Ready, Set, Sew!! – The Union Jack Corset

I’m not really sure what’s the best way to show/discuss the sewing of the Union Jack Corset.  I’m going to say again that most of you already know how to sew including most of the steps so I think I may just stick to pictures and steps and leave the ball in your court to send us a note and ask about anything that seems confusing or even if you just want a bit of advice.

Just a few photos to review progress.

All of the materials are assembled and cutting is complete.

The sorting of all of those coloured chippets prior to assembly.

Leslie and I both agree that the ‘work’ of a new design happens mostly in the pattern making and cutting stages.  Once it comes time to sew the pieces together both of us turn on the tunes or an audio book and ‘rock-on’.  When I worked with the lovely Barbara (so sadly now gone) she laughed long and hard when she first saw me sewing.  I had been concentrating deeply on drafting, planning and cutting and had been so quietly immersed for so long that it was a complete surprise and shock to her that once I started the stitching process the tunes were blasting and the machine was blasting through the stacks of cut pieces.  She said my cutting vs sewing style was like Hyde and Jekyll!….or is that Jekyll and Hyde?

I think that much of this approach (careful careful cutting – then just SEW!) stems from the fact that both Leslie and I come from a background of industrial techniques – and have adapted our costume making production to make the most of the speedy and deliberate style of sewing associated with commercial garment production.

But – I digress……..well this is a blog and digressions are a part of the process….yes?…No?

What follows is by no means an exhaustive description of corset making for the novice.  We’re currently working on that book – or should I say OPUS!  But the steps here will give you a sense of the “order of operations” that were used for this particular corset project.

The Union Jack Corset is based on two layers of coutil – with the flag colour pieces  attached to the outside layer.  The corset hardware will then sit (sandwiched) between  these two layers.  There are many other ways to construct a corset – this is just one of the many.

(Note please – a corset is no loosey, goosey garment – accuracy in both cutting, and sewing really makes a difference when putting together those 130 cut fabric pieces, 22 bones, a busk and 28 grommets!)

marking pivot points with pencil

Step 1– Sew all the piecing seams of the coloured chips.  The chips for each of the 13 panels (12 body and 1 facing) are joined to each other.  Each chip was marked with a pencil dot at the crucial attachment points in order to achieve a degree of accuracy.

connecting pivot points with pin at the machine

Step 2– Press all of those seams open.  In quilting I usually lay both seams to one side but for this corset I wanted to distribute the thicknesses evenly.  The only exception is with the pieces that have insets.

Inset Pieces

A side panel – marker, exterior coutil, pieced exterior

Pieced and waiting for a press.

After a gentle press.

Step 3 – Flat mount each coloured panel onto the corresponding exterior coutil backing piece.

The pieced exterior will be sewn onto the coutil exterior.

The marker is excellent to assist in lining up all of the jointed pieces.

Stitch inside the seam allowances using the marker as a guide for positioning.

One piece done – do the same for the other 12 panels.

Right ‘body’ all pieced, pressed, and flat-mounted.

Same for the left.

Step 4 – Join all the left and right – both exterior and lining pieces to each other leaving the center back and center front open.

Right body

Left body.  This is the time when I usually pause to rejoice that every single cut piece has been attached to at least some other cut piece. Well it isn’t done yet but we take our victories whenever we can get them.

Step 5 – Press the exterior body seams open (again to distribute any thickness) – Press the interior body seams toward the front.   This makes for a very strong inner layer.  Normally I press the outside body seams one way and the inside body seams the other way.  Strong, strong STRONG construction techniques are needed to keep a corset from breaking at the seams.  At this point adding a strip of buckram to the eyelet section of the center back piece helps prevent eyelet tear-out. ( I usually do this prior to panels being sewn together as shown.)

Buckram strip prepped for center back reinforcement.

A little over-construction can’t hurt in this. Straight sewing and big zig-zag too! Really really NOT going anywhere.

More over-construction…top and edge stitching on both layers.  It does help to keep all of the seam allowances organized. This will come in handy when the bones are sliding into their channels and NOT getting hung up on errant seam allowances. At least that is the plan.

Step 6 – Join outside (coloured) center front to center front lining  and make busk insertion allowances for the left and right.  Join center back to center back (each outside center back to each corresponding lining center back.  Turn the pieces so that all the seam allowances are now on the inside – There is now a left corset sandwich and a right corset sandwich.

It’s really starting to look kinda cool. The ‘home stretch’…..laminate, bone channel, bind, bone, bind again and grommets. Sounds quite quick doesn’t it?

Step 7 – ‘Laminate’ (best word I can think of) the outside bodies to the lining bodies by stitching in the ditch of each seamline.  Careful that there is no creeping of the pieces.  Top raw edges and bottom raw edges should align perfectly.

Watch out for the dreaded “creeping” of the panels. And watch out for the pins that you may use to position the panels. Ouchy!

Step 8 – Make the boning channels.  This first sample has 22 bone channels stuffed with 5mm polyester bones as follows for each side:  2 channels adjacent to the busk,  2 channels centered on piece 2, 2 channels centered on piece 3, one channel for each seam between pieces 3-4, 4-5, and 5-6, and then the last two channels at the center back leaving a 1cm space for the grommets that will go in last.

Step 9 – Stitch top edges together, trim off seam allowance and bind in navy.  (I used straight grain bindings – it’s just one of many options.)

Step 10 – Measure, cut, and file the bone ends.  Stuff the bone channels.

Bones, cutter and file or rasp.

Cut boning to length and then file down the sharp end cuts.

The bones start out all curly and confused………

But a little (a lot) of heat……..

And a time to cool with ‘weights’ will make those bones behave!

Step 11 – Stitch lower edges together, trim off seam allowance and bind in navy.

Stitch hem edges together. That’s the sewing foot I call ‘skinny foot’ and it will leave just a little wiggle room for the bones inside their channels.

I need a manicure!

Yep – out of focus – It’s really difficult to hold a camera and operate the 9″ shears at the same time.

Final edge stitch on the hem binding.

Step 12 – Make the facing – if you haven’t got your own label – make one! and attach it – this may be the only credit you ever get for making this garment!…..Own It.

Step 13 – Insert the grommets at the center back.  Attach the facing to one side of the center back (yeah yeah – this time I will remember to leave the grommets free at the back)

14 grommets down each side of the back. The two at the waist are slightly closer together where the ‘loop’ in the lacings will go.

Step 14 – Put the lacings in and try that pretty thing on! – ’cause you are DONE!  🙂



About Costume People

We are two women with over 30 years of combined experience in making costumes for film and television. Even after all these years we still love the thrill of seeing our creations in close up on the big screen. Now it's time for us to share our expertise.
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6 Responses to Ready, Set, Sew!! – The Union Jack Corset

  1. it looks fabulous, and I love the asymetry.

    I’d enver thought of needing a word for sewing both sides together like that – laminate sounds about right

  2. Wow… Just wanted to say this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. ❤

  3. Claire says:

    Hi There, Is it possible to have a union jack corset like this one made? It is amazing and just what I am looking for!

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