Stay Study – Project Three

This is one of those posts I really didn’t want to write. Unlike my past two projects in this series, this one was a bit of a flop. It also took a lot longer to make then the other two, so I had built up pretty high expectations for it. And it all seemed to be going okay up until the very end – when I actually tried it on.

It’s usable…kind of. But not really. There is a lot wrong with it, and even several weeks after finishing it I’m still disappointed. It’s not something I want to think too much about – much less write about. But I think sharing failures is just as important as sharing successes – sometimes the projects that end in disaster are the ones you learn the most from. I suppose that was the case here, but it’s still upsetting!

With that cheery intro, here is the third installment of my Stay Study series! The first two posts can both be found here.

Step one was drawing out the pattern.


Once that was done I made a mock up. There were a few things that had to be changed – the fabric was gaping near the arm/bust and the waistline was too long. Both of these were easy fixes, so after making the changes I did not make another mock up.


 I also lowered the neckline and made the V at the front smaller. Then I cut out my pattern from two layers of medium weight polyester linen and a layer of muslin. I marked all the boning channels on the muslin with pen, so I had a very prominent guide to sew over.


Mistake number two was using this crappy fake linen. It frayed so much I left the edges long until all the channels were sewn, then I trimmed them with pinking sheers – which did nothing to stop the fraying.


I added all the boning and filed the tips so they wouldn’t poke through the fabric. Then I rolled the edges and slip stitched them in place.


The pieces were bound together with my super heavy duty upholstery thread.


This is the front panel with most of the boning added. I starched this panel  five times to stiffen it enough so I could embroider the eyelets without it becoming a frayed mess. It didn’t really work. To reinforce it further I stitched a half dozen straight lines across where the eyelets would be sewn with hopes that  would help – luckily it did.


I bound the edges – I definitely got much better at this the more I did it!


The back pieces and shoulder straps bound together.


To finish the tops of the side pieces I made a bit of home made bias tape and sewed that on.


Then they were bound to the back panel.


I spent two whole seasons of top gear sewing eyelets – that’s at least twelve hours. It was kind of insane and not much fun at all. I even took pictures of how shredded my fingers were after sewing the sixty eyelets in two sittings – but they were a bit gory so i’ll spare you all.


Once that was done the front panels were bound to everything else.


To make it even better I then realized I had messed up the spiral lacing. To properly have spiral lacing the top two and bottom two eyelets have to be staggered – I had misunderstood and instead added  on extra eyelet to the left side, meaning the garment could not lace up correctly or evenly.

I decided to power through and finish anyway. I made more bias tape to finish off the top and bottom edges.



Upon trying it on I realized the most major mistake – it didn’t fit. I took these pictures without a chemise so you could see the problem – it digs in a lot at my hips because it’s too long in the waist. Even though the boning is properly filed and finished, It’s a lot of pressure being rested on the hips, and makes it very uncomfortable to wear. After wearing it for less then fifteen minutes I have red marks across where it rests and I think after several hours of wear those would bruise.

The garment I planned on wearing this under requires a petticoat and false rump. Perhaps if I wore the stays over the petticoat (so taboo) that would soften the edges enough for it to be comfortable?

I’m not really sure.


The edges also do not line up, and the front doesn’t extend down far enough to be accurate to the 17th century time period. Overall i’m really upset! So much time wasted on a garment that can’t really be worn. Maybe I should try remaking this garment in a month or two and see if I can do better?

Despite all the frustrations I did learn a lot. The most prominent thing being : ALWAYS MAKE ANOTHER MOCK UP.


Thanks for reading!

Corded Stays – Stay Study, Project Two

This was not originally going to be a part of the “stay study” series, but last week I came across a dress from the 1840s and I fell in love. Before I could even consider drafting anything similar, I needed some foundation garments to wear underneath it, so I started on this immediately.

This design is also from Norah Waughs Corsets and Crinolines book which I speak more about in the first Stay Study post, which can be read here. The pattern I chose to go off of can be seen here.

This is a design from the 1820’s, most popular in the regency era,  and are most often called (long) Regency Stays. These became less popular as the years went on and as smaller waists and open front busks came into fashion. But I did find evidence that a few survived into the mid eighteen hundreds, so I figured it would be passable to wear these under my future gown from the forties.

I don’t have anything against open front corsets – but i’ve made two before so this holds more appeal.

Before I get really into it I wanted to share this pintrest board which really helped me out, along with this auction which has very detailed photos, and Sidney Eileen’s amazing write up of making a corded corset.

If you are planning on making something similar, I would suggest looking (at least briefly) at those links.

I started by drafting the pattern shown in Norah Waugh’s book, the original pattern was made for someone much smaller then myself (or someone who likes a large gap of lacing) so from the start I added an inch at the back, and another at the side.



My first mock up was more successful then I had expected! Since I thought the pattern was aimed at someone with a twenty four inch waist, I figured they would be smaller in stature then me too. I was prepared to lengthen the waist, straps, make the gussets smaller, the hips larger and and sorts of stuff. But I didn’t have to do very much at all!


I took in the garment at the sides, hips, and bust, but left everything else alone.

The notes from Norah Waugh mention that the corset was made from cotton sateen – this worked out perfectly for me since I had several yards laying around. I didn’t have any spare linen to use as a base, so I substituted with a heavy poplin, and decided on peachskin for lining.

I marked out all the intricate stitch work with colored pencils.



And the straps – I made these from one layer of cotton sateen, and one layer of a cotton eyelet lace. I was given this (along with other laces of both fabric and trim variety) from my grandmother.


Then I started sewing! Every time you sew a row of stitching you are left with top threads. These have to be buried, which I did by threading each one through the eye of a needle, then pushing it through the fabric and onto the other side. Then you can tie the top thread and the bottom thread together, and clip the ends.



The is time consuming, but not nearly as slow as the cording process. I sewed 1/8th inch channels for the cording, which were just barely large enough for the cord I used (which was actually knitting wool shh)

I used a very large blunt needle to make it easier. I also used pliers to pull the needle through since it gets stuck very easily. By the time I was done  I had broken one needle, and severely bent another.


Cording vs no cording on the back panels – ignore the wonky boning channels, I fixed those!


The process continued on the front.



After a lot longer then I would care to admit, the front panel was done! I used pink rayon thread for all my topstitching, since I figured if I was going to all that work it should be somewhat visible.


The back panels were finished soon after, I used plastic boning for everything but I think I will replace some of it with metal in the near future.

You can see here that I used the cotton eyelet fabric for the hip gussets as well.



Then I had to make the busk! I’m slightly fascinated by the intricately carved and beautifully stained wooden busks, but making one of those would be a a huge project for someone like myself (who has no woodworking experiences) and it wasn’t something I wanted to take on right now.

Instead I asked my dad to cut the wood for me, then I filed and rounded the edges before painting it with a white ink (ignore the paint shown below – I didn’t use it). A bit of the woodgrain does show through, but it’s opaque enough that it won’t show through the lightweight white fabric.


I also made piping – I used some leftover wool and a two inch wide strip of cotton sateen.


Here you can see the finished busk and piping together.

The busk was inserted and the piping was machine sewed on. Then I slip stitched all the piping down.


The second to last step was hand sewing all the eyelets. Out of all the things on this project, these were the most familiar to me – but I scr Once that was done I could try it on for the first time!

I’m really happy with how it fits in the bust (if it was too big there the garment wouldn’t be functional at all) but there are other things that annoy me. There is fabric that folds at the waist, probably caused by it being slightly too long in the waist, and the material not being stiff enough.

If I ever made something similar to this again, I would add four gussets in the hips instead of two. I would also start the gussets an inch higher – something that would also help eliminate the folds in the waist area.



Of course none of those things can be changed at this point. So I made note of them for next time, but forced myself to move on with the project.

Despite the care I took to tie all the threads nicely the interior of this was a mess!

DSC_5023So I slip stitched in a lightweight lining. It makes it more comfortable and hides ugly edges.

DSC_5109And that was it.

(I should have ironed it before taking these)






So that’s that! Definitely issues I wish I could change, but luckily none of them distort the shape or comfort of the garment. It should be perfect for beneath the dress I have in mind, so that’s good.

The straps still aren’t completely finished since I haven’t decided how to secure them – I was originally planning on using buttons but now i’m leaning towards eyelets. I might wait until the dress is finished, then see which gives the nicest shape beneath it.

Thanks for reading!

And thanks for all the input on short vs. long posts, I think I will stick with lengthy posts but not limit myself when it comes to writing shorter ones.

Stay Study – Project One

I’ve started a new series, because apparently I don’t have enough things in progress already! This one is a little different from everything i’ve done before, and i’m very excited about it.

I’ve always been sort of fascinated with sets of 17th and 18th century stays and bodies, so much so that last year I bought a first edition copy of “Corsets and Crinolines” by Norah Waugh. It’s a really amazing reference, and i’ve spent days reading through it and studying patterns and information included.

But up until now I’ve had a few things stopping me from making anything from this book. The first is that the patterns really scare me. Stays can require sewing over two hundred boning channels, and if any of them are misplaced, sewn crookedly, or just a quarter inch off it can ruin the shape and wearability of the garment.

The second is that they require so many techniques that are foreign to me. Stays don’t have seam allowances, they are all hand bound together. They have hand embroidered eyelets, cross cut boning, curved bindings and lot’s of other tricky things I don’t have any experience doing.

And the final thing is that I couldn’t figure out which one to make. I really like, and think I would get use out of a lot of the designs in this book – it’s impossible to pick one!

Last week I sat down and looked through the book again, and realized that I would never magically acquire the proper experiences to make anything from this book. To learn the techniques needed to make a set of stays, I would actually have to make one.

And since I couldn’t just pick one – Why not make a few? Starting with some of the easier designs and building up to a fully boned set of stays.

I’m calling this the “Stay Study” even though two of these projects aren’t technically in that category. These predate that term and would usually be called a pair of bodies, since they were made from two main pieces  (though I have heard them called “Renaissance stays” before).

The goal is to complete four stay-related projects from this book, and I’ll document the process here! I’m going to aim for every other week updates, but I’m making no promises. In the end I just want to learn as much as I can, and i’m not going to rush that!

I’m also not making these in a historically correct way – I’m using plastic boning, twill, and machine sewing my boning channels. If you are  looking for historically accurate recreations, this is NOT the right blog for you!

This is the first project I decided to take on.

DSC_3993I started by scaling the pattern to be full size, then made it a little bit larger. Due to lack of information on these garments (which are talked about significantly less often then regular stays) I wasn’t completely sure how they should fit. I ended up leaving a 1.5″ gap at the front.


Then I marked the boning channels and eyelet holes onto the material I had cut for the lacing panels.

I used a layer of heavy duty twill sandwiched between two layers of muslin.

DSC_3903I sewed over all my markings and trimmed the edges with pinking sheers so they wouldn’t fray.


I embroidered the eyelet holes – which was less challenging then I had expected! I might go back and reinforce these with more thread later on (because I didn’t do that great of a job) but for now they are fine.

I also made a bit of home made half inch bias tape which was sewn around each panel.


Once that was done, they looked like this!


Which meant it was time to move on to the body of the garment. I repeated the process of marking out all the boning channels onto the twill. I also left a one inch “seam” allowance on each side.


I sandwiched the marked panels between muslin.


And sewed around them.


And then the sewing of boning channels began! This wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had thought. You just have to go slow and follow the lines.It’s when I rushed, or got distracted that I made mistakes.


Adding the boning was the most enjoyable part for me. I cut each length and then filed the ends so they weren’t sharp.


I wish I could say these pieces were finished – but they were far from it. Each piece needed to have the edges bound.



Bound edges are done by turning over the seam allowances (twice) and stitching them down. Then the bound edges are stitched together to hold the garment together.

To do this properly I purchased some heavy duty upholstery thread – the cotton thread I usually use would have snapped in an instant!


And this is what the back panel looked like! Four of the edges are bound and two of them are stitched together.


Not the prettiest stitching in the world, but I think I will get better at it.


I repeated this process on the side/front panels as well. Then I added more home made bias tape to the curved edge.


Once that was finished and all the pieces were sewn together it looked like this!


I just had to bind the bottom edge, sew the shoulder seams together,  and sew on the lacing panels.



For the shoulder seams I used a cross stitch. The insides ended up looking really messy, so I sewed a small panel of lining over them.


And I was finished! Overall it has a lot of issues and ugly hand sewn bits, but I learned a ton (which was the point) so I’m happy with it. It’s also a lot more durable and comfortable then I had expected – I honestly have bras that are far more uncomfortable then this.

I did forget to order the right lacing for this, the one i’m using now is too thin and if I pull it tightly i’ll wrisk tearing the eyelets. I’m confident I can lace it in another inch if I had the correct mm of cording.


So that’s that. I think my next project from the book will be the Neuberg bodies, but I may decide to take on the more challenging partially boned stays next, hmm…

Thanks for reading!