Monday, July 31, 2017

Tutorial: Tiered Skirt

[I haven't been using this blog because I haven't made a new corset in ages - something to do with all the lifting I've been doing, and the way that's changed my body.  So, today it gets to be the place I put my tutorials for future reference.]

Tiered skirts are a wardrobe filler for me, and they never fail to get me rave reviews.  Every time, I say, "you could make it - they're super easy!  Just rectangles!" and I see the eyes glaze over.  So, today I'm putting up a very thorough tiered skirt tutorial.  This is for the version with an elastic waist - this skirt can also be made with a traditional waistband/zipper if you prefer a smoother finish.

Notes on the math:  I am 5'2", there is about 37" between my waist and the top of my foot, which is where this skirt finishes.  Should you want a different length overall, or a different length of any tier, just adjust as you see fit.

Maths given are for 55" wide fabric - one wants plenty of room to go 'round one's biggest part with plenty of sitting ease.

This is what MY math looks like:  The top tier is 7" deep, I cut one.  (You could cut 1.5 if you were using 42" fabric, which is getting popular in quilting cottons these days.  There's not much need to increase any of the rest of these, you'll still have a very full skirt).  (I have a very short top tier for figure flattery - you do NOT want the seam line to cup under your belly or behind).
Second tier, cut 2 @ 10"
Third tier, cut 3 @ 9"
Fourth tier, cut 4 @ 16"  (I like this to drop from about knee height for drama/proportion, but you certainly don't have to do that).

I use approximately 1/2" seam allowances.  (You can see this on my sketch).

I use about 3.5 yards of fabric for an unlined skirt.  Fabrics?  I like a light-weight cotton, nothing too stiff, flow is important.  I've used cotton gauze (about the only thing I'm willing to use cotton gauze for), quilting cotton, lace, and the fabric shown, which is an embroidered voile.

prepping fabric

cutting strips - my cutting board makes this easy, but you can simply draw lines on the fabric
tiers, cut and ready to go, I fold them together to keep them straight.  Had a yard left over - I'd bought this fabric for a piggier project.

I like to start from the bottom tier, to put my frustration all at the beginning of the project.   YMMV.
Always sew a quick test to check your stitch length and thread tension.  And to see if your needle minds going through the sequins.  It didn't.
 Sew the pieces together, using french seams, until you have the entire tier assembled.   Make sure it doesn't get twisted!!

French seam.  First, sew the two wrong sides together, at 2/8". 


Press flat/open

Press again, with right sides of fabric together.

Stitch w/right sides together, creating completely enclosed seam allowance on wrong side of fabric.
Then sew a narrow hem on the bottom of the skirt (my fabric is directional, there is a bottom.  This affects cutting layout, and I needed to make sure I kept the up/down aligned on each piece).

Then sew a gathering stitch at the top.  I sew a gathering stitch for the length of each panel, then cut my threads and start a new one, so four sets of stitches on the bottom tier.  Gathering all that fabric is too much with one thread!  Manage your insanity.

Set bottom tier aside.
The bottom tier ... it's HUGE.  That's why I do it first.
Fold over a narrow hem, iron.  Pin.

Sew the pieces of the third tier together, using french seams.

Gather the bottom tier, pin to the third tier.  (This takes a while).  Straighten/fluff your gathers as needed, then sew the two tiers together, with a regular seam.

Finish seam... do NOT use a french seam here, you'll go nuts.  For this skirt, I chose to trim my seam allowance, press it down, and then sew over it with an embroidery stitch (even using embroidery thread) that my sewing machine has.  Most do, these days.  If you choose to use embroidery thread, you must use an embroidery needle or the thread will fray.  You can use regular thread for loose embroidery stitches like this one - this is my favorite stitch, and I use it frequently.  You might also choose to cover the raw seam allowance with a ribbon and stitch that down, or just pink it and call it good.

Embroidery needles - have a smoother eye than regular, so your rayon embroidery thread doesn't fray.  It will with regular needles, causing great frustration.

This simple leaf stitch is my fav.  Open stitches are faster/easier for this kind of thing.
Finish seam (inside, where it's ugly)

 Sew the pieces of the second tier together.  Attach the third tier to the second tier, see above instructions.

For the top tier, I prefer to insert the elastic before attaching to the rest of the skirt.   Sew the two pieces together, using french seams.  Then press a large hem/elastic casing over, and sew that down.

Insert elastic.  Close the seam.  Attach first tier to second tier.  Finish seam.    You're done!

elastic casing and elastic - your casing should be big enough for your elastic to feed comfortably.
Fit your elastic to your waist *firmly* - the heavier your material, the more fitted your elastic should be, it's holding up the weight of your skirt.  You still have to get it over your hips, but other than that - firm yet comfy is your goal.

Feed elastic through, then make sure it's not twisted and sew it together thoroughly 

Close the seam

Top tier

All finished!
That's it.  That's really entirely it.  Once you're past the hump of the third tier, it's all gravy - and the biggest difficulty here is definitely patience, followed by all that gathering.

This is a good beginner seamstress project.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Go big or go home

This corset is all about going big or going home.

I guess I must have been channeling how long hand-basting the seams took me on the first two corsets.  This time 'round it was only a couple of hours!  But it took me a week to finish  it and then get on with the boning step.  :p

I finished one half of the corset - completely - today.  Finish up the other half and lace her up and we're good to go.  I am tempted to go after it tonight, but I know if I do, I'll regret it.  Haste makes waste - and so does the, 'I really want to finish this!" attitude.

I boned today and added functional embroidery.  I am all about the functional embroidery.  A firm line of embroidery offers a lightly stiffened area, like ultra-light boning.  So where I want a tad bit of support, but don't want boning for whatever reason, I add embroidery.

I was re-reading some helpful hints about boning, and one of my sources recommended wrapping your newly-tipped bones with plumber's tape.  Well, getting the tips on the spiral steel - especially tightly enough to not pop off - is difficult, so I was more than happy to try this out.  Works like a dream!  You tighten down your boning tip in a basic sort of way, then you wrap the heck out of it.  Woohoo!  No more tips going lost... no more tipless steels poking holes in my corset or in me.... happy Hearthie.

I used my pink corset to figure out new and improved boning channels.  Mostly I used the same ones, but if you look closely at the lower back, you'll see that I used embroidery up past the waist.  I have a very pronounced curve through my lower back, and although spiral steel is plenty flexible, having a steel pressed tightly into your waist is no kind of fun.  I had done surgery on this corset to fix the bone down the center back, but I decided on the new corset to forgo boning from the waist down entirely until the bone down the side.  (My "curve" is quite firm and isn't going to squish or shift - boning really isn't necessary here).

The last difference between the two corsets is that my bias tape cooperated (bias tape and I generally have a hate-hate relationship) and I was able to put it on with a machine embroidery stitch.  And *that* is how I have half a corset completely done in only half a day.  I know it's bright... the laces will be the same color.  There's no way I'm going to conceal a turquoise corset under my clothes minus a tanktop anyway, why not have some fun?

DH likes it, anyway.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Piles of construction photos

Here's the busk, inserted in the center front panels.   I'm using a golden embroidery thread for the topstitching/boning channels.  Here's my other busk to insert, side view.  Note the difference in shape of a spoon busk vs. a regular busk.

Here's my 10 yard roll of spiral steel boning.  The next time someone squeaks in alarm about boning with steel, you can point out that spiral steel is actually extremely flexible.  (The busk is *not*).
Grommets.  Not my favorite part of corset construction.  
Layers of fabric - here you can see the corduroy lining, the coutil and the fashion fabric.  The boning will slide between the corduroy and the coutil.  I tried using the coutil as the lining on my first corset, but found out that the boning ends will work themselves right through brocade.  So if you want to have a fragile fashion fabric (not a denim, twill, cord, etc) then you want to have at least three layers in your corset.  I can see that it might be useful to have MORE layers for different effects.  Coutil is quite light-weight, it just won't stretch at.all.  Well, that's why it's so expensive.  :p

The next two pictures are dedicated to the concept that you shouldn't even think about making a corset until you are very comfortable sewing curved seams, preferably to each other.  I do a lot of basting - saves tears.

  This is the inside of my cup.  It has four pieces - three on the bottom which come up just over mid-bust and would be fine if I was good with muffin top, and a fourth piece that holds me where I'd rather stay.  

After constructing your outer shell and lining, you baste in a piece of twill tape at the waistline.   This allegedly makes the waist, which is under the greatest strain, more durable.  I've never tried it without, so I couldn't say.  You'll note I barely basted it in, that's fine - it's going to have plenty of stitching by the time I get all the boning channels sewn in, not to mention all the seam matching.

And that's the next step.  Having gotten your lining and outer layers all sewn up, people will say, "ah, almost done then!" They're wrong.  The next stage is meticulously matching every seam on lining and outer layers of the corset and basting them together (stitched in the ditch) prior to sewing the boning channels.  It is imperative that those match perfectly.... and yes, sewing that much by hand, through these fabrics, isn't quick.  Although really it's the matching that's the pain.   And that's where I am!  Time to find something good on youtube, I guess...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Starting to sew...

First:  I beat myself up too much of the time!  I wrote down the instructions for the best way to sew the cups ... and gosh darn it if they weren't about a thousand times easier  to sew up this time.  LOL.  Cups are sewn... and as of today, the busk is inserted.

Second picture:  Prep work - this is all my coutil + fashion fabric (in this case a silk/poly brocade blend) machine basted together.  Since I underline the FF with the coutil, then line it with something else (corduroy today), I need the coutil and FF to act as one.  Thus the basting.  Last time I hand basted, which took a long time.  Machine basting was quick and easy.  I machine basted my overcoat this winter, it's my new favorite technique.

Third picture:  I almost forgot to mark my pieces!  Best piece of advice from that corset-making book is to mark all the pieces.  You'd think you don't need it while you're cutting, but when it comes sewing time, it's very easy to mistake up for down and left for right.  My first corset taught me that lesson - I did a lot of ripping out just from "oops".

Since my fabric and lining are all completely opaque, I feel free to mark anywhere.  Otherwise, I'd be careful to mark within the seam allowances.

And I did something a little different with my modesty panel - I *always* have a modesty panel, because I really hate the laces (I use paracord) digging into my back.  It hurts.  But the modesty panel tries to wander off.  I made a wider panel and then I put embroidery on top and bottom to stiffen it a bit.  My husband wants me to attach the "free" side with elastic to the inside of the corset - we will see how that goes!  I can always snip it off if it annoys me.

Isn't this the prettiest fabric?  :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New posts coming soon....

I cut two corsets the other day on the phone, so there will soon be more eyecandy on the blog!

In further news, my back is sometimes insanely pleased with lacing and sometimes has had quite enough.  I'm developing muscle in odd places... and now stand up straight most of the time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Longer Lacing: Results

I've  been lacing up consistently the past 10 days or so, from 10-12 hours each day.  And I can feel it!

Don't get me wrong, I love wearing my corset.  But someone is going to tell you that wearing what amounts to a fitted back brace every day doesn't hurt at all - they're high.

It doesn't hurt in the bad way.  It hurts in the "dude, I did a killer back work out at the gym!"  I don't feel pinched or miserable.  Just tired muscles.   A hot bath or a heated rice wrap does the trick.

Gave the corset a wash last night, giving myself a break today - at least until time for church (assuming it's dry by then).


Other results:

Yes, the corset will reduce your cubic capacity for food.  However, it only does that if you put it on and lace it up tightly *before your first meal of the day*.


One last result:

My waist (and no, I don't tight lace.  I never lace to discomfort, not ever) has gone down 3/4 since last week.  Might be just a flub, might not.  Interesting, regardless.

Oh, and there will be new corsets after I get the Christmas sewing (and winter coat sewing) done.  This amount of wear is wearing some of that silk straight off!  Good thing it was only a top-layer...

I have two beautiful fabrics and all the goodies waiting for me, so probably sometime in January I'll have more process pictures to show you.