Friday, January 27, 2017

Regency Stays - Finally!

I started making myself a set of Regency stays back in the summer or 2015, and finally finished them over a year later. They are so comfortable to wear, I'm a little upset that I didn't make them sooner!

I used the fantastic Laughing Moon #115 pattern, and an old sheet for my fabric. First I made a mock-up of my size according to the pattern instructions, and tried it on.

I messed up when cutting out the front - it was supposed to be cut on the fold.
I used eyelet tape to enable the mock-up to be laced up in the back, positioning the eyelets where the pattern would place them on the finished garment.

The only alteration that I needed to make was shortening the straps slightly. I have sloping shoulders, so this was not surprising. Otherwise the fit was pretty perfect! I'm lucky to have an average-length torso, I guess.

One of the great things about this pattern is how easy it is to adjust to your size. The bust and hip gussets give so much flexibility, and all of the math has already been done for you!

My dress form, Elsa, is not quite as busty as I am. 
After fitting the mock-up, I cut out the real thing and the lining, and then let it languish for months before I finally put it together. When I did, I was surprised at how quickly it went! I had been putting it off for so long that it became something I dreaded. For no reason. Anyone else do this?

Anyway, I traced the lines for the cording based on the pattern, since this was my first attempt at these. Next time I might try a different cording pattern. I messed up on the front piece, though. I didn't pay attention to the side I had already traced when I traced the other side, and when I got done I realized too late that they did not match up AT ALL:

I highlighted the horizontal lines with MS Paint, since they were hard to see in the photo.
I re-traced the horizontal lines, since they were the most egregious and obvious.

I thought of re-tracing the rest of the lines on one side, but I decided that it didn't look terrible this way. It has character now. :p

Not exact, but close enough.
Before I could sew the cording channels, I needed to add the channels for the bones at the center back. I deviated from the pattern here by working a buttonhole at the top of the channel so that I could remove the bones for laundering. I planned to use 1/4" red boning for these:

I did the same thing with the busk:

I made the buttonhole 1/4" below the top edge, so that it would stay closed but still be easy to get the busk out.

My busk was a paint stick, as suggested by the pattern. It was longer than I needed.

I marked the bottom edge with the busk inserted in the channel:

I then measured up a 1/4" from that line to account for the binding, and cut off the bottom at this line:

I sanded the paint stick well, and rounded down the corners with a heavy-duty nail file.

I stitched the cording lines by machine. At first I was leaving long thread ends which I could knot by hand instead of backstitching at the ends.

Then halfway through, I realized that I could just keep sewing one continuous line by keeping the needle down and turning the work at the end of one side of the channel, then continuing along the other side without cutting the thread.

I don't have any photos of the cording process, because honestly it went very quickly and I was having too much fun! I know, it shocked me, too. I followed the pattern instructions and used a tapestry needle, kitchen twine, and a needle-nosed pliers. I don't recall running into any problems, aside from the fact that the pliers made a couple of small holes in my fabric, but I attribute that to the fact that my fabric came from an old sheet, and not a flaw in the technique.

All corded and the busk inserted
Once it was all corded and assembled, it was time to add the eyelets at center back. I went back to my mock-up to find the best way to arrange the eyelets for spiral-lacing.

My first attempt looked fine in the dress form, but I ran into a problem when pulling up the laces to tighten:

This arrangement pulled the top right edge down when tightening, which is not ideal. I looked at one of my reference images on Pinterest for a better idea:

Following this example, I re-laced the mock-up:

This arrangement worked much better for pulling up the laces:

I then marked the placement of the eyelet holes according to this pattern, spacing them 1 1/2" apart:

I worked the eyelets by hand (again, no photos of this), which is something I weirdly enjoy. I remember a time when I HATED hand-sewing, and making buttonholes especially. Now I love it, find it relaxing, and buttonholes/eyelets are among my favorite things to make. Go figure.

With the eyelets done, I could finally try on my new stays! I laced them up with waxed cord. Alas! Tragedy:

Apparently my reed boning was not strong enough for the back channels. Or the side channels, for that matter. Reed is great - and period-accurate - in large quantities where the stress of being laced onto a body is spread evenly across the garment. However, one reed bone by itself is not strong enough for this strain, and will break:

I removed the defective bones, but what to replace them with? I didn't want to use metal, partially because steel bones are expensive and I would have to order them and wait for shipping and I wanted to be done with this project now that I was so close! And partially because I wasn't sure how historically accurate metal bones would be to the Regency. Then I remembered that other historical costumers have used zip ties as artificial whalebone! So I made a trip back to Ace Hardware (which is where I got my paint stick).

I wasn't sure which thickness would work best, so I bought a variety. I figured I can always use the rest for a future corset project. 

I ended up using the 18" Heavy Duty ties, which are 3/8" wide, for the center back channels since those would take the most stress. I used the 14.5" Heavy Duty ties, which are 5/16" wide, for the side seam channels. I recall having to widen the channels for the new bones to fit, but that was a simple matter.

(I did keep the reed bones next to the bust gussets, since they are much shorter and under much less strain. They have not failed me yet.)

Now I could finally wear my stays! They fit beautifully, and all that was left to do was bind them! And binding Regency stays is WAY easier than binding 18th Century stays! I used white double-fold bias tape, sewing it on one side by machine, then folding it around to enclose the raw edge and slip-stitching it on the other side by hand.

I have no photos of the stays on me yet - at least not without a dress over them - and since I'm currently pregnant I won't get any for a few months yet. However, here they are modeled by Anna my dress form:

Anna doesn't fill out the bust gussets very well.

Not too bad for my first attempt at flossing!
I finished them just in time to wear at the Regency Ladies' Retreat in September, which I still need to blog about. I was very happy with the fit and comfort, not to mention how much better they made my dresses look! For example, here is me wearing my Dove Gray Drawstring dress in June:

And me wearing the same dress at the retreat, with the stays underneath:

Notice how in the first photo, I kind of look pregnant? That's always a danger with a gathered skirt at the high waist, but with the stays the front of the skirt hangs flat. The funny thing is that in the second photo, I actually AM pregnant! :p We had just found out that week, so I wasn't showing yet. Well, not in the stomach area, anyway. Oh, and the lift they give to the bust is incredible. Very supportive.

You may also notice that my posture is much improved by wearing the stays. I have never had very good posture, much to my mother's chagrin, but the stays actually make it uncomfortable to slouch. I might, after the baby comes, incorporate them into my daily wear. But in the meantime I should really make some short stays from the same pattern, to wear during the remainder of my pregnancy. (I'm due June 2, by the way.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

HSM - Regency Bodiced Petticoat

My entry for the January Historical Sew Monthly challenge - Firsts & Lasts - is my new bodiced petticoat:

I made it at the beginning of this month to wear under my new Sheer Striped Gown. I even did it in the right order, making the petticoat first and fitting the gown over it!

Jazz decided to keep me company while I took pictures.
As discussed in the Sheer Striped Gown post, I made this one slightly different from my yellow bodiced petticoat, which features a flat skirt front and pleated skirt back. I gathered this skirt into the waistband the whole way around, as I knew I would need more room in the front for my growing baby bump.

I also cut the bodice a size larger, as I have definitely grown in that area! So this petticoat does not fit my dress form very well, but it fits me perfectly.

I used hooks and thread eyes to fasten the bodice in the back, instead of buttons and buttonholes. This had the virtue of being quicker to sew, and also makes for a smoother surface under the sheer dress in the back. My wonderful husband, Brian the Engineer, helped me with fitting the bodice to myself.

As before, I took up extra length in the skirt with tucks. 

The skirt itself is just one cut of the full width of my 108" wide cotton muslin, rather than the shaped panels that the pattern calls for. This way I didn't have to finish any long skirt seams on the inside, which take forever. I just used the selvedges.

Jazz also decided to inspect my work.
She seems to approve.
The Challenge:  Firsts & Lasts

Material:  108" wide cotton muslin

Pattern:  La Mode Bagatelle

Year:  1805ish

Notions:  cotton bias tape, cotton twill tape, reed boning, metal hooks

How historically accurate is it?  Reasonably historically accurate as far as pattern and materials, but it's entirely machine-sewn. I'll give it 85%

Hours to complete:  Roughly 6

First worn:  January 9 for a photo shoot with the Sheer Striped Gown

Total cost:  I used approximately 2 yards of 108" wide cotton muslin from JoAnn's, which I believe is normally $9.99/yard - but I would have purchased it with at least a 50% off coupon, so call it $10. All notions came from the stash.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Winter Blues

It's always exciting when it snows in this area of Virginia!  We got 6.5 inches - as measured on our back porch - the first weekend in January, and I took advantage of the opportunity for a wintry photo shoot in the backyard. I would have liked to have gone up to Williamsburg or even Newport News Park, but the roads were too treacherous. Luckily our backyard is quite pretty in the snow, and Brian the Engineer is really good at taking photos of me in any environment.

I wore my new Sheer Striped Gown and white bodiced petticoat with my Blue Wool Spencer from last winter, but this photo shoot was really all about the hat!

It's my first Shocking Bad Hat by the incredibly talented Rebecca, and I've been aching to show it off ever since I first got it back in September! I had given Rebecca free rein of the design, as she has impeccable style. I told her only that I wanted a hat to coordinate with my Blue Wool Spencer. I would say she succeeded!

My Hartfield boots made deep footprints in the snow.
The backyard critters' footprints were much shallower.
I believe this tunnel was made by a rabbit:

Baby bump!

Still in love with my TARDIS-blue leather gloves!

Seriously, though. THIS HAT.

I love how this dress looks from the back!