1911 Corset Sew Along: The Pattern

Remember this?

1911 Corset Sew Along

Well, I have been working on it for the past two months, even though I’ve been a bit lax on the blogging aspect of the whole experience. 

I started with the pattern. Following Jo’s very clear and easy to follow steps, scaling up the pattern to fit my apparently considerably larger than average physique was a breeze.

I added 1 inch to every panel of the pattern  including the hip gores. Although I wasn’t extremely convinced of the need for expanding the hip gores, I was keen to follow Jo’s steps exactly to see if it was any easier/more rational than the way I have been doing it. And the verdict? Most definitely.

I have a way of eyeballing and measuring and  guessing and hand drawing enlargements on a pattern  that works for me and has so far resulted in mostly perfect patterns…but it takes a while and often includes the strangest mistakes. In future I will definitely use Jo’s method first and then deviate as I see fit. The photocopier is my friend.

I used the 1911 longline underbust (“White coutil, trimmed broderie anglaise”) pattern from Corsets & Crinolines by Norah Waugh. The pattern consists of four full length panels and two hip gores. Jo suggested that we add 2 inches at the bottom to make it more consistent with other patterns being used in the Sew Along and because a small corset like this can very easily start to look boxy if width is added without also adding a bit of length.

First attempt at the 1911 longline corset pattern.

First attempt at the pattern. 1 inch has been added to every piece and 2 inches have been added at the bottom all the way around.

After the initial pattern drafting we made a mock-up. The mock-up was initially way to big in hip area, so I took out 1 inch from every hip gore (yes, exactly as much as I put in initially!) and then the mock-up seemed to fit quite perfectly:

Mock-up of the 1911 corset.

Mock-up of the 1911 corset.

After fitting the mock-up the pattern was updated with the changes. I took out the extra inches from the hip gores and redrafted the line of piece 4. The were also some further changes that were purely aesthetic in nature, such as the higher rise on the back 3 panels.

Second attempt at the 1911 longline corset pattern.

Second attempt at the pattern.

Analysis of the second attempt at the 1911 corset pattern

Next up: the beautifully evil fabric from hell (although of course I didn’t know it at the time…)


Ribbon Corset: Take 1

So I’ve been pottering around with/obsessing endlessly over ribbon corsets for a while now. They seem simple enough, but there are funny structural things going on especially in the pattern I used from Jill Salen’s Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques. This first one I made was made on the exact assumption seen here, namely that the ribbon pieces can be laid out flat together to form a single front and a back panel. This technique works well enough, but on my second attempt (yes, there is a Take 2) it turns out that if the pattern and the overlaps are followed exactly, the panels can’t lie flat. It appears that the ribbons are supposed to curve in such a way that it is moulded around the body, rather than a flat piece that takes all its shape from the curves where the pieces come together. This would also make for a tighter cinch like the one seen in the picture in Salen’s book.  But more on that later. For now, here is my first attempt at the 1900 ribbon corset!

Purple satin ribbon corset with black lace trimmings.

The cinch from the front is not as dramatic as it can be. There is also some weirdness going on along the bottom edge where the side panels don’t form  a smooth line with the front and the back panel. This is the first sign that something is amiss with my interpretation of this pattern.

I made this corset in a hurry so had no time to order the proper materials like a split busk or even steel bones. Instead I improvised by making the corset with a closed front, and  used – wait for it – hacksaw blades to fortify the busk.

Hacksaw Blades

They were the right shape and size, exactly as bendy as spring steels and were lying round the house in great abundance…so I cleaned them and wrapped them in masking tape and voila! A corset that can saw a man in half!

Purple satin ribbon corset with black lace trimmings.

I like this picture. The curve of the back is quite dramatic and any awkward flab displacement is kept to a minimum…or else masked by my makeshift chemise/top.

Purple satin ribbon corset.

Now here is some more weirdness worth mentioning: I left the ribbons loose top to bottom, but added a lining at the back. This means that any flexibility gained by not joining the ribbons is completely destroyed by the flat and rigid lining, that has, might I add, no shape to it whatsoever. *facepalm* Not my brightest structural move.

Black lace detail on purple satin ribbon corset.

Some pretty detail.

Black lace detail on purple satin ribbon corset.

Some more detail.

All in all, I have to say that I am not very pleased. The shape is weird. The corset has no busk which makes it a pain to put on. The workmanship is shoddy at best and does not hold up to close inspection. It has pieces of hacksaw in it.

Still, I think it will look just dandy if I wear it to Madam Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams next week!

Happy 2012!

Happy 2012!

Happy new year! May this be a year of creativity and abundance for everyone!

On the corsetry front there are some very interesting things that I want to start working on. Most notably Jo from Bridges on the Body‘s nifty Sew Along:

Bridges on the Body Sew Along

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and so it is only proper that it be celebrated by constructing the 1911 long line corset!

1911 Long Line Corset worn on the Titanic. Seen here modelled by Kate Winslet.

There are some other projects simmering and half baked, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to keep up with Jo’s schedule, but I will certainly make one before the year is out. Now that is a resolution I can live with!

Corset of the Month: Ribbon Corset

Corset of the month
So…I haven’t done this is in a while. Maybe a more accurate description would be “Corset of the every once-in-a-while”, but be that as it may, here is a corset of the month. It is a corset that I have been obsessing over for quite some time, and is quite possibly the reason why there hasn’t been a corset of the month for several months. So without further ado let me introduce the Ribbon Corset!

Silk Ribbon Corset circa 1900 - 1905 from Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen

This corset appears in Jill Salen’s Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques and is constructed entirely from lengths of pink floral silk ribbon. The ribbon is approximately 5,7 cm (2,25 in) wide 5,5 to 6,5 m (6-7 yards) were used. The side panel houses whale boning and the corset features a metal split busk opening at the front. 

There is some debate as to the accuracy of its representation here: it seems like it has been designed to contort the body extremely, or alternatively, has been pinned back around the unlikely shape of this manikin. I am leaning towards the latter, as the reproductions based on the pattern of this corset doesn’t seem to resemble this picture in any way.

Diagram of Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques

Diagram of Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corsets: Historical Patterns & Techniques

The drawing accompanying the corset in Jill Salen’s book. Here it can already be seen that the actual shape of the corset may have been a bit over stylised in the main picture as here the waist is not nearly as small, nor are the sides as high ad smooth. This line drawing seems like a much more accurate representation of a corset that would have fitted a normal human being.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset fron Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

Pattern for the Ribbon Corset from Jill Salen's Corset: Historical Patterns & Techniques.

From the pattern drawings in Salen’s book it is easy to see how the corset is constructed from ribbon. Regular corsets often have a waist stay (a ribbon running along the waistline across all the panels) for support, so it makes sense to create a corset that takes all it’s strength from the waist stay concept. The ribbons of the ribbon corset run horizontally as opposed  to the panels of a corset that would normally run vertically. Ribbons are at their strongest and most stable if a power is exerted on them in this way, and this ensures that the ribbon corset is in fact quite strong and not susceptible to warping.

Corsets made from this pattern:

Jill Salen's 1900 ribbon corset by Leimomi Oakes aka The Dreamstress

Jill Salen's 1900 ribbon corset by Leimomi Oakes aka The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes who, as The Dreamstress, fascinates and educates with her wonderful and well-researched historical recreations has created this ribbon corset using the pattern depicted in Salen’s book. You can see her post on the ribbon corset here. There are some very nice pictures of her work, as well as some tips on making a faux-ribbon corset. Be sure to look at everything on this site, as the historical research and workmanship is superb!

Other ribbon corsets:

Black satin tight-lacing ribbon corset by Sidney Eileen

Black satin tight-lacing ribbon corset by Sidney Eileen

This is a tight-lacing variety of the ribbon corset created by Sidney Eileen. As can be seen on the photograph, this corset has a much more pronounced cinch in the waist area, created specifically for tight-lacing. This kind of corset can usually only be worn by tight-lacers who have trained their waists for this severe form of reduction. Many beautiful pictures of Eileen’s corset can  be seen here. She also shares a wonderfully detailed tutorial on how to make this particular corset. Well worth checking out as it covers every single thing that will have to be sewn on this corset. She also shares various other tutorials that cover both very simple techniques as well as much more advanced skills.

Now off to attempt some ribbon corsets of my own…

The Shweshwe Corset Part 6: The Stomacher

The last step of the Shweshwe corset is to add the stomacher. I decided to make the stomacher out of red taffeta to match the binding and contrast with the blue shweshwe of the corset itself. It is only half-boned (the rest of the corset is fully boned) and has four horizontal bones strategically placed to stop it from collapsing inward under the pressure when the corset is being laced.
I didn’t work from any pattern, and simply measured the opening at the front of the corset that needed to be covered. I also left some extra space to allow for the corset to be laced tighter or looser as required.

half-boned red taffeta stomacher.

half-boned red taffeta stomacher

close up of half-boned red taffeta stomacher
Now on to…  The Final Product!

The Shweshwe Corset Part 5: The Binding

After the boning it is time to finally cut the tabs and bind the corset. I was a bit scared of fraying edges, so I went over the entire edge of the corset with a fray-stop to stop it from falling apart before I could get around to binding all the edges. Cutting the tabs is, to me, almost the strangest part of making this corset, as I suddenly have to cut long gashes in a garment that I spent weeks lovingly planning and assembling. It also bothers me that nothing but a bit of binding stands between this corset (and all corsets of this kind) and fraying beyond all use and recognition. I would have been much more comfortable with some heavy-duty overlocking instead!

Blue Shweshwe corset with tabs cut.

Then it was time to bind the corset, a process I was looking forward to as it is just some very simple mindless sewing by hand and would leave me mind-time to start planning the next project. But be warned: binding by hand is not for the faint of heart. Do not try this at home. The boredom of it will surely destroy your mind. Or something equally grim. As it turns out, binding the tabs of a 18th century corset is dull and time consuming work, not to mention needle-breaking and finger-callousing. I went through 3 needles and I can’t really feel my right thumb.

Blue Shweshwe 18th century corset or pair of stays being bound with red satin bias binding.
In the beginning I was a bit confused as to what material I should use for the binding. One source swore I should use nothing but bias binding, while another source swore I can use almost anything but bias binding. This, obviously caused some confusion, yet in the end I decided to use satin bias binding, as it was easiest to find and was sufficiently stretchy to bend around all the strange corners of the edge of my corset.

Red satin bias binding on a blue Shweshwe 18th century corset or pair of stays.
It turns out there was some truth in the source that said bias binding would not be acceptable as it was too fragile to withstand the pressure and hard wear one could expect from a corset. This is especially true when it comes to satin bias binding. It snagged on all the rough edges left by the fray-stop and got quite tattered in places until I learned to keep the binding well away from the edge until I was actually binding the edge with it. Non-satin bias binding would have been perfect though. I can’t see it wearing down before the corset does. It will also be a lot harder to use twill tape or petersham ribbon as those have no sideways “stretch” in them (not being cut on the bias and all that). I don’t want to be the person to force a normal cotton tape to wiggle its way around all the corners of all the tabs.

At least I (mostly) tried to do some neat work.

Binding edge of blue Shweshwe 18th century corset or pair of stays with red satin bias binding.
Even with a bit of stretch to it, it was still hard to get the binding around all the corners, but all seems to be well that ends well.

Binding tabs of blue Shweshwe 18th century corset or pair of stays with red bias binding.

Now onto the stomacher –>