Monday, March 30, 2015

1776 stays FINALLY DONE!!

Whew!! I spent every spare minute of the last two weeks sewing, alternating between Melissa's costume and mine. I finally finished binding my stays last Thursday, just in time for Sherwood Forest on Saturday. It was so much fun. I had a glass of mead, a shredded troll sandwich, and frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick. I really wanted another glass of mead, but my allergies and sinuses were really bad, which often triggers my migraines. I already had a slight headache, and it was a super windy day with loads of dust and pollen in the air. I learned the hard way not to drink too much mead when my sinuses are acting up.

We got tons of compliments. In the previous two years, we've gotten precisely two compliments (one per year). Actually, those compliments were directed at Melissa, even though our costumes were the same (except made from different fabric) because I made them. But Melissa is beautiful and carries herself with confidence whereas I feel like a shy little mouse.

So I counted at least seven compliments this year, and many of them were from ladies who said they were experienced seamstresses. Many of them asked questions about the boning and a couple of them even called them stays, which is when you know someone knows their stuff. Others called them bodices or corsets, but I didn't care. It made all that hard, tedious work so worthwhile.

Here are a few pics.

I hate my face. Why couldn't God have blessed me with a nice jawline?
My stays...
Melissa's stays...

I love the lacing on these.
Look at that pattern matching!

A few construction notes... For each pair of stays, I used 3/16" half-oval basketry reed for the boning, and just put two in each boning channel, flat sides together. Boning channels were 1/2" wide. For the front lacing strips, I used 1/4" heavy duty steel boning. For the back lacing strips, I used regular 1/4" spring steel boning.

I bound my stays using very thin, soft, flexible leather. Melissa used narrow bias tape, but I can't remember if it was single- or double-fold. I made Melissa's stays but she did the binding on them and did a great job! She's never even done it before!

I know the edges aren't supposed to touch.

I shaved a little off the side back seam for Melissa's stays and she loved how snug they were. I accidentally cut the armholes of her stays too big. Mine felt snug but I could breath in them easily, and I wished I could have laced them tighter.

They were extremely comfortable, the reed boning held up beautifully, and the style is just gorgeous. Only two pattern pieces (okay, three if you could the shoulder strap), but I couldn't imagine achieving a better fit with a pattern that has more pieces. They can really cinch in your waist, and they make your bust area look amazing. I highly recommend the 1776 stays pattern from Corsets and Crinolines.

Monday, March 2, 2015

1776 Stays - First try-on and a few notes

Isabella's comment about front-lacing stays making it easier to get dressed reminded me that I didn't have to wait for someone to lace me up so that I could try on my stays and see how they fit. So I duly pulled on my chemise, petticoat, and skirt, took a deep breath and said some prayers, and slipped on the stays and laced them up. Then looked in the mirror and felt like jumping up and down with excitement.

The fit is AMAZING. The silhouette they give is AMAZING! I believe it would look good on anyone, any body type, any size. And being that this was the first pattern I've ever gotten from a book, scaled up, and then took the time to fit it to my figure, it felt like a MIRACLE that my efforts actually WORKED!! Can I be considered a sewist of intermediate skill level now???

They aren't perfect. For one thing, somehow I made them too big and the front and back lacing channels close completely, which is a bummer because I like to lace tight because the stays always loosen up after a few hours. They are tight, don't get me wrong. But I could stand to lace them a lot tighter. I expected either the front or the back to close completely, but not both. I can't think how to fix this at this point because taking the stays in at the side seam would move the shoulder straps/armscye back too much, and that part is already borderline about-to-not-fit. But that's easily fixed in the pattern and in fact I've traced Melissa's pattern to move the shoulder straps a little more towards center front and have taken in the side-back seam a bit. For myself, perhaps I can make a stomacher with a busk to take up some space so that when they are all laced up, it will help keep them snug as they loosen up.

Also, I have no idea if these two tabs at the side are supposed to be touching or not, nor do I know how to fix it. But I don't think it's a glaring mistake.

I bought a lovely piece of soft, thin leather off of ebay to use for binding. It's a little thicker than chamois, not much, but it's just a little bit more difficult to get a pin into to hold it in place while I'm sewing it on.

These little clips from Dritz (or was it Clover?), which I found in the quilting section at Joann's, are PERFECT for this job.

My needle wasn't doing a very great job at piercing the binding, so I bought some leather needles and some embroidery needles. A couple of bloggers I read mentioned not wanting to use leather needles because they leave too big a hole, but I wanted to try them anyway.

This bit was done entirely with a leather needle. I've taken as good of a close-up as I can, and I see nothing to concern me re: size of the hole left by a leather needle. I used Dritz leather needles and I used the smallest one in the package:

I was very happy with the leather needles as they go through the leather quite easily. That being the case, they also go through FLESH quite easily and I got a couple of nasty cuts in my fingers until I got used to using the needle.

Last night I bound a tab with a new embroidery needle and it worked just fine. I don't know what kind of needle my old one was (a dull one. Haha!) but I threw it away and I think I'll just use the embroidery needle for now because I don't want to get blood on my white stays due to carelessness with the leather needles.

Oh, and it seems to take me about an hour to bind each tab. At this rate it's going to take me right up till the last week of Sherwood Forest before my costume is ready! I am quite relieved to know that my skirt and chemise are now done (except to sew ribbon ties onto the cuffs of the chemise) and that the stays fit. Now I just need to make Melissa's stuff, but I think I'm going to have to teach her to bind the stays herself because of timing issues. I did try my stays on her and they fit her perfectly, so at least I don't have to make muslins to fit her.