Lady Lava



Sally Johnston

(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photo Credits (photos 1-4): Stefanie McKnight

Outline the story …

During a Vanyanis corsetry patternmaking course, over a year ago, I had an idea. We were being encouraged to play around with shapes and designs for corsets and I came up with an idea for a chevroned corset. I decided I really wanted to make it. Lowana cautioned this would be a very ambitious project for my skill level - that I was likely to encounter almost every challenge of corsetry with it… but I was determined!
A few months later, I was inspired to work towards entering the competition. But my chevrons project was already ambitious – I wouldn’t have time for a separate entry…
So, could chevrons fit the theme of the natural world? The answer came to me in a quote from Sir Geoffrey Palmer (a former prime minister of New Zealand) - “Sometimes it does us a power of good to remind ourselves that we live on two volcanic rocks where two tectonic plates meet, in a somewhat lonely stretch of windswept ocean, just above the roaring forties. If you want drama you’ve come to the right place”.
Chevrons became tectonic plates shifting and folding rock. But connecting with the theme, while still in the stages of refining and testing my original project, sparked further design ideas. The irregular, raw beauty of volcanic landscapes introduced texture and “randomness” in the chevrons, and lava inspired the colour palette.
So, my project became even more complex and ambitious but, I think, better (more powerful and dramatic) for it!

Outline the construction…

Starting with a Vanyanis Aurelia pattern – adjusted, in Lowana’s 2020 course, to fit, this project is a strength layer with chevron overlay. I made the strength layer with internal bone channels over closed seams, and ribbon guides where centre panel bone channels would go – lessons from extensive testing to get methods that worked both structurally and aesthetically. Over 250 chevrons (all different sizes and shapes) were cut, joined, topstitched, then handsewn to the strength layer. Fabrics that acted differently made aligning chevrons… difficult!! I worried different fabrics would also cause wrinkling or pulling in the finished corset. But, with no way to check until the end, just had to hope! Seam bulk meant the overlay couldn’t be sewn into strength layer seams, so faux external channels cover outer seams (for aesthetic reasons, these weren’t over the actual bone channel so had to be handstitched on). Centre bone channels were made and handstitched to the guide ribbon, so stitching wouldn’t show on the outside. A year after starting came anxiously trying it on – I am 1-2 sizes bigger now – would the shape still work on my body and would it look good? Phew, OK - but with a bigger lacing gap than I’d like. So, I made my first modesty panel – boned with chevrons. Outside my skill level at the start, but one year, many “do-overs” and challenges later I have new skills – and a corset I am proud to wear (I think "perfectly imperfect")!




  1. Avatar Christiane Christiane Edel on May 5, 2023 at 8:49 am

    So many pieces! The effect is quite mesmerising, it really reads lava straight away.

  2. Avatar Helen on May 8, 2023 at 9:34 am

    Amazing detail, the effort really paid off. It looks amazing 👏

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