Making Half-Boned Stays, 1776

So I guess this counts as another Stay Study post! But I’ve decided to drop that title since I failed miserably at keeping up with that series. It was supposed to be a study of stay patterns from the book “Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh, with the final project being a fully boned set of 18th century stays. But that didn’t happen and I haven’t even mentioned the series for a whole year. Oops!

But this post is about making a set of stays from the book “Corsets and Crinolines”!

I’m making these stays for an 18th century ensemble that I’ve had in the works for the last few weeks. I already posted about making a shift for this project, and this is the next layer! I decided to base my pattern off of the one shown below.

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I copied that pattern onto paper and made a few alterations. I added a half inch to the back, and a quarter inch to the front. I also took it in a little at the bust and removed the horizontal bones. I realize those add extra support to the bust but I didn’t think they were necessary for my body shape. After making a mock up I chose to lower the neckline as well.

The alterations were really minor, other than being slightly to small this pattern is pretty much perfect for me.

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I traced the pattern onto twill canvas (a cheaper alternative to coutil) and added half inch seam allowance around the outline. I used the twill pieces as a guide to cut out the front layer of fabric, which in this case was lightweight muslin. I added seam allowances to the muslin too, so the muslin layer ended up being a bit larger than the twill layer.

Then I marked all the boning channels with a colored pencil and pinned the layers together.

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And it was time to stitch all the boning channels! I used a beige colored thread because I was running out of ivory.

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When the boning channels were sewn I went ahead and added the boning. I used a mixture of flat steel bones and plastic boning, with the steel bones placed at the center front, center back, and sides. Only one of the diagonal boning channels has steel in it.

I tipped the metal bones the way I usually do, with athletic tape dipped in nailpolish!

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Then the seams were “bound” which means the seam allowance was turned inward and sewn down with a whip stitch. This is why I cut the muslin layer to have larger seams. The muslin can wrap over the twill seam allowance to create a finished edge with less bulk…which sounds very confusing but makes sense during the process!

The finished edges were stitched together with heavy duty upholstery thread.

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Here you can see what the bound seams look like on the inside. At this point I trimmed all the edges and covered them with bias tape binding.  I managed to get really smooth curve on the top edge, but I wasn’t so lucky on the lower edge.

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The lower edge has tabs. Tabs are horrible things which I hadn’t encountered before. I knew they wouldn’t be fun to finish, but they ended up being way worse than I had expected.

I waited until all the other edges were finished before cutting them out to prevent any fraying.

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I pinned and sewed bias tape to the front edge, then turned it under and sewed it to the underside. I gathered all the sharp curves because I figured I could get smooth edges that way. I was wrong!

My biggest problem was not looking at how other people do binding. I realize now that most people use really small binding (a quarter of an inch wide) and mine was twice that width. When the binding is very thin you don’t have to gather it over curves, so looks much smoother.

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But I persevered! They don’t look very pretty, but they are functional! At least I’ll know how to do a better job next time.

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In the photos above you can see the eyelet holes are marked, which should be a clear hint about the next step! The back edges were turned over and sewn down. Then the eyelets were punched out with grommet pliers, made larger with an awl, and stitched.

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And it was time for the final step: lining! The lining was cut using the same pattern. All the edges got turned over and pinned down at once. Usually I try to attach my lining in sections to avoid having a million pins in a garment at once, but this time it was unavoidable.

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But I managed to stitch it down without pricking myself to much. Okay, that is a lie. I pricked myself a lot. But I didn’t get any blood on the stays!

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So that’s it! They are done! I’m pretty happy with these because they actually fit. My last two attempts at making stays ended up in the trash – one was uneven and too long in the waist, the other was too big and never got finished. So this being functional is a huge improvement haha.

And even though they aren’t the prettiest thing in the world, all the things I don’t like about them can be resolved if I make another set. So I feel like I learned a lot!

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Here they are worn – I took these kind of quickly and didn’t end up with a front on shot, which is dumb. But there will be more photos taken of these at some point, i’m sure.

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There are about four inches open in the back when laced to the point where they are supportive. Which is perfect! It also means I could lace it a little tighter if I was aiming for any waist reduction, or if the stays stretch over time. In this picture they are laced the modern way instead of the historically correct spiral lacing. I find it a lot harder to get an even gap with spiral lacing which is why I did it this way.

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I think that’s everything! Thanks for reading!

Making an 18th Century Shift

I’m starting on a new historical project, which means it’s time for another set of foundation garments! I’m going to be making an ensemble inspired by this painting, which means I need proper 18th century underthings. That will consist of a shift, stays, bum roll, and a quilted petticoat. 

The most boring garment for this project is the one i’m talking about today: The shift. I used the pattern posted here which was really helpful!

I was originally going to use cotton gauze for this because it’s fantastic stuff. Super cheap, very lightweight, comfortable to wear, and easy to work with. Unfortunately it’s also very delicate, the tudor shift I made from cotton gauze has already required repairs at the seams.

So I decided to use a few yards of medium weight linen that I’ve had for ages. It’s a little heavy for a shift but it worked out okay!

As I said above, I followed the pattern and measurements listed on this site but I added an inch in some places because I’m assembling it with french seams. I also made the sleeves a little wider because my arms are wider haha. The rectangles are for the side gores (will be cut in half on the diagonal), the larger squares are for the sleeves, and the smaller squares are underarm gores (will also be cut in half).

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Then you need a very large rectangle to make up the body of the shift. I ended up cutting mine down by four inches because it was so wide, and even after doing that it’s still huge! I know they are supposed to be loose but this is a little too loose.

Sorry for the dog – the blanket was in a nice little pile but apparently she wanted it to be a big pile.

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She was upset that I didn’t have a bed set out for her. It was in the washing machine so she had to sit on a blanket like some wild animal. She glared at me for two hours before going to sleep.

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Anyway! The gores got attached to each sleeve with french seams.

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And the larger gores were attached to the sides of the shift, also with french seams. I’m going to stop mentioning that part, because every seam is a french seam on this piece!

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The sleeves got attached.

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And the side seams were done up! I made a small slit at the neck so I could try it on and make sure it fit alright, which it did. The body was pretty huge on me but the sleeves fit nicely.

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For the hem I rolled the raw edge over by a half inch and basted it down.

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Then turned the edge up by two inches and whip stitched it in place.

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For shaping the neckline, I cut a small slit that allowed me to get into the garment, then I laced my stays overtop. Once everything was arranged nicely I used a pen to (roughly) draw out where the neckline should be on one half of the shift.

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I took that off and marked the neckline with a colored pencil. I cut half of it out, then used the cut pieces a guide for the other half.

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I folded the raw edge inward by a quarter inch, then folded that edge in by a third of an inch. I whip stitched the edge in place to create a channel for ribbon. I also left a small opening at the centerfront where I can thread ribbon through.

Beneath the opening I stitched two eyelets, where the ribbon can be poked through and tied into a pretty bow!

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This is what it looked like with the ribbon in place! I used a bobby pin to thread it through the channel. I use bobby pins to threat my corsets too, they are very handy!

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The final thing to do was hem the sleeves. I had already turned them under by a half inch but they had a raw edge on the interior and were too long. So I turned them under by an inch and a half and sewed that.

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And it was done!

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I had hoped to have some worn photos but it’s been a very overcast day, which means my sewing room doesn’t get much light and the photos don’t turn out very well. I’ll include worn photos in my blog post about making the stays which should be up next week!

In the mean time, here is how it looks on my dress form.

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I’m pretty happy with it! Not the most exciting project but it only took a day to make and it went really smoothly. I’d use the pattern again to make one with a different neckline…Though I would probably make it sixty centimeters wide, not eighty. And maybe use lighter fabric.

Thanks for reading!

Making a 16th Century Chemise

I wish I had something more exciting to post today, but it’s come to the point where I have to blog about the most boring aspect of this costume: The chemise (also called a “Shift” and “Smock” in the 1500s).

The title is kind of misleading, due to certain circumstances I didn’t end up doing any research prior to making this. I used this blog post as a reference point and made everything up. Which is a shame because there are some really gorgeous shifts from the 1500s and 1600s.

Embroidery was such a big part of everyday dress and the undergarments were no exception. The blackwork embroidery often seen on shifts was so delicate and lovely. Over the last few days i’ve put more effort into researching them and they can be stunning garments while still being practical. Making a more elaborate one is now on my list of eventual historical sewing goals!

But this chemise in particular isn’t going to be seen at all. Not even the neck or cuffs. The only purpose of it is to provide a layer between my skin and the bodies, and to keep the kirtle/dress/sleeves clean. So it’s about as plain as you can make a garment.

I ended up flat drafting the pattern, two panels make up the body of the garment (one at the front one at the back) and it has gathered sleeves with cuffs that lace closed. I feel a bit silly about drafting this since my additional research led me to realize I have several historically accurate patterns hidden in Janet Arnold’s books which I own. Damn.

Anyway! Here is the pattern, this is the front panel. The neckline was based off the pattern of the pair of bodies with a few adjustments.

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And the back panel. Both of these need to be cut on a folded edge.

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These are the sleeves, cuff, and collar facing.

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Step one was cutting everything out. I used cotton gauze which I had purchased at Joanns, which isn’t very accurate but I LOVE the texture and weight of this fabric. It’s an absolute dream to work with and I would definitely use it for more undergarments in the future.

When everything was cut out I started working on the front panel. The front got slashed a few inches down the center and I pinned the edges over.

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Then the edges got stitched down.

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I cut out rectangles of the gauze and turned the edges inward. Then those were whip stitched surrounding the slash to reinforce the edges.

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 I moved on to the back panel, which is gathered at the neck. I actually misread the pattern I made and gathered it down to four inches instead of eight. I didn’t realize the mistake until I was a little farther along but luckily I was able to fix it without any problem!

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Then I sewed the shoulder seam, which secures the straps to the back panel.

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Now the neckline was ready to have the facing added. The top edge will be encased in a seam but the lower edge had to be folded over and finished by hand.

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I attached the top edge of the facing into the neckline by machine, sewing it the typical “right sides together” way. But I stitched the lower edge by hand to avoid having any visible top stitching.

When the facing was sewn in I did up the side seams. I used french seams to encase the raw edges even though this fabric doesn’t fray much. I also hemmed the bottom edge by turning the edge over a half inch and used basting stitches to secure it. Then I turned the hem in a little more than an inch and whip stitched it in place.

Lastly I sewed eyelets down the slashed front.

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And then it was time for sleeves! The sleeves on this are really quite simple, they are loose and gathered so fit isn’t really an issue which makes them a lot easier.

After cutting them out I gathered the lowed edge by hand. I think this edge was gathered down to six inches including seam allowance because I have weirdly small wrists.

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I turned the bottom three inches of the edges inward. When the side seam is done up i’ll leave the bottom few inches open to allow my hand to slip through and it’s easier to finish that edge before sewing the seam.

Then I attached the cuffs. These are just small rectangles with the edges turned over. After they were sewn on I used even smaller rectangles to line them.

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Then the side seams got done up with french seams, as I mentioned earlier I left the bottom few inches open.

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Then they got sewn on to the body of the chemise. Lastly I stitched eyelets onto each side of the cuffs and it was done! Overall I really like this, it was easy to make, kind of fun, and turned out pretty well. Certainly a much better end result than my pair of bodies and farthingale!

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Thanks for reading! That’s the end of my tudor undergarments so now I can move on to more exciting things. Hopefully the next post will be more interesting, I think it will have something to do with the kirtle that goes with this project.