Monday, January 20, 2014

YOF - Starting (Over) With Stays

My first major project of the Year of Foundations will be stays.  My first attempt did not go well, as I didn't really know at the time what I was doing.  I was using a lightweight cotton broadcloth for the outer layer, and unbleached muslin for the inner layer.  I have since learned that I need much denser weave for both layers, with a separate lining and optional fashion fabric on the outside.  My other mistake was in using 1/2" reed boning, which is much too wide and thick.  I also put the boning in all the pieces before sewing them together, which is probably not the easiest way to do things.

When they were all sewn together - but before I'd put any eyelets or the bones at center back in - I tried them on with the help of my friend Sarah, who was also my roommate at the time.  She used large safety pins to hold the back edges together, and marked some alterations for me with a Sharpie.  At this point I resigned myself to taking out some of the seams, adjusting bones, and sewing them back together.  I also noticed while wearing them just briefly that the sharp edges of the reed were starting to wear through my flimsy fabric.

I had put a lot of time into these, and was getting rather frustrated.  I came to the realization that it would be best to scrap this attempt and start from scratch, which was really discouraging.  All of this happened back in June or July, and I hadn't touched them since.  Then one day about a month ago I was browsing through The Aristocrat's livejournal, drooling over all her gorgeous stays, when I found this tidbit:  "First I make a boned mock-up to be sure it really fits."

Lightbulb!  Suddenly I didn't have a worthless garment anymore; I had a boned mock-up!  I hadn't wasted all those hours hand-sewing around the tabs after all!  So I finished it enough so that I could try it on for real, albeit very hurriedly.  I punched eyelet holes with my awl, but didn't bother binding them with thread.  I'd sunk too much time into this project already.  I also used The Mantua Maker at Midnight's excellent advice, and steamed the upper edge at the back to shape it in towards my body.  The reed bends easily when wet, and holds its shape beautifully.  Now I could finally test the true fit!

I actually got into these by myself, which is why the bottom three eyelets are laced backwards. :p
You can see the Sharpie lines Sarah drew on this side.  
I think the shoulder straps are set a bit too wide at the front.  
But overall I'm happy with the shape.  :)  
I wore them around the house for about three hours, and they were surprisingly comfortable!  The only thing that bothered me was the front of the armscye, which cuts in too far for comfort.  I made some additional marks to correct this in the final pattern.

I also tried on my Green Swallowtail Jacket over the mock-stays to see how it fit with them on.  Happily, it seems to fit pretty well!  I don't think I need to make any major alterations to it, anyway.

It looks much more polished now!  I still need to add eyelets to the front, as I've been pinning it closed in front when I wear it.  It is period-accurate to do so, but it's also a pain.  :p

After wearing the mock-stays for three hours, I had Brian the Engineer tighten the laces until the center back edges met.

I probably won't wear them this way very often, but it is nice to know I can.  I could still breathe fine, and the Striped Silk Gown I bought last summer fits very well over the fully-tightened mock-stays.  I wore them fully tightened for about an hour, and once again they were comfortable apart from the armholes being too small in the front.

I made a new pattern based on the adjustments marked on the mock-up.

I've moved the shoulder strap over and cut down the armscye for comfort.  
I've washed and dried my coutil and fashion fabric (I've chosen a heavier, slightly darker blue cotton) and now I'm ready to cut out my new stays!  That'll be tomorrow's project.  Wish me luck!

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