18th century front-lacing stays

I’ve been wanting to take a crack at a pair of front-lacing stays for a while.  my only pair of 18th century stays, the pink shot silk ones, have two major flaws: one, they’re only half-boned, which is somewhat less support than I really need; two, they’re back-lacing only, which makes it impossible for me to actually put them on.  lo and behold, JoAnn Fabrics had a 99 cent pattern sale the other day, and I bought a ton of them.  one was this, Butterick pattern 4254, for several types of stays.  I happened upon this fabric that same day, on sale in the home decor section, I couldn’t resist.  it’s like the two were meant to be.

they’re finished up to the front eyelets, which I’ve been enjoying a Frasier marathon to get through.  once I finish the back eyelets, I can try them on for real – I’ve done a sort of trial fitting and I think they’re a bit short, width-wise, which means I didn’t take enough space into account for boning, but oh well.  it shouldn’t be a problem.  for boning, I used the fan favorite, electrical zip ties.  I have to say I’m pleased with them.

a close-up of some eyelets.  I’ve quite accepted the fact that I cannot sew anything close to perfect eyelets.  still, most of them are pretty regular and not too small, so I’m proud.

the inside.  I will be lining them, but I haven’t yet chosen with what fabric.  something fun, maybe.  I covered the raw edges where the seams meet with strips of the fashion fabric.  you can see that these stays are fully boned.  you can also see that the boning channels on both sides of the stays aren’t symmetrical.  that’s because I wasn’t thinking ahead (story of my life!) and nearly finished one half of them before I even started on the other half.  I also had some trouble because I was trying to adapt the boning channels given with the pattern from half-boned into fully-boned, and it just didn’t work.  so I forgot that altogether and drew my own boning channels.  they’re not pretty, but they serve their purpose; and besides, they’ll be covered by the lining anyway.

the inner layer, and all the boning channels, are machine-stitched, but everything that’s visible is hand-stitched.  just because.  I don’t think I’m quite up to a fully hand-stitched set of stays yet, but we’ll get there.

I wasn’t planning on finishing this project just yet; all I really wanted to do was to test out the pattern, and to experiment with cording – it worked pretty well on my ren faire bodice, so I was wondering if a set of stays couldn’t be made with cording.  (it couldn’t, by the way; not close to sturdy enough for my figure.  for someone much slimmer, however, it’s a possibility.)  so I yanked out all the cording, and was left with this sad half-sewn pile of fabric… and then I thought of my fashion fabric.  I figured, hey, why not, just for fun?  and then I came across this image of 1750’s stays.

it was like kismet.  I knew that fabric was destined for greatness.  so I went all the way.  and I don’t regret it; I love these stays.  I’ll have some more pictures once I finish them up, and hopefully can get them on myself!  it shouldn’t take me too long… the only reason I’ve gotten so much done so quickly is because sewing provides an excellent outlet for procrastinating on my NaNoWriMo novel, which I’ve been neglecting. <_<


civil war corset – finished up


just finished up the edge binding and have a few more pics.  I went digging through my drawer of bias tape and in the end went with plain white, under which I added a bit of crochet lace to the top of the corset.  I like the look overall.  I wish it wasn’t going into winter, because I’m itching to wear this with a cute summer skirt or something.  it’s an undergarment, but it’s so cute.

as you can see, it fits like bung on my dressform.  I had to completely unlace it to get it on and the front gaps.  also, that lumpiness at the top is where I stuffed some spare fabric bits behind the corset to fill it out.  you can see the shape of the corset pretty well, though.  I was feeling too slobby today to take pictures of myself wearing it, but it actually does look a lot better on a body than on the dressform.

anyhow, another project finished!  in less than two weeks, too!  I still have the shift and pantalettes to make, but I went to the fabric store yesterday to get some fabric and it was a madhouse, so I left without buying anything.  maybe next weekend.


on another subject, my mum just finally got a sewing machine of her own.  being, as I think I’ve mentioned, obsessed with Marie Antoinette, she wants to make a Marie Antoinette gown.  she doesn’t seem to understand what this really entails, although I tried to explain it to her, that it’s not just as simple as buying a pattern and sewing a dress.  in any case, we’ve decided to have our own little sew-along starting in the new year.

I have a few 18th century pieces made, but they’re not all that great, so I’m going to be starting from scratch, as will my mum, seeing that she has nothing.  we’re going to start with the undergarments and work our way up, and hopefully have the entire outfit finished in time for Halloween next year.  (I’m trying to explain to her that you can’t really just sit down over a weekend and whip out an entire 18th century outfit, but… well, I don’t think she’ll get it until we start working on this and she sees how much work it is. >_>)  I’d really like to hand-sew mine as much as I can, for accuracy.

we’re going to replicate gowns from the movie.  my mum wants to do the “letter” gown.  I haven’t 100% decided yet, but the one that really caught my eye is the “cards” gown (because naturally I have to incline towards one of the costumes that is only shown in a dismally short scene in the movie and of which there are virtually no good shots.)  I might change my mind, but for some reason that one really hooked me.

well, more on that later.  we begin in January (yay!)  to my reckoning, for the most basic 18th century outfit, we’ll each need a shift, stays, a petticoat, paniers, and the gown, which in itself will be a task.  I plan to have quite more than just those items, but my mum may not want to go the extra mile, so we’ll see.

civil war corset: nearly done!

finally got a thread rack today.  now there is some semblance of order, instead of the chaos that was the cardboard box I had up until now been tossing all my spools of thread haphazardly into D:  that creature there is Guido, my “sewing robot” (according to my mum.)  he sits up there and watches me work, and laughs when I do something ridiculous, like sewing two left halves of my corset.  (in my defense, it was early and I was tired and it’s a wonder I could even cut a straight line, let alone sew a corset.  I don’t know why I thought starting that project right then was a good idea.)

my civil war corset is nearly finished.  I spent most of the day today working on it.  last week I got as far as piecing together the inner layer.  the pattern, by the way, is Simplicity pattern 2890.

the first thing I did was to make a mock-up.  it was unclear from the picture on the package whether the stays were meant to be mid-bust, or if the model just had a rather small chest (I think both,) but what was obvious was that my chest was never going to fit into that the way it was.  the measurements fit me in all other aspects, so what I tried first was simply to add an inch to the top of the corset, extending the bust.  on the muslin, this ended up fitting really well, so I went with it.

the pattern was meant for a corset with one layer, but since I wanted to have two layers, I put the boning channels in on the “wrong” side.  you can see my raw edges; I didn’t bother with the because they were going to be on the inside of the corset.

the second picture is with the outer layer attached, with busk in.  at this point in the process, I was starting to be afraid that this corset was going to turn out tiny.  I had allowed for extra length at the back of the corset, like I always do, just because I know that things go wrong a lot.  I don’t know where that extra length went; by the time I was going to mark my lacing holes, there was precious little space left to do it.  you can see in the picture where my original holes were set.

adding grommets, and the final result.  as I’ve mentioned, there was a good deal less space between the back boning channels than I’d anticipated, and I was worried the grommets wouldn’t even fit.  luckily they did, but I probably could have gone with a size smaller grommet.  I laced it with yellow ribbon because that’s just what I had on hand, and also, it’s yellow! 😀

forgive my shitty in-the-mirror pictures.  it was a little snug in the end, but, well, it is a corset.  (ignore my jeans, and the pile of junk behind me.  sewing room, my ass!) the pattern gave two inches for a lacing gap, but when I put it on, mine was more like three inches.  I figure it’ll stretch with time, and if it doesn’t, I don’t care that much.  the pic from the side is horrid blurry, but you can see just how much volume (for lack of a better word) my chest takes up in this corset.  even with the inch added all round the top, it ends up coming to mid-bust on me.  sigh.

overall, I’m happy with this piece.  the pattern was good, even if the instructions weren’t all that clear.  I still have to do the binding but I’ll save that for tomorrow.  right now there’s a Doctor Who marathon calling me 😀