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Step 1: Prepwork
So, as this was my first corset, I decided to order a pattern from my friend Tayliss Forge who was on Steampunk'd with me (I'm James). I know she is a dab hand with them because she made one for Karianne in about 8 hours! This one was to be a Christmas present for my wife, so I messaged Tayliss and gave her the measurements she requested. I got a cardstock pattern in the mail a few days later.
Tayliss's corsets are mostly abutted panels. That is to say, the panels she makes patterns for are edge to edge, not overlapping. So the first thing I did was modify the panels by extending them 1/2 inch beyond their size. This was a mistake on my part, so don't follow in my footsteps! If you do this, be sure to extend a half inch on both sides of each individual panel, the exception being the joining edge of the front panels and the lacing edge of the rear panels. This will save you huge amounts of trouble later on when your corset comes up a few inches short on either side! For now, well just pretend I got everything right the first time, yeah?
So, after I modified the original pattern for my overlapping panels, I transposed them onto quilter's plastic, then I drew my outlines on a 6-7 oz craftsman tooling double shoulder. Since I was going to be doing a lot of detailed tooling, I needed leather that would accommodate. I did my outlines for one side, then flipped and mirrored the pattern for the other side, and cut them out.
Step 2: Billions of Holes
Next I started punching holes. I used a ruler as a general guide so The spacing was fairly regular. I got excited to see how some of the panels would look if they were attached to each other, so I attached a few of them temporarily to have a look.
Once you have the holes punched for one side, you can flip those panels over and lay them over their counterparts and mark holes through the ones you punched. it makes for quicker hole punching. Now that you have a Popeye forearm, you can get to designing your tooling patterns!
Step 3: A Bit of Tooling and Cutaways
After cutting out my panels and punching the holes, I started the tooling process. I tried to use curving lines and designs that would make lines that followed a rough V shape to help exaggerate my wife's curves. For these steps I used a mist sprayer to wet the leather, steampunk and floral craft aids from tandy, a swivel knife, and various backgrounding, beveling and floral stamps and a mallet. This instructable is not intended to teach you how to do leather tooling - that takes time to learn, but you can see the order in which I did everything.
After I decided upon my pattern, I did my tooling and then proceeded to use an extremely sharp exacto blade to do my cutaways. Then I added the stain.
Step 4: Dat Brass
Okay, this part isn't necessarily tricky, but it is tedious. Punch some holes in close to the cutaway that will be used to attach the brass to your corset panel with rivets. Take some sheet brass (I got some at Lowes), flip your panel over and set it on a space big enough to accommodate the cutaways and rivet holes. use a tiny point sharpie or equivalent to draw the pattern and mark the holes.
Cut out the rough shape with tin snips. if you're using 24 gauge brass as I was, this should be fairly easy. Use a metal punch and punch out your rivet holes in the brass. Then use a dremel or grinder to smooth out the edges of the brass and remove any sharp edges.
Optional: Before attaching the brass, I used the dremel and grinder wheel to make swirl patterns on the brass, then I brazed the brass with a torch and drizzled some plumbing solder on the brass to give a slag look.
Go ahead and line up the brassholes (haha) with the leather and insert your rivets. you can go ahead and set them.
I don't recommend doing any painting at this stage, but I did anyway. I do what I want.
Mirror your design for the other panel, then repeat this process.
Step 5: The CLAMPS! I Mean, the Clasps...
You'll want boning where the clasps are mounted. it will prevent the leather from buckling or gapping over time.
I marked out the holes on both sides and used my metal punch to punch them out. Keep in mind that boning is made from spring steel and is basically a horrible thing to punch holes in. you might do well to use an arbor press or something. I wound up setting my metal punch in the desired position and then hitting it with a hammer. The boning is half inch coated.
Note: I didn't punch holes for rivets along the joining edges in the front panels or set rivets in them. you should do this now, and not repeat my mistake. It prevents all sorts of buckling issues later on.
Go ahead and punch out all your holes, and set all the rivets.
Optional: I cut a very thin piece of leather to attach under the female side of the clasps as what's called a "modesty panel." This serves to cover any fabric underneath, but it's not strictly necessary.
Step 6: More Doing of the Thing
Your first panels look splendid and match up nicely, so it's time to move on to the next ones! Basically do the same things you did for the first one. Make your design, mirror it on it's corresponding bizarro panel, do your cutaways, do the brass, stain, etc. You know the drill.
Step 7: Attach the First Panels for a Confidence Boost
I went ahead and attached my panels. As far as I can tell, it doesn't adversely affect the rest of the project.
Step 8: Moar Panel
And the next panel... Same basic steps as previously outlined.
Step 9: Wow. Such Panels. So Brass.
Continuing on with the basic construction and design, attaching the panels as they are completed, using the techniques previously outlined.
Step 10: The Back Panels
Oh wow, you're almost there! So design your rear panels and punch holes for the lacing eyelets. You pretty much must use eyelets and boning here. Learn from my mistakes!
I used 3/8 inch eyelets set through the boning and leather. At this point you should be able to punch the holes through the boning an leather and make this happen. So do that and set your eyelets.
Step 11: Finishing Up!
Grab your model, put some lacing material through the eyelets, have her bend over, put a foot on her back, and yank that sucker till she's being squeezed like a chinchilla at a daycare. Then take photos. Excellent work!
Tayliss Forge's Facebook (for your pattern): https://www.facebook.com/taylissforge?fref=ts
Leather, rivets, stain, hardware, and leatherworking tools purchased at Tandy Leather Factory
Brass purchased at Lowes
Metal punch purchased on Amazon
Corset boning purchased at www.corsetmaking.com