Construction Process Resource
The book I used to create the pattern for my stays (Stays and Corsets: Historical Patterns Translated for the Modern Body by Mandy Barrington) gives very little in the way of construction information for stays (process, materials, and details). I found this to be really disappointing.
Thankfully, however, there are other resources that one can go to for this type of information. I chose to reference Patterns of Fashion 5 (PofF5), authored by Janet Arnold, Jenny Tiramani, Luca Costigliolo, Sebastien Passot, Armelle Lucas and Johannes Pietsch.
The great thing is that I could go to PoF5! It had not yet been released when I started this project, but I have it in hand now… and I must say that it is an absolute gold mine of information! There is so much research, expertise, and detail included. There are so many color photos. There are x rays of extant garments. And of course there are patterns. And information about patterning and making both in the past and now.
I cannot do anything but rave about this book! It is almost double the length of the earlier Patterns of Fashion books. I actually sat down and read this book cover to cover, which is not how I usually deal with pattern books (usually I read the bits that are relevant to a certain project). This book is amazing!
On To The Construction Process
Despite creating a pattern from another source, PoF5 was invaluable for the construction process of my stays. Using information in PoF5, I decided to make my stays from an outer layer of linen, 2 layers of linen buckram, and a lining (that will likely be linen).
To start, I cut out the exterior and 2 layers of heavy linen for the interlining. Below is a photo of my inner heavy linen with the pattern laid on top. I used stash fabric and found a piece that just barely fit my pieces. No seam allowance is included in the pattern, so you can see that I really eked my pieces out!
To nerd out on history fun and try something new, I decided to make my own stiffened buckram for the inner layers. So, on a hot August afternoon I was to be found sitting on my deck dripping with sweat while painting gum tragacanth onto my linen pieces instead of being inside where it was cool.
So what is gum tragacanth? It is a stiffening agent used to make linen buckram, which is a material used to stiffen 18th century stays.
Burnley and Trowbridge has a great video about making buckram that describes fum tragacanth and Leimomi, The Dreamstress, has a great blog post discussing gum tragacanth and xanthan gum. The post includes videos and lots of wonderful how-to information.
I used a paintbrush to spread my gum tragacanth on my linen. By the end I was definitely getting a little sloppy because I wanted to get out of the sun as quickly as possible, but I was still impressed with myself for the lengths I go to sometimes for the sake of historical exploration!
Below is a photo of my set up. Cardboard from the recycle, a dish-shaped piece of packaging from the recycle, and a paint brush.
I used a full 4.4 oz bottle of Eco-Flo Gum Tragacanth for my double layer linen interlining. In the dish you can see the consistency of it. It was wonderful not to need to mix or heat it, as you would need to do with xanthan gum.
To be honest, I didn’t notice too much of a difference in the linen after applying the gum tragacanth. (This could be because I was already using a heavy linen?) It also seems, and makes sense, that the stiffness has been reduced as I’ve worked with the fabrics. Regardless, I am still entertained and enriched by my experiment.
After the gum tragacanth dried, I flat lined my 3 layers for each piece (2 layers of heavy linen and the exterior linen) and marked my boning channels. I found that using Frixion pens worked well, because the marks easily erase with a hot iron after the channels are sewn (and the pen marks don’t rub off while being sewn, as with chalk). Magic!
There was lots… and lots… of sewing boning channels, as you can see blow.
After all my channels were complete (and I’d pushed in all those narrow zip ties I ranted about in my first post about these stays), I moved on to the eyelets. There are eyelets for the center back closure and eyelets for front adjustability, as on the inspiration Chertsey stays (which you can see in my third post about these stays).
I realized that I hadn’t cut my center back pieces with enough fabric to wrap around past the eyelets (though I didn’t have enough fabric to do that, anyway!), so I pieced strips together and whip stitched them on to make the extension, as you can see on the right side of the next photo.
After the eyelets were done, I assembled my pieces with whip stitches.
I whip stitched the seam allowances down as well, thinking that might help make the stays fit smoothly for a fitting.
That basically brings the project up to the unfinished state it is in now, minus a few fittings and adding that back gusset.
You can read previous posts in this series here:
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part III: The Pattern
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings
3 thoughts on “c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part IV: Early Construction Details”
Are the places where the cross boning occurs, as in the front two pieces at the top, two whole bones that lay on top of each other?
I have been contemplating getting the PoF5 but wasn’t sure; thanks to your praise I will spend the money for it.
All that work…
Don’t those handsewn channels look nice: the dotted lines across the fabric are so pretty against the linen color.
I don’t suppose there is any way to get more of the main fabrics to make two new fronts?
Having just finished a working mockup of a pair of 1790s cupped canvas stays, I hear you about the stomach-churning try-on after so much handsewing yields an result with Big Issues. My stays weren’t intended to be a mockup, but they sure are now.
Very best indeed,
Natalie in KY
…so much work! I appreciate your commiseration!
You certainly understand putting inordinate amounts of time into projects for less than hoped for results! So sorry to hear that a foray into a new pair of 1790s stays is also frustrating! At least we can both learn from our attempts. 🙂
No, I don’t think I could get more fabric. This is a number of years old and from a seller that tends to turn things over quickly. But piecing is period, so I’m forging ahead!
I agree that the boning channels look lovely! And they are fun to sew in their own slow fashion. 🙂
Thank you for the kind comments and following along with my project!