1870s Corded and Quilted Corset

The latest corset I made apart of my Corseted through the Century Challenge is a lovely 1870s quilted and corded corset.

This corset caught my eye as soon as I opened ‘Stays and Corsets’ though it seamed intimidating at first but I’m happy to report I really enjoyed this process and learnt a lot along the way.
For this corset I used a light royal blue cotton drill (two layer corset), all boning channels, quilting and cording sewn in a gold thread while interior construction was sewn in a matching blue. And of course the flossing, sewn in a matching gold embroidery floss.

Below is a picture of my materials alongside the surviving historical corset my pattern is based on.
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The pattern was drafted following the books instructions, with alterations to the waist measurement as I’ve since found this book on some bodies isn’t reliable with maintaining the suggested waist size and often the waist measurement will be 3+ inches larger than it should be at no mistake of the pattern drafter. So I downsized the waist size by three sizes, I’d tried two previously which resulted in a full closure corset without reduction (too large).
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The fabric was then cut out (on the fold) with added seam allowance.
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Carbon paper was then used to transfer markings to the wrong side (lining) pattern pieces. Stitching lines (boning channels) and seam allowances. The wrong side of top gusset and hip pad pieces also had seam allowance and grain lines transferee in carbon paper. This makes inserting them easier and grading out the quilting.

I decided to sew the quilting first which now I’m looking back on it would have been better to sew the two layers together in this process rather than just the ‘top’ fabric. I used the grain to ‘set’ the direction of the quilting and then used the edge of my quilting foot as a width guide for the squares which are approximately 7mm/7mm in size. This was a full days work of sewing
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Next was sewing the gussets, I hadn’t sewn gussets into a corset before so this was a new technique for me. Because I used the two layer method for this corset I assembled each layer gusset into the corset individually so when I was finished I still had two separated layers. I don’t know if this was the correct way of assembling a corset like this however due to the cording and boning (mostly vertical) it made sense to me to keep the layers separate so that they were joined as I sewed the cording and boning in.
Everything was carefully basted before being sewn by matching with the basting removed when everything was complete.

I had originally intended to sew the gussets in with the colour matched blue but decided to go with the gold and keep up with the contrast theme. I decision I’m very happy with.
And finally the hip padding (not sure thats the right term but its what I’m going with), this took a very long time to baste in correctly and I kept having my needle catch where it wasn’t supposed to. You know when something puckers and it looks horrible but the cause is something so small? That’s what kept happening, one stitch too many!
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The busk was then inserted which joined the two layers together. I’m getting much quicker at inserting busks.
My next step was to start inserting the boning and cording working from the CF (busk) outwards. This was lengthy. I also had to be really cautious of keeping the two layers together so they mirrored without a shift. I did start with sewing a boning channel/cord on one side then doing the same on the other side but this just became a hassle so I completed one side then the other. To ensure my boning/cording lines of sewing hit the right mark on the hip pad boning line I sewed a running stitch on the top layer where it would be sewn later down the track. This just meant I could sew the lines to where they needed to be a whip the running stitch out to be sewn in properly when it made sense.
Hopefully the below picture makes more sense than I am! (The red stitches are just tacking lines to hold everything on place, its the gold running stitch we’re looking at!)
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I continued cording and sewing the boning channels until it looked something like this,
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Keeping cording straight is defiantly an art and is something I am yet to master but as a whole I’m extremely pleased with this outcome!
But of course, the other side has to be sewn too. Which went about as smoothly as you’d expect. Apart from that time I read my placement lines wrong and started cording about an inch below where it was supposed to start.img_8603.jpg
All of that was unpicked and I had to start again.
One thing I really like about vertical cording is that you can see that progress your making which I found really motiving.
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When all of the cording and boning channels were sewn it was time for eyelets and steel boning. I need up using the eyelet press at uni for this corset as I didn’t bring a hammer with me to London for term (do you blame me?). I made a big o’l error here but we’ll get to that.
For boning I used a combination of flat steel and spiral steel. The spiral steel was used for the bust and hip pad channels while the flat steel was used everywhere else.
Satin bias binding was used to bind the edges, I think it looks really elegant and the slightly darker blue is a nice contrast. For flossing I used the original corset flossing as reference. Its very simple but its position and shape works really well with the overall design.
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The first try on reviled a few things.
Lets start by ignoring my wonky busk in this picture, it does sit centrally but I attempted to move (my boobs) while I was wearing it which shifted its position.

Things I learnt making this corset

  • I now know that the cotton drill I bought for my recent four corsets has a stretch to it. It was something I didn’t really notice but now that I’ve put two and two together it really makes sense that this corset may measure 24″ at the waist when flat but 26″ at the waist when worn. Because it stretched. It hurts my soul a little bit with close to thirty hours put into this corset but its taught me the valuable lesson on properly identifying my fabrics before using them. Would it have been more beneficial to have learnt this lesson three corsets ago? Yes!
    Regardless of this utterly stupid mistake I hold my head high knowing that this is still a very good example of my skill, it is a lovely corset and 2″ of reduction is still reduction at the end of the day. Its a very comfortable corset to wear (thats probably the stretch HA) and I’d go as far as saying its the most comfortable one I’ve made.
  • Reenforcing the eyelet panel is a must and on this occasion I forgot. I did add an extra 2″ to the CB so that they could be turned inwards creating a facing/also reinforcing the eyelet channel. However, when I was finishing off the last of the cording and boning towards the CB I cut down the 2″ so I’d ‘just’ have enough to turn them to the inside. I realised pretty quickly the mistake I had made. What I should have done is open it up and sewn in a facing which would also cover the eyelet channel and reenforce it. But in my head I thought I’d be okay and that it would be alright just this once. Cue eyelets tearing on the first try on. The eyelets only tore at the waistline (luckily none tore out), I was able to ‘save’ them by binding the hell out of them and secure them. It probably didn’t help that my fabric had a stretch to it either, this will be a running joke until I’ve learn my lesson!!
  • Spiral steel should ideally be used in any curved boning channel. Initially I tried using flat steel in the over bust channels but it ‘cut’ into my bust resulting in an unflattering and unnatural shape. These steels were replaced with spiral steels and the shape was greatly improved. I wouldn’t say this was something I learnt, I did know this before hand it was more something I accepted. I’ve been really stingy when using spiral steel and I shouldn’t be. It is a brilliant material to work with.
  • Cording is cool. I really enjoyed cording this corset, although is was straightforward and repetitive it kept me thinking constantly. With my next corded corset I’d like to focus more on symmetry as I know this corset isn’t symmetrical, I think to accomplish this I’ll need to use a cording needle which I will experiment with.
  • I need more practice with inserting gussets, I’ll give the ones I did on this corset a pass but I’d like to do better next time around

Overall I’m extremely pleased with this corset. I think its beautiful and a true statement in terms of my skill growing. I’m going to continue challenging myself with each corset I make and endeavour to make the next one better than the last.

To finish up here are a few clear detail shots and a (grainy) shot showing off the waist reduction.
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This corset only gives me 2″ of waist reduction but I’m amazed at how dramatic it makes my waist look. I am hoping to get additional photos of this corset over the holidays and I will make a new post containing those pictures as well as adding them to this post when they’re available. I have an 1820’s corset to complete over the holidays and I’d love to get the base of an 1880’s corset made as well which I will be updating here.

Comments are always appreciated, thank you very much for reading.

-Nivera

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Purple Plaid Trousers Burda 6332

On my last fabric trip in London I bought some purple paid that I had been eyeing up for months, on previous trips I’d passed up buying some because I had nothing to make wit it. But all that changed when I discovered vintage patterns on eBay!
My wardrobe got a overhaul at the beginning of 2018 and I got rid of a lot of my older clothes because the colours were all very dark (not my thing anymore) and most of them no longer fit after loosing weight (two dress sizes) in 2017. So it was the perfect opportunity for new clothes and a new style!
My wardrobe since then has really taken an 80’s theme in style and after discovering eBay vintage patterns and its absolute treasure trove that style became a whole lot easier to source. Although I have got a few vintage (I know calling the 80’s vintage is weird, I’m a 90’s baby too) I though making some of my own pieces would be a fun little side challenge when I need a break from my historical dresses.

I came across Burda 6332 on eBay and instantly fell in love, I’ve wanted a pair of plaid trousers for a while and seeing just that on the front of the pack was awesome! Burda 6332.jpg

This pattern conveniently (call it fate) came in my size so I was able to make it up as suggested. I made two stylistic alterations however which were, flat felling the outer leg seams and adding extra top stitching as decoration. Unfortunately I didn’t document making these, I had made most of the trousers before I remembered to take photos and by then it was too late. I do however plan to remake these at some point, I’d love to make them in another tartan (I saw a lovely light blue tartan in the same store) and I’d also like to make a pair up in a light denim. If and when I get around to making those I’ll be sure to document everything!

Here are the finished photos
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They go wonderfully with my lilac Dr Martens. I’m really pleased with how these turned out, this is my first proper pair of trousers so I’m happy it was successful. Not to mention how obnoxiously stylish they are! I do hope I get the time to make another pair as they a really neat addition to my wardrobe and the fit its great.


I plan on using more 80’s patterns to build my wardrobe, I’ve since bought another trouser pattern and have my eye on a few more listings. Historical costume will always be the main focus of this blog but these were such fun to make and its nice to make something different every now and then.

What do you think of these trousers? Are there any particular fabrics you think that would be perfect for in this style? Let me know!
As always thank you for reading.

-Nivera

Examining an 1880’s Dress

Today I had the pleasure of examining an authentic dress from the 1880’s. I was lucky enough to have been lent this dress from my mothers friend who owns a vintage fashion shop. I was beyond excited when she pulled it out and finally had the time to examine it today.
Unfortunately there isn’t much history to the dress, there aren’t any identifying prints or names to be found on it anywhere. Aside from the label from the vintage shop identifying is as “Victorian, Silk, Skirt + Jacket c. 1880” there isn’t anything else to go on, which is a shame! I would have loved to have know who wore this dress or at least find out where it was made.
The dress itself is an olive green in colour although the colour didn’t pick up too well on my camera and reflected more of an shimmery grey/green.


Please note: I am no expert, I do one day have the hopes of becoming a dress historian/historical dress expert but at the age of 19 and only entering my second year of costume interpretation this October that is not the case.. Yet! Any comments made following in this blog post are assumptions based on my current knowledge and guess work. I would love to make a follow up post after speaking to one of my tutors and getting their opinion on these photos.
If you have anything to add to these photos/post please leave a comment!



Bodice Front

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Bodice Back

Skirt Front
Skirt front 1
Skirt Back + Gathered Detail

Skirt Back 1Skirt Back 2

Sleeves


Full Dress
Full Dress 2Full Dress 3
Inside Bodice Detail


Inside skirt detail


I want to start by saying I was amazed by just how heavy the jacket/skirt was, I wasn’t expecting it to be that heavy but as the skirt and jacket are fully lined (canvas I think) as well as the silk it does make sense for it to have some weight to it.
I think the jacket has had some alterations after they were initially made.  The jacket trim appears to have been resewn on (it looks to be original but I’m not sure), I say this because the trim is current sewn on with what looks to be a long (hand sewn) running stitch with a cream (it may have been white at some stage) thread. This stitching is quite obvious and just appears to have been done in order to tack the original trim in place. I would imagine the original with trim was starting to come off which was why this was done. Alternatively it could be the original stitching (using a contrasting colour for some reason) but I’m not too inclined to believe this as it does look quite sloppy where other original stitching is fine and precise. There also a few places on the jacket where a blue thread has been used which is out of place with the rest of the garment, this mostly appears on the pipped edges of the jacket. After doing some research into fastenings in the Victorian era I believe the hooks in the bodice are all originals as well as the two on the skirt. I was fascinated by how small the eyelets were that the hooks attached to, they’re so finely sewn and ever so small. Clearly I need to practice my hand sewn eyelets more. I adore the sleeves, the pleating thats gone into them is lovely. I like the style of having the pleating at the top half of the sleeve and then finishing with a two piece sleeve. The bottom half looks as though it would have been fitted. The front of the skirt looks as though there was stitching forming an inverted triangle (though it wouldn’t pick up on camera with the sheen), perhaps some sort of decorative panel that had been removed. This could of course just be the result of the silk being pulled but I thought it was worth mentioning. I believe the velvet sitting just below the skirt hem is a dust ruffle of sorts, it was quite firm, likely lined with canvas as well.

This was a very fascinating exercise for me and is something I want to do more frequently through museum visits to the archives. As I’m very focused on corsets at the moment I would love to see what the Victoria and Albert museum has hidden away. I recently bought the VA book on ’19th Century Fashion in Detail’ which has shown me there is much, much more behind closed doors! I really want to do more historic dress research with this coming academic year.


So what do you think of this wonderful dress? If you have anything to add please do, as said earlier these are just my assumptions!

Thank you for reading,
Nivera

1890’s Wasp Waist Corset

Following my Corseted through the century project I decided to revisit the 1890’s as I wasn’t happy with my previous attempt at this decade. History was set to repeat.


For this corset I used Mandy Barrington’s 1890 Wasp Waist corset from the book ‘Stays and Corsets’.36de54e8d56da3b58199a2cbb7521be7ae112a85r1-986-449v2_hq.jpg

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The materials I used were,
One meter of pink cotton drill
One 30cm Spoon busk
2 100m spools of poly thread
1 100m spool of topstitching thread
Embroidery floss

Pictured also is lace with ribbon insert and pink ribbon I intended to replace the red ribbon with.
Not pictured are the 4mm eyelets used.
I started by laying out my patterns onto my fabric (cotton drill) and drew out the seam allowances. I used 1.5cm on all of the interior seams and the CB and CF used 2cm seam allowances, this allowed for the fabric to be turned back to the interior of the eyelet panel and for the busk.

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The pattern pieces were then cut out.
b8b61bebe4837c590f8307f47bad1cdc3c7acf6er1-1024-768v2_hq.jpgThis fabric has a really nice diagonal texture to it which I really like for the top side of the corset so I’ve been using that rather than the untextured other side.

And then came my latest new corset adventure, cording. This is a historical technique and provides extra support along side boning although there are samples of corsets that use only cording for support.
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My book ‘Corsets’ by Jill Salen has a small tutorial for cording so I followed that with modern techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided that I’d used carbon paper for transferring information over to my wrong side fabric. But I chose to use yellow which I soon realised isn’t a great choice on top of pink.

You can just make it out if you squint!

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I didn’t think the process over all that well and decided to cord before assembling the corset, although it’s possible to do this I highly recommend assembling and then cording especially if you’re cording a larger area of a panel!!

It was a very slow process but rewarding when complete! It took me eight hours to complete both the large panels.
Boning channels were also sewn in at this stage.
I wanted to give myself a break before starting the cording over the bust and decided to prepare the busk first. This time featuring a spoon busk!! First time working with one and they’re just as easy as rectangular busks, more curvy but plain and simple.
Sewn in with a zipper foot.
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I also at this stage made the dumb mistake of using a pencil to draw guide marks for the busk which are a tiny bit visible on the completed corset! It doesn’t bother me too much is was just a bad decision especially when I have friction pens handy.

For the busk side with the eyes the fabric was marked where the eyes would poke through and then with my eyelet ouch holes were punched. Awls are best to use but I still haven’t acquired one. The eyes are 4mm at the widest part however I used a 2mm hole. The hole is then coated in fray check and left to set over night. The fray check will allow some stretch to the fabric allowing the hole to stretch over the eye and then fit snug to the stud with no loose fabric visible.

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The rest of the corset was then assembled.
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The bust cording was inserted at this stage leaving gaps for the boning channels.
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I used long tweezers to make sure it was sitting correctly and flush to the cording above. Before seams were closed off to the larger cording channels, boning was inserted into the horizontal channels as they’d not be accessible after.
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After assembling the rest of the corset and sewing in the deep so that the two layers were flush with each other the boning channels could be sewn. This was a simple process as of the markings for the channels were on the wrong side of the fabric for easy identification and sewing. Whenever a channel needed to be sewn into the deep the corset was flipped to the right side for precise lines of stitching (just in case the layer done quite like up) being a few millimetres off can ruin the look of the neat and narrow channels!
Once the channels were all sewn it was time to insert the boning, I’m using 5mm flat steel boning which I ‘cap’ to remove any chance of the steels ripping through the fabric. It also makes inserting them into tight channels much easier.
The issues that I ran into (which I did foresee happening) was that the bust channels need more movement to them than the flat steel allows for.

You can see in the below picture how the bust boning is fighting the shape of the channels.
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This was a fight I would not win…
The channels need to be the shape they are for support and silhouette, so how is this fixed?
Spiral steel.
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I’ve been lucky with my last few corsets as they were functional using just flat steel but this corset has beat me!! Unfortunately I didn’t have a supply of spiral steel (the piece you see in my photos is from a old corset and that’s the only length I have) so I needed to order some in. I decided to buy 10m (buying it in bulk rolls was out of stock) which will be more than enough for at least two more corsets. I also bought proper spiral steel caps as my capping method isn’t function for spiral steel so these caps are necessary and a new corset lace as my current one is grubby and needs replacing.

After inserting the spiral steel into the bust boning channels I could seal the bottom of the corset up preventing the boning from coming out. I also zigzagged the bottom edge to prevent any fraying. The top and bottom edge of the corset were then bound in bias tape. I got store bought bias tape this time because I was emotionally ready to sew ribbon bias onto a corset again!
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I also decided that I would floss this corset like I did my 1860’s one. This time I chose a more complicated technique for more of a challenge and it looks lovely!
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Flossing really does add to historical corsets and is something I’ll be incorporating into future corsets! After this I used my new 4mm eyelets and inserted them into the corset. Yes there a lot but that was the amount suggested in the book!

And then the corset was complete ready to be tried on!

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I am very happy with this corset and I think it shows off skills as a seamstress quite well. I’m definitely seeing a steady improvement with each corset I make and considering thats the reason I’m making so many that makes me very happy. The corset is however, too large for me. It barley takes me in by and inch (the full closure measurement is 29″ my regular waist measurement is around 29.5″) when I should have been able to get 4” off with the pattern I drafted. I did however talk to a student who studied at AUB and Mandy Barrington was her tutor, she said that the sizing issue was common in her classes with Mandy and Mandy herself wasn’t sure why some students were having issues with the waist measurement being off. They gave me some great tips for altering the corset size which I will use towards my next one from this book!
I’m excited to move onto my next corset, I think I’ll do the 1880’s next. I’ve unintentionally been drawn the the last half of the century but I am just as excited for the first half of the century. I’d like to complete this challenge of mine before the end of the year but our head tutor sent out an email about the Golden Shears Tailoring Competition which I’m very interested in entering, I’ll probably make post dedicated to that once I’m back a uni and have spoken to our tutor about it further.


Comments are always appreciated! If you’ve worked with this book let me know how it went for you.
Thanks for reading

-Nivera

Corseted Through The Century

I’ve decided to give myself the challenge of sewing one corset from each decade of the 19th century, hence the crafty title of this post. Ideally I should have announced this before I started on this project/challenge but the idea didn’t occur until after completing my 1890’s riding corset.
I’ve become quite obsessed with corsets recently, I really enjoy making them and I’m seeing great improvement with each corset I complete. I picked the 19th century for this challenge as the silhouette (affected by corsets) changes greatly over the century. What I also like is that each decade has a reasonably iconic corset style that sets it apart from every other decade making each decade different from the next. This means the corsets I’ll be creating will be visually different and keep things interesting in the construction process.

References, Sources and Patterns

I own three corsetry books that cover the 19th century.
‘Corsets and Crinolines’ Norah waugh, ‘Corsets – Historical patterns and techniques’ Jill Salen and ‘Stays and Corsets – Historical patterns translated for the modern body’ Mandy Barrington

Currently I’ve only worked from ‘Corsets and crinolines’ and ‘Stays and corsets’ but Jill Salen’s book ‘corsets’ covers the second half of the century quite well. As all three of these books are well used in the historical costume community I’ve found many blog post detailing others experience with these patterns which I’ve read to see if there are any complications or handy tricks about the patterns I can know before hand.

I won’t be making these in historical order, I’ll likely continue making them as I am now and picking the decade that inspires me the most.
Working backwards here are the completed corsets from this challenge already and those planned with patterns (or still need to be sourced). These patterns are not final, there are a few decades I’m lucky enough to have multiple choices for and decision on which pattern I use will lie with what sewing procedures I’ve already applied/want to use and if that corset will include them.

1890-1900
I’ve already completed an under bust riding corset (‘Stays and Corsets’ Mandy Barrington) from this decade however, as the fit wasn’t satisfactory I’ve decided to make another corset from this decade as well.
1890 Riding Corset
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The corset I’ve decided to “replace” the riding corset with is an 1890 wasp waist corset (‘Stays and Corsets’ Mandy Barrington).

I think the wasp waist corset is a much better representation of foundation garments in that decade rather than a ‘sporting’ corset. I’m actually in the process of drafting this corset up as I write this post making it the next most likely corset to be completed for this challenge.

1880-1890
I didn’t find as many references to 1880’s corsets in my books as I thought I would.
There was Norah Waugh’s (Corsets and Crinolines) 1880 black coutil corset which has a more traditional appearance to it. I make mention of the traditional appearance because my other pattern option is far from it.
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The only other pattern from this decade I could find in my collection is the 1885 gold exotic corset from Jill Salen (Corsets, Historical patterns and techniques). This corset is designed to allow for more movement as women begin taking a more part in working life. The corset is described as exotic by Jill as there is a subtle gold sheen to the fabrics used, enhanced by the eyelets.


I’m leaning towards the 1880’s corset from ‘Corsets and Crinolines’ as it has a more tradition appearance and I’d like for all of the corsets to be coordinated. The exotic corset does seam like a fun challenge and may be something I complete at another date.

1870-1880
I felt quite lucky to find two patterns for this decade, both corsets different from each other yet iconic. I’m happy to se both of the corsets involve chording in their construction, its something I haven’t attempted yet but am eager to try.
‘Corsets and Crinolines’ has a 1873 corset which is lightly boned but heavily corded.
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The other option from Mandy Barrington (Stays and Corsets) is a 1875 corded and quilted corset. I love the contrasting visible stitching on the original corset, I’m sure it looked more striking in it’s original condition.

Both of these corsets fit over the hips which is something I haven’t worked with yet and will be a new challenge. I’m not quite decided on which of the two corsets I prefer but I do like that the 1875 corset uses both quilting, cording and boning.

1860-1870
I’ve completed two corsets from this decade already. The first being one I completed last year (my first corset ever) from Simplicity 1139. I am very proud of this corset and it holds a very special place in my heart however, I outgrew (I’m not sure thats the right word to use in this context!) it when I lost 4-5 inches at my waist. I was overweight, healthy weightless. This corset has since been taken apart, the busk removed and recycled for my 1890 riding corset which the boning was also recycled into.
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The second corset I’ve made from this decade is also my most recent corset from my last post. I’m much happier with this one and the fit is more appropriate too! This corset uses the 1860 light French corset pattern from Norah Waugh (Corsets and Crinolines). It was also my first attempt using flossing which is something I want to incorporate into future corsets as it really does add to the historicalness of the corset.
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I’m happy with my most recent 1860s corset and it will be featured as the corset representing that decade.

1850-1860
I’m really struggling with this decade. From what I’ve read its a transitional decade from the stays of the past to more modern looking corsets seen in the 1860s. None of my three books have reference to this decade and finding anything online even after extensive searches through museum archives and other historical costume maker blogs its still difficult to pinpoint a corset pattern from this decade.
I’ve found a few useful sources so I’m going to leave them here for future reference.
1850 Lady’s Stay (L. Balis Patented September 5 1850 Source)

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This source is looking quite promising, although it doesn’t come with a pattern if you follow the link you can find more detailed descriptions and construction instructions. The image I’m using is actually from Wikipedia ‘History of Corsets’ where its referred to as a ‘girls corset’. It does appear to be an adult woman’s corset to me however which is further backed up by the first link posted. Children’s corsets were flat fronted and were for encouraging an upright posture, a strong spine and also for warmth.
The other helpful image I’ve found is also from the same Wiki, “At the Great Exhibition in 1851 Madame Roxey Ann Caplin was awarded the prize medal of “Manufacturer, Designer and Inventor” for her corsetry designs, as the only corsetmaker who get a prize by the Great Exhibition. This prize medal changed the corsetry of England.”
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Her blank stare into nothingness is scary I’m not afraid to admit that! There were a few other corsets from Madame Roxey however they weren’t what I’m after (pregnancy corsets, early child corset, petticoat suspender) so I’m just including this one. I like that this one shows different panel pieces more clearly, even though a back picture isn’t available I would feel confident in drafting it on my own after looking for more reference.
I was able to find one pattern 1853 stays from Godey’s Lady’s Book, my only issue is there little information about it on the source page. It does look reliable and correct for the period (to me) but I feel I’d be happier with more information.1853stays.jpg
1850 has defiantly been the hardest to source a pattern for and its looking although I may draft a pattern for myself instead. I may not have a pattern but I think I have enough reference material to push me in the right direction.

1840-1850
I was very lucky to find two patterns for this decade in my books. There is a small issue with one of them however which I’ll get to last.
‘Corsets and crinolines’ has a pattern for a 1844 corset to be boned on each seam. This corset is quite simple in appearance, featuring two bust gussets, a busk and the previously mentioned bones on each seam.
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The other questionable option is a 1840 Corded Taffeta Corset from Jill Salen (Corsets, historical patterns and techniques). The reason this option is considered questionable is as follows, Jill mentions that the corset has undergone some crude alterations at the front in the form of alternation buttons holes which have been fixed in place with cruder stitching indication that the alterations were made by someone other than the original maker. Jill also states that the corset represents a mixture of styles and its quite possible the corset could date back to as early as 1820. Except for the metal eyelets that date from after 1828 that could have been inserted over original hand-worked eyelets.

I do like both corsets however, I don’t feel using the second one is a true representation of this decade. Its quite possible that it was originally made twenty years earlier with alterations being made to it up until the 1840s. I want to make something that I know is period accurate for the decade and although the second corset is a unique piece I will be choosing to work with the first one from ‘Corsets and crinolines’.

1830-1840
I was only able to find one corset pattern in my books from this decade, though I am aware commercial patterns are available but I won’t be visiting those for this series (am I okay to call this a series?).
The pattern is from Jill Salen (Corsets, historical patterns and techniques) 1830-40 Rural corded corset and its buff orange. This corset has no boning and is supported by cording only. I’m going to leave this one until I’ve experimented with cording first. Its only just occurred to me that I’ll need to oder busk widths of boning for these earlier corsets, heres hoping my new bolt cutters will manage them!


1820-1830
I have two references to 1820s corsets from my books which I’m counting myself lucky for as the earlier I go to the start of the century the harder its become to find original sourced patterns.
The first is a 1820 white cotton corset from Mandy Barrinton (Stays and corsets), this corset has no boning but the two busks, supported by the cording. There is decretive stitching as well as four bust gussets.

The second is a pair of 1820s white cotton sateen stays from Norah Waugh (Corsets and crinolines). They are lightly boned with a centre busk and elaborately quilted around the waist.
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Both of these corsets are fantastic pieces and I’m really not sure which I prefer of the two. I’m not sure how well scaling up the Norah Waugh pattern will go as its fitted over much more of the body than more modern corsets, I can of course make alterations and check measurements before beginning the final pice. I think Mandy Barrington’s pattern may be more straightforward in that respect.

1810-1820
Another difficult decade, none of my books cover 1800-1820 so the first two decades became an online search. While I was sourcing for later decades I came across museum archives which rarely would yield patterns in their collections. Most of theses are from large pattern sheets that featured numerous patterns on a single sheet overlaid and outlined with different lines (usually a unique combination of dots and dashes that related to all of the patterns for on individual product) and if you were lucky within the mass of lines there might be numbers thrown in two which coordinate to different projects. Heres an example from March 1897 by Mode Illustree in Paris France
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I’m getting off topic here but I just wanted to explain that I had come across pattern sheets like this for corsets however they were too difficult to render without photoshop which I don’t have access to outside of term time and I’m not paying for it…
Back on topic! I was able to find museums with completed patterns for some corsets and I ended up with one for this decade.
This is an 1811 Corset in the collection of the Missouri Historical Society, the pattern isn’t in as good quality as some of the others I’ve complied but I’ve seen worse on my search and will count myself lucky for coming across this one!


1800-1810
Found that with the later decades the early decade corsets look quite similar with small alterations to style/shape/fit decade to decade so I was ready for something visually different with the first decade of the century. The solution? Short stays.
After some in-depth Pinterest lurking I was able to find this blog post ‘Short Stays’ Studies containing some amazing research as well as various patterns from the decade. Life saver. There are a few patterns available on the blog but the one I like the best would have to be Bernhardt’s patterns ‘F’, I think I prefer its style and shape to the others.PatronF_kleidungum1800.jpg
It will need to be rescaled but that will be easy enough to do! Thank you very much Kleidung um 1800 for sharing your work!


And that is one pattern, multiple choice or sufficient research for one corset for ever decade of the 18th century. I’m very excited for this project and I think it will be considered a huge accomplishment when I’ve completed it. Hopefully I will still be as excited for corsetry after I’ve finished and not put off the idea entirely. I haven’t given myself a deadline for this huge project as I don’t want to stress myself out over it and rather just enjoy the process but if I were able to complete this by the end of the year that would be fantastic.
I will be documenting each corset/stay here on WordPress as well as major pictorial updates on instagram!
If anyone has any 19th century corset sources I’m missing out on and would like to share that would be greatly appreciated.

Thank your for reading
-Nivera

1860’s Corset

I was still in the mood for corsetry after completing my 1890’s riding corset and as I was in need of a new 1860’s corset as I outgrew my old one (lost weight) it seamed like the best choice.
This is my first corset from Corsets and Crinolines!! I feel really proud to say I’ve made a corset from that book and it will not be the last.
I used the 1860’s light French corset pattern.
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I did a lot of reading from others who’ve made this corset before to familiarise myself with it before beginning. I did make one major alteration to the pattern and that was removing the busk. The main reason for this is that I wanted to make a flat front corset because it meant I wouldn’t have to make a corset cover to protect the top fabric layers from the split busk. Me lazy? No. I also didn’t want to order a busk and have to wait for it to arrive. I wasn’t feeling a busk for this corset.

I scaled the pattern up to have a two inch reduction, I think I’ve got the hang of scaling patterns up now which opens so many more books for me.

After scaling my patterns I laid them out over my fabric following the grain lines. I’m using a different fabric for my corset this time, cotton drill. It’s cheaper than coutil but has similar properties. Although it does fray a little bit overlocking or zigzagging fixes that easy. I’m also using a different boning channel technique this time round, this time I’m boning between two layers of fabric which meant my fabric was folded twice to compensate for the extra layer needed.
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The seam allowances were then drawn onto the fabric (not included in the pattern) which were 1.5cm. I read now that 2cm is recommended for corset seams which is something I’ll be applying to future projects.
Because I adapted the pattern so that it removed the split busk and replaced it with a single busk the area would be reinforced with thicker steel bones (7mm) than the bones used everywhere else (5mm).

The patterns were then cut out.
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I then began the tedious process of transferring boning channels with carbon paper, pinning the lining fabric with the carbon markings together and then pinning the top layer pattern pieces together.

This got very confusing at times! As the pattern looked very similar un marked!

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All of the panels were then sewn together and I was left with watch would be my top layer and lining layer of the corset.
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The two layers then needed to be joined together, I used a hand basting stitch and ‘sewd in the deep’ joining the layers together wrong sides together stitching in between the seams.
This basting stitch ensures that the layers are sitting flush with each other mirroring perfectly. This is crucial when sewing the channels.
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Next the boning channels were sewn using the carbon markings on the lining/wrong ‘right’ layer. The 7mm busk bones were sewn with 1cm channels while the 5mm bones in every other channel were sewn with 7mm channels. Some of these channels were next to seams so to create the line of stitching for the channel on the seam I sewd in the deep from the top layer of fabric to ensure the best accuracy so the top stitching would be hidden in the seam.
After the boning channels were sewn I sewd the stopper along the bottom edge preventing the bones from poking out. At this time I also zigzagged the sides and bottom edges to prevent any further fraying.
54b5ebf0e22cf40e710a7c9a4e948b41277800d7r1-969-556v2_hq.jpgNext the boning was cut and inserted into the channels, which was made much easier with the new pair of bolt cutters!!! Previously I’d just been using wire cutters but I kept blunting them and my mum wasn’t too happy with that!
The bones were also cheaply capped before being sewn in. I did this with masking tape, this just blunts the edges and stops the sharp corners of the steels from tearing out with wear. I am yet to use proper steel boning caps for a corset. I’ve also heard that nail polish works quite well so I may try that with my next corset.

The top stopper was then sewn in, sealing the bones in place.
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I was then able to do a test fit, this would mean I could see what the waist reduction was like and if I needed to take the bust in (I have a small chest so I run into this issue with corsets often!)
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I found that the corset only offered 1” reduction in my waist, which was disappointing. So I decided it needed to be taken in. The bust area was surprisingly okay so no alterations were needed there.
The next time I scale a corset I’ll scale it down to the waist reduction size I want minus 3cm and see if that gets better results.
I took the corset in by 3cm at the CF. This meant taking it apart… luckily it was rather easy and the alteration was quite straight forward. I removed the two bones acting as a busk as well as 0.5 to each side of them. I added a lot onto this pattern to begin with so removing it didn’t cause any issues.
After the alteration was made I re sewd the boning channels in as well as the top and bottom stoppers that had to be removed. The CF isn’t quite symmetrical as it was previously but it’s not as noticeable as I thought it would be.

I had originally intended to make bias tape for this corset because I again decided to be lazy and Oh Boy did it backfire. I decide it would be easier to bind the edge with satin ribbon as I had a coordinating colour in my collection. Machine sewing didn’t work as the ribbon was thinner than that it really should have been for it’s intended purpose and the machine stitched created bulk. So of course I had to slip stitch it into place.
And once it was slip stitch into place on the from it had too be whip stitched into place on the wrong side.
All of which took me a considerably longer amount of time that it would have to make bias tape and sew that on.

I was very happy to have the binding finished, at first I though the satin looked a little tacky and ‘costumy’ but I remembered that this is a Victorian corset from the 1860’s, the Victorians owned OTT.
What are you thoughts?

For this project I had promised myself I would give flossing a go as it looks very pretty and ads so much to the historical factor. I picked out a flossing technique (the most basic stitch I could find) and got to work.
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And I’ve got to say, despite being a simple stitch it really does look very nice!!!
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*The two above photos were taken in bad lighting and don’t reflect the true colour of the fabric*

I’m definitely going to try out something more complex with my next corset. I’ve seen some amazing feathered flossing that look stunning in a contrasting colour.
With the flossing done, so was the corset!!5c26870e2c151a3e66a2def056206ab11455de8fr1-539-734v2_hq.jpgf7ce8ee7ad4d449cb5e77f05274ba8ace527348er1-750-1334v2_hq.jpg
I unfortunately forgot to save photos of the back of the corset and I’m not putting it on again just for that! I can say that I am able to achieve a full closure which I’m pretty happy with. However, I’m going to be using and binding metal eyelets for my next corset. Although my hand sewn eyelets are very pretty I don’t think they could take the tension of me cinching any smaller so I’ll need that reinforcement.

I’d really like to make a corset with cording or one that’s quilted next so I’m looking into those at the moment! Right now its a three way tie between 1880’s, 1870’s and 1840’s.


This corset takes me in by two inches and even though the reduction is small it has a great affect of my silhouette. 27″ is what I was aiming for with this corset and I’m pleased to have constructed a corset capable of that however with my next corset I want to achieve greater reduction. ‘Good’ corsets should be able to cinch you in by 3-4″ and thats something I’d like to do with my next one.
I shouldn’t have to say this but I’m in no way suddenly fascinated with achieving a small Victorian waist. My corsetry will remain safe and I’d never push myself to a health concern, I don’t wear my corsets long enough to do this anyway! My corsets are still only being worn for historical costumes and I won’t be making them apart of my daily wear any time soon. The main reason I want to make a corset capable of cinching me in smaller is because I see it as a showcase of the corsetry skill and its something I really enjoy and want to become better at.

So what are the thoughts on my latest corset? And what do you think I should make next, 80’s, 70’s or 40’s?

I’m back working on my 1860’s ballgown again and am hoping to have it completed by the end of next month, so long as my lace appliqué and sequins order comes speedily.
Updates coming soon.


As always thank you for reading
-Nivera

1890’s Riding Corset

My latest project which I completed in just two days! I recently got the book ‘Stays & Corsets’ by Mandy Barrington and decided to test out the patterning process from is with one of the simpler corsets from the book.

The corset pattern is dated to the 1890’s and is based on an existing surviving garment from the era.

This was a simple corset to put together, I had originally intended to make a lining so that the channels would be concealed (as seen in the original) but decided against it *was lazy* and went with good old twill tape channels instead.

Drafting/Construction

The first thing I did was draft a basic block with alterations to make it corset friendly.
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I then drafted the pattern according to the books instructions.

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And then cut the pattern pieces out.

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The patterns were then pinned to my cotton coutil following grain and a seam allowance of 1cm was added to internal seams while 2cm was added to CF and CB to allow for a busk and eyelet facing.

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When the patterns were cut out I transferred boning channel lines over with carbon paper for ease of identification.

The patterns were sewn together with the 1cm seam allowances and twill tape were pinned over the boning channel indicators.

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This was then sewn down.

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Facings were then made up for the CF and CB.
The CF facing was sewn to allow for the loop side and the hook side.
The CB facing was sewn to bulk up the eyelet area (prevents tearing) and to allow for a concealed boning channel opposite the twill channel with the eyelets running down the centre of the two.

The busk was then sewn in (this busk is from my first corset which is why some paint is missing from it with wear and tear).

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Bias tape was sewn onto the right side of the corset at both edges. And was then slip stitched into place on the wrong side.

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13 eyelets were marked evenly either side of the CB down the eyelet channel.

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Each eyelet was punched and hand sewn.
I’ve hand sewn well over 100 eyelets for costumes now and have managed hone the skill down to roughly 10 minutes each, which I quite proud of considering it took me twice as long when I first started!

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And with the eyelets finished so was the corset!

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Here’s a picture of the original surviving corset the pattern is from.

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Issues/improvements

Overall I’m quite pleased with the construction, my issues come from the fit.

As far as I’m aware I followed the books instructions to the T, at no point was I confused, it was a very simple process for me. Both drafting the pattern and constructing the corset itself. However, the corset only takes my waist in by half and inch where according to the pattern it should be taking me in by 3 inches.

My other issue with the fit is the bottom of CF, it doesn’t sit flush to me and there’s and abundance of extra fabric there which is visible in photos. It should be tight and it’s not, there’s so much extra fabric that it’s so loose the bottom hook of the busk keeps coming undone. It is however an easy fix, I can alter the bottom edge with a dart and bring the extra fabric in.

I think where I went wrong was in the block draft so I will be drafting a new block for future corsets from this book and see if that resolves the issues. 

Final thoughts

It’s a good corset but it’s too big for me and doesn’t give the reduction I’m after. I plan on making a wasp waist corset from the same book and will be drafting a new block for it.

Overall I made this corset to try out the book and it’s drafting methods. Which even with the result I got I do quite like. And it’s given me a good insight into flat patterning corsets on a block.


 

Has anyone else drafted this corset or used this book? Are there any secrets I’m not wear of?
Feedback is always welcome!

Thanks for reading,
-Nivera

 

1890’s Waistcoat

IMG_7090I started my waistcoat by drafting the basic waistcoat block, this didn’t have any stylistic features as I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take my waistcoat at this stage. I found the drafting process reasonably easy but the tutors were giving different methods of directions which did cause a little bit of confusion but I managed to keep my waistcoat drafting consistent.

 

 

 

 

IMG_7091The next day after doing some research into the type of waistcoat I wanted to make (I looked into 18th and the second half of the 19th century waistcoats and settled on a waistcoat from 1890), I really liked its style and general shape. I began drafting and attempting to replicate its features on my waistcoat block resulting in my first waistcoat draft. I ended up taking my draft in on wednesday and saw my tutor who helped me refine the draft. I showed her the image of the waistcoat I wanted to replicate and she brought up that the waistcoat looked very similar to a waistcoat featured in “Men’s Garments 1830-1900, A guide to pattern cutting and tailoring” by R. I. Davis. Hester found a copy of the book for me and sure enough the waistcoats were strikingly similar. I then scanned and printed all of the pages in relation to that waistcoat, both for research and and reference. I didn’t trace the pattern from the book at all however I did use it as a point of reference for pocket placement and their sizes.

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I found that pockets move around and change shape a lot throughout history and I wanted my waistcoat to be an accurate representation of the era. My tutor also showed me to draw my waistcoat lines as a curve as they shape over the body much better than straight lines. I then altered all of my lines (apart from CB and CB) to be ever so slightly curved. I retraced my grainlines as they were now off due to the alterations, drew my pockets in, shaped the neckline and drew in the collar. I also traced my chest and waistline incase they were needed again later on. With those alterations made I had a new final draft pattern.

I then traced the patterns off of my master copy making a seperate pattern for my collar. Hester instructed not to cut them out on the line but to instead leave a small outline around the edge so I could then sew into the paper when sewing my tailors tacks and tear the paper off at the end leaving my tracks behind.

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IMG_7108In the next lesson I started on my tailors tacks, I found using a back stitch worked best for me and I was able to get through my tacks quite quickly. I colour coded each individual piece on the waistcoat making identification easier later on. I found it easy sewing though the paper and I felt that it would yield more accurate markings than attempting to chalk everything and then tack the markings through.

IMG_7109When I had finished it came to the tear off, in my mind this was going to go smoothly but was a little more difficult than I had imagined. I ended up having to hold the wool down and carefully tear the paper off bit by bit rather than being able to tear the whole thing off in one go. This left my pattern a ripped mess, it wasn’t my master so I wasn’t too worried but I still laughed at how awful it looked.
I think this was down to the paper thickness, if I were to do this again I would try transfering my pattern to tissue paper, then tailor tack through and pull the tissue paper off. I think I would have more success with the lighter tissue paper.
IMG_7115I was really impressed with how well the tacks transferred onto the wool, there were a few gaps where the tacks had pulled through but the wool was still easily identifiable. I then mounted the wool to the canvas after giving the canvas a press. The two fabrics were then held together with a long running stitch which I circled around the waistcoat three times. At this point I found my waistcoat getting quite dusty (the black seams to be an impossible magnet for dust) so whenever I stored my waistcoat I attempted to weight paper on top of it to keep the dust off of it.

IMG_7141Next came sewing the welt pockets, I found this process really interesting although it was quite lengthy yet methodical. I started with making the welt and taking my lines in to make identification easier when sewing everything together. I left a chunk of fabric and the top and bottom of the welt (past the seam allowance), I don’t remember why I did this but I even up cutting it off before the next step.

IMG_7144The welt was sewn onto the waistcoat and the welt was sewn up creating a rectangle. The pocket opening was then slashed (making sure not to catch any of the wrong fabrics in the process), I found pinning absolutely everything away from where the opening should be before cutting into the fabric worked best as it took the anxiety of cutting into the wrong fabrics away. The welt is then bagged out and everything is flipped through to the wrong side.

 

 

IMG_7177My tutor suggested to tack down the welt at this point to stop it from shifting. I then gave everything a firm press.
Then the pocket bag is sewn in, we had the option of using our (chosen) lining fabric or using the black fabric provided in our packs. I decided to use the black fabric provided as I wanted to keep my lining fabric for the back piece only.

 

 

 

 

I realised quickly that you had to be quite accurate with your sewing as to not catch the top fabric when sewing the bags in. I marked out each bag, making sure to leave a gap as the bottom of the lower pockets so they wouldn’t fall lower than the bottom hem of the waistcoat. And for the top pocket I made sure it didn’t fall low enough that it came into contact with the pocket below it.

I marked in chalk the size of the pocket bags before sewing them. I was very careful not to cut the pocket bags until I had inspected them just in case the fabric shifted or they were too small.

I’m very pleased with how my pockets have tuned out. All three of them sit flat against the canvas and I haven’t found any issues with them.
After the pocket bags were sewn I stitched the sides of the welts down so they would sit flush with the waistcoat. I hand stitched from the wrong side of the fabric so that there would be no visible stitching.

This was the result of my welt pockets.

Next two sew were the collars. I cut my lining and wool out and sewd them right sides together. I then trimmed down the seam allowance and ironed open the seams as best I could. I found suing a tailors ham worked quite well in some areas but the wool was very resisten and needed to be heavily steamed before it was doing what I wanted it to. The collars were then flipped right sides out and pressed. When pressing the collars I made sure to roll the wool over slightly which concealed the lining from the front. Again the woll was a pain to press during this process, the hardest areas were the sharp corners but a lot of steam got me there in the end.

IMG_7216Here my tutor suggested that I place the collar onto my waistcoat and tack the lining to the outside stitchline on the waistcoat. This would help keep the collar in place. After sewing these tacking lines I sewd the collar lining onto the wool of the waistcoat (keeping close the the outline of the collar) which would hold the collar down and prevent the collar from flipping up while being worn

 

 

 

Next the facing and lining were sewn on, I matched the facing up with the stitching lines so that it sat exactly where it should. I was also keeping in mind to make sure the collar wasn’t being moved when pinning/sewing.
The lining was also sewn on by matching the stitching lines together however, the lining was only sewn on around the armhole as the rest would be hand stitch in.

IMG_7217The back pieces were sewn together and this was my first real encounter with how slippery my lining fabric was. I ended up using a lot of pins to prevent the fabrics from moving away from each other.

 

 

 

Next I cut down the seam allowance for the arm opening on the front of the waistcoat, the curves were also clipped to add ease to the fabric when flipping it out.
This was then pressed into place.

The facing was then pinned down into place where I herringbone stitched it to the canvas.

The lining was then turned over and pinned over top of the facing and waistcoat bottom edge making sure to cover everything so no canvas or gaps were visible. I stitched this down using a small whip stitch in a black thread which blended quite well with the wool and purple lining.


I cut my waistcoat jiggers out using the pattern available in class. Due to my lining fabric being so light when ironing them out the wiggles a little bit but I don’t think this will be noticeable on the waistcoat onced the jiggers are threaded through the buckle.
IMG_7235After the jiggers were prepared I continued with the waistcoat back pieces. This included sewing the two back pieces (back and lining) together at the bottom edge  while leaving a 6 inch gap where the waistcoat would be bagged out later on. The armholes were also sewn together at this point.

The waistcoat fronts were then put in between the two layers of the back pieces, lining up the waist coat sides together. At this point I also put the jiggers into these seams so they sat on the waistline back.

Once I had sewn the side seams I pinned and sewd the shoulder seams into place.
The waistcoat was then bagged out and flipped to the right side where I checked it over for any imperfections/tucks. Luckily I didn’t find anything.
I finished off the bottom of the waistcoat by closing the 6 inch gap used to bag the waistcoat out. I pinned the opening closed and used a slip stitch to close it off.

I decided to use covered buttons for my waistcoat so I could match them to my lining fabric. My tutor showed me how to use the covered button machine (press?), we decided that because my lining was so thin it would need an extra layer. I first tried doubling the lining fabrics together but they were still too flimsy. My tutor suggested that I interface the back of the lining and then cut out the covers. This was much more successful and I soon got the hang of using the press. I really like the results and I will definitely be using covered buttons for future projects.

Finally came the button holes, because my waistcoat is based on a 1890’s piece the only historically accurate buttonhole is the keyhole buttonhole. I did practice hand sewing the keyhole buttonhole but I’m far from perfect! I’m not happy enough with my samples to feel confident enough sewing them into my waistcoat. However, my tutor in the last tech skills mentioned that there’s a ‘Buttonhole Man’ who will sew keyhole buttonholes into garments for you. She showed me examples from the 3rd years who had brought their garments to him and I was very impressed. And I have decided that will be my buttonhole option.
In preparation for bringing my waistcoat to the button man I marked the button and buttonhole placement on my waistcoat in chalk. I also tacked the centre front line in white. I also took out the rest of the tacking lines on the waistcoat which was very satisfying!!

When I got to the buttonhole man’s shop I was told that the markings should be on the wrong side (the facing) of the fabric so I quickly remarked them. I was lucky enough that they didn’t have a lot of work that day and the button holes were done while I was waiting which took about five minutes.
When I got my waistcoat home I hand stitched my covered buttons on. I also made sure I got rid of all of my tailors tacking using tweezers for any strands that were wedged between stitches. Anything I couldn’t remove I snipped off as close to the wool as possible and jiggled the wool around until it disappeared from the surface.
And my waistcoat was finished!
I’m very pleased with this project and have learnt a lot of new skills from it which I will definitely be implementing into future projects. It’s encouraged me a lot with working with more formal garments and I’d love to make a ladies late victorian walking suit using these skills

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If you made it this far, well done. I lost motivation for blogging the last few months and a lot of the projects I was working on (in my opinion) weren’t inspired enough to earn solo blog posts so I simply never wrote about them. In the next week or so I will do a round up of everything I’ve covered in my first year of university but forewarning, I struggled. Not with the workload or anything academic just the fact that the first year was a mixed bag or interpretation (my chosen specialism) and design (something I’m not so interested in). This dragged me a lot and a think for a little while I got a bit depressed caught up on the idea that the first year was a wasted opportunity for me to specialise straight away, this played on my mine more so because I’m having to pay international fees (unjustly by the way I’m a British citizen thank you /you can read more about that in a earlier post I believe/) which is expensive to say the least.
I am greatly enjoying Wimbledon College of Arts however and I’m still very pleased to be studying here. I had a meeting with the course director today and the second year in terms of interpretation is much more appealing and I’m excited for it!
Summer holidays is just about here, as I move out of London on Wednesday and I’ll be free to start and continue projects that got put on the back burner. And I will be posting again, it may not be as frequent as my weekly posts of the past but they’ll be more regular than the huge breaks I been taking recently.

 

Also if you’re on Instagram check me out, I post there a lot more. See my story for work in progress costumes and the like. I’m @NiverasWings as always!

Thank you for reading and thank you for putting up with the long breaks!
-Nivera

 

*I’m posting this late so apologies for any spelling/grammatical errors, I’ll edit in the morning

Customising a Dress Form

I current live in London nine months of the year and sew for all twelve months. When I moved to London I decided not to bring my Singer dress form with me because I knew when I went home for visits brining it with me would be an issue (that and it wouldn’t fit in the car on the drive up to London). I decided on buying a cheap non adjustable dress form off Amazon instead which I would keep in London and have my adjustable form for at home. As im sure many of you know non adjustable dresss forms are a pain as they’re never quite your exact measurements. I shopped around a little bit and eventually decided on a Size 8/10 Dress Form with the intention of padding it up. I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past year (still losing weight now) and I currently sit between a size 10 and 12 so the 8/10 size seamed perfect to pad up and eventually take away from (the padding) in order to best suit my size.

Here is the process on how I went about doing just that!

 

Materials you’ll need,

•Dress form (size smaller SUGGESTED) Ideally the dress form should have a cover too.

•1 meter of thin quilt batting, I found 1m was enough for me but depending on how much you have to add you may need more. Alternatively you could use thinker batting but I found the thinner batting easier to work with as you could create more gradual shapes.

•Dressmaker pins (these are the metal ones without colourful tips on the end)

•plastic wrap (optional)

•Fabric scissors

•Felt tip pen

•Silicon bust filler (optional, you can just use an old bra)

•Your measurements! Please write them down somewhere so they’re easy to access while padding.

 

Tutorial Time

I started with the bust area and then worked my way down to the waist and hips.

Because the bust needed filling the most I bought a silicone bust filler to help keep the shape correct (you can also use an old bra!). First I traced the general shape of the bust filler onto quilt batting,
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Through trial and error and lots of re pinning every five seconds I found that I needed two layers of batting under the bust filler as well as two layers of the batting continuing around my back in order to meet my bust circumference.
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It’s really important to keep checking your measurements as your going.

I then set about patterning the area under the bust, this took some refining… Thankfully the thinner quilt batting does have some stretch to it which makes it so much easier to manipulate over curves.
9d2f56e70b874131bfb026aa62abe8e9b9e53315v2_hqI was actually quite surprised by how easy things were going! I used my measuring tape to ensure things would be symmetrical. Most of my pattern pieces consisted of front bust, back bust, front waist, back waist etc…
304ec8006d0ea97a4e0c991347e13f589663b8c4v2_hqI was really lucky and found that doubling the quilt batting for all of my patterns resulted in my measurements.

The back looked like this,

3fb4d0c628326e48e094624257c28aeccd860520v2_hqMake sure that you match where the batting should meet perfectly! Otherwise little gaps can appear and the dress form won’t be as smooth.

I continued with the hips which I decided to make into two large sections (following my previous pattern work) rather than splitting it up. There wasn’t as much shape to curve around and the batting wrapped around perfectly!
8c46c377cd23f29a6212b7a69d7894d32414599fv2_hqNext I patterned above the bust on the front and back.

The bust front was a bit more of an awkward shape and I do recommend using lots of pins to keep the batting in place and to ensure it lays flat!
7a5afb300814ba92734c5ab9e15b5d20c4d5386fv2_hqYou can see I used a lot of pins here!!!

At this point you are kind of done although if you want to you can cover the quilt batting in plastic wrap. This will help ‘set’ the batting and hold it in place as well as keep pins from moving too much.
4b785cfe0258ebb186767df866842d87d928e1e9v2_hqI do recommend getting a friend or family member to help with this so you can apply the wrap as tight as possible.

That step is optional!! If you want to throw the cover back on straight away you can do that too!

Speaking of covers, this is what mine looked like when complete!

The sharpie is visible on the quilt batting through the cover, this could be fixed by trimming away these fibers before putting the cover on. In all honesty I wasn’t bothered by it and it won’t be something I change until I alter the dress form again. Maybe I’ll dye my cover lilac, that would be cute…

So what do you think! Is it something you’d look into knowing dress forms can be altered cheaply? I literally spent £1 on the quilt batting for this project, everything else I had in my room. It’s certainly something to look into! Do tell me if you use this tutorial or find it useful!


Spring break is a week away for me now and I’ve finished all of my work for the term so I’m looking forward to a stressless week ahead!
I’m really happy my dress form is accurate to my measurements now and its made me a lot more motivated for making things again! I’m hoping to take a huge step forward with my ballgown over the spring break but we’ll see how that goes with my work shifts again. I do want to get the new petticoat made and I plan to make a new corset when I’m back in London for my third term.
I keep you all update that’s for sure!

Thanks for reading,

-Nivera

Stays Construction, Let’s make Butterick B4254

Continuing with my 18th century foundation garments lets take a look at the stays I made. As this was only my second ‘corset’ I decided to stick with a pattern again, although I ran into no issues scaling up the pocket hoops from Corsets and Crinolines I thought a corset with many different boning channels would be more of a challenge, a challenge I will take on at another date.

I ended up completing this project over a weekend (under forty eight hours) which I’m pretty pleased with! I did intend for this to be more of a spread out project but I just really got into the sewing and was happy to power though the whole weekend for it’s completion.

I used Butterik’s B4254 which is apart of the ‘Making History’ collection. I realised this pattern isn’t 100% historically accurate but I just wanted to used it as a starting point and ease myself into the procedures used and the period itself.
b4254

I used version A (circled) which just has a back opening rather than front and back. I choose this for two reasons, the first being I wanted to create that stylistic ‘shelf’ look where the bust is pushed upwards resulting in cleavage and you get a very defined shape of the bust and then immediately flattening down into the waist. Also I thought that having a flat uninterrupted front would mean that when garments are worn over top they would sit flat and not bulge or pucker where View B has an opening, I’m not sure if this would happen or not but at the time I considered it as a contributing factor to choosing View A instead. The second reason being I didn’t want to hand sew that many eyelets! I’m very particular when it comes to historical dress, I like my eyelets hand sewn and colour coordinated. View A has 20 eyelets total where as view B has 40 total, I think my decision based on eyelets is pretty justified!

Construction

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The stays are made up of four pattern pieces the centre front, side, centre back and the shoulder strap. I decided to cut the pattern out in a size 10 although I measured to be a size 12. My reason for doing this was that when I made my 1860’s corset (Simplicity 1139) I used a size 12 and found that the corset was too large and wouldn’t cinch me in as much as I had hoped for, it was a bit of a risk but I had high hopes that it would turn out okay!

 

I had just enough cotton coutil left over from my previous corset to squeeze the patterns pieces onto. Thankfully I was able to get each pattern piece to follow the indicated grain line. I have kept the left overs just incase, this coutil is on the more expensive side so I try and get the most out of it!

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Next I marked the boning channels unfortunately I didn’t have any carbon paper or a tracing wheel at the time and as I wanted to keep this as a weekend project I elected to use the pin prick method instead… This was time consuming. It took me around three hours to do but now I always have carbon paper on hand and won’t make that mistake again! The channels were marked with a heat removal ‘friction pen’, I love these pens so much I’ve never had any issued with them not removing/staining my fabrics.

I then cut the lining out and this is where I went a little wrong, I decided to use a poplin fabric as lining. Yeah I know bad decision. A (100%) cotton would have been a better choice as the poplin is too thin and fragile. So far I’ve only had two boning channels suffer breakouts, luckily they aren’t in positions of friction so I’m not stabbed while wearing the stays. I might re-line the stays before binding the edges but I’ll talk about that later.
I cut two CF lining pieces out, that was unintentional (didn’t read the instructions) I did not double the lining up.
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Next I sewed all the seams up on both the top fabric and the lining. You can really see just how light weight my chosen lining material is here too. I look back and cringe!
The lining is then basted the lining to the top fabric.
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And now for the main event, sewing the boning channels. I would like to thank the Butterick gods for including a guide which indicated the correct order to sew the channels. This is so extremely important as the boning is inserted as you sew because with each channel sewn you would often close off the openings to another channel. The only time I actually found this tedious was when I sewed the horizontal bones at the top of CF, my boning kept trying to twist while I was sewing which was a pain but manageable. I used synthetic whalebone as boning which was left over from my 1500’s ensemble.  It took me seven hours to sew the channels inserting the boning as I went. I spent a total of 13 hours on the stays on the Saturday.
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Then on the Sunday I spent all day hand sewing the eyelets. I am aware I’m missing an eyelet on either side in the above picture, when ironing the piece earlier in the construction process I removed my eyelet marks! As soon as I realised this I remarked the placements and punched the holes and sewd over them. I don’t have a more recent picture I’m afraid!
To remove the remaining pen from the stays I set my iron to steam and ironed over the stays, making sure to move the iron quickly as to not heat the plastic boning up. The pen may want to stick to the areas you sewn directly over it but with a firm press it will disappear!


And thats the stays finished! (To a functional state)

I still need to bind the edges of my stays and I’ll be using chamois leather to do this, thank you Hannah from FabricnFiction for recommending that to me! I did originally attempt to do it with cotton bias binding but it did not go to plan, unfortunately since then University work has picked up and I haven’t gotten around to finishing them off. And that was in late October last year, I do have a week off coming up soon so I’ll try and get them done then and update my blog appropriately.  I may also make a new lining to sit over top of the old one and sew it in when I hand stitch the chamois leather binding into the stays.

Here are some worn photos anyway along with my pocket hoops and chemise.

4CGXqXqz.jpg-largeI79J1MHw.jpg-largekJbj9x8K.jpg-largev8KtASru.jpg-large

 

Also bonus picture/appreciation for the reduction these stays give,MO5L2vat.jpg-large

Look at my waist in comparison to my hips!!! I was quite surprised to find they take three inches off my waist which I wasn’t expecting from a commercial pattern. I can get very close to a full closure lacing on my own with about and inch gap at the very bottom but from two thirds of the way up the stays make a full closure. I am fairly certain I could get a full closure with someone helping me into them which will likely be my mum when I go home for Spring break!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I’m pretty happy with the outcome of these stays and I’m sure they’ll look better once the edges are bound. I’ve familiarised myself a lot more with my corsetry books and the ones available at my university library so I want to make it a personal challenge for myself to stop using commercial (corset) patterns and instead use patterns from Norah Waugh’s books etc. I feel as though I’ve improved a lot at sewing the past year and my understanding of pattern manipulation has grown at lot too and using commercial patterns is just a security blanket for me now when I could be further challenging myself and extending my skill set and I want to move away from that comfort zone. I would like to complete another corset this year so I could compare it to the various ones I made last year.

And thats it!
Thank you for reading and I’m sorry for my radio silence, hand in for my current unit is Monday so I can catch up on older scheduled posts then!

-Nivera