- Join all the panels – start at THE WAISTLINE matching the lines or notches.
- I usually always add a second layer to panels 1 and 8 – it adds sturdiness, and lines of stitching can create the boning channels between the 2 layers.
- Check the two corset sides for symmetry. Trim the top and bottom if necessary.
- Mark and cut small holes for the eyelets and add your eyelets to panel 8. I use a prym eyelet setter. I set them 2cm apart usually.
- Add boning channels to alternate seams (after first double stitching these seams with a smaller (1.5) stitch – you can make up strips of binding (does not need to be cut on the bias) or buy special boning tape (looks OK only on the inside!).
- Cut and tip your bones. I use rigid steels at each side of the eyelets and spire wires elsewhere.
- Insert the bones to the alternate boning channels, lace up and try on.
- There may be minor adjustments you need to do at this stage – take in or let out at the unboned seams. The middles panels are better suited for adjusting at this stage.
- Double stitch with a smaller stitch (1.5) and add the remaining boning channels and bones.
- Stitch along the bottom and top about 2mm from the edge.
I never seem to get the busk in right the first time so I sew it initially with a large (4) basting stitch length about 2mm away from the busk. I then build the corset and put the waist tape in last by seam ripping the basted seam sufficiently to slide the waist tape in. I secure this in place with a pin and then properly sew the busk (catching the waist tape at the same time) this time as close to the busk as possible. I then carefully remove the basted stitch line. You seem to get a neater line doing it in this way.
I mix up my tasks, so, for instance, I don’t cut all my pieces out in one go and then sew them in one go. I’ll cut out pieces 1 and 2, then sew them, then 3 & 4 etc. I find it less likely to get the pieces mixed up this way. Working on both sides at the same time seems to help with the symmetry too – your eye sews a line and then seems to remember the curve and replicate the same stitching line on the other side.
Compare both corset sides as you go along. It’s so easy to make one side bigger than the other unless you check your work constantly. Always line up your corset waistline first and check all panels are horizontal against it – and the fabric grain-line is perpendicular to it.
Use freezer paper to draft your patterns. Iron this plastic backed paper directly on to your fabric (wrong side) – draw around the edge with a very sharp pencil or pen, then add your seam allowance. Chalk has its place, but not in corsetry – you can’t get a fine enough line. If you follow the inside of the drawn line when stitching your panels together you will be bang on to the millimetre. In corsetry it’s all about exactness in fit and symmetry of the two sides – following this process will aid this process.
Having difficulty inserting your steels into their boning channels? Steam press the fabric – the heat will make the fabric more malleable and expand ever so slightly allowing you to put those babies to bed.