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 –>