I want to apologize ahead of time for all the innuendos and puns on boning that are in this post.
(HAHAHAHA. I REGRET NOTHING)
Bones were probably the second scariest things to me the first time I did a corset. But as long as you double check your measurements and have the right tools there’s nothing to be afraid of.
What you’ll Need:
L-R: Sharpie, Hacksaw, measure tape, Pliers, Airplane Cable cutters
- Measuring tape/ruler
- Tools to cut the bones
- Non-fabric scissors (Plastic boning only)
- Heavy Wire Snips
- Airplane cable cutters
- Masking or painter’s tape
- Pen and paper
- Safety goggles – optional
Bones! Bones! BONES!
Before we start it’s worth looking at which type of boning fits you best. *ahem* I am super straight faced right now, I swear. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT.
There’s two main types of boning available: Plastic and Steel. They… well, that’s what they’re made from. Plastic will be cheaper, but steel lasts longer, and won’t deform in hot conditions whereas some of the cheaper plastic type of bones can.
What About Real Bones?
Photo by Gabriel Barathieu
While I’m all for using the whole animal when it comes to farming or hunting, whales have had a rough go of it the last two centuries. Leave them be.
I don’t think you can even get real whale bone for corsetry anymore, unless it’s reclaimed from historic garments. I could be wrong, but why bother when there’s great alternatives that don’t involve killing giant intelligent sea creatures?
L-R: german plastic bone, plastic whale bone, woven plastic bone
Composite above made from Farthingale’s Corset Supplies’ product photos and is adjusted to show the differences a bit more clearly.
German Plastic Bones
These bones are a composite of different plastics, with ‘threads’ of stiffer plastic encased in softer stuff that lets you still cut and sew through it easily. I’ve used this in my Sailor Pluto panniers.
Pros: You can sew through it, cut it easily with a pair of scissors and its lighter (and cheaper!) than steel. This type of plastic boning is also sturdier than woven bones. You can also ‘tip’ it by rounding the sharp edges down with a file.
Cons: More expensive than the other two plastic options, and so far I’ve only found it sold by online stores that specialize in corsetry supplies.
Plastic Whale Bones
Made to be a plastic version of actual whalebones, This is a type of boning I haven’t tried yet, personally, but there are reviews online if you’re debating between these and german bones.
Pros: You cut it easily with a pair of scissors, less expensive than German Plastic Bones. This type of plastic boning is also sturdier than woven bones. They’re more widely available than the German type though, and can also be shaped with a file or sandpaper.
Cons: You can’t sew through these ones and they’re more expensive than woven bones.
Woven plastic Bones/Rigaline
Rigaline is super lightweight, and it’s sold at my local fabric shop.
Pros: You cut it easily with a pair of scissors, sew through it and it’s less expensive than the other two options and more widely available.
Cons: Woven bones are also the least sturdy option and I found that my body heat was warm enough to distort them. (Yup. I’m just that hot. Clearly. In temperature.)
Industrial Zip Ties
So I tried this once. It… sort of worked. But in the end it was a lot more work to prep these than it would have been to just buy proper plastic bones.
So, Steel is obviously more expensive than plastic, but if you’re building a corset that you plan to get a lot o wear out of, like a foundation corset or a costume that will be worn over and over and over. Since my corset will be worn under multiple costumes, I chose steel so I can get as much wear out of the finished product as possible.
Unlike the plastic bones, there isn’t one ‘better’ steel boning type. Instead, the spring steel bones are used for one type of support while the spiral steel is used for another. You might have noticed as we’ve been sewing that there aren’t many ‘straight’ boning channels in our corset. There’s actually only 4: The two at the centre front, and the two at the very back that we haven’t sewn in yet. Because I forgot. WHOOPS. Anyways…
Spiral Steel Bones
In the picture above, you can see the grey coiled bones which outnumber the white ‘flat’ ones. The coiled bones are the spiral bones, made out of two steel wires coiled through each other. That’s the ‘spiral’ part in the name. Spiral bones are able to bend both front and back and side to side easily. This makes them perfect for boning channels that have curves in them since they’ll follow the shape of the chanel without twisting weird.
Spring Steel Bones
The white bones are the spring steel ones, though you can also get them in chrome. Why spring when they’re flat? If you flex them they spring and sproing back into their original shape. Since they don’t bend sideways, these are great for straight boning channels that you don’t want to shift or warp sideways. In our case those are the front centre channels and the two at the very back that will keep the grommets in place when we lace ourselves up.
It’s worth noting that you can buy steel bones already cut to size and tipped directly from Farthingales, but it’s more cost effective to buy continuous boning (snerk) and cut it down to size yourself.
It’s BONING Time!
Three Easy Steps
- and Tip
I can’t tell you HOW MUCH it bugs me that I couldn’t find an -ip word for measure.
While the pattern does include instructions for bone length, this is one case where size ABSOLUTELY matters. Specifically the correct size since we’ve altered the seam length by taking in or letting out the pattern to fit our bodies. In addition, if you shortened the pattern or lengthened it, that will drastically affect boning length, so it’s better to re-measure the seam lengths. (I wrote all of that with a straight face, somehow) So, Mark down the seams with corresponding numbers or letters, and start measuring the seam. The WHOLE seam, because we’ll math a bit to include seam allowance.
You don’t need to make a diagram for measuring, though I find it did help remind me which direction I numbered the seams in.
Keep in mind that for each seam length, we’ll actually need to cut multiple bones. For the spring steel (yellow highlighted) seams we need two of each length. For the spiral channels (Pink highlighted) we’ll need four each. Two for either side of each seam. Note all the lengths down on your paper because you WILL forget otherwise. Or, msot humans would.
Alright, subtract 1 inch from each seam length to give us a half inch of seam allowance on either end of the bone. (aka wiggle room. heee. Wiggling bones). BAM. You’ve got your bone lengths now.
Snip (or Saw)
Practice Safe Boning
If you’re working with spiral steel bones, you can wear safety goggles to protect your eyes since sometimes cutting them will cause bits of steel wire to pop off. If you choose to use a hacksaw, always secure the bone to a sturdy surface so it doesn’t move around while you’re sawing.
Referring to your notes above, measure out the lengths of each bone, marking with your sharpie where you need to cut them. I found that the hacksaw is great on the spring steel, though wire snips (or airplane cable cutters) are better for the spiral bones. If you’re using plastic boning, a strong pair of scissors should work just fine.
Using painter’s tape, mark each bone as you cut them with the number of the seam they’re cut for. For spring steel you can just write it directly on the steel, since it’s nice and flat-like.
Because I’m forgetful, I also added a checkmark next to the bone lengths on my notes for each one I cut. That way I wouldn’t end up with like 3 of the 13.5″s and 5 of the 11″s.
Tip it real good
No bones slipped that are not tipped.
While tipping your bones (snort) might not seem to be the most important part of your corset, it’s probably one of the most important parts to keep the bones from stabbing into you through the fabric. I mean, steel is sharp, yo. And cuts stuff. Like you. And your fabric. Don’t let your corset shank you. There’s a couple different ways to tip your bones (see, tip your bones even sounds like a sex move, or song… I’m not even trying anymore) that I’ll cover below.
The ‘traditional’ way of tipping bones. Requires a bit of finesse with your pliers, and if I’d had two sets it’s much easier to get the tip on tight (omg) so it doesn’t come off inside your channel (see I swear, they’re just writing themselves now). If you have two sets of pliers squeeze the U in against the sides of the bone and flatten the bits that pop out at the same time.
It’s not overcompensating. I couldn’t find my smaller pliers OKAY?
If you don’t, you can still get the tips on with one hand. I mean pliers. One hand of pliers. Squeeze in the sides then flatten one side of the U then the other so that the steel sort of folds over rather than popping the U out wider again. Farthingales has also started selling special plier tips to help you tip your bones more easily.
Do you have plastidip? The non-spray kind? Dip your tips in and then let them dry. EASY PEASY. (I do not have plastidip and so this was not an option).
Filing it down
If you’re working with plastic boning, you can either snip off the pointy edges and sand the sharp parts off with an emery board, file, or sand paper… or use one of the options above.
Submit to Helper for Approval
After all of that, baste the top of the corset closed and we’ll be ready to add the boob cups and lining next week. That’s right…
Next week we FINISH IT.
You can’t hear me but I totally wrote that in the Mortal Kombat voice.
See you next week!