I'm won't lie. This post is going to be a little bit technical. But I'm aiming to throw in a bit of pithy philosophy as I go, in the event that it will appeal to more than 3 people.
OK, elephant in the room time, I'm here to tell you about spiral steel boning. More specifically, it's about cutting the boning wire and affixing those little caps on the end.
To remind you, this is the boning:
These are the caps:
And this is the type of tool I used to cut the boning:
Outrageously, I got my clippers (Scott calls them nips) from Leather and Sewing Supply for $4.50 (?!); the brand is utterly local. The company that makes the tool is called Can-Pro Canada (I know, ridiculous name) and, if I'm not mistaken, my gizmo is made in Etobicoke (the outer edge of Toronto). I searched high and low for a photo. (Of course, I'm too lazy to actually take one.) But I don't know how likely it is that you'll be able to get the Can-Pro brand if you live out of the city. Point is, you want nips that have that type of head on it.
Why is this relevant? Well, a lot of people will tell you that cutting the steel is very tricky. Gertie (and I think we can agree the woman is a pioneer) posted a video demonstrating the cutting process, a while back. Thing is, this video kind of freaked me out. It made the cutting - to me - look rather challenging. But, trust me, if you use the type of clippers I've shown in the photo above (not that brand, specifically), the spiral cuts really easily.
Special Secret Tip!: More to the point, the guy at Leather and Sewing Supply actually showed me how to cut with minimal effort. Because the wire is in spirals, if you clip half of any circle, it will sever the link between the two sides of wire. That means you don't need to cut clean through a quarter inch of metal. You only need to clip a couple of slender wires and voila!
Now For the Caps: A lot of people will also tell you that affixing the caps is even more difficult than dealing with the wire. In truth, they're kind of right, but I have a philosophy about this. (Disclaimer: It's my extremely-handy husband's philosophy - I'm merely buying into it.)
To affix the caps - and you have to, or the raw wire will trash your fabric - you will need little needle-nose pliers (called jewelers pliers). Hopefully, you have a life-partner that has every type of pliers on the planet. If not, just go to the hardware store and explain yourself. These things are standard issue.
Step 1: Put the cap on the raw wire end and push it down. Hold it gently with your finger as you use the pliers to smush against the wide side (along the profile of the 1/4" wire). Don't do this too high up. You don't want to crush the tip out of shape or you won't be able to keep it right up against the tip of the spiral steel boning.
Step 2: Now, against the narrow, i.e.skinny, side, gently use the pliers to smush the metal in.
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have the stupid thing affixed. As you press along the width, the ends of the clips will move away from the wire. As you press the ends towards the wire, the tip will try to lift. (Takes a couple of minutes, i.e. 2-5.) Every time you think it's fixed, the cap will shift. It will aggravate you and, likely, make you question your place in the universe.
Step 4: Meditate on the nature of the activity to prevent yourself from freaking out (as you imagine that it's never actually going to work). As you gently mold the cap against the spiral, you are actually metal-working. Optimally, a machine would do this for you, and it would apply pressure to all sides of the cap on the spiral in the same proportions at the same time. Alas, you are not a machine. So you need to bring zen to the act of pushing one way, then the other, then another, until you've mushed that thing well on. It will work. Don't panic. Keep trying. Be prepared to throw out a few caps. It's all cool.
What has the world come to, I ask you, when sewing involves pliers and wire cutters? If you think of it as carpentry, it actually seems less scary, somehow.
When first I saw Gertie's post about boning, I thought: There is NO WAY I will ever be able to do this. I'm happy to tell you that I've reconsidered, and not because I'm any more skilled, but because I've decided to just take it one step at a time. It's not rocket science (she says, not having actually completed the boned bodice). When you make any garment, you follow many processes. One leads to the next. This is simply an additional step - or three.
Note to reader: I'm getting myself into the "take the long road" tailoring frame of mind.
I cannot improve upon Gertie's tutorial. It's excellent. All I can add is a bit of info about my own experience. But, peeps, inasmuch as I am a sewing novice, in the scheme of things, let me encourage you! If I can do this, you can too. And I intend to do this.