This tutorial describes how to make a ribbon corset using actual ribbon. It has coutil and boning only on the busk, sides, and grommets.
Materials & Pattern
Suitable ribbon must be high-quality, and preferrably natural fiber for breathability. It must have a lot of strength when pulled on. It needs to be at least 1.5″ (4cm) in width, but wider will work better. For this corset I used 2.25″ wide double-face satin ribbon. If you want to use a ribbon that is not sturdy enough to be used alone (like some brocade ribbons), it can still be used if it is backed with a sturdy ribbon.
You will need a small amount of coutil for the busk, side, and grommet panels. You will also need boning. I recommend 1/4″ wide spring steel flats.
This is the scale pattern for the shown corset. It does not include any seam allowances. The patterns for most ribbon corsets made this way are going to look very similar, with the main variation being the amount and placement of the curves in the ribbon “panels”.
The busk panel needs to be wide enough for the busk, one adjacent bone, and top-stitching at the seam. The side panel needs to be wide enough for all included boning, plus top-stitching at either side. The grommet panel needs to be wide enough for the grommets, boning to either side of the grommets, any extra desired boning, and room for top-stitching at the seam.
The width of the ribbon strips is the width of the ribbon, and the overlap is determined by that width relative to the overall height of the ribbon panel. The ribbons each need to overlap by at least 1/4″. More does not hurt.
On the full-size pattern below, the upper and lower edges of each ribbon strip are shown. The markers for each ribbon are parallel, and marked by number and panel. On the back, that’s B1, B2, B3, B4, and B5. On the front, that’s F1, F2, F3, F4, and F5. The centerline is also marked. The overlap is minimum 1/4″, but on many of the strips it overlaps quite a bit more.
The coutil panels are marked with dashes where the edges of the ribbons should match up.
Cutting the Materials
The first step is to cut the coutil pieces. That was one busk panel on the fold, one busk panel with seam allowance, four side panels, and two back panels on the fold.
I marked each piece with the center (noted with a dash) and the ribbon bounding marks. For the center panel, I marked both sides of two of the pieces so I can more easily reference the marks when lining up the ribbons. I also marked the top end of each panel to help keep them from getting flipped.
When creating a corset in this style, make as many written notes on these panels as you need to in order to keep them clear for yourself. The pieces are all so similar that it is VERY easy to confuse which is which, and what is up and down.
After cutting out the coutil, I cut the ribbon strips, marking them to match the pattern “panel” and labeling them by their location and number on the end that will be sewn into the side panel. I would also advise marking them “L” and “R” for the right and left sides. Whether you mark them this way or not, be sure that you will know which way is up, which end is the front or back, and whether it goes on the left or right side.
Be sure to make the strips much longer than what will be the visible ribbon, so you have plenty of surface to secure within the coutil panels. The easiest flaw in ribbon corsets is cutting the ribbon too short, and having it pull free from the seam when it is worn.
I strongly recommend cutting and marking all ribbons at the same time. They are very easily confused, and even moreso when one part is fully assembled and then you try to make the mirror side. Trust me on this. I made one quarter first (as a test) and then made the rest of the ribbon pieces. I ended up making a duplicate of the back panel (instead of a mirror) and waisting about two hours of work.
As you cut the pieces for each ribbon “panel”, stack them separately so you don’t scramble them before sewing them together.
Cut each strip of ribbon with extra length equal to the width of the adjoining coutil panels. Mark them with the edges and edges of any overlapping ribbon strips. I also marked each strip with its identifying letter-number on the end that will sew to the side panel.
These are all the pieces for one back ribbon panel.
Creating the Ribbon Sections
Arrange the strips together as a single panel, matching the marks for the ribbon edges…
…and pin them.
After pinning the ribbons together at the marks (and comparing the panel to your paper patter – it should match exactly), sew along the chalk so you can treat the ribbon strips like one single piece.
Arrange and sew one side (left or right of the body), and then the other. Compare them before stitching the second half, and make sure the are reverses of each other. If they are both facing the same direction, one shoud be stacked with the center ribbon on top and the second should be stacked with the center ribbon on bottom. This is illustrated below.