Friday, January 27, 2012

Pre-1912 project corset

Well, I've signed up for the 1912 project. Read about it here if you don't know what I'm talking about. We're still in the process of digitizing patterns and assigning groups, so I don't have a pattern to work on yet, but since it's me and I'm just like that, I figured that if a pattern does come my way that particularly interests me and needs to be turned into something for my regular wardrobe, I should have the proper undergarments to go with, especially since the proper shoes are on order ( This is all hypothetical at this point, but apparently some little part of my brain wants me to make another corset because it wants to get me into trouble. Ok.
So, several people in the 1912 project group are working on making this corset: which is based on an existing garment from around that time, and downloading a pdf of the pattern is free. Thank you to the kind soul who did such a wonderful job transcribing it and writing clear directions. Also, free is excellent. When I made my last corset, I ordered an extra yard of coutil and cut carefully, so I had plenty leftover for another project. I also had some 1/4" steel boning leftover from when I thought it would be great for boning the farthingale and wasn't. I went down to the local fabric store for some cotton twill tape and some pretty lace, and ordered a busk, four 1/2" bones and a 00 grommet setting kit as listed in the corset instructions' site. I also had some extra-wide double fold bias tape on hand to bind the top and bottom edges of the corset, and I have hooks-and-eyes and thread.
I printed out the pdf and enlarged it as advised, and then reduced the waist size by 1.5" for lacing in. I figured I was going to be a bit short on twill tape, which I was, but used what I had to make the waist stay and channels for the wider bones before I ran out. For the rest of the boning channels I used the covering that comes with plastic boning, since I had several long pieces of that laying around. Then it was time to cut bones.
There was pain. And blood.
I couldn't find my bolt cutters. The best I could do was score a line on the bone, snap it off, and then nip around the corners with another tool. As you can imagine, when I snapped one of the bones to length it got away from me and bit my finger. Not too bad, but it makes me wish I had worn gloves. Also, trying to squeeze the nippers really hard hurt my hand after a while. Again, not too bad, but let that be a lesson to us all: use the right tools, and wear protective equipment. To add insult to injury, I didn't have enough bone. After I was done measuring and marking twice, I figured out I was going to end up with two leftover pieces about 4 inches each and short one 10.5" bone. And, of course, the other bones and busk had already shown up. Had I figured this out beforehand, I would of course have simply ordered the missing bone and been done with it. Ah well.
I had run out of Plasti-dip after my last boning project and had to find some more. My husband had a spray-on version of the same stuff in the garage, but I found it unsuitable for this project. I needed a fairly thick, not too drippy substance that would leave a good coating on the end of the bones to protect the raw edge from moisture, and protect me from the raw edge. The spray-on version has to be very thin to be able to come out of the can. It probably needs at least 4 coats to get to the thickness I need, and the thinners make it unnervingly smelly. Since it's cold and I can't spray this outside without wondering if it will freeze before it sets, I decided a trip to the hardware store was in order. The hardware store only had Plasti-dip in black (I wanted white), but they did have a small bottle of white vinyl coating used to repair cracks on the finish of dishwasher racks. It comes in a bottle about the size of a bottle of white-out, costs about $7, has a brush on tip, comes in white and stinks like crazy, but if it's good enough for the inside of a dishwasher it's probably good enough for corset bones. I dipped the ends of the bones strait into the open bottle and went back the next morning to touch up any rough ends. Overall, this seemed to work well.
A friend from my summer job at the local theater had some spare corset bones. She says she orders them in long lengths a gross at a time and cuts them as needed. Anyway, I traded her a chocolate covered strawberry for a pair of bones, cut one down and retipped it, then stuck it in the corset.
I bound the top and bottom edges of the corset with wide double fold bias tape, since I had a lot of it hanging around. I then sewed some lace trim to the top (got a yard at the local fabric store--nothing particularly special about it).
I need a longer pair of laces; I had a pair of 63" laces in white, and a pair of shorter ones in black. I had to use one pair on top, and one on bottom. I need to scope out the local sports stores for skate laces. In the mean time, this solution seems to work, though the black ones might look funny under a white dress.
I have two pairs of garters that were in my great aunt's sewing basket. They should do the trick, except the ball tab on one pair is very fragile. Trying to decide what to do about that. I have not attached them, nor have I put on the hooks and eyes as specified in the instructions, but these are not huge details, and I do not even have an event or a dress in mind yet. Overall I'm happy with how it turned out, though if I made myself another one, I might consider taking out a bit more, as I can almost get the laces to touch in the back, as well as the possibility of putting a lacing next to the busk so I can get in and out of it more easily.

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