corset, then a reprieve

I am taking time off of my corset until my 201 is out of the shop – no earlier than this Friday, if I’m lucky. I will also be ordering my dye for my lace.

Today’s entry is about hand-basting.

To recap, the finished corset is two pieces composed of five panels each. The pieces will be laced together (in the back) and fastened in the front with a busk. Once you have done two fittings and are happy with the fit you sew the panels together and clip seams (which I did in my last entry). On each corset piece you then sew the lining together (with the same alterations), turn right-side out, and hand-baste the lining to the shell at the seams. After you do this you will be stitching boning channels.

Below is my hand-basting, with boning channels marked in 1/4″ tape (not the greatest method, I’m discovering. Not sure what I’ll do differently next time though).

Basting Stitches
This was the first time I’d ever used a thimble. The thimble is put on a finger of the sewing hand to help drive the needle through the thick outer layer of the shell. Also, this is one case where hand-basting is needed. You can’t skip it, nor can you take a shortcut and do it by machine.

In other news:

My Brother Is A Weirdo
My brother had these vintage crochet hooks in his possession. He didn’t know where he got them or why he had them – or even what they were. I don’t crochet but I do find crochet hooks handy. Perhaps someday I will see something worth learning how to crochet. For now, I have these hooks to pick up dropped stitches in my knitting.

3 New From Denver
From left: hoodie for Sophie, hoodie for Nels, ao dai for myself. Whee! All cotton, of course. Purchased from Denver Fabrics.

yay for old school!

"Like A Spartan God!"
I love my Spartan. I bought it for $50 for Sophie. She sews on it a little; I sew on it a bit more; Ralph sews on it! My 201 being in the shop, and my Kenmore not quite having the balls I need, my littlest guy is working just fine.

Finally - Trimming Stitches!
Do you know what this means? These pinked seam allowances mean I’ve settled on a corset fit. The corset is still slightly too large – lacing relatively tight with only 1″ of gap. However, I’m happy enough with it and besides: making it smaller or lacing it tighter makes it shorter on my torso. Right now, it’s perfect.

Waist Reinforcement
I then stitched the twill tape to the waist as reinforcement. Easy and fun! Some may not like the horizontal stitching lines on the outside of corset – but I like anything that adds texture!

"New" Needles
As long as we’re going retro; I bought needles in the thrift store in Oly yesterday. I broke the seal today (I am a believer in occasionally using useful, well-made, older goods!) and found the perfect needle for invisible-knotting through my stiff corset shell. These needles are Bell brand; ever heard of them?

consumerism at last!

Today I spent a bit of time in the morning taking my corset in – 1/8″ over eight seams. Easy and fun! I talked with my parents downstairs while taking out the erroneous seams. I am just WANTING to keep sewing on it but – I have a family and stuff that also needs me.

Then – the event of the day, a roadtrip to Olympia with my family. We hit Joann’s and then CanvasWorks, my mom stopping at Bayside Quilter’s. Despite fabric temptation that sometimes feels like a once-a-year visit to a whorehouse, I only bought one bit of yardage on impulse (seen below with the lace beading and ribbon for my corset top):

Trip to Joann's!
Will I ever grow out of poison green? Why would I want to?

I will be dyeing the lace beading to a slightly-darker rose pink, I think. I also think I’ll use Dylon but am open to suggestions.

The rest of the shopping focussed on the yardage and notions for my brother’s Portland coat.

Project Billy's Portland Coat!
I am thrilled he actually wants a coat from me; in the past the little grub has tried to talk me out of sewing for him, period. Today he turned into rather an exacting customer regarding fabrics. This was actually great for me; anything worth sewing is worth sewing the way you want it. I am glad he cares enough to participate and I hope he enjoys watching how lengths of fabric become sturdy, well-loved garments.

All that remains to start on the coat are buttons: we found some nice ones at CanvasWorks but ultimately he leaned toward cloth-covered, which I think is a great idea. I’ll have to scout online to find some along with the Dylon and an embroidered cord fabric for a friend sewing for her daughter.

I’m happiest when kept busy sewing, being with family and friends, and writing. And I’m getting enough of all, lately.

Second Fitting!

More corset today. Me happy.

Second Fitting, Here We Come!
This afternoon I assembled the shell of in order to perform a second and final fitting before sewing layers together and adding bones. In this photo you can notice the flat planes of the corset in the middle of the body: that’s where the waist is! The off-white piece in the center is a lining piece, flipped out. Once the shell is assembled and modified (if necessary), any changes are made to the lining pattern as well, the lining is sew together, then layers are basted. I hope to be moving on to basting by tomorrow.

So from here I laced (rabbit-ear style) and put the corset on – with my mom’s help. While eating a hamburger, by the way – and thinking of the scene in Gone With The Wind where Scarlet refuses to eat before putting her dress on in order to fully enjoy the upcoming barbecue at the Wilkes’.

Yeah, whatever. It’s a great book.

Sadly, my stitching lines on the wrong side did not form smooth curves; now while there are no noticeable problems from the outside it still irritates me. I have this hunch that my little Kenmore couldn’t quite drive the needle in and secure the duck well enough – that fabric is quite stiff and strong. Since my Lady 201 is in the shop { sniff! } I will have to try – my Spartan! I have a hunch it will perform better than Sears’ equipment.

OK, I owe it to my three readers to show a picture of my fitting:

Improving My Figure
I absolutely shudder to post a photo of such low quality. But aside from that – you know what? It fits quite well except – it laces shut in the back (instead of the goal 2 inch spread)! Do you know why? Because I sewed it with 1/2″ seam allowances instead of 5/8″. Do the math and you’ll discover eight seams times 1/8″ extra ease = 2″! This means I measured and designed the pattern perfectly for my shape. You know what? That feels very, very cool.

So even though this means I will have to tear out and resew all eight seams I am completely ecstatic that the math works out and I have measured and designed the pattern correctly.

I want to add a few more notes: one, fitting properly means the side seams, upper back, and lower front hem are not too long such that the bones will dig into my body. Perfect. I noticed that for my size I do not seem to have a long or short torso; good to know for future garments.

And – yes, the corset is very comfortable. In fact, it feels amazing on my back.

I’m kind of sad you can’t see my extra-long fly on my jeans, which I bought as work pants for Froghill over a year ago. Mr. Dawson would have been proud.

back to my current favorite project

Busk Before
Corsetry 101 for those unfamiliar: The back of this Victorian corset laces up. The front opens and closes with aid of a busk – sort of like a modern-day bra’s back closure. You sew the busk in, which is what I did today. The front center top of the corset is represented by the safety pins – a tip from the invaluable Laughing Moon DVD.

Stop & Go
After you trace the closure positions on the right-hand side of the corset (marking the wrong side of lining), you stitch and backstitch to leave openings in between the lining and shell. Then turn, press, and topstitch reinforce: you can see I’ve marked with pins where I need to leave an opening for the closures.

Insertion (tee hee!)
Here I’m inserting the right-hand busk side between lining and shell.

Reading For Topstitching
Topstitch busk in place. I did a pretty wonky job. Will do better next time; I need a different zipper foot for this.

"In The Light Of A Clear Blue Morning"...
Busk in place.

Insertion, Part Two
Setting post-side of busk. I’m starting to enjoy punching (or rather, awling) holes in fabric. This was easier than grommet setting (by hand, mallet, and die set) as well.

Giving It My Awl
To drive in awl: here my fingers are positioned on front center seam. Put the awl perpendicular while driving it in for the most exact placement.

Today I also applied shrink tubing to the ends of my laces (aglet and crimper will be bought at a future date) and am ready to sew the shell together for the second fitting. Fun and more fun!

(Flickr tag set on corsetry)

lips, hips, tits, power!

I am making… drumroll… wait for it, wait for it

A corset!

I know. Dumb, huh? I mean here I have six months of sewing for the family ahead of me, so I’m going to spend time and money making a corset. Well I just fucking am.

My corset is #100 (View A or Dore) from Laughing Moon Mercantile. There are many reasons I chose this pattern from this company, and as I’ve worked on this project I’m increasingly glad I made this choice (email me if you want to know why). Yesterday I embarked upon this journey which ultimately meant tracing, cutting, and marking 45 pieces of fabric! No, but really – it was fun.

So here we go.

So It Begins
These are the pattern pieces for the Dore view. This Victorian corset is really two halves – when worn, the front is held together by a busk and the back, by laces. Here you see the pieces for one half, laid out from center front to center back, left to right. Notice the many cutting lines. Yikes! To avoid cutting the pattern (or even marking my cutting lines in red pencil), I taped each piece to the window, laid my tracing paper over, and traced, grading for size (my bust, waist, and hips correspond to different pattern sizes).

Size "Me"!
Traced and ready to go! Again, laid out front to back. The red markings are the boning channels. Boning is sewn together towards the end of the process when your layers are basted together. Boning channel lines will be transferred to the lining only.

Making a Muslin
Making a muslin (not to be confused with the word “muslim”, which I do all the time). A muslin (also called a wadding or toile) is a test garment made of similar fabric without unnecessary features, used to evaluate fit. It sounds like a complete fuck-off waste of time, eh? But for something like a corset, making a muslin ensures you will not be crying tears of rage when your lovely finished, three layer, hand-hammered and boned corset rolls down in the bust or laces shut in the back. The Laughing Moon DVD on Victorian corsets gives a great demonstration of fit for this corset; it’s not as hard as you think. Oh, and if you have a sharp eye you will notice the far-right piece – the center back – is upside down.

My muslin turned out well. I decided to trim 1/2″ off the center back (before grommets were applied) and 1/2″ off the center front. No further alterations were necessary. I marked these changes of 1/2″ on my pattern and made notes. I was then free to cut the fabric for the actual garment. I will keep my muslin to evaluate fit if I make another corset (weight gain or loss would effect future garments’ fit).

My Fabrics
My fabrics. I am drooling. The corset is two-layered. Since I wanted a pretty fabric on the public side, I sewed an overlay (the pink and olive cotton) to the outer layer or shell; I will then treat these pieces as one. So in this photo on top we have the lining fabric, or what will face my body. In the middle we see the overlay, which has been stitched to the shell (or strength) corset fabric. The bottom piece we see what the shell is made of – a natural cotton duck (quack!).

This Foot Was Made for Walking
Stitching the overlay to the shell. It can be harder than it looks; here I’m making it easier by using a walking foot.

Mark Yer Pieces, Mateys!
A word of caution. Corset pattern pieces can be either rectangular, hourglass, or spoon-shaped and it’s not always easy to tell which way is up. Can you tell? Here’s a hint:

Pattern Piece and Markings
This is the center-back piece – the narrower edge is the top of the corset. While taking off my 1/2″ at the top of the back I accidentally started cutting into the top – you can see the divet off the bottom of the pieces (there are two identical divets because I layer pattern pieces to cut them).

Topstitchin, Still Bitchin
I just had to get to a final seam! This is one of the first things you do after you have all your pieces cut – you join the lining to the shell in the center back. Here you see the two center-back facings, public (left) and lining-side (right). I am using brown-gold thread in the top, natural white in the bobbin case.

Whacking Day
45 pieces and many stitches later, we see the center back with two boning channels per side and grommet markings. So tomorrow I will be whacking 34 grommets in place.

An exacting seamstress will note you can see a strip of the white lining on the center back facings. Well, I like the effect. Also as well I did not follow instruction which made this pressing hard. After sewing I trimmed down my seam allowances to 1/4″ before pressing, instead of pressing first. My 1/4″ of strong cotton duck did not want to lie flat; and frankly, I didn’t feel like trying that hard. However, it was a good reminder to follow directions; after all, I think Laughing Moon knows what they’re doing more than I do!

Speaking of next time, tune in as I whack grommets and sit by the mailbox grasping my hands and awaiting my busk!