Ironing on velvet, finishing details and spontaneous corset failure

The velvet should arrive today or tomorrow and I am starting to get rather excited.  I have been thinking about the iron-on method and my only concern is being able to iron on the design while not crushing the pile.

One could argue that the design is so dense anyway that this wouldn’t matter, and it is possible that the pile is very thin as it seems to appear to be in the pictures.  If it is not, I need to figure out how to iron it without crushing it, or if I do crush it how to bring it back to life afterwards.

(Photo of traditional Scottish Dancing Aboyne outfit as made by Marg’s Highland Dancewear, known for their quality – I recommend them highly.)

I am not a novice to velvet.  I used to be co-owner in a Highland Dancewear business and spent many hours with tartan and velvet.  I own a Velva board and know how to sew with velvet (I prefer the walking foot on the machine), both upholstery weight, velveteen, the occasional stretch, etc.  Basically in that line of work if you found a color of velvet that matched your tartan you bought it, no matter the properties, and figured out afterwards how to work with it.  The difference is that the velvet was always for bodices, so the pieces were always rather small.

(Kathryn Howard, Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn, photographed together because they all lost their heads…. Six Wives Project 2009)

When I did the Six Wives Project almost all the outfits were made out of velvet, and again all different blends of velvet, mainly due to trying to find the matching color to the portrait.  I didn’t iron them so much as steam them to get wrinkles out in the larger pieces.  Luckily I have a large ironing board (the length of a regular ironing board as my regular one sits underneath, and roughly 2 feet wide, covered in batting and heavy canvas) and can easily put large pieces of fabric on it for ironing. 

My concern in the iron-on method is that in order to get the lines transferred well you need to press down repeatedly on the fabric, rather than gently glide over it, or just steam it.  If there is minimal pile this will not be an issue.  If there is more pile, I will need something underneath to butt up against the pile, like a large terry cloth towel.  This still may not transfer the lines well enough, and it still might crush the pile.

I am thinking of using another piece of velvet in my closet and making an ironing board cover out of it, so I can put the velvet directly on it without worrying about having to rearrange the piece every time I move the upper piece I am ironing on.  Thoughts?  Has anyone else used the iron-on technique on large pieces of velvet with heavier pile on it?

Also, I have thought a great deal about how I am going to sew the garment.  Historically it would all be sewed by hand, but because of the weight of the fabric and some physical issues I have, I have decided I am going to use the machine on the supporting seams and things unseen by others, and do all the finishing by hand.  I have never made hand-bound eyelets before, so this will be an interesting experience.  I am going to sew the corset/stays boning channels using the machine at this point because otherwise it would take me a very long time before I could even start the project due to needing those measurements before cutting out the bodice.  Margo also needs those measurements before she can draft a pattern. 

I am going to make hand-bound eyelets for the stays, and Kimiko seems to think I can use reed and not hurt myself or quite suddenly break every reed in the corset by turning suddenly, so I am checking sources on purchasing reed.  Like I have said before – when someone with experience gives you advice, you listen to it.  Although I may still have nightmares of my stays spontaneously breaking and my chest dramatically sinking all at once.  Having worn a Venetian style without a corset before I have experienced this same sensation, so my nightmares tend to have that “real” quality to them.  Word of advice – if you are a DDD cup, wear a corset with your open V front Venetian (or bind your chest) even if you have so much boning in the bodice it stands up on its own.  Really.

(Before and after – what a difference

a corset makes….)

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