Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unveiling the 1780s Stays

What time is it?
New stays time!

I finished my 1780 stays last night, binding the last edges while watching Mad Men on Netflix, which never fails to inspire dozens of additional sewing projects. This was my first foray into corset-making, and I learned a lot--and discovered that a) it's not as scary as I'd feared and b) I think I want to make more.

The final product:

Blue silk, cotton canvas innards, linen lining, cotton tape binding and steel boning. Pattern from Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines with help from discontinued Simplicity pattern. The front-tied straps are from the Simplicity pattern--I knew I'd eventually pop one midway through something and need to retie it myself.

What went well:

It fits (mostly) perfectly. Unlike my old stays, it doesn't pinch my hips at all, yet it laces tighter and yields a much more fashionable shape, for those days I'd like to go "fashion-before-ease."

General construction was easy-peasy.

The finish work not only turned out well, it was really fun to do! Call me a nerd, but stitching the binding and creating the eyelets was a blast! I've decided eyelets are my new favorite thing. Watching an ugly hole turn into a lovely bound eyelet was just too enjoyable! Plus my method was great. I don't have "real" tools for this, so I stabbed a cross-hatch in with a paring knife then shoved a really large bodkin through several times. Great stress relief.

Things that went not-so-well:

First. I ordered steel boning from an online vendor. It was very good quality, arrived promptly, and was inexpensive. It was also twice as wide as I expected. (I swear I ordered the "normal" size, not the "wide" size.) But I wanted to forge ahead. Which meant I had to rework the boning channel layout and deal with a result that was less authentic that what I had hoped for. See yesterday's red example--the thin channels were really what I was hoping for.

Then. Some of the boning was longer than expected. (And I measured, friends. I measured twice.) My dear husband got to spend an hour with the dremel shaving a good two inches off the ends of the boning needed for the back. Good to know--a thick layer of goopy nail polish finishes raw metal boning ends beautifully.

And. While the horizontal channels stitched up just beautifully on machine--no wrinkling, no crumpling, they simply would not stitch without wrinkling on the vertical channels. I tried every tension setting, every solution--eventually I decided that, if I was going to complete these without wrecking the fabric, I couldn't pick out another row of stitches. It was wrinkly machine sewing or hand-sewing, and as these are my first attempt (so in many ways a glorified mock-up) I went for the speed of wrinkly machine.

Finally--though the waist and bust fit great, the very top of the back is too loose. This would not be difficult to fix. It also doesn't ruin anything as is. The front is also a touch long.

I'm also very pleased with the blue fabric and the wee little gold bows. It's the little things.

Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions for next time? Am I nuts for wanting to forge ahead and do a 1870s/1880s corset next (looks so fun!).


anachronist said...

I am duly impressed. I would shorten the front a bit but overall it looks very professional!! Great piece of sewing!

Connie Keller said...

Wow! You are amazing. Great work.

dolleygurl said...

Even if it isn't perfect it is 1000 times better than anything I could ever do!

Clare S/MagpieMakes said...

This looks fabulous! Love the tab shaping at the front. I'm being tempted to try out a non-stays type corset, too - I'm thinking of doing a ribbon corset or something similarly waist-cincher-y.

Isis said...

It looks very pretty!

The Dreamstress said...

Gorgeous! Great colour combination. Welcome to the world of insane undergarmenting. I can't wait to see what you do next. 1870s/80s corsets are a totally different fish from stays, but like them, if you do it slowly and carefully, really aren't hard or scary at all.

If it helps with the problems you had with this, most people I know who have used the Simplicity pattern along with Waugh have had trouble with their upper back being too big.

The wrinkly fabric is a bit of a puzzle. It's not something I have ever had problems with. Was it a lightweight silk? If so, you might have better luck interfacing it next time - not perfectly historical, but neither is thin silk.

Miss Rosemary said...

They are beautiful. Everytime you post your finished projects, I really wish I had actual talent as a seamstress. Alas, I can only do counted cross stitch with detailed instructions, many poked fingers and numerous profanities.

Go you.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, all :) I'm wearing them for a full day for the first time this weekend--will see how it goes!

Dreamstress--the silk wasn't terribly thin, but my sewing machine is not very precise, either. I imagine it was a tension problem that any normal machine wouldn't encounter :P

Anonymous said...

I am so utterly impressed with your sewing skills, Rowenna. And the colour combination here is heavenly!

Pip Norman said...

This is so cool - I have always wanted to make/wear a corset and the fact that you have made and are wearing one is just the most inspiring thing.

Maybe I should make one - though I would go for an earlier model - any suggestions for patterns or did you just do tons of research and make your own? How long did it take you?