Battle of the Stays: Contestant # 1 Larkin & Smith Front and Back Lacing Stays in Red Silk Taffeta

 

Larkin and Smith Front and Back Lacing Stays
Larkin and Smith Front and Back Lacing Stays

For this pair of stays I did do a mockup – the style is very different from stays I have made in the past.  I just did a single layer of cotton drill (canvas) with the front panel sewn in and lacing tape sewn to the back.  The fit was overall pretty good.

The basic construction of these is as follows.  For each piece, you trace it onto the fabric and cut AROUND the piece, leaving about an inch extra on all sides.  Both the left and right sides are provided – even though they are mirror images – but this actually does help keep things straight.  You need 2 layers of interlining fabric for each piece (that would be 4 layers if cutting without the left/right pieces) and one covering of fashion fabric for each piece (2 if cutting without left/right pieces).  I cut them out 2 layers at a time, tracing onto the top layer only.  Then you sew the boning channels, trim the interlining fabric, insert the bones, and press the cover fabric to the back.  Tack the excess fabric down and the pieces are ready to be whip stitched together.

Here we go through all the steps on the first piece, the stomacher.  The 2 layers of interlining and cover fabric have been roughly cut out – you can see the line that is the edge of the piece in the photo below.  To determine where to sew the boning channels, I measured and drew a light pencil line down the very center on the back side.  Since the boning channels will show on this pair of stays, I am using red thread but sewing from the back side of the interlining.  It really helps to have a sewing machine where the bobbin and top side stitches both look equally nice when doing this!

Sewing boning channels on the back side of the stomacher.
Sewing boning channels on the back side of the stomacher.

In my stash of sewing machine feet I have an edge stitch foot that is exactly 3/8 inch from the center needle position.  This is the perfect size for 1/4 inch boning.  Still, always do a test channel on scrap fabric to make sure first.  As you can see above, the edge of the foot runs along the previous channel.  Fill the entire piece with boning channels.  Now it is ready for boning:

Boning being inserted.
Boning being inserted.

For this pair of stays I used a new product, synthetic whalebone.  It is plastic boning created to imitate the whalebone used in original stays, and is available from Larkin and Smith.  It can be cut with a pair of wire cutters – it is a bit stiff for scissors.  I like that it is about as flat as a piece of metal boning, so it will not add much to your waist circumference.  Here is a picture of a piece of the synthetic whalebone and a piece of cane boning:

Synthetic Whalebone vs Cane Boning
Synthetic Whalebone vs Cane Boning

When all of the channels are boned, trim the interlining back to the cut lines.

Boning channels sewn, and interlining trimmed to cut lines. It is ready for the boning to be inserted.
Boning in, and interlining trimmed to cut lines.
Front view
Front view after boning .

After boning has been cut and inserted into all full width boning channels, the extra cover fabric is pressed to the inside, and then tacked down.

Cover fabric pressed to the back.

Cover fabric pressed to the back.

Viola! Ready to be bound and have the lining tacked in.
Viola! Ready to be bound and have the lining tacked in.

The same basic steps apply to the other pieces, with two unique differences.  Both the side front and back pieces will have eyelets, so for these pieces, be sure to leave enough cover fabric to press inside over the entire eyelet area.  The lining should not extend into the eyelets.

Here are the side fronts with that first channel unsewn - once that interlining is trimmed, I can fold it and sew.
Here are the side fronts with that first channel unsewn – once that interlining is trimmed, I can fold it and sew.

I saved the first boning channel to be sewn after this strip of fabric was pressed to the inside.  This helps hold the first bone in place.  The edges of this piece will be hidden under the lining, which will come up to the line where the eyelets begin.

Side Front - leave enough cover fabric to press behind the channel for the eyelets.
Side Front with interlining cut along front edge – leave enough cover fabric to press behind the channel for the eyelets.

The other odd piece is the side back, which appears to be curved.  What happens is when you insert straight boning into this piece, it causes the piece to flair out nicely over the hips.  It was a little tricky to map out these boning channels.  Here is how I did it, so that it looks like the illustration in the booklet.

Measure the center of the piece, and draw a light pencil line 3/16 inch on either side – so that the boning channel is running down the very center:

First channel drawn, each line 3/16 inch from the center.
First channel drawn, each line 3/16 inch from the center.
Sew it!
Sew it with the cover fabric in place!

Next I measured how many 3/8 inch channels will fit along the narrow top of the piece, and marked the far edge boning lines to be sewn.  These channels need to be curved, so marking this first curved seam line is important to getting the others sewn in:

Outside channel sewn.
Outside channel sewn.

Then I started sewing 3/8 channels along that curved line using my sewing machine foot as a guide.

Remainder of curved channels sewn.
Remainder of curved channels sewn.

All that remains is to sew straight channels from the bottom up to fill in the spaces on the bottom between the straight channel and the curved channels.

The eyelets for the lacing in the front and back I did per the post How To Make Machine Thread Eyelets.

Time for assembly.  Whew!

How To Make Machine Thread Eyelets

Metal eyelets did not appear until the second quarter of the 19th century – before that, eyelets were hand sewn with thread.  Here is a great tutorial on making hand sewn thread eyelets.

However if you are like me, you are always looking for ways to use technology to make this easier and faster.  I discovered this great accessory for my sewing machine that allows me to make thread eyelets.  This product is for Husqvarna Viking but I would be surprised if similar accessories are not available for other sewing machine companies, especially more expensive brands like Babylock, Pfaff, etc.

Husqvarna Viking Eyelet Plate
Husqvarna Viking Eyelet Plate

Here is the eyelet plate installed on my Husqvarna Designer Diamond.  It comes in 4mm and 6 mm sizes – I find the 4mm to be the best size for corset eyelets.  When using the eyelet plate, the feed dogs must be lowered in the machine’s settings.

Eyelet plate installed and ready to go. Note you must remove the ankle or it will lower and prevent you from being able to turn the fabric.
Eyelet plate installed and ready to go. Note you may need to remove the ankle so that it does not prevent you from being able to turn the fabric.  One of my machines works fine with the ankle on, the other does not.  Go figure.

In a nutshell, you are going to set the machine to a basic zig zag stitch and then rotate the fabric around the eyelet plate as you sew.  The width of the zig zag stitch can vary depending on how thick the fabric is.  I always do a test eyelet on scrap fabric from the project first, but usually the stitch width is between 4 and 4.5mm.

First, mark the placements of your eyelets.  This can be done with a regular ruler, or with an expanding ruler (one of my favorite tools):

Marking eyelet placement with an expanding ruler.
Marking eyelet placement with an expanding ruler (it is also great for marking button placement).

For the examples I am using green thread on white fabric to make it easier to see, but in practice you would use thread to match the fabric.

Next, using an awl, work a hole in the fabric for the eyelet, just big enough to fit around the eyelet plate:

Hole made just large enough to fit around the eyelet plate on the machine.
Hole made just large enough to fit around the eyelet plate on the machine.

Now begin sewing – slowly!  I usually go around the hole quickly as a first pass, and then go around a second time more slowly to fill in.  But in this example I just began sewing so that it is easier to see how the thread is sewn around the eyelet hole:

Rotate the fabric around the eyelet plate while sewing with a zig zag stitch.
Rotate the fabric around the eyelet plate while sewing with a zig zag stitch.
Eyelet has been sewn all the way around.
Eyelet has been sewn all the way around.

Here are the front and back appearances of the eyelet:

Eyelet Front
Eyelet Front
Eyelet Back
Eyelet Back

 

Battle of the Stays: Contestant #4 JP Ryan Half Boned Green Silk Stays

JP Ryan Half Boned Stays
JP Ryan Half Boned Stays

After some deliberation I decided to cover this pair in green silk taffeta.  I have enough for a matching petticoat which could be used as a colored undergarment set for a chemise a la reine, or be worn together over a nice chemise during the summer, or be worn as undergarments for gowns and jackets.  I plan to embroider the hem of the petticoat with my embroidery machine, but that is a project for another time!

Now, on to the stays.

This pattern is interesting in that that front panel has 2 pieces for the cover and 1 piece for the lining.  Here are all the pattern pieces for the main layer of the stays:

Main pattern pieces for JP Ryan Half Boned Stays.
Main pattern pieces for JP Ryan Half Boned Stays.

And here are the front pieces – the 2 pieces for the main fabric and the 1 piece for the lining:

JP Ryan Half Boned Stays - Front Pieces and Front Lining Piece
JP Ryan Half Boned Stays – Front Pieces and Front Lining Piece

After doing some measurements and checking some of the individual pieces I did not do a full mock up on these.  Keep in mind that I have made many pairs of 18th century stays for myself over the years – if you do not have this much experience it is always better to do a full mock up.

This seems odd at first but actually they go together quite nicely.  The 2 main pieces are stitched together and then are laid on top of the lining piece, and from then on they are treated as one piece.  I cut the front cover using the lining piece to avoid extra seam lines.  The other pieces I assembled and boned, then add the cover:

JP Ryan Half Boned Stays - side pieces boned and covered.
JP Ryan Half Boned Stays – side pieces boned and covered.

Since many of these boning channels are curved, I used spiral steel boning for them even though it is not historically correct.  For the straight channels I used regular steel boning.  I am not sure how well the synthetic whalebone will work for half boned stays.

Here is the assembled front with the first side pieces sewn on:

Front of JP Ryan Half Boned Stays sewn to Side Pieces
Front of JP Ryan Half Boned Stays sewn to Side Pieces

I put the eyelets in the back piece after attaching the cover but before assembly, using my eyelet plate.  I wanted the look of handmade thread eyelets without the time it takes to hand sew them.  See post Making Thread Eyelets By Machine.

Making Thread Eyelets by Machine
Making Thread Eyelets by Machine
JP Ryan Half Boned Stays - back pieces with machine made thread eyelets and boning inserted.
JP Ryan Half Boned Stays – back pieces with machine made thread eyelets and boning inserted.

The stays are now ready for binding, which has to be done by hand.  They will be bound with bias strips of self fabric.