Step 1 – Fun with gaffer tape
- Put on an old t-shirt (no bra) and get a friend to wrap you up in gaffer tape. Err on the side of tightness, because once it’s made, the gap at the lacing will make the real thing looser than the gaffer tape version. Choose lighter-coloured gaffer tape so that you can draw on it with a marker pen. Run out of gaffer tape when have you go over it again to make it tighter, and end up using black instead of silver (so much for that bright idea).
- Mark the centre front and centre back with a marker pen or coloured tape. Mark the edges of the pattern pieces – I’m going to have 8 pieces in total, four at the front and four at the back. This is a good time to also mark out the shape you want the corset to have – before you cut it off. I forgot this bit. :P
- Cut up the centre front. Use good scissors which will cut at the tip of the blades! Because it’s so tight, if you have to use the back end of the blades, you’ll end up a bit stabbed. Even with good scissors you’ll probably be a bit stabbed. Don’t forget that you’re naked under the t-shirt – you might want to do the cutting in a different room than the one all your friends are in (I nearly forgot this bit :P)
- Cut along the marked lines to get the pattern pieces. Mark each piece as you go so that you don’t forget which one is which.
- Trace the pattern pieces – you’ll have two of each, in my case centre front, outer front, outer back and centre back. Trace the matching pieces over each other – they won’t be the same shape, but should be fairly close. Once you’ve traced them, “split the difference” to get one shape for each pattern piece.
Step 2 – Tweaking The Pattern
- Put on Pride and Prejudice. The BBC version, obviously, because a) it’s the only one that really counts, and b) you’ll need something long. I got through three and a half episodes.
- Cut out the pieces you traced in step 1. Hold them up to yourself, mutter under your breath, despair. Remember another approach you saw on the Internet. Decide to give that a go, using the existing pieces as a starting point. Find the links in Evernote and feel momentarily smug.
- Take some measurements – bust, underbust, waist, hip, and the distances between them all at the front and the side.
- Get a large piece of paper – draw a vertical line for the centre front. Measure out perpendicular lines for bust, underbust, waist and hip.
- Figure out where the waistline is on your existing pieces, and lay them out, lining up their waist markings with the waist line on the paper. Trace around them.
- Measure to make sure that the pattern pieces add up to approximately your waist measurement minus something. This is the time for some more despair, until you figure out which wrong lines you’re measuring between. Coloured pencils may help. If things look about right, move on. Otherwise, repeat as necessary.
- Now you need to “true” the seams – that is, make sure that the length of each seam line matches the corresponding seam on the other pattern piece. They should be pretty close, unless, like me, you forgot to mark out the top and bottom edges of your corset before and need to do it now. Here comes more measuring, more holding up pattern pieces against yourself, and – of course – more despair. If you’ve already ordered your busk (the front fastening thingy), you need to figure out an outline that fits it. Draw small sketches, look up google images. Sketch the lines you think you want, then measuring along the edge of the pattern piece from the waistline out, match up the top and bottom lines.
- Once they all match, sit back and admire your work for a moment before organising for a friend to sanity check your pattern. Plan a trip to the public library to photocopy your handiwork so that you don’t have to start from scratch if disaster befalls your first copy. My pattern pieces will fit nicely on two A3 pages, and 60c is a small price to pay for not having to do this again from the start.
Up next: Making a mockup to check the pattern and practice the construction process.