December 30, 2011

1911 - brown paper packages tied up with string

The schedule is posted above the machine, materials are organized, and I'm looking forward to starting the sew along next week! I'm also happy because when I returned home after being away for week I found two packages waiting for me. The corsetry supplies I ordered from both King & Co. Corsetry, and Sew Curvy Corsetry arrived! As a reminder, the discounts offered to sew along participants expire January 15th, so do visit Caitlin and Julia's shops if you haven't gathered all you supplies and take advantage of the special offers while there is still time! Find all the information and promo codes here.

How has the pattern enlarging been going? There have been other ways to enlarge the pattern posted in the comment section so everyone should be able to find a technique that works if mine isn't your cup of tea. Thanks for all the suggestions, it's that commentary that will help the sew along be a success!

December 29, 2011

1911 - for ladies with a more ample bosom

I've received so many questions about foundation options for women with a larger bust it makes me wish I could include steps for patterning and fitting the bust in this sew along. If I had already experimented with altering the patterns we're using to fit the bust I'd happily included those steps, but I haven't, and I don't want lead anyone astray. I can however share a few images of bust support solutions from the period.

The first is a corset at the V&A from just few years earlier than the 1911/12 patterns we're using. The cut combines a higher top edge with a gore to provide support on a garment which measures approximately 41 3/4 inches at the bust, 24 1/2 at the waist, and 38 3/4 at the hip.

© V&A accession number T.67-1938

A 1911 advertisement for the Sahlin Perfect Form and Corset Combined shows another way to enhance the bust.

The ad says this model is for slender or medium figures, but I've seen almost identical styles advertised for women with full figures. Here's a Sahlin corset at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

© Metropolitan Museum of Art accession number 2000.169.2

Can any of you recommend period patterns for the ladies wishing to sew a bust bodice? That might be a good solution for those needing a bit more support. If there were one in Corsets and Crinolines I'd have no choice but to sew it too!

December 28, 2011

1911 - taking measurements

The 1912 Spirella catalog says "the waist line is the base from which all longitudinal measurements will be taken." So we'll start there.

Years ago I was told that to locate your waist for measuring stand straight, then bend bend to the side. The point where your body bends is where you place your tape measure. Works for me. Make certain the tape measure is snug, but not pulling, against your body, and is level all the way around. It helps to have a friend since just bending over to look at the tape when you do it yourself can change the number. But I do all my measurements myself so don't sweat it if you are wielding the tape measure yourself. There are two other measurements we need to be concerned with, the hip line 6 1/2 inches below the waist, line mm on the diagram above, and 9 inches below the waist, line nn on the diagram. Once you have those measurements that's it, we're done for now!

Since this corset is an underbust cut we're not going to concern ourselves with the bust or underbust measurements. If you want to add bust support to your corset you will need to take those two measurements and extend the top edge of the pattern, but I won't be covering how to pattern or fit the bust during this sew along. We'll save that for another one!

It sounds obvious, but is worth mentioning, be honest with your measurements. I know, it hurts sometimes to acknowledge an extra inch, but it hurts more when you have to pick out seams when something fits horribly because it was patterned too small. Plus, since it is a corset we're making we will be chiseling away a few inches so you'll end up with that smaller number anyway.

In the next few days before we start patterning let's make sure our drafting supplies are in order. We'll need paper, (it doesn't need to be special paper, I usually recycle misprints from the copier or just use paper from a sketchpad) tape, scissors or an exacto knife and cutting mat, a sharp pencil, a ruler, and a tape measure. A C-Thru ruler is a real help, but not a necessity. Is everyone ready to start patterning next Monday? Any last minute questions I can help with? Don't forget the flickr group is there, do drop by and share your images with the group!

December 27, 2011

1911 - flickr group

I've created a flickr group
where sew along participants can post images of progress, ask questions, and offer advice. Yea!

The images and discussions will be publicly viewable, but it's nice to know who is sharing the sewing and fitting room with you, so you must be a member to post photos or join discussions. To become a member go to the group page, click "join this group," and you will receive an invitation to join. Or send me an email and I'll invite you.

I can't wait to see all the pretty fabrics that will be sewn into even prettier corsets!

December 26, 2011

1911 - scaling up the pattern

I always enlarge patterns on my copy machine at home. First, copy the page from Corsets and Crinolines, if you are using the post edwardian pattern you just need to drag it to your desk top then print it out.

Once that's done enlarge that copy (or printout) 200%. I enlarge the corner with the scale first, and once it is the correct size I copy the whole pattern, rotating and rearranging the page until the entire pattern is enlarged. This percentage can be a bit different for each copier, but mine was 195% so that should give you a good starting point.

Then start puzzling the pieces together. If you use a window as a light box you can slide the pages right in place.

When you have all the pieces together you should have something that looks like this.

Tape the pieces together then mark the waistline, which is right between the two dashed lines, (this is already marked on the post edwardian), and measure across. Did you get approximately 10 1/4 inches? I did. Double that number to figure what the total waistline will be. My guess is we'll all be altering this pattern to be larger.

You may be wondering, why not just copy the pattern from the get go at 400%, assemble the pieces, measure across the waist and be done with it. It will be close enough since alterations will be made anyway, right? Yes it will. I just like precision and that precision starts with enlarging the pattern to the correct size.

Later this week we'll take our measurements so next week can officially start the sew along!

December 23, 2011

500 follower celebration giveaway winner

Thanks again to all of you who took the time to comment and enter the giveaway. And the winner, drawn from a hat by my sister is...

Comment number 24, Aija! Congratulations Aija! Please send me your email address (the link is at the right side bar) by Monday, Decemeber 26, 11:59pm EST so I can mail the coutil and shuriken off to you!

I'll be back next week and we'll scale up the pattern for the sew along. Happy Holidays!

December 22, 2011

1911 - a Warner's 1912-14 corset up close

One of the benefits to working in a museum is the opportunity to see the objects up close. I was given permission to snap a couple pictures of one and share them here.

Kent State University Museum, accession number 1983.3.117

A Warner's corset from 1912-14. Even though there are no extras, like flossing or lace, it shows how simple does not mean boring. Here is a closer look.

The black satin is so sleek. Let's take a quick peek at the interior.

The black silk was fused with white cotton and sewn as a single layer. If you look closely you'll see the cotton is not a herringbone coutil, it's a plain weave. The bone casings are made with cotton twill tape. There is no waist stay on this corset. Norah Waugh indicated a stay on the 1911 Corsets and Crinolines pattern so I'll be including one on mine, but if you decide not to sew one it's still period correct.

This Warner's ad, found in the March 28, 1912 edition of the Jasper News, features a corset with the same cut.

Good luck to everyone who entered in the 500 follower celebration giveaway! Entries are now closed. The winner will be announced tomorrow. I've enjoyed reading all your comments and am thrilled to see you many of you are participating in the sew along!

December 21, 2011

1911 - prep & errata

Today is the last day to enter the giveaway, you have until 11:59 pm EST tonight. The winner of the fabric and the tailor's shuriken will be announced Friday!

The shop window above was photographed by Eugene Atget in 1912 and you can see there are still plenty of curves in those corsets. I've had several questions about fitting this corset to curvy figures, the 1911 Corset and Crinolines pattern gives us 6 seams to make adjustments to, and the post edwardian I drafted has 5, so I'm confident we'll be able to accommodate curves.

With less than two weeks before the sew along officially kicks off, it's the time to make sure our tools are in order so we can stay on schedule. If you don't have already have a hip curve you may want to consider buying one. They make drafting so much easier.

Is your iron clean so when you press you don't create stains on your carefully sewn piece? How about new needles? I always start each corset with a fresh needle in the machine, it makes a difference! Is your seam ripper ready? Let's hope we don't need to pick out too many seams on the finished corsets, but we definitely will need one during fitting. If you're planning on adding flossing do you have embroidery needles? When I trace patterns onto coutil I use a pencil, but with other fabrics chalk is needed, got chalk? How about a tailor's ham? I don't know how one can sew without a tailor's ham. Anything else you can think of? Please share it in the comments so we're all prepared. Thanks!

I want to make a couple of corrections to the supply list. The first, I specified 1 inch wide bone casing but that width is not commercially available. No problem, use 3/4 inch wide casing. The casings will hold either a single 1/2 inch bone, or two 1/4 inch bones, 3/4 inch wide casing will do this. I said 1 inch because I made my own and that was how wide they were. The second, I said 1 inch wide elastic for the garters, but contemporary garter findings are not that wide. Use elastic that fits your grips, we'll cover them with wider ribbon to give the proper period look. And finally, I said 1 yard of fabric but am giving away 1/2 yard of fabric for the thank you give away. If a half yard is enough to make a corset why did I say 1 yard was needed? The ticking I used for the post edwardian was 33 inches wide, which meant a full yard was required for the corset. If you are using 54 inch wide fabric a half yard will do, depending on your size. Thanks for bringing these issues to my attention, I've updated the list. If you catch anything else let me know!

December 20, 2011

1911 - fabric choices

It has been so much fun reading your comments in yesterday's giveaway post. So many fun projects, you guys are inspiring! For those who haven't yet entered you have until Wednesday, here's the post.

So then, 1911 fabric. I originally planned to make this corset from striped ticking. I used the ticking I had in the stash for the post edwardian, so now what do I do? I could buy a red or black stripe ticking, but I'd be basically sewing the same corset twice. Don't let that stop you fellow sew alongers from using ticking though. I found it very easy to work with and the stripes suited the long cut of the corset. Plus, stripes show up regularly in period advertisements. Here's one from Dessous Elégants, 1912.

The blue brocade coutil that I'll be sending someone for the giveaway has been in my stash for years. I'll still have enough to make a corset, and I haven't used a brocade coutil yet, so I may cut into it. There are some beautiful brocade corsets out there, like this one from 1912 found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

© Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession number C.I.38.71.5a,b)

Who says beige is boring, right? The old post edwardian corset I bought and used to make the pattern for the Foundations Revealed article is made from plain, cotton, drill. Here's a detail of the fabric with the trim along the top edge.

Just a good, sturdy, tightly woven twill. It clearly got the job done. I've seen beautiful examples made with black, cotton backed satin. The satin was so smooth and the plain weave cotton backing kept it from stretching, yet together they were still very light weight. So flatlining is an option too. I also have plain white coutil that I could dye. I don't have much experience dying fabric, but that shouldn't stop me.

What about you? Have you already chosen your fabric? Do you already have something fabulous in your stash that will be perfect? Are you like me and hoping to try something new? If your planning on coutil take advantage of the specials offers from King & Co. Corsetry and Sew Curvy! Julia at Sew Curvey has even put together a 1911 sew along kit! £29.99 for everything you need in one fell swoop. And that's before the discount!

December 19, 2011


Time to celebrate! To thank all of you for following my corseting adventure I have giveaway.

Coutil! Brocade coutil at that. The lucky winner will receive 1/2 yard of 54 inch wide brocade coutil. It's a cotton/viscose blend, subdued cornflower blue with darker shiny blue bells. Perfect if you're participating in the 1911 sew along. But wait, there's more!

A tailor's shuriken! Have I mentioned how handy this tool is? Now one can be yours.

You must be a follower of this blog to enter the giveaway. It's your comments, questions, advice, and encouragement that help keep this project going and I want to thank you. If you regularly check in but are not yet an official follower now is the time to join! Then, simply leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, December 21, 11:59 PM EST. Tell me about your next planned foundation garment or costume project, or just say hello. Either way I look forward to reading your comments. I'll announce the winner Friday, December 23.

If you are lucky winner you must send me your mailing address within three days, otherwise another winner will be chosen. I want to send the coutil and shuriken off quickly in case it is destined to be a 1911 corset! And I'll ship anywhere in the world.

Thank you for reading!

December 18, 2011

1911 corset sew along - schedule

The sew along is set up over the course of 7 weeks, with one extra week to add embellishments if desired. I want to make sure I have enough time to properly detail each step, and that everyone participating has enough to to complete it before the next one is posted. Plus there is time to catch up over the weekend if the week becomes hectic. What do you think? Does this look like a good pace?

December 16, 2011

1911 corset sew along - FAQs

It is so fun knowing there will be so many of us sewing together. We'll help each other deal with questions as they come up during the sew along, but this should help with questions right now.

I'm larger/smaller than the size of the pattern we're working with. Will I be able to make this corset fit me?
The first thing we'll do is pattern alterations so you have a pattern sized expressly for you. From there we'll sew a mock-up and do a fitting to assure the finished corset fit well.

Can you recommend a fabric other than coutil?
Mmmmm, coutil. It's the fabric engineered specifically for corsets so it's the perfect fabric to use, and with the deals offered by Sew Curvy and King & Co. Corsetry it's possible to get great fabric at a great price. However, I will do a post about fabric choices to help if you'd like to sew with something other than coutil.

Will this be a single or double layer corset?
Single layer. All the extant corsets I've seen form this era were constructed from a single layer of fabric so that's how I'll be constructing mine.

You specified steel boned in the supply list, will plastic boning work?
The corset I used to draft my post Edwardian pattern from has steel boning so that's what I'll be using myself. Flat steels can be purchased either already cut to length and tipped, or in a continuous length that you cut yourself. High quality synthetic whalebone can be substituted for some of the steels, but the boning on either side of the grommets should be flat steels, plastic just won't cut it there.

The list says six garter grips but the corset you made from your pattern only has four garters, why six then?
The Corsets and Crinolines pattern looks like it has six garters so that is how many I'll be attaching to my corset. Four will do the job just as well.

Are there specialized tools needed to make the corset?
There are a few items, like an awl or a grommet setting kit, that you not already have. They are readily available and there is time to procure them before we start sewing. If you decide to cut your own steel boning you will need tin snips and either metal tips or Plasti-Dip to cover the raw ends. Other than that your standard sewing supplies will do.

This will be the first corset I make, can you explain all the little things for me?
Of course! I'll break the project into small steps, which will give me time to thoroughly explain each step, and give you time to complete it before moving on to the next.

How long will the sew along last?
We'll have our corsets finished by the end of February. I'll post a complete schedule next week.

What can I do to prepare before we start in January?
Procure supplies and take your measurements. We'll enlarge the pattern during the last week of December.

You posted a badge but no code to link with it, where's the code?
Whoops. Code. It's been added. Here is the URL.

December 15, 2011

1911 corset sew along - supply list and some wonderful offers

There are two special offers on for sew along participants. Caitlin at King & Co. Corsetry, based in New York City, will give participants 10% off everything in the store, English coutil, grommets, busks, and patterns for future corsets. This off expires January 15, 2012 at 11:59 PM EST. Use promo code SEW1911 at check out.

And Julia at Sew Curvy Corsetry, near Oxford UK, will give participants a 10% discount on corset supplies. She has a wide selection of coutils, busks and metal findings. This offer also expires January 15th, 2012, but at 11:59 PM GMT. Use the code bridges at check out.

I'm going to take advantage of both offers. There are black grommets at King & Co. that I would love to finish a corset with, and Sew Curvy has satin coutil, which I have been wanting to use. A big thank you Caitlin and Julia for supporting the 1911 sew along!

Here is a list of supplies needed to make a corset that fits approximately size US 6-8, a UK 10, or a European 38. If you are a few sizes larger, or smaller, you will need to adjust quantities accordingly.

pattern - either Corsets and Crinolines 1911 corset, or the post edwardian pattern I drafted for Foundations Revealed
1 yard fabric - I'll love coutil, but if you want to sew with another fabric I'll be posting about fabric choice soon. (If using 54 inch wide fabric only 1/2 yard is needed)
1- 9 or 10 inch busk
12 - 9 inch ¼ inch wide flat steel bones
8 - 16 ½ long inch ¼ inch wide flat steel bones
2 -10 inch long ½ inch wide flat steel bones
1 yard – lace or broderie anglaise (optional)
1 yard twill tape for waist stay
10 yards - 2 inch wide bias to trim top & bottom edges, bone casings & garter covering
5 yards - 3/4 inch wide bone casing
1½ yard - elastic for garters
6 garter slides and grips
42 - size double zero grommets
7 yards - double face satin ribbon or cord for lacing
1 - spool thread

Tomorrow I'll post a list of answers to some of the frequently asked questions I've been receiving. Until then, we can gaze at the lovely Diana in the C.B. Corset ad from Dessous Elégants published in March, 1912.

December 14, 2011

1911 corset sew along - inspiration

Tomorrow I'll post a list of supplies needed to make the 1911 corset. Until then, I'll leave you with this advertisement for Warner's Rust-Proof corsets.

This was published in The Washington Herald, February 19, 1911, as part of a full page ad for the Palais Royal department store. If you want to get lost in period corset advertisements visit the Library of Congress website. If you are like me you'll completely loose track of time. Have fun researching!

December 13, 2011

it's official, the 1911 corset sew along

I'm glad there is so much enthusiasm for a sew along!

We'll start sewing, or rather patterning, Monday, January 2, 2012. In the weeks leading up to our start date I'll post a list of the supplies needed, a schedule, and some inspirational images. If you can recommend anything else I can do to help everyone prepare please let me know. I'm looking forward to sewing with you!

December 12, 2011

titanic sew along

I've been receiving many requests for information about the teens corset I made, and with events marking the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic scheduled next year, I thought it might be a perfect time for a sew along.

I need to make the 1911 pattern form Corsets and Crinolines at some point, why not as the first corset for next year? Those who don't have access to Norah Waugh's pattern can use the one I drafted for the corset above. If I organize a schedule now the corset(s) should be completed in plenty of time to wear to commemorative events. Thoughts?

December 7, 2011

christmas, a couple weeks early

A package arrived today.

When I opened it I found this.

The 1650 bodice! And wrapped in packing paper was this.

The 1925 corselet! There was a reason I couldn't find these, they were still in California! I had planned to take them with me when I drove to my new home across the country, but space was tight in my tiny car and I left a few boxes behind. A shout out to Lisa, the best friend anyone could have, who found this box and sent it my way. Thanks Lisa! I miss you!

The grommets are set in the 1844 corset, it's ready for gore fitting this weekend.

Then I'll tie up the loose ends of the corselet and it can move to the completed pile. That means I should have two finished corsets by the end of the year!

December 1, 2011


At last I've found some time to pick up the 1844 corset again.

Grommeting begins!

November 24, 2011

hoopla: the art of unexpected embroidery

Over a year ago I was working on a project that was keeping me form the 1925 corselet. (Oh corselet, will I ever find you?) The project was for the book Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery by Leanne Prain.

My copy arrived this week and it is so exciting to see my work in it's pages.

There are some fun pieces in there and I'm so happy to be a part of it. Hoopla!

November 22, 2011

a corset that will never be worn 2

I wanted to play a bit with the figure, to really sculpt a new shape. This corset doesn't look unusual from the three quarter angle, above.

But from head on you can see the two halves are not symmetrical. I wanted to create a female torso as sculpted by Hans Arp, or painted by John Currin. I don't form clay, or paint canvases, but I can shape a figure with a corset so I started playing with numbers and came up with a pattern.

The curves are quite pleasing, and a little disturbing.

It was lots of patterning fun drafting a pattern where every single piece is different, but other than that this corset is like any other. Same materials and construction methods. I did dye the coutil and managed to get the color very even. Yea. I really like this corset. There is a sense of movement at the fabric wraps around the imaginary body that isn't present normally when you look at a corset. It's a shame it will never be worn.

November 12, 2011

a corset that will never be worn

A quick image of one of the projects I'm working on that has been keeping me from the Corsets and Crinoline corsets. Since it's corset related I thought I'd share it even though it's not quite finished.

I'm so pleased with how the quilting matches at the center front. I originally planned a separate panel for the busk but when I saw that chevron I nixed that plan. I'll be back next week with pictures of the finished piece and an explanation.

September 26, 2011

lacing strips for mock ups

I've had a few questions about what I use to lace up mock ups so I thought I'd share my lacing strips.

Pretty low tech, just folded over denim with a couple of seams to make boning channels, and some grommets. They are 13 inches long, just long enough for to use for fitting, but I often think I should make a longer set. These were made for fitting my very first corset six years ago. I pounded the grommets while sitting poolside in Carlsbad, California. Good times.

For fittings I place the folded edge along the the center back of the mock up and stitch the strip to the back panel. Since I don't use a busk on fitting toiles, I wrap the mock up around myself with the lacing strips to the front, then thread the lace through the grommets. When I reach the top I tie the laces together and twist the corset around my body until it sits properly with the laces in back, then I start cinching. It is not an elegant process. But I've found this works better than lacing the corset first and slipping it over my head. After experiencing a couple horribly claustrophobic moments with my arms pinned above my head once the corset reached my shoulders I started putting on toiles corsets the way a twelve year old puts on a bra. Has anyone figured out a better way to get into a buskless toile?

August 23, 2011

i haven't abandoned you

I'm waiting for my new camera to arrive! My old one died and descriptions of folding and stitching are just no fun without pictures. It should be here by the end of the week and I'll be back with pictures of grommets in a row and gores being fitted. Yea.

August 11, 2011

day job

When I'm not in front of a sewing machine I can often be found behind a camera.

The Kent State Museum has a wonderful collection and this gown is just one of the beauties that will be shown during the upcoming Civil War exhibit. I can't wait to see everything installed!

August 1, 2011

the treadle cabinet arrives

The treadle cabinet is here. Solid 1905 goodness. I couldn't resist the temptation to make it into a bar.

The half empty pitcher of white sangria fueled the bar idea. It won't stay this way forever, just until the machine is cleaned and a new belt attached. In the meantime the bottles serve as decadent clutter prevention. Also, displaying them instead of just storing them in a kitchen helped turn the apartment where I've been for the past year into my home.

July 29, 2011

problem solved

I received an email suggesting I use a hook to pull a strip of fabric through the layers to add heft for the grommets. Why didn't I think of that? I have a tool for turning sewn tubes of fabric right side out that worked perfectly for this job too. First, I cut a bias strip of coutil, which is sort of the twill tape suggestion on steroids, and pressed it along the center back curve to help guide it to the correct shape.

You can see I doubled the coutil. That may be overkill, but I figured two layers of coutil couldn't hurt since the linen is so light. I hooked one end of the strip on the tool and pulled it through. The pull ring was just small enough to fit between the stitching already done on the back panel.

The groove at the edge of the coutil is where I'll stitch the other channel. Grommets this weekend? I think yes.