Tag Archives: corset making

The Very Boring Corset

A very boring corset

A very boring corset (and some not-so-authentic underpinnings)

I promised my husband I’d make him a shirt, so of course I had to whip up another corset.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I went back to my Butterick 4254. First I re-traced all the pattern pieces 1/4″ narrower than before, then I made a few tweaks around the bust and waist. (Basically, more bust, less waist! Woohoo!) I decided I’m pretty happy with the overall length and shaping, I just wanted to refine the shape a bit more. Then, as I was sewing a quick mockup, I realized that my original pattern pieces seemed to be calling for 3/4″ seam allowances—and I’m pretty sure I sewed both my earlier mock ups and my blue corset with regular 5/8th seam allowances. Which explains where that extra 1/4″ on each piece came from. (I’m still glad I removed it, though, as I don’t need 3/4″ SAs to make channels for 1/4″ boning., and they cause issues like puckering, and or need clipping and things.)

Back view.

Back view.

Although I was tempted by the siren-song of some of my other fancy materials, I resisted, as I really needed this to be a quick sew that I could bang out of the way and move on to other projects. Like shirts for my husband. I did dare to cut into my precious coutil, though (I used about half of the 1m I have, so I still have another corset’s worth. πŸ˜‰ ). This is it, plain and un-covered, in a single layer, with serged seam allowances (so non-historical!) and hardly a lick of ornamentation.



The only reason the pretty purple ribbon is there as opposed to boring old twill tape like the bottom is my friend Steph gave it to me to use. I enclosed some narrow ribbon within it for a drawstring, and I do like being able to pull it in at the bust (especially as there’s a bit of extra room up there, as I said.)

Silhouette comparison

Silhouette comparison

I think the size is much better this time around—still roomy in hips and bust (arguably the bust is a little too roomy but I really don’t want compression in this region πŸ˜‰ ), with a smidge (or more than a smidge) more waist definition than before. And a perfectly reasonable, roughly parrallel lacing gap. By the way, I get a whole 2″ of waist compression out of this thing (unlike the other one, which actually doesn’t change my waist measurement at all once you add in the bulk of the corset itself.) I think that’s pretty much my limit, barring serious waist-training that just isn’t going to happen. I wasn’t really expecting more—there isn’t a lot of space between my hips and ribcage to squish in, and I’m a pretty rectangular shape to start.

Have another corset view

Have another corset view

One thing that really stands out is the difference the busk makes. For the first corset, I used a spoon busk, and while I did have to straighten a fair bit of the spooning as it wasn’t hitting at the right spot on my body (it would’ve needed to sit about 2″ lower to work properly) it still does help “hug in” the bottom front—there’s a very distinct gap (shadow) you can see in the newest corset at the bottom front. Not a big deal under petticoats, but something to tweak a bit if I want to make “fashion” versions. (Not sure where I’ll wear a “fashion” corset yet, but then again I’m not really sure where I’ll wear this full Victorian getup either.)

Lobster tail

Lobster tail

And here’s a shot of my American Duchess-style lobster-tail bustle, because I haven’t really done it justice on the blog (nor probably will get around to it, sadly) For this dress-up I experimented with fastening it a bit lower on my hips (rather than right at the waist). My theory is that it elongates my waist and gives me more room between butt and waist to build up the layers of bustled stuff in the back, though I couldn’t really say it makes much of a difference.

Steph in my corset!

One bit of fun I did have was stuffing a couple of my sewing friends (yes, real-life people I get together with and we MAKE STUFF! Slightly more than once in a blue moon) into the corset to see how it looked on different bodies. I think the answer is “better than on me”—but anyway, that was super fun.


Chrissy. She's probably going to kill me for picking this picture, but I love her face! ;)

Chrissy. She’s probably going to kill me for picking this picture, but I love her face! πŸ˜‰

It was really interesting to see it on different bodies, but even more fun to see their reactions to “corset shape” for the first time! πŸ™‚

With Authentic Vintage Photo Filters (TM)

With Authentic Vintage Photo Filters (TM)

And, well, just for fun, here’s the full ensemble again. Sorry for the cami under the corset—my chemise was awol and I was on a tight time-frame for taking the photos.

In other news, my last “Historical Clothing” workshop is this weekend at the Marr Residence. I’m nervous (cuz I always am) and a little sad that it’s the last, and wondering where to go from here… after all, I’m just about ready to start planning the outer dress!



Filed under Sewing

Remedial Corsetology


Almost a corset.


Remember when I did a mock-up for a corset? Yeah, me neither (well, barely.) I think it was last spring sometime? Anyway, finally this past weekend I had—wait for it—leisure time! Nothing that needed to be made with an instant deadline! (And my husband wasn’t playing Final Fantasy 14, which is also sapping the sewing time these days. I’m not gonna apologize for that, though, down-time is down-time and I love back-seat gaming.)

So, after spending most of my Saturday puttering around tidying the perpetual mess that is the sewputer room and finishing the odd UFO and repair, I finally got the itch to pull out the altered pattern for Butterick 4254 and bash out a second toile. (swayback adjustment and a variety of take-a-bit-out-here, add-a-bit-there-type alterations.) And then made some alterations to that, and then finally bit the bullet and started in.


Pretty details.


The fashion fabric is a lightweight twill with a toile-ish print that I spent ages ogling at my local Fabricland about two years ago. It was 70% off, but I was dead broke and couldn’t justify a random purchase, especially since I didn’t have any idea what I would make with it. Then it sold out, and I was sad. Then, one day, I happened to be at the *other* Fabricland in town (which never happens), and guess what I found… in the bargain centre for $2.00/m.

At that price, even stone-broke me could justify it. The last 2m came home with me… and have sat taking up space in my basement ever since, although I did hit on the idea of using some for a corset a year or so ago.

I chickened out on using my precious coutil (ordered along with spiral steel boning and grommets from Farthingales corset in Ontario) for this first run, instead using a sturdy white twill I got as a hand-me-down from a friend’s de-stash. We’ll see if I regret this later on.




For my instructions, I pretty much followed “The Basics of Corset Making,” for a double-layer, alterable corset. As per the pattern, all the bone casings are on the seams of the panels, and I just serged the edges before topstitching them down, so historical this is not (even though I’m going for a fairly traditional sort of look. I think. >_<) The only other place I added a casting channel was beside the grommets in the back, as I thought it would need a bit more support in that area. Having a channel on each side of each seam makes for what seems like a LOT of bones, but I guess that’s not a bad thing?


Grommets & setting tools


I think my least favourite part of the whole construction was setting the grommets for the back lacing. I ordered grommets, as I said, from Farthingales, just to see how they compare to the ones available at Fabricland. The Farthingales ones have a much wider rim compared to the hole size, which makes them look larger and seem much more substantial, so that’s nice. The setter that came with them (and I don’t recall if it was separate or included), though, was identical to the Unique-brand one I have from Fabricland… that I’ve always used for grommets the next size up. The cupped base fit the wider rim of these grommets nicely, but I found the upper part, that you hammer on, was just too wide to fit in the small hole—I wound up using the upper part of a grommet-setter I already have, for the smaller size grommets. This worked quite well, but if all I’d had was the one that came with, I would’ve been unhappy. It’s not even the hammering that I dislike, (I can say this because I only hammered my fingers once this time.), it’s the poking-hole-and-then-working-grommet


Set grommets. (Baggie to the left is Unique-brand eyelets with the same hole-size, but much narrower rings so they look smaller.)


I haven’t been able to do a proper try on, since I’m still lacking a real lacing cord (I thought I had ordered one when I ordered the grommets and coutil but, um, apparently I forgot to change the “1” metre measurement to the 8 I was intending to order, so, um, one metre of lacing does not do me a hell of a lot of good.) and none of my piddly little wire-cutters are really up to cutting the spiral steel. I did manage to pick up a more robust wire-cutter after work yesterday, and spent the evening merrily cutting and tipping bones, but I won’t be able to get lacing cord before tomorrow at the earliest.

ANYWAY, I was startled how much waist reduction I did get just as a quick, bone-free try on (before my cotton string “lacing cord” broke)… well, reduction for me, anyway. I have very little space between my ribcage and hips, and my ribcage is tubular, or maybe just barrel-shaped. As in, doesn’t taper towards the bottom. Let’s just say I’m not expecting dramatic results.


Corset front with spoon busk.


I did have to un-bend the curve of the spoon busk, as it doesn’t fall in the right place for this style (it was that or replace the busk. >_<) I’m a little disconcerted how hard that wasn’t. And I may yet have to take apart the front bustline seams as I’m not convinced the bust curve is in the right place, but I don’t want to make that call until I can do a proper try-on, which won’t happen until I can get some approximation of lacing cord, maybe later this week.



Looking curvy! (by my standards.)

I kind of got ahead of myself in the finishing department, adding lace and binding to the top of the corset. I will probably regret that when/if I do have to re-shape the bust seams. Oh, well. The lace was one of those random remnants that floats about a stash, but there was just enough to do the top of the corset—perfect. (OK, with five flowers left over. I’ll call that perfect.)


More pretty details.

I hope I can make it work once I get to try it on, because I think it’s really pretty right now…


Filed under Sewing

Premature Corseting

Butterick 4254

Butterick 4254

Despite a number of itty bitty things like, oh, not having ANY actual corset supplies (except eyelets, I do have eyelets), guess what I did when Osiris’s best buddy dragged him out of the house today, leaving me alone for HOURS?*) I make a mockup of Butterick 4254. After I deflated the mound of empty boxes that was occupying most of my charming new sewing dungeon space, and got the one machine that I have over here set up. Β I have traced out View C, which is about as simple as it could get.

Before even starting, though, there were a couple of things I wanted to do. First was shorten the pattern above the waist. I took a 2 cm tuck across all of the pieces. The grainlines on some of them are really weird. Any experienced corset makers reading—should the grain lines go up and down relative to the piece, or relative to the corset overall? Shouldn’t those things be more or less the same thing? I confused. Anyway, for the mockups I went with the grain as drafted.

I read all the reviews on PR. Some (who appeared to be the more serious corset-wearers) found that the pattern lacked compression (i.e. it’s drafted at zero ease, not with negative ease at the waist. So the size 10 (the largest size in my envelope, and a size smaller than I normally make) has a 25″ waist, as drafted. Me being me, this is plenty of compression. I was a little less sure about the bust and hip, but willing to go with it. Several people said they found the corset short, and since I had just shortened it further, I figured I would extend it by a couple of cm all around the back.

I did not make one of my staple adjustments—a swayback adjustment. I did, however, add a bit of extra width at the high back hip.

And I made a mockup. As per the suggestions in Linda Sparks’ “The Basics of Corset Building,” I added a 2″ panel to the back where the lacing will be. Since I haven’t got a busk (see above about having no actual corset supplies), I subtracted the seam allowances and cut the front on the fold.

I’m torn on the whole busk thing. On the one hand, that’s a lot of money and effort and waiting (I would have to order online) for my first corset. On the other hand, I’m aiming for that Victorian corset look and as far as I can tell, they were all about the busks. Anyone with actual historical-fashion expertise (as opposed to my rather lazy google-fu), please correct me if I’m wrong. And yes, I’m aiming for at least superficially historical here. Why? Well, basically my mother’s been involved with a local small museum volunteer type thing for yonks, and there’s a possibility we could maybe develop a “pioneer sewing” program-type component and, well, I’m having visions of everything from treadle-sewing workshops to steampunk picnics when (if) summer ever comes, so yeah, I’m feeling historically oriented with this project. Vaguely, anyway.

Version 1

Version 1.0

Anyway, about that mockup. Will you ever forgive me for these horrible dirty-bathroom-mirror fitting photos? I may never forgive myself. Especially the back photos, which I took with the reverse camera on the iPhone, which has crappy resolution and no flash. Anyway, so, bust fit seems ok (recall that since the top and bottom of the corset are bound, there’s no seam allowances to fold under there). Waist fit as well—it’s tighter, but it’s supposed to be, right? It’s just below the waist everything goes, um… yikes. Ok, so obviously my hips are not appropriately Victoriany. But the biggest thing, really, is that weird length thing from front to back. The corset, from the illo, Β is supposed to arc up over the hips, and down in front and back. Well, I have the back bit just fine, but the front? WTF? So, obviously I will be lengthening the bottom of the front. Like, a couple of inches.

Anyway, I took in the loose wobbly bits below the waist, probably a total of about four inches.

And then I stitched down my seam-allowances to make boning channels. Except I have no boning (not even zip ties) to put in them.

Version 1.2

Version 1.1

Nonetheless, I think the results are MUCH better (OK, not trying it on with seam allowances out probably looks better, too. It’s just much easier to make the adjustments with seam allowances out.) I think the fit over my hips at the side is spot on. I’m a little more worried about the back—it’s doing its usual sway-back wrinkle, assisted, no doubt, by shoddy pinning. Will the boning smooth it out, though? Or should a corset be “fixing” my little posture problem, anyway? For that matter, how appropriate *is* fitting a corset? I mean, isn’t the point of a period silhouette that it squishes you into ITS shape, not the other way around? Thoughts?

The altered pattern

The altered pattern

Anyway, here are my pattern alterations, to the extent that you can see them in the dappled daylight on the kitchen floor. I guess I could’ve moved them to a better spot on the floor, but that would’ve required, y’know, forethought. The red outlines my post-fitting changes, both where I slimmed the hips and my length extension in the front (on the right). I suppose I should really do a second mock up to test that length alteration, but I’d really like to plunge ahead and cut my real fabric. Not that I have proper coutil or anything, either, mind you.

*Just for the record, I love my husband. I love spending time with my husband. I love that he wants to spend lots of time with me. But right now, he’s getting a lot more alone time during the day, while I’m spending my day surrounded by and interacting with people, and while my introvert/extrovert ratio is pretty close to even, the fact that I’ve had NO ALONE TIME EVER for seven or eight months is starting to take a toll and I’m really wishing to just have time to do my things. Like sew.


Filed under Sewing