This is for Real, Mako!
Okay let’s check what we’ve got so far. Muslin fitted to our bodies? Check. Read the instructions? Check. Let’s Sew!
What you’ll Need
- Fashion layer fabric -The pretty stuff on the outside
- Interlining fabric – stiff, non-stretch like twill or coutil
- Lining fabric – I use cotton because breathe-ability is good, and this will be against my skin directly
- Pins. A lot of pins
- An iron handy
- Masking or painter’s tape
- Pen or chalk pencil
Cut out the pieces
Expect a lot of help if you have a helper.
PLEASE NOTE that the compilation shows the plastic pieces used as pattern here, and that is WRONG. Use your adjusted muslin bits unless you feel like making all the corrections a second time. (But I’m lazy so I only do it once).
We’ll need to cut out the pieces three times, one for each layer: Fashion layer, interlining and lining. Well, and out of the interfacing for the lining. Four times. Cut them out four times.
Now bust out your painter’s tape and sharpie. Write down the pattern piece’s name and number on the tape and stick it on the back of the interlining with the text facing up the corset.
Like when we wrote on our muslin pieces, the tape will help keep you from sewing pieces in backwards or upside down. Or in the wrong order. More than any other pattern type, corsets can get confusing because the pieces look similar.
Master Basting (it’s super useful)
Lowbrow jokes Tremendously funny puns aside, basting is pretty important here because the pattern treats the fashion layer and the interlining as one layer while sewing.
Behold, my artistic talent in MS Paint.
Here blue is the fashion layer, peach is the interlining and green is the lining.
Red is Thread (purely because it rhymes)
So, There’s two ways to approach basting: by hand or by machine, and as usual there’s benefits to both.
By hand lets you have absolute control on the fabric, but it takes longer and if you have pain in your joints it’ll hurt after a while.
By machine is faster but gives you less control over the fabric. It’ll also take longer to rip out later on.
How do you Baste with a Machine?
If you’re lucky, there’ll be a basting option which similar to straight stitch but long, long stitches. If you’re on an older machine, set your length to the longest possible stitch and sew close to the edge of the fabric pieces to avoid unnecessary holes in the fabric.
Then sew all your pieces together. The fashion layer should be good side OUT. The interlining… doesn’t really matter so long as it’s consistent.
When you serge, you’re going to lose any notches or marks that are on the edge of the pattern. So unless you’re confident about matching the lines up without any guides (I’m not) Mark the notches at least a quarter of an inch away from the edge on the fabric. Anything closer will get covered by the serged threads.
Because the interlining will never be seen I used a ballpoint pen because I’ve run out of tailor’s chalk. This will only work because my fashion layer is black, and the ink won’t show if it bleeds. You should probably just use chalk.
Time for (elective) Sergery
Or, you know, zigzag or other edge finishing method of your choice. Or don’t. I’m not your mom. (or Am I? I’m not. I don’t have kids).
Why bother finishing the edges when we’ll be enclosing them within more seams? Well, its all a matter of how long and well you want the corset to last. Because corsets are under more strain than usual garments, especially if they’re being used for slimming purposes, the seams will tug and pull. Serging will help keep the fabric from fraying within the seams and also from fraying as you work with it.
Puzzling out the Pieces
Sew your Seams
This bit is pretty straight forward, but I’ll break down how I did it to save time and make things easier on myself. Instead of sewing everything together all at once, I did it in groups of two, grouped as below:
- Right Front Panel to Right Front Center
- Right Side Front to Right Side Back
- Right Back Center to Right Back Panel
- Repeat on left.
Then, for each pair I sewed the seams, pressed them flat, then sewed the boning channels, and pressed again before I moved on to adding the next pairs together.
Naturally everything was supervised for quality’s sake.
I only joined the next pieces when the seams were complete. Corsets are made to be curvy, and I didn’t want to try to sew flat boning channels when the fabric is trying to be all curvy and getting in my way.
Remember while sewing to use the 5/8” seam allowance! otherwise you won’t have enough space for your corset bones.
Press Your F@%# Seams
Okay. So. Sometimes we all get a little lazy and we’re like oh but it’s cool, this will be fine, I don’t need to press it right now. But with corsets that shit’s important. Corsets are made to lay flat against your skin, and especially with foundation garments, the last thing we want is buckled or wrinkling fabric.
Press the seams open. Do it. DO IT.
Sewing Boning Channels
SINCE YOU OBVIOUSLY PRESSED YOUR SEAMS LIKE I TOLD YOU TO, the next step will be easy. Sew down each side of the seam flaps with the specified distance. I find it easiest to sew with the seam flaps UP (interlining facing up) to make sure that they don’t wrinkle or anything.
When you’re done a seam, the other side should look like this:
I keep a sticky roller by my sewing machine for obvious reasons.
Repeat for each seam then press your seams AGAIN before you move on to the next stage of sewing:
- Right Front Panel to Left Front Panel
- Right Side Back to Right Back Center
- Left Side Back to Left Back Center
Repeat sewing, seam pressing, channels, pressing then:
- Right Side Front to Right Front Center
- Left Side Front to Left Front Center
When you’re done the garment should be doing two noticeable things: 1) looking like an actual corset, and 2) feel stiffer due to the boning channels acting a bit like pad stitching.
I’m going to share the best advice I’ve ever heard on corsetry, because it really clarified the basic concept of a corset that I’d had wrong.
A lot of people think it’s the bones that help shape a corset, but it’s not. The fabric should be doing all the work when it comes to altering the body’s shape. The bones are only there to hold the fabric flat against you and prevent wrinkling.
Queen of Foundation Garments
Basically at this stage, the corset should be able to work as an actual corset and get the shape you want. The bones will help support your bust and keep the fabric tight to your body, but corsets can have steel bones and still not fit you well or be comfortable because the fabric isn’t tailored to your actual shape.
PS: If you fit a corset to yourself right and you’re not tight-lacing, a corset SHOULD be comfortable. Just don’t expect full lung capacity.
We’ll be attaching these later, after we’ve put in the bones, so in the meantime sew the cups halves together, and press flat.
I felt really smart when I realised that a great way to press the boob cup seams was to use the nose of my ironing board.
Extra Credit: Waist ribbon
Okay boys and girls and non-binaries, This next part is completely optional. It is NOT in the pattern but since I plan to use the hell out of this corset, and I’ve added an extra inch to the length, I’ve decided to add a waist ribbon in to help stabilize the corset as I wear it over time.
This isn’t necessary if you used a high quality coutil specifically made for corsetry, but since I’m using twill scraps, I figured that a little extra stability couldn’t hurt.
Ah, such beautiful clashing colours.
I’ve used a scrap of ribbon from my Goat costume, and cut it to the width of the corset at the waist. Because it’s a polyester ribbon I then melted the edges with a lighter to keep it from fraying and pinned it down at the WAIST of the corset. (Your muslin will come in handy for this if you marked the waist on it.)
Then, very carefully stitch over the ribbon in the ditch along each seam. (Basically sew along the seam line so it’s not visible from the outside of the corset.) When you’re done check the good side of your corset and re do any stiches that you don’t like.
You can also sew this by hand if you really want to.
The Maybe-Silver Lining!
This is pretty straight forward.
- Serge the edges of each piece,
- Iron pieces to their interfacing partner
- Sew as above without bothering with the boning channels.
- Press your seams.
BAM. done. We’ve done most of the sewing now, installing the cups will wait until we have the bones cut, tipped and ready to go.