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Adding seam allowances and cutting out your corset

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Now that your pattern is printed and ready to go, it’s time to cut it out! Here’s a run down of my preferred method of marking out and adding seam allowances to my patterns.

First and foremost, iron your fabric! I don’t like to wash coutil before use as I find that it can sometimes create creases that can be hard to remove, but I ALWAYS iron it with plenty of steam. With all their metal components, corsets aren’t really designed to be washed, so technically there should be no risk of coutil shrinkage after construction. Having said that, I like to play it safe and steam the fabric thoroughly before cutting the corset out just in case it’s inclined to shrink whilst being pressed during construction. Also, it makes marking a lot easier when your fabric’s nice and smooth and flat.

I like to work with patterns that don't have a seam allowance included, and add the seam allowances straight on to my fabric, so that's what I'll be running through here. I find it much easier to get accurate corset sizing this way. It also means that you're not restricted to using the pattern for only one type of seam construction, you can add as much or as little seam allowance as you like depending on the seams you want to use.

You don’t need any fancy tools for marking and cutting, but you will need a sewing gauge (or other small ruler) and a fine chalk marker. I also find it useful to have some French curves on hand, but they're not essential. However, the one tool that I absolutely swear by for corset-making (and would recommend to absolutely everyone) is a mechanical chalk pencil. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be precise with your marking and cutting, and this pencil makes it SO easy.

Decide on your seam allowance width – this may be different depending on your seam construction method. I usually work with 1cm seams everywhere except for the centre front and centre back. I use 1.5cm at the centre front (1.5cm is wide enough to cover the whole busk so that I don’t get a weird seam line showing on the front), and 6cm at the centre back (to fold over and use as the centre back facing).

I like to start with the centre front and work with one pattern piece at a time, that way they can be squished up as close together as possible to make the most of the precious coutil! (Disclaimer – the fabric I’ve used for the sample in the photographs is not coutil, it’s just a cotton drill so I haven’t been particularly attentive to the spacing).

Place your centre front panel on the WRONG SIDE of your fabric, making sure you have a couple of centimetres of space between the pattern and the edge of your fabric. Draw directly around the pattern piece, marking the waistline and boning channels as you go. Remove the pattern piece and use a ruler to connect your waist and boning channel markings.

Mark out your desired centre front seam allowance (1.5cm in my case). Make sure you measure the seam allowance from the inside of the chalk line. It may seem pedantic, but if you measure from the middle or outside of the line, you can accidentally add a whole extra size to your corset. A millimetre isn’t much difference on one seam, but if you repeat that extra millimetre on both sides of every panel, that’s an extra 2.5cm over the whole corset (hence why the precise marker is important!).

Finish the centre front seam line with your ruler and mark out your seam allowances on the rest of the panel (1cm shown here, your seam allowances may be different). You don’t necessarily need to add seam allowances to the top and bottom, but it can be easier to get a tidy finish by cutting the top and bottom edges to length after the main construction is finished. This method also helps to prevent any fraying on your final corset edges before you bind them. Use your ruler and French curves to smoothly and seamlessly (yes, I see the pun and I promise it wasn’t intentional!) join your seam allowance markings.

The centre front is done, it's that easy! Work through the rest of the panels in the same way until you reach the centre back. The French curves are really handy for getting smooth hip curves on the side panels, but you can free style the curves easily enough with a steady hand. If you do use French curves, take your time to find the matching sections of curves, and don’t be afraid to use them together to find the right shapes.

I mark up my centre back panels with a 1cm seam allowance on all edges apart from the very centre back edge. This edge gets a 6cm allowance which gets folded under to become the back facing. This is a nice easy way finish the back edge, create boning channels and give the eyelets more support, all in one piece!

Once you’ve marked all your panels, the only pieces left are the front facings for the busk. For these, simply mark out two rectangles, each the height of the centre front (including the top and bottom seam allowances) and 5.5cm wide. This width gives enough room to cover the front busk and create a 1cm boning channel beside the busk.

And that’s it! Your pattern should now be all marked out with accurate seam allowances.

When cutting your pieces out, make sure you cut on the inside of the chalk line to avoid adding extra width to the panels. If you measure your allowances from the outside of the chalk line, and then cut on the outside of the chalk line too, you’ll end up with a corset that can be up to 5cm too big. It’s easy to miss this detail and very frustrating when you can’t figure out why your sizing is inconsistent!

Marking every panel individually can be a little laborious, but it’s the small details like this that really make a difference to the overall finish, fit and quality of a corset. As tempting as it may be, I don’t recommend trying to speed things up by doubling up the fabric and cutting the panels as pairs. It’s much harder to make sure your grainlines are lined up accurately on both panels, and the fabric will inevitably shift no matter how much you try to secure it.

Take the time to be careful and accurate with your corset making and you'll be surprised how much difference it makes!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you've found this post helpful. Please feel free to comment with questions/feedback/suggestions for future posts!

Posts on the next stages of putting together a basic corset are coming soon!

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These tutorials are brilliant! I had never really thought about how much difference which side of the line I cut would make to the finished size of a garment. I have one question, do you pin your pattern pieces onto the fabric or do you find that distorts the fabric too much? I'm just about to cut out my very first corset and am trying to get it right! I realise that my usual "close enough" attitude to cutting out won't cut it this time! ;-)

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