January 31, 2012

1911 - waist tape

There are a lot of things you must do when making a corset, but for the sew along a waist tape isn't one of them. It's up to you. A non-stretch twill tape can be secured to the inside of the corset to prevent the waist from stretching, some corsets have this, some do not. Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines pattern indicates a waist tape, the post Edwardian corset I used to draft the pattern for the Foundations Revealed article did not have a waist tape. If you decide to add one you'll need the twill tape or grosgrain ribbon, pins, and the pattern.

Lay the tape on the interior of the corset across the waist. The center back will have the two notch marks, the top one is the waistline, and you can find the center front by placing the pattern piece on the corset. As you lay the tape down pull the fabric of the corset taut, pin the tape, then pull the next section taut.

Don't be surprised if when you are done and no longer holding the fabric under tension the tape is loose next to the fabric.

When the corset is worn the fabric will be pulled tight against the body and the tape will lie flush with the corset. When the bone casings are sewn in place the stitching will hold the waist stay too. Yea, two jobs with one stitch!

January 30, 2012

1911 - the last work on the pattern, really.

Welcome to week 5 of the corset sew along! Did I say our patterns were finished? Whoops. But after this last little bit of work they really will be. We need to mark the boning placement since the patterns were slashed and spread, or slashed and shrunk. All you'll need today is the pattern, a pencil, a straight edge and hip curve. You may want a highlighter too.

If the boning runs along the seam, as it does on most pieces if the post Edwardian pattern, you don't need to change a thing. But others not on the seams will shift a bit. Find the center between the boning when the pattern has been spread.

Using the hip curve extend the line to the top and bottom edges of the corset, blending to make a smooth transition.

Sometimes all that needs to be done is extend the lines with a straight edge.

I drew the casings in and highlighted them, but the center line is really all that is necessary since the casing will be centered on this line. Here is the competed pattern.

Later this week we will sew the bone casing and attach the back facing. How is the corset construction progressing?

January 29, 2012

corset nerves

Sewing the real corset is always different than sewing the mock-up.

Even though I've pretty much gone through all the steps needed to make the corset, when I sit down at the machine to begin constructing the finished piece I tense up. Knowing it counts makes it more difficult. If you are sewing along with me don't fall victim to corset nerves! They will make you not only nervous, but hyper critical and prevent you from moving forward. Just keep stitching.

January 28, 2012

a patterning and construction nightmare

Can you imagine cutting and sewing any of these corsets?

Yikes. This ad was found in the January 28, 1912 edition of the San Francisco Call. I'll say it again. Yikes.

January 27, 2012

1911 - two kinds of seams

Hooray! Today is the halfway point of the sew along! And at last we're sewing! I enjoyed reading what keeps you going when sewing. You know what else motivates me? Seeing the patterns and mock-up posted on our flickr page and feeling part of a group working together. Teamwork and all. So thank you for participating!

There are two kinds of seams I'll go over today, one for those sewing the post Edwardian pattern, the other for the Corsets and Crinolines pattern. More experienced sewers won't need these explanations, but beginners may appreciate them. Either way, you'll want to sew the corset with a shorter stitch length than the mock-up. Aim for 12-14 stitches per inch.

Take your time, you've got all weekend to sew just 8 or 10 seams.

1911 - flat felled

Bone casings don't cover the seam allowance on the 1911 Corsets and Crinolines design, so those working with that pattern need to finish the seams, otherwise the raw edges will fray. Start by placing the fabric pieces wrong sides together, so you can see the face side when sewing, and sew a seam 1/2 inch from the edge of the seam allowance.

Press the allowance to one side.

The allowance of the front gore to the front, the the front to the side front, and the side front to the side back should be presses toward the center back. The back gore to the side back and the side back to the back should be pressed toward the center front. Here is a diagram.

Another way to think of it is piece 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and 3 to 4, seam allowance to the center back. 4 to 5 and 5 to 6 to the center front. This may sound confusing now, but when you start assembling the pieces you'll see right away why the allowance at the points of the gores must go in one direction or the other. After the allowance is pressed trim the side that lies next to the face of the fabric in half.

Fold the other side of the allowance over the trimmed side and press.

Stitch 1/16 from the fold.

The seam will look like this from the front.

And this from the back.

Ten seams, two days. You can do it!

1911 - plain and stay stitched

If you are sewing the post Edwardian pattern then you need to simply sew a plain seam and stay stitch the allowance in place. Start by placing the two pieces together, face-to-face, and sew a seam 1/2 inch from the edge of the seam allowance.

Press the allowance to one side. On the corset used to make the pattern all the seam allowances were pressed toward the center back.

Next, the seam allowance is graded to reduce bulk. Trim the seam allowance in half.

The side of the allowance that is closer to the exterior of the garment is trimmed in half again.

Then sew once more, 1/16 from the seam.

If your stay stitch is closer to 1/8 from the seam that's OK too. The finished seam will look like this from the right side.

And this from the wrong side.

The raw edges will be covered with bone casing so that's all there is to do. Not bad, right?

January 26, 2012

what keeps you motivated?

I was going to write about marking the bone placement on the pattern after alterations, but I'm tired of looking at that pattern, which means others must be tired of looking at it too. Plus, marking the placement is simple, it can wait. We've spent half the sew along preparing patterns and fitting mock-ups, and soon our corsets will start to look like real garments. Hooray! The desire to see if a finished piece will look like I imagine it will keeps me going when I'm feeling frustrated or bored with a project. Sometimes they turn out better, sometimes worse, but I never know until they're completed.

This illustration is from and advertisement printed in the June 26, 1912 edition of the Bisbee Daily Review. If I had a gown like this I'd want to knock a corset out so could wear it.

I'm curious, what pushes you? Is it the thrill of wearing of wearing a pretty ensemble to an event, or the challenge of learning something new? I'd love to hear how you keep yourself motivated!

January 25, 2012

1911 - tracing the pattern to fabric

The Year of the Dragon began a couple days ago so I'll start this post with a picture of the little iron dragon I use as a pattern weight. Happy Year of the Dragon!

I mentioned that I don't pin patterns to fabric. Pinned patterns are always bumpy near the pins and I like the fabric to lay flat. If fabric is slick or floaty I'll pin the layers together outside the pattern piece, but I use small paperweights to hold the pattern in place when tracing. We'll trace the finished corset patterns to fabric today, so break out your weights, or pins, and also a sharp pencil or chalk.

Fold the fabric is half, face to face. If you are new to sewing the face side of the fabric is the side you see when wearing a garment, it's the side with the pile on velvets and pigment on prints. Simple enough. Smooth any wrinkles or bubbles away. Place the pattern pieces on the fabric and trace them the same as was done for the mock-up, except add only 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Make sure the pieces are properly aligned with the grain of the fabric, and remember no seam allowance is added to the top and bottom edges, the back facing, or the facing edge of the front piece. Do add seam allowance to the center back this time. I shape the corners of the seam allowance to help me line up the cut pieces when sewing. I guess I could make square corners the same as on the mock-up, I don't though. Anyway, as each piece is traced double check to see that the notch marks are also transferred to the fabric. Then cut the pieces out. Keep your scissors vertical while cutting, if you hold them at an angle one layer of fabric will be slightly larger that the other. Maybe this 1/32 if an inch doesn't bother others, but, as you know, I like precision. After a piece is cut make a small clip into the allowance at the notch marks. If it is difficult to tell difference between the face and the wrong side of the fabric mark the seam allowance so you don't get confused. You may also want to write the number of the pattern piece in the same area. When a piece is cut out flip the two layers of fabric over and write the same notes on the opposite side. You can also trace the pattern on the other side so you have sewing and pinning lines.

Don't throw the fabric scraps away. They are perfect for testing thread tension, stitch length, seam technique, and grommet setting. Tomorrow I'll go over marking the bone placement on the altered patterns and Friday I'll explain seam construction. Happy tracing.

January 24, 2012

1911 - fabric prep

How has the last of the patterning been going? Are sew along participants ready to start constructing corsets? Before tracing the pattern to fabric press, press, press, your fabric.

I've probably said it before, but the secret to good sewing is ironing. Patterns trace neater when the fabric is flat, fabric stitches evenly when the pieces are are smooth, and seams lay better when they are pressed. When you start sewing it's easy to think, "what difference can it make? I'll skip that step." It makes a difference. So get those irons ready, they'll be put to use in the next few weeks.

January 23, 2012

1911 - patterning the back facing

Welcome to week four of the 1911 corset sew along! Your pattern may be a mish-mash of taped paper scraps by now, mine is. One could trace it on new paper or card stock. I rarely do this. A pattern has to be pretty battered for me to take the time to trace and cut out a copy. I'm going to add to the frazzled look of my pattern by using brown craft paper originally used to wrap art supplies. Waste not, want not.

Today we will pattern the facings for the center front and center back. I'm going to break this into two posts because there are so many pictures. You will need your pattern, paper, tape, pencil, ruler, and scissors or an exacto knife. Everyone should be working with patterns that are at least 17 inches at the center back. If you are using shorter bones near the lacing then it can be shorter, but's it's worth double checking so you can make any alterations needed before patterning the back facing. Also, make certain all the notch marks are still there. Notches can be cut or papered over during pattern alterations so if some are missing add them back in.

Lets' get started. Place the back pattern piece on a piece of paper and draw a line along the center back, a parallel line 1 1/2 inches from the center back, and one more parallel line 1 inch away.

Flip the back piece over lining the center back against the center back line you drew. Trace the top and bottom curves.

Draft one last line 1/2 inch from the center back line.

Cut the piece out leaving extra at the top and bottom edges, then fold sides back along the lines.

Flip the piece over and cut the top and bottom on the curve you traced.

Transfer the notch marks to the new pattern piece. You should end up with something like this.

Here is how everything will fit together when sewn.

The back facing will be sewn to the center back. It's the one piece we've added seam allowance to on the pattern. So seam allowance isn't added again when the pattern is traced to fabric write a note right on the pattern. We won't add any seam allowance to the front facing either so you may want to note that on that piece. I did.

Next we'll pattern the front facing and our the pattern will be complete.

1911 - patterning the front facing

We're almost finished patterning. Unlike the separate back facing piece I'll be patterning the front facing on a fold. The corset used to make the post Edwardian pattern is cut this way. The openings for the loops are slits cut in the fabric so that's what we'll be doing when the time comes. Place the front pattern piece on a piece of paper and draw a line along the center front, then draft a parallel line 1 1/2 inches from the center front.

Flip the pattern piece over with the center front still on the center front line and trace the top and bottom edges.

Lift the front pattern piece and draft a line 3/8 from the outside line. In the picture below the top line is the center front, the bottom/outside line is 1 1/2 inches from it, and the edge of the ruler is 3/8 up from the bottom/outside.

Tape the front piece on the center front line and cut out the facing. It should look like this.

Fold the facing piece over on the center front, then fold the 3/8 inch section back. Like this.

Flip everything over and trim the excess from the top and bottom edges.

Put a notch at the top of the center front. The finished piece should look similar to this.

Here is how it will work when the fabric is sewn. You can see how it's the same as the original post Edwardian.

That's it! The patterns are done! If you are still fitting your mock-up you have a few days to catch up before we cut the fabric and begin sewing. I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone's corset come together!

January 22, 2012

1911 - fitting notes

Perfectionism can cause me to get lost in a fitting quagmire. Quagmires are no fun. Fortunately this corset doesn't have to be fit over the bust and it's not intended to severely reduce the waist, so the difficulties of pattering the bust curves and dealing with displaced flesh are avoided. One nice thing about this style, and the patterns we're working with for the sew along, is that we can easily change both the top and bottom edges to suit our needs. Require a bit more hip coverage? Leave the bottom edge a bit longer. You'll be tangoing the night away? Arch the bottom front edge over the legs like the second model from the left in the image below.

You can see a variety of hip lengths in this picture is from the 1911 Sears Catalog. The shortest version ends just below the bum, others continue for another inch or two. It also shows several options for shaping the top edge. That is a good reason to keep the extra inch added when tracing the pattern to the mock-up. After the corset is sewn the edge can be marked right on the fabric. Easy peasy. When I first tried on my mock-up the area above the waist was almost straight up and down, not the gradual slope from waist to bust we see on the models in the image above. When I let out the seams above the waist I not only could I breath again, I had the slight flare at the front instead of a straight, cylindrical shape. Surprisingly, the biggest change happened when I let out the back seam. That seam falls under the shoulder blades and is where a lot of flesh spillage can occur. So if you are fitting yourself by looking in a mirror remember that what you easily see in the front can be affected by what's not so easy to see in the back.

Those of you who have mock-ups that meet in the center back, take a tiny bit out of the center of each panel, say 1/4 inch. That will add up over the width of the corset resulting in a gap at the lacing. If you have a gap, but it's small, say just an inch, then shave a small amount off the center back edge, no more than 1/2 inch. That will allow a wider gap for easier lacing.

If the corset is comfortable everywhere but pulls wide open at the opening below the busk, let out the first seam from the hips down. If you had a bit of room in front just below the hip bone that's OK. The garters will help anchor the corset down and keep a smooth line.

When making alterations it's best to make one change at a time. For example, add to the hips, see how it fits, then reduce above the waist. When you make many changes at once overcorrection can quickly occur. As long the mock-up fits and is comfortable the finished corset will do the rest of the shaping.

I'm enjoying the steady work flow that I've achieved with this corset and am glad there is a schedule to stick to so I get bogged down in fitting. I'm also looking forward to cutting into the real fabric later this week. How about you? Excited to get to work on the real thing?

January 21, 2012

fashion from 100 years ago today

Afternoon gowns in satin, velvet and crepe de chine. From The Woman's Page of the Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, January 21, 1912.

Our sew along corsets would provide a perfect foundation for any of these gowns, don't you agree?

January 20, 2012

1911 - fabric decided

We're already three weeks into the sew along! I hope everyone is enjoying it as much as I am. I'll post this weekend about dealing with some of the common fitting issues. In the meantime, I thought I'd share the fabric I'll be using for my corset. I had so much trouble deciding. I thought of dying coutil, or maybe using brocade coutil, and the stiped ticking kept pulling at me. I needed something festive. The white of the 1844 corset languishing by the sewing machine, and the beige of the 1650 bodice I'll be working on once the former is complete, are a big expanse of solid, no nonsense, pale. Then, while digging through my stash in accordance with the sewing rule, I found this.

Remember the Liberty of London's line for Target? This is a large cotton scarf from that collection. It's very thin, but I can flatline it with coutil. Maybe with red accents?

It's bold, cheerful, and I can just fit all the pattern pieces on the scarf. Is there anyone out there like me, waiting until the last minute to finalize the fabric and trim?

January 19, 2012

1911 - the center back and bottom edge

Let's start the day by looking at a picture from the article I posted a couple days ago.

"The right kind of corset allows you to sit down comfortably." I couldn't have put it any better. The fabric may skirt the thighs, and the wearer may even sit on the fabric, but the bones do not poke into the chair seat. Because the center back of the Corsets and Crinolines pattern is roughly 2 inches shorter than the post Edwardian pattern we added length to the center back. How did the added length work? If you are tall it may have worked perfectly, if you are like me it was too much. Or rather, the boning at the center back was too long but I liked the length at the hips. We can't have boning hitting seating so we'll adjust the center back length first, the rest of the extra length can be dealt with later. Today you'll need the usual drafting tools, paper, tape, pencil, ruler, hip curve, and scissors or an exato knife.

I marked the bottom of the corset just a couple fingers above the seat of a chair when I was fitting the mock-up I know where the bones must end.

The mark was about 2 inches from the bottom of the mock-up. We have 16 1/2 inch bones so I must add length at the top of the corset so I can use them. I transferred than mark to the pattern then measured up 17 inches.

This adds almost 2 inches to the top at the center back of the corset. I don't need that 2 extra inches all the way around the top, just at the lacing, so I'm going to draft a nice curve down so it meets the top edge at the side of the body. First add the 1 inch that was added when the pattern was traced to fabric, then draft any alterations that were.

See that line about 3/4 inches above the other pencil lines? Since the bones on both sides on the grommets are equal lengths you need a line straight across the lacing section. Then using the hip curve draw a nice smooth line to the next piece.

You can see I continued the curve a bit into the next piece.

I'm not terribly worried about getting this curve perfect, I can fine tune the shape before finishing the top edge. Of course it's also possible to cut the boning to the length needed, but suppose you don't have tin snips? Plus I'm using the same pre-cut lengths as many of you out there, and I want them to work for all of us. We need at least 17 inches to squeeze those bones in. If there is a bit more, fine. But there can be no less.

Other than the center back, I was happy with the length of my corset. Extra fabric beneath the boning is not an issue. I don't want it too long though, so I'm leaving an inch below the end of the boning. I just drafted a curve to the edge of the pattern piece and called it a day.

Like the top edge, I can decide on the bottom edge later. Once I pattern something and cut fabric I can't go back and add length. Better to trim fabric later. If you know without a doubt that you do not need the extra length, then you can remove it from the pattern now. I want to keep my options open.

Figuring these alterations can be the the trickiest part of making a coset. Once this step is over we can pattern the facings and then it's on to the real corset!