Saturday, January 16, 2016

Adding hip ties to a Mystic City corset

I decided that I was not going to make myself a new corset for the period immediately postpartum, because it would just be ridiculous trying to put the hours of work in with a new baby. I didn't want to use my old crappy tubular off the rack model though. Making my first corset for myself last year really opened my eyes to the amazing difference a good fit makes, especially if you're further from average in terms of dimensions. The problem is that I'm pretty severely pear shaped, small ribcage, wide hips, small natural waist, and with that I'm tall. With my pre pregnancy measurements I looked around and decided that the MCC 68 was giong to be the best fit for me, both in terms of measurements and because it has a tall back, and just about the longest front you will get off the rack. Alas it does not have hip ties, and the hip measurement is a hair on the small side. I dithered for a while, but when Mystic City had a sample sale, and the almost identical MCC3 was available for a great discount, I couldn't resist. I bought it and figured I would alter it later by adding hip ties to open it up. I can't claim to have invented this process. I learned how to do it from the excellent video tutorial from Lucy's corsetry. This blog though will walk through the steps to do it on a Mystic City corset which has its own unique construction. It may be interesting to anyone thinking of doing the same thing to their own, but if you are I highly recommend you watch Lucy's video as well.

Here's my corset before I did the ties. You can see that I can't reduce the waist any further without bowing and possibly distorting the bones. it's also a more cupped hip shape than I need. You can see it's full up high (where I actually have a little extra room, and beginning to cut into my hips lower down.

 The first thing I did was remove the modesty panel and lacing. I marked where the bunny ears were with some nail polish on the inside of the grommets. I may move the bunny ears up one grommet though, as you can see in the back picture it looks like they're just below my natural waist and the waist tape. You can also see here how I've bent the back bones. Believe it or not I could use to bend them a bit more.

 Then I removed the bottom binding past the first set of hip boning, this is where I need the room the most, and so where I will put in the hip ties. I decided to start the hip ties about where the hip starts to curve in dramatically, since I don't need room in the high hip, just the low hip. I marked the top of the hip tie with chalk, and removed the side bones. I marked the side bones with which side and whether it was the front or back bone. These bones seem to be identical, but it's still good practice to put the bones back where they came from.

 As you can see, this corset is constructed with felled seams. The seam allowances all point one direction instead of being pressed open. Thus the pieces are handled with the lining and the exterior fabric together. It's a good construction method but makes this whole process a bit trickier. You can see as I unpick the seem how on one side the seam allowances for the lining and exterior are folded in, then the other panel with the seam allowances facing forward is slotted between the layers. Then the whole thing is top stitched together, and the boning channels are sewn. I believe there's actually a special
 attachment in the factory that they use to do this accurately. When I've done similar things it's required a lot of basting..... Anyhow, I took the seams out about an inch past the top of my desired opening to give me room to work, and picked out all the leftover thread ends.

 Here's the only tricky part. Now you have to clip the seam allowance on the side that was slotted in and has the seam allowances facing forward. This will allow me to turn those seam allowances in for the part that is going to be open, while leaving the rest of the seam enclosed in the body of the corset. I clipped at the top of my desired opening just exactly to the seam line. No more. No less.
 This allowed me to turn the seam allowances in, press them, top stitch very close to the edge up just past where I had clipped, then re sew the other edge of the boning channel, sewing over the remaining stitching that I had not ripped out in the main body of the corset. It's important to overlap where you stopped seam ripping by at least an inch or so: this keeps the seam from continuing to unravel on its own.

 Now the tricky part. I slotted the seam back together to the place where I had clipped it. Then I pinned the top (the horizontal pin) to keep it from sliding apart. Then I pinned the the lining and the exterior together to keep the panels from sliding while I sewed. Now I top sttiched along very close to the edge, and up over my pin, overlapping the orignal seam. I then backtacked for extra strength.

 Now I could sew the exterior stitching line for the boning chanel, again, overlapping the original seam. The last thing I did, which is probably overkill, was to tack back and forth at the very top of the slit to keep pressure off the join. It's only three stitches back and forth to keep from interfereing with the boning channels but it's a bit of insurance.

After that it was just a matter of marking and setting the grommets outside the boning chanels. I marked both sides with pins, then set the grommets using a hand grommet setter, and a tailors awl. I would really like to get one of the fancy bench mount grommet setters that more easily mount larger two piece grommets, but until then, these smaller single piece grommets hold well on low stress applications (like hip ties)  I set ten grommets on each slit, five on each side. I got stuck here for about a week and a half while I debated ribbbon colors, didn't get out to the store to buy new ribbons, and tried to decide whether I should add some lace applique over the hips while I had the binding off.

       I eventually decided against the lace. More because I wanted my corset done and back than because I didn't want it! I also decided to use the flat cord laces that came as an alternate with my corset  for a while. They're easier to undo and redo and I want to try several different ways of lacing up the back until I come up with something easier to do up myself. The high back of this corset was making me have to just about dislocate my shoulder getting the top tight, and I was having trouble finding which ribbons to pull. The solution was having my husband lace me up, but that's not always practical. Here it's laced "straight" with bunny ears, as per Lucy's Corsetry video tutorial.

I laced the hip ties with 3/8 inch black double sided satin ribbon that I happened to have. It matches the laces for now. When I figure out what lacing pattern I want to use I will go back to the colored satin laces (they're so pretty) and will match the hip tie ribbons to whatever color I choose (likely kawasaki racing green....).  I put the original binding back on, which was a little tricky since it had to cover a bit more ground. I fudged folding it under at the tips of the slit a little, and had to tidy it up with a few hand stitches, but overall it went better than could be expected. The binding is some sort of synthetic grosgrain, which is amazingly flexible, and is simply topstiched on.

Here you can see the finished product. About four hours of work all told, start to finish (most of that in setting grometts and seam ripping), and a week and a half of dithering over colors and lace. The fit is hugely improved. It no longer digs into my lower hips, and the lacing gap is nice and straight. I was also able to close it a little further comfortably even though I haven't worn anything in almost two weeks! I did take the lacing protector panel out. The heavy boning in it was nice when I had a bigger gap, but with the moderate gap I have now it didn't seem neccesary. I will say that these flat shoestring style laces cut into my back a bit without it. I may put it back in until I get my final laces and then try again without. It may also partially be this "straight" lacing style, because all the crosses are at the inside, I seem to be able to feel them against my back more than other types of lacing, which is a downside to it. On the positive it's very easy to Iace myself up this way. I may try chevron lacing next, that would lie flatter inside the corset.

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