All about Spiral Steel Boning for Corsetry and Dressmaking

With the rise in popularity of home dressmaking and couture style DIY fashion, there has been much talk on the internet of spiral wire boning and how 'difficult' it is to use, so I thought i'd write a little bit about it and dispell the difficult myth because it is actually very easy to use.

Spiral boning cut

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.  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.

curved bone channel

the curvy bone channel goes from side to side as well as up and over

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.

skeleton corset

a corset looks like a skeleton when held to the light

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  boning 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!

spiral boning continuous

All types of boning, whether steel or plastic, comes either in pre-cut lengths or in continuous reels.  It is more economical and much more efficient to buy your steel in a roll and cut it yourself but many people are put off by the supposed requirement for 'brute force' with which to cut it.

Do not fear!   Spiral wire boning is easy peasy to cut and tip.  Here is a tutorial to show you how.

To cut and tip spiral wire, you need a pair of wire cutters, and two pairs of pliers, one of which must have flat edges.

Cutting spiral boning

To cut the boning, you need only snip either side of the wire.  When you have snipped the wire either side of the spring, it will come apart naturally.  

cutting spiral wire boning

Trim any pokeyouty bits with your wire cutters and then apply a metal end cap and push it on so that it feels quite secure.

tipping spiral boning

Now this is the fiddly part - using both pairs of pliers, you need to squish the end cap onto the wire simultaneously from either side and top and bottom.  Like this:

tipping spiral steel boning

Now you have a tip which is compressed onto the end of your wire

secure spiral steel boning

BUT ... sometimes, if you make a mistake after inserting the bone into a channel and you need to pull the bone out, the cap can come off in the channel leaving you with a nasty conundrum.  To counter this, I use plumbers tape. It's cheap as chips and less messy than glue.  You just wrap a bit on the join between wire and cap, and this holds it all together perfectly and makes it all a bit smoother.  

Now .. I'm going to be contraversial here because you see, I don't use end caps.  No I don't.  Why?  Because they are fiddly, bulky and time consuming.  So now what I do is grind the ends on my bench grinder.

cutting spiral boning

All you do is hold the rough edges to the wheel and grind until smooth.  Now if you feel the end of your filed bone which should by default be nice and rounded, you will see that there is no difference between that and the smooth rounded tip of a pre-cut flat.  If you want to make doubly sure there are no snags, then add some plumbing tape but this is what I do and I avoid all end cap problems in the process.  Ofcourse if you don't have a bench grinder or a dremel, then you'll still have to use endcaps, but choice is everything I say!

bench grinder

I got my bench grinder very inexpensively from Amazon.  You don't need
it to be massivley powerful so you don't need to spend alot.

Easy when you know how!

Useful Links:

Blog post about flat boning and spiral boning for corsetry

Buy spiral steel boning
(with more information on the product listing - it's all about size!)