I am making… drumroll… wait for it, wait for it…
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.
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).
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 (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. 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!).
Stitching the overlay to the shell. It can be harder than it looks; here I’m making it easier by using a walking foot.
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:
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).
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.
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!