Corset competition 2019

I hadn’t really planned on the Foundations Revealed corset competition entering this year. I spent a little too much money and time last year… I didn’t think of it again until mid year when I came across a little sketch on a scrap of paper.

The idea was a corset made of crochet. It was only a seed of an idea, unlikely to be simple and less likely to work. It did seem like it could easily fit into the Architecture theme so perhaps I could give it a go and see how it ended up. The completion offered a nice excuse and I decided to challenge myself in that however it turned out I would submit it.

I have always worked in crochet and have a lot of history making complex shapes I understand a fair bit about its capabilities. The chain stitches are actually quite rigid but the double crochet stitch making the channels has a bit of stretch. If the stretchy part of the crochet was put under tension by the boning then the resulting corset should be able to give a good shape.

The pattern was one taken from an image in the Symington collection, 1890s ish. Drafted up to my measurements and then made into a toile of cheap canvas and zip ties.

The second test was in Bobbinet, another material I hadn’t used before and wanted to test out. I made a few more adjustments to the pattern after making this version.

Once the pattern was ready I could proceed with the crochet.

I did some test swatches and decided on my thread and hook. This gave me a stitch gauge which I used to make custom graph paper exactly to scale, printed from excel. I then transferred the pattern pieces onto the graph paper. With a pen and a lot of time I drew each boning channel onto the paper, 5 stitches down the length of the piece where I wanted the channels to be.  The number of stitches between these channels was the count of the chain stitches needed between.

Most rows of crochet went end to end but to create some shaping along the top and bottom edge I used short rows (turn the work over and work back before the end)

Once this was done I realised I didn’t need cumbersome paper to work off, I made another spreadsheet and simply noted the counts. I could then print off 2 copies and cross off the stitches as I did them.

I had toyed with the idea of it would be possible to work the channels in crochet but on my test swatch the coutil channels sewn on looked great and held the crochet rigid. How to get the ends closed was a problem I would wait until the crochet was done to solve.

I ended up applying the channels up one side and folded under across the top and down the other side. Leaving the bottom edge open to place the bones and close with my edge stitching foot. The texture of the crochet hid all the detail of the stitching so I could stop and start like that without any change to the outside. The busk is hidden in coutil and sewn on. The eyelets were left as small holes in the crochet but I still backed them with coutil to hold the bones and prevent too much pressure on the crochet alone.

When all was done and I finally had a chance to get the corset on a dress form I realised that the technique worked brilliantly but I had some serious fit issues with the pattern. The bottom edge is too wide so the lines of the stitching are not nice and parallel like the lines around the waist and bust.  Another toile in fabric would have been a good idea to ensure I had made enough reduction around the front bottom edge. I do wonder however if this was in fabric would the same issue be quite so obvious?

The fit problems were worse when I tried it on myself. It was overall too large and even wider around the bottom edge. My plan to submit whatever the outcome was tempered a little with vanity as I have decided to use the dress form photos for my submission. I will include some of the photos on me below as following links is mostly for friends and fellow makers not the general public.

 

When I have some time I will try again. A shorter busk and revised bottom edge along with some changed to the top edge. I like the mid bust fit through the front but perhaps don’t need to raise the back as much.

 

 

Diary of a corset

The decision to enter the Foundations revealed competition was a big one. Although I am an experienced dressmaker I am still new to corsetry. Here was an opportunity to test myself but could I really cut it against the talented makers who’s work I admired last year?

As is my usual approach to any project I had miltiple ideas swimming around at once. The strongest developed from a photo of an edwardian lady who was very helpfully posed in front of a mirror. I could see all of her corset in the one image. I was struck by the fact I could see the wings of insects already there in the panels. Being new to corsetry I am still exploring the possibilities of the materials, especially the spiral steel boning. I was surprised how flexible it was when I first started to use it. I wondered if I could bend it around lateral curves as part of my design.

The photo below shows one of my latest sketches before I started the pattern.

The pattern began its life as a mould in cling film and masking tape wrapped around my sister. This gave me an exact shape of her body and allowed me to cut the panels where I wanted to. I had in the past made a basic underbust from this pattern so I knew it worked and could be adapted for the wings corset.

The first toile I started made it clear that this idea was going to be more difficult than I had expected. I needed to work out construction methods as I went and the order they needed to be done in was not the usual order for corset construction. The second toile was easier and i used it to finalise boning placement, and the third I finally sorted out the more difficult boning channel construction. A close to final pattern is show below.

My original plan had sheer panels for the 6 pieces which would be wings and I stalled late in the process because of these. Getting the vein embroidery right and making sure the material could handle the stress were questions I didnt want to find the answer to when lacing the finished corset up.

When I joined Foundations revealed  I found not only resources for the kinds of complex corsetry not seen anywhere else but an amazing sense of community and encouragement. It reminded me that my idea was good and that finishing it is important even if it isn’t perfect. I left the sheer fabric behind and instead focused on the construction and was freed from the worry that had stopped my work.

The corset is made of a strength layer of dense herringbone canvas and an outer layer of a pink/beige fabric Ihave no idea the composition of. The wing panels have a layer of cream Chantilly lace to give them some lightness . The boning channels are made from black coutil.

I stuck with the line drawings of the wings as I had planned them for the sheer panels and applied them to the solid fabric. I drew them on kitchen paper and using a continuous line sewed the pattern on the machine in black thread. Embarrassingly I have to admit that one of the jobs I most enjoyed was tweezing the tiny shreds of paper out from between the stitches, it was so satisfying.

The corset still has been hard work but it has been invigorating and inspiring. The steps to put the corset together have been deceptively complicated. Usually bones are added late and edgings are done last but for this design I needed to complete whole sections including boning before I could join it to other sections.

The curved boning channels were cut on the bias and they were hand tacked down both edges before very careful and slow sewing. Below is the corset in construction.

I had always assumed I would floss the corset but when it came time to I wasnt sure how to apporach it. In the end Imade a sample. My concern that the flossing might clutter up an already conplex design waw unfounded. I decided on a small double cross in contrast cotton. I like to use a fine crochet thread for flossing, they are impossible to break.

When all the sewing was completed I arranged a fitting and there were some alterations that were needed. I knew the hip curve might be an issue but I had hoped to be able to pad my model instead of unpicking my corset. Unfortunately it had to be done and I reminded myself that knowing when to undo your work is perhaps one of the most important skills a creative person learns.  (amazing article on how the Edwardians created their shape with padding so it is totally a legit cheat!)

To add some more detail I made a pair of matching suspenders and added a pair of clips to the corset front. Sadly stockings proved difficult to source ( unless Iwanted black or ghastly red ). Although the lace tops look lovely they slightly offend my sense of functionality as the stay ups technically render the clips pointless.

Something this special I decided was worth the investment of a professional photographer. I used a local photographer SK Photography The location is actually where I live in regional NSW. My husband was very happy when I asked him to stop mowing for a little while. Flies are a constand plauge here and I am a little bit sorry I didnt choose the fly as my insect inspiration, my model would have been covered in them. The whole photo shoot went beautifully and I am pleased to have hired a professional for the job. The photos look amazing. I partictularly like the way the gumboots finish off the look ( summer in Australia = snakes)

By the end of it all my fingers look like ballerinas toes and I never want to change the thread colour on my sewing machine ever again. That aside, I am thrilled with the result and cant wait to hear the theme for next year.

Edwardianesque Underbust Corset

    

Not a true Edwardian corset with its short length on the body but the seams follow a classic Edwardian shape with a flat front and curve through the hip. It is made using a layer of Herringbone cotton canvas lined in calico. The bones are spiral steel which I haven’t used before. I was amazed with how flexible and strong it is so I am hoping to be able to see it perform in a wedding dress soon.

     

The pattern was drafted by wrapping my lovely fit model in cling film and duct tape. Lots of pinching let me determine where we could get the best reduction. My next version will need double the amount of eyelets down the back, edged with flat steel but on the whole I am really happy with how this turned out.

Long line underbust Corset

After years of making boned dresses I finally had an opportunity to try my hand at the more technical world of corsetry. (Secretly I was always looking for an excuse)

This corset was made with 2 pieces of plastic boning per seam. The pattern doesn’t allow for a strong cinch at the waist so steel would have been wasted. The fabric is a print by Catherine Martin, with its reference to Lyrebird tail feathers I had to have it even though I had no idea how I was going to match the print at the seams. The binding, flossing and lacing offer a little contrast but are still tonal with the main print fabric.

An enormous thank you to Meg on who these patterns are based. For all your patience from the first draft to the final posing.