Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Corset Time: Finished

I put in another two hours on the corset to bring it to completion. That's 10:45 for an overbust corset from a pattern I've used (and fitted) previously. I'd say to allow twenty hours for constructing a brand new corset, giving time for multiple fittings and inevitable learning errors.

The hand stitching of the bias tape is fairly time consuming, especially when you're trying to use your non-dominant hand like me.

I'm also a fan of the modesty panel. The first custom corsets I'd seen had modesty panels attached to one side inside the corset. I helped many performers tug the modesty panel into place so you wouldn't see any flesh under the laces, but the tugging didn't work so well when their bodies were a smidge fuller than the modesty panel would cover. (One quarter inch of bare back is pretty obvious when you have so many precise lines with a corset.)

I don't like having to rely on someone else to dress me backstage. I also don't want to look like I've outgrown my corset because of the sliver of skin to one side in the back. I make full coverage modesty panels that will cover most of my back (roughly 11" across). For this silky fabric, I interfaced one side so it would have some durability. I topstitched the panel closed and used the topstitching as my guide for hand sewing the panel to the corset.

The panel is attached just outside the grommets and inside the rear bones. You have to be careful with this so you don't sew the modesty panel in the way of where your laces will go. When I put on the corset with the secured modesty panel, a tug at the top and the bottom of the panel will dress the back nicely before and after cinching.

I'll give a fancier photo of the finished product later. I was so excited that I wanted to share my timed project!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Corset Time: Fitting

Grommets set, fitting done, boning inserted. Total time spent to this point was 8:45.

We don't have the kickass grommet machine yet so we have to do all the grommeting by hand. The grommet punch that comes in a grommet kit sucks.  I'm sure it would be great at cutting through a single layer of banner plastic, but it's miserable at trying to cut through coutil (much less the layers of fabrics behind the coutil in a corset). No matter how long I would hammer on that miserable little die, it would not cut through the fabric. I now use the die to indent the fabric (from the inside) so I know where the hole will be. I take a pair of fingernail scissors or sturdy nippers and clip out the fabric inside the hole. It takes a lot less time and frustration. Andrew set the grommets for me because he's stronger and faster at it. He's a bit better at swinging a hammer.

I dropped a couple bones in the back of the corset and laced it up with some spare ribbon for the fitting. You can see how it looks with no extra boning and no extra support. I was satisfied with the fit, so I measured the boning channels and had Andrew cut my boning. (I'm including his work time in my estimate.) I'm wiggly so I used spiral boning everywhere but center back. He clipped and buffed the edges of the bones, then dipped them so they wouldn't poke me.
I believe in getting as much of the soft work done as possible before dropping in the bones. The corset is harder to move around on the sewing machine once the bones are in place. I machine stitched the bias tape on the shell of the corset around the bottom before putting in the bones for completion.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Commercial Sewing Techniques: Batjacket Rises

And just in time for Easter! I've been so busy with myriad projects I haven't updated the progress of this jacket. It took me another five hours since the last posting (not including Craftsy lesson viewing) to install the yokes, pockets, sleeves, and cuffs. That time also included plenty of topstitching and pressing, buttonholes and button sewing. Ten hours for one jacket.

I learned so many things on this project. It was totally with the investment. I can't wait to buy a clapper and a point presser to make my other projects go even faster.  
I took out the patterns for my next three (already patterned) sewing projects and rewrote the instructions so I get through those projects faster.

Looks like it's time to make room in my closet for the next sewing projects!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Corset Time: Gaining Momentum

My husband and I have noticed that a project doesn't really look like much of anything until the finishing touches start falling into place. This totally applies to corsets.

I spent three hours inserting the busk, attaching the lining to the shell (via hand then via machine), and serging the lower edge. The hand sewing always takes forever. I'm not looking forward to the bias tape steps later because of all the hand sewing.

I'm at 6:45 now. Andrew is doing the grommets tomorrow while I'm at the day job. (I found a fancy grommet device but can't afford the investment yet. For now he's my grommeting machine.) after the grommets are done, I can add temporary lacing for a fitting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Corset Time: Moving Right Along

Since my last post, I added the boning channels and waist tape. Because I've made a few corsets and I know this particular pattern really well, I knew where to put the waist tape. This would usually be established in the fitting stage of the muslin mock-up. I get to bypass that.

I also worked out a neat trick to make it easier and more efficient to place the boning channels and waist tape. I used Stitch Witchery to secure the waist tape and to place the boning channels against the seams inside the coutil. I know the pattern and know my body, so I know how many boning channels I will need to appropriately support my body. This is the stage where additional boning channels can be added. After the channels were temporarily bonded to the coutil, I stitched them down.

Busk next! So far I'm at 3:45.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Corset Time: Blue Coutil

My corset materials supplier is RichArd the Thread in Los Angeles. They have oodles of corseted and millinery supplies. I was going to pop in for some natural coutil, but they frequently have coutil of various due lots in stock. It usually comes by the yard, but I lucked into a precut half yard (enough for two overbust corsets for myself). By using the robin's egg blue coutil, I don't need to add a lining layer to the corset. The blue will make a structure and lining layer. (I recommend corsets that are at least two layers for burlesque: fancy outer shell and pretty inner support.  Colored insides of garments make them more lovely and theatrical when removed. Your garments look less off the rack that way.)

I also picked up a brass busk for a couple dollars more than the regular busk. Brass will look nicer with the gold embroidered stitches I put on the shell seams. I scoped out a grommet machine while I was at Richard the Thread's because grommeting is so time consuming. I think that may be the next tool we add to the Snapper home. In the meantime, I'll have to grommet by hand.

I cut and stitched together the coutil layer in an hour. Next step is to drop in some boning channels and prepare the front for the busk.

Not including the shopping or embroidery time, I've spent 3:30 on this corset.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bring the Pain, Be the Change

Photo by Glama Sutra.
When I was eleven or twelve, I went away to camp for the first time. I can't remember if it was for a week or three weeks, but it was my first time to go to an overnight camp for more than a night. I looked forward to camp all summer and was diligent with my planning and packing. I was so excited! The night before camp I felt a little ill. Three hours before I was supposed to leave for camp I puked. It was a big, hearty hurl that had no other symptoms to indicate I was actually sick. Then I went to camp, had a great time, made banana boats on the campfire, rowed around in a canoe, and made a few new friends. I was glad I went even though I wretched right beforehand.

Fast forward a decade. Andrew and I had the U-Haul packed, ready to move to St. Louis to sort our lives out and figure out what we wanted to do next. We were excited. We'd lived two hours from our families while we were in college, so we could always hit them up for gas money and drive down to do our laundry or mooch a few meals. We lived in Hot Springs for a year and a half before heading for the next state. I started feeling ill as we were driving away, and I puked up my orange juice within five miles of home. I wasn't super close with my entire family so it's not like I was a puppy being pulled away from my pack. In fact, I still had loud disagreements with my father (who was also my neighbor and my landlord) into my twenties. We were moving away so we could learn more about the world and strike out on our own. After the orange juice was gone from my body, I was still a bit anxious but I was physically fine. We didn't have a place to live in St. Louis yet, but we had to take the chance.

I was apparently a bit of a puker. My mother didn't urge me to stay home after that pre-camp spew. She suspected I was anxious to be away from home so long in one go. On a subconscious level, I think she was right. (I hate admitting my parents were right about something.) The pain of leaving the comfort of fighting siblings and limited air conditioning and arguing parents was sickening. I was physically ill when the day came to leave, even though I wasn't in tears and totally aware I was leaving the pain of the known environment to experience something new. It could have been more painful at camp. (Hell, I went to one camp a few years later that was very cliquish and my roommate threatened me because she wanted a different roommate; she then tried to slip a laxative onto my plate and convince me it was candy. I was really excited about that camp and wound up rooming with a bitch. I complained and she got moved down the hall.) The unknown was more painful and I puked.

I know the home life I described isn't idyllic. My brothers and I had a few physical fights, and they'd gang up on me to play war with squirt guns and water balloons. My parents were a bad match that tried to stay together because that's what you're supposed to do, and my dad had a penchant for other women (not in the original marriage agreement with my mother). We had a motorcycle shop with noisy strangers coming in and out of our home and eating all of our food. My family cared about me, but it wasn't the most pleasant environment. It was familiar pain, making it endurable pain.

We've all had familiar pain, circumstances that weren't great and weren't going to get any better. The lover we stay with even though we know we can do better. The sucky job we won't leave. The audience seat we don't want to give up despite our desire to be on stage just once. I had two friends who were yo-yo lovers, always breaking up and getting back together. They were miserable together and kept sniping about how the other one was. And then they would break up, be happy, get back together and bitch. I think they might have enjoyed the drama for a while. Maybe you have endured the familiar pain because you secretly liked the drama. Maybe the challenge was a little fun.

What kind of pain does the unknown hold? For my camp experiences, one camp was awesome and the other had cliques and laxative bitch roommate. What kind of pain would a new relationship hold? A new job? A night performing? Leaving a troupe and going solo? Joining a troupe?

If you want to grow, you have to be willing to experience the unfamiliar pain. There's no way you're going to experience those potential rewards of a new experience without leaving your current situation for that new experience. Sometimes you have to puke before you go to camp. If you don't like your current situation, quit your bitching or take a step towards something new.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Commercial Sewing Techniques: Batjacket & Bobbin (AKA Batjacket Fabulous)

After an hour at the sewing machine, the first round of topstitching on my Batjacket is done. I learned about stitching a needle's width away from the seam and doing another row of stitching 1/4" parallel to that. I have to say the longer stitch length and double stitching really gives the garment a professional look. In fact, I spent five minutes pulling out a row of topstitching that I accidentally did with the wrong stitch length because I wanted it to look professional.

The techniques I'm learning with interfacing, sewing without pins, and topstitching have been fantastic. My Kings jacket will be even cooler.

Time spent so far: five hours.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Commercial Sewing Techniques: Batjacket Begins

I've enrolled in a commercial sewing techniques class via Craftsy so I can sew faster and without pins. I'm already saving time by using pattern weights and rotary cutters when I start a project. The class project is a jacket in the same style as a denim jacket. I'm making one of Batman fabric and a second from Kings fabric.

So far I've spent four hours outside of "class" to cut, interface, and start stitching my Batman jacket. There are more than 20 pattern pieces, and I had to be very careful to have the fabric graphic facing the correct direction when cutting the pieces. It's been surprisingly time consuming for a "speedy" project. My hope is that the second jacket goes faster. One thing is for certain: I'm unlikely to make this jacket for a client because the time involved in construction makes it cost prohibitive.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Corset Time: Quick Start & Cheap Pretties

I've decided to time myself constructing a corset from scratch. I plan to teach a class in corset making, so I have to be able to manage the class so the students have completed corsets at the end. This is my journey of making an overbust, and you can follow how long it takes me.

I'm saving time by using a successful pattern. I altered an overbust pattern for my Rewedding corset, and I made a muslin mock-up for a fitting before I made the final garment. I didn't have to fit this pattern again because I know how it fits. This saves me two to three hours in cutting, stitching, lacing, and fitting.  Students won't have this shortcut for their first corset.

It took me two hours to cut the corset pieces and attach the fusible interfacing for the shell. (Delicate fabrics require some support beyond the coutil.) Another thirty minutes and I had the shell fully assembled. I still have to purchase the super sturdy coutil to make the lining. So far it's 2:30 for a fancy shell of satin.

I recently had my sewing machine serviced, and I was reminded by the technician that my machine has some cool embroidery stitches. For under $3 and thirty minutes, I embroidered the seams of the shell with beautiful gold leaves. I pressed all the seam allowances toward the back of the garment and stitched directly on the seams. I would probably use appliqué backing if I was going to do anything with more stitches to further support the fabric. I'll probably use the gold thread on the busk openings.

Next time I'll have the coutil done.