Corset Making Essentials (and not so essentials)
I made my first corset a few years ago and struggled with finding the right supplies. This post is dedicated to making the experience of the amateur corset maker a little easier by listing the supplies that I've found I couldn't live without when making my own corsets.
There are many different types of boning and slightly different uses for all of them. Let's start with the most common types; steel and spiral boning.
Steel bones are what you use in most corsets. They usually come in either 5mm or 7mm widths, but there are slight variations with every supplier. If you choose 5mm,sew the bone channels 7mm wide and with 7mm bones you sew the bone channels 1cm wide. You need a little bit of give in order to actually get the bones into your bone channels! Believe me, you don't want to make the channels too small as it is a workout to try and get bones into channels that were sewn too small.
The width doesn't really affect the corset's integrity, the decision comes down to how you want your corset to look. Original corsets had very thin bones, so if you wanted to make your corset look more authentic you can use thinner bones. However, it takes longer to bone a whole corset in thinner bones, so the choice is up to you!
Spiral bones are flexible and you use these when you need a bit more movement in your corset. In Victorian sports corsets, for example, spiral bones are better because you wouldn't want a bone to snap while you are in the middle of a vigorous movement! You can also use spiral bones on boning channels that aren't 'straight'. In almost all Georgian corsets there is a vertical bone or two that curves upwards in order to create the right silhouette. I would use a spiral bone for this job.
If in doubt, I would recommend 7mm steel bones for your project.
Both of these types of boning also come in two variations:
Pre-cut boning is what I would recommend for someone who makes the occasional corset. You don't need to worry about cutting or sealing the bones, you can just slide them into the corset and voila! The only problem with pre-cut is you have to order them online and then wait for them to arrive, which can be frustrating when you have an almost finished corset sitting in the corner of the room.
Continuous boning is more convenient because you can always have a reel in your stash, meaning that you don't have to wait for bones to arrive in the post. However, this means that you also have to deal with measuring, cutting and sealing the bones, which I will go into later in this post.
Supply links (UK):
Pre Cut Bones (Steel and Spiral)
You can also find your own suppliers, this is just to give you an idea of what to look for!
Aviation Shears / Tin Snips
If you've decided to buy continuous boning then you will need these in order to cut it. Just a warning, they can be very tough on your hands (especially if you're a weakling like me!), especially with a heavily boned corset. Take breaks!
Tin Snips (I bought mine from somewhere else, but I found the right style here)
Sealing bones is tricky, and not always necessary, but don't tell anyone I told you that! Sealing bones helps to stop the bones from poking out of the corset after a lot of wear, and it also prevents rust if you ever need to wash your corset for any reason. For the occasional corset maker, you can either wrap some masking tape on the end or coat it with nail polish. For those more serious...
... you can use this plastic coating stuff. I must admit, I still don't really know what I'm doing here. What I'm using, plasti-dip, is apparently for sealing the grip of tools. I don't know whether you could get a smaller tube of it without having to buy this whole tin! It is massive and I don't think I'll ever get through the whole thing, but it wasn't that expensive! I do love how effectively it seals bones. If you don't want such a massive tin, maybe you could shop around for the same stuff in a smaller container? If you do find something, please do let me know and I'll put it in here!
With continuous spiral boning you will need to buy end caps which you press onto the ends using pliers.
I struggled with eyelets for so long I hope that I can help someone here because it's actually so easy to get nice eyelets with the right tools.
Prym is my go-to for eyelets. You can get all sorts of off-brand eyelets on Amazon but you never know whether they'll fit your tool or be the right size. If you are making the odd corset, you can buy packs of 50 eyelets that come with the washer and 'hammer tool'. If you're planning to make a lot more corsets, you can also buy packs of 500, like I have. You can attach these using a hammer, but I personally found that it took too long to do the whole back of a corset and it was also messy and loud.
Now these saved my life. They're easy to use, quick and also come with a hole punching accessory so you don't have to worry about that either! These are also quite tough on your hands, but they're not as bad as the tin snips.
The eyelets come in black, silver and gold. Again, this is an aesthetic choice. I personally like silver on a white corset, but other colours can be used to make an impact. They also come in different sizes, but I usually use 5mm just because it's a nice size to thread the laces through.
Not such a big deal if you're making the occasional corset, you can buy finished lengths very easily from many places. However, if you're making a lot of corsets in a lot of different sizes, having a reel of lacing is very useful because you can dictate how long you want your laces to be. Tipping laces is another struggle, easily overcome by the discovery of 'heat shrink tubing'.
It comes like this in one continuous length, so you can decide how big you want the tips of your laces to be. You simply thread this stuff onto the end of the lace and seal it on.
The instructions say to use a heat gun to seal it but I don't own one of those, so I simply use my iron:
Then all you have to do is snip the end off and you're left with nice and neat corset laces!
You also don't need too much of this stuff- I only bought one metre to try it out and it has lasted me for ages!
You don't need a busk for every corset, and different eras will require different busks. Split busks, for example, were only invented in the 19th century and are a very effective way to finish a Victorian corset. It also makes corsets easier to put on by yourself without having to have someone to lace you in. They can be a little tricky to insert, but I am planning to make a post about how to insert them properly at some point! I also use a busk in my Regency corsets, which is a completely different type of busk. It's basically just a stick of wood that helps with your posture.
For this, I bought something called 'paint sticks'. And no, I still don't know what they are. I could only find a pack of 100 and there are lots of other options. Vena cava sells a lovely tapered busk that's perfect for making a Regency corset. You can also just use a ruler or something else stiff and straight as it'll give the right effect.
Well that's all I have for this post! If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask me, and if you have any tips for me I'd love to know them as well! Hope this post helps you as you venture into the world of corset making!
Until next time,