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Boning Types

I've been meaning to get up pictures and an explanation of different boning types ever since I first got the spiral steel a couple weeks ago. I'm definitely liking the spiral steel, particularly for the boning channels at my sides. I haven't used any curved boning channels, so the side-to-side flexibility hasn't been too much of an issue, but with blush dupioni corset, both the duct strapping and the flat spring steel bones at the sides got permanent kinks in them after a bit of wearing. (I can iron them flat again, but it's preferable that they not to that to begin with. I'm also not sure how the bending and unbending will affect the life of the bones.) I used the regular (thinner) flat steel on either side of the grommets, and a thicker white steel bone the next seam over. I might have used the thicker ones for the sides of the boning channels, but I didn't have many of the thicker ones. The lighter weight bones do seem a bit too thin for stabilizing the lacing, but so far it hasn't caused any problems; we'll see if that changes with extensive wear. I didn't use any duct strapping in my denim corset. The duct strapping isn't bad, but is definitely softer and more flexible than steel or cable ties, and more reactive to body heat. It's significantly thinner than the cable ties, though, and also quite easy to sew through. I haven't actually used the plastic meant-to-be-boning boning at all. I got way back, before I did the duct strapping thing.
My preference for corsets is definitely a combination of flat and spiral steel. For other boned bodicies or anything else that needed a bit of extra structure, duct strapping is excellent, though. While it seems too flimsy for corsets, it's easy to cut, doesn't upset my machine to sew through it, and isn't too thick; it's actually very versatile.
Boning Types: Boning types in my possession; the four to the left are plastic, and the four to the right are steel. From left to right: --a heavy duty cable tie (duct tie? the 15" 120lb kind.) (from the hardware store) --perforated duct strapping (it only comes with the little holes, I use a revolving hole punch to cut them bigger so that I can use the duct strapping to stabilize eyelet) (from the hardware store) --duct strapping, cut lengthwise --plastic boning (I think it was from Joann) --1/4-inch spiral steel from corsetmaking.com --1/4-inch white steel boning from corsetmaking.com --"extra-thick" 1/4-inch white steel boning from corsetmaking.com (no, your eyes aren't deceiving you, it really is wider than the other1/4 inch stuff, my ruler says 5/16ths of an inch) and --1/2-inch white steel boning from voguefabricstore.comBoning Types: Boning types in my possession; the four to the left are plastic, and the four to the right are steel.
From left to right:
--a heavy duty cable tie (duct tie? the 15" 120lb kind.) (from the hardware store)
--perforated duct strapping (it only comes with the little holes, I use a revolving hole punch to cut them bigger so that I can use the duct strapping to stabilize eyelet) (from the hardware store)
--duct strapping, cut lengthwise
--plastic boning (I think it was from Joann)
--1/4-inch spiral steel from corsetmaking.com
--1/4-inch white steel boning from corsetmaking.com
--"extra-thick" 1/4-inch white steel boning from corsetmaking.com (no, your eyes aren't deceiving you, it really is wider than the other1/4 inch stuff, my ruler says 5/16ths of an inch) and
--1/2-inch white steel boning from voguefabricstore.com
Boning Types  -- Thickness: Left to right, that's the plastic duct strapping, plastic boning from Joann, extra-thick "1/4inch" (actually 5/16ths of an inch) wide white steel boning from corsetmaking.com, a cable tie, regular 1/4" white steel boning (which actually is 1/4 inch wide) from corsetmaking.com, and spiral steel boning from corsetmaking.com. Unless you count the thickness of the casing of the plastic stuff from Joann, the cable tie is definitely the thickest.  The extra-thick spring steel isn't too far behind, but is much, much sturdier.  The spring steel is actually thinner than it looks in this picture.   I had trouble getting a good side-view photo.Boning Types -- Thickness: Left to right, that's the plastic duct strapping, plastic boning from Joann, extra-thick "1/4inch" (actually 5/16ths of an inch) wide white steel boning from corsetmaking.com, a cable tie, regular 1/4" white steel boning (which actually is 1/4 inch wide) from corsetmaking.com, and spiral steel boning from corsetmaking.com. Unless you count the thickness of the casing of the plastic stuff from Joann, the cable tie is definitely the thickest. The extra-thick spring steel isn't too far behind, but is much, much sturdier. The spring steel is actually thinner than it looks in this picture. I had trouble getting a good side-view photo.

My Denim Corset May Be Done

Denim Corset -- Done?Denim Corset -- Done? Denim Corset BackDenim Corset Back Denim Corset InsideDenim Corset Inside Alrighty, before dfr's head explodes, I'll put up some more pictures. I think it may be done. I haven't flossed the tops of the bones, but I'm not sure if I want to. I used the narrow flower trim at the top edge, so flossing at the top might look a bit off.
It still has a few loose threads, mostly from ripped out stitching lines. Getting rid of all the thread after undoing a seam is really time consuming! The unpicking itself is fast, and really doesn't bother me; unpicking seams and changing them a bit is just a part of sewing. But getting all the bits of thread off? Annoying!
I took dfr's advice and removed the boning from the seams that go right over my bust, moving the boning channels to either side instead. I'd actually already created an extra boning channel just to the outside of those seams, and the other one I added to what's actually the facing around the front, so that's plenty sturdy.
The corset is quite comfortable, even with the extra waist reduction! There's something disorienting about putting it on and placing it correctly-- the waist tape is placed correctly, I just put it on a bit too high up when I tried it on before-- that's also why the upper edge was too high. I've mentioned before that my natural waist isn't the part of my torso that's naturally the narrowest; corseted, the circumference around the bottom of my rib cage is actually narrower than my true waist. And once the laces are tightened, it's almost impossible to deliberately pull it up or down. So I have to fight the natural inclination to place the narrowest part of the corset (the waist) at the narrowest part of my uncorseted torso (the bottom of my rib cage.)
So, the fit is pretty good, wrinkling is minimal, it's comfortable, and manages some waist reduction! I'm pretty happy with this one. It's either done, or done-except-for-a-couple-of-details. I'm wearing it, anyways.

This was the first corset I've used real grommets for. I haven't ordered from GrommetMart yet, and grommeting tools are generally quite a bit more expensive than eyelet tools. But then I found theLord & Hodge Size 0 Grommet Kit on Amazon. They didn't have a size 00, the 0 was the smallest they had, so I went with that, since it was so much cheaper than any of the other grommet kits I'd seen. I'll have to get size 00 tools eventually, but size 0 is even what Sydney Eileen uses, so it can't be totally wrong, can it? So I've finally used two-piece roll-and-not-split grommets.

More Progress on My Denim Corset -- Bottom Edge Bound

Denim Corset -- More ProgressDenim Corset -- More Progress 25 Inches!: And I got another inch of reduction!25 Inches!: I got another inch of reduction!
I've gotten the bottom edge bound, and most of the flossing on the bottom. I think I'll have to lower the edge under my arms a bit, it feels too high. And the bottom edge pulls apart a bit. But the fit is a definate improvement, and there's not too much in the way of wrinkling. And I can get my waist down to 25 inches! I still have a bit of a gap in the back, too. It feels like I might have placed the waist tape a bit too high; it feels like it's putting pressure on my floating ribs, and I'd meant it to be just below that, I'm not sure exactly how I screwed that up.
It's using mostly 1/4" spiral steels, with flat steels on either site of the grommets in the back, and a couple of cable ties in the back, too; I'm low on flat steels. I'm pretty happy with the progress, though!
The top edge pulls apart, too. I might actually just cut a centimeter or so off the top all around, or almost all around, rather than only lowering the sides under my arms, perhaps it just comes up too high in the front.
There might even be a coutil version in the near-ish future.

Denim Corset In Progress

Denim Corset Inside -- In ProgressDenim Corset Inside -- In ProgressDenim Corset -- In ProgressDenim Corset -- In Progress Denim Corset -- In Progress -- Embellishment OptionsDenim Corset -- In Progress -- Embellishment Options
When dfr completed her denim mid-Victorian corset, I realized that that too-tightly-woven-to-make-good-jeans denim in my stash was destined to be a corset. So, I've been working on an updated version of the corset pattern I drafted using the Foundations Revealed instructions, and dfr has, of course, been complaining about my lack of in-progress pictures. So finally, here are some progress pictures! I'm using mostly spiral steels, which I like so far. Flat steels on either side of the lacing, of course, and a few cable ties in the back, probably. I am somewhat worried that the spiral steels might be less supportive for my back. This is the first corset I've made using real grommets, and not using duct strapping in the back to stabilize the lacing; just the flat steels on either side. I'm using size 0 grommets (which I found, along with size 0 grommeting tools, on amazon.com for pretty cheap. For some reason size 00 grommets and grommeting tools are harder to find, and the tools are more expensive.)
So far I'm using some double-faced satin ribbon from a mystery box as the lacing. The regular corset lacing I have seemed too narrow. The satin ribbon is too thick to be practical with eyelets, but seems to work quite well with the size 0 grommets.
I'm mostly just boning along the seam allowances, plus a few added denim inserts that function as boning channels too. And as you can see, lining it with the cherry-print broadcloth. I'm trying to do most of the flossing before actually installing the lining all the way, so that the inside will (hopefully) look neater.
I'm thinking of doing some contrasting topstitching, but I haven't decided on a color, and I might not. Of course, I also haven't decided exactly what I want to do so far as embellishments. This last picture shows most of the options I'm considering; lace, trims and appliques from mystery bundles. But of course, I haven't made up my mind. I'll probably put up a few more in-progress pictures as I experiment with the different options.
And one more thing I haven't decided on is the binding. The denim I used is really too thick to be practical as a binding, so I still have to figure out what the heck will work and not look goofy. Serging the edge and then using lace as a sort-binding may be possible. Or some kind of contrast bias binding, although I have no idea what. Maybe purple cotton.. but I'm not sure that would look right.

And on With the Gore-Talk

Gore Front CloseupGore Front Closeup
Gore Back CloseupGore Back Closeup: Please excuse the messiness, it's just a test-gore.

As I consider Gloria's small-dart suggestion in response to my last post about gores and gussets, I've realized that creating a tiny (5mm) dart is exactly what those Foundations Revealed instructions say to do; they just don't specifically say that this process creates a tiny dart. The way I'd been imagining it, that dart would have been impossible, especially with the expectation of making the edge into which I insert the gore wrinkle-free. But since nobody seems to ever really insert a gore into a panel without some decorative embroidery at the point, I'm thinking that that dart is how it's done, and it's the combination of embroidery and coercive ironing that makes it not look like there's a wrinkle.
Furthermore, look at these pictures. See how --especially at the bottom-- the fabric of the gore is being pulled outward, creating a rounded shape and putting it on level with the panel into which it's sewn? The physical impossibility of sewing the gore, right sides together, to the panel, and then having the whole of the gore completely to the inside of that panel is responsible for creating that shaping.

Further complicating the subject of gore-vs-gusset is the fact that the What is a gusset? Fashion-Incubator entry mentions two opposing opinions on the definition of gusset, and speaks as though it could be entirely possible that neither one is outright wrong. As Kathleen Fasanella is generally quite vocal about her belief that there are wrong ways of doing things, this leave me with the impression that there could be multiple, opposing definitions without one of them necessarily being wrong. Of course, I could be wrong about that, and the topic could be concluded on the F-I private forum, which I'm not a member of. (I've thought about buying her book and applying to join, as she is very knowledgeable. However, I can't imagine myself in manufacturing. Even if I were able to eventually turn sewing into a business [which I'm not sure I could do anyway,] corsetry doesn't seem to generally work in the same way as industrial sewing. She is the definitive authority on how to launch a clothing line, but I don't know if starting a ready-to-wear line and creating custom corsets overlap much. Even when industrial sewing machines are used, real [as opposed to fashion] corsetry isn't actually "industrial" in nature. When she refers to "the industry" that definition seems to fairly specifically exclude anything bespoke. The cornerstone of "industrial sewing" appears to be standardization and uniformity. [Actually, that could probably be said of almost any industry.])

Hey mom, you've been reading all this. Think you can inquire at school about the technical and definitional differences between a gore and a gusset?

Gussets, Gores, and Trademarks -- Definitions

The Wikipedia article on gussets starts with the basic definition that "In sewing, a gusset is a triangular or square piece of fabric inserted into a seam to add breadth or reduce stress from tight-fitting clothing." While the Wikipedia article on gores states that a gore is "a segment of a three-dimensional shape fabricated from a two-dimensional material. The term was originally used to describe triangular shapes, but is now extended to any shape that can be used to create the third dimension." It should be noted that the gore entry is not specific to sewing; it's actually listed as a cartography article, although it also mentions parachutes, hot-air balloons, and round corners in duct-work.
These definitions lend themselves to the idea that a gore is used for the purpose of shaping while a gusset is added for the purpose of movement. I'm not sure why this would be different in corsetry, besides the obvious need to distinguish between a gore placed between to panels and a gore placed in a slit in a panel. However, given the close relationship between corsetry and costuming, I would think that corsetry-specific definitions for "gusset" and "gore" would actually get more confusing, since the use of gussets is so widespread in historical clothing.

Related side note:
There is also a brand of jeans called "Diamond Gusset" that uses (you guessed it) a diamond-shaped gusset in the crotch. While this would again lend itself to the theory that gussets are about allowing for freedom of motion, I'm seeing some problems here. For one, gussets aren't exactly a new idea, and these are being called "the original" gusset jean. Beyond that, they're referring to this gusset in the crotch of their jeans as a "our trademark gusset." Stop right there. Trademark gusset? At the top of their what is a gusset? page is the question "Why didn't someone think of this sooner?" Since when are crotch gussets a new idea? Or is the newness simply in applying it to jeans? Are jeans considered a different item of clothing than pants? I'm fairly certain that the term "jeans" refers to denim pants, denim being a specific type of twill. The variety of specialized fabric weave types is certainly fairly new, but can we call something new when it's an old idea, just a new fabric/pattern combination? Could there still be "original" crotch-gusseted khakis? But let's move on to the real problem with this statement about a "trademark gusset." 15 U.S.C. § 1052 states that registration of a trademark shall be refused if: "(e) Consists of a mark which (1) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them, (2) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically descriptive of them, except as indications of regional origin may be registrable under section 1054 of this title, (3) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of them, (4) is primarily merely a surname, or (5) comprises any matter that, as a whole, is functional."
If we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that a gusset could possibly be considered a trademark to begin with (which I highly doubt) part 5 is clearly problematic. Their own site states rather clearly that the gusset is functional; it's not a mark of distinction, it's a method of providing superior characteristics to their jeans, so the likelihood of this diamond-shaped gusset being a trademark strikes me as about zilch. There's good reason for this limitation on trademarks-- functionality is legally governed by patent law. If someone could trademark a way of making something, that trademark would be so ingrained by the time that patent expired that it would be impossible for anybody else to use it, despite the expired patent putting it in the public domain. Not only would covering functionality under trademark law be redundant, it would effectively remove all time limits on patents.
Of course, I'm being pedantic, and given that I see no legal statements or legally representative trademark symbols being used, after having written all this, it's now occurring to me that they're probably using the phrase "our trademark _______" in the colloquial sense of "something about us that differentiates us from the majority of similar products on the market," rather than in a technical, legal sense. Furthermore, those Diamond Gusset jeans are both reasonably priced ($50 jeans, $120 protective motorcycle pants) and made in America-- not only "Made in America" but completely made in America, down to the American-grown cotton! Their customer service information page states that they have a 90-day guarantee on materials and workmanship, and a "fair-play" statement that if something goes on sale within five days of having ordered it, you can give them a call and they'll adjust your order to match the sale price. So now I'm somewhat regretting having objected to their non-technical use of the word "trademark" but hey, I linked to them four times! And I've never claimed not to be a pedantic geek.

Erm, I had more specific ramblings about gores, along with pictures, but I'll save that for another post, and leave this one as a post about definitions. Suffice it to say I'm now satisfied with the distinction that gores are usually-triangular pieces used for shaping and gussets are usually-four-sided pieces used for providing an increased range of motion. That does make it difficult to distinguish between set-in-panel gores and set-between-panel gores. Gore type 1 and gore type 2? Gore A and gore B? Gore B and gore I?

Gores, Gussets.. Gussets, Gores..

Gores and Gusset: Or gussets and gore?Gores and Gusset: Or gussets and gore?
After dfr made her very successful denim corset, I realized that the too-tightly-woven-for-jeans non-stretch denim sitting in my stash would work wonderfully for corsetry. I'd gotten it during a fabric.com sale, so of course I had no way of knowing what the denim would actually be like-- they almost always take pictures completely flat, and only show scale if it's a print. They had a whole host of heavyweight non-stretch denim that was on sale, all with nearly identical pictures. I'd selected two, theoretically the same denim but in different colors, not that that was visible on the site. While they are somewhat different colors, the actual difference was that one was a much tighter weave than the other. For jeans, I prefer some stretch to denim; mostly I go after heavyweight denims with lycra, but I've had some success with less tightly woven denims.

So, denim corsetry. I've started a mockup of my new altered version of my self-drafted pattern that doesn't quite fit. But then I decided to get a subscription to Foundations Revealed, and so I've been working on some of those techniques. Like the gussets and gores. Or gores and gussets. The article says that gores are the pieces set into a slit in a piece of fabric, and gussets are the ones that are set in between two panels. Talking about it in the PR chat last night, though, everyone else thought that it was the other way around. When I ask Google, the main results I come up with are late 1800s and early 1900s supreme court cases dealing with shoe patents. And no, those don't answer my question. Then there's the What is a Gusset? Fashion Incubator entry, which makes some mention of the difference between gussets and godets (apparently godets are more decorative rather than functional) but doesn't seem to define gusset in any way that I can solidly distinguish from gores.

But anyways, the Foundations Revealed article is on "wrinkle free" gores and gussets. I used the front two panels and the gore and gusset pieces from the 1878 patent they used in the examples. I'm starting to believe that "wrinkle free" gores (or whichever ones are inserted into a slit rather than in between two panels) are a physical impossibility; you have to sew it to a tip, and then turn it inside.. how does this work? It doesn't seem physically possible. The standard method seems to be to embroider around the bottom of the gore (gusset?) in order to hide the wrinkling that occurs. With some coercive ironing, I managed to get it fairly straight, but you can see that it's still not quite right, and that's using just denim. There's no way I'd attempt it with, say, silk layered onto a strength layer. Maybe I'm being too picky, is it "too" picky to want professional looking results? Well, I suppose that if what the professionals do is embroider the bottom of the gore to hide imperfections, that's what should be done.. but it's making my brain hurt as I ponder whether this is a work-around or an actual technique, and whether those can actually be the same thing.
I may try doing that corset in denim, as well. It's an interesting and very pretty pattern, despite all of the infuriating gores/gussets. If my head explodes, you'll know why.

Quilters Knots

Dfr and I were recently talking about how we'd both eventually have to get paid memberships to Foundations Revealed given that we've both been pretty obsessive about corsets and have started to exhaust the free information available. I'd already used the free "sample" articles pretty extensively; that set of instructions on how to draft a corset pattern to your own measurements is one of their free articles. So yesterday I broke down and bought a membership. (Well, just a month to start with.) Lo and behold, they explain how to make the flossing look neater from the inside! Except part of those instructions were to "make a quilter's knot." I guess they weren't figuring that people would be getting paid subscriptions to corset-making sites without first having basic knowledge like common sewing knots! The thing about starting with complicated projects is that you don't learn basic techniques first. I was still making knots the way we learned in middle school home ec, wrapping it around my finger and then twisting and pulling it. Actually, come to think of it, what that actually does is very similar to a quilter's knot, except that the quilter's knot is smaller and possibly more controlled, although I'm still practicing it, so mine aren't so controlled. So anyway, I went off in search of a how-to on making a quilter's knot, and came up with a whole lot of gobledegook. Videos and sets of instructions that I'd follow, and end up with no knot at the end of my thread.
Then I found this one! It's really quiet, so you have to turn the volume all the way up to hear it, although the video is clear enough that you're more following what she's doing by sight than by the narrative. But she actually shows you what to do to get a knot at the end of your thread! Hallelujah!


Closeups of the Stars

Stars Closeup 2Stars Closeup 2Closeup of StarsCloseup of Stars
Closeups of the flossing stars for dfr.

I start with an X, then I make the next line actually two lines, each from the outside and then just over where the two starting lines crossed. For the last line, I start from one side and then loop around where all of the threads intersect in the center, but don't actually make that one two separate stitches. I'm not sure that's what I'll keep doing, though, since it doesn't seem to be too clean on the back, and of course wouldn't work on a boning channel.. unless perhaps it went across two boning channels.. but then I think it would be too big for a simple asterisk star pattern. I'm sure refining my flossing will be a long and time-consuming process!

I'm Declaring the Ivory Corset Done!

I'm Declaring it DoneI'm Declaring it DoneIvory Corset InsideIvory Corset Inside
I know, it doesn't really look different than the last one or the one before that. Or the one before that. After finishing the flowers and the blue top flossing for the boning channels, I felt like it needed something else. So I added little stars in blue and silver, and silver running stitches along the sides of the busk.
The inside doesn't look particularly polished, but it actually is lined, but the lining is Vera Wang canvas rather than something white. And the flossing is of course goes all the way through to the lining. I believe that's how it's supposed to be done, but it does look unpolished that way. Perhaps I just need to work on making the underside of the flossing look decent. Or do less flossing. The pinstripes on that canvas also make straight lines a great deal easier.
I've kept going and going with the flossing because since it's really way too small, especially around the top, I don't know what makes it done. Maybe it's not a completed project at all, but besides the size problem, I rather like it. It's not perfect, but it does look fairly decent, and the general technique is definitely an improvement on my previous corsets. It's a learning experience! Flat fabric, almost no wrinkling.. just way too small!

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by Dr. Radut