Sunday, October 05, 2008

It fits! (A sewing post)

Here's my latest F.O., an Elizabethan corset to go under the gown I will be making in the next few weeks.
and Back:
This is a reasonably comfortable corset; I could walk around, sit down, and consume fluids while wearing it unlike a commercial monstrosity I had purchased many years ago to go under a formal gown. I also think it looks quite cute. My husband was disappointed that I didn't make it out of a fashionable fabric in order to be able to wear it as outerwear instead of underwear.
Since it fits so nicely there's always the possibility to use the master pattern as a bodice in the future. Also, I achieved 2 inches of compression at the bust with minimal compression at the waist giving my body the conical shape typical of the Elizabethan era. Some cleavage is present as shown in the side view, but that will all be covered up by the chemise I will be wearing underneath. Now for the details:

Pattern: the Custom Corset Pattern Generator
Notes: The pattern needed no modification as it's custom built for my funny wide-waisted and short-torsoed self. I did a few mockups fiddling with the built-in 2 inches of compression (I didn't trust that my body could do that) and went with the original specifications generated by the pattern for my dimensions. I did have to cut the armscye deeper though.
The only bits that I found less detailed was the discussion on strap placement; in a separate document about how to sew your custom corset they said if you want straps to place them 3 inches away from the center back and front (and 1 inch wide) and to cut them 5 inches long, and join at the shoulder. I found that this did not give me the optimal support and pulled the corset up too high. Maybe I have huge shoulders. Instead at the mockup/muslin stage I cut long strips 1.5 inches wide and pinned at the center back 3 inches away from the center back at a 90 degree angle to the corset edge. Then I took the other end and moved it around until I got the fit I wanted and marked the spot. Since I thought that cutting 13 inch straps coming out of the back was wasteful of the fabric I cut out 3-inch extensions at the right place and joined in 10 inch long pieces of fabric (not including seam allowance) cut on the grain to finish the straps. Supposedly bias-cutting the straps gives a more snug fit over the shoulders but stretches over time. Then I placed grommet holes at the end of the straps and at the place for the join on the front to have yet more flexibility in fitting. I will tie them on with elastic once I buy some in order to get the smoothest transition from strap to corset.

The boning pattern was also left more-or less up to me. On one place on the site 'they' say that if you use rigilene, to use a fan-shaped boning pattern. (Huh?) On the boned-tab option page 'they' say to bone heavily if you use rigilene. I went with the bone-as-heavily-as-you-can-given-the-quantity-of-rigilene-you-have method and I think it worked out well. Only time will tell.

150-cm wide cotton canvas. In the US it's cheap (under $5 a yard I hear) so it's commonly used for this sort of thing. Here it's not cheap. It's about $15 a meter. Oh well, it works. Unfortunately I later found out surfing eBay that I could have gotten linen canvas for less than half the price per meter. Linen canvas would have been better because it wicks away moisture. Oh well, if I ever do this again (please no!) I'll know where to look for better materials. I finished the edges with 2 packages of 5-m long and 2 cm wide (with the edges folded under) white cotton bias tape. No problems there. But if anyone is interested in making their own, there is a nice set of instructions provided by the Dread Pirate Roberts for making continuous bias tape.

My final thoughts on this project:
Biding the corset was a BIG ROYAL pain in the b*tt.
I think I could have gotten away with cutting it an additional 0.5-1 inch narrower. I can easily adjust it if I gain some weight but not if I lose weight. If I'm a bit narrower at Christmas things are going to be tricky.
Setting grommets hurts your hands if you don't have a lot of hand strength. My husband set a bunch of them because I got hand cramps. At least he insisted that I purchase the grommet setting thingie (sort of looks like pliers) even though it was a bit expensive (about $30). Thanks Boo!

Now I'm working on the next garment, the chemise that goes under the corset. I won't show pictures because it doesn't really look like anything yet. I wanted to make a high-necked shirt
because I think it would look better than a wench-style low gathered shirt under a high necked bodice and I don't feel like making a partlet. I'm using a lightweight semi-transparent cotton lawn fabric that wrinkles when you look at it the wrong way and frays like crazy. I found a free downloadable pattern for exactly the look I want, but I'll have to hunt around to share the link.
These screen-shots of the movie Elizabeth The Virgin Queen show exactly what I am making:

This scene is from the end of the movie where Elizabeth gets her hair cut off. Her three ladies-in-waiting have high collared shirts with what looks to me like a cartridge-pleated neck ruffles. I'll bet these shirts are a lightweight transparent silk but that's a bit expensive for a garment that I haven't worked out all the details for yet. I already made one major mistake, thank goodness for extra yardage!


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