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Sewing Beyond The Basics
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A Custom Child’s Apron

February 29, 2012 By: Kris Category: Projects

My 7-year-old nephew can be a little hard to shop for: my sister and her partner are very consciously trying to keep the “stuff” quotient in his life as low as they can as well as wanting to avoid a lot of the more commercialized products. So we give him handmade toys, clothing, books, the occasional DVD – that sort of thing.  In 2010 for Christmas I gave him some tickets to a professional soccer (aka football) game, which he loved. I went a little less Wow! factor this past Christmas and made him a custom apron because he loves to help in the kitchen.

I took some measurements in November and quizzed my sister-in-law about his current favorite color. The answer was “plaid” – hah!  And the hunt was on for blue plaid fabric of an appropriate weight and fiber. I wound up getting something at Fashion Fabric Club that wasn’t perfect but worked: all I could find was a cotton/Lycra stretch poplin, but the plaid was perfect. Since I had to counteract the stretch, I made sure to use a stable cotton (a very nice sateen) in a coordinating blue to line the apron.

I sorted through my collection of patterns and didn’t find anything that was exactly what I wanted, but they were useful for deciding on some of the dimensions and proportions while drafting my own design. I went with a basic chef’s style with a big pocket in the same solid blue as the lining.  Since the plaid was pretty busy by itself, I kept trims to a minimum – just a bias strip of the plaid across the pocket.

The neck strap and waist ties were also from the solid blue fabric.  The kid is growing like a weed but is very skinny, so I was more worried about it becoming too short long before he outgrew it otherwise. My solution was to make the neck loop adjustable with a pair of D rings rather than having neck straps to tie: I think the end result is neater looking, and the small spark of silver hardware adds a little visual interest.

So in drafting the pattern, I used a combination of my nephew’s actual measurements, the proportions of the apron from McCall’s 2233, and sizing of the child’s apron from the 2 Hour Apron from Sew Simple Patterns. My main concern was getting the proper curve around the arm and right proportions between the bib area and the overall length. I used a combination of my ruler, the grid on my layout board, and freehand drafting.

Drafting Apron Pattern

The two commercial patterns I used to guide my personal design (on tissue paper).

I only drafted the top third or so: I simply extended the pattern down to the appropriate length while cutting out the pattern. The woven plaid pattern made it particularly easy to take this approach, particularly combined with my trusty rotary cutter and quilting ruler. I based the lining on the main piece, the pocket was a simple rectangle, and the straps/ties were long strips.

Apron pieces cut out

Apron pieces cut out and in test layout.

Apron pieces cut out

Closeup of the pieces.

Apron pieces cut out

Pieces with waist straps.

The waist tie straps were made to a finished width of about 1/2″, so I started with a strip of the blue fabric 2″ wide cut on the straight-of-grain. One short end was turned under about 1/4″ and pressed. I then folded them in half and pressed, then folded the long edges in toward the center and pressed again. I finished by top stitching around the long edges and the finished short edge. I pinned the unfinished short edge on the raw edge and basted with final stitching done when the lining was added.

The neck strap was made the same way but to a 1″ finished width (fabric strip cut to 4″ wide). The D loops were attached with a short loop. I placed the loop and neck strap so they would be right at the edge when lined. I’ve seen a lot of aprons where the neck strap is inset an inch or two from the side seam, and I just don’t like the look.

The next step was adding the lining. I used the basic method of stitching the main piece and the lining right sides together, leaving an opening along the bottom edge. After trimming, clipping, and turning – making good use of my bamboo point presser – I pressed everything carefully, pulling the straps to help square up everything. Edge stitching – with white thread up top and blue in the bobbin – closed the opening and gave a neat finish.

The pocket loop I forgot to add

The pocket loop I forgot to add! But a nice look at the plaid fabric.

My trusty rotary cutter and quilting ruler

My trusty rotary cutter and quilting ruler.

The pocket was the last item. I decided to stitch it on through both layers to improve stability. I hemmed the top edge, folded under the remaining three, and stitched on the contrasting bias strip (finished width about 1″). I intended to add a loop on one side for holding a wooden spoon, but forget to insert it! I attached the pocket with edge stitching and a second row of top stitching, then divided it with a vertical line of stitching into a two sections (1/3 and 2/3 of total width).

A final press, and I was done!

Finished custom child's apron

The finished apron.

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How to Make a Corset – Inserting the Bones and Finishing

February 01, 2012 By: Kris Category: Projects

Boning Channels

From what I’ve read, more boning is generally considered more comfortable than less. I guess it sort of makes sense as the stress is spread more evenly around and along the garment. But the larger you are, definitely the more boning you will need!

The instructions for the pattern I was using gave these guidelines:

  • No more than 3″ between the bones at either the top or bottom edge.
  • No more than 1.5″ between the bones at the waist, and they can nearly touch.
  • If there’s room in the back section, it’s a good idea to put in a second boning channel 3/4″ away from the one at the center back edge. The grommets are put in between the two channels.

A straightforward way to add additional boning is to put one in the middle of each panel to to divide each panel in thirds with two additional channels. Use your judgment and follow the contours of each panel in marking for any additional channels. I used my little slider ruler (the kind with the sliding red marker) to mark the the additional channels, which should be 3/8″ wide. After measuring everything, I decided to put them in like this:

  • One in each center front section parallel to the seam between pieces 1 and 2 about about 3/8″ away.
  • One down the center of each section for 3 through 5. I left #2 as-is.
  • The recommended second channel in the back section (#6).

I was keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t run out of the matching thread, but I managed to get them all done before that happened! In the video below I talk a little bit about the boning – although I keep mixing up my terms! The white boning is spring steel, the gray is spiral steel.

 

Grommets

I used the recommended size #00 grommets – in a really pretty antiqued gold finish – using a total of 26 (13 on each side). You really do need to use the good 2-part grommets so they can stand up to the stress of lacing without falling apart or damaging the lacing itself.

Your instructions will give you spacing instructions, but the ones I used seem like a good guideline. I centered them between the two boning channel at the center back seam. Insert 3/8″ away from the center back channel if there’s only one in that section.

Start 1″ from the top raw edge. Insert the remaining grommets 1″ apart with the bottom one at least 1″ from the raw edge. The instructions didn’t really indicate where to measure for the distance between the grommets, so I decided to measure from center to center of each grommet.

There’s all sorts of gadgets out there for inserting grommets. I used a little kit with a hole punch and setting tool, hammering with my rubber mallet. In part, I’m sure, because of how many layers I used, the hole punch started to give out toward the end, so I’m going to invest in a higher quality one soon. The setting die worked very well, and so the grommets went in pretty smoothly for the most part.

Insert Boning

Your boning needs to be long enough that it won’t slide around too much once the edges are bound but not so long that it makes it tough to add that binding. I used precut boning, so I couldn’t get it exact in every case, but if you buy your boning in bulk, you can get pretty precise. Ideally, each length of boning should be 1″ shorter than its channel.

Trim any loose threads from the top and bottom raw edges to neaten. Baste along the top edge about 1/2″ from the raw edge. Bind the top edge with bias binding. I used a contrasting black cotton sateen. I like the look even though I underestimated the width of the bias strip I would need so I couldn’t turn under the edge on the inside of the corset for a fully finished look (not a huge deal with bias as it doesn’t really fray, just my being persnickety).

Put spring steel in the channels in the back section (by the grommets). This is the white, flat, straight kind that doesn’t bend side-to-side. You need the stability to support the lacing.

Use whatever seems appropriate in the rest of the channels. Spiral steel, which is much more flexible than spring steel, is pretty common and works well in the curvy Victorian corset. I used it in all the other boning channels and am pleased with the results.

It took me a few tries to get the hang of inserting the boning. I found it was more difficult at the seams because of the extra bulk and also because of the loose threads inside the channel that sometimes got caught on the spiral boning. Have patience and work it through carefully.

Finishing

Trim any loose threads along the bottom raw edge. Carefully baste along the bottom edge and bind.

Put in the lacing. I think everybody has a preferred method. I basically drew the lacing up through the grommets, working top to bottom, then going underneath to the next grommet. To facilitate self-lacing, I left long loops at the waist (“ears”) before finishing the rest of the grommets and tying a permanent square knot at the bottom.

Here’s a quick look at the finished product:

I’ve actually found the most challenging part of wearing the corset is getting the hang of closing the front busk. With the ear loops, lacing is actually quite easy: the corset lacing slides very smoothly through the grommets, and I’ve been amazed at how much I can draw it in (of course, the more you have to squish, the more you can reduce). It takes a little getting used to moving and sitting while laced, but it wasn’t too bad, and I wore it without any significant discomfort for almost 8 hours at my sister’s wedding and reception.

I found that the top edge did not hug my bustline the way I wanted, so I used a technique common in period corsets and put a drawstring through the bias binding that ties at the center front (I tuck the bow into my cleavage). It gives a little bit of puckering, but I think it’s a reasonable solution.

Overall I’m quite happy with this first corset project and am looking forward to my next one!

Completed Corset

My outfit for my sister's wedding

Related Posts:

Introduction to Making a Corset

Pattern and Supplies

Sizing and Fabric Layout

Inserting the Busk

Stitching the Seams

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How to Make a Corset – Stitching the Seams

February 01, 2012 By: Kris Category: Projects

Since I’d never made a corset before, I just sort of assumed it was put together the same way a standard piece of lined clothing is, with each layer constructed separately and then stitched together only at the out seams. Well, I discovered that is not at all how a corset is stitched together! Of course, I realized too late that I forgot to take pictures (I’ll make sure I do so with my next corset project), so I’ll do the best I can just with text.

Update: I’ve taken some video of a new corset I’m working on that’s included below.  Hope it gives a better picture of how this seam type goes together!

You’ll be working from the center front of each half toward the center back. So far the busk has been inserted at the center front edges, which are now finished.

You will be stitching the pieces together and enclosing the seams at the same time as you work your way toward the back of the corset. I will refer to the sections as 1 through 6 with piece 1 being the center front and counting back to piece 6 at the center back.

Take the fashion and lining layers of piece 2 and pin to piece 1, matching raw edges and notches. Since I made this corset with 4 layers of fabric, I had 8 layers in this seam. Stitch through all layers. Clip the curves and press the seam, pulling the piece 2 sections toward the back. The seam should be fully enclosed.

Align the raw edges of all piece 2′s and baste. Do NOT stitch across the top or bottom: you will need access to insert the boning.

Using all piece 3′s, repeat the above steps. Continue until you have stitched together all 6 sections, enclosing all seams as you go. This technique results in a remarkably sturdy and stable garment, I discovered, and creating the boning channels (later) will further strengthen the construction.

The center back edge is still unfinished.  Turn under each edge the amount indicated by your instructions (1/2″ in my case). Press and pin carefully, then stitch the seam 1/16″ from the edge to finish.

At the minimum there will be a boning channel at each seam plus at the center back. How many more you might add depends on your size and your personal preferences. The pattern I used gave recommendations for spacing that I will discuss in my next post.

Working from the fashion fabric side, topstitch along each seamline on the back edge (the side toward the back of the corset) about 1/16″ away through all layers. Be consistent from seam to seam. Then stitch again 3/8″ away, assuming you’re using 1/4″ boning. I did discover that when stitching the boning channels along the seamlines I should have put the second line of stitching slightly more than 3/8″ away:  the fabric in the seamline takes up so much space in the channel that it was a challenge to insert the boning.

Finish this initial set of boning channels at the center back by stitching 3/8″ away from the initial line of stitching.

It’s helpful to slightly stretch the fabric as you stitch to avoid bubbles and keep the layers smooth. I used matching thread, but you could certainly jazz up your corset by using contrasting thread to stitch the boning channels.

There will now be 6 boning channels on each side of the corset. I’ll discuss in the next post how to figure out if you need more.

Related Posts:

Introduction to Making a Corset

Pattern and Supplies

Sizing and Fabric Layout

Inserting the Busk

Inserting the Bones and Finishing

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How to Make a Corset – Inserting the Busk

December 30, 2011 By: Kris Category: Projects

The busk is the closure at center front and also provides support. This style of busk is made of steel and comes in two pieces. One side has metal loops, and the other one has corresponding metal studs.

White spring steel corset busk.

White spring steel corset busk.

 

Based on the pattern measurements, I used a 13″ long busk with 7 fasteners. I had always wondered exactly how a busk was inserted to allow the metal loops to stick out!  The pattern instructions were very clear, and it went together quite easily.

You do need to keep track of the top, bottom, and rights sides of the busk pieces. Since I knew the marks wouldn’t show through the fabric, I simply used a Sharpie to write directly on the metal pieces.

Loop Side Of Busk

Start by pinning together the layers of the front center piece, right sides together (i.e., as they’ll be stitched).  Then place the loop side of the busk on the wrong side of the outer layer with the loop tips along the raw edge. Since I was basically creating a shell of fashion and lining fabric around my structural layers, what you’re looking at in this photo is (top to bottom layer)

  • Cotton duck (structural)
  • Silk dupioni (fashion)
  • Cotton muslin (lining)
  • Cotton duck (structural)

Center the busk vertically, keeping it free of the top and bottom seam lines.

Marking for loop side of busk

Mark along the seam line between each metal loop on the wrong side of the fabric.

 

Mark along the seam line – right up against the edge of the busk – between the loops. I found it helpful to make the extra little horizontal marks you see at the end of each line to make the starting and stopping points more clear.

Markings for Busk

Fabric marked for inserting busk.

 

Starting at the top edge, stitch along the marked lines to the first break point and back stitch. Break your stitching, then start at the next marked point, back stitching at the start and end of each section. Repeat the entire length of the center front seam.

First seam for busk

Center front seam stitched for busk.

 

Press the seam. Slip the loops from the inside through the slots in the center front seam, snugging it tightly against the seam. Bring the fabric together, wrong sides touching, and pin carefully to keep the layers from shifting.

Using a zipper foot, stitch along the inner edge of the busk from the fashion fabric side, as close as you can get without breaking your needle (I did that a couple of times during this project, so have a supply on hand). And the first half of the busk is installed!

I inserted mine so the loops are on the right side of the front opening of the corset.

Sliding in the busk

Sliding the busk into the center seam slots.

Completed half of busk

The loop half of the busk permanently installed.

 

Knob Side Of Busk

Pin and stitch together the rest of the center front pieces. Press the seam. Working on the wrong side – just as when marking for the loop piece – line up the completed half so the center front is along the seam line on the piece in-progress and all other raw edges match. Use a pencil to mark through the busk loops for hole placement.

Marking for second half of busk

Marking for the second, knob half of the busk.

Use an awl – ideally with a piece of scrap wood between it and your table – to work holes through the outer layers that are just big enough to slip the busk knobs through. You should be putting holes only in the outer layer(s): they shouldn’t show from the inside of the corset.

Work carefully, one at a time. As you can see in the video below, I had a few problems with pulling on the silk fabric, but I was able to work them out eventually by smoothing and stretching.

Once all the knobs are inserted, pin the layers together and stitch along the busk edge from the fashion fabric side just as you did with the first half. And you’re done inserting a corset busk!

Next up: Putting the rest of those pieces together.

Related Posts:

Introduction to Making a Corset

Pattern and Supplies

Sizing and Fabric Layout

Stitching the Seams

Inserting the Bones and Finishing

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How to Make a Corset – Sizing and Fabric Layout

December 30, 2011 By: Kris Category: Projects

Once I had my supplies all gathered and decided on the right sizes to use – I used different ones for bust, waist, and hip – it was time to carefully trace the pattern pieces.  I pulled out a good straight edge (my quilting ruler), a roll of tracing paper, and my favorite mechanical pencil.

Pattern Tracing Supplies

Pattern Tracing Supplies

And here’s the end result! Six custom-sized pattern pieces.

I made a fitting muslin to ensure I was on the right track.  I made a few tweaks to the bustline fit and then started cutting out all those pieces from my lining, interlining, and fashion fabric.  Four layers, six panels per side. Forty-eight nearly indistinguishable pieces later…

Fabric All Cut Out

Fabric All Cut Out

I was even more obsessive than usual about having the fabric on proper grain. With all the stresses placed on a corset during wear, I suspect that anything cut off-grain would become really exaggerated and possibly even compromise the integrity of the structure. I can tell that I will indulge very soon in some proper corset coutil. The cotton duck I used is fine and doesn’t seem inclined to stretch or fail, but I definitely want to try to good stuff!

Here’s what I used:

  • Lining (innermost layer): white cotton muslin. Source: Joann Fabrics (I buy it in bulk when I get a 50% off coupon)
  • Interlining (structural layers): 7 oz. cotton duck. Source: Fabric.com
  • Fashion fabric (outermost layer): dark green silk dupioni. Source: my stash, but originally Fabric.com

I made sure to keep all the pieces stacked in proper order. Conveniently, they were numbered one through six from center front to center back. I used a dot system to mark each piece (e.g., one dot for piece one) and also placed another dot at the top edge to make sure I kept top from bottom correct.

My hands were a bit tired by the time I finished, so I didn’t start actual construction until the next day :-)

Related Posts:

Introduction to Making a Corset

Pattern and Supplies

Inserting the Busk

Stitching the Seams

Inserting the Bones and Finishing

Tags:

How to Make a Corset – Pattern and Supplies

December 30, 2011 By: Kris Category: Projects

The Corset Pattern

So, of course, the first thing to do for my corset project was choose the pattern and gather my supplies. Since this would be my first corset, I chose to use a commercial pattern instead of trying to draft my own.  I’ll definitely make some changes to the design if I use this pattern again, but this is what I started with, Truly Victorian’s TV110 1880′s Late Victorian Corset:

Truly Victorian TV110 Corset Pattern

Truly Victorian TV110 Pattern

This pattern is not for the beginner.  While the construction itself isn’t terribly complicated, there’s definitely some assumptions about the sewer’s ability to critically evaluate the corset structure. No sizes are listed for the boning and busk, and only a suggested number of bones is provided.  It’s up to you to measure the pattern, decide on your sizing, and estimate how many bones will work best for you based on the guidelines in the instructions. Not difficult, but it takes planning and organization.

Sizing

Choosing the right size is also interesting, particularly for a first corset. The measurements listed on the envelope are “as laced”: for your waist, in particular, you need to subtract 2″-4″ from your unlaced waist size. And the greater your body’s squishability factor, the more you subtract from your waist measurement when fitting a corset. I’m a pretty big girl – with plenty to squish – so I subtracted 4″ when choosing my corset size. You must also account for your cup size, but I wound up going down slightly more than a full cup size from my bra (I took an extra 1/8″ or so off the pattern). Based on my experience mucking about with some Regency style short stays, using my bra size would not give me the result I wanted. You will definitely have to test it out for yourself to see what works best on your body.

Measurement Chart

Measurement Chart

I spent quite a while measuring the actual pattern pieces and doing all sorts of calculations to decide what size and quantity bones to order. The pattern is easy to work with, at least, as it comes printed on high quality paper. No fragile tissue paper here!

Master Corset Pattern

Master Corset Pattern

Supplies

After all that measuring, I was ready to order my supplies! I got most of them from Delicious LLC aka Corsetmaking.com. It probably seems odd that I ordered from them instead of going to the store since I’m just outside Philadelphia, but by the time I would pay for transport – either gas/parking or the train – I would have spent the same amount as shipping. And their service is fast.  Anyway, I went with the 14″ standard busk, 1/4″ white steel bone for the center back (used to support the lacing grommets), and a range of sizes in the 1/4″ spiral steel boning. Add some pretty antique gold grommets, a grommet setting kit, and a black corset lace, and I was good to go.

Corset Supplies

Corset Supplies

The structural fabric – 7 ounce cotton duck – came from Fabric.com. Everything else I used was from my stash of fabric and supplies.

I took a few videos of the process as well as the photos.  Here’s the first talking about using the pattern:

Related Posts:

Introduction to Making a Corset

Sizing and Fabric Layout

Inserting the Busk

Stitching the Seams

Inserting the Bones and Finishing

 

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How to Make a Corset – An Introduction

December 30, 2011 By: Kris Category: Admin, Projects

I have a long list already of post topics for the coming months – once I started brainstorming, the ideas just kept flowing.  So follow along for some fun stuff !

I will be starting with a series of posts on the making of my first corset.  I plan to include some video clips and am still editing those.

As some background, I’ve been wanting to build a corset for some time now, and a final push in that direction came about because my sister recently got married and had a burlesque-themed wedding.  She asked guests to dress in something consistent with the theme, so I came up with a fairly basic outfit of a green silk corset over a simple shift with long black skirt, top hat, black opera length gloves, and a pair of really cool black pumps (can I say how much I love Zappos?).

I was really pleased with the final look, but, of course, first I had to make that corset.  I put it together over the course of weekend – Friday night through Sunday night – and encountered few problems.  I used a late Victorian corset pattern from Truly Victorian – purchased at Reconstructing History – and used spiral and spring steel boning.  I also got a decent quality grommet setter to make things a bit easier (like all my specialty supplies, purchased from CorsetMaking.com, a Philadelphia-based company).  The dark green silk dupioni I pulled from my fabric stash.

I’ll talk in more detail in the coming posts about the process, including materials and supplies, as well as changes I would make to the pattern in the future.

Related Posts:

Pattern and Supplies

Sizing and Fabric Layout

Inserting the Busk

Stitching the Seams

Inserting the Bones and Finishing

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