Corset class – cutting it out

Close up on the silk and sheer lace overlay on the purple silk corset

Close up on the silk and sheer lace overlay on the purple silk corset

At this point you should have all of your materials (or know where you’re going to get them) to make your very first corset. If you’re not playing along with my Corset Class – a lot of these tips will also help you with other sewing projects too!

Getting ready

First up, you’ll likely want to pre-wash your fabrics.  Some people say “why bother?  I’m going to dry clean my corset!” but I still recommend pre-washing, because it will get rid of sizing, excess dye, and will pre-shrink your fabric if needed.

You likely won’t need to pre-wash your interfacing, but unless your fabrics are already dry-clean-only (which I recommend skipping for this first corset anyways) it’s always a good practice to pre-wash your fabric.  Wouldn’t it be awful to wear your new black corset over top of your white peasant blouse, only to find out that your black corset lining rubbed excess black dye off onto the blouse, all for the want of a good pre-wash?

While your fabric is in the wash, you can cut out your pattern and make any adjustments to it to fit your body.

Next, you’ll prepare your fabric for cutting.  Generally this means making sure your fabric is straight.  Most fabric stores these days cut fabric instead of tearing it (which drives me nuts!) so you’ll need to make sure your fabric is on grain.  (If you need more information on preparing your fabric, check out this PDF from

Finally, lay out your fabric on your cutting surface (a nice steady surface like a kitchen or dining room table), and prepare to lay out your pattern. (If your table is nice wood, it’s good to put down a cardboard topper or something to prevent scratching with pins or scissors.)

When I was younger, we had a deep chest freezer in the basement, and that’s where I did 90% of my cutting until I got my sewing table!

Laying out your pattern

Take a look at your pattern instructions for recommended layout if you have a purchased pattern.

Black and tan uneven plaid silk & Black, white and tan uneven plaid silk

Woven plaids make it easy to see the straight of grain!

I would generally recommend cutting out your interlining first, this is what you’ll use to fit your corset – then if there are any adjustments to be made, you can make them on your pattern before you cut out your fashion fabric.  I also recommend using extra-large seam allowances for this first step, just in case you need a little extra wiggle room in your pattern.

Pin your pattern out according to the instructions on your pattern, following the directions for grain.  One thought on grain – most patterns have the arrows going up and down the pattern piece (from top to hem) which would be placed parallel to the selvage.  I typically lay my fabric out with the waist line parallel to the selvage.  The reason for this – I want the strongest threads to run around my body, rather than the length of my body.   The warp threads (the ones parallel to the selvage) are generally the stronger threads.  More important though – ensure that all of your pattern pieces are on grain (none on the bias) regardless of which direction you choose to lay your pattern out in.

Cutting out a pattern

Once you’ve laid out your pattern and pinned it, you can cut it out!

I recommend once you’ve cut it out – keep all of your paper pattern pieces attached to the fabric for the time being…

Mark your pattern pieces

Corset pattern pieces are all kind of strange. They are oddly shaped compared to most other pattern pieces you’ve likely used.

I recommend making little tags with explanations on them, and pin them to each piece when you remove the pattern pieces from the fabric.  My method is usually something like:

  • 1a, 1b
  • 2a, 2b
  • 3a, 3b
  • 4a, 4b
  • 5a, 5b

Where 1 is the centre front, and 5 is the centre back, A is the left side of the corset and B is the right… I pin the note to the facing side of the fabric (the right side), and upwards so the top of the note is along the top of the garment piece.

I’ll make notes like this for the fashion fabric, interlining, and lining.

Fuse… before or after cutting

If you are reinforcing your fashion fabric and/or interlining with fusible interfacing, you can do it either before you cut out the fashion fabric, or after. There are positives and negatives to each.

dupioni silk

dupioni silk

Fusing before hand helps stabilize the fashion fabric if it’s a little less than ideally stable. It can also really help with fabric that wants to fray. It also is a great way of identifying the right and wrong sides once the pieces are cut out. However, it could ‘waste’ a lot more interfacing than you might need to – especially if you’re using non-woven interfacing which don’t need to be cut on the straight of grain.

Since dupioni silk is prone to fraying, I’ll usually interface it with fusible interfacing before cutting out the pattern pieces – especially if I’m working with small pieces.



Am I the only one who hates it that fabric stores more often cut fabric rather than tearing it?  Let  me know your thoughts on this in the comments below!

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