Making a Corset with Vanyanis

I am stubborn, and when I want to learn something, I generally teach myself. I taught myself how to sew, and have been making my own clothes for the last five or six years. I’m no expert seamstress, but I have a few tricky garments under my belt (I’m looking at you, wedding dress of ’17) and I’m a competent maker. However, there are some things I am not prepared to attempt to teach myself, and making a corset is right up there with garments that I do not have the patience to try alone. Enter Vanyanis; a studio in Healesville dedicated to corset making and couture.

After a few years of telling myself I would do it, I finally bit the bullet and just signed up for the beginner’s corsetry course, for the weekend just past. Under the careful and patient tutelage of Vanyanis founder, Lowana, I (and the two other women who attended the class) constructed a fully steel boned underbust corset entirely from scratch. Something that would have taken me literal years to attempt myself was managed in three days, and it was absolutely worth the price of admission.

The studio itself, tucked away in a quiet little street in Healesville, was beautifully and tastefully decorated, and had plenty of natural light. Lowana was not only a fabulous teacher, but a wonderful host, and I cannot stress enough how far that goes towards making a learning experience a positive one. The first day was spent learning how to make a toile (pronounced twahl), which is essentially a mock up of the final garment, designed to work out where adjustments need to be made to ensure a better fit. Amidst many cups of tea and chats, our toiles were made and adjusted as per the requirements of our very different bodies. Once all the necessary adjustments were made, the next two days were spent constructing the actual corset.

There is so much involved in making a corset, things that I would never have thought, and it is certainly a time consuming process. But, as someone who loves to learn new things, I was in heaven. Each step was explained and then put into practice, and the breaking down of the total construction into smaller steps made the process – which would otherwise have been a daunting task to tackle – smooth and relatively simple. Short of the final construction, making and piecing together the busk (the front closure of a corset) was one of the more rewarding aspects of the course for me, because it was such a lengthy process, and tricky in a lot of ways. Seeing the satisfactory completion of one of the more difficult aspects of making a corset was a quiet little thrill for my creative heart.

Completed and fully inserted busk

On the final day, we each tried on the corsets that we had painstakingly constructed (I learned how to lace myself into my own corset too, which was a skill I had previously assumed was a two person job), and the silhouette it created was astounding. I think there was a definitely a little bit of jaw dropping going on in that room on Monday evening. And one of the things that struck me most was how comfortable it was to be laced into a corset. Despite the misconceptions about corset wearing, it wasn’t in any way painful, or uncomfortable, or difficult to breathe. Much like any other garment I make to fit myself, it was comfortable and well fitting and, if I may say so myself, quite a lovely creation.

Over the three days I spent at the studio, I learned things that would not only allow me to now complete a corset on my own, but I also picked up a few tricks and tips that will aid me in my general sewing as well. It was honestly such a rewarding experience, and one that I am glad I finally decided to treat myself to. If you happen to be nearby, and want to check the course out for yourself, I have nothing but positive things to say about it, and for all my sewing friends out there, it’s a class I highly recommend.

Self Drafted Summer PJ’s

It’s coming into warmer weather here. As few of my clothes fit me anymore, I’ve gone on a bit of a sewing plan, starting with a pair of cotton pyjamas. I don’t wear pyjamas to sleep in; I’m 100% a “sleep in the nude” kinda girl. However, as I no longer live alone, it is unacceptable to chill in the public spaces of the house without clothes. Thus, the necessity for pyjamas.
I went to Spotlight a couple of weeks ago and,as with almost every craft store trip, I saw too many cute things and spent way too much money on fabric. Amongst the stash I purchased was this cute woodland print with tiny foxes and other cute little animals. So I had to buy it. And I did. Along with some other fabric I also just had to have, but still haven’t worked out what to make with.

So with the fabric in mind, I decided that pyjamas was the way to go. I’m very much into loose fitting cloathing lately, comfortable items that don’t sit too tight or cut in in unwanted places. Shorts are easy to make, but I made one fundamental mistake; I made them way too big! Once I tried them on, I realised that I could fit both legs into one of the shorts legs, so I had to bring the seams in at the sides and the crotch. They’re still a bit too big around the legs, but the waist fits fine and comfort is key, after all.

The top was also self drafted, and I just kinda winged it. I took some rough measurements and sketched up a quick design. What I ended up with was an oversized, vaguely old fashioned sleeveless shirt, perfect for those hot summer nights. Overall I was pretty happy with the result. I’m trying to challenge myself with creating my own patterns, so this was one of those attempts. A few tweaks I think, but otherwise I’m glad to say I can see constant improvements in my skill. Anyway, here’s the finished result! 

Sewing Update

A couple of days ago, I finished my first make of the year. Admittedly, I started it in late December but, as always happens with me, things got in the way and I had to put it on the back burner. However, finish it I did, and I think it may be my favourite dress of any I’ve made. You may remember from a previous post that I purchased a lovely cloud patterned linen fabric for the project, and I have to say it turned out just as well as I had imagined.

Now, I know I said I was going to do something different this year. Not so many dresses, and more different projects instead. But seeing as how this one was already started, I figured I could use it for January’s make. And although yes, I did make yet another dress, this is the first I’ve made with a sewn in waistband and Peter Pan collar (which happens to be one of my favourite styles of dress). Whilst I do adore how it turned out, there are couple of things to note with this dress. First of all, as I have (semi) recently discovered how to insert pockets into clothing, pretty much everything I have made since, has had them. In this case, I didn’t measure exactly right and so the pockets sit a tiny bit lower in the skirt than I would like, but they’re otherwise functional. Second, I completely drafted this pattern from scratch. It fits well, however next time I will need to alter the neckline slightly so it has more of a scoop. And thirdly, I think I need to do some research on how to make gathered waistlines a little less bulky. Again, this isn’t overly noticeable on the dress, but I can feel the bulk when I wear it, and I would like to improve on that next time.

Of course, I’ve never been one to sit too long, and I’m already planning for February’s make; a playsuit. I absolutely love them but often I find that the ones I see in stores are designed for women with frames more petite than mine, or come in the most hideous patterns and colours. I own two playsuits, and I think I will use the top of one of them as a basis for a pattern. However, I’ve been seeing some great inspiration on women walking past me in the street so it looks like I’ll have a lot to play around with. I’m toying with the idea of cutouts and spaghetti straps, but we’ll see how things go. I think the main thing about this upcoming project is finding the right fabric. I’ll be aiming for something a little floatier than the cotton fabrics I am fond of, so it looks like a fabric hunt is in the cards for me in the coming weeks. Yay!

Image result for playsuits
Forever drawing inspiration from Pinterest.

I’m still slowly making my way through the challenge of making my own shoes. I’ve already stuffed up once, but this second attempt should be better…I hope. Updates will come later, if I have any success! Other than that, I haven’t had any big commissions or projects since I made an Assassin’s Creed inspired costume for my friend to wear to Oz Comic-Con last year, but all of a sudden, I’ve had three requests over the last two days! A friend of mine asked me to make her wedding dress for her winter wedding later this year (eeep!), another friend has commissioned a dress to wear to a wedding in April, and last night I got a message from a third friend, asking if I made costumes, and if I would be available to make her something to wear to her girlfriend’s 21st, also in April. When it rains, it pours I guess!

It’s all very well and good to have sewing plans for the year but my business goal for this year is to start managing it a little better. I’ve had too many people commission me for projects, only to pull out or conveniently ‘forget’ after I’ve already bought the fabric. And I have a terrible tendency to forget who has paid me, and who hasn’t, in addition to under charging for my services. So this year, I am going to make an effort to value my time and my skill better. Which is going to mean deposits, a proper order book, and receipts for everything. Damn it, looks like adulthood is starting to catch up with me.

Anyway, that is what I have in store. I am determined to make this year a successful and creative one.