Sunday, May 25, 2014

Adventures in: Corsetry (The Real Thing via A Very Long Post) & HSF'14 #2: Innovation

I had a moment of AAAHHH!! (as usual...) when it came time to start on the real thing. I had two choices of fabric: some white mystery fabric that is fantabulous for corsetry - no obvious weave, but just as sturdy and non-stretchy as coutil; or some black coutil my mum gave me in the Epic Fabric Haul. I didn't want to "waste" the coutil. I thought I had seen the white fabric recently, and I should have just enough left to make a corset. Plus, white goes with EVERYTHING! But when I went to retrieve it, it was hiding, and I couldn't find it. So, black coutil it would be.

Besides, I was probably panicking about the "waste" the same way I panicked over the pink Georgian dress I made earlier this year. I have a lot more mad skillz now than I did the first time I made a corset. Besides, a single-layer corset, like this one, only takes half a yard. I have enough for another corset :) (I might try a straight-seamed corset after all, but first I have to find the first mock-up I made 7 years ago and rescue the busk!)

Fronts only.

I wanted to construct this one a little more "professionally". Because I planned on topstitching the gussets in place like I did on the mock-up, first I had to open them, press back their seams, and then I used embroidery floss to overcast the points and corners. These will be weak spots where the fabric is stitched very close to the edge. Right away, I decided on a bright green to go with my thread. How fun is bright green on black?! It's not especially even (not to mention, my greens are totally different colours), but I don't mind. I don't plan on wearing it by itself, and I think people would be more stunned that I made it instead of buying it that they'll forgive a little lopsided stitching ;)

Why make a corset look pretty if no one is going to see it? I wouldn't say that no one is going to see it, per se... I just don't plan on wearing it as a fashion layer.

All of the seams are flat-felled for a clean finish :) Blinding flash included to show a little more detail lol.

Then came the scariest part, inserting the busk. Ooooh... Right way up this time! It's actually a lot easier than one might think, mostly I was scared of hitting the edge and breaking the needle. I had visions of it flying into my eye. This is why it's recommended to wear safety goggles! Luckily, I didn't break the needle and my eye is safe for another day. Hooray!

Setting the eyelets took the longest, partly because I now live on the second floor of an apartment building, and I didn't want to annoy my neighbours by hammering in a bazillion grommets. I took my backs (still separate from the fronts) to my friend's house and set them in her basement.

Then it was time to attach front and back, and give it another quick try-on. And then... they languished. For another 6 weeks. While I waffled on what kind of boning I wanted to use. I kinda remember this because I set all the grommets right before my last dance recital on April 13th, so it'd been sitting nearly as long. Whoops. Finally, this weekend I decided that enough was enough, and just finish the thing! (Also because I wanted to work on a costume that I didn't have nearly as many supplies as I needed, and then I wanted to work on a Victorian bodice and hey, I should really finish that corset...) I decided to go with the cable ties after all. I can always pull them out later if I change my mind. The other beautiful thing about this corset is that it is so lightly boned :)

And then we get to... the reason behind the name of my blog. A number of years ago I made a costume that I decided to bind. It was the first time I'd used bias tape as binding, and I announced to my roomies the night I started that I was off to have adventures with bias tape. It was quite an experience that I've never fully recovered from LOL. Now I think of "adventures with bias tape" every time I pull it out to sew with it again.

I have a number of packets of bias tape, and I waffled on which one to use while I sewed up the last few seams (flat-felling the side seams and finishing the short channels at the back). I had nothing that would work with bright green, and the only blacks I had were either single fold or wide quilt binding. I should just make some, I thought, but what black fabric did I have that I could use? In the end, I used the wide quilt binding cut in half lengthwise. It was almost 4" wide folded out! I don't really need pre-pressed binding anyway, and the centre fold became (more or less) the edge of my fabric. I started with the bottom, sewing it to the back first, then folding it around to the front and stitching it down. I decided to use black thread to keep more focus on the up-and-down lines.

Then it was time to put in the boning. This was both extra-complicated and really really easy. The really really easy ones were the channels that were wide enough to just slip 3/8" boning straight into, easy as pie. The extra-complicated ones were the centre back, on the outside (corset) edges of the grommets. My channels ended up being exactly 3/8" wide, when the cable ties, which are thick, need 1/2". Yikes. I fought my way through it anyway, and it took FOR-EV-ER. I even restitched the edge of one channel to make it easier, and I still ended up pulling some stitches in the tight spots. I eventually resorted to being able to getting a little fabric bunched up along the tie, put the encased end under my heel, put pressure on it, grabbed the top of the fabric and pulled. It took like, 45 minutes just to do those two channels. Yikes. Make sure you leave enough room in your channels!

But once that was done, I was very excited! I wanted to try it on again before binding the top to make absolutely sure! This would be my last chance to make any changes. So back in went the lacing, and then I tried it on. And I just realized how utterly dusty my mirror is. Eep.

Oooh lookit that waist!

Oooh lookit that... Well, you can see how much the front sticks out. Silly belly.

Uneven lacing :/

I was super excited. The waist is a little tight, but when I measured it, it's tighter than I normally lace anyway. I would definitely even up the back if I was going to wear it for more than a few minutes, naturally. But overall, I was pleased. There is a top-to-bottom bone near the side that I was a little concerned about, but it sits on the outside of the hip and should not aggravate my injury. I tried a skirt on, and even though the front sticks out really far, it's not very noticeable when dressed and should be nearly invisible with a petticoat or two. I do want to try hand-bending the bottom of the busk inward, as well, but this is fine for now. I was really pleased with the lift and roundness of my "girls". I am really excited in the near future to give this bad boy a "real" run, and wear it for several hours!

When I took it off, I thought, maybe I will take a break for a bit and then finish up. But self, I said, all you have to do is bind the tops. Literally. That's it. And they're about the same length as the bottoms, it won't take hardly any time at all. For once, I listened to that little voice and I sat down to bind the top. It really felt like, for several harrowing minutes, that this would be the moment where everything went wrong. The bottom binding had been easy, but that was probably thanks in part to being unboned at that moment. There were bones in place now. Some of them were dangerously close to the edges, having crept up during the trying-on, and hard to push down thanks to the narrow channels. The only thing that went really wrong was cutting the binding a bit too short, and stabbing myself with a pin. And once I pulled the last of it through the machine and cleaned up all the threads, I was overjoyed. All I need to do now is lace it again, and just wear it. It's done. It's totally, 100% done. DONE. What a great feeling!!

Since I've not been terribly concerned with lateness so far, and this was meant to be my #2 challenge anyway, here's the HSF info :)

The Challenge: #2: Innovation (due Feb 1/14)
The Innovation: 2 part separating busk
Fabric: 100% cotton coutil
Pattern: Simplicity 2890
Year: 1860ish
Notions: thread, floss, bias binding, busk, 2-part grommets, heavy-duty cable ties.
How historically accurate is it? In shape, and hardware. Fabric is iffy, poly thread and floss and binding deeeefinitely not.
Hours to complete: Uhm... a lot, and yet, not so many. Maybe 12 hours?
First worn: Not yet.
Total cost: The busk cost roughly $10-12, the coutil was given to me (but I know it was $25/yrd, and I used 1/2 yard), and the rest came from the stash. The project cost in the $30-40 range, but the total cost to me was more like $15.

I didn't do like, any research on busks that was worth sharing. What I do know is that up until the 1830s, corsets were generally closed-fronts with a wooden busk down the front. The separating busks appears on museum corsets in the 1850s or so, and is still the standard in use today. It's an especial boon for those of us who tend to live and costume alone, as it makes getting dressed much much easier!

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderfully done! I LOVE the green thread/floss on the black! It makes it POP! Yeah for you!!!


Road to Costume College 2018

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