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Frequently asked questions from customers about products and services.

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  1. Lots of people ask me for 'wholesale', 'business' or 'trade' discounts.  So I thought i'd write a blog post about how you already get discount at Sew Curvy and why it's impossible for me to give any more.

    steel boning for corsetry

    Firstly, I am a tiny, one woman business in a very niche market.  So niche infact, that in the UK I have only one competitor.  Compare that to the leagues and leagues of quilting supply shops you see on the internet and in magazines, and size down my market share proportionally. 

    Corset making is a specialist sewing activity for the brave and adventurous home sewer, the 'professional hobbyist' and the professional costumer, fashion designer, corsetiere or lingerie designer. 

    When I started Sew Curvy it was because I wanted to help other corset makers to get quality supplies at a good price and I wanted to help beginners to learn corsetry easily - when I started it was almost impossible to find any information at all, the whole industry was top secret and jealosly guarded.  If I could give my goods away for free, I really would. People who know me can testify to my generosity.

    However, I am in business, I am trying to make a living, because after 25 years of 'paid employment' where I was bullied, held back and harrassed, I ended up with chronic fatigue whereby I was more or less 'vegetablaised' for a year - anybody who has experienced CFS will understand how it is to feel unable to function properly, let alone hold down a job, let alone hold a thought for more than a few seconds, and although after a year I was ready to tiptoe into another job, it took me a good 5 or 6 years to completely recover, to feel like I had the energy levels that I had before, where I could stay awake for more than 8 hours and not feel exhausted by tea time every day. 

    Running my own business was the only way out of that cycle.  I remember visiting a friend and mentor at a very low time and sobbing on her sofa "surely I can be of use to someone?" ... Well since I started Sew Curvy. that has happened.  This is definately my place in life.

    support small business

    But corsetry supplies aren't cheap.  The best steel comes from Europe and it has to be imported.  The best coutil also comes from Europe.  Cotton and steel are heavy and expensive, the coutil industry is small.  Everything we have in the UK must be imported from somewhere - haberdashery comes from Germany too - only a very few of our products at Sew Curvy are British made - I think ribbons and laces are about the sum of it!  Up until now, it's been easy to import goods from Europe - that might all change post Brexit, we don't know.  If tarrifs are imposed on cotton and steel from Europe, it will not be good news for Sew Curvy or for independant corsetieres in the UK.

    Sew Curvy cottage

    All retail product markups are there for a reason.  Before I get anything at all from the business there are a significant number of overheads to pay in addition to the cost of the goods that I sell Here's a list:

    • 20% VAT on everything I buy - (i'm on a complex rate - see end note as this effects EU businesses claiming VAT discounts)*
    • 20% VAT on my turnover - not my earnings.  My turnover.  That's 20% of any order including postage that goes straight to the government on a quarterly basis.
    • Two part time employees because it is impossible for me alone to do everything that is needed to run a successful business that is worth something.  While my assistants pack orders, keep stock records and do the routine admin, I am free to develop the business, do the marketing, teach corsetry and work with my own private clients as well as organise and sponsor international events like The Oxford Conference of Corsetry
    • Studio rent - not inconsiderable - to hold enough stock, you need enough space.
    • Heat, light, power in the studio, from early in the morning to early in the evening, often I am here till nearly 7pm.  The studio being a Victorian cottage is difficult to heat!
    • Mail order sundries - envelopes, tape, packaging materials, labels, marketing materials, boxes, etc.,
    • Services such as waste disposal (recycling), internet etc.,
    • Technology - a computer, a phone, a decent camera for taking product pictures, a printer, software for editing images etc., 
    • Postage - plus petrol to get to the post office, paper, pens, toilet paper, tea/coffee ... all the things that anybody would expect to find in their workplace to make it a happy and pleasant environment. 

    When all those business expenses are accounted for, the rest counts as "profit" which you think might pay for the ridiculous number of hours I put in both here at the studio and at home - that's at least 55+ hours a week,  no paid holiday and no paid sick leave. But even these 'profits' have a cost.  There is 20% income tax, plus 12% NI contributions and that is before I've ploughed at least half of the 'profits' back into the business so that I can keep expanding and developing the product range. 

    After all those things are paid,  I draw what could laughingly be called a  'wage' myself.  You can imagine, there isn't much left, and any more discounts, will come out of that.

    Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 17.36.50

    So now imagine if your boss came to you at the end of your hard working week and said "can you work tomorrow for free/for a discount" when you already did several hours of unpaid overtime... what would you say? 

    Sew Curvy supplies are very competitively priced and in most cases are the least expensive on the market - do a price comparison to see - I am continually monitoring prices and postage rates to make sure I offer the best service possible.  Some of our supplies are vastly UNDER priced due to other businesses charging less than they should for the same supplies and thereby undercutting their competition.  This applies particularly to fabric - one of my biggest overheads.

    Positively though, there are ways to get discount at Sew Curvy AND support my business.  Here they are:

    1) Spend over £100 and get free UK postage - this amounts to around 10% discount and it's usually sent by courier so you get fast, next day delivery into the bargain.

    2) Buy 'whole rolls of corsetry supplies' - these are automatically already discounted by up to 10%.  If you buy enough of them, you'll also get the free postage if you're in the UK - that's a whopping 20% discount.

    3) Buy a corset kit - these contain all the materials required to make a corset and are already collectively discounted by up to 15% - some pro corset makers will buy a kit per client and save this way.

    4) Teach a class - if you buy your class supplies from Sew Curvy, your students will get a 5% off voucher each.

    5) If you are studying fashion/costume or contour you can get your course tutor to email me for a special discount code giving 10% off to your institution.

    What about European discounts and the rest of the world?  Well there are two things.  Thanks to the value of our sterling - foreign exchange rates are good at the moment.  But again, because Sew Curvy is a micro business, we have bank rates to pay and when money comes in from abroad, there are also exchange rate fees.  I therefore can't discount even more on top of those as it would mean that you are literally getting free products.  I wish it wasn't the case.

    To professionals out there wanting trade discounts.  Corsetry is an expensive business.  The cost of your supplies should be covered by the price of your product.  It's the same for me.  And as a corsetiere myself, I try to be fair by never undercutting my collegues and friends by using trade prices for that side of my business (infact, I have two companies because of this, Sew Curvy Retail is the supply shop, Sew Curvy Limited is the couture and teaching side - i'm an expert in inter-company invoicing! 

    If people will not pay a reasonable price for your wares, then they simply are not your customers - I learned that from the Godmother of modern corsetry, Autumn Adamme herself, and it's been a very valuable piece of advice.  If you're not making money from corset making, then what is the point?  It's not your suppliers' responsiblity to subsidise your business. Only work for free for those who are dear to you.  Otherwise it simply isn't worth doing.

    Autumn Adamme giving advice to corset makers

    Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden in San Fransisco giving invaluable and inspirational business advice to corset makers at The Oxford Conference of Corsetry in 2015

    I hope this little article goes some way to explaining why micro businesses like Sew Curvy, with only one or three passionate persons behind the wheel, cannot operate like corporate giants - we don't have the buying power of Amazon to get (often rapacious) discounts off the goods we sell, and we don't have the resources to offer any more discount than the value we already provide.  But we do love serving our lovely customers and we do feel enormous gratitude for your business.

    Sew Curvy studio

     * endnote:  Because my turnover is less than £150k per year, I'm on a 'flat rate' VAT system which means that I pay the government less VAT per quarter, but i also cannot claim VAT on my purchases.  The surplus 'discount' that I don't pay, goes back into my profits, so that I pay income tax/NI on that portion ... it's like the government giving with one hand and taking away with the other -  it kind of works out marginally better - and certainly easier - but it means that I can't discount VAT for EU businesses because that isn't included in the scheme.

  2. With the rise in popularity of home dressmaking and couture style DIY fashion as well as the popularity of programmes like The Great British Sewing Bee (#GBSB) and the sell out success of the recent incredible Dior Retrospectives in both Paris and London, there is a lot of renewed interest in shape, cinched waists and making Dior shaped dresses and clothes.  Hand in hand with this, there has also been much talk of proper metal corset boning and how 'difficult' it is to use.

    All sorts of corset boning types

    What is corset boning used for?

    Spiral steel boning is used in corsets and in couture garments for strong and enduring boning support.  It is made of steel which has been formed into a continuous spring which has then been flattened. 

    curve over bust

    Because spiral wire boning is a flattened spring, it is extremely flexible and can bend horizontally and vertically (backwards, forwards and sideways), making it perfect for boning over and around curves.

    Dior dress foundation ballgowns v and a

    In couture garments - ie: within a dress foundation, it is used in conjunction with 2 layers of tulle or bobbinet which is a very fine and very strong netting material which when layered together, has no stretch but provides a fine, non bulky foundation inside a gown.

    Spiral boning cut

    In corsetry, sprial wire boning is most commonly used in conjunction with coutil fabric and often in partnership with flat sprung steel bones which are not as flexible and therefore useful when a firmer, straighter support is required. Both types of steel boning were invented during the Victorian age and used instead of whalebone.

    spiral boning width

    Spiral steel boning, sometimes known as spiral wire,  comes in various different widths, from 4mm-15mm, and various different thicknesses making it possible to 'mix and match' your boning to achieve whichever level of support is required for any particular project. For instance, you may only need a light 5mm wire to bone a net bodice, but you may need a more robust 7-10mm wire to bone a multi-layer corset for tightlacing. With all boning, there is flexibility!

    Flat steel boning, sometimes known as spring steel, also comes in various different widths and thicknesses from 2mm-20mm and is used for a huge range of applications including dressmaking, costume making, corsetry and for making hoop petticoats.  In corsetry it can be used all over the corset, but is always used in the centre back panels either side of the eyelets.  This is becuase the back of the corset absolutely must be straight and strong.

    Back of corset with flat steel boning

    All types of boning, whether steel or plastic, comes either in pre-cut lengths or in continuous reels. It isn't any more economical to buy your steel in a roll and cut it yourself so you have a vast choice - corset makers who make 'standard size RTW corsets' know which lengths of bones they need and will order each length in bulk.  Corsetieres who favour a more bespoke approach will order in rolls and cut to length as required for each project. Sometimes you cant get pre-cut steel that's long enough, for instance in a corset dress which will go over the knee or below the hip. Many are  put off by the supposed requirement for 'brute force' with which to cut it.

    How to cut metal corset boning

    Flat steel can be cut with tin snips - there's a knack though, or plain old bolt cutters which will treat flat steel of any thickness like butter.  You can cut spiral steel with bolt cutters too if you have them. 

    However, if you don't have bolt cutters, spiral wire boning is easy peasy to cut and tip and there is a tutorial on how to do this right HERE.

    cut one side of spiral steel boning

  3. Online course coming soon

    This week, after having my course outlines prepared for ages, i've finally taken the plunge, chosen a host, and put the first class outline, online.  Wait!  That doesn't mean it's live, just that we're much nearer to live than we were last week.  There's still a bit of work to do, but it shouldn't take too long.

    Many people know that I stopped teaching large corsetry classes during the summer of 2018, preferring to focus on individual students who were at a more advanced level.  These were and are my own past students, professional designers, and contour/fashion/costume students who already understand the rudimentries of corsetry.   I gave up my dedicated teaching space and have been doing private lessons in my own atelier ever since.

    The reasons for deciding to stop teaching corsetry classes in person were many and varied, however at the end of the day, the one big reason which surpassed all others,  was weekends.  After nearly 8 years of teaching two full weekends a month and not being able to take time off in leui, I became burned out, and decided that a new direction would be more fulfilling for me and my students!

    As my 'thing' is really teaching, and I do love teaching the art of corsetry, I needed to find a more sustainable, less exhausting way to do it, and ofcourse, technology came to the rescue!

    At the latter end of last year, I enrolled in an unrelated to corsetry, online course - about Instagram actually if you must know - but one of the reasons I did the course, was not so much to find out about Instagram (frankly the money wasn't worth it and my 'growth' has been stagnant ever since*), but to find out how it was presented.  I learned a lot at least from that side and as a result, have signed up to the same platform, Teachable.

    My new online Beginners Corsetry course will have 7 modules, plus a Facebook support group and a bonus section of information including sources of inspiration, tips and tricks, a glossary and a bibliography of other online resources both free and paid for. 

    As I intend to take a very hands on role in mentoring each corsetry course, the online course will not be 'open all hours'.  I will teach several courses a year and there will be a maxiumum number of students per intake.  Each student will be invited to join a special Facebook group where we can share progress, information, tricks/tips and there will be a 'Live' with me every week during the course, where students can ask questions about the module they are on.  Access to the course and the group will be for life, so the learning opportunities will be infinate to those signed up.

    Cost is yet to be worked out.  The format is based on my in person beginners corsetry course but the information load will be much much higher than in person classes.  This is because, working at a more relaxed pace,  each student will be able to absorb much more information per week, than was ever possible over an intense three day corset making course in the English countryside.  

    I have alot of work to do still - all the writing is more or less done.  Now I have to brave the video part!  I don't really like being on camera, but mostly it is my hands that will be doing the talking.  

    If you'd like to sign up for progress reports and to be first in line to join up, then head over to my School of Corsetry website, and sign up to the mailing list HERE.

    If you're not sure what to expect, take a look at the testemonials page HERE.

     online corset making classes

  4. As one of the most important 'ingredients' of a corset, boning tape is one of my main fixations in life when it comes to sourcing the good stuff for my own work and consequently, for you, my lovely customers - I've said it before and I'm saying it again, I only sell stuff that I use myself.  It's tried, tested and given my seal of approval for learners and pro's alike.

    So, boning tape.  What's on the shelves here?  Lets take a look and talk about each type and their pro's and cons.  If you want the quick version, just take a look at the video here.

     

    Herringbone Twill Tape

    This is the cheapest type of boning tape that I sell, and it comes in three colours and three widths.  It took me ages and ages to source this stuff, and I have only ever known one British wholesaler who sells it how I like it - all others are inferior versions or they are not cotton.  So what I have here, is pure 100% cotton twill tape which is densly woven, strong, durable and not bulky.  The twill tape at Sew Curvy is acutally made for upholstery projects, not corsetry, and that is what makes it strong and durable.  If it's good enough to support your armchair, it's good enough for your corset... but don't be fooled.  This twill tape is not bulky or clumsy in any way.

    Herringbone twill tape for corsetry

    Herringbone twill tape for corsetry - can be used as lovely strong boning channels or for busk facings and waist tapes.

    Pros:

    • 100% cotton twill tape, easy to sew, strong, durable and smooth.
    • Cheap

    When to use it and what to use it for:

    • 10mm - for fine boning 4mm-6mm widths of both spiral and flat
    • 15mm - for regular 7-12mm widths of both spiral and flat boning
    • 25mm - for double or triple boning channels depending on the width of your boning - this is especially popular for double boning channels in Edwardian corsetry.

    Cotton herringbone twill tape is good for all sorts of corsetry, but particularly for Edwardian corsets where the boning channels run vertically up and down the corset, and not along the seams as in Victorian corsetry.

    This twill tape can be used in single layer corsetry, but I and others prefer to use this when the finished corset will be lined.  It's a good tape but it's still a 'budget' option.

    All widths can also be used as a strong waist stay although not my preferred choice for that.

    Cons

    • Not the prettiest tape, and can fray at the edges if cut too soon before binding. 
    • Not good for uber curves as there is no stretch or tolerance in this tape.
    • Not comparable to the tapes you'll find in antique corsetry.* 

    *Lets not forget that the corset industry in Victorian times was big business.  There were coutil mills all over England and Europe, there were lots of different steel factories all over the place because busks and (later) steel bones were in huge demand.  There were special machines, special materials and special processes that were created for corsetry,  that we don't have these days because there isn't the demand there was back in the day.  Nowadays we have different materials, processes and machines - they are different but not inferior and that's what we have to work with now.  It's no big deal.  Times change.  We still have twill tape suitable for boning, it's not the same as Victorian boning tape, neither is steel, neither is coutil -  there are literally only one or two original steel factories and coutil mills left in the world none of which are in England whatever you may hear.  Trust me.  I've looked for them, and they don't exist.

    Tubular Boning Tape

    This is a cotton viscose blend tape which is basically a flat tube in which you put your boning.  It has 'tracks' on both edges which makes it easy to see where to sew.

    This tape comes in two colours and one width (it is available in other colours and widths but as yet, not at Sew Curvy).  

    This is a very fine boning tape which is also very strong.  It's much smoother and prettier than the herringbone twill tape, and it's also alot more expensive.

    tubular boning tape

    tubular boning tape, smooth, strong, luxurious

    Pros:

    • Strong weave cotton/viscose blend which fully encloses the corset bone once stitched into place
    • Adds another layer of 'protection' between the bone and the outer layer of the corset
    • Is smooth and professional looking - can therefore be used without a lining.
    • Has a small tolerance for curves due to the special weave.

    When to use it and what to use it for:

    • For wedding and pale corsets where the grey steel of boning can show through - this tubular tape adds a nice dense layer between the bone and the coutil so there is no show through.
    • In corsetry where a smooth professional finsih in unlined (single layer) corsets is required.

    Cons

    • It's expensive and not always necessary if you're making a corset where the innards will be covered up. 
    • Whilst it's better quality than the herringbone twill tape, it doesn't do a better job than twill tape, it does a different job.

    Self made coutil boning channels

    Coutil boning channels are the best for strength and durability and, they can make very pretty boning channels and reduce waste - they are a fantastic way of using up your odd bits of coutil ensuring very very little waste and therefore economising in the process.  They can be made in several ways for different applications.

    First, and most obvious is the plain 'bias' strip.  I say 'bias' in inverted commas because I rarely actually cut the boning channel on the bias.  I cut it on the straight grain, and put it through a bias folder.  Several reasons - the straight grain is stronger, non stretch and less prone to 'wrinkling' through stretch.  Only on the most uber curvy bits (ie over a large bust or big hip spring) would I use this tape on the bias.  To make a good size channel for 7mm boning, you need the 12mm bias maker, cut strips 2.5cm wide, and iron them through.

    coutil bone casings in corsetry

    Coutil boning channels made with a bias maker look so lovely and are a very economical option as well as strong and durable.  Use up your scraps!

    The second way to make your own coutil binding is with pressing bars - and there are two ways to do this.  First, you could make a tube - again on the straight grain - press the seam allowances of the tube over the pressing bar, and apply the channel over your seam - this is good for external boning channels or sheer corsetry where you want your bones to be invisible but need strength.

    Double boning channels made with pressing bars

    A corset made by my friend and colleague Izabela of Prior Attire.  She folds her fabric around the pressing bar, centres the resulting strip over her seam, stitches it down in the ditch, then stitches either side.

    Otherwise, you can simply use your pressing bar as a folding device, cut your boning channel to the required width (this is a particularly good way to do double channels), then press the sides over the pressing bar, making a crisp outer edge.  Line up the centre of the tape with your seam, stitch in the ditch, then stitch down each side.  Bingo - perfect double boning channels on your corset, matching, and minimum effort.

    Pressing bars are therefore good when you're using less bulky coutils, or when you're using fused fashion fabric on coutil.

    Pros:

    • Coutil boning channels are strong, durable and colour co-ordinated if you want them to be.
    • Economical - use up your scraps!
    • Easy and satisfying

    Cons:

    • Can be bulky depending upon the type of coutil used and the method
    • Can be fiddly if you don't like making tubes and strips! (practice makes perfect)

    fine pencil for dressmaking

    Cutting out a corset and boning strips uses most of your fabric that wouldn't otherwise be used. I call this "fabric economy".

    What NOT to use when boning a corset?

    Well there are several things that I don't think work well for corset boning channels.

    Grosgrain ribbon, polyester ribbon (even double faced) and seam tape - these will work if you have absolutely nothing else and no other option but they do tend to wrinkle in a very ugly way if you're not uber careful.  They are also quite thin and can fray/wear quite easily if you don't secure them well enough at the edges under the binding.  I have tried them for a fancy option and whilst not impossible, they are quite difficult to deal with. Having said that, sometimes a thinner option like this is the only way to make a channel where the 'look' is more important than the purpose, ie: when you need to fold over the edges to acehive a 'floating' effect, as in this sheer corset which has narrow grosgrain ribbon for it's boning channels.

    floating boning channels on corset
    Corset: Julia Bremble, Sew Curvy Couture.  Image and retouching by Inaglo Photography, not to be used without permission, model is Valis Volkova

    Tailors tape - this can be used for a waist stay because it's fine and non stretch, but although tightly woven, it's a bit too thin to use as a boning tape unless your corset is for light wear only.

     

    tailors tape not suitable for boning channels in corsetry

    Tailors tape - brilliant as a waist stay, not so good for boning channels.

    Fashion fabrics - unless your fashion fabric is very dense, or is interlined with something strong yet light, you will get bad results with fashion fabric on it's own with regular corset boning.  Having said that, if you use very fine boning, it could work OK on light use corsets.

    So there you have it.  There are many opinions about boning tape on the interwebs, some of them quite ill informed because they come from a very narrow viewpoint.  As a shopkeeper, I am lucky because I get to explore all the options and bring the best ones to you, my fellow corset making addicts!

    Links:

    Find all the bone casing we have on our shelves here

    Tools for making bone casing:

    Prym bias binding maker
    Pressing bars
    Coutil