When fully boning a corset pattern panel the best way to make the boning channels is to use a thin piece of non-stretch cotton or muslin fabric. Lay your corset fabric on top and pin them together before sewing the boning channels. The layer of cotton fabric provides slip in pockets or boning cases for the many side by side bones. Don’t try to use individual strips of bone casing for fully boned bodice panels as they will make the panel very bulky. You can re-sew them through both layers once you attach the lining fabric if you feel the cotton is too thin to hold up against corset
When you make a corset designed to have fully boned panels there are some very important things you should remember, here are a few pointers for you in regards to making a fully boned bodice…
>Working out how much continuous steel (if your cutting your own corset bones) or how many bones of what length to purchase can be tricky. My solution is not to order bones until you’ve sewn your corset bone channels – then take a dressmakers measuring tape and measure the channels. If your buying continuous steel then measure your first channel, hold onto the spot on the tape where the channel ends and move this to the start of the next so your measuring a continuous meter, tally up your meters as you go. If your using spiral steels don’t forget your U caps for the ends – so you’ll still need to count the number of bones and order double that number of these as you’ll need two per bone.
>You should always bone your panels before cutting them. This sounds like an odd way round, and indeed you may be wondering how one goes about boning an uncut panel. Well when I say don’t cut until they’re boned what I mean is don’t cut too close to your final panel size. Draw on your pattern lines in chalk then give an extra half inch to an inch all round when you cut them. When you sew your boning channels and slip in your corsetry boning the panel will change shape and size slightly. If your corset is intended for corset training it will be very important you get the sizing right so place your paper pattern piece back over the boned panel and now draw the lines for cutting.
When making your corset training corset you should now know from my last post that steel bones are the way to go. You’ll also know that spiral steels are a lot more flexible and bend in many more directions than sprung steels. What you might not know is that when you make a corset, visually the effect of using the two different steels can give your corset different looks.
Again it’s to do with the bendable nature of the two steels. Sprung steel bends less so will actually give you a sleeker look, holding the original cut of the corset pattern. Where as spiral will conform to your body shape more closely. For example a round tummy will be held flatter by a corset training corset with sprung steels.
There are a few types of material used to make corset bones from and as a beginner learning to make a corset for the first time, you can be forgiven for opting for the plastic option. Using steel in a garment can seem a scary and uncomfortable prospect.
Steel bones are however, the most comfortable material you can use. Steel supports the body in a way that plastic bones can’t. Plastics will bend and then become weak at those points where they have bent. They can then snap after extended wear. They’re useless for corset training because of these traits and somewhat dangerous too. A broken bone can go through the lining of a corset and pierce the skin. If you want to make a corset suitable for waist training you will have to use steels.
Corset steels come in two types –
Sprung steel – which is a solid springy strip of steel normally covered in a white plastic coating.
Spiral steel – this is made of a steel wire. Two steel wires are wound into a tight strip of spirals. Check out the picture below for the plastic, sprung steel and spiral steel types. For corset training corsets you need to use steel, so plastics are only a viable option for stage costumes, lingerie or fancy dress.
In my next post I’ll talk about the properties of sprung and spiral steels to help you pick the right one for your corset.
So earlier we talked about zip closures, but can you make a corset with any other kinds besides the traditional busk?
Well, yes, there are several methods of front closure in use on corset training corsets.
Lacing – yes I know it seems obvious but it’s often overlooked, you can lace yourself in back and front. It looks ever so stunning to see a corset with several panels of lacing, often front back and sides. This works well for a dramatic evening ensemble but is as time consuming as lacing into a front closed corset.
Swing lock clasps – these have become so popular you can now buy them along side steel bones that have been drilled with holes for them. Exotic looking yet as strong as a normal busk they’re fast to get on and off but do require riveting.
Very steampunk, these can work but normally they’re teamed with another method, eg a zip. Used over a normal busk to disguise it you can enjoy the look of a buckled bodice with all the strength of the hidden busk. Ideal for corset training where you need a strong closure.
Continuing from yesterday’s discussion on outer corset fabrics, there are a number of heavyweight materials that add that feeling of quality you just don’t get from cheap ready mades.
Brocades are a very popular choice, the heavy ones of course, not the cheaper ones you can get. You should be able to tell from handling a fabric if it is of a decent thickness.
For corset training the heavy duty twills and cottons are a good choice as they add much needed strength. Corset making coutil comes in satin finishes which is ideal but very expensive. You can often buy it by the half or quarter meter however, so you only need pay for what you plan to use.
If your looking to make a corset on the cheap but still want too quality try recycling old cushions! This is a great little tip as the thick fabrics used to upholster cushions, sofas and curtains are made to take the wear,tear and body weight of an active family using them. Scan the local thrift shops for vintage drapes, heavyweight bed sheets and scatter cushions.
Have you ever noticed those cheap corsets you see for sale online, or on girls in adverts for premium *ahem* men’s lines. They’re normally covered in a lightweight satin fabric that wrinkles and puckers around the seams.
Using cheap or light weight material on a corset is the quickest way to make the corset -look- cheap! A corset training corset is a very small and highly curved garment that has to change shape with the different positions of the body. You need an outer material that will lay flat over the thick cotton lining.
If your more experienced at making a corset and really want to use lighter weight materials I suggest getting an iron on backing fabric for them. If your going to make a corset for the first time however, your best bet is to go for something heavyweight. Upholstery fabrics are the best, they lay flatter on account of their thickness and add strength for corset training purposes.
If your learning how to make a corset and your pattern doesn’t have enough boning channels, it can seem a bit daunting to just add in extra ones but it really is that simple. A corset training corset will often benefit from a few more bones as your going to be putting enormous pressure on the garment and the bones are what gives it strength and shape.
There are a couple of ways to sew in extra boning channels and it pretty much depends on the look your going for.
If your bones run down the side of your seams then you can just mirror them with a second set of channels down the other side of the seams. This will give you double boning at each seam and can be more comfortable than a single bone which doesn’t lay as flat against the skin.
If you want to add bones for decoration then you may want to place extra ones on the outside of the corset using boning tape (this is a tube of cotton that the bones slip into, you sew two lines of stitching just over 1mm in from each edge so the bone slips down between them). You can also use ribbon or bias binding if you can’t find the right color or want a satin material for these outer casings. Black satin bias looks striking on a red satin brocade fabric for example. These channels can go next to the seams or down the middle of pattern pieces to suit your own design needs.
So we’re learning how to make a corset? Then why not have some fun with it and make yourself a corset you can’t get anywhere else?
That sounds difficult, I’m only a beginner Scarlet! Ah but I’m not talking about fancy lacework or intricate design features. You can start with a unique fabric!
If your thinking its going to be difficult or expensive to imprint your personality on your own corset then think again. If your having a corset training corset custom made it quickly becomes expensive, but when your sewing it yourself whats stopping you being more flamboyant? There really are so many beautiful fabrics out there, along with trims and iron on appliqués. When it comes to buying fabric you need so little for a corset that you can go for the expensive luxury stuff. If it doesn’t have a large and obvious pattern for you to match up then a half meter is plenty. I’ve gotten short underbusts out of a quarter meter before! This is about the only aspect of making such a small and somewhat fiddly garment that works in the seamstresses favour.
You really can pick literally anything when it comes to picking a material for the outside of your corset, I recommend you avoid Lycra’s, very thin fabrics and stretch fabrics however, as these can be difficult to sew. I love quilting fabrics myself, but they don’t sit as smoothly as brocades and luxury upholstery fabrics which are more commonly used in corsets and really are perfect for the beginner. If you do go for a light-weight material like quilting cottons, then use an iron on backing fabric for added strength and to stop the wrinkling that occurs with thinner fabrics when used for corsetry.
If your completely new to corsetry and need full instructions check out my Express Corsetry Course which includes illustrated step-by-step instructions, 10 corset patterns and a full video on how to make a corset – it costs about what you’d pay for 2-3 shop bought corset patterns!
Corset Bones – Corset bones come in three main materials which are plastic, sprung steel and spiral steel. They also come in different widths, 5mm and 7mm are most common but I have worked with 4mm and 9mm too. These are the most common sizes but I don’t doubt there are others readily available out there. The number of bones in the corset is also crucial, too few and your corset will not hold its shape and will probably rip easily. You should check your pattern for number of bones. If your making from a corset pattern that covers sizes 6 to 18 for example, and there are the same number of bones for all sizes, you may find the boning is inadequate for the size 18. You can sometimes remedy this by double boning the seams (sewing in a bone each side of the seam giving you twice the strength).
Eyelets – Your eyelets should be metal and set between two sprung steel bones, spiral doesn’t work so well as it bends in all directions. Eyelets come with or without washers (a metal disk with a hole in the middle) either are fine but a washer will make your seams less likely to pop. Spacing is also important, if they’re too far appart this places too much stress on each eyelet and the material around it. This can lead to poped eyelets. Check your pattern for eyelet spacing – I wouldn’t go further appart than an inch and a half for corset training purposes. Check also for boning channels either side of the eyelets, if they’re not present on the pattern you will need to modify it to include room for them.
Waist Tape – The presence of a waist tape on your pattern is not crucial you can add one anyway if you know how. You also don’t need to have one but it does provide support at the point on the corset that will be under most stress when your corset training with it. It also insures the waist area stays in place and does not stretch, this is aesthetically more pleasing as the corset keeps its dramatic curves and tiny waist line. Waist tape should be made of petersham ribbon, this is traditionally used as it doesn’t stretch.
Laces – You can use any non-stretch material but heavy duty laces are best, these don’t slip the way ribbon does so if your self lacing you can pull the laces tight at the top and they won’t slip before you can pull the slack through further down the corset. If you prefer to use ribbon or something else by all means do. I know hiding two or three meters of heavy-weight lacing under a tight fitting t shirt can be a real hassle! You can use the rabbit ear method of lacing and loop the rabbit ears over a door handle if you need an extra hand. I’ll explain this method of tight lacing in more detail in my next post.
Learning how to make a corset training corset is very different to learning how to make corset style lingerie or fashion wear. This is not a direct issue when looking for a corset pattern to work from, unless you plan on relying solely on the instructions that come with it to make your corset. (For a comprehensive corset making course check out my Express Corsetry Course for everything on how to make a corset for corset training purposes).
So what are the most important things to look for in the construction of a corset training corset?
Well your highest priority should be the material its made from, also the number of layers of fabric. The corset bones, width, material and the number of bones used are important too. Then there are the eyelets, waist tape and laces that all need considering. Lets look at each aspect in more detail.
Coutil – By far the best thing to make a corset from is coutil. This is a cotton fabric desgned speciafically to make corsets from. It has a herringbone weave to it and little to no stretch. You want to get 100% cotton where possible as this allows the skin to breathe but polycotton blends are available. This fabric is normally available in white and black, with nude/beige being less common but you can dye the fabric easily. Satin coutil is also available in a variety of colors and patterns but can often be three times the price and lacks the herringbone weave so is a little more prone to stretching. If you want a pretty outer fabric the most popular method is just to add a layer of ‘fashion fabric’ which can be any fabric of your choosing although stretch fabrics can be problematic. A heavy-weight or upholstery fabric is best as it lays flatter and smoother on the curves of the body and adds support to the coutil layer.
Number of Fabric Layers – Opinions on how many layers a corset training corset needs are divided. I used to believe myself that waist training corsets needed at least two layers, but I have since bought antique corsets from the Victorian era that were clearly worn on a daily basis for tight lacing, but that comprise of just a single layer of coutil. A corset should at the very least be made of one layer of strong coutil, in which case boning should be increased in my opinion, but a two layer corset with the outer layer made of a sturdy decorative material and the inner one being of coutil is fine in my opinion. Although it won’t last as long as with two coutil layers or two coutil and a third outer layer of fashion fabric. It really is down to you but make sure you use heavy duty thread and double stitch your seams to avoid seams ripping. If you don’t know how to make multiple layer corsets you’ll need to find a pattern with instructions on how to do this.
TBC in next post…
…Measuring a plus sized figure for a corset training corset may mean the usual sizing method – taking the waist size minus 4inches and picking the corset pattern size that matches – results in a corset too big at the bust and hips. instead go by the bust/hips measurements instead.
Measure the bust at the fullest part with a well fitting non-padded bra on. This measurement should also have 4inches removed to get the ideal fit. The hip measurement can be taken at either (or both) the hip bone or the fullest part of the hips (normally level with the fullest part of the bum). This will depend on the corset pattern – whether it’s an on the hips or over the hips style. The hips measurement should have 2inches removed from it.
So why 4inches off the bust and waist but only 2inches off the hips? Well 2inches should be taken off everywhere to allow a 2inch gap at the laces but the waist is being compressed further for the corseted shape so we remove another 2inches. The bust is also traditionally pushed in and upward so we also take an extra 2inches off this measurement. Thus giving us the classic corset training shape.
When learning how to make a corset, sizing is everything. If the corset pattern is drawn up too small it will be impossible to get on (or at least uncomfortably tight) if it is too big it won’t be any good for corset training.
When measuring someone for a training corset the most important measurement is the waist – obviously. The waist is not where you wear your jeans but the point at which the body dips in the most, this is just above the belly button if you are fitting someone large who does not have this natural indent at the waistline.
Now you need to take off 4inches from the waist measurement you have taken. You should pick the size on your corset pattern that has a waist size closest to this. If the wearer’s waist is very round you should size for the bust and hips but plus sized figures can be tricky to fit well and I wouldn’t recommend it for a first time corset maker.
I will go into fitting plus sized figures for corset training corsets in the next post.
Corset Pattern Piece Numbers
Another important thing to look for when choosing your corset pattern is the number of pattern pieces it has. This may not be obvious to the novice corset maker but the more pieces the better the shape and the stronger the corset.
Imagine the corset as a three-dimensional and fairly ridged shape, like the cubes and pyramids you played with in kindergarden. To follow the curves of the body closely it needs as many sides as possible. This allows for more comfort and a better fit.
As well as a better shape, more pieces also makes for a stronger garment. Corset bones are normally placed at the seams; either one bone next to the seam or two with the seam running down between them. Thus the more seams the more bones and the more bones the stronger the corset structure. A plus size corset especially should have at least 5 or 6 pieces per side (the corset pattern will normally make up just one side, when you make a corset you cut two lots of materials – flipping the pattern over in between). A corset training corset will often have 8 or more pieces per side if its custom made by a specialist maker who designs for serious tight lacers.
There are even more corset pattern shapes to choose from than lengths (on hips, over hips etc, see last few posts for more details). Below are examples of the main ones, the top line shows those commonly used for corset training, the second row are the more exotic but also more problematic corset styles that I don’t recommend for waist training, they’re included for educational purposes.
The waist cincher has been covered in the previous posts – this is the same as a ‘waspie’ or short underbust and is for active wear. The two main types you’ll have to choose between are the hour glass and the conical shape.
The hour glass corset pattern is named after – you guessed it – the hour glass, the ones filled with sand, as its wide at both the top and bottom but goes in dramatically in the middle. The important thing to note here is that this pattern allows for the ribs, you should have little or n trouble taking full lung-fulls of air while waist training in this style. The conical corset however, squashes the ribs which are forced into an upside-down cone shape that tapers down to the waist. This style will restrict lung capacity and over time corset training with a conical corset is said to change the shape of the ribs permanently. A lot of tight-lacers consider this the proper corseted body shape.
…The last type of underbust is the waist corset or corset belt. This isn’t really suitable for corset training but works well as a maintaining device if you want to sleep in something but can’t get on with a normal corset. The other option might be to get a tight girdle to sleep in.
The waist corset can be as little as 3 or 4 inches wide and runs around the waist area giving very little support to any other area on the torso. This would however be a great first corset pattern if your just starting to learn how to make a corset. I have a free corset pattern for this type on my patterns page. (Click the link along the top of the website).
… The two main types of underbust for corset training in are the ‘on the hips’ and the ‘over the hips’ styles. This refers to the bottom edge and how low it goes over the stomach area. A pattern that reaches down over the hips will give more support to the stomach and may feel more comfortable as the stress placed on the body is more evenly distributed, but it will also be more restrictive and allow less movement and bending than a corset pattern that sits on the hip bones or just above.
A ‘waspie’ corset or ‘waist cincher’ is simply an above the hips corset that sits a lot higher above the hips than a standard underbust. These are great if you lead an active life or have a job that involves a lot of bending and moving around. However, they obviously provide the least support to the torso and the concentrated pressure on the waist area makes them more likely to become uncomfortable after a few hours wear. They will often also come up lower around the bust area which again makes them great for active wear while corset training.
When searching for the right corset pattern you first need to decide on a shape, this will depend on several things including how active your going to be in your corset, your body shape, personal comfort level etc etc but as a rule of thumb an underbust of some sort is usually preferred for corset training. This is because its less movement restrictive and more appropriate for everyday wear – it can be concealed under clothes and is more suited to wearing over tops and blouses. Obviously over busts can be worn while corset training but they tend to be reserved for evening wear and special occasions.
If you are particularly tall or have a long body you’ll probably feel more comfortable tight lacing in a long line corset. This is (as you might expect from the name) just a longer corset. Finding a specific pattern for a longline corset might prove difficult so opt for an over the hips corset pattern if one can’t be found.
You need to find a pattern that suits you in shape, some people prefer over the hips, some on the hips, the active person may want a waspie (shorter corset that allows more freedom but less stomach support).
The next thing to consider is the number of pattern pieces. A better more comfortable shape is always achieved with a larger number of pieces but this will also mean more work for the seamstress or corset maker.
Custom sizing is also important to consider. If your not confident enough to custom fit to the wearers measurement you need to try to get the hips and bust measurements as close to the wearers personal measurements as possible (remembering that a corset should be roughly 2 inches smaller than the wearers natural measurements at the hips/bust). You should also take care to make sure the waist is around 4 inches smaller than that of the wearer.
Construction is all important too but this is not a direct issue when finding a corset pattern to work from unless your relying on the instructions that come with it. (For a comprehensive corset making course check out my Express Corsetry Course for everything on how to make a corset for corset training purposes).
In the next few blog posts I’ll go into corset pattern shape/style, pattern piece numbers, sizing, and construction in more detail. In the meantime if you want to try a simple corset belt pattern try my free corset pattern at the bottom of the patterns page.
This month I plan to design and make 2 unusual corset training corsets, these will be patterned up and added to the printable corset pattern range – you can check out the current patterns, one of which is a free corset pattern that you can instantly download, by clicking the corset patterns link at the top of this page).
So why unusual corsets you ask? Because one of the main benefits to making a corset yourself is that your imagination is your only limit! So to get the full benefit of corset making I’m going to design some extra special corset training corsets for you this month. Both should be finished by the end of next month.
The first you’ve seen designs for already if you’ve been reading my blog recently; the lace corset with its two layers of lace is itself going to be a single layer corset although you can use the corset pattern for a normal two layer. It will be nice and thin for wearing as underwear this summer and beautifully sensual with the black lace details over powder pink, the design and materials are pictured below. The second corset is going to be a fancy dress one for the comic convention I’m going to next month so that one will get made first. Stay tuned for full design and corset patterning!
Heres the original sketch for the Lace Corset Training Corset
This is the finalized design with scalloped edge (still debating the edge!)
And heres the 1st mock up for the corset pattern