When working with only two layers of fabric I don't usually bother pinning them, but it's a good idea when working with more than two layers to pin or baste first. When pinning fabrics, insert pins perpendicular to the direction of the seam, and keep both layers of fabric smooth. Remove each pin before the sewing machine foot reaches it to ensure smoothest seams.
The seams must be done at exactly 5/8 inch (or whatever allowance you choose to use, but it must be consistent). This is especially crucial if you are using the traditional method. I have a piece of electrical tape on my sewing machine that I use as a guide to help ensure accuracy.
When stitching the panels, I prefer to start at the center notch and stitch out to each edge, overlapping the second row of stitching over the first about 3/4 inch. Stitching this way is more time consuming, but it guarantees that shifting will not occur at the waistline, and that any shifting that may occur will be consitent on both sides.
If using a fabric, such as satins, that tend to fray at the edges, use Fray-Check first.
Lay pieces 1A and 2A face in, and line up center notches in fabric together. The top and bottom lines should roughly line up (and this is a good idiot-check in case you tried to put one of the pieces backwards or upside down - which is easy to do if you're not paying attention - when stitched together they should perfectly line up). Continue until all panels on that side are stitched together. Then do the lining for other side the same way. Press seams open on inside, and press outside.
If you have accurately transferred the matching lines and stitched the panels together, the matching and waist lines should connect all the way around.
A strip of twill tape or grosgrain ribbon can be run along the waistline to reduce tension on the fabric. The more severely the waist comes in the narrower the ribbon should be. Position tape, centering over waist line. End of tape should go to front and back edges of fabric.
Then, using a large stitch, stitch down the center of the ribbon. There should be some tension on fabric and ribbon as you stitch, but don't pull ribbon too tightly or it will dig into your waist. Gently pull on the lining at the center line, one panel ahead of where you are stitching, and keep the ribbon centered over line. If you didn't re-mark line on wrong side use notches as guide. Do this on both halves of the corset.
Compare both sides of corset to make sure they match. If they do, re-stitch on a smaller stitch. Then, stitch one edge of ribbon down. Boning will be inserted from this direction, so it won't catch under the edge of the tape.
Seams with strong curves to them should be notched to make them lay smoother. Don't notch more than half-way into the seam allowance. Press seams again after notching.
You should pin (or baste on largest stitch - staying within seam allowance) each fashion fabric to its' backing, being certain that edges line up. Then match up fabrics as you did for the lining, and stitch, carefully matching up edges of fabric. As you are now stitching through four layers at a time this requires a bit more care.
Press seams open, the same way that you did lining, and press the outside.
If you are doing reinforced seams don't forget to topstitch the outside layer now.
Notch seams if you did so on lining.
Next, you need to attach the busk at the front center of each side.
Determine which side of corset will be on the right side of the body. This side will have the eye portion of the busk.
If you did not locate position of busk when making pattern, do so now on wrong side of lining fabric, in the seam allowance. Place busk on fabric and mark horizontal lines at the top and bottom of busk.
Keep in mind that when finished, the surface where the eyes attach should be on the outside of corset, with the flat edge of the busk towards the body.
Position eye portion of busk 1 inch in from center edge of fabric, and draw a vertical line one inch in down length of panel. Then mark horizontal lines at top and bottom edge of each eye. You will be stitching between eyes and leaving spaces at each eye open to insert busk through the layers of fabric.
Place outside layer, face in (with it's backing underneath if you're using one), with the lining, wrong side out, on top. Carefully stitch along vertical line in between lines for eyes. I start from the waist line and work out to either edge like before. I start at the center of each space I'm going to stitch, stitch out to one edge, backstitch up to other edge, then back to middle, as this withstands the stress better. I find that reinforcement by using two rows of stitching is needed along the top portion of busk as this section takes the most stress.
Fold fabric right-side-out, press seams open, and insert the eyes through the holes. Check to see that busk fits in properly.
Remove busk, and keep fabric right side out. You may place a row of topstitching just in from the edge of the fabric, leaving the same gaps open for the eyes, if you wish. Reinsert busk (and extra 1/2 inch wide boning if the busk was too short), and pin to keep it from slipping out. Then, using a zipper foot on the machine (which allows you to stitch right up against the edge of the busk), stitch the other side of the busk to anchor it. Keep even tension on the lining and outside fabric as you do this, and keep it as tight as you can so that busk won't rub or shift. This will be even more important when doing other side. Stitch slowly so you don't break your needle on the busk!
To do left side, first stitch center edges of lining/outside layers 1 inch from edge, all the way from bottom to top. Press carefully at seam edge, and turn right-side-out. Topstitch just inside edge to reinforce, if desired. Lay left and right sides of corset next to eachother and match up waist lines, and carefully turn over to right side, keeping halves lined up. Mark position of buttons by making a dot about 1/8 inch (the distance from edge of busk to center of button) in from the edge of seam inside each eye. Keep in mind that the seam edge will bear a lot of tension, and that if the eye holes are placed too far from, or too close to the edge, that the buttons may rip the fabric. Also, if the busk halves are not placed in exactly the same place on both sides it will skew the fit of the corset.
Then, using your awl, make the holes for the buttons. Only make holes in the fashion fabric and backing, not the lining or it's seam allowance. Poke the tip of the awl through both layers of fabric and gently work the hole bigger. You want to simply spread the fibers apart, not break them, so take your time!
Now insert the busk. Some fabrics will be difficult to insert the buttons through, the holes will close up, and the fibers may snag on the button. If this happens, put a drop of Fray-Check on the tip of the awl, and work it into the hole. This should make it easier. You may also want to pin he fabric next to each button as you go, or they may come out. Using the zipper foot again, stitch as close to the edge of the busk as you can.
Carefully match up seams, and pin layers together every inch or so. Make sure that your center and matching lines line up (pin together at these spots first), as well as the lengths of the seam (an easy way to check this if you used regular seams is to stick a pin straight through the center of the outside seam and see if it comes out the center of the lining seam).
If you wish, and are using a fabric that basting won't damage (not satins or pvc) you may baste on largest stitch, just to one side(1/16 inch) of the seam. If you stitch right in the center of the seam it will be very hard to remove the basting and insert the bones.
Whether you are pinning and basting first, or just pinning and stitching, remove pins about 1/4 inch before stitching over them. It is hard to pin them together perfectly smoothly, and if you remove each pin first, any extra slack that may be in one of the layers won't bunch up.
To minimize shifting and keep the seams smoother do stitching in the same direction. Or, if you will be using real or faux boning channels on the outside (to hide the overlapped stitching), stitch from the center out, as you did when connecting the panels, for the smoothest look
If you are doing one strip of boning centered at each seam, and using the corset body to form the channels, match up inside and outside seams and pin the length of seam. Then stitch about 3/16 inch from the center of the seam, on either side. You want room for the boning, plus a little extra so that it isn't a tight squeeze (which could cause the boning to rub fabric or seams more). Work from the outside, so that stitching is parallel to visible outside seams (If you can't get seams perfectly parallel it's better to have them not line up on the inside since it won't show. If you are using spiral steels, or metal tips on flat boning I would allow a little more room, as the tips are bulkier and can snag.
If you are using inside boning channels, pin channels to inside and sew from the outside. If you are going to use decorative trim over channels that will be wide enough to hide any flaws, you may work from the inside.
If using outside channels I don't usually pin channel down, but center at top of seam and keep in centered by hand as I stitch down.
If you are doing two strips of boning for each seam (one on each side of seam), stitch about 3/8 from the seam on either side, allowing a little more room if using spiral boning or metal tips on flat boning.
If you have a larger bust requiring additional support, diagonal strips of boning should be placed in panels at sides of breasts. Boning should start near top of corset towards front, and slant down towards the back. If it works with the style of corset you're making, I also recommend putting another strip of boning in the next panel towards the back. Start with the bottom of the strip meeting the bottom of the previous strip, and bring it up toward the back, so that they make a V shape. 1/2 boning should be used for this.
Fitting a corset is rather difficult to do. If you fit it un-boned and un-laced, it will only show you if something is drastically wrong. So, essentially you can't really know just how it will fit until you are almost done.
To further complicate things, you shouldn't choose your boning until you've done a final fitting, because once you're laced in you may decide to slightly change the top and bottom lines. Since the easiest way to alter the fit is to take in the center back edge, it is best not to do the eyelets until you are sure of the fit.
So, what I recommend, especially if you think you're going to do this again, is buy about 16 long bones, to insert temporarily to do fittings, and buy the final ones when you are done. If you know you'll be doing this again, you just might want to stockpile some of the lengths you think you'll most commonly use.
As for the lacing, just make a temporary lacing panel that you can baste on for fitting. Take a piece of fabric about 2 1/2 inches wide, fold it in half, and stitch the edge. Then stitch a channel for boning a little more than 1/4 inch from the fold, allow space for eyelets, and do another channel, leaving space between channel and edge of fabric for basting onto corset. Repeat for other side. Insert 4 pieces of boning and baste onto corset. If you are working on a delicate fabric baste on the largest stitch you can, in a contrasting thread that will be easier to remove.
If you want to do any changes now, carefully remove stitching connecting both layers at edges of lacing panel. Press where you want new edges to be (make sure they are consistent on both layers!), pin and stitch up again as close as you can to edge, and fit again.
It takes a little longer to do this, but it ensures that all the rest of your work hasn't been for nothing, as you can make any little alterations before it's too late!
You will also be able to use this when fitting a new corset that you are working on, and get a clear idea of subtle changes that you may want to make as soon as you've stitched the lining together, without needing boning to support fabric. Just baste up center fronts, baste lacing panels on, and try on over the other corset. Then do a final fitting later with boning in.
If no alterations were needed, stitch a row of topsititching 1/16 inch in from edge of center back. Put another row of stitching about 5/16 in from this. Allow room for eyelets plus about 1/8 inch on either side, and place two more rows of stitching about 5/16 inch apart from each other. You may want to put new guides on your machine for this.
To insert eyelets, carefully mark placement of eyelets. They must be placed exactly the same on both sides! I generally space them about 1 inch apart, but the center 4 on each side I space at 3/4 inch (2 above waist line and 2 below).
Using awl, carefully spread apart the fibers. Don't enter fabric at an angle. This can be quite workout on your hands, but go slowly so that you don't break the fibers and weaken the fabric. Insert the eyelet or grommet through the outside of the corset. Once again, the fray check can be useful here. If your awl doesn't make a hole big enough try using a pen, pencil or handle of a makeup or paint brush, or anything else you can find that might be useful to spread the hole a little wider. When you have gotten it through the other side, fit the back over it, if it has one. Lay the corset with the back of the eyelet on the eyelet setter and gently tap it until the eyelet is set firmly against fabric. A lot of gentle taps are better than a few hard pounds! If you pound too hard the eyelet won't seat right, may split, and will flatten on the front.
If you wish to use ribbon over boning channels, or any other decorative trim that runs the length of the corset, stitch it on now using strips that go all the way to the edges of fabric. This way the ends will be covered and protected by the edge binding. I sometimes use 5/8 inch wide velvet or satin ribbon to cover boning channel. If you have any doubts that you may stitch into the boning channel, insert boning first and stitch slowly. If you stitch too far into the channel the boning will stop you, hopefully before you break your needle.
If you have any curved seams, baste just inside the edge of the ribbon on the side that will be the inside of the curve, knot the ends of the end you will begin stitching at, and gather the ribbon by pulling on the end of one thread. Lay the ribbon over the seam and adjust the tension on the tread until it lays smoothly over seam. Stitch the inside of the curve first, then the outside, and then remove the basting thread if it is visible.
Insert boning in the boning channels and behind the busk. Be sure not to get them just under the fashion fabric because they'll wear through.
If you wish to attach garters, cut lengths of heavy ribbon (like grosgrain) about 1 1/2 inches long, one for each garter. Mark the placement on the inside of the corset. Fold ribbon strips in half and place them on the inside of the corset, with the edge of ribbon at edge of corset, and folded edge toward center of corset. Double or triple stitch using a small stitch. After edges of corset are bound (directions in next section) they will be folded down so folded edge extends just below edge of corset and stitched down again at seam for edge binding
If you wish to use black garter hooks, they are difficult to find. However, I have bought the plain white ones that you can find at any fabric store, and dyed them black with black leather oil dye. It penetrates the plastic, and has yet to fade or come off.
The most attractive way to bind edges is to use strips of the corset fashion fabric, or other contrasting fabric, cut on the bias, to bind the edges. Strips of fabric cut on the bias will stretch to fit easily and smoothly around the curves.
Press the strips of fabric in half with the right side out, then turn under each half and press again so that the raw edges will be turned in. Make one side a little wider than the other. The wider side will be on the inside of the corset, and it will ensure that it will be firmly stitched down.
Hand baste the binding to the corset before machine stitching it.
Orient the binding so the widest side is on the inside of the corset. Fold the end of the binding under about 1/2 inch, and fold the binding around the inside and outside of the corset. Firmly anchor the binding to the very edge of the corset, then take small stitches every 3/4 inch or so. When you reach the other end of the corset turn the end of the binding under again and anchor the edges.
Then machine stitch the binding very close to the edge, and remove the basting stitches if they show.
I also use 7/8 inch wide velvet or satin ribbon, especially if the edges of the corset don't have much curve to them. This is a bit more difficult to fit around curves, but it can be used, using the same method of basting described in decorative trim above. I work with the outside of the corset up, and lay the ribbon face down over it. Ribbon should be stitched with the bottom edge less than half it's width above the edge of the corset. Stitch the bottom edge about 1/16 inch in.
Then fold ribbon over to the back. You may wish to pin ribbon down to keep it smooth, as you will be stitching from the front side. The extra width on the inside will ensure that it is caught in the stitching since you won't be able to see. Stitch as close to the edge of ribbon as possible on corset fabric (so stitching isn't readily visible), or on ribbon about 1/16 inch in from edge to anchor it more firmly. Or, if you prefer, you may turn over to wrong side, baste inside edge of ribbon down, turn over and stitch from the outside, then remove basting.
After busk insertion, turn so right sides are in, and stitch 5/8 inch in along the top and bottom edges, thus eliminating the need for binding edges. Turn right side out. Attach boning casings on inside of corset, folding top edge under. Stitch almost to bottom on both sides, insert boning, turn bottom of casing under, and finish stitching down at bottom. Then turn in and press inside back edges of lacing panel, and stitch. Finish lacing panel as described above.
Most of the steps are similar to the traditional method. Some may be slightly different, or done in a different order. Read traditional method instructions first for an understanding of the process, as some details explained previously will be referenced, but not repeated, below.
The first step is to insert the busk. It is done the same as in the traditional method, except that center front panel isn't attached to the other panels yet (panels of the corset body will be stitched together afterwards) and you way not be working with as many layers of fabric.
With the wrong sides of the fabric out, stitch the back inside edges at 1 - 1.5 inches in (or at whatever seam allowance you calculated). Then follow directions for lacing panel in traditional method. Just as with the busk insertion, panels of the corset body will be attached afterwards. If you feel there may need to do some alterations, I suggest stitching the center back edge on a large stitch that can be removed for adjustments as in conventional instructions. Seam can then be reinforced by topstitching close to the edge later. Or, you may do adjustments to the seam that attaches lacing panel to corset body.
Follow the directions for the outside corset body in traditional method. Then attach the busk and lacing panels the same as you sewed the other panels.
Similar to previous method. However, ends will not be stitched into busk and lacing panel, as there is only one layer, nor will it be stitched the length of the tape.
Edges of tape or ribbon should be turned under and stitched to prevent fraying, then stitched to corset body, at seams used to anchor busk in front, at boning channel seams along the body, and just before eyelets, in back.
If you are using a fashion fabric that can withstand basting across the waistline (not satin or pvc), basting it will be the most reliable way to ensure that ribbon or tape is the right length (too short will cut into your waist and be uncomfortable, too long will not reinforce the waist properly). After the tape is stitched down to one end, baste down center of waistline (see instructions above), and anchor at other end of corset. Then use boning channel or casing seams to anchor along corset body, and remove basting. If you are attaching separate boning channels, do this first. If you are using seam allowance as channel do this first as in following instructions.
I recommend then doing reinforced seams, as described above, and then stitching boning casing to inside or outside centered over seam. An alternate way of doing reinforced seams is to eliminate the row of stitching closest to the seam and instead stitch the seam allowance down leaving just enough room for boning.
If you wish to do double-boning at each seam, you may do regular seams, but it will not be as strong, and you will have twice the work to finish raw seam edges...
Since there will be no lining to protect raw seam edges, you will probably want to finish them in one of the following ways:
If you have a serger to finish the edges this is ideal. Or...
Zig-zag stitch edges if your machine can do this, or...
Bind edges with bias binding or twill tape, folding around either side of the fabric. When doing it this way I usually stitch one side down, fold around, and stitch other side.
After edges are bound, press the seams with the edges folded toward the back of the corset. Then, topstitch about 1/16 inch in from edge of seam, then stitch edges down about 3/8 inch from center seam (enough to allow boning to slide in easily) and insert boning in the channels this creates.