A Project in Process
I’ve been fascinated by corsets and what they represent for a long time. When I decided to actually weave one I had to jump a few hurdles. My first attempt was the scaled down version you see below. It is 6.25 x 2.75 x 1 inch.
The weaving on the loom had spaces between the woven areas. This was achieved with scaffolding, mat board cut to shape. Once removed from the loom the warps are pulled to slide the woven areas together. I did have some issues with this iteration. The biggest problem is that I pulled too hard and lost some of the dimension I wanted.
Corset One, Altered Ego was woven in 2010. It would be a while before I attempted another but, all that while I was thinking about ideas for more corsets.
The inspiration for the Little Devil Corset was ignited after seeing the Apocalypse Tapestry in Angers France. I particularly loved the little devils portrayed in a few of the panels.
You can watch this video to learn more about my inspiration for “The Little Devil Corset”.
In order to weave a three dimensional, wearable corset I would have to weave shaped pieces that would be aligned along the warp, as in the Altered Ego mini corset, so that I could pull on the warps to bring the woven areas together. in the same manner as Corset One above.
Before I could do any weaving I had to create a pattern for the cartoon. The first step was to make a pattern block using my dimensions, as seen to the left. The shaded areas would not be woven. They would act like darts in a garment, shaping the corset. I would create these areas of unwoven warp by placing scaffolding of shaped mat board to weave against. Once removed from the loom I willI pull on the warps and the woven areas on either side of the “darts” would come together as they slide along the unwoven warps.
Once I had my block I made a fabric version called a muslin. It took several fittings and adjustments but finally I had a perfect fit.
The muslin corset, when cinched tight, took 4 inches off my waist! Yikes!!
The stays, which are sticking out, are large cable ties. They will be used in the finished corset, cut to length.
Some of the imagery from the Apocalypse tapestry I worked with.
Along with the little devils, I included stylized clouds and water similar to those in the Apocalypse tapestry, I also incorporated vines to fill in the large expanses between the devils. This was also a design element from the Apocalypse tapestry. As you can see, if you compare the little devil on the cartoon with the one below, I have hinged him at the hip to have him stand up. The small circles on the left will be grommets for the laces. What is that devil going to do with those laces?
Now that the design was solidified it was time to consider the yarn and colors. I chose to use reds, blues, greens and browns. I decided to dye these with natural dyes as in the Apocalypse Tapestry. I used madder for reds, indigo for blues, a mushroom called Pisolithus Tinctorious for the browns. The greens were achieved by overdyeing indigo on top of a chemically dyed yellow yarn I had on hand. You can see more about this process in the video below.
I considered weaving channels for the stays. After sampling I saw that it would interrupt the patterns I wanted to weave. Though it did create an interesting pattern in itself. I’ll remember this for another project.
With the cartoon and dyeing completed I was on to warping the loom and finally, to weaving. After some sampling I chose a fine sett to accommodate the detail I wanted to achieve.
Even with a fine sett some details had to be simplified.
Progress was slow and steady. I found I don’t care for weaving at a fine sett and I could only work a few hours before I tired. Oh well.
The blue and white areas showing are the mat board scaffolding I used to weave against and hold the shape. Like darts in a garment they would disappear and create the three dimensional shape.
Once the weaving was finished I cut the top of the warp from the loom and turned the loom around. I began pulling on the warps from one side of the weaving.
Below is a short video showing what it looks like to pull a warp. I am wearing a leather glove to pull for protection from blisters.
Here you can see the progress of the pulling over one Little Devil. It was a bit nerve wracking at first. I didn’t know if it was going to look right when I was done.
Once I saw the process work I gained confidence.
I used all the tools at my ready. A third hand was a foot.
The loom took on a new use when I pinned the tapestry to it to have something to pull against. I decided to protect the weaving with a padded wood clamping system.
In the first pass of pulling the warps I was over zealous and pulled too hard. I actually had to move the weaving back along the warps two times before I had the corset right. In the end it worked out fine.
Next, the fabric understructure of the corset had to be created. I used the same pattern as I did for the weaving, adding seam allowances. The fabric is coutil, specifically woven for use in corsets where strength is needed. I dyed the fabric with madder.
Once the under corset was sewn together I added the waist tape for stability and the channels for the stays.
Raw edges were covered with indigo dyed petersham as opposed to grosgrain ribbon. Unlike grosgrain, the edges of Petersham are not locked so that it can ease around curves. I sewed the edging to the bottom.
I knew I wanted to do some writing on the interior of the corset. It took a while to figure out what that would be. Finally, my “Aha” moment came inspired by the “Me Too” movement. I would write the names of people who have been sexually abused, harassed and/or raped. I began with my name and started writing names of people who are in the news. Overtime, with their permission, I have added names of friends and people I met and told of my project. I also have written Jane Doe and Anonymous numerous times for all those who wish not to use their name and those people I don’t have names for.
I began my writing before I installed the stays. I soon realized that I could legibly write names with the stays installed so I finished the sewing. Then I cut the cable tie stays to size for each channel. Once installed the top edging was sewn in place.
The names are in the form of vines which will “choke” the wearer of the corset. Leaves are being added and the vines thickened. I’m still collecting names. When the writing is complete I will attach the woven corset to the fabric and make an armature to support the work. Once installed on the armature, the names will be visible if you look inside.The corset is wearable but I see it more as an art piece with many layers of meaning.
When transferred from a wall hanging to the format of a corset, I believe the imagery takes on new meaning. I have little devils reaching for the corset laces. What are they about to do? Are they going to tighten the laces, loosen them? What, or who do these devils represent? My intention is to give the viewer something to consider beyond the technical and visual aspects of the work.
I want to thank all the people who have been generous enough to allow me to include their names in this project. The Little Devil Corset would not be the same without you.