Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Corset: Circulatory System

So, I've had an idea for a while, to do some kind of weird/awesome/creepy/biological embroidery on a corset. It'd be something that looked cool enough I could wear it as a bodice (steampunk, ftw) but would lie flat enough that I could wear it under a real bodice for a ballgown (which will become relevant as soon as I have a ballgown. I'm working on it, people. Seriously.

Anyway, I woke up this morning thinking "I want to make something." And what else to do on a crafty Sunday afternoon than embroider a corset?

I was going to use a Drosophila (fly, for all you non-biologists) wing as inspiration, because the veins have this cool pattern. I thought I could even use the boning channels as guides, or something.

Biology is beautiful! But it doesn't look much like a corset. Imagine it rotated ninety degrees. It still doesn't look much like a corset. Well, I'd figure something out.
But I wasn't sure how I would do it, and in any case I wasn't sure the idea was perfect, so I did a quick search for embroidered corsets and I found this one done by Laura Vickerson:
Isn't that just amazing?
You should check out her website, because it is full of awesome things.

Aim for the moon, right? When I miss, I'll end up in the stars.

To start, I used the same old pattern (Laughing Moon #100: Ladies' Victorian Underwear) without any alterations. So, trace and cut out:

I can has pattern pieces!
And then comes the fun part. I didn't want to just free-hand the embroidery, in part because I'm bad at free-handing things and in part because I've never done embroidery before (why did I think this was a good idea, again? Oh, yeah, because beautiful and creepy.) So I sketched it out on the pattern pieces. In order to differentiate between right and left sides (I can't have symmetry, after all, the circulatory system isn't symmetric!) I used two colors.

It's half pattern, half sketch! Turns out I can almost draw squiggles when I'm using a pencil!

Close-up. You can totally tell that there are brown lines and black lines, right? No? Well.
So, then I was tired and hungry. So it was time for a burritto. This is an absolutely essential step. When you are making corsets, it is easy to forget to eat (after all, how else will you get that 15-inch waistline?). But the last thing you want is to faint with a needle in your hand. I guess unless you like puncture wounds.

Or maybe just tasty.
Anyway, after lunch, which was delicious, it was on to cutting the pattern out. I'm using a cream-colored satin, because I have loads of it and don't know what to do with it, and also because it's a neutral enough color that the red will really stand out against it.

I think I shall make a bustle with the rest. One can never have too many bustles.
Now, all those fancy squiggles that I drew might be something that someone else (read: someone with actual talent) could replicate on the fabric just by looking at them. But I'm mostly incompetent, so I needed to trace. And since I don't have a light table (what, do you think I'm a real artist? Hah.) I used a west-facing window. It totally worked!
In the background; my patio. It is full of green things. In the foreground, something to trace?
Now, the first corset I made was just one layer of coutil and one of a pattern, and it wore out ridiculously easy. That's part of the reason I'm making this one; so I can figure out how to patch that one in an aesthetically pleasing manner. (Turns out it's hard to patch a corset when you're wearing it.) So I vowed that from then on, I would always use two layers of coutil, and flat-line the top layer. Which means, more cutting!

My hands hurt already and there's still one layer of coutil to go.
On a side note, coutil is magical. No, seriously. All that metal that people put into corsets? Doesn't help narrow your waist, it just sort of smooths you out. All the squish-power is done by the coutil, pretty much. As far as I can tell, it's stronger than steel. Might even take a bullet. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest, of course. I never exaggerate. What I'm trying to say is that coutil sees your body and says "You have fat/organs/bone that usually take up that space? Too bad, move aside!"

Which I guess is what you want, when you're making a corset.

Anyway, I knew I was going to be handling these pieces like mad, so after I lined them (read: sewed them together) I finished the edges. Because fraying does not make a good corset, I don't think.

You can see my markings! Those are for embroidery!
 Now, the problem here is that I'm a bit impatient. And sewing two identical pieces to each other isn't particularly interesting work. So about halfway through I got bored, and had a drink, and started thinking about this embroidery stuff and how I was going to manage that.

It's just juice. I swear! Although drunken embroidery would probably be more fun?
It turns out that I'm bad at embroidery. I mean, really really bad. And not in the way I expected. I can get pretty even stitching, because I spent quite a bit of time working on that for hand-sewing things. But most of the thread I use is manufactured for high tensile strength. And embroidery floss is like, seriously, the flimsiest stuff ever.

What's this? More floss on the table than on the fabric? That's right!
I guess it also turns out that my linebacker-esque upper body strength, which serves me well when I'm doing things like climbing ropes and suspending myself upside down (more often than you'd think), isn't too useful when I'm trying to ease cotton balls through one layer of coutil and one of satin. Especially since the coutil spends all of its time shouting "I WILL NOT YIELD TO YOUR FLIMSY NEEDLE!"

Or... something.

But! Eventually it got better! And I only used, like, 36 inches of embroidery floss to get from the image above to this one:
Gentle... gentle... gennnntle..... SHIT!
Hopefully it'll look half as awesome as I want it to. I'll post results as soon as I have them. And in the meantime, leave me alone. I have a lot of embroidery to do.

(EDITED to add the inspiration picture. Also to note that I am totally getting better at this embroidery thing! I can go 18 inches without breaking the floss. That means I have graduated to barely competent!)

1 comment: