Sunday, 14 October 2012

UFO Corner - the purple corset

I don't tend to have a big UnFinished Objects pile. Sadly this isn't down to super efficiency on my part, just that I'm more of a USO* girl. There are lengths of fabric and piles of patterns stacked up in my workroom, waiting to be used. Some of the fabrics and patterns even go together! Once I do start something though, I usually tend to finish it reasonably quickly.

Projects just waiting to be started!

There are always exceptions however. This corset was started on a day course a couple of years ago. Unfortunately most of us on the course didn't get anywhere close to finishing our corsets. Even more unfortunately, immediately afterwards Mr Tulip and I were going on holiday, so I didn't carry on with the project straight away. Occasionally I'd take a peek in the box where the bits were stored and consider trying to finish the thing, but the longer I left it, the scarier it looked.

I came across the box again recently, and having made the 1911 corset earlier in the year, suddenly it didn't look quite so scary. Then I realised that next month it will be a whole three years since I did the course, so I decided to get the corset finished before its third anniversary.

So what was I starting from?

We used the Laughing Moon Dore corset pattern, and before the course the tutor had cut out the pattern pieces for us, based on measurements we had sent her. She provided coutil, bones etc, and all we had to provide was fabric of our choice for the outer layer. Knowing nothing about corset construction, I chose a purple satin, not realising quite what a bad choice this was for a beginner.

On the day we cut out the coutil and fabric, tacked the fabric pieces to the coutil, cut out and attached the front facing, inserted the busk, sewed the pieces together, did the first fitting and made any necessary alterations. Actually that's not bad for one day, but a long way off a completed corset.

I didn't think to take any pictures before I started work again, but this was taken after I'd finished the seams and put in a couple of the boning channels.

More or less what I came home with, three years ago

The only instructions I had were a few scribbled notes on finishing the seams. These were to be covered with bone casing tape, although now I'm not sure why this was used, as there were only enough bones provided for the boning channels marked on the pattern, not for boning the seams as well. Once I'd completed the seams, I noticed that the thread I had used to sew around the busk three years ago was very different purple from what I had just sewn with, so I had to take out the busk stitching and redo it. Cue first lot of heavy sighs.

The boning channels gave me my first inkling that satin had been a Very Bad Idea. I wanted them on the inside of the corset, but if I worked with the coutil and tape uppermost, the sewing machine feed dogs marked the satin. Instead I had to tack on the casings, sew with the satin side uppermost, and hope that I didn't miss the edge of the tape. Sadly I did miss it, quite a lot. Cue second lot of heavy sighs, lots of unpicking and a few rude words.

Then I discovered that I didn't have enough casing tape to do all the casings. I had to unpick the tape from the longest seam, over the bust, and replace it with ordinary seam binding. This took several attempts to get right, and when I finally managed it I discovered that on one side I had managed to catch the waist stay into the stitching, at completely the wrong angle. Third lot of heavy sighs, more unpicking and some very rude words indeed.

All this unpicking left a few marks on the satin, and the rows of stitching for the casings and to finish the seams provided more evidence of why satin had been a poor choice. What had previously been a smooth and glossy top layer was now very wrinkled, and the shine of the fabric really emphasises any lumps and bumps.

Smooth without boning channels, wrinkly with them

Adding the back facing made me realise that flat lining the coutil to the fashion fabric had been another Very Bad Idea as it made no allowance for turn of cloth, so the coutil is now slightly bunched up on the inside. I had however finally got something resembling a corset.

On the way to a finished corset

There is one plus point to all of this frustration. When I made the 1911 corset, cutting the holes for the grommets took ages because I simply didn't apply enough pressure. When it comes to hitting this one very hard with a hammer, I don't think I need worry about holding back!

Grommet holes marked, pass me the hammer!

* - UnStarted Objects, in case you hadn't guessed

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