How to Sew Ye Olde Ren Wench Bodice

outer fabric back seam

Sew the back seam of the Outer fabric, at your normal seam allowance. Repeat for the lining.

back seam pressed open

Press the back seam open. Repeat with the lining.

outer piece, fully constructed

Sew the fronts to the assembled back, and press the seams open. Repeat with the lining.

outer fabric on interlining

To assemble the bodice, place the outer fabric right side up on top if the interlining.

lining on outer fabric

Place the lining fabric upside-down on the outer fabric.

bodice pinned together

Pin the snot out of it. Once the layers are all neatly together, I usually work on the interlining side, because it's easier to avoid the boning that way.

sewing to the strap

Start sewing a the bottom of the corset, to the front of the side seam. Sew, at your normal seam allowance, all around the bodice. When you come to a corner, pivot at the seam allowance for the next segment.

layers sewn together

The finished seam leaves the bottom of the back open so we can turn the bodice out.

Now, we’ve really just sewn the straps totally shut at the ends. (Missa, why’d we just do that? It seems like a Bad Idea!) Here’s the deal: I hate having to hand-stitch an armscye shut. I do. It’s annoying. And there are a lot of ways around the problem, but there’s only one that works for both doll and human scale. We’re completely finishing each end of each strap, and then we’re going to butt the finished edges together and overhand them – there’s still hand sewing involved, but it’s minimal and it’s not on a curved seam.

interlining trimmed

Trim back the seam allowances of the interlining.

corners clipped

Snip off corners and clip the seam allowances near curves, so that everything will turn properly.

tools for turning the bodice

Prepare to turn the bodice out. You will need a variety of pokey implements. I have a round-tipped needle, a flat tipped needle, and a size 8 knitting needle.

If you have small children or other sensitive ears around, this might be a good time to blockade yourself in a relatively sound-proofed area. Turning a boned bodice out is often quite the fight, especially in human sizes with serious boning. On the bright side, I’m pretty sure it counts as a workout….

starting the turn at a top corner

To begin, put your thumb (or arm, at human sizes) inside the bodice between the lining and outer layers. Your goal is to grab on of the upper corners of the bodice and pull it out the back bottom opening.

bodice, turned but not flat

Repeat with the other corner. You should now have something hopeless looking.

back straps out

Using your selection of pokey implements, push out the front corners and the back straps. This is the easy part.

front straps out

Push the front straps out. This is the annoying part.

The problem is that the fabric sort of wants to tie itself into hopelessly immoveable knots inside of the strap. Try to stay calm, work slowly, and go in small nudges rather than trying to ram it all through at once. Take some comfort in the knowledge that this would be infinitely worse if you were working in cotton velvet. (Unless you are working in cotton velvet, and then I am very sorry…)

bottom pinned

Turn in the seam allowances at the bottom back of the bodice. Pin and hand stitch closed.

butting strap ends together

Butt the ends of the straps to form an armhole. Sew these by hand, neatly.

finished armhole

A finished armhole.

measuring for eyelets

You will need to add eyelets or grommets. They should be spaced evenly.

eyelets lined up on ruler

I can never do this by sheer force of math, so I usually lie the eyelets out on a ruler and push them around until I like the spacing.

In general, on a human size I never want to go more than 1 1/2″ (center to center) between grommets.  I want the top and bottom grommets no more than 1″ and no less than 1/2″ from the edges of the bodice.  For the doll, I’m using 3/8″ centered spacing and staying 1/8″ away from top and bottom.

mark eyelet positions

Mark the eyelet positions. I am lazy, so I usually only mark one side. Once I've gotten the eyelets into the first side, I fold the bodice in half, line up the fronts, and mark the second side off the first.

You will now need to set the eyelets, or set your grommets. You could decide to do hand-bound eyelets, which would be very lovely but is probably overkill for a bodice like this.

worn, front

Put your bodice on, and wear it proudly (even if it's 3am and you're the only one still awake in the house!)

Ain’t she cute? I swear, I’ve never so much wanted to hand a doll a big ol’ tankard of ale! Tee hee….

If you are human, and you’ve never worn a corset or boned bodice before, you should know that getting it laced up will probably require some degree of manual readjustment in the boobal area. There’s really no way to avoid this.

bodice, side front

This is why we just boned a bodice for a dolly... While she doesn't really need the support, the boning gives the bodice the nice, straight line we expect.

bodice, back

From the back, it looks pretty much like you'd expect...

There’s a subtle design lesson going on here: if you combine primary red and black, especially in a fitted black bodice, you have a pirate. True story. We’ve all seen at least a dozen women dressed almost exactly like this at faires. They are all wearing pirate boots.  Hmmm…. I should make dolly boots!  Heh. That would be ridiculously fab.

Anyway, congrats – you’ve got a bodice. Wear it with a circle skirt and a drawstring chemise, and you match my dolly!

One thought on “How to Sew Ye Olde Ren Wench Bodice

  1. The Kirtle | kirtletheturtle says:

    […] A.k.a. the big, challenging, holy-sh*t-I-swear-the-sewing-machine-is-cursed part of this project. Because I’m oddly shaped and didn’t figure that a commercial pattern would be worth the money I drafted this from scratch, using resources from Drea Leed and Missa the Semptress. […]

    2 years ago | Reply

Leave a Reply