17 April 2020

How to make a corset - Part 1 (using the Lolita Underbust sewing pattern from Aranea Black)

Making a corset is quite a big work, so I decided to split it into two (or more) posts. Here's the first part about the first steps including discussing fabric options, the pattern and tools I highly recommend.

how to make a corset corsetmaking lolita underbust aranea black minn's things sewing pattern tutorial

Before we dive deep into the topic I just wanted to quickly mention my sources for corset making - at least those I used so far. I have learned a lot of theory, but I have basically no practical experience (I'm not counting my "first try" you'll read about below). This post is meant to be my diary, my personal collection of knowledge and (growing) experience. I need that because sometimes I am so forgetful I'm not sure if it isn't a sign of very early dementia - and I know I won't remember any of this automatically until my 10th or so corset.
So, the sources. As you may already know, for quite some time now I'm following Aranea Black on IG after discovering her blog I think about 2 years ago? All her patterns, tutorials and tons of information are for free. Not only because of that but also because of her incredible knowledge, helpfulness and superb humor I highly recommend everything of her content. Then I've also watched a course on Skillshare, which is not available anymore - that's ok, since the information was fine, but the quality ugly as hell. And then I've watched this course on Bluprint, which was nice, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it for the money it usually costs (I watched it on one of Bluprints all-free weekends).
Now let's start with the most important thing...

mattram retro cats curtain fabric ikea corsetmaking woven minn's things
The fabric I'm using: Mattram retro cats curtains from Ikea


For modern corsets there is one fabric type considered the best: Coutil. But I didn't use that. It's quite expensive and I simply do not want to spend the money on it before I can make a good corset out of it. This corset has several purposes: First, learning the skill - like I said, corset making is big work, much detail and skill. Then it's also a muslin - maybe wearable, maybe not, that depends on how well it fits. If it is wearable, then I'll use it as a stealth corset (meaning as an undergarment). 

For sure some know this fabric, it's a curtain from Ikea. It's called Mattram, but as far as I can see they are no longer available. Yes, these curtains are hanging in our adults-only house and I am not ashamed of it - they are in fact the best curtains we have (and by now the only ones as I have not put up the rest of it, hehe). Since the curtains are 3m long and our windows / patio doors not, there's quite some leftover. The fabric seems strong, the weave is dense, though not perfectly straight. Obviously it's not perfect quality. But I figured it's suitable enough for a corset muslin, maybe even wearable.
Sidenote: There's also cushions with a smaller version of this pattern and yes, we have those too, obviously. The cushions seem to be still available!

sewing pattern corsetmaking lolita underbust corset aranea black how to make a corset minn's things
All the pattern pieces! You can get them for free here!


The decision to make a Lolita Underbust corset was made a long time ago, I already talked about this and my "first try" in a previous blogpost. I wore that first one on one evening, and it was fine then, but it was not quite the thing. Since my measurements changed quite a lot since I made it I decided to start fresh, same pattern, but new version.
After measuring myself thoroughly as well as the pattern plus using the measurements and guidelines coming with the pattern I did adjust the length - put the waist 2cm higher and re-add that 2cm length at the hips. I cut size D at the underbust, grading into size E for the waist and hips.
So far I have two corsetmaking goals: One beautiful, fancy corset, that needs to be shown and shine, obviously. But this one will have to wait, because the other comes first: a stealth corset. Which is why I may keep this muslin, if the fit is good enough. We'll see.

how to make a corset tools needed for corsetmaking file clapper tailor's ham boning marker tailor's chalk cartridge pencil prym measuring gauge sewing pins clips aviation snips flat-nose-pliers
A few of the tools needed (left to right): tailor's ham, clapper, measuring gauge, boning, pins, clips, flat-nose pliers, cartridge pen, file;


I'm usually not the most accurate sewist - I cut out the pattern with my rotary cutter and sew the approximate seam allowance. It may be a few mm off, but it's fine enough - especially with knits. I promise, you will not see a mm-difference in a knit garment. But with a corset you'll absolutely want to be as precise as possible, since it's such a tight fitting garment.
So there are a few tools that are great for precise sewing:

  • Fine marker / chalk / pencil: important for precise marking, e.g. this cartridge pencil from Prym. I have a different one, but that's just because the shop where I ordered it didn't have the Prym one. Mine's not the best, but ok. You can also use other types of pencils, but please do not use those big chunks of tailor's chalk, they are just too unprecise. Sorry for using the word 'precise' so much in this section, lol. 
  • Measuring gauge: this is not necessary per se, but I find it easier and faster to mark the seam allowances with this handy tool than with a simple ruler. There are different types of gauges available, such as this one, this one, or this one - mine is similar to the first one and of course in cm. 
  • Pins and clips: I recommend both, because I like using both for different purposes. You may prefer one over the other, but I'd say both together are the perfect mix, with each for its purpose. 
  • Tools for the boning: depending on the type of boning you're using, make sure you have the appropriate tools or you'll be in the same situation as me, having to wait for my aviation snips. If you're using plastic boning, you can simply cut them with scissors. It may have tiny steel wires inside, but scissors can cut that. For spiral steel boning you'll need a wire cutter and for flat steel boning you'll need aviation snips. You'll also need a fine file for all types of bonings, as you need to soften the cut edges to prevent them from ripping through your fabric. And then you'll need some tape, like plumber's tape, for additional protection of the fabric against the boning. Tiny flat-nose pliers (like for jewellry-making) are very useful for pushing the boning into the casings. 
  • Tailor's ham: I took the cheap way and quickly made one myself by just cutting a rough ellipse twice, sewing it together and filling it with various fabric scraps. Make sure you only use fabric that can endure a lot of heat and moisture. You can also fill it with pet bedding / sawdust, but since I don't have my guinea pigs anymore I don't have that on hand, plus I'm keeping all my fabric scraps - yes, even tiny ones - for purposes like this. Or you can buy one of course, like from Vena Cava. A tailor's ham makes it a lot easier to iron the curves of a corset. 
  • Clapper: Absolutely awesome to get those nice, crisp edges! The purpose of a clapper is to further stabilize the seam right after ironing by sucking up the moisture plus additional pressing. And boy it works so well! My clapper is just a leftover from a tabletop I got at a hardware store. Make sure it is hardwood! You can also buy one, like from Vena Cava

how to make a corset corsetmaking diy sewing pattern pieces marking tracing minn's things tutorial
All the traced pattern pieces on the wrong side of the fabric, my cartridge pen and measuring gauge; red is seam line, blue is seam allowance;

Marking and cutting

Now that we've covered that, let's jump on to some actual work, shall we?
As I said, with corsets you'll want to be precise. This is why I chose to do what I normaly never do: use the pattern without seam allowance. With the Lolita Underbust Corset pattern this is easy, as there is no seam allowance included for that exact purpose of preciseness. So I did simply position the pattern piece onto the fabric, weigh it down with my DIY pattern weights and trace it with the fine cartridge pencil mentioned above. Make sure to leave enough space between the pieces for the seam allowance, so at least 2-3cm in the width.
Then I added 1cm seam allowance at the sides and 0,5cm seam allowance at the top and bottom. I did the extra work and marked the seam allowance for all the pieces - using the cartridge pencil and the measuring gauge - but honestly, next time I'll eyeball it, because later on I only used the pattern trace lines anyways.
This pattern has 6 pattern pieces (for one side) plus the modesty panel. Since I'm making a double-layered corset I cut the 6 pieces 4 times - outer shell and lining, left and right side each. I also cut 2 pieces of the modesty panel, since that one is double-layered too. That makes a total of 26 pieces to trace and cut! Whew!
For cutting I used my good fabric scissors - over the last years I have grown to only using a rotary cutter, but I know myself, I tend to roll too fast and get unprecise, and I just didn't want to risk that.

At this point I had all my many naked pattern pieces laying in front of me, hours have passed - and I had not sewn one stitch. Like, seriously?
Yes and believe me, it's going to be sooo much more work!

As I'm writing this I am a bit further ahead in assembling my corset, but as mentioned above I didn't think of all the tools early enough, so I have to wait for the aviation snips. Anyways, as this post already has quite the length I decided to split it up into several separate posts - sorry! But I do think this is better for the attention span... you know... ;-)

So better make sure to come back, subscribe, follow me and all that stuff for more corset madness!
Until then...