A Word on Boning

rambles & rants on alternative boning


Credit Where Credit is Due

First of all I cannot have a page about alternative boning without referencing Sarah's Guide to Modern Boning Materials. She is certainly not the only one online to discuss alternative boning materials but she was one of the first and she was the one that got me thinking and daring to look outside the box. For that Sarah my bank account and I thank you.


Cable Ties

I've used these handy strips of plastic for several projects, mostly for my 18th century stays. Cable ties are used to bundle together electrical cords and can be found in the Electrical section of stores such as Home Depot. There are two sizes available, one about ¼" wide and the other approx 3/8" wide by 1/8" thick.

I don't exactly understand why you're using cable ties instead of steel boning... is there a hidden benefit to doing this?
There are two main advantages to the ties: 1. They are cheap and 2. I can obtain them locally. I can also cut them with scissors (yay no pre-planning and measuring) which is nice.

How you find the cable ties hold up after multiple wearings? Do they start to bend/mould at all?
I have found cable ties to have just enough give to be comfortable but not so much that they defeat the purpose of corsetry and melt into your natural curves and shape. They will slightly mould to your body after several hours of wear (7+ hours, dancing in the heat) but after laying flat again overnight they are pretty much back to normal. This ability to mend and bend actually makes them more similar to whalebone than steel as whalebone also has some give to it and can be molded into specific shapes with heat and steam.

What is the difference between cable ties and other plastic boning?
The ties wear similarly to 'German whalebone'. The advantages of German whalebone is that it is smaller in width & thickness, it has smoother edges and comes in a roll so there is less wastage. Cable ties on the other hand can be found locally and even with the waste they are a fraction of the price, especially for those of us that have to pay shipping. I can bone a pair of half-boned stays with cable ties for about $10 – it’s hard to beat that!

What about those smaller, wimpy cable ties I've seen?
I have seen those "wimpy" ties used in corsetry to good effect (see Jessamyn's diary for an example). However usually multiple ties are used per channel, the patterns are fully-boned and the ladies were a bit smaller than me. *wink* If you want to use the "wimpy" ties I'd suggest being a "B" cup or less or perhaps adding some steel/large ties to your boning layout.

my projects using cable ties:

  • Blue Linen Stays
  • "Candy" Stays
  • Green Broadcloth Stays
  • Hemp Cord


    Many thanks to Jen Thompson from whom I unceremoniously stole the idea of using hemp in corsetry. I have used hemp cording in several projects, most notably my Italian ren bodices & Regency stays. Hemp comes in many sizes and colors, and can usually be found in the jewelry-making section of craft stores like Michael's or Wal-mart.

    My Regency stays pattern calls for cotton cording, why would I use hemp instead?
    The first thought that comes to mind it that it's about 1/3 of the price! Hemp by nature is sturdier than cotton cord. Being an *ahem* curvy girl, I like sturdy when it comes to corsetry, especially in a style that requires decent bust or tummy support. While I haven't found evidence of hemp cording used in either the 18th or early 19th century but I have seen flax used, which is a similar fiber.

    Is hemp a good replacement for steel boning, plastic boning or reed?
    I would say it depends on the project. I wouldn't recommend hemp for bodices or corsets requiring a stiff or very restrictive result, such as 18th century fashion stays, the Victorian cinched waist or the Edwardian long line corset. Hemp is best used for "soft" less rigid applications. Think of is as the material of a sports bra rather than for a push-up bra.

    my projects using hemp:

  • 1804 stays #2 (1/8" hemp)
  • Italian Corded Bodice #2 (¼" hemp)
  • 1804 stays #1 (1/8" hemp)
  • 1830-1840 stays (1/8" hemp)
  • Italian Corded Bodice #1 (¼" hemp)
  • Overall I've been extremely pleased with the results of hemp in my projects. It's lightweight, comfortable, is a natural fiber so it breaths and it's inexpensive. I can cord a pair of Regency stays with one $5 roll. Sweet! My only hemp disappointment was when I tried washing hemp stays, even washing by hand the cording leeched stain on my stays making it look dirty. Which really defeated the purpose of washing it!



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