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1780s stays

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

Stays Progress, and Monkey Sewing!

So I’ve actually been working steadily on handsewing the new stays.

First, fabric:  I have enough of the red silk damask to make another pair, but what’s the fun in having two identical pairs of stays? So instead I’m going with this green silk damask that I found on Fabric Guru (my new favorite source for small lengths of nice fabrics).

For the linen layers, I’m using one layer of natural linen canvas, and two layers of linen/cotton fustian, all from Burnley & Trowbridge.  Sadly I didn’t have enough of the linen canvas to do two layers, but I was looking at Costume Close-Up (I think?) and the stays in there were made of 3 layers of linen, one heavier than the others, plus top fabric, so I’m pretty happy with my choices.

I’ve cut out all the pieces, and basted them all together… and in so doing realize just how much a SLIGHT twitch of the angle of the needle can totally wonk-ify your sewing.  Eh, but it’s basting, right?

Onward to boning channels!  I’m starting with the side back pieces, as they were relatively uncomplicated.  I haven’t been doing much sewing at home, but I HAVE been sewing a lot on the train/bus, and quite enjoying it!  My handsewing has definitely improved as I’ve worked on these, because some of the first few rows that I stitched really look like crap.  It’s back to that slight-twitch-of-the-needle-angle thing, and this time it DOES matter because the boning channel stitches will show!  It’s NOT good when you look at your sewing, and think, “Crikey, did monkeys sew this?”  I did some picking out as I went, but tried to take deep breaths about it all and reassure myself that it’s supposed to not be machine perfect!

But, of course, once I finished one piece and my stitching had gotten better, I had to pick out the most egregiously bad sections — which ended up being about half of the sewing!  It’s not stressing me out, though, because I so enjoy hand sewing, and with life being so busy right now, this is just the perfect meditative release.  So, I’ve been going back and filling in the picked out sections, and am making serious progress.  I’m now 95% happy with the stitching I’m doing — it looks like the not-so-perfect examples in Underwear: Fashion in Detail, and it doesn’t look like it was sewn by monkeys.

Here are some pictures which are unfortunately not the greatest…

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

The Return of the Hand Sewn Stays!

So, remember how I was all, “Boo yah, I’m going to make some hand sewn stays!”  And then I was all, “I want stays now!  I will make a machine-sewn version, and then hand sew later!”  And then I was all, “I got stays!  oooo, distracted by new shinies!”

And then work and personal life got REALLY REALLY BUSY, and I neglected my website for EVAH?

I’m back!  As much as I can be.  I swear, every Fall I say this, but this has been the busiest fall EVER at work; personal life is always busy what with friends and family and faire and costumes and things, but combine that with busy work, and you get an AWOL Kendra here.

The impetus — the more I wear my 1780s stays, the more I get the dreaded Side Boob Cleavage, bane of larger busted girls around the universe.  I hate it, I does, and some corsets do it to me and some don’t.  My original 18th century stays, made from a pattern given to me by a Costume College instructor and I think somewhat based on the Diderot stays, don’t give it to me.  My most recent 16th c. corset only does it somewhat.  My Victorian one does it up the wazoo.  And my 1780s stays have started doing it.

So, finally, a push to make a new pair!  So I’d better put my money where my mouth is and hand sew them, hmm??

First, let’s talk boning patterns.  I made a few tweaks to the pattern that I used last time — basically making all the tabs the same length, and fixing the straps to be more attractively placed.  But the big thing I need to figure out is the front boning pattern.  Because there’s definitely ROOM for the girls in my corset — if I push my stays at the top sides, the girls lay as I’d like them to.  But obviously the boning layout I’m using isn’t pushing me into the right shape.

So, here is a ROUGH approximation of what my current front boning layout looks like.  And here are some ideas, based on looking at exant examples, of other possible boning layouts — all of them will have the horizontal boning that the current layout has, I just got lazy about drawing it.

Any guesses which boning layout you think might push the girls more towards the front rather than the sides?  I’m thinking options 2 or 3.

And yes, I will definitely make a mockup — le sigh!

I have started handsewing the stays pieces (obviously working on the sides and back pieces), but more on that in another post!

1780s stays, 1787 Tall Crown Hat, 18th century, events, GBACG, Lumieres, projects

There’s Been Lots of Sewing

But not a lot of posting!  Mostly it’s because I have been slowly slowly working on binding my 1780s stays, but also because I’ve been working on Michael’s 16th century trunkhose (but they keep seeming to stay in a not-excitingly-photographed condition – update soon!).

I think red is my color of the moment, because that’s the theme here…

First, I made the Costume Close-Up cloak for the Lumieres seaside stroll.  I was worried about freezing to death, so I took some lightweight red wool, fulled it, and made up the cloak — which I have to report is SUPER easy, because of the fulling… you don’t have to finish any of the edges!  I debated and debated what to line the hood with — I wanted to do something solid so it would work for any era (because how often do I make cloaks?), but the only thing in the stash that worked was a green & red 18th c.-style indienne print.  Oops!  Guess it’s not going to work for 16th century!  Also, a report — according to the book, the hood is cut large to accomodate the big hairstyles of the period.  Well, obviously they don’t define “big” the same way I do — there is no WAY that hood was going to fit over my hair!  So I’ll have to make another version at some point with a bigger hood, and this time of some heavier wool so it will work for REALLY cold events.  Luckily, although we expected rain, we had a beautiful day, so it worked out just fine.

Next, I went to the GBACG Duchess of Devonshire tea, which Cynthia and I organized.  We had planned one tea (obviously), but it sold out so quickly we added a second date the following weekend!  I didn’t want to stress myself out by trimming my hat at the last second, so planned to wear something else… but then got the wild hair the night before to wear the hat.  Silly costumer!  So I put some burgundy ribbon and a burgundy feather on it, all with straight pins, and called it good.  I had experimented with using green ribbon, as in the original fashion plate, but it just looked like a Christmas hat.

I finished binding my 1780s stays in time to wear to tea #2 (ie late the night before).  I really wanted to wear them because — hey, they’re new!  Plus I wanted to find out how comfortable they’d be.  I handsewed ALL of the binding, top and bottom, both sides, because I really wanted it to look good.  And while I’m not 100% happy with it, I think it’s my best binding job so far.  The petersham worked well and I think it looks good — I was worried it would scream “petersham!” but I think it just looks like a ribbed ribbon.  I did discover some cosmetic changes I want to make when I do version #2, mostly that the side tabs are shorter than the back tabs, and I’d like to even that all out.  Also, I don’t have a back picture, but I want to make the line of the straps at the top back of the corset merge more.  I’ll post really REALLY final photos once I have the right color ribbon on hand to lace them with — I had to just use what I had on hand, which meant the straps are tied on with black, and the back got laced 1/2 with burgundy and 1/2 with green!  I wore it under my chemise dress, which is the only dress I had that (because it’s gathered) fit — all the rest of my dresses are too small in the bust and too big in the waist to fit!

I haven’t yet posted my photos from the first tea, but I’ll do so very soon!  I do have photos from the Devonshire tea #2 up.  Both teas were lots of fun — yummy food, good conversation, and we had lots of fun playing forfeits!

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

Yet Another Half-Done Try On Post

So my plastic German/Wissner boning finally showed up from Farthingale’s Canada, which I’m using in this version for the very short vertical pieces (mostly the tab pieces on the side front piece — can’t buy pre-cut boning quite short enough), and the slightly narrower than 1/4″ boning (5 mm I think?) for the horizontal bones.  Oh, and 1/2″ for the separately cased horizontal bones. I bought enough so that I can bone my version 2.0, when I do my handsewn/linen version.

Report on the German plastic boning (more reports forthcoming as I work with it and wear it):  it’s definitely sturdier than the crappy Joann’s plastic boning, but it’s also DEFINITELY flexible.  I can’t imagine using it without using some steel to reinforce.

So of course I got distracted from Michael’s costume — nothing is more interesting than your OWN sewing!  I stuck all the boning in, and machine sewed around all the edges.  I sewed in one side of the separately cased 1/2″ horizontal plastic bone, and thought I’d better do one more try on, just to be sure that the placement was going to work.  The horizontal boning (both the narrow – there are 4 rows of that) and the wider bone definitely seem to curve the stays even more, although I would say the difference seems slight.  If you’re looking at the pics below, I have the 1/2″ horizontal bone in on the left side (ie my right).  It didn’t do anything WONKY tho, so I’ll go ahead and put it in on the other side.

I also finally patterned the strap, which is coming in to the front at a slightly weird angle.  The original pattern has the strap sewn to the front and laced in back; I’ve seen this on a few other pairs of stays, but it just reads as weird to me, so I’m flipping it.  I’m not sure if it’s because I changed the width of some pieces, but the strap is fitting well but not coming straight down over the shoulder — more at an angle; mostly I can see this when I curve the end of the strap.  I decided to go with it and not try to do anything funky, because hey, if it works don’t fix it, right?

I also wanted to test out the petersham I’m going to use to bind & cover the seams.  I looked HIGH and LOW for some kind of silk ribbon that looked like the silk ribbon I’ve seen on extant stays.  Yes yes, “all” stays were bound with leather or linen tape — actually, no they weren’t.  Higher end stays were often bound with what most sources call “silk ribbon”; and I’m sorry, I’m just not excited about snoozeriffic natural colored linen tape (can’t even find it in white!), and leather is squicky to me (sad critters don’t need to die for my costumes).  I looked all through the 18cwoman list, all over the web, every fabric/trim store I could find, and it doesn’t seem like anyone has a better option than petersham — because the ribbon needs to have some real weight to it to stand up to its job.  From what I can tell in the images of extant stays that I’ve found, it looks like silk taffeta or possible faille — the pink 17th c. stays (yes, a century early) from the V&A that are on the cover of Historical Fashion in Detail have a very ribbed faille look.  The only currently available possibility that had the right look was vintage (in order to get the right fiber content — silk or rayon) seam binding, so I bought a little bit off Etsy — but it’s SUPER lightweight, so that’s a no go.  Plus it seems like the widest available is 5/8″, too narrow for binding.

So yeah, back to the rayon petersham I bought forever ago!  The plus is that I was able to get both narrow (for covering the seams) and wider (for binding) in a matching color.  And I’m happy enough to go with rayon, since silk seems totally not doable.  I want the look of the 1770s red V&A stays (also in Historical Fashion in Detail), so I went with ivory colored ribbon.  The narrowest I could find was 3/8″, so I held that up to the stays to see how it would work — definitely too wide.  So I folded it in half and hand stitched some lengths of it, and it looks right to me!

Wow, I can yammer about piddly things, can’t I?

And no, I’m not going to split the tabs until I’m 100% ready to bind the bottom — just don’t want to mess with the fraying!

1780s stays, 18th century, projects

I Finally Ordered Boning

Lethargy (it’s winter!) and CADD!  They are distracting.

I finally ordered boning — thanks to everyone for your suggestions and input!  Unfortunately it looks like not many places carry the extra hard boning (I’ve only found it at Farthingale’s — not even Greenberg & Hammer!) — Corsetmaking.com has it, but they had fewer lengths in stock vs. Vogue Fabrics.  And nobody seems to have the German plastic boning readily available — from Vogue, you have to order 100 meter rolls, Corsetmaking.com has to special order it, Greenberg & Hammer has “European” boning but I’m not sure if that’s the Wissner/German stuff (and I’m sorry, but in this day and age I refuse to have to make a phone call to verify that kind of info and/or make an order.  I promise to start using them when they start doing online ordering).

Phew!  So I decided to order my steel from Vogue, and then I’m going to get some plastic boning (for the horizontal bones in this corset, and enough to do my next version of these stays, which will be the hand sewn/German plastic boned version) from Farthingale’s Canada (expensive, I know, but I can get it by the meter or 12 meter roll there!).

So the boning showed up, I sewed my pieces together, I fray checked my edges, and I got to put it on.  And WOW, do I LOVE this shape.  I put one of my 18th c. dresses on over it, and that confirmed what I had thought — I have a FAR more bowed bust vs. my old pair (which I think are the Diderot stays, or something close — the pattern came from a workshop at Costume College).  I feel like the prow of a ship (in the best possible way), and I don’t even have any of the horizontal boning in yet!  The hard steel is SO supportive, it’ll be a real change when I do the version with the plastic boning (and will be interesting to compare).

The one thing is they are feeling REALLY tight around the waist.  I measured the waist and compared with my recently made 16th c. corset, which is SUPER comfortable, and there’s only a .5″ difference.  So I’m debating whether I should let it out a bit at the waist, or wear them around the house for a few hours and see if things stretch & settle?  I haven’t yet cut my tabs, do you think that would make much difference?  One thing is I only did lacing holes to just past the waist, and you can see how it’s pulling open in back.  I think I will go back and make more lacing holes so that it goes the full length of the CB, and just sew over the offset spiral lace hole that I currently have in there.  I’m not sure if straightening the back out will make the waist even tighter or not, however!

Oh yes, and jeans and a t-shirt ARE the best possible things to wear when trying on your stays!  And at some point I really should pattern some straps, shouldn’t I?

1780s stays, projects

In Which I Cave

And realize that there’s no way I’m going to be getting to the hand sewn 18th c. outfit (stays, underpinnings, and Maja dress) until fall… and I really want to make something new for 18th c., and I want it to fit over my new stays shape.  So I caved and decided to make a machine made, modern corset supplies version now, and that way I can decide if I really love it enough (or if it needs tweaking) before making the ultra-period handsewn version!  Luckily, I have enough fabric to make 3 sets of stays, so I don’t feel like I’m wasting my lovely red silk damask.  And, I can use the ivory petersham to bind it, and take my time trying to find some kind of silk taffeta ribbons that more closely resembles those used in the period for the handsewn version.

So I’m using two layers of corset coutil, and steel boning.  I cut out and marked the pattern, which took one day, and then another day to sew the boning channels.  I had a brief moment where I thought about repeating the technique of hand knotting all the machine-sewn stitches, then remembered how long it took me to do that on my 16th c. corset, and slapped some sense into myself.

I’ve since done all the eyelets — perfect handsewing for weekday evenings.  Now I need to get off my butt and actually order the boning, which I’ve been dragging my feet about!

cutout

1775 maja, 1780s stays, gfd, planning, projects

Winter Break Is Upon Us

Which means it’s time for the sewing room to get cleaned and used!  I’ve been knitting a lot lately — it’s cold and I’m lazy, and knitting requires no getting up off the couch.  I’ve finished one mitt, from a very modern pattern, that will be used for 18th century, but now that I have almost two weeks off, I need to get more ambitious.

My early 2010 docket looks like this:

A medieval and/or Pre-Raphaelite dress, for a Pre-Raphaelite event.  I’m torn between doing something very historically accurate so that I can use it for SCA purposes, or going all Waterhouse-y because hey, no one’s going to kick me out of an SCA event for not being historically accurate!  I have some silk damask drapery sheer fabric (it’s weird, you can’t tell that it’s sheer until you hold it up to the light) that I’m thinking I’ll use, lined with linen.  I’m going to hire Sarah to drape the dress on me because it needs to be draped on the body, and my arms aren’t that long.

A man’s Elizabethan outfit — shirt, trunkhose & canions, doublet, and hat.  Sit down for this one – my husband is going to get gussied up for a 16th century event!  Oh, and HE chose the puffy pants option over Venetians!  Color me shocked! I’ve ordered the Tudor Tailor pattern as hello, boy clothes are not my forte, but until it shows up I can’t do much except for the shirt.

Those are the two things I NEED to make before May, and is probably more than enough!  So I won’t continue to ponder new 16th century and 18th century outfits for myself.  I am debating whether I want to make a machine-made version of my new 18th century stays, as the handsewn-outfit-from-hell Maja project is going to get pushed back to summer/fall.  I did start hand sewing a new 18th century shift, then realized halfway through that it was ridiculous to hand sew a new shift when I desperately need one NOW, and it will get a lot of heavy wear & machine washing.  So I finished it on the machine!  I’ll make the handsewn one once the Maja dress is actually made.