Evolution: Fan Laced Corset Part 2

The next step in constructing the corset is fixing in the eyelets.  For my fan laced corset I know I need 6 eyelets to work with the 3 eyelet adjuster buckle.  I mark where I want the top and bottom eyelets to be placed and measure the distance in between which in this case was 15 cm.  I am inserting 6 eyelets and so there are 5 spaces in between the eyelets which means 15 cm divided by 5 = 3 cm spaces between the eyelets.  I will therefore be placing eyelets as 0 cm, 3 cm, 6 cm, 9 cm, 12 cm and 15 cm.  (Phew, I bet you didn’t realise how much Maths was involved in sewing!).

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You can buy special pliers to insert the eyelets but I use the little device which comes with the pack of eyelets plus a hammer and block of wood.  The instructions often tell you to punch a hole out of the fabric where you want to insert the eyelet.  For my first attempts at eyelets I did this but found that once any force was put on the lacing the eyelet often pulled away from the fabric.  I therefore began to use an awl to gently prise the threads of the fabric apart in the place where I want to insert the eyelet.  In closely weaved fabric this is more difficult and instead I snip a little cross with a pair of sharp, small scissors and prise this gently apart for the eyelet.  The eyelet in pushed through from the outside, a washer placed on the inside, the device applied and a quick whack with the hammer.

The final stage is the fan lacing.  The adjuster buckles are threaded onto the side tapes and positioned at the side of the corset for the lacing to begin.  I referred to the diagram on the front of my notebook (see Evolution: Fan Lacing Part 1) and copied the lacing pattern.  You have to have your wits about you but it is not complicated.  However there are 5 hole fan lacing buckles available which work with 10/12 eyelets each side and so the lacing for that would be more complicated.  Fan lacing does require more lacing cord and I needed 3 metres for this corset.

I’m very pleased with how the corset has turned out in that the fan lacing was successful and the pulley system works correctly.  On reflection if I was making a fan laced corset again and planning from scratch I would be tempted to use plain coloured fabric with a contrasting colour trim and lacing to enable the fan lacing to really stand out.  However as it was a last minute decision to incorporate the fan lacing into this project I am still happy that I have created a different and unusual corset.

Evolution: Fan Laced Corset Part 1

Evolution: Fan Laced Corset Part 1

I was intrigued by the drawing of corset lacing on a notebook I received as a Christmas present.  The notebook was a remnant of the exhibition held at the Barbican in Spring 2017 called The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined.

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After some research I discovered that the lacing illustrated is known as fan lacing and works on a pulley system with adjustable buckles at the side of the corset.  The prime reason for this type of lacing system is to enable the wearer to be able to adjust the tension of the corset themselves.

Having made this discovery I was very eager to experiment with it on one of my own corsets.  I had a black patterned corset in the planning and decided to incorporate my first attempt at fan lacing into the design.

Here is a brief guide to the steps used in the construction of the corset.

Pieces of corset prepared
This picture shows the pieces of the left side of the corset cut out and interfaced.
Front pieces of corset sewn together.
Front pieces of the corset sewn together with faux leather piping inserted in side front seams and one inch wide black tape added in the side front seams ready for the fan lacing. Half inch tape has been sewn on wrong side of centre front seam to create a boning channel and front side seams pressed to the centre front. These are then topstitched close to the seam and 1 cm away to create the boning channel.
Lining sewn together
The corset lining is made to match the outer corset but no boning channels needed and so all seams pressed open.
Front pieces of corset sewn together
Front and back pieces of corset sewn together. Further boning channels created by pressing side seams towards the front and side back seams pressed towards centre back. Both seams topstitched close to seam and 1 cm away from the seam. The lining and outer corset are put together with their wrong sides together. The facings at the centre back are turned inside and bias binding is then attached to the right side of the upper edge ready to be turned in to the wrong side.

Bias binding has become my new best friend.  Up until a few years ago I had hardly ever used it apart from the occasional hem.  However when I started doing a lot of reworking of items I found it so useful for facing necklines and armholes as well as adding decorative edging.  Then when I began creating corsets it became invaluable for finishing the upper and lower edges.  Tape would have often been used to finish edges on historical corsets but the beauty of bias binding is its flexibility.  Bias binding can be made of polyester cotton, cotton or satin and comes in a wide range of colours and various widths from 12 mm to 25 mm.

I always bind the top of the corset and then insert the boning before completing the bottom edge.  Some instructions tell you to insert the boning before binding any edges but I find that once the top is bound there is something to push the boning against.

Corset boning
Boning cut ready to insert into the channels. Two more boning channels also created at the centre back next to the opening edge and about 3 cm away from the edge leaving a 1.5 cm gap between the channels ready for the eyelets.

Boning is available in several guises such as flat steel, spiral steel and plastic.  I use rigilene (plastic) boning as it is economical, readily available and can easily be cut to various lengths without the need for specialist tools.  Rigilene is available in black and white and 8 mm and 12 mm widths.  You can buy little caps to put on the ends of the boning once cut.  I have used those for dress bodices but for corsets I often think they may add extra bulk and so I shape the ends into a curve using scissors to cut off the sharp edges.  Rigilene boning can also be attached using machine or hand stitching and I have done this on dress bodice linings before.  It is fun inserting the boning and it is at this stage that I feel it becomes a corset as the boning adds the structure and support to the garment.

See Evolution: Fan Lacing Part 2 to read about eyelets and lacing which complete the corset.