Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Fan making classes

Hello all!!  Just popping my head up again from the mound of stuff I'm currently embroiled in.  Details of which will no doubt unfurl as the year goes on, but for now, some are top secret, which of course means that they are ridiculously exciting!

One thing which i'm working on is using my new workshop and studio to it's full advantage.  It's a shame to have such a beautiful space available and not use all of it after all!  So I am collaborating with talented corset makers, dress makers and hat makers, to bring you 'masterclasses' - one day workshops which will focus on the specialty areas of couture and millinery.  I am going to be announcing the first one this week, and the class while being taught by a corsetiere for corsetiers, would also be very interesting for dressmakers who are perhaps making something very special this year ... a wedding dress or very special occasion outfit perhaps?  Here's a little clue ..

In the meantime, I can also tell you that the lovely Charlotte Raine, of Charlotte Raine Corsetry will be teaching a workshop on how to make a burlesque feather fan at the Sew Curvy Studio on Saturday 19 May.  The workshop will start at 1.30pm, tea and cupcakes will be flowing, as will the ostrich feathers!  Go to Charlotte's web page to find out more and book a place - just click the picture!

And finally, if you would like to collaborate with me to present a Masterclass in your specialty, or if you would like to hire my workshop space which is in Oxfordshire, please do get in touch by clicking HERE.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Spiral steel boning for dressmaking and corsetry

A while ago I wrote a post about how easy it is to use continuous spiral steel boning when making your couture style boned bodices and bombshell dresses, but I am still dismayed to see on blogs around the internet, that people are finding it hard to use and difficult to cut.

It's not hard, it's easy, and it's effortless, so please spread the word!

and if that doesn't convince you ...

Continuous spiral steel boning is much cheaper 
and more economical to use than pre-cut boning

Here's my tutorial again:

Spiral wire boning is used in corsets and in couture garments for strong boning support.  It is made of steel which has been formed into a continuous spring which has then been flattened.  Because spiral wire boning is a flattened spring, it is extremely flexible and can bend horizontally and vertically (backwards, forwards and sideways), making it perfect for boning over and around curves.

The curvy bone channel goes from side to side as well as up and over
In couture garments, it is used in conjunction with 2 layers of tulle or bobbinet which is a very fine and very strong netting material which when layered together, has no stretch but provides a fine, non bulky foundation for a gown.

a corset looks like a skeleton when held to the light
In corsetry, sprial wire boning is used in conjunction with coutil fabric and often in partnership with flat sprung steel bones which are not as flexible and therefore useful when a firmer, straighter support is required.  Both types of steel boning were invented during the Victorian age and used instead of whalebone because it was cheaper and easier.

Spiral wire boning comes in various different widths, from 4mm-15mm, and various different thicknesses making it possible to 'mix and match' your boning to achieve whichever level of support is required for any particular project.  For instance, you may only need a light 5mm wire to bone a net bodice, but you may need a more robust 7-10mm wire to bone a multi-layer corset for tightlacing.  With all boning, there is flexibility!

All types of boning, whether steel or plastic, comes either in pre-cut lengths or in continuous reels.  It is more economical and much more efficient to buy your steel in a roll and cut it yourself but many people are put off by the supposed requirement for 'brute force' with which to cut it. 

Do not fear!  

Spiral wire boning is easy peasy to cut and tip.  
Here is a tutorial to show you how.

To cut and tip spiral wire, you need a pair of wire cutters, and two pairs of pliers, one of which must have flat edges.

my flat pliers are out of shot!
To cut the boning, you need only snip either side of the wire.  When you have snipped the wire either side of the spring, it will come apart naturally.  

Trim any pokeyouty bits with your wire cutters and then apply a metal end cap and push it on so that it feels quite secure.

Now this is the fiddly part - using both pairs of pliers, you need to squish the end cap onto the wire simultaneously from either side and top and bottom.  Like this:

kindly modelled by Mr Marmalade
Now you have a tip which is compressed onto the end of your wire

BUT ... sometimes, if you make a mistake after inserting the bone into a channel and you need to pull the bone out, the cap can come off in the channel leaving you with a nasty conundrum.  To counter this, I use plumbers tape. It's cheap as chips and less messy than glue.  You just wrap a bit on the join between wire and cap, and this holds it all together perfectly and makes it all a bit smoother.  

Easy when you know how!

And if you're wondering where to buy some of this wonderful stuff ... click here:  Spiral Steel Boning

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Funky mirror tutorial

The loo in my studio was less than pleasant when I took over ... it needed a LOT of cheering up so I spent a great deal of time deciding how to do it and settled on a scheme which just makes me giggle every time I look at it.  I mean that in a nice way.  A fun, modern rockabilly look is what I was aiming for so I painted the walls with a lovely bright cream shade, made a blind inspired by my favourite morning coffee mug, in red linen with a scalloped edge and black and white polkadot binding , and teamed it up with some cheery fake flowers on the window sill and a leopard skin covered mirror on the wall.

I covered a plain pine mirror with scraps in my stash and was really really pleased with the way it turned out.  I couldn't decide how best to stick the fake fur to the mirror frame, until inspiration struck in the form of WunderUnder/Bondaweb - the fusible paper backed fabric used for applique and other sewing related things.

 I took pictures of the process incase you want to have a go yourself!

You will need:

Velboa fabric - this is a short pile smooth fake fur fabric which doesn't fray
WunderUnder fusing fabric
An untreated wooden frame - mine cost £1.89 from Ikea
Staple gun
Scissors/cutting wheel

First of all, divide and measure the area which you need to cover - include the sides and make sure you have about 1cm overlap to the back of the mirror.  I decided to split my mirror into 4 parts and marked them accordingly.

Cut your WunderUnder fusible fabric (backed with paper on one side) to the exact size of each top section not including the sides or the back of the frame.

Cut your fabric pieces to the size of each section, plus the thickness of the frame (1cm in this case) plus a 1cm overlap at the back.

I used velboa fake fur fabric which doesn't fray so I did not have to think about tidying up raw edges - only that the edges are cut with a very sharp straight line.

'Glue' your WunderUnder to your frame with a warm-hot  iron - just as if you were fusing it to fabric - test an inconspicuous area first or do a test on a scrap of wood.  When glued,  leave the frame to cool, and then peel the protective paper off.

Carefully place your fabric onto each section of your frame, making sure all the edges meet up and are smooth and then press with the iron for 3-4 seconds on each section until the fabric is all glued down.  Leave to cool.  (Make sure you test a bit of fabric with the iron before you press your frame, so that you don't burn or melt anything!).

Fold the surplus fabric over the edges and staple along the back of the frame leaving the corners until last.

Trim the corners to reduce bulk and then staple down.

For extra decoration, or for practical purposes (my nail was too high in the wall so I had to dangle the frame) staple a ribbon to the back in a loop formation and hang!  Embellish as you see fit,  et voila!

For more pics of the studio including before's and after's, click here:  Sew Curvy Studio

Monday, 2 April 2012

Corset making - 1911 Edwardian corset

One of the reasons I had to find a bigger workspace is so that I can concentrate more on my corset making business and have dedicated space to see clients for bespoke work.  As you know I'm doing corsetry and vintage inspired fashion.  My new space has enabled much ''freedom of mess'' which as you know is essential to the creative process - I can leave my stuff out  before I go to bed at night, and it's as it was where I left it in the morning .. Essential for not losing ones place in the process.

I've been  experimenting with design, so I took an Edwardian pattern from 1911,  from the book "Corsets and Crinolines" by Norah Waugh, and scaled it up according to the scale given.  The real life measurements are bust: 34, waist 24, hips 39.  I changed the hip gussets, added peplums to give a further illusion of hourglass shape, and took off the suspenders.

I used a reversible spotty Thai silk for the outer fabric, but the strength of this corset comes entirely from the coutil layer underneath the fashion layer.

This is an Edwardian style corset characterised by the curved seaming.  The bone channels are straight and usually would be sewn right over the curved seams (which are lapped) ... however, I don't want bone channel lines to spoil my nice curved lines, so i've hidden the bone channels in the coutil layer.

I'm quite pleased with this result and will be refining the design further in order to make some sort of wedding ensemble...

You can try this pattern yourself, by using one of Ralph Pinks scaled up patterns from the same source. Click HERE for more.