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How to make corset with sleeves?

Hello friends and colleagues!

Today, after some time, I want to share with you my another tutorial about all peculiarities of sewing sleeve corsets.
In order to make more detailed tutorial I recorded two videos.
Let me know what you think and ask questions in a comment section bellow this post.
By the way, there is a new wonderful narrator in our team. So now I have a new "voice" in English :)
So, enjoy your learning! I believe this will be very useful!
(and, as usual, there is a transcript under the videos)
Part 1:

Part 2:

Click "Read more" to see the transcripts.

Peculiarities of Sewing Sleeve Corsets.

Hi everyone! Today’s tutorial is somewhat unusual. You are used to getting thoroughly prepared materials from me, illustrated with pictures, but this time I have taken the courage to write a tutorial ‘in one go.’

And here is why: I received an E-mail with a request from my client and fellow seamstress in the morning. She says she has accepted her first order for a corset but there’s a challenge – it should have sleeves and a collar. She doesn’t know how to fulfill this.

I took it as an urgent call for help! But many nuances are hard to explain in writing – you need to demonstrate them and provide necessary comments. That’s how today’s tutorial came about.

Those of you who have never sewn a sleeve corset have no idea how many things you need to account for and how many hidden pitfalls are to overcome.

So, what do you start with? Surely, you start by taking measurements off your client.

Clip measurement is compulsory and you should pay special attention to the distance between the most prominent point of the bust and the supposed scye.

Be very careful when taking the bust middle measurement in order to determine the location of the scye at the front.

The second clip measurement is required when you intend to make a fancy décolleté.

The next essential measurements are the width of shoulders, front and back. I take the measuring tape and measure it starting from the top point where the shoulder connects to the arm. Then I do the same thing from the back.

The measuring tape passes in a semi-circle if your client has a stooping posture.

These two measurements indicate the degree of stoop.

Once I got simultaneous orders from mother and daughter. The width of the mother’s shoulders was 40cm at the front and 42cm at the back. The daughter, on the contrary, had 42cm at the front and 40cm at the back. That was a perfect demonstration of the degree of stoop and the direction of shoulders. By the way this measurement comes in handy when you work on regular classic clothing pieces, too. I really like it.

Bust height is measured the same way as for conventional clothing.

Shoulder height at the back is measured in a straight line from the waistline.

You will also need to measure shoulder length to help determine how wide the straps should be.

Scye circumference: the client lifts her arm a little, bends it and puts her hand on her waist. And you measure the supposed scye with your tape (her underarms are basically its bottom border). We will talk about this measurement in detail later. For now you should just know that the measuring tape should not be loose when you’re taking this measurement. Simply follow the joint.

Upper arm circumference is another necessary measurement.

Afterwards you should measure elbow and wrist circumferences.

And of course you need to know the sleeve length, too. I usually measure it together with shoulder length so as to preserve the point where the shoulder connects to the arm. This allows you to keep these two measurements as precise as possible.

Arm fullness at the top is another essential measurement for a sleeve corset. I start at this point, move around the arm and bring the measuring tape to the back. This measurement helps you provide for additional space to let the arms move freely. A corset is a very stiff construction that fits tightly to the body. And your client will feel really uneasy if she can’t move her arms properly. You should always keep it in mind and leave some extra space for unobstructed movement. This measurement helps you determine the width of the sleeve top correctly.

It is very important to measure back width at the mid-scye level. You should imagine the location of both armholes and measure the distance in-between them.

You should also take the same measurement with your client’s arms down, i.e. where the scye begins going up. Please note that you shouldn’t measure it from side to side but precisely in the spot where the scye begins rising up.

Side seam length and scye depth are also essential.

But first I shall make a short digression. Mind you, sleeves are a highly awkward and delicate detail of a corset. Most clients don’t understand that certain corset models or fabrics are simply incompatible with sleeves. And you need to know how to explain it well. There are times when you ought to talk the client out of it and convince her to replace the sleeves with a shrug or a bolero. I personally never accept an order if I question the final result. I simply turn it down when I know that the client’s wish is technically impossible to fulfill. I tell her I can’t sew something like that and she should address a more experienced seamstress who might be capable of bringing such wonderwork to life.

But let us return to the side seam. Imagine a very tight-fitting shirt with sleeves. And it is not a jersey shirt. What happens when you raise your arm? The entire shirt goes up. The sleeve pulls it up. And now imagine a corset – it’s all the same! The deeper the scye is, the more the sleeve will pull the corset upwards. But since corsets are stiff and tightly laced, the sleeve might simply tear. It’s even worse when the corset is not laced tightly enough! That makes the whole construction move around on the client’s body and she’ll find it the most uncomfortable clothing item she’s ever worn. That’s why the scye of a corset should be as small as possible! You need to find the golden mean so that it neither rubs against the skin nor feels too tight in the underarm area.

Now let’s discuss the sleeves themselves. What kind of material can be used for them? The best choice is super-stretch knit fabric used in swimwear. However it’s not always possible to match this kind of knit fabric to the colour and texture of the main corset fabric. You could use stretchy mesh fabric that is frequently used in dancewear, sports swimwear or figure-skating outfits. But it can also be hard to match it with the main fabric of an evening-fashion garment. It’s easy if your dress is white or black but much more challenging when you’re using fabric of other colours. Stretch lace is a good material for sleeves, especially if you use it for decoration as well. One-way stretch Lycra is another suitable option. This kind of fabric can be used both for sewing the corset and skirt and for the sleeves.

What to do if the fabric doesn’t stretch at all? There is only one way out – you need to cut the sleeves bias! I often use chiffon, satin or crepe for bias-cut sleeves. And sometimes I use taffeta although it is very thick and hardly stretches even along the bias. When working with taffeta I have to make balloon-sleeves or short peasant sleeves, or make a pleat at the sleeve cap. That’s just the only way to do it! Otherwise the woman won’t be able to move her arm by further than 10cm!


Peculiarities of Sewing Sleeve Corsets. Part 2.

Today I am going to explain how to cut the sleeves of a corset. You must have already accustomed yourself to the fact that I’m not a fan of complex constructions – I used to deal with them a lot as a student, when I had lots of spare time.

Let me teach you a very simple but effective cutting method that I use. Spread the fingers of your left hand and place it on a piece of paper. Now take a pen or a pencil and draw a line following the fingertips. Doesn’t it look like a sleeve cap? What’s funny, it really does make a perfect sleeve cap pattern. I have tested it multiple times and it sits very well. It is particularly handy for working on children’s clothing!

Let’s see how the sleeve cap pattern corresponds to our measurements. Let us check the scye circumference. This line should equal the scye circumference measurement +1-2cm (and don’t forget to account for seam allowances).

Now let’s check how full the arm is. Mark reference points in accordance with the arm fullness measurement you’ve taken. The middle finger of your hand is the top of the sleeve cap so if the arm is fuller, you’ll need to make the top of the sleeve cap wider, too. You’ll be able to tell how much the pattern should be changed.

Now let’s look at the upper arm circumference. You’ll need to mark the required length – say, 32cm –check it and add the seam allowances. Now the shape of the sleeve cap looks like this. Don’t worry – you won’t have any problems sewing it in. It will fit very well.

This point on the pattern marks the shoulder seam. I fold the piece of paper in half and make markings at the same level and with the same intervals. First I mark the length of the upper arm down the middle line (the fold line). Next I mark a half of the elbow circumference measurement to the left and to the right of that point. I continue by marking the sleeve length on the fold line. And again, I mark ½ of the elbow circumference measurement to the left and to the right of it. That’s all! All you need to do now is connect the points with a straight or curved line depending on the model. Fold the pattern in half once more to double-check it and make sure all reference points match. The sleeve is ready! Quick and easy!

Now we need to draw the scye on the corset. Find the point where the scye begins to round off on the back of the corset. Let’s draw the outline of the scye. Don’t forget that you’ll have a strap attached there, too. Next you should do the same at the front of the corset. Using the clip measurement we determine the location of the corner that should be brought to the scye in order to sew in the sleeve. You can adjust the location of this line in accordance with the clip measurement.

Now all we need to do is cut wide straps. Their width should equal the shoulder length. I recommend that you should first put the corset on your client and then determine the right location of the strap and pin it in place. The seam attaching the straps at the front and at the back can be decorated with lace, drapery or fabric flowers.

Why am I describing the method that involves separately cut straps? It is simply the most convenient and the easiest way possible! So I try to use separately cut straps whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

Sure I have a great pattern of a sleeve corset that I polished up for about a year until everything was perfect. But you can feel free to start with the method I have just described.

And now let us discuss the situation when the corset is supposed to have both sleeves and a collar. I recommend that you stick to the following algorithm. Follow the traditional method to build the shoulder part of the blouse – down to the bust level at the front and down to the waistline at the back. Next you should sew a mock-up. When your clients comes for a fitting test, put the mock-up on her and lace it up very properly so that it sits the way it’s supposed to sit when finished. Please note that any distortion of the mock-up on the body is inacceptable! If the client doesn’t feel comfortable in the mock-up, it means something doesn’t sit right! Don’t be lazy to unlace it, adjust it, examine it, locate it comfortably and lace it up again. Never try to adjust the way the corset sits without unlacing it!

Once you’ve put the corset on your client correctly, put a sewn blouse over it. Don’t join the side seams on the blouse – only the shoulder seams should be sewn. And now carefully secure the blouse on the corset using a generous amount of pins. Be particularly precise with the location of the shoulder seams. Mark any inaccuracies with pins right upon noticing them. Spare no pins and secure the blouse along the entire edge of the corset starting from the scye. Make sure the construction doesn’t fall apart when the client takes it off. That’s all. After making precise markings you should simply trim any extra fabric and sew the blouse to the corset. There are various joining methods and the choice depends on how you plan to finish the garment. If you’re going to disguise this seam with some decoration later, you can machine-stitch the blouse along the edges of the corset after overlocking all open edges including the scye. If you have some other plans, it might make sense to attach the blouse by neat hand stitches. Once you’ve attached the blouse to the corset, sew the seam of the sleeve and sew the sleeve into the scye as per usual.

To sum it all up I’d like to show you several pictures of my client in her dress with sleeves. I have used Venetian lace for the sleeves: it is based on soft stretch mesh fabric. That makes the dress really comfortable to wear! My client can raise and move her arms freely and – what’s most important –the straps stay in place securely. If the corset rose up together with the sleeves, so would the straps.

And I’d like to repeat it one more time: it's best to sew the sleeves of a corset with elastic materials, such as openwork fabric, lace or guipure. One-way stretch fabric can be represented by stretch satin or stretch taffeta. If you use chiffon, crepe, non-stretch satin or other non-stretch fabric, you should cut it on the bias.

Don’t use any fabric of unsuitable colours or texture or else neither your client nor you will be happy with the final result!

Thanks for your attention. Until next time!

Sincerely yours, Tatiana Kozorovitsky

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