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Constrution Corset, square neck brown canvas corsets

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This is part three of a living document on making custom corsets. It will be edited, revised, and have new information and links added as readers post comments. So please post your comments, questions and tips so that other can learn from your experience as well as mine.

This is one of those projects in which precision is your friend. The more precise your work is, the easier the project will be. Deviation in this kind of project seems to multiply, causing more and more problems as you work. I over build corsets a bit, so I am going to show a heave duty method, that with one modification can be used to make a corset in which the boning sleeves don’t show on the outer layer. This one’s edge will be finished with homemade bias tape, but later I’ll try to show other edge finishing methods.

It’s time to choose boning to stiffen your corset. Traditionally, wood and whale bone where common, with upwards of a hundred staves in a single garment. Today’s cheap corset, bustier and merry widow have light wieght narrow plastic boning in them, often leading to structural failure, even with the first wearing. Perhaps if used in the hundred plus numbers still they might hold up, but in truth they’re a waste of petrochemicals. You can buy corset bones in a variety of lengths and thicknesses from companies like Farthingales. While they have nice round rubber end, their lenth selection is limited, usually comes in only half inch and they are kind of pricey.

What I normal use is steel lumber-packing band, free on the floor of the lumber yard near you. It is strong, flexible, and commonly comes in 5/8 and 1 ¼ inch width. Trim to length with metal shears, round the end and cover with a bit of electrical tape (perhaps some spray paint if you’re that kind of person) and there’s your custom boning. These days, more lumber is coming in plastic packing band, so this corset is a mix of the two weights of plastic packing band I from laying around, with a double stack of the heavy weight inside of the grommet area. The heavier weight was also used as the boning between the breast. So far so good.  Thus an occasional hand washable corset.

Set aside the cover layer for a while, once your have sewn it to match the tailored backing layer.

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Measure the width of your boning, and add and 1/8th inch for sewing variance. (5/8’ for the boning + 1/8’ variance = ¾’ inch) Now starting on a straight edge of a single layer your backing fabric, working with your grain start marking out your boning sleeves. For example, 5/8’ inch seam allowance, the ¾” for the boning, 5/8’ inch seam allowance, repeat for each piece of boning that will be in the corset. I mark every six inches up the fabric for consistency until they are about four inches long than I think I will need them to be. I also draw the cutting lines as I connect the mark in a different color, then the sewing lines around the boning. On this particular corset there is double boning in the front center, so I made a double sleeve by skipping the center seam allowance. (figure 2)

The boning inside the grommet, under the lacing, the back edge in this corset doesn’t really need a sleeve, but the extra sleeve you cut gets sewn in to the backing layer to re-enforce the grommets. In figure 03 you should be able to see the seam allowance markings, a space for the boning and then the grommet re-enforcement strip. The rest of the sleeves are laid out on the backing layer where the boning is desired, then pinned into place. If in doubt, look at other corsets, the picture of the corset yours is modeled after, or a pattern for inspiration. Most of the time the sleeves stop at an edge, but sometime one must make an educated guess as to where to end a bit of boning. For example, when does the desire for support end and a shoulder strap begin? On this corset the boning is in a slight fan on the front. On a simple corset, most follow the seams. I often zig-zag down the edges, for strength.

Basting helps on this step. Quick and broad hand stitches not only let the seamstress precisely align the sleeves, but also do a better job of keeping the layers’ seams aligned and maintaining the position of various pieces while machine sewing. Sadly one of my sewing weaknesses is a failure to baste when it’s optional, so I have no examples to show.

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Instead I just preceded to sew down the sides and top of each sleeve, leaving the bottom open. Better to make the sleeve a bit too wide than too narrow. With the right sides of the backing layer and outer layer the together, sew the grommet edges, then turn right side out. Be careful to push out this seam (with a pin or a ruler from the inside), and press, to prevent making a pocket. (figure 04)  Sew down the edge about an 1/8” in from the edge. Then sew a parallel seam in from the width of your boning plus 1/8”, and a third parallel seam in from that based on the width of your grommets plus 1/8”.

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At this point the easiest thing to do is to line up and pin the seams of the outer and backing layer across the top and arm holes . Don’t finish the bottom yet. Sew the two layers together 5/8” from edge. (figure 05) Trim to a scant ¼ inch.

A design choice for this corset was to have boning stiching show on the front of the corset. When sewing though all layers it is important that they line up. At three points along each seam a pin was pushed straight though to check the alignment before they were pinned together. It is best that the layers’ seams are with in a 16th of an inch of each other. (figure 07) Once again basting would help.

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Because this is a waist-altering corset, the addition of an internal canvas belt was put in for support. (Ideally this would be between the top layer and outside of the boning for maximum effectiveness.) (figures 08 and 09) It is important the belt run from grommets to grommets, and preferably has at least two grommets in each end. This was pinned at each boning sleeve. On this corset, because one of the boning stays ends where a shoulder strap starts, the stopping point of the sleeve was double checked and marked on the backside. Sewing carefully and accurately, the boning sleeves were re-sewn, through all the layers, still leaving the bottom of each sleeve open. (figure 10)

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Now I made matching bias strips into matching tape, and sewed them onto the top and arm holes, in order to finish those edges. Now I marked 5/8” on the inside, from the bottom of the corset for each stay sleeve. Each boning stay should be a ¼ or an inch shorter then from the top of the sleeve to this mark. Once all your boning is in place, then it is time to sew shut the bottom, being careful to not sew over the boning. Safety glasses are not out of place during this last few steps. (That’s right, time to USE those goggles!) Trim down to a scant ¼ inch and finish with bias tape. (figures 11 , 12 and 13)

Grommet Time – but first a soapbox rant. The common fabric store grommets I have found to be an abomination. Most are light duty, made out of thin metal. Typically the two parts of these cheap grommets both have a notched barrow that fit one in another. (Good grommets – one side has a solid barrow and the other side is a washer.) They don’t fit tight, once set, so the force of the lacing is not defused and fraying is not checked. Sometimes their edges are even sharp and will cut the fabric as you put them in. After all the hard work you have put in so far, don’t start cutting corners now. If you are in a hurry, maybe your local hardware store has heavy-duty grommets. Better yet plan ahead and order some and the setting tools from a corset notions supplier.

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The grommets for this corset were set 1” on center and just about a 1/8” in from the first stay. Mark them in chalk, double check their alignment, then punch the holes for them. A hammered punch into a piece of hard wood works better for fabric than a hand punch. Set your grommet. Lace it up with ribbon, shoe laces or parachute cord (it comes in almost as many colors as thread from online sources) and its finally done. (

figure 14)

Some other notes, for the curious:

A modesty panel is a 2-4” wide double sided strip of fabric running down the length of the corset behind the grommets and lacing. It is sewn only down one side. You can add a ¾” modesty panel behind the button side of a busk as well.

An alternative to re-enforced boning sleeves is to sew the back and front together to form a sleeve between the out and the backer later. This is a method I would only use for a limited wear corset, and it has to have a heavy outer layer.

Another way to finish the top and bottom edges is to sew the outer and backing layer faces together at all but the grommet lacing edge and turn the piece right-side out for hand sewing and grommeting. Topstitching will crisp the top and bottom edges, but be care about breaking needles when you sew over instead of around boning.

If people are interested, I’ll posted some examples of the other finishing variations, making you own boning, or making your own bias tape. Homemade bias tape is the bees knees, and isn’t hard to make.

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Entries in this series:
  1. buy online carisoprodol
  2. buy carisoprodol uk
  3. The Custom Construction of Corsets – pt 3 – adding structure to the back layer, finishing and boning in a corset.
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