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1780s stays

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

So Close!

Cynthia freaked me out yesterday by casually mentioning that we had about a month of sewing before the Colonial Williamsburg symposium, which left me hyperventilating.  So, with that, a renewed vigor to get these stays wearable so I can start sewing the riding habit that will go over them!

Almost done with putting the pieces together; I’ve got one seam left on the other side.  Hoping to finish that, and do a try on, tonight!

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

Pliers Help

I thought for sure I’d be able to whip together the stays pieces on Friday night — I mean, what’s six seams?  Nothing!  Well, I now have 3 of the 6 seams done, and obviously this is going to take me another week.  It’s HARD to sew through that many layers — pliers help, I have found — and to make sure you actually catch ALL of the layers, you have to stick the needle in, then check each side underneath to make sure you can see a bit of needle, before you can finish that stitch.  Le sigh!  I’ve basically killed my leather thimble, and my wrist is still tired…

Here’s a fuzzy shot of the outside and inside of one of the seams — thank goodness for welting, which will cover those ugly stitches!

1540s Florentine, 16th century, 1780s stays, 18th century, events, projects, SCA

Denial Is My Only Weapon

So I have spent most of my vacation working on my 1780s stays — my hope was to get them done enough (ie all the boning channels done and the pieces sewn together) so that I could start on my riding habit for Williamsburg.  I have SEWED and I have SEWED and I have SEWED.  Finally, I realized that wasn’t going to happen — I could probably get them done enough by the end of vacation, but what’s the point in rushing if it’s not going to get me time to work on the riding habit?

So I finally sucked it up and attacked the sewing room last night, which was in a massive explosionary state — about 3 different projects going, plus Dickens Fair packing/unpacking and costume bits not yet put away, plus it being the present wrapping room, plus it being the all purpose “crap room” while we had friends over at various points around the holidays.  Ugh!

In the midst of cleaning, I re-found my 1540s Florentine dress, which had annoying bodice wrinkles.  I had taken apart the bodice and removed the skirt, and then hung it on the back of my sewing room door for about a year.  It was now piled under a 1950s crinoline and a few other random bits.

I’m going to the SCA West Kingdom’s 12th Night this weekend, and I have been supremely un-excited about my costume options (either of my Venetian dresses, which have been worn to death, and my Gothic Fitted Dress, which I wore in England and again at an SCA event last summer).  Meh!  So I looked at the Florentine, and thought, “No, I really shouldn’t… Oh what the hell!”

So I spray basted the bejesus out of the bodice, machine sewed all the trim back on, and started fixing all the other issues that I found with it.  This may have been the most recalcitrant project EVAH:  the bodice waist was too low in back, so I raised that; the gold lace didn’t match properly at the sleeve back seam, so I fixed that; now that the bodice waist was moved, the eyelets no longer lined up (although I suspect that this may have been my first attempt at spiral lacing, because I’m not sure if they lined up properly to begin with) — fixed that by moving the back trim to cover the existing eyelets, and am in the process of making new eyelets closer to the edge and (hopefully) properly aligned.  In the midst of various try ons, I was surprised to find that the back was lacing shut without wrinkling — without boning.  I’m hoping that this isn’t some freak occurrence, because I decided to leave off the boning I’d had there before — which lets me put at least one side of the lacing holes closer to the opening.  I realized that the bodice may end up being slightly small, so I turned one side of the SB facings into tiny plackets.  I sewed down some of the trim on the baragoni (sleeve top dealibobs) where it had pulled up.

And I did all of this last night!  I had put off all of this rework because I was afraid it would take forever, but it all went spiffingly smoothly — of course, it helps that I machine sewed everything I could, realizing that this was not one of those Best Ever projects.

Now I’ve got to sew two rows of eyelets on the bodice, resew the sleeve lining to the sleeve at the wrists, and reattach the skirt to the bodice.  I know when I made it last that I sewed the skirt higher up the bodice in back to try to fix the too-low waistline issue, but I’ve raised it a bit higher (maybe .5-1″?) — technically I should let out the skirt length by that much, but I’m planning to ignore it and hoping that that won’t cause any crises.

After all this, I really want to make one of those jeweled head pieces that you see in so many Florentine portraits.  I poked through my jewelry making stash and found some possible items — but I’ll report back on how that goes after I’ve attempted it!
Edit: might help if I uploaded the pictures I took, eh?

1760s Brunswick, 1780s stays, 18th century, projects, travel

Colonial Williamsburg Accessories Conference

So, I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions — I mean, ever.  But last night I couldn’t sleep, and one of the many resolutions I out-of-nowhere settled on was to try to post at least five times a week on this here blog.  Because it’s languishing, and that’s silly!  And I have lots of stuff to post about, so I just need to get my butt in gear.  I might do a bit more “general costume history” in addition to what I’m up to…

First thing to post about:  I’m going to the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Accessories symposium in March!  I am super excited, because as you know I have been all about the 18th century for the last few years… not just in my costuming, but also in my research.  So I’m excited about getting to hear new research and hopefully meet some interesting people!  I’ll be going a few days early so as to have time to run around in costume and have fun.  The last (and only) time I went to CW, we had literally one day, so there’s so much left to see and do.  Also, it’ll be fab because lots of costumers I know are going, so it should be a real party!  If you’ll be around, let me know and we’ll hook up!

Of course, this adds new wrinkles to my costuming to-d0 list… the short version is that I want to finish the Brunswick and make a 1770s riding habit.  Of course, I NEED to finish my stays before I can start on the habit, and given that it’s hand sewing, there’s only so much I can do to make things go faster.  I’ve spent a good deal of my winter break sewing, and will continue to do so, but I think I’m letting go of the need to hand sew the habit — I think it’s going to have to involve some machine sewinBut g to get it done in time.  But more on that in another post!

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

Stays Channel Progress Update

So I would make all these grand proclamations about “I’m really back now!” — but life has just been incredibly hectic this fall, and I’m hoping it will start calming down, but I can make no assurances.  I am here, and I am actually sewing!  But work, in particular, has been butt-kicking-ly busy this semester, which just doesn’t leave me a lot of mental energy.

That being said, hand sewing stays has been the perfect project, because it’s eminently portable, so I’ve been doing a lot of sewing on the train (and a little in meetings or on the couch at home).  Of course I’ve gotten distracted a few times by other projects… but more on that in another post!

For now, I can report that I’ve finished sewing the channels on the side backs and sides, and am almost done with one of the backs.  So that leaves one more back, and then the fronts (which are, of course, the biggest/most complicated).

I’m SO glad I started with the least-likely-to-be-seen piece — the side back — as my stitching has definitely improved over time.  It’s not perfect by a long shot, but I’m relatively pleased with how the sides turned out.  The stays advice at Diary of a Mantua Maker has been super helpful, most especially the bits about “use an unbent needle” (I know, DUH, right?  But I am here to tell you that it’s a very possible mistake to make, and when you switch to a straight needle, things will work much better), move around the piece, and pin the bejeezus out of it (seriously, do it at right angles to the line you’re stitching, and do about 5 pins every 1″ — move the pins up as you work).  Also, I found it’s better to pull out wonky stitches right away than to hope they won’t show, because when you’re done, it’s way more annoying to pull out a whole section of stitches and resew them.

So, here’s one of the finished side backs with a macro image of the stitching — it doesn’t look as bad in the picture as it does IRL — and ditto, one of the sides with somewhat improved stitching.

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

Stays Boning Layouts

So I have been doing ALL this sewing, but have been too busy to update here!  I will parcel it out in bits so as to keep things interesting (rather than dumping it on you all at once).

I spent a Saturday mocking up various boning layouts on my 1780s stays.  I found a boning layout that worked very nicely and improved things — but found that even more, the trick turned out to be moving the position of my strap.  My first version of my 1780s stays had a VERY wide front, which was great for creating forced posture (ie narrow back, wide front, shoulders held back)… but not so good for ye quadraboob.  Moving the strap forward a good 2-3″ tightened things up in the bust and really pushed the girls forward.

So here’s some comparison shots of the various boning layouts and how they worked out: