Monday, 9 December 2013

Making bags for better corset making

Feeling quite accomplished today having written a blog post over at Sew Curvy and thought it a good idea to flag these posts up over here so that you don't miss them!

Here's a blog post on how making bags improved not only my sewing skills but my corset making skills no end.
 Click HERE.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


I've started a blog over at my website which is more relevant to my current work.

I'll still pop in here now and again, and ofcourse you will still be able to access my most popular posts which are all linked from this page, either through the 'most popular posts' bar on the left, or through the tabbed headings below the main header at the top.

I do hope you enjoy my blogging adventures over at Sew Curvy.

Click HERE to go THERE

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Corset making classes

I've already done several corset making classes this year including corset making for beginners, intermediate corset making, and how to make a corset pattern from scratch.  Most of my girls this year have been two or three times which is lovely because instead of a bunch of lessons, it feels like a nice sewing circle/social!

Erica, Emily, Tamina and Michele learning how to flat pattern a corset from scratch

One of the girls who came along, lets call her "Erica, Queen of Sewing Gadgets" had the most superb sewing machine, which I had been lusting over for a while before Erica brought hers to class. Upon seeing it's performance, I was immediately smitten, and I decided I had to have one!  I wrote to the nice people at Janome, and they sent me one on loan for a year in exchange for me saying nice things about her.  Well that isn't hard because she is utterly Fabulous!

She's ARRIVED!!! Glee!
And.. here she is:

My new Janome 1600P - she is fast.... very very fast
I immediately set to work on the wedding dress commission I have to finish by the end of this week, while my friend Izabela who had joined me for the day, worked on a very complicated corset drafted from an 1884 patent.

Scaling the pattern

Working out the stitching methods ..

et Voila!  An 1884 pregnancy corset (no she isnt!) come to life, with 'steam punk' customisation in process

The lining of my wedding skirt

Completely ironic really when you consider that Izabela's main occupation is making big flouncy dresses for her brands Prior Attire and Prior Engagement, and my main occupation is making fancy corsets!  

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Classes are all go!

Just coming up for air again, it's been non-stop as usual here at Sew Curvy / Marmalade Towers.

Teaching season began in March and since then I've had a few lovely ladies coming through the doors to fall in love with corsets, and a number of those very ladies have re-booked for further courses.    This weekend coming I have not one, not two, but THREE repeat students coming so it will be extra fun I'm sure!

Here are some pictures from Izabela Pitcher's Prior Attire courses which covered all manner of Victorian Underwear ...

Here is Helen making a semi hooped petticoat with broderie pleated trim.
This was to be worn under a dress for a masked ball!

This is Jane who has been on two corsetry courses with me and who is
making a Steampunk costume

Does my bum look big in this?

Here is Suzy making with her petticoat that goes over the hooped bustle petticoat

With and without the cage underneath

Does my bum look big in this #2 - I'm trying on EVERYTHING at the same time!

You can read more about Izabela's costuming exploits at her blog: A Damsel in this Dress.  Izabela's skills are amazing!  If you want to book a course with her, get in touch via her blog, and when enough people are gathered, the workshops take place at Sew Curvy!  Great fun!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A new blog on the block

Back in the summer I taught a lovely dress making class for Darn it and Stitch, the only sewing shop in Oxford who have their own sewing school called Pinworks.

I had 5 lovely students all from different parts of the world, as is typically 'Oxford'.  There was Liere from Spain (hope I spelled that right), Veronica from Mexico, Maria from Italy, Nicola from Germany, and Claire from Oxford.

Only Claire had sewing experience, the others had none but had seen their grandmothers and mothers sewing while they were growing up, paid no attention (as teenagers are prone to do) but then as grown women, realised that sewing is not only fun, but a valuable skill, and they wanted to learn.  We made a simple dress, and by the end of the 7 week course, I had 5 sewing junkies on my hands.  A proud moment of indeed - for all of us!  Unfortunately, this event is completely un-documented with the camera which is extremely unusual for me.

The girls have kept in touch with me and eachother, and have gone onto bigger and better projects and Claire has now joined 'the dark side' by becoming a sewing blogger!  She's done some fantastic work.  She's made several bits of clothing AND a quilt!  This is something I haven't attempted yet.  It would be great if you could support Claire and cheer her along.  Her blog is called "I want to be a Turtle" -

Now Claire has set herself an enormous challenge.  She wants to make 12 outfits between now and December. That's 2 per month.  These are they:

Friday, 8 March 2013

Corset making classes commence!

It's already March which means it's nearly a year since I moved into my beautiful woodland cottage studio in Oxfordshire.  The reason I took on the studio wasn't just because my husband wanted to reclaim our house and make it free from 'work' (not to mention corset parts), but also because within the cottage was a lovely large workroom from where I could envision teaching lots of lovely corset making classes.

The first class of this year was Sparklewren's creative corsetry patterning masterclass a couple of weeks ago, but March, April and May are  very busy with  a corset pattern drafting course followed by a begginners corset construction course, followed by an intermediate corset construction course and then another beginners corsetry course which is already nearly full.  I am scheduling more classes soon!

The best part about teaching is that I learn as much as my students.  Each class is a feast of revelation for all!  Classes are much better than private tuition because of all the interaction between students - someone may ask a question that nobody else thought of, and you get 4 bodies worth of experience in one go.  This is invaluable and can't be learned from a book.   The courses are quite intense and everybody leaves as good friends -  my studio always feels rather empty on a Monday morning - a bit like the morning after the party with just the debris of a good time to clear up.

My egg mayo sandwiches have become pretty legendary!  We have vintage teas every day on each course, and these feature on the menu frequently.  The eggs come from my own chickens!  There is also plenty of cake and tea involved - all served up on beautiful vintage crockery and from about April onwards, the weather is usually good enough to eat on the picnick bench outside.

Many of my corsetry students have been back to me several times and this makes me very happy because I know it means that they had a good time in the Sew Curvy Cottage Studio, sewing, learning, chatting and lacing!

For more info on my corset making classes, click here:  Corset Making Classes

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Ingredients of a corset

So I've been very busy making a basic portfolio for a shoot which happened back in January. I made two fully corseted wedding gown ensembles, a couple of extravagantly lacy and sparkly 'fun' corsets, a daring bridal boudoir plunge corset inspired by an original from 1910 which I saw in the Symington Collection, and an 'every day' underbust corset which can be worn day or night - the equivalent of the LBD in corsetry. 

One of the bridal ensembles took it's inspiration from the film Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn. Ever since I was small, i've absolutely loved the wedding dress in that film and Audrey has long been one of my main style and beauty idols. 

The pattern was extremely challenging to make! At first, I used a pattern from Atelier Sylphe. I was attracted to the pattern by the closely spaced and uniform boning channels where I could see a beautiful regimented flossing pattern, long before Sarah Burton ever thought of it! So I altered the pattern to size and made it up ... by the time the shell was finished it had grown by a whopping 4 inches. After much head scratching and no solutions, I made another, being extra extra careful with my measurements incase i'd missed some vital step which I thought would surely reveal itself 2nd time around. It didn't. This time the corset was only 2 inches bigger than it should have been. Annoying! 

 I had by this time wasted 2 metres of extremely beautiful silk duchess satin, luckily purchased from ebay, so not the usual exorbitant (but worth it) price and a metre or so of coutil. oyster corset I was hell bent on doing the design because of the flossing, so I tried a third time but on this attempt, made my own pattern, copied some of the styling details from the original pattern and used cheaper materials incase of disaster. When the shell was done, it measured correctly, I had removed one of the panels, so the corset was now eight panels per side, instead of nine but hurray! No unexplained growth! Now the curious incident of the extra inches isn't the fault of the pattern. It's because there are so many bone channels, and so many seams - the original corset is 9 panels on each side, even a 1mm stretch on each seam therefore, will grow the corset irretreivably. I was therefore very gentle on the third round and my patience paid off. However, by this time, I practically hated this corset!!

Nevertheless, I pressed on. it was only a week until the shoot and I had no alternative but to finish it or be without one bridal ensemble in my portfolio which I wasn't prepared to forfeit. The corset is made from my loomstate cotton backed duchess satin. This fabric is a beautiful colour, drapes well despite it's heavy nature, is quite luxurious to look at and the weave is quite 'rough' which makes it interesting. The strength layer of the corset is made from 2 layers of cotton canvas interfacing and the corset has a floating lining of cream silk. The circular skirt which goes with the corset is also made from the loomstate satin which needed only one petticoat to have the required flare.

The corset boning channels are 6mm wide and these accommodate around sixty 4mm spiral steels. The seams at the sides and back of the corset are boned with around fourteen 5mm spirals, and there are 8mm flat steels at the centre back edges and either side of the eyelets for strength. Embellishments are French couture lace and perle cotton flossing. 

The corset also features a concealed busk which is fast becoming a trademark of mine. I am very pleased with the result and will definately use that loomstate cotton again for more bridal corsetry. 

Here's the finished look: