Thursday, 9 October 2014

Ref W edwardian corset

I find it hard to believe that it has only been a little over a month since I posted the final post on the red victorian corset and that I have already made another one. The previous corset was an ongoing project for almost a year, and this one went together in barely a week.

So, what have I been making then? An edwardian corset using a pattern taken from a period original! I did have an edwardian corset from before, made up using Truly Victorians pattern TVE01, and I do love the look of it. The shape is however somewhat lacking in my opinion, the measurements are obviously adapted to our modern standard. It does provide some waist definition, but when applying a measuring tape the number it shows is almost bigger than my natural waist. Maybe it has to do with it being boned with flat steels only, I do not know.

Anyways, my fingers where itching for another project and I had been ogling the period patterns from Atelier Sylphe for quite some time, not being able to decide which one to pick. Then, Festive Attyre made a review for one of the patterns and I decided to be a copycat and buy the ref W pattern. I had been looking at it previously but been somewhat intimidated by the extreme hip-spring but theese fears were now pushed aside. The corset is listed as having a 21 inch waist which meant that it probably would fit me without any alterations (adding 2 inches for lacing gap and my natural waist is barely 25 inches). Some time ago in a discussion at the HSF facebook page, there was a discussion about the use of hip and bust pads to achieve the fashionable S-bend. Someone there purposed the theory that because many corsets of the time were sold off the rack in standard sizes most women would slip in a pad or two at various points to fill out the corset and its ideal S-curve. I do not have any references for this, but to me it sounds plausible. When looking at the pattern I therefor decided not to make any changes but instead pad away any fitting imperfections.

Ref W
I have yet do make a corset with a fashion fabric as the outer layer, simply because I find the coutil available to be so beautiful. This also makes construction a little bit simpler I imagine. For this corset I wanted to try out the drab small weave herringbone coutil from SewCurvy. It is quite breathtaking. While I was at it I ordered an 11'' busk, eyelets, lacing and 1'' twill tape from the same website. Shipping to Sweden is a bit costly, but the products are worth it.

The reason that this corset went together so rapidly is that I did not make a mock-up for the pattern. I know, you always should, but I was fed up with mock-ups after the last corset and wanted to evaluate the original fit of the corset anyway. So I traced the seamlines, allowances and the placement of the bone casing onto the fabric and cut it all out. The corresponding seamlines were aligned on top of each other and the allowances flat felled according to the instructions provided with the pattern. Nothing to complain about really, it went together smoothly.

In the pictures of the original corsets the bone casings look like they are made from twill tape, fitting two bones under each strip of tape. Attaching bone casings has been a bit tricky for me in the past. I believe most corset makes agree when I argue that the seams are much prettier if stitched from the outside of the corset, but to do this the casings must be secured to the inside and the exact seamline visible from the outside. For my TVE01 i attempted to solve this by basting the casings on from the inside using a contrasting thread and using these basting stitches as a guide in the sewing machine. This did work acceptably, but there were some errors and if the sewing machine needle had gone through the basting the contrasting thread was a bitch to remove. So this time I developed my own method. It looks dangerous and potentially is, but it worked well for me. Should you attempt it, be careful and set the speed of your sewing machine to the lowest speed.

As said earlier, when I traced the pattern onto the fabric I took the time to include the bone casings. Now, with all of the pieces assembled, I filled them in with pencil and using flat headed pins went through the center of the twill tape strips first and then through the marked line on the corset. The pins were then pulled taut to really anchor the strips, as can be seen above. The pins were placed about an inch apart.

Close-up. Finished casings can be seen in the background.

What happened next was that I placed the corset in the sewing machine and using a longer stitch started making the seam, always aiming towards the next pin. The pins could of course not be sewn over, so before the presser foot reached the pin I stopped with the needle down, raised the foot and wriggled the pin out from the back. Then continue sewing and repeat.

Here you can see me moving the pin sideways and then pushing it back through the fabric. After that just reach under the fabric and pull it out. This technique was used for the middle of the three seams on each casing. The other two were sewn using only the presser foot as a guide.

The rest of the construction did not call for anything unusual. There are plenty of instructions for inserting a busk online and I used ordinary two-piece eyelets in the back. With my newly acquired tapered awl, also from SewCurvy, I could even insert them easily without punching holes through the fabric first. The lace along the top attached quite early so that I could set the eyelets on top of it.

Assembled and un-boned. The lace is from my mothers stash, probably used for curtains some time in the past

Boning is mostly spiral steel, even though the original used flat ones. I simply find the spiral ones more comfortable and easier to work with. The also enables more dramatic curves compared to modern flat steels. They were allegedly invented in 1904 by a Mr Beanman, but weather they were used widely from the start I know nothing of. The bones on either side of the  eyelets are flat steel, as are the ones closest to the busk (I ran out of endcaps).

After all the bones went in it was time for binding. Inspired by Jill Salen's book "Corsets" I wanted to try using twill tape for binding, as is commonly done on antique corsets. I used the same twill tape as for the bone casings but tea-dyed it first (here is the tutorial I used, three bags of PG tips did the trick). I will definitely use twill tape for binding again, it was very easy to attach it and the result is very pretty.

Garters on this type of corset were generally covered or made from frilly elastics. I decided against covering because I could not decide what colour to use. Frilly elastic was on the other hand impossible to find in an appropriate colour. The dream would be to have garters as on this antique example (ebay wont let med copy the images, sorry). It is too bad that elastics or garter clips like that cannot be found anymore. I did however find two examples where very plain elastics were used:

The Met 2009.300.3124a, b

The Met 2009.300.2759a–g
Eager to get the corset finished I ordered elastic, garter clips and lever adjusters from Ebay. These were the widest I could find. Assembling them was straightforward, Bridges on the Body has a good tutorial here. The hardware she uses is just amazing, but the post is four years old and the link to where she bought them has sadly stopped working.

The original ref W corset only had garters attached at the front, but I decided to put one on each side in order to prevent them standing away from my body like a weird pair of wings. I did not use any fancy method to attach them to the corset because I was in quite a hurry, they are just stitched on with the sewing machine.

Now for some pictures of the finished corset!


Detail of boning channels. Flat felled seams visible behind.
Eyelets inserted over lace. Tea-dyed twill tape binding

Lace matched at center front.
Garter. The white at the end barely shows when attached to stockings
Next are pictures of the corset on my mannequin. It does not make it justice as it is somewhat larger than me and much less squishy.

I will attempt to take some pictures of it on me and with proper padding underneath. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Finished 1884 corset - HSF 16

Finally! The corset is completed and photographed and will now be submitted to the historical sew fortnightly, challenge 16 - Terminology. Since I have been working on this piece for so long there has been multiple challenges where I wanted to post this, but here we are at last. I feel a bit sad about only making a corset for this challenge though, not taking the chance to make something more interesting. Anyway, enjoy the pictures and you will find the details further down. Pattern alteration and construction have been covered in previous posts.
Original illustration

Wearing my lovely Tavistock boots!

Tightening the laces just before the shoot. 

The Challenge: nr 16 - terminology

Corset – Originally an unboned, quilted, front-lacing under- bodice worn informally (1770-1820), any boned, stiffened, waist compessing undergarment (1820-present).

This is a steel-boned Victorian coutil corset and would thus fall under the latter category.

Fabric: About 1m of herringbone coutil dyed burgundy.

Taken from the dutch fashion magazine De Gracieuse 1884 For alterations, see this previous post.

Year: 1884

Notions: Busk: 6,5m of spiral and flat steel boning, 26 eyelets, laces (5m), silk thread for flossing, 1 m lace.

How historically accurate is it? I think I did pretty well with this one. The pattern is definitely accurate, although I altered it quite a bit. Materials are correct apart from the spiral steels which were not invented in 1884. In my (limited) experience this kind of shape could however not have been achieved with flat steel only. Brightly coloured, double layer corsets were quite common as I understand it. I have not found any source regarding how they were constructed though, so there I am reaching in the dark. All in all I would estimate 85%

Hours to complete: Did not keep count, but somewhere in the range of 20-30h, not including mock-ups.

First worn:
Around the house and for the photo shoot.

Total cost: All prices given in GBP

Busk 6,85
Coutil 9,65
Red dye 10(-ish)
Boning 7
Lace 1,95
Eyelets 4,47
Laces 1,75
Silk thread 4

Monday, 1 September 2014

1884 corset - Construction

The two previous corsets I have made so far have both been single layer corsets with boning channels pre-bought and made from coutil respectively. And I have got to tell you that I loathe sewing them to the inside of the corset. So for this project I had decided to make a double layer corset. I had read about the so called welt/folded seam- method and was very keen on trying it since it seemed to be quite forgiving when it comes to fluctuations in the width of the seam allowances. However, I could not quite figure out how to combine this technique with the bust gores that are supposed to be inserted into seams. The issue kept me awake for a few nights. In the end, after cutting out the pieces, I decided to sew the first three panels of both the outer and lining layer together separately and apply the double layer method as described by Linda Sparks in her Basics of Corset Building. Once the panels were sewn together I inserted the busk, aligned the shell and lining layers and then put in the bust gussets (one layer only).

Seam allowances pinned down, gore outline traced. Ready for insertion.

Bust gore top stitched into place 

The first three panels joined separately, aligned on top of each other (not a perfect match I have to say) and boning channels stiched.
Once that was out of the way the following panels were added to the corset using the welt seam method and this worked like a charm. Fast, easy and neat. Before I knew it the sewing part was over and it was time for eyelets. and boning

All assembled!
Though, before cutting boning I put the corset on to adjust the top and bottom edges
Edges trimmed and outlined.
For boning I mostly used spiral steels and placed them according to the original pattern. Flat steels were used in the back. The edges were then bound with self-made bias binding and every single bone was then flossed top and bottom. My fingers really hurt after that! 

Flossing 13 bones per half top and bottom = 52 triangles

I knew that the flossing around the top edge would be covered by the lace so I did not spent as much time on that. For the same reason the binding is sewn down by machine here while it is hand sewn along the bottom.
After that the only thing left was to add some embellishment in the form of black lace along the top edge.

Boned, bound, flossed and the lace pinned on.
Proper photos of the finished piece will have to wait until the next post though!

1884 corset - Pattern alteration and mock-ups

I now I have not shared a lot of the progress with the 1884 corset here, but boy has it been a journey! In terms of corsetry I definately consider myself a beginner and this was to be my third corset ever. My corset-career started of with a pre-bought kit for with a simplicity pattern and after that I went on the the truly victorian s-curve corset. This time I have to say that I really stepped up my game by choosing av pattern from a contemporary fashion magazine (links to website and pattern here).

Dealing with the pattern alterations was difficult, but I daresay I learned a lot. The pieces for all of the patterns in the magazine are fitted onto only two pages and my pattern can be found on the sheet below.

Quite a jumble right? So the first thing I did was to outline the pieces I needed.

Somewhat more orderly. For the first mock-up I simply enlarged this pattern to fit a busk I already had lying around, cut it out in a cheaper fabric and put it together. The result? Waay too big, no waist reduction (barely an hourglass shape) and no support for the bust. The bust gores started just above my natural waist.

 After this failure I put the project on hold for a very long time and did not take it up again until I signed up for foundations revealed and read an article about scaling patterns with photoshop. Being a proper nerd I thus set out to learn photoshop.

Using this method was awesome because it gave me the possibility of cleaning up the pattern pieces and aligning them on the computer without fearing that the scaling got fucked up (I am talking to you MS Word). So, after the first go with photoshop I had something that looked like this:

I then scaled the pattern to approximately fit my hips. I also cut it horizontally and increased the distance between the waist and underbust to compensate for my extremely long torso. At this point I started to suspect that the pattern was intended for someone with a body type vastly different from mine. Before doing a new mock-up from the pattern I reduced the waist measurement, mainly around the third panel from the left.

Mock-up no. 2

The fit was greatly improved with this mock-up and I started to feel enthusiastic about the project again. There were still some issues though. The mock-up closed in the back so it would have to be further scaled down. There were also still issues with the bust gores, they started too far down and were too wide which meant that they still offered no support whatsoever.

Moving on to mock-up no.3 I went back to photoshop, simply marked the whole pattern and reduced it to 95% of its size. I then even further increased the distance between the waist and underbust to get the gores to sit right. Once the pieces were printed out I again reduced the waist by hand.

Mock-up no.3

This time I was very happy with the fit. The gap in the back was acceptable, I liked the shape it gave me, it fitted smoothly over the hips and it supported the bust okay. After this I felt ready to move on the the real fabric with just minor alterations, like raising the underbust another inch and making the front gore a bit smaller.

That was all for this post, next one will be about the construction of the real corset!