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Conversational Threads

Boning – what’s the difference

Knitnut | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Returning from a long sewing absence, I find myself back into a major project that you’ll see posted on the fitting discussions: bridesmaid dresses with princess seams and boning.

When I went to Haberman’s fabric store in Detroit – I never saw so many options or choices on boning or stays.  Wire, mesh, encased, on rolls, in sizes – in colors – oh my.

I stuck with the safe choice; plastic in a casing, in a roll by the package – very inexpensive.

I’d love to know the difference between all the stays and boning I saw in the store.  A great idea for a future Threads article.



  1. jjgg | | #1

    the best choice for any boning is spiral steel. it will flex in ways the other bones won't (you can put it in a princess armscye line that curves). It will curve over a bust line and not flatten the bust. It is the most comfortable boning out there.

    Plastic boning in a casing comes rolled up in the package and it is virtually impossible to get the curve out of it and make it lay flat.

    Ridgeleene (spelling)will lay flat, but it is not very strong, and wont go around a side curve.

    Spiral steel comes in 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch widths, unless you are going to cut your own and put the tips on them, you need to know the length you want before ordering it, the length should be about 1/2 inch shorter than the seam its going into.

    White steel boning is the strongest, it will give you pretty much a ramrod straight line

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #2

      (you can put it in a princess armscye line that curves).

      So that means that I would need to create a casing and sew that to the lining instead of using the casing that already comes on the plasic type?

      Would you have a suggestion for that other than the obvious seam binding or thin grosgrain ribbon?


      You guys know so much stuff . . . my heros!  Thanks, Jackie

      1. jjgg | | #3

        boning can be done in several ways. It can be a part of the face fabric (fashion fabric) think of corsets where you see the casing lines sewn into the garment. the boning is attached to the face fabric, the face fabric is sturdy enough to support the boning. Now think of a nice silky dress, strapless that sort of just skims over the body, the boning is hidden. The silky thin fabric cannot support the boning, the boning is attached to a sturdy fabric and made as an inner corsellet, the dress attaches at the top edge of this and just hangs over it. Then the dress is lined. - so you can have 3 layers to the dress.If the face fabric is sturdy enough, you can create a casing for the boning by cutting a slightly larger seam allowance and folding that over and top stitching down, then slip the bone into that.Or you can make a casing for it and sew the casing to the garment (wherever you want it - face fabric - lining, inner corslette).to make a casing for the bones, do NOT use grosgrain ribbon, it is too stiff, and does not curve, you want to cut a bias strip of fabric, plain white muslin works well, as well as the lining fabric you are using (just use a double layer if its real thin). Cut the bias strip wide enough so you can fold it over, encasing the bone and stitch up the side (leave the raw edges out, don't turn the casing)- leave some room to stitch the casing to the garment. It can be hand stitched if you want. The plastic boning that comes in a casing - just use that. Rigeleen (sp) can be sew directly onto the fabric and you don't need a casing.

        1. zanzibarbarian | | #4

          Hi Ladies

          I work for a costume shop supporting a university theatre and use boning a fair amount.  I love spring steel boning and it is massively versatile.  It is really easy to buy this by the spool and cut it yourself.  All you need is a pair of wire snips, and you buy the tips seperately which you can easily put on with a pair of needle nose pliers.  You can also purchase strong premade casing on a spool.  It comes in both black and white and since it's cotton it is easily dyed if color is an issue.  I would avoid flat steel boning if at all possible.  It is difficult to cut and finish and as was said, has zero side to side flex.  It's unbeatable if you are doing an 18th century bodice though.  Hope this helps.  If you are looking for sources, I use a number of different suppliers and can turn you on to some dependable ones.

          1. User avater
            Knitnut | | #5

            Your comments are very valuable and I did not know about the pre-made casing.  I will look into that.  Thanks very much.  I am anxious to try the spring steel - it sounds like it will make a nicely fitted top.



        2. User avater
          Knitnut | | #6

          jjgg - are you a professional seamstress?  You have a wealth of knowledge and some great tips!  My head was buzzing with your comments and combined with Zanzabarbaria (sp?) I should be able to make a better product.

          The top to the bridesmaid dress has the boning on the lining (think I'm repeating myself now!) so the front actually floats away the rigid part creating a soft but fitted look.  It is Butterick 4452 in case you had not seen it on the "pouching neckline" thread.

          I think I've got enough to go on and am more up to date with the new stuff out there.

          1. jjgg | | #7

            Yes, I am a custom dressmaker, I also teach sewing classes, - advanced sewing, fitting, and a few other different technique classes. I want to teach pattern drafting, but haven't put it together yet. I'm moving to North Carolina this summer and hope to open a sewing school.I'm a sort of retired Nurse Practitioner - not really retired, just quit working as a nurse 6 yrs ago when I got married and started sewing for others. It's much more fun, and I love teaching, but right now I'm in the middle of a few baby quilts, my family (nieces and nephews) is expanding and everyone needs " AJUDY QUILT"... What makes me feel old. is that I made a quilt for my niece when she was born, now I'm making one for her baby! We'll see if I'm around and still qu9ilting in 20 plus years to make a quilt for this little ones baby!

            Edited 11/28/2007 11:42 pm ET by jjgg

          2. User avater
            Knitnut | | #8

            You are my hero!  I want to be you when I grow up!  I would love to learn pattern drafting and alterations.

            In Toledo - there is NOTHING that teaches any of this.  I have to travel to Chicago or Cleveland (I have not yet looked in Detroit - of course not that would be too convenient and would make sense, which I seem to have little of these days!).  We have Hancock fabrics and JoAnn.  They are great stores, and the lessons are for the basics.

            I also wanted to open a store in Toledo, featuring only specific fashion fabrics that coordinated with each other and then classes in sewing, dressmaking, etc. - not home dec.

            It was going to be 1/2 knitting boutique and 1/2 unique fabrics.  Then. . . .we were smitten with a house we saw - bought it on the spot and ended up with a . . . .new financial plan that changed the future for several years.  My store was 3 mos. from signing the lease on the storefront I had picked.  OH well - get over it - right?

            I'm going back to work on deductibles and co-insurance and networks and increased rates - will be thinking of you!  PS if you ever travel this way - I'll trade you room and board for a few nights, if you'll coach me in sewing!



          3. User avater
            VKStitcher | | #9

            Where will you be in NC?  I live just north of Raleigh.  I'd love to take classes in fitting and pattern drafting.  I want to learn more advanced sewing skills, but so far I haven't been able to find any classes locally.  The only classes that are offered are quilting and beginning sewing, or how to make a purse, pillow, or quick craft.  I've been sewing for a long time and can figure out how to make those things myself!


  2. Ckbklady | | #10

    Hi there,

    I read everyone's endorsements of steel boning and want to add a point. I also love steel boning for its flexibility, but I must say that I was thrilled that I couldn't get the curve out of the cheap, encased plastic boning I used on my wedding dress, because it gave me the curves that nature didn't! The curve looked pretty natural on teeny me, but enhanced nicely and gave a great shape to the silhouette of the dress. The steel boning I put in an evening dress I made a year later didn't have quite the same oomph- although it does now that a decade has passed and a great many cookies have, ahem, improved the fit of the dress!

    I don't know if that's of use to you - maybe one or two of the bridesmaids are differently built enough to warrant some heavy-duty plastic? Costumers here can surely advise you what would be ultimately the best - I just wanted to mention my experience.

    :) Mary

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #11

      Mary - as I read your post - and re-looked at the sample, you are right - the tiny girls look great in the sample with the "auto" curves since the boning goes straight from the hem through the bust curve to the neck.

      In looking at the wire boning (in articles) I think it would be more suited to the pattern where the boning stops just below the bust (like most corsets I've seen).  Very good point - I had not considered that.

      Thank you for posting.  More food for thought.



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