How to Make a Corded Regency Corset

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

Assemble and Cord the Corset

There are going to be three layers to this corset.  The core layer is white cotton coutil.  The cover is white cotton drill, as is found on many extant regency corsets.  The lining is white cotton muslin.  The cording is white poly twist intended for the core of piping.  Stitches are in white, and the edging is white cotton taffeta.

For your corset you can use just two layers, cover and lining.  If you do this, make sure your cover material is a sturdy fabric, and keep in mind that it won’t have the inherent structure provided by having two sturdy layers.  That means it may not hold shape with cording alone, especially if it is large or has more than a very small amount of waist reduction.

Cut out all the pieces.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

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Test your cording with scrap core/cover material and the cording material.  Make channels of different widths until you figure out a width you can 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.

Prepare the cording.  You will need your cord, a large tapestry needle (blunt tip), ordinary tape, and thread.  I recommend using buttonhole thread because it holds up better under heavy tugging.  It may still break every couple channels while working.  Wrap a very small piece of tape around the very end of the cord as tightly as possible.  Tie the thread around the end of the cord, and then wrap another piece of tape as tightly as possible around the end of the cord and the thread.  The tape should extend a little bit past the end of the cord, and pinch it tight so it makes a smaller profile.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

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.

After you have threaded the needle 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.

The goal at this stage is to figure out the width where you can get the cording through, but just barely.  It won’t be easy.  In the photo below you can see from the bottom up, a wider channel, a narrower channel, and then two more channels between the two widths, one with the cording in it.  The bottom channel was too sloppy.  I couldn’t get the cording into the next one up.  The one above that was just slightly sloppy, and the fourth was just barely large enough to cord.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

 

 

Insert the gores into the bust panel for all layers. (link will open in new window)

 

DO NOT assemble the panels yet.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

 

 

Take the front panel cover layer, mark where the busk pocket will go, and mark out the cording design.  I used a normal pencil (which was a mistake, as it was difficult to remove even in the washing machine), but you will probably want to use some sort of chalk or washable ink.  The marks will get a lot of manipulation as you make the corset, so beware a marker that will rub off before you have a chance to sew the stitches.  Since the example corset is plus-sized and I’m not using any steel boning, 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, you may still want to add a lot of cording just because it looks nice.

I looked to extant pieces for inspiration and placement of the cording.  Almost all of the corsets 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 is having squiggles with a lot of sharpness to them (like on the bust here).  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, and if there are curly designs they are often created by quilting or embroidery rather than cording.

Be sure to mark the area for your busk pocket.  This should be straight down the center front of the corset, and the width of the busk.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

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Once the pattern is drawn, plan the order in which to sew and cord different sections.  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 that section before the section that blocks it.  In this design I have four areas which terminate in the broad side of another channel; each bust, and the sweeping channels extending from the top of the hip towards the bottom front 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.

Variations:  There are more ways to insert the cording than the one method I show here.  One alternative insertion method I’ve seen since making this corset involves stitching all channels first, and then gently using an awl to create holes at either end of a cording channel.  The cord is then threaded through the hole, the channel, and out another hole.  Once the cording is in place, the fabric is teased to close the hole.

Detailed instructions on this method may be found in:
Stays Cording Tutorial by The Laced Angel
Cording Runners Tutorial by Jennylafleur

 

Before sewing the cording, line up the core and cover layers, wrong sides together, matching the gores and any other identifiable points.  Pin them together to prevent the layers from shifting while sewing.  I have them 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 may end up with ugly distortions.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

 

 

In case your drawn lines are not exactly the correct width, stitch the channels in an order that allows you to make adjustments if needed based on actual channel width.  For this bust section, I sewed the center channels, and then the channels closest to the gores.  As much as possible, use the marks as general guides, and the presser foot as precise guide.  Make the channels exactly the width you found was ideal when testing earlier.  In this case I want the channels to follow the gores, so the outermost stitches are lined up with the edges of the gores via the presser foot edge.  Then each successive channel is spaced using the presser foot as a guide so the widths are 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.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

 

 

Note: If you used pencil to mark your design like I did, I highly recommend using a fabric eraser to remove the marks on each section as you finish stitching, and before you insert the cording.  I waited until after cording to try and remove the marks, and it was nearly impossible to get all of them out because they were mostly down in ditches.

Prepare the cording.  Wrap a very small piece of tape around the very end of the cord as tightly as possible.  Tie the thread around the end of the cord, and then wrap another piece of tape as tightly as possible around the end of the cord and the thread.  The tape should extend a little bit past the end of the cord, and pinch it tight so it makes a smaller profile.  This will make it much easier to get the cord started into the channel.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

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.

After you have threaded the needle 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.

You may need to redo the thread and tape every couple channels.  As you work the tape will mangle and the thread will fray from the stress of pulling.

Pull the cord through until there is a short tail left sticking out the starting end of the channel.  You don’t want your cord to be shorter than the fabric, so stretch the fabric along the direction of the channel without holding the cord.  Some of the cord will be pulled into the channel from both sides.  Trim both ends of the cord flush with the ends of the channel.  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 had to be done before adding any other cording because the extra stiffness on either side made it impossible.  The second problem was getting the cord to go around the turns.  It was impossible to put pressure in a direct line down the channel, which is necessary to pull the very tightly fitting cording through.    I ended up having to split the cord in half and run a smaller cord through the channel.  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.

If you want to make squiggly channels just for decorative effect, make sure your squiggles are not too sharp to fit your needle through, and either make them wider or use smaller cording to fill them.

How to Make a Corded Regency Corset, by Sidney Eileen

6 thoughts on “How to Make a Corded Regency Corset

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    • This tutorial discusses structural cording, which is intended to help stiffen a corset, and in that case the cord channel is made by stitching together two layers of fabric. For decorative cording (like accents along seams) you usually want to fold fabric around the cord, like piping.

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