I spent the afternoon and evening working on the regency corset. There will be absolutely no metal boning anywhere in the corset, and all the materials, including the cording, have been pre-washed in hot water so the finished corset will be machine washable. I’m taking advantage of this fact and using pencil to mark the corset. I will be washing it when finished to remove all pencil marks before sending it to the customer.
This is a photo of the mock-up, after it was returned by the customer. If you ever get a mock-up for a custom item, keep this in mind. I have never received back a mock-up so well modified and descriptive. Safety pins are holding folds of fabric to make the corset smaller where needed. It’s drawn on or folded back where it needs to be shorter, and where the armpit needs to be a little larger. Extra material is pinned on at the bust and the back of the hip to show where the pieces should be extended. To top it off, she very boldly marked the part of the shoulder strap which she would like padded out for more comfort.
Following the marks and modifications on the mock-up, I was able to modify the pattern with complete confidence.
There are going to be three layers to this corset. The core layer is white coutil. The cover is white drill, as is found on many extant regency corsets. The lining is white muslin. The cording is white poly twist intended for the core of piping. Stitches will be in white, and the edging will be white cotton taffeta.
Before doing any actual sewing, I first did some testing with scrap core/cover material and the cording. I made channels of different lengths until I figured out a width I could just barely get the cording into. You want the cording to be as snug as possible so it will be more effective for stiffening the corset. If the cording is sloppy in the channel it will have little effect other than decorative. Since this corset is plus-sized, it is especially important that the cording be tight, and that there is a lot of it.
The first step was to add the bust gores to each layer of the front panel.
Then I just grabbed the cover layer, front panel. I marked where the busk pocket will go, and then marked out my cording design. Since this is plus-sized, it will need a fair amount of cording throughout to hold shape nicely. Extra cording is also important if there is very much waist reduction. If the regency corset is very light-lacing, small, and just for bust support, very little cording is necessary. However, it can look very nice.
I looked to extant pieces for inspiration and placement. Almost all of them I saw had some sort of support arching down to the bottom of the corset a short distance from the busk, so I figure there is probably a good reason for it. Even if it’s not necessary for support, it looks nice.
The one thing I did here which I would caution against (now that I’ve corded a bit) is having squiggles with a lot of sharpness to them. It’s extremely difficult to get any cording material into them, so much so that it’s really not practical. I think this explains why so many extant pieces have diamond patterns rather than squiggles.
Once the pattern is drawn, formulate a plan for how to sew and cord. In order to insert the cording, you need to be able to get your hand to both ends of the channel. That means if a set of channels end at the broad side of another channel, you will need to sew the terminal channels first. In this design I have four areas which terminate in the broad side of another channel. Each bust, and the sweeping channels extending from below the bust towards the bottom of the corset. Since the bust is the most hindered by other channels, and the least hindering to any other channel, I will start there.
Before sewing the cording, I lined up the core and cover layers, wrong sides together. I then pinned them together to stabilize while sewing. They are pinned with bent pins so the material can lay flat without puckering (I keep a pin cushion with bent pins just for this purpose). You can also baste by hand if you prefer. The point is to keep the two layers from moving about while sewing, or you’ll end up with ugly distortions.
Stitch the channels in an order where you can make adjustments if needed based on actual channel width. I first sewed the center channels, and then the side channels starting closest to the gores. For the channels alongside the gores, I used the pencil marks as general guides, and used my presser foot for precise guide. I want the channels to be harmonious with the gores, so the outermost stitches are lined up with the edges of the gores via the presser foot edge. Then each successive channel was spaced using the presser foot as a guide so the widths were totally even.
As you can see in the photo, the actual channels are placed a little different from the drawing, so the squiggles need to be adjusted to look right. I used a fabric eraser (yes, a specific fabric eraser – it works much better on fabric than a normal eraser and can be purchased in the notion section of many fabric stores) to erase parts of the squiggle and redraw it before sewing.
When the section is ready to be corded, the next step is to prepare the cording. I am using tape to keep the end of the cord tight so it will go through the channel. My channels are tight enough that there is no room for the cording to bend back on itself and still make it through.
I am using buttonhole thread because it holds up better under heavy tugging. I still had it break every couple channels while working. It is tied tight around the cording just below the tape, and then the needle is run through the tape and out the end so the pressure is direct on the tip of the cord. I am using a very dull and large needle so it will go through the channel instead of poking through the fabric.
Be sure to have enough length of thread that you can get the needle entirely through the channel and have some thread to grab hold of when pulling the cording through. If you do this, it will save you a lot of frustration.
As I worked, I found that I only needed half that much tape on the end, and it was actually a little easier with a shorter tape bit. Also, when your needle is entirely through the channel, guide the tip of the cord into the channel before pulling hard. It sometimes takes some coaxing while tugging, or between tugs, to get the cord started through the channel. Pull it most of the way through, and then tug the fabric so it’s not compressed and the cord is settled in the channel. You don’t want your cord to be shorter than the fabric. Then, while holding the cover material at the start of the channel, slowly tug the cording until it’s just barely visible. Cut the exit end flush as well. If the cording is tight in the channel, it will stay there all on its own.
As I mentioned earlier, I should not have put in squiggles with such deep curves. The first problem was just getting the needle through, which I discovered needed to be done before adding any other cording. The second problem was getting the cord to go around the turns. The pull was towards the edge of the corset, but the cord needed to go sideways, so I ended up having to split the cord in half and run a smaller cord through just to be able to do it. It’s not much good for support, but the presence of some cording material at least makes it look consistent with the rest of the channels.
So, I got the cording into one bust and called it a night. I spent about eight hours working on this today, but it should go faster from here out now that I have some idea what I’m doing.
Project: Regency Corset