I decided to make an Elizabethan corset next, rather than a Victorian one. I have attempted three Victorian corsets, and none have come out quite right, and I need a victory before another defeat. Also, I have no busks at the moment, nor any steel boning. The ones I have been making have zip ties for boning right now because it is what I had on hand from an Elizabethan corset for my 15-year-old for Halloween. Zip ties work fine for the Elizabethan because you use so many of them. In the 1500s, there was no steel boning. There were whalebone and reeds from what I have gathered. I think the zip ties are a fine mimic of reeds, in my opinion. A Victorian corset has just a few bones, comparatively, with bones on the seams and sometimes halfway along the panels. An Elizabethan corset is a solid wall of bones.
I went to the bargain fabric store just up the road and got a yard of a nice buttery yellow twill. I wanted a light color so that I can wear it under light colored clothing if I so choose later. I am using the custom corset generator at http://www.elizabethancostume.net/corsets/pattern.html, and I chose to make the boned tabs version. I used the basic no tabs version to make my daughter’s in October and I really like how it came out. I had altered that one so that it laced up the front instead of back so she could do it herself at school if she needed to. This one I am making back lacing. I originally used ¼” x 18” heavy duty zip ties from a packaging supplier, but this time I am using regular strength 14” zip ties. They seem to be about half the width of the heavy duty ones, and don’t need quite as wide of a channel. Of course, I didn’t realize this when I asked my husband Ben to bring home the zip ties, or I would have planned things a little differently.
I started by drafting my pattern according to the instructions on the website, and cut out my two layers of twill. I love that this pattern does not require special boning casings since the channels are formed by simply stitching two strength layers together. I marked out my tabs, and I spent a long time contemplating the layout of my boning channels. The instructions basically say to put the bones for the edges of the tabs right against the edge, but then they say to stitch up the edge and make the points, resulting in a ¼” gap between adjacent bones at the edges of the tabs. She also says to insert the bones before stitching the edges. I was very confused because my machine won’t stitch along the edge of the bone, or at least I don’t know how to make it do so. A zipper foot might work (I didn’t try it), but my experience is that the two layers would not have stitched together evenly, with the top layer reaching down over the bone to meet the bottom layer, and throwing off the alignment. I chose to stitch the points between the tabs first. This might come back to bite me; we will see.
While I waited for Ben to get home, I measured out and stitched 3/8” for all the bone casings, which resulted in slight gaps in the centers of tabs where the tab wasn’t quite wide enough to accommodate one more casing. I also puzzled over how to attach the binding along the edges. The instructions said to insert all the bones first, then add the binding. It also said that if I used reeds for boning, I was lucky and could stitch through them. As I mentioned above, I chose to bind before boning so that my machine would be able to do the job. I dreaded the thought have and stitching the binding on and constantly running into the bones with my needle. Now with the one I made for Moira, I was able to use the binding along the vertical edge as a boning channel itself. I really liked this concept, but the tabbed version would be harder to do that on. As I stitch the binding across the horizontal edge, it stitches the channel closed. For most of the bones, this would not be a problem. For the center back bones, this would be a huge problem because the binding kicks out away from the channel at the top of the tab. See the diagram in section 3 here: http://www.elizabethancostume.net/corsets/corset3.html. I finally decided to machine stitch down the edge until I reached that point. I then stopped, and resumed stitching at the point where the binding was all the way off the channel again, and just around the corner of the tab to the edge of the channel again. My plan is to stitch the binding in such a way that the bones run into the binding itself. I will post pictures when it is done, of course. I will stitch the binding up the channel edges rather than across them.