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Corset making

Perfect Binding

bindingicon.jpgIn part II of our guide to binding the edges of stays and corsets professionally, we'll conclude by showing you how to bind inside corners (the type you'll be binding if you have spaces between tabs), and how to cope with those turns if you prefer to stick with period-authentic hairpin turns.

We'll look at binding square, acute and obtuse corners smoothly and neatly, and finally, we'll work out once and for all how to finish the ends of the binding neatly, even when the end of the binding meets the end of the corset at an angle!

3. Curves and corners, continued: Inside curves

Inside curves are much less common in stays and corsets than outside curves, but you will come across them. Their most extreme incarnation is as those death-defying hairpin turns between tabs on a pair of stays, but you might choose to make your job simpler by opening out the spaces between tabs to make the turns more rounded and gradual. Let's start there, and work out from there how to do the hairpins.

1. As before, cut your curve and stitch along the stitching line in a smooth curve. The beautifully curved binding can only be as beautifully curved as you cut and mark at this stage.

2. This time, it's your stitching line that's longer than the outside edge of the stays, so there's no need to measure ahead of time. Just slipstitch the first edge to the stitching line by hand, as if it were a straight edge. (Don't try it by machine. It's a lot easier to handstitch and save the tantrums, since the binding gets in the way of your machine foot.)

3. Stick pins into the stitching line at carefully-measured intervals, then mark with more pins directly across from them at the other edge of the binding.This will help you to distribute the binding evenly as you wrap it around the edge.

4. Smooth the binding around the cut edge and pin down. Distribute it evenly by ensuring that the pairs of pins meet.

5. Slipstitch the binding down as before. As you can see, there will be a little bunching at the edge, which is inevitable since the stitching line is longer than the edge. You can smooth it out a little with careful pressing with the point of your iron. (remember, my sample in the photos is huge so that you can see the detail. The wrinkles will be fewer on your smaller version.)

4. Hairpin turns

Those fiendishly difficult hairpin turns can be tackled successfully by adapting the method above.

1. When you're marking the stitching line to start out, use a ruler and water soluble pen to inscribe a circular path around the corner at the top. (Measure your seam allowance out from the end of the split in all directions to create a half circle.)

2. Machine stitch along this line as before (this conveniently transfers your markings to the other side.) Slipstitch the binding around the stitching line by hand.

3. Use the method with the pins in (3) and (4) above - pin at the beginning and end of the curve, and halfway around the curve, directly above the split. Then do the same at the quarter-way marks. You may be able to do this by eye.

Wrap the binding through the slit and bring the pairs of pins together as before.

4. Slipstich the other side of the binding down by hand as before.

Since this curve is so sharp you can't avoid the bunching in the corner, but again, some careful pressing from the stitching line towards the corner can minimise it.

Some people advocate sewing a running stitch and gathering through the part that will become bunched so that it'll at least bunch up neatly, but this hasn't worked well for me. For me, the extra fiddliness wasn't worth the only marginally better results. Always do what works for you - no-one has the "correct" answer to end all answers on these things!

 

 

Corners

Corners can be a problem: it's so difficult to make them into sharp, smart turns when they will insist on becoming truncated curves! But a corner, whether square, obtuse or acute, is fairly easy to negotiate once you look at it closely.

Again, consider the distance the binding must travel both at its stitched edge and around the edge of the corset. The reason that corners turn into curves is that if you simply stitch to the corner, lift your machine's foot, turn and continue, the binding has to try to stretch around the outside of the corner, making it curve. We can make it sharp if we give it some extra room to do so!

Follow my method below as I show you how to turn a sharp acute corner. This is the most tricky type of corner, but the method can be used on a corner of any angle.

1. Shape your corner and stitch along your stitching line carefully, as before.

Slipstitch one side of the binding to the stitching line, as before, up to the corner - and continue right to the edge of the corset. Do the same on the other side.

NB. Don't stitch right up to the edge if it's an obtuse corner (anything bigger than a square corner)- go halfway to the edge at most.

2. Stick a pin into the very furthest point of the corner, through all layers, and bring it out further along the edge of the corset as shown, across the binding.

This will help keep the binding on this first side of the corner steady as you manipulate it to turn the corner.

3. Press the excess binding flat against the edge, like this...

...so that the middle of the binding runs down the edge of the corset.

4. Fold the binding over the edge of the corset and pin on both sides at the point where your stitching will begin again.

5. Tuck the excess binding away to form a neat mitred effect with a fold running from the stitching corner to the point. On a corner as sharp as this one, you may need to trim a little of the excess away first in order to avoid ending up with a lump. Secure with a pin.

6. Slipstitch on both sides along the fold and then continue along the stitching line.

I recommend beginning at the stitching line corner, working your way up the fold to the point and then passing your needle back through the binding to the stitching line. Pulling gently at this point will gently reduce any excess "pointy-ness". Meanwhile, pulling and pinching gently will make a sharp corner like mine pointier.

 

 

For those of you who are more experienced or perfectionist, here's an advanced challenge. In the photo of my finished sharp corner above, you'll notice that the portion of the point on the left of the fold, where I've tucked the excess away, is a little bulkier than the portion on the right. Can you find a way to reduce the bulk by tucking one way on one side of the corset and the other way on the other side? Clue: you'll have to adapt parts of this method right from the beginning!

 

Ends

Finally, to finish the binding on your corset, stays or bodies, we need to make the ends of the binding neat.

TIP: When I'm folding the ends of the binding, I use my ironing board as a table since I can stick pins right into it. Alternatively, try taking a cork noticeboard off the wall and using that as a table.

1. Square ends

Where the end of the binding meets the edge of the corset at a right angle, your job is fairly simple.

1. After sewing one edge of the binding up to the edge of the corset in the usual way, trim the end to 2cm [3/4"]. Fold the end of the binding back over the edge of the corset and pin down. Angle it slightly down and away from the stitching to ensure that the end doesn't peek out once the binding is done.

2. Use a pin to push the middle of the binding into the fold as you fold the other side over.

3. Pin down and stitch, ensuring that you include a few neat stitches in the end of the binding.

 

2. Acute ends

Binding that makes an acute angle with the edge of the corset can be tricky, but you can work out what to do by trying the method above and then adapting it.

1. Fold the end over as before and pin it down. Place the pin at the edge of the main (horizontal) section of binding, directly opposite the end of the stitching line.

2. Trim the excess away, ensuring that you don't snip the main (horizontal) section of the binding.

3. Form a fold from the pin to the corner and pin. Again, trim the excess a little.

Tip: Trim away just enough that the end of the binding won't have to crease again when you wrap the binding over the corset edge. But DON'T trim right up to the point, or you'll have fraying threads at the corner!

4. Wrap the binding over the edge, pin down and stitch, ensuring that you include a few neat stitches in the end of the binding.

The completed end, seen from the right side.

TIP: Consider making yourself a large sized sample like mine to practice binding ends and corners with before you do it for real! It's only on curves that a big sample presents extra problems - for ends and corners it makes the task much easier.

 

3. Obtuse ends

1. Fold the end of the binding over the edge as before.

2. You may wish to put a pin in the very furthest point at the corner, or hold it down with your forefinger.

3. Play with the excess fabric until you have a neat edge that can be folded down to match the corner. Pin as shown.

4. Trim away the excess. You may wish to open the binding up again so that you can trim more neatly: either make crisp folds in the binding or pin down, then open up and trim.

5. Slipstitch down as before, including a few neat stitches along the edge.

 

In conclusion

Finishing binding in a professional way can be fiddly and time-consuming, but the results are worth it. It's one of those little extras that Josie Public and Jane Doe may not immediately pick out but will sense quality from. Meanwhile, other costumers will appreciate and envy your effort!

Remember to consider where the binding must make its longest journey first; measure for this and tuck in or distribute the excess neatly around that.

Finally, if you're stuck and don't know what to do, use pins to try different methods on your ironing board or a cork board and check the result. Notice where it goes wrong and ask yourself how you could improve your method, then try again until you have a smooth result!

 

 

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Maria Eugenia  
  Es de alta calidad el trabajo que realizan en pagina.  
 
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sunndoesntknow  
  Do you have any tips for binding with a fashion fabric that is very flimsy? I flat-lined my dupioni to my coutil for the body of the corset and I don't think it would hold up to becoming bias tape all by itself. Help?  
 
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Susan Krzywicki  
  Those bindings!!!! Wow. I am impressed. I got here through a rather circuitous route, but this info is rich and detailed and inspiring. I have never been this accurate about bindings. But just seeing your instructions makes me want to do a project that needs these techniques.  
 
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