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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