Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Making an Elizabethan Corset Muslin

As much as I admire corsets, I just don't know if I'm going to enjoy making them. I mean, it's a lot of hard work. A simple corset takes around 40 hours for a professional. And the materials! Boy they are expensive. The proper material (a tightly woven herringbone twill) averages around $30 per meter plus shipping. Then the pattern, bones, the busks, the laces, the eyelets....

Given my limited financial resources, I figured it would be a good idea to make a muslin or sample garment first before I invest in the real thing.

There is a free pattern for an Elizabethan Corset here. Because it's more affordable, and to quite frank, it looks far more comfortable, I decided to use Hemp Cord for my corset bones. I bought some muslin fabric from my local fabric shop. It's cotton and a very similar weight to quilting cotton. As for the eyelets, I think I'll try sewing them by hand. I still have to make a wooden busk for the front but I can make that out of a spare bit of oak flooring. It ends up being less than $10 to make a sample corset to see if I enjoy the process.

And I do enjoy the process!

It only took me 2 hours for drafting the pattern, 10 hours for machine sewing and threading the bones including my sample piece.

See? Awesome sample piece for practising techniques.

I bent a bit of Bonsai wire to thread the cord through the channels. This wire is very soft so I could quickly and easily smooth the cut edge with a bit of sandpaper.

So there you have it. I've done all the machine sewing. My antique Singer sewing machine had no trouble sewing through the hemp cord. It didn't even notice it was there.

Now I have about 20 hours of hand sewing left to do. Ug!

Thing is, I'm not entirely confident that this is the right shape. I didn't make it as long in the front as the Elizabethan Corset. Quite honestly, I think this looks more like a squashed bat than something I could wear. But even if it doesn't fit, I have had the opportunity to learn the skills I need to make a better one next time.

And believe me, there will be a next time.

A couple of notes and observations:

The fabric I used is quite stretchy. Not as much stretch as quilting cotton, but still, I don't think it will be up for the task of being a corset. Who knows, I might be wrong. But the goal was just to learn the techniques and find out if this pattern works.

Also, even though the antique Singer sewing machine had no trouble sewing through hemp cord (it didn't even notice) the needle quickly became blunt. Also, I used my second best fabric scissors on the hem cord. They really need sharpening now. The moral of the story: coarse hemp cord (this had lots of tow in it) makes things dull.

And I didn't hand sew the bias tape down like is recommended. I think it would make a much nicer effect and more comfortable corset if I had. But I'm eager to get this muslin finished so I stitched in the ditch instead.

And, sorry about the picture quality on some of these. The lighting is just not good at 11 at night.

1 comment:

Josiane said...

Considering how much work goes into making a corset, it's a really good thing you're enjoying the process!