Making a Victorian Corset || 1890s Symington Pattern [Corsetmaking Part 2]

– Welcome back to part two of
these corset-making endeavors in which I am attempting to
reconstruct a Victorian corset from a surviving corset pattern, drafted circa 1894 by the
Symington Corset Company in Leicestershire, England. If you missed part one
in which I experimented with how to get that right silhouette through a series of drafts,
mock-ups, alterations, fittings, and pain, a lengthy process to try and achieve that
classic 1890s shape on my asymmetrical upper body, then I shall put a link to that here. This video however will
focus less on the drafting and asymmetry aspects of this project, and more on the actual
construction techniques involved in late 19th-century corsetry. That is right, I actually
have to use a sewing machine for this project, eh!
(playful jazz piano music) For such invaluable help and
guidance during this process, I am once again completely indebted to my friends at Foundations Revealed, the online corset and
costume-makers community. The articles, life calls,
and general discussion of which have been immensely helpful in making this corset
less complete garbage, as it so nearly could have been. Once again, this is not sponsored but I’m literally not
exaggerating when I say that I have learned way
more about historical and general sewing in the couple of months that I’ve been a member than I ever did, in like six years of university, 10 out of 10, highly recommend. I shall put a link to all of
that information down below in the description box. New membership enrollment is still open through this Friday the 29th of March, which is why I have been
shouting about this so vehemently in this and previous videos. However, if you are watching
this after that date, then I believe she does
keep a mailing list to inform people of
future enrollment dates. So I shall also put a
link to that down below, should you be interested. I can attest that if
you are really serious about historical or general
or couture costume-making, this is an absolute game-changer. However, I need to stop fangirling now because we have a corset to make. The main fabric I’ve
chosen for the outer body of the corset is this sort of creamy, pale, golden silk satin. Whilst laying out my pieces,
I came to the realization that I really wanted to
try and pin the satin as little as possible since
the surface is quite delicate, and will show lots of little
pinholes if I’m not careful. So I decided to use pattern weights to stabilize the paper
whilst tracing around. But since I don’t actually
own pattern weights, I just used some one-pound coins instead. They’re remarkably effective. Then I’m tracing around the pieces with a bit of white tailor’s chalk. Yes, I’m doing this on
the right side of the silk which seems a bit scary, but then again, the whole seaming process
for external boned corsets is all a bit unnatural as
you shall discover presently. As I explained briefly in part one, I’m laying out the rest
of my pieces according to the original pattern diagram, that is, placing the center
front and center back edges on the straight grain but
allowing the side panels to sit in the slightly off-grain position in which they are depicted on the draft. These slight deviations
help to place the panels at strategic points so
that the grain works with curves of the body, and eliminates some of
the pulls and wrinkles that would occur if all the pieces were placed on the straight grain. I should also note that I
have taken the extra step of tracing out each piece individually, not doubled up on the fabric. This way I can assure
that all of my pieces are properly placed on the grain as sometimes the piece
cut on the underlayer ends up slightly warped or off grain where you couldn’t see it when tracing. Usually this isn’t such
a noticeable problem with heavier and more sturdy fabric, such as one-to-one woven cotton. But with such a fine silk, I was really rather
inspired to take the time to do things as neatly
and carefully as possible. I am then tracing out all
of the boning channels at 3/4 of an inch wide, with
1/2 an inch of seam allowance on either side to fold
under for strengthening. This corset has two bones per channel, so each strip will hold
two 1/4-inch bones. (playful jazz piano music) Everything else is cut out with roughly 1/2 an
inch of seam allowance. But we’re not finished cutting yet. For the lining layer, I’ve
decided to use some of the white cotton sateen left over from
the Regency portrait gown I did a couple of months back. Contrary to modern belief, 19th century corsets didn’t necessarily have to be the strong
unyielding fortresses that a lot of fashion and
couture courses are today. For comfort, necessary ease of movement or lighter weight in summer months, lighter corsets made from
just one or two layers of light cottons or silks
instead of rigid coutils and heavy interfacings were quite common. Cotton sateen is a really
great lighter weight option that is still tightly woven enough to give some extra body to the silk, which I think is going to
be particularly helpful in trying not to shift my back too much as a heavier coutil might. Now that I have all of my pieces cut out, I began hearing the faint whispers of every teacher and
mentor I have ever had in the back of my head softly urging me to be a proper little seamstress and thread mark over my chalk lines. So that is precisely what I began to do. Not only will this help me
to see the faint white lines a bit better, especially when
the chalk starts to rub off, but it will also allow me
to follow my seam lines through both sides of the fabric, which will be important. I’m only doing this to
the satin layer, though, since when I stitch the panels together, the satin will technically
be treated as the wrong side and I won’t need to see the seam lines on the cotton, you’ll see. Now that those panels are thread marked, I can start flatlining the panels. This is done by pinning the
satin and cotton layers together with right sides outwards,
contrary to modern lining methods in which the lining layer
and the fabric layer would be stitched up separately,
sewn together at the edges, and then turned out. Historical garments were lined like so, with the fabric and lining layers attached and then treated as a single layer when the garment was stitched together. It doesn’t conceal the raw edges, but it does give the outer
fabric a much nicer body since both layers are firmly attached and can behave as a single
hybrid fabric. (chuckles) In order to prevent these
fabrics from sliding around and misbehaving whilst stitching, I’m first pad stitching them together. This is effectively just
a long basting stitch that runs the length of the entire panel so that both layers are
held firmly into place. (peaceful piano music) Midway through the basting, I realized that the center front
and center back panels actually do not get flatlined. Since the center front
and center back edges will indeed have to be
stitched right sides together and then turned so that those
outer edges are finished. But before I can stitch the
center front edges together, I must first account for
the loop side of the busk which is going to poke through the seam. So I’m just now taking
this side of the busk and marking out where the
loops will need to be. When stitching, I’ll skip over these marks so that the loops will have
a space to slot through. Now because historical reconstruction is my absolute gem, that
is attempting to recreate historical things as they may
have been done originally, I’m really excited to get to
put my 1891 Singer machine to use on this 1890’s project. She isn’t quite as advanced as the foot-powered treadle machine, but since this is obviously before the age of electric machines,
she’s powered by hand which is a bit of an
adjustment when you’re used to having both hands free
to control the fabric under today’s electric sewing machine. But, as I do most of my work
slowly and by hand anyway, I’m really rather taken with this method. (peaceful piano music) With the machine all ready to go, I’m starting off just by stitching those center back seams along my seam line so that I can turn the lining over. Then I’m stitching the
two center front edges but making sure to skip
over those marked points for the busk loops on the right-hand side. The seams are then
pressed open, then flat, so that my edges are nice
and crisply finished. I’m now just marking
the lines for the bones that sit just at the
edge of the center back. And these are thin bones that I’ll insert into a channel between the
satin and lining layers, and will strengthen that outer edge against the pull of the
lacing on the eyelets. Then I can insert the
busk, and I’m just basting all around that edge to set it
in snugly before I stitch it. In retrospect, I sort of
wish I had just backstitched the entire busk in by
hand instead of trying to do it by machine since
the one and only foot that survived with my
machine does not function like the modern-day zipper foot that would make this task
worlds easier and neater. The knobbly side of the
busk is inserted like so, pinning the top and bottom into position so that it matches up to the loop side, then poking the holes within
all of the necessary points. It should be noted that
just like eyelet holes, I’m not actually breaking the fabric, just separating the weave of the material for the knobs to slide through. But before I head to the machine, I’m just taking a second to
mark the couple of cording lines on the hip panels. Cording was a very common strengthening technique most popular in the earlier 19th century
(machine whirs) in which entire corsets
could be constructed only with cording and no boning at all. By the later 19th century however, cording is frequently used
in conjunction with boning to give soft structure at
strategic points on a corset. This would involve
anything from a few rows of cording at the hip panels like the pattern I’m
working from calls for, to entire panels being corded. Once again, since I
don’t have a zipper foot or whatever the late
19th century equivalent, as zippers obviously weren’t a thing yet, a cording foot, perhaps, I’m just stitching the
cording channels flat and we’ll thread the cords through later. (machine clicks)
(scissors snipping) But whilst I’m here at the machine, I’m going to first go ahead and take care of those other stitching tasks, namely stitching down that
center back boning channel, and then stitching in the busks. Along with the basic function
of keeping everything securely in place, the
basting line also provides a safe stitching path
so that I can get close to the busk without hitting it. Yes, it was a nightmare
to surgically remove these basting stitches
later, but it happened. Again, I very much regret
not just hand-stitching the busk into place to begin with. As was apparently the custom when one didn’t have the appropriate foot, history usually knows
best with these things. So now to put in the cording. The channels on the
pattern and subsequently on my pieces are roughly 1/8 of an inch, so I’m using a sensible
1/8-inch linen stay-cord here. This I’m just threading through a large blunt-tipped tapestry needle, then threading this through my channels. It’s a bit tight since
the cording does indeed have to be tight in the channels, and did require the use of some pliers. I have no evidence to support
the historical accuracy of this method, but it worked. (peaceful piano music) So now that all of our pieces are prepped with their respective fancy bits, I can actually start
putting the corset together. I’m just starting with my
three side panels here, pinning them wrong sides
together so that the seam allowances face to the
outside of the corset. Since this corset has boning
channels on the exterior, some of the channels will
be placed strategically over the seams to cover the raw edges, and this way I won’t have to worry about finishing any edges on the inside. With those panels stitched together, I’m now turning down the seam allowances to a bit less than 1/4 of an
inch, then pressing them open. And for once, I am using my tailor’s hem for its intended purpose, that is, pressing three-dimensional
shapes into curved seams instead of using it as that lap cushion for pinning my hand-sewing to. It works quite well for this, fancy that! So now that I have all
these panels connected, I can go ahead and add the hip panel, which is going to be stitched
on more conventionally with the seam allowances facing inward
(machine whirs) since there won’t be a horizontal bone going across this seam, and the waist tape on the inside of the corset
should cover this raw seam. (peaceful piano music) Finally I can finish assembly by attaching the front and back panels. Once again, we’re back to
pinning to the outside again since we’ll have bones over these seams. (peaceful piano music) All of my seam allowances here by the way are trimmed down to 1/4 of an inch, then pressed open so that
they’ll sit snug and flat underneath my bony channels. And now that the panels
are secured together, I can go ahead and
remove the pad stitching. Now I’m just prepping
all of my boning channels by pressing under the
two seam allowance edges. The seam allowances are left quite wide, almost reaching to the opposite end. That way, they’ll act as sort of two additional strength layers. And because I’m being
super pedantic about this, I’m just pressing my finished channels in a heavy book while they cool off. Honestly though, it really
did make the creases much crisper, so judge all
you want, but it worked. My newly-pressed and
beautifully-crisp channels are then lightly pinned into
place on the corset layer. Then the channels are basted into place. I’m using a fairly-wide
basting stitch here, hoping to secure them just enough whilst poking as few holes
as possible into the satin. It’s also important to note
that during this basting and the previous pinning
step, you’ll see me working according to the shape of the corset. That is, rather than
attaching the channels flat, I’m trying to mold them into position with my hands whilst I stitch. This ensures that the channels
ease over the curves properly instead of fighting them, and will hopefully prevent some wrinkling. So all of my boning
channels are now basted and ready to be stitched down, and the thought has occurred to me that I have not even though to address this whole issue of the waist tape. This only just sort of surfaced in my mind because I’m reading this book
called “The Dress Detective” by Ingrid Mida and Alexandra Kim, which I guess I’ll link somewhere, but basically it’s, I mean,
this is kind of irrelevant. It’s a book about
examining extant garments, and one of their case
studies is an 1890s corset, and I noticed on the inside
of their extant garment they’ve got a waist tape and the stitching for the boning channel lines
are running over the waist tape so the waist tape is stitched
down to the actual corset. For some reason, I guess
I had it in my head that the waist tape goes in at the end. That’s not true, and I feel
like now that I’ve seen that extant example, I
now feel like I’ve read somewhere on Foundations
or heard like 100 times that the waist tape does not go in last. Thankfully I have caught
this just in time, well, not just in time, really. I have caught this not terribly too late, because of course when I
realized that I would need to put in a waist tape,
I realized I didn’t know how to do that, and so off I
went to Foundations Revealed to find an article that would tell me how. Michelle Fitzgerald, whose corsetry work is the literal work of the gods, I shall link her
Instagram below somewhere, she’s written a ton of
articles for Foundations, and she has this one
three-part article series on reconstructing a Symington corset. So of course that’s
something that I devoured quite early on in my research, and I remembered that there
was a little waist tape bit in that article. So I went back to that, looked
at how she did the waist tape and of course, you know,
looked at some extant corsets. They’ve all got waist tapes
that are anchored in this, between this center front seam as well as between this center back seam. So something that I probably
should have thought about and done before I
stitched it all together, which makes me sort of think that the busk does not go in first. I’m questioning a lot
of my techniques here, but whoever said I was
producing a tutorial, not me. (chuckles) Don’t follow this at home. So I have my waist tape,
I bought a waist tape because I knew I would have to put one in. It’s just a little bit
of one-inch twill tape. So this is what I’ve bought. This is just going to hypothetically theoretically sit just here. It curves a little bit
because the waist is curved, as we have learned, and ideally
cover up this raw seam here. I don’t think I’m going to
be unpicking these seams, just because I feel like
that’s going to weaken them. Also, because I just can’t be bothered. So what I think I’m going to do, is I’m going to pin this into place, I’m going to leave it loose
a little bit on either end and then what I will do is
once this is all stitched down, once all of the boning channels are in and running over this waist tape properly, I will just go back in
and turn this under, match it up nicely, I hope, fell it down, and hopefully
that will keep it in place. The purpose of the waist
tape is to just give it a little anchor point at the waist to give it a little bit of strength. Thankfully, I guess since
this corset technically isn’t going to be functional, the waist tape won’t necessarily
have to be super strong and super functional
because there won’t actually be pressure on my waist, I hope,
otherwise we have problems. So I’m going to go ahead
and get this pinned in so that I can go ahead and get started on stitching down these boning channels. So it turns out the natural
waist point on this corset is not where that hip panel ends. The waist point becomes pretty apparent. It’s that sort of groove path in the natural shaping of the corset that the upper and lower
areas want to curve out of, if that makes any sense. I’ll put arrows or something. That little diversion aside, I then began the long and
arduous journey of stitching on all those boning channels.
(machine whirs) Okay, so it is the next morning. I haven’t quite gotten all
of these boning channels stitched on on this side yet, however the realization has come upon me that as it is Friday, we
are coming up on the weekend and there are a few things
that I still need to purchase for this project that I will probably need to get to this weekend
and that I probably won’t be able to obtain since
most of these shops in the Garment District will be shut. I thought it would be prudent today to take a little adventure
and obtain the last couple of little essentials that we
need to finish up this corset. So what I’m still looking for, I don’t have any lacing for this, so I need to find some sort
of woven cotton braiding or something for the lacing for this. I have realized that the
(chuckles) trash synthetic lacing that I was using on the mock-up will not work for this at all. The second thing I need,
is I need some heavy silk buttonhole twist thread to do
the flossing for the bones. And because I seem to be on a theme here of matching undergarments
suddenly with little touches of red, what I really wanted to do is find a sort of a deep
red silk buttonhole twist that will match the satin ribbon that’s the accent on the combinations. And then I also, this isn’t necessary, but a lot of 1890s, well, 19th
century corsets in general have sort of a wide or
even narrow strip of lace at the top edge, and sometimes
at the bottom as well. So I thought it might be fun to look for something like that. I’m not sure if we’re
going to have any luck finding something similar, only because the beautiful
Victorian laces that existed on extant garments, well,
still exist on extant garments just aren’t made anymore. But I thought maybe I will
have a look for something. If there’s something good
in the Garment District, I will definitely pick that up. I’m thinking probably I’m not
going to have very much luck with the regular affordable trimming shop. This feels like something
that I would find in East Coast Trimming or Mokuba. We’re gonna have a look. We’ll see if there’s
something really beautiful. I really only need probably about a yard of it, not even. $15 a yard for a bit of lace is a lot when you need 12 yards of it. But $15 for a yard of
lace maybe isn’t so bad when you just need one yard of it. We’ll see what we come up with,
if there’s something good, and not too terribly expensive. So yeah, I’m going to take
this lovely lady with me because the other one’s
still half-under the machine. It’s also snowing outside, so we will have to wrap her in some very historically
inaccurate plastic. (“Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin) I’m so sure we can find a
place for millinery flowers in Lady Sherlock, no? These are so beautiful, oh, look at them! I decided that I actually
quite liked this lace, but also that this lace
would be even better with a bit of deep red satin ribbon! Okay, I got the lace. I also got a bit of
lacing while I was there. They had a bit of cheap
just cotton woven lacing. The lace was only 4.75 a yard, so it wasn’t immensely expensive
as I thought it might be. And then I also, I bought the tiny roses, treat yourself. So this isn’t on my list, but I am now actually
(siren wailing) headed to M&J just to
see if they have any, uh, what’s this
(horn honking) 1/4-inch white deep red silk
ribbon because I am trash. (“Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin) (door slamming)
It is back to work now. (playful chimes music) Whilst the snow does things outside, I resume stitching down
these boning channels, and every time I mentally gripe
about how long it’s taking, roughly I think about four or five hours to stitch everything down, I just remind myself that one
day I’m going to be making some stays by hand and that in fact I’ll be reminiscing very
fondly upon this moment on the fourth straight day of
backstitching boning channels. And once both sides of the
boning channels are stitched down I can go ahead and
removing my basting thread so that I can stitch down the middle to create two separate channels. (playful chimes music) Okay, so my boning channels
are all stitched down. I just wanted to take a
moment to point out that, just take a second and
look at the amount of shape that this has already. This has got no bones in it, it’s got absolutely no,
no whale bone, not steel, it’s just a soft corset
but already it’s wanting to hold such a dramatic shape. And I think this is part of the magic of Victorian corsetry
in that we just assume that the Victorians had these tiny waists and these deformed bodies by wearing these corsets
that were just full of all these strong steel rods that were bending their bodies into shapes, that’s just not true. The majority of the shaping
on Victorian corsets comes from the shaping
of the pattern pieces, comes from these little
tiny magical details like the waist tape, like the positioning
of the boning channels, like this bit of cording here. All these very soft elements work together to create these really subtle graceful elegant dramatic shapes that are actually quite comfortable. So I’m very excited to go ahead and start getting the bones into this. I’m hoping that once the
bones are in, (chuckles) all of these or at least
most of these small wrinkles will start to go away, and especially once I get the flossing and can put some tension on this. I am going to be using
synthetic baleen for this. Some Victorian corsets
were done with seal, spiral, or flat steel boning. I’m going to be using baleen
just because it’s lighter, it’s going to be easier on my back. Baleen was still very much used
in the late Victorian period although it was starting
to get a bit more difficult to come by, but we have
synthetic baleen nowadays, so that’s what I’m going to be using. The great thing about synthetic baleen and of course baleen historically
is that it’s very light, it’s very flexible, and it
molds to the shape of your body with heat or steam. So if you are wearing your corset, especially in hotter temperatures, your corset will start to
literally form the shape of your body specifically. This process can be facilitated a bit by going in and once you have your corset, just gently shaping it with
an iron and a bit of steam. This process got so advanced
in the Victorian period that they actually started to, especially, I’m not sure if this was,
this probably was regular within corset manufacturing, but the Symington Collection specifically have records and of course actual evidence of their steaming process
and that they would actually have like mannequin-like
dress form type forms that they laced the corsets onto, and they were metal and they full of holes and they’d just blow steam
through the inside of them so that the corsets would already
have this incredible shape before the wearer even put
it on, which is really cool. I, however, do not have
one of those magical steam form things, so I
will have to be doing this with my very disappointingly
modern 21st-century iron. The catch is since I have most wisely decided to make this
corset out of silk satin, I cannot use steam on
this because the steam will just destroy the silk satin. So I cannot put the bones into here first. How they would get around
this, historically, is that their silk corsets would obviously be lined with cotton or something, so when you lace this onto a form and the steam came through it, most of the moisture would just
be hitting the cotton layer. So I suppose technically, I
mean I guess theoretically maybe I could do the
steaming work from the back. Maybe we will give that a try if my current cunning plan doesn’t work, but my current cunning
plan, I’ve still got all of my bones in my final mock-up. I have obviously harvested
the busk out of it so it can’t actually close. I had (chuckles) really
intended to put this on my dress form for a
week, and just leave it, and let it absorb some sort
of shape from an actual body. But then I remembered I cut the busk out, and I can’t exactly do that. So what I’m going to do
is I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to steam
the bones into shape on this corset and then
hopefully the bones will have some sort of vague
shaping already in them, enough so that when I put them into this, they won’t want to just sit very straight and annoyingly curved
like they are in this one, and will actually embrace
the beautiful shape that we have going on here. So that’s what I’m going to
be up to right now, I think. Let’s go ahead and do that. (peaceful chimes music) Okay, so look, we have a corset! It’s happening, slowly, you
can see some, some shaping starting to happen. I think now I’m actually
not sure precisely what order we’re supposed
to do the binding versus flossing versus
finishing everything else, lacing, grommeting. I have mapped out on my very
elaborate schedule for this, do the flossing today, so I
guess I will do that today. I’m not entirely sure what
exactly I’m going to do for it. Basically, okay, hold on, I should explain what flossing is in case you don’t know! Essentially a little embroidery stitch that goes at the bottom
of the bones just to, well, at the bottom and
the tops of the bones just to hold them securely into place so they can’t move up and down, and they can’t try and
poke through the binding. This is very prevalent
if not almost ubiquitous on 19th century corsetry, and
it actually got so elaborate that you can very often see flossing that’s done in the shape
of flowers (chuckles) or feathers, multiple colors. There’s actually (chuckles)
a really great article on Foundations Revealed
which, may or may not be free. If it is, I will link it down below. But it’s just gone through
and taken little snapshots of all of these different
examples of flossing. I think they’re actually
samples of flossing from corsets in the Symington Collection. They’re very elaborate. A lot of them actually
puncture through the bones because they had machinery
that could do that. I sadly don’t have
machinery that can do that, so my flossing probably will
not quite be that elaborate, but I’m going to try and do something a little bit decorative. It could also be, you
know, entirely functional of just, you know, a couple
of stitches going across this. I think I want to do something
a little bit more decorative because who ever wanted to do anything the easy way, am I right? So hence why I went to
the Garment District to buy this lovely deep
ruby red silk thread. I’ve been looking at a lot
of flossing designs online. However, I think rather
than replicating something, I’m going to try and
make something up myself, only because a lot of
them do involve puncturing through the bones which I can’t do because these are plastic.
(finger tapping) They’re not actual
baleen, they’re not cane, they’re not reed, and
they’re not steel that come with holes punctured
through the ends of them. What I think I will do is I may just adapt some of those designs or take
elements from those designs and try and work them,
treating these double bones as a single bone, so sort of
trying to floss both of this and then being able to
puncture through the middle down here where there’s actually no bone, and I may do a sample,
and I may hate that. So yes, let’s do some samples and see what we can come up with. Okay, so rather than experiment by actually stitching various
samples on my actual corset which I decided probably
wasn’t a good idea, I decided to just draw
out the boning channels on some paper and play
around with some lines. So this is what I’ve come up with. Fairly simple, but I love these designs that sort of look like plants or flowers. That’s sort of what I’ve gone for. This is for the double bones, and then this is for the
two at the center back that are just single bones. It’s heavily inspired by this pattern here that’s on one of the Symington corsets. Not exact, but it was a nice
little reference inspiration. So I think we’re going to go ahead and see if we can make
this work on my corset. Okay, here is what I have for my single bone flossing so far. I’m quite happy with it, quite
pleased with how it came out however I’m not entirely convinced now that I’m not making a huge mistake in trying to do the flossing (chuckles) before I put on the binding, I’m not sure. What I like about doing it this way, is that I can do a little
waist knot sort of down here when I start off the
embroidery stitch just so that when I do put the binding
on, this will be covered, and it will just sort of look
like that, which will be nice! However, there is also the chance that I will put the binding
on and finish off these edges and find out that all of my positioning for the flossing is just completely wonky in comparison to where the
actual edge of the corset is. I’m not (chuckles) entirely
sure about how to proceed. What I’m going to do is I’m going to go and find an article (chuckles)
on Foundations Revealed and find out what actual
professional corset-makers do when they are finishing up their corsets. The jury is in, friends, okay. It is binding before flossing. So I have gone ahead and I
have cut a couple of strips of just 1/2-inch binding. I’m not entirely sure if this
is going to be too narrow. I’m having second thoughts about this. Okay, so here’s the thing
is that historically binding on stays and on corsets and on bodies is cut on the straight grain. You’d think that’s a
little bit counterintuitive because why not cut it on the bias so that it can stretch around the curves. You don’t really do that
because that’s very consuming of fabric, and historically
fabric was expensive and you don’t really want to
cut all the way diagonally through your fabric just for a couple of little strips of binding. There is a way to do it
on the straight grain, and it’s actually not so
hard as you might think. The trick to getting
nice neat-looking binding with a straight grain
strip on a curved edge is to make the binding
edge as narrow as possible. I cut them at 1/2 an inch. I’m not sure if this is
going to be too narrow. Theoretically, it would
just stitch on here with a very tiny seam allowance. Wait, let’s actually flip over this way, and then around to the other side. I need to do this with
two hands, so (chuckles) hold on one second. Yeah, I think this is going
to be slightly too narrow because by the time
that we flip this around to the other side, there’s
not going to be very much to then tuck under and
fell down either side. I’ve cut these too narrow. (chuckles) I’m gonna go cut some more binding strips. (peaceful piano music) I’m first just trimming up the edges, then pinning on the binding
with right sides together. This is done on both the
top and bottom edges. This side gets stitched down by machine. The edges are trimmed down once again. This time to about 1/4 of an inch. Then the binding is folded in half, then folded again to cover the raw edge. This is secured into place with tiny Victorian-style whip stitches. And now that I’ve got the binding on, I think I’m going to go ahead and attach the top edging lace. I’m first just measuring out
exactly the lengths I’ll need so that I can go ahead and replace this boring synthetic ribbon with my beautiful new burgundy silk one. I’ve done this by threading it through a large tapestry needle and
using the current ribbon as a guide to make things a bit easier. (peaceful piano music) Okay, the lace is just pinned on for now. I’m going to stitch it
down in just a minute. But just after I stitch down the lace, I think I’m gonna go right ahead and start on the flossing. Actually, I may stitch those down too. Anyway, I’ve got lots of little
hand stitching work to do obviously because that’s
what finishing is. But I think right from
the top edge of the lace, I’m going to start
working on the flossing. And I haven’t yet decided, this
is why I’m on the vlog mode instead of the voiceover mode, but I just want to let it be known that I have not decided
what exactly I’m going to do for the flossing. Yes, I do have my pattern all figured out, but on extant corsets you
see definitely flossing on the bottom here, but
on the extant corsets that you see that have
this top edging lace, either one of two things. They don’t have flossing at the top because stitching this
down just at the top here will actually function
in keeping the bones from poking out, so the
flossing isn’t necessary. On some occasions, you
do see flossing either just decoratively sort of
starting here and coming down. So I’m not sure if I’m going to try that. It may, I think, end up being too much just with the red here and
then the amount of flossing that’s going to be going
on down here, we shall see. I think what I’m going to go ahead and do is I’m going to stitch this down. I’m going to put the
flossing on the bottom edge of the corset and then
I will probably put this on a dress form, maybe
try it on, we’ll see. And just take, take a long look at it, and see if it could use some more flossing or if it’s going to just
be too much going on. I have a feeling that
there is just no such thing as too much lace and too much flossing and too much embroidery
detail on Victorian clothing. We shall see, stay tuned. The lace is secured into place with a sort of whip stitch
diagonal running stitch. I have no historical evidence
to support this decision, but for some reason decided it was practical.
(peaceful piano music) I’m then finishing off the ends of the waist tapes real quick by folding them under and
felling them into place. Then begins the flossing. I’m pretty sure this is
technically the first time I’ve embroidered anything,
which is a bit embarrassing to admit considering it’s
been something on my list of techniques to experiment
with for a lot of years. But herein lies the beauty of admitting such things to the internets. For now, I get to deal in
the omnipresent knowledge that all you far away friends
will hold me accountable for future embroidery endeavors. So now I can’t not embroider
things, or so I shall believe. But anyway, moving on. The flossing is complete. It’s not quite as elaborate and decorative as I might have hoped it would have been, but you know what, it’s fine. It looks nice from a distance, maybe. I was still trying to
decide if I should continue doing the flossing up at the top here. A lot of the reasons that
I came up with not to do it I think are primarily
motivated by laziness which I don’t think is good. Maybe we should give it a try. I don’t think it’s going
to make it too busy. In fact, it might make it look cool! So, yes, I’ll get over
myself and I’ll give it a go. What I may do, though, is I may only just do this top motif bit, and not do this. As if it’s sort of coming
out from under this, except because the bottom
bit will be concealed, I won’t bother with
this bottom detail here. I think that’s the plan for now, and I shall go ahead and
get started with that. (peaceful piano music) Okay, so I have finished
all of the flossing. It looks so nice, I’m
really glad I did it. And I was about to get
started on putting this little waist tape in here, not waist tape, just a bit of tape to
conceal these raw edges. And now I’m kind of not sure
that this is a good idea, only because in theory, the
waist tape is put in here because it gives structure
to this point in the corset. And I feel like part of
me is a little bit worried that putting a bit of
sturdy tape right here is going to do funny things
that probably shouldn’t happen. I’m now sort of inclined
to just leave this raw, and the reason I am leaning towards this is because I’ve actually
come to the realization that I have been handling
this corset a lot whilst doing the flossing and everything, and the edges are not fraying terribly. It’s all stitched down here, so I don’t think it’s at all unstable. Obviously it’s not
ideal to have a raw edge on a tight-fitting garment
sitting right next to the skin. I mean, also in theory I guess
this won’t be terrible tight or as tight as a corset should be. In any case, this whole nonsensical rant is me just ranting nonsensically. But, okay, so here’s the
thing that I have discovered is that I have a feeling
that this hip panel is actually supposed to
come up to the waist, and it’s supposed to be here. I just didn’t do that, I didn’t
get the proportion right, and apparently (chuckles)
did not notice this on any of the, like, four
or five or, whatever, six mock-ups that I did. I feel like for the original pattern, the woman’s waist would be here and it would in fact be
covered by the waist tape. There wouldn’t be any
extra structural issues of putting another seam
finishing binding thing here, and all would have been well. So this is my mistake,
not a historical accuracy. But I think I’m just gonna leave it because this might not do good things. And now I think it is
time to tackle the part that I have been putting off for so long, and that is the eyelets. If you know me and you know my method, you know that I habitually
do everything by hand, including eyelets, I
adore hand-done eyelets. However, I have sort of maybe
mistakenly challenged myself to put in metal eyelets into this thing because those were very common
in the late 19th century and in the 19th century in general. Yes, hand-worked eyelets did exist, however metal eyelets were
sort of a new innovation in that because the hole
is finished with metal, the corset and lacing was stronger. You could pull it tighter, not
that I’m tight-lacing this. But I feel like it’s sort of an important historical feature of
19th-century corsetry, especially late 19th-century corsetry. And, you know what, it’s always
good to challenge yourself to do new stuff, right? I don’t know, I’ve been
dreading it, though. I do have some metal
grommets and a grommet setter from ye old days of
Ren Fair bodice making. I’m not sure precisely how
historical all of this is. Part of me is a little bit dubious as to the size of these, and, I don’t know, maybe the finish. I really don’t know
very much about eyelets, but I feel like a lot of
the eyelets that I’m seeing on some of the extant corsets are smaller, maybe a little bit. I’ll put one on here so that
you can maybe get some scale. Well, they’re not terribly huge. But yeah, I, for some
reason have it in my head that the ones on the extant
corsets are a bit smaller. I may just use these
because, I don’t know, at this point I don’t
think I can be bothered to go out and buy new ones because, I mean, to be quite honest, if I have to buy a package
of them, will I use them? No, probably not. I have these, I own these,
(eyelets clinking) kinda want to use these. Maybe this is just KonMari
things getting to my head, but use what you have, right, whether or not it’s historically accurate. What is historical accuracy? Oh now, I’m having an existential crisis. Okay, let’s set some grommets. Starting from one-inch
down from the top edge, I’m then marking the
eyelets at one-inch apart and marking 12 in total. I fell into a small
hole of counting eyelets on photographs of extant
corsets awhile ago, and found them to feature
any number of eyelet holes, even and odd somehow, but most ranged from
around 11 to 14 pairs. Now usually it is my
practice to never ever cut the weave of the fabric
when putting in eyelet holes because especially in hand-worked ones, the fabric is significantly weaker and prone to just tearing eventually. However, I couldn’t get the weave to separate widely enough to
fit the metal grommets here, so I ended up doing that
most blasphemous thing of clipping the fabric. I don’t think it’s such a
big deal with the metal, since it’s supposed to be stronger. But nevertheless, it did
kill my soul a little bit. Then I do the thing where I
smash the grommets together, a task which is really great if you have a lot of inner rage. I don’t really have a
lot of inner rage though, just a lot of inner
distaste for metal eyelets and incompetence with heavy tools, so I’m pretty much just silently screaming through all of this. Right, so grommets are finished. I kind of do hate them, I
think they are a bit too big, a bit too present on this garment, which I don’t feel like
the historical eyelets are. Maybe I’m also just biased
against metal eyelets, but yeah, yeah, this is
where I am right now. I’m going to go ahead and
put some lacing in her, and then we can go ahead
and have a fitting. I’m not quite finished
because I still do need to figure out the padding situation, but of course that’s
something that has to happen whilst I have the corset on so that I know where all the padding goes, so yes, we should go and do that now. Fancy learning how to lace a corset? For the lacing I had
purchased I think six yards of this cotton braid stuff, which upon reflection,
feels entirely too heavy, and I will probably replace it. I’m going to lace this corset
with two parallel loops just at the waist area, which was a very common method for lacing by the 19th century since it made tightening
and adjusting the corset much easier to do by
yourself whilst wearing it. Yay for the small victories in female independence, am I right? Also, it would be really nice if this knot sat on the inside of the lacing, so if you’re following along
to learn how to lace a corset, thread your lacing
through exactly opposite to how I’ve done it here. Now it’s time to experiment
with some padding. I’m using several layers
of cotton batting for this, cutting it roughly into shape and stuffing it wherever it needs to go. I’ll clean it up and stagger
the thicknesses properly once I take it off, but
for now I’m just trying to get a sense of where and
how much stuffing to add. I have also made the
most glorious discovery that placing thick pads
in the middle of my back at either side actually did
wonders in supporting my back and relieving some of
the sway back discomfort. I’m not sure if this
is a universal solution to this problem, but something
to experiment with in future. After padding both sides,
I then removed the corset to round off the edges of the pads and neaten them up a bit. Then I’m just pad stitching
the layers together to secure them, gently working them into three-dimensional shape as I do so. I’m then just lightly attaching
the pads into position with a couple of tacking stitches. I was going to refinish the inside nicely by covering up all of
the padding with patches of cotton sateen, but then
decided that it would probably be best to keep the pads easily alterable if I decide anything is pressing too much, or if it just compresses down and I need to add more at any point. It’s not the prettiest thing
to look at on the inside, but a lady is allowed to keep a few cunning secrets, I think. (upbeat playful piano music) And with that, she is
complete-ish, I think, for now. I will probably be messing
around with the shaping and padding for the indefinable future, especially once I start
to build the outer layers and incorporate additional
padding into those as well. I also may or may not
be debating ripping out and replacing the two back panels so that I can put in some
more respectable grommets, or just give in and do the eyelets by hand because I really do hate them. Perhaps this is what inner
rage feels like after all, but otherwise I think I’m pleased enough with how this came out. It was admittedly a bit
of a frustrating process, if only because of all those
annoying personal challenges getting in the way. It’s never easy to stand
in front of a mirror and face yourself in a
garment that literally exposes your most disturbing physical flaws and try not to be utterly blinded by them enough to do a proper job at fixing them. I’m not sure if I’m
really fully there yet, but I did come to really enjoy the technical task of corset-making, and I do plan to do
lots more experimenting with it again in future. It is a weirdly satisfying process, and I still have so much
to learn about it all, so, more to come, perhaps. So now that we’ve made all
these pretty frilly underthings, it’s time to start
covering them up completely with all of the tweed things! Coming up on this Lady Sherlock journey are the skirt, bustle pad,
waistcoat, overcoat, and hat. So, I shall see you soon with some more historical
sewing investigations.