Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"How hard can sewing a corset really be?"

Well, in this I feel like I got lucky. The process definately had the usual ups and downs, the lulls and the rushes but not in the ways that I usually see with other projects.

When I realized that I wanted to sew my own corset (due to the inability to find a good renaissance corset without paying an arm and a leg for it) I began the search through pattern reviews, boning expenses and wading through the endless educational links that a google search of 'Renaissance Corset' pulls up for you. I stumbled upon a review for an 'Alteryears Easy Renaissance Corset' and I thought my dreams had come true! What the review didn't say was that I would wait 3 months for the corset and that this particular company had no real customer service and took weeks to even send a quick email back, not to mention the three unreturned voicemails...*grumbles* BUT! I finally recieved my easy renaissance corset kit and got right to work. The kit came with the right steel boning, coutil fabric and the pattern; the overthinker in me swore it couldn't have been that simple, but it is.

So, I cut and pinned my pattern...

And got to work sewing.

The pattern calls for the 'sandwich' method; basically you cut your two pieces of fabric and sew them together, leaving the entire middle of pattern area open for your casing (I'll show that too). It is really easy, probably my favorite method so far, I use it for everything I can!

The next part was where the actual work comes into this type of method; you have to actually measure out each casing and place them very carefully before sewing the fabric for your steel (or whatever you prefer) boning is inserted.

I took a marker and a steel ruler and, using the casing guides provided (with my own tweaks of course) actually marked where each stay would go so that I had each and every line laid out before I started sewing. I think that this made it a bit easier to eliminate any issues regarding spacing, any flaw in the straight line sewing of the tabs, etc. Then to sew the casings!

Again, I think marking ALL the casing guides before sewing a stitch was really the best way for me.

Next, is simple insertion of the boning!

I don't have a photo of this next step, but I used store bought bias tape to bind the top edge of the corset, the way this pattern is designed it leaves a gap of about a half inch for you to sew your binding onto the corset without the boning interfereing. That was probably the easiest step of the entire project (although I did stress this step before I realized the little gap trick the pattern creator pulled!)

Then to add eyelets.

Typically you will hear people talk about grommets, but grommets are really difficult to work with and, more often than not, they actually use eyelets. I have a $30 eyelet punch/setter from Joannes that works really well for this type of thing. I did not have the eyelet punch/setter at the time of this corset (-___-) so I had to cut each individual hole myself and set each eyelet with the old fashioned hammer and tool. My eyelet punch/setter is my favorite, needless to say.

So that is a (basically) finished corset!

Now, I love to know that my work is period and proper, but that is an issue when it comes to things like this. Eyelets and grommets were not used or created until the 18th century (they were invented by a doctor in the French Army for surgical purposes), any holes in a garment meant for lacing would be reinforced by threading around the button/eyelet hole. So, I covered my cheating eyelets with thread!

Personally, I like the covered eyelets. The cloth embroidery thread also makes it easier to lace into the corset, it seems like it gives the cord something to sortof grab to when you're working on getting it completely fitted and snug!

All in all, I liked the end result, the pattern itself didn't need any tweaking but I wouldn't suggest buying this particular kit from Alteryears. I can't abide the long wait with no explanation and the lack of customer interaction. Especially from a small business. The experience is my favorite part, so it was really unacceptable to me. It only took me a total of 7 1/2 hours to sew the corset (not all at once, mind you!) so I would say the description fit the product.

I would not reccomend this pattern for bustier women, it works really well for a petite figure like mine that needs to the corset more for little adjustments than for shaping the body. I do think that it is a good 'learn-to' corset though!

*Soon I will be attempting a corded corset, possibly using an altered version of this pattern. From what I have seen it was a popular method in the italian renaissance and I think it could provide much better support and shaping! 

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