Cording by Machine
If you’re working on a corded corset, or a corded petticoat for pre-hoop-era use, you might be wondering if there’s a quick way to get those cords snuggled into their casings, without losing your mind or your religion.
In the interests of removing “colorful” language from the vocabulary of mid-century sewists everywhere, consider a few tips:
1: Feel free to use a machine. You can certainly hand-sew a corded garment, and for some items (such as a corded sunbonnet), the benefits of being able to precisely manipulate the fabric are great. However, it’s okay to use a sewing machine for much of the mid-19th century. Just use a plain straight stitch, and leave long enough thread tails that you can thread them through a needle, make true knots on the inside of the garment, and bury the ends within the garment layers.
2: Use an appropriate cord. I am particularly fond of the Peaches-n-Cream crochet cotton, as it’s a similar size and texture to the cording I’ve been able to handle in several original corded petticoats. Originals have cording both smaller, and slightly (slightly!) larger than the cotton yarn used modernly for crocheted washcloths, so you could of course vary your widths, but this inexpensive cotton yarn is widely available, and very inexpensive. Other alternatives might include kitchen string, and well-made hemp cord, but don’t use rope or clothesline, please!)
3: Consider a zipper foot. If you can use a zipper foot to get snug up against the cord, and then adjust your needle position over to skim at the very edge of the foot, you’ll find your cording goes in nice and smoothly, but very snug. It’s the repeated cords, snug in their channels, that start building body for your corded garment.
4: Rely on Colin Firth. If possible, sew in an area with a TV or computer, so you can pop in a Colin Firth movie (my favorite sewing companion is the CF/BBC Pride & Prejudice) and listen to something interesting while you sew. Corded petticoats are extremely tedious, and the occasional glimpse of handsome men in period clothing makes the process far more tolerable.
For complete instructions on how to make your own corded corset or corded petticoat, see The Dressmaker’s Guide in our Marketplace.