The Formation of The Seams
This method is often called a “welt seam” method, but I have also seen it and variations of it called “folded seam”. The principle idea is that you build the corset from front to back, adding each panel as a complete unit. This makes construction relatively quick and easy by eliminating repetitive tasks and lessening the impact of imprecise cutting and sewing. It can be very strong and durable, and relatively lightweight. It is easy to include one boning channel per seam during construction, or to add boning channels with boning tape after the body is assembled and before edging.
The disadvantages are lack of design flexibility and the quick build-up of bulk at the seams. It is difficult to use with gores because of bulk where multiple seams meet, although gores inserted into a slash can avoid this problem. It can also be difficult or impossible to create extra adornments and features that span multiple panels. However, for the beginning corset maker the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, and this method and other similar variations are mainstays for many experienced corset makers.
The illustrations in this tutorial show one core layer and one cover layer. When looking at the seam from the edge of the fabric the two center layers are the finished panel, wrong sides together. The next panel is pinned with right sides to the finished panel, and they are stitched together at the seam allowance.
The layers of the new panel are then folded away from the finished panel so their right sides are out, and another line of stitches secures them in that position. A pocket for the boning is created by the folding of the core layer. That new panel is then “finished” and the next panel may be added in the same way.
If you want your lining layer to be integral, it is added into the layers when building the body of the corset.
Theoretically, you can add as many layers as you want, but the more layers you add, the bulkier your seams will become.
If you want to add waist tape it can be run straight through the body of the corset between the front-fold and back-fold layers. You can also tack waist tape to the inside of the corset after it is assembled.
Assemble The Body of The Corset
Stack all your pieces in order, with Panel 1 on the bottom and Panel 6 on top, all oriented the same direction. Due to the similar shapes of the pieces, this will help prevent confusion later.
Set your sewing machine to a small stitch width. I usually set mine to “2” or just slightly smaller. The small stitches will hold more securely under pressure and help prevent seams from popping when you wear the corset.
If you are including a busk, do so now. Detailed instructions may be found in my tutorial on how to insert a busk.
If the front of your corset is solid, open up the pieces of Panel 6 and match them up. You may want to iron the pieces so they lay flat. If you are using two core layers in Panel 6 stitch in the boning channels to prevent the layers of the panel from shifting. Start with a stitch directly down the center front, and then stitch in the boning channels in appropriate widths to either side for your boning. If you are using boning tape to hold the center front boning, stitch it on now.
You will use the following method to attach each successive panel to the portion already assembled, working your way down your stack from Panel 6 to Panel 5 to Panel 4, etc. Be sure that you are sewing corresponding sides of the panels, using the marks in the seam allowance to match them.
The image below shows Panel 4 being added to Panel 5. The side of Panel 5 towards Panel 4 has four marks, so the side of Panel 4 with four marks is used.
Match up all layers at the waist point. The wrong side of Panel 4 is showing in the photo below. The core layer for Panel 4 is also pinned in place at the bottom of the stack, wrong side out.
After pinning all the waist points, pin the top and bottom edges so they match up at the seam allowance.
Pin the rest of the edge in place, using as many pins as necessary to keep the edges all lined up.
Stitch the seam, removing pins along the way.
Iron or press the newly attached panel away from the assembled portion. The right side of all layers should now be facing out. The image below shows the core layer pressed out.
Top stitch through all layers to secure them in place and add strength to the seam. As you stitch the seam, be sure to keep the new panel folded tight against the first seam. Adjust as needed.
If you want to create your boning channel within the seam allowance, stitch this seam far enough from the first seam to create room for the boning. I am going to use ¼ spring steel and spiral steel boning, so I stitched just slightly more than 1/4” from the first seam. I deliberately did not clip or grade the seam allowances so they would be strong enough to hold the boning. Instead, where the seams curved, especially over the hip, I used the iron to ease the material into the proper shape before stitching. A molded ironing ham is very useful for this.
As you finish each seam, it should have the same appearance as every seam before. In the photo below the corset is ready to add Panel 3.
Repeat the process for each panel until you have attached Panel 1 and you no longer have a stack of pieces.