A few months ago, I decided to tackle a new pair of 18th century stays. I used a PDF printable pattern from the Redthreaded Etsy shop. I absolutely love them and I wanted to share my construction journey.
I was originally drawn to this pattern because of the front laces. My last pair of 18th century stays were back lacing. While my fiance was very helpful in getting me in and out of them, I do not think that is a trend he would like to continue. I wanted something I could easily get in and out of by myself. I have been admiring Redthreaded's work for awhile, but never had the time to dedicate making one for myself. Finally, after being stuck in the house for months, I decided it was time to start these stays I had been pining over.
I went with the PDF printable option because...instant gratification. I did not want to wait for it to ship. The pattern was super clear and easy to assemble.
I basically followed the suggestions on the pattern. Both fabrics are organic and from Mood. My base fabric is an unbleached cotton canvas, and my top fabric is a cotton twill that I dyed with turmeric (see previous blog post). I really loved the structure both provided, and they were stress-free to work with.
I will always choose a mock-up fitting. My greatest fear in life is to spend a lot of time on a project only for it to not fit. I used the cotton canvas from my base for the mock-up. I only put in about a quarter of the bones so I could get an idea for the shape. The fit was just about perfect. I had some small fixes in the straps and around the bust line, but the fitting was a roaring success.
It is very rare when I decide to follow directions on a pattern. I usually have this "I have been sewing for blah blah years, I do not need instructions" attitude about things. But the better half of my brain reminded me that I did not have to struggle through the order of operations, and instructions are cool. So with that decision behind me, I was able to proceed smoothly.
I first decided to add piping on the side front seams to break up all the yellow. Plus I love the seam lines on stays, and I really wanted to highlight that. I made the piping using my base cotton canvas.I must admit that I am a sucker for contrasting piping, and I loved the look.
Next up was my favorite part. Channeling and boning! I used 1/4" reed for my bones. For those that do not know, reed is a type of wood and it was used as an alternative to whale bone. For my last set of stays I used reed, and I had a ton left over. I mean a ton. I could make an entire chorus of stays, and still have some left over. It only made sense that I used my leftover reed on these stays. I will admit I do not 100% love reed. I enjoy that it is historically accurate, and I can cut and file them easily. But it can break with pressure. I learned that the hard way on my previous pair of stays. With that in mind, I knew I needed to reinforce the stress points such as the center front, center back, and the bone across the bust.
Now for my not so favorite part: bias binding the tabs.This is where following the instructions served me well. I followed Redthreaded's instructions to the word. I even watched a video where she walked me through the tricky corners. With enough patience, an occasional swear word, and my handy seam ripper, I made it through. I probably would have had an easier time if I did not use a contrasting bias color because it highlights all the mistakes.. But what can I say? I just love the look
The closures were another part of internal turmoil. I had a grommet set, but I just love the look of hand bound grommets. Another battle of instant gratification versus a fun personal touch. Ultimately the hand bound grommets won. They were also a way for me to incorporate my love for embroidery. Special shout out to my thimble for getting me through all that hand stitching.
The Final Fitting:
The first try on is the most magical isn't it? There is just nothing quite like it. Getting all laced up and feeling like you have just stepped in a time machine. I probably pranced around my house for an hour. The fit was great and surprisingly comfortable. My posture was improved, but I did not feel overly compressed. I now want to make all of Redthreaded's stays and corsets.