(Following on from Part 1 – making a pattern)
Step 3 – Starting the Mock-up
- Firstly, the reason for making a mock-up instead of jumping straight to the Real Thing is to make sure it will fit properly – far better to be making adjustments to a practice version than to your (often fancy and expensive) final fabric.
- I made a photocopy before I cut out my paper pattern pieces, just in case something happened to them. Then I cut them out, and labelled them – which piece, which way up, and my name (because there are three of us making corsets at the moment)
- The next step, which I forgot to photograph, was to cut out two of each pattern piece from some cheap but relatively sturdy material. I used some plain cotton calico, but twill would have been a bit sturdier. Very important– don’t forget to add seam allowance! Mark the pieces so that you know which are for the right hand side and which are for the left hand side – or some other system to help you figure out which seams go with which other seams – there’re lots, and it’s confusing.
- Once you have your pieces it’s time to sew them together – all the left hand pieces, and all the right hand pieces, so you end up with two half-corsets. I hand stitched mine, but the others machine-stitched theirs – whichever you prefer. I thought it would be easier to get the differently curved seams accurately matched by hand… Despite my careful measuring and careful sewing, none of the seams match exactly, but they’re pretty close.
- This is where I suddenly noticed that the two pieces are not the same shape. Minor confusion ensued, as I tried to figure out where I’d sewn something wrong (all the seams match ok!). It seems that friday night with friends and Hot Fuzz is not conducive to error-free sewing.
- Now there are two correct half-corsets. I know they’re correct because I checked three or four times.
Step 4 – Inserting the Busk
- The busk is the hooks-and-eyes on a strip of boning doo-hickey that is used for the front closure. Having a front closure means you don’t have to unlace and relace the back completely to get in and out of the corset. To get a better idea of the shape it will give to the final corset, I decided to insert the busk in the mockup, instead of just sewing the front seam. This was a slightly tricky procedure, and I’m glad I did it now – some practice before I do the important one.
- In the final corset the busk will go between the outer fabric and the lining. I cut some strips of fabric and sewed them to the two centre-front seams to simulate the lining. I pressed the seam open and then pressed it again folded back into position. I’m a big fan of pressing – it makes the seams look better, and for something like this it also opens the seam right up and keeps it flat, right where it should be. Pressing makes garments look like they were sew by someone with skillz.
- Then I lined up one of the busk pieces and traced around it with a fabric pen. I laid the two front seams together, lined up, with the (hooked together) busk on top, and traced the second busk piece. I also marked where the hooks and the eyes would go.
- On the eyes side, I unpicked bits of the side seam where the eyes would slip through between the two pieces of fabric (Aside: quick-unpickers are like socks for disappearing – I have 4 in my house and couldn’t find any. Until I was finished carefully unpicking with scissors, when I found one in the sewing table). I also did some top-stitching to reinforce the seam – otherwise the loose ends where I unpicked would pull the seam apart under pressure. I’ll do something a bit more careful and elegant for the final corset – this time round it’s just a proof of concept and a practice run.
- On the hook side, I had to make holes in the fabric to poke the buttons through. This is supposed to be done with an awl, pushing between the threads of the fabric, so that there are no broken threads to reduce the structural integrity of the fabric. I don’t have an awl, so I used crochet hooks – starting with the 3mm, then a 5mm, until the hole was big enough to get the button through.
- Here it is with the busk “done up”:
- The last step was to try it on and see how it fit. Despite the gaffer tape in Step 1 being pulled tight enough to really squish me, it is big enough to meet at the back – there should be a gap for the lacing. I’ll be taking off a few centimetres at each side seam to fix that. Other than that it seems to fit pretty well – hooray!