Stuff – how we accumulate it. It comes in the door every day without us even really thinking, bags come in the house but how often do full bags go out of the house again? Last year we decided to paint the living areas of our house, after 11 years it was time for a refresh so we cleared out all the accumulated stuff, getting rid of some, selling some and putting things we couldn’t part with in storage. Then got busy with brushes and rollers and a pretty light grey/ off white. Everything felt fresh and clean and spacious and the thought of putting back all that stuff? We weren’t keen and left most of it in storage.
So when my husband asked me this year what I wanted for my birthday more stuff wasn’t on the wish list. I sat down and thought about what I really like and what would make me happy. I love clothes modern and historic and I want to be better at sewing, to challenge myself. I’d done the knits class and had really enjoyed it coming back with useful skills. The Dreamstress also teaches courses on how to make corsets which have fascinated me since I was a child going round museums and are something I’d never have the confidence to attempt by myself. So that’s what I told my husband, “I want to do the Underbust Corset class at the Dreamstress School of Sewing”.
Four nights over four weeks with homework sewing in between, it was fascinating. The first challenge before we even attended a class was to pick fabric. The recommended list was very precise and I didn’t have anything suitable or pretty enough in the stash. Yes okay, I could probably have found something in there and did toy with the idea of using the leftover pink fabric from my skirt. But I wanted to be able to wear it as outerwear and felt it needed to be special. I trawled round the fabric shops with the instructions in hand and started panicking after about the fifth shop, What about this silk? Is it strong enough, the correct weight? Is the design special enough? Would it look good made up? AAAARGH And then I found this, a beautiful chartreuse Ikat floral silk. I fell in love and bought it then worried and worried whether it would be strong enough.
With only six students in the class it was interesting to see the fabrics the others bought. Zara from Off Grid Chic blog had a beautiful puce silk Obi shot through with metallic threads which looked stunning made up. Another lady brought in a kaleidoscope/tie dye stretch cotton which she had previously used to line a steam punk coat. It was very Dr Who-y and induced great clouds of fabric lust in my heart, I wish I’d taken a photo.
Leimomi supplies a base pattern in your size and then you measure all the little idiosyncrasies of your body and she shows you how to adjust the pattern to suit. Apparently my upper torso is quite long in comparison to my other bits, probably why I’ve never had any problems touching my toes – short legs, long body. The corset is made up four layers: outer fabric, two flat lining layers and then an inner corset lining. For the three inner layers I did use stash fabrics. You can’t see the flat lining fabric as I forgot to take a photo, but here’s a photo of the plain black cotton lining, which is has a beautiful subtle sheen to it.
It also shows one of the clever tricks on getting the fit right, you sew up the corset but with the seams on the “right side” of the fabric which allows you to fit it even more closely to your body. Once the fit is correct you unpick them and sew them up properly. This is why going to a class is great, yes I might have figured that out myself from the instructions but I would have done it the wrong way round, how do I know? Because I did it the wrong way round of course! I did this step at home and when I took it in the following week for the next lesson I was gently reminded the exposed seams are supposed to be in the outer layer to make it easier to adjust the fit. No biggy but annoying and typical, I don’t seem to translate written instructions onto a 3D object well – my over worked un-picker is testament to this.
But anyway dopey errors aside, here it is almost complete.
The last thing to do was cover all the raw edges with bias binding which I made from the same outer layer silk, I toyed with the idea of contrast binding but am glad I didn’t as I think it’s more versatile in the one fabric. We used a sewing machine to attach the binding on the outside, then you fold it over and hand stitch it down to the inner. I didn’t finish during the class sessions and have to admit it took me several weeks more to complete the hand sewing.
But it was worth taking my time to do it properly, this is absolutely the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, I mean look at me, look at me, look at me now it’s fun to sew when you only know how!