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How to Sew Ye Olde Ren Wench Bodice

interlining: back seam
We're starting with the interlining layer. Sew the back seam, from the bottom seam allowance to the neck seam allowance.

Why not just sew the whole gosh darned thing? Well, because all of our seams angle a little bit, the piece at the bottom is a little smaller than the piece at the bottom seam allowance. I find that sewing all the way from top to bottom makes it harder to put the bodice together. I’m working at 1/4 scale, so every little bit I can do to make my life easier helps.

Speaking of things that help, here’s a little trick: when you’re sewing your interlining, take a slightly larger seam allowance than the pattern calls for (1/8″ for humans, and a hair for dolls). That makes the interlining slightly smaller than  the outer fabric (by about 3/4″ in humans and a generous 1/8″ in dolls). That’s such a small difference that you won’t even notice it when you join the layers. What it does is to make sure that the interlining of the bodice takes the strain when it’s worn. Also, by giving the outer fabric a teeny little bit of ease, we’re making it skim over the interlining instead of being pulled so tightly to it that you can see the boning right through.

back seam secured
Press both layers of the back seam to one side. Sew down, inside the seam allowance. This reinforces the seam, so it can't split under strain.
back seam allowance trimmed
I like to trim back the seam allowances to reduce bulk. This is especially important with dolls.

The girl cat is curled up on the desk between me and the laptop right now, sleeping with her head on my arm and snoring. It’s adorable, but her foot keeps slipping on to the trackpad and it’s really awkward to type this way….

interlining side seam
Sew the front pieces to the assembled back. Secure the seam allowances, as we did with the back.
two assembled interlining pieces
The two assembled interlining pieces. One set of side seams goes to the front, the other to the back.
interlining seams lined up
This is so that when we sew the interlinings together, the bully parts of the seams don't land right on top of each other.
interlinings sew together
Sew the interlinings together at the fronts and all along the bottom. Stitch a hair past your normal seam allowance - this is to make sure boning can't get right up to the seams in the final bodice.
boning placement
We want to make channels, so that our first two pieces of boning run with the front edge and the rest of the bones fan out from there.

Our boning channels will need to be just slightly wider than the bones. If you’re using 1/2″ cable ties, made a 5/8″ wide channel. For my little plastic rods, 1/16″ is plenty wide. Generally speaking, you don’t want the boning to be able to wiggle around too much in the channels.

channels sewn
I've sewn two channels that follow the front line of the corset, spaced so that I can put eyelets between them. The third line fans to the corner of the neckline, and a fourth runs diagonally to the top of the side seam.

For a human sized bodice, I generally have the front two lines of bone that follow the front edge, and 3-5 additional fanned out lines of boning. I try never to have a bone land in the line of the strap – you can always see the line through the bodice.

boning into seam allowance
One of the nice things about the reinforced seams we made is that we've gotten a bunch of perfect little boning channels for free. If your boning fits in between the seam and the line of reinforcing stitches, you win!
boning cut to length
Cut the boning to length. It should be slightly (1/4" for humans, 1/16" for dolls) shorter than the length of the boning channel measured from the top seam allowance to the bottom seam allowance.

Making the boning slightly shorter than the fininished measurement of the channel helps to avoid that odd saw-tooth effect you see on bodices sometimes. That’s caused by boning that’s too long and stretching the fabric.

all boning in use
I am boning the front channels, the side seams, and the back seam. I like to cut all of my boning first, then insert it.
extra lines of stitch
Working from the bottom of the bodice to the top, sew lines straight through the larger unboned areas of the bodice. This keeps the layers of the interlining from shifting around.

You can do this while you’re putting in your boning channels, but I thought it would look very confusing in the demo.

top of interlining sewn
Sew around the top of the interlining, just past the normal seam allowance, to seal the boning in. The interlining is now done! *whew*

Next: Finishing the Bodice

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  1. The Kirtle | kirtletheturtle
    The Kirtle | kirtletheturtle November 9, 2015

    […] 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. Medievalnerd
    Medievalnerd June 23, 2020

    I love this bodice! Sure, it took me two tries to make (I got a new sewing machine about a quarter of the way through the project and decided to retry with some nicer stitches) and sewing on eyelets was a major pain (guess who sucks at hand sewing!) but in the end, I was left with the best piece I’ve ever made. I can’t wait to wear it to next year’s Renaissance Faire!
    A piece of advice for those attempting this project: make sure to cut the extra fabric off of the sleeve straps before turning everything right side out. It makes sewing the sleeves together so much easier!

    • missa
      missa June 24, 2020

      That’s fantastic! I am so glad that it came together for you, and you fought past the struggle. I would love to see pictures of the finished piece. :) Thank you for sharing tips with everyone!

  3. Sel
    Sel January 26, 2021

    I’m glad to see you got the website back!! I was worried bc about halfway through making this, the website went down and I had to improv the rest.

    • missa
      missa January 26, 2021

      So sorry, Sel! An astute reader alerted me to the problem. Somehow all of my technology went kerflooey during the pandemic, but silently. Anyway, I am really glad you made it through and kudos on the successful improv! :)

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