Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cotton/linen Stays June 4-? 2009

Hello all,

I've started making a set of stays and I thought that you might like to see them, and their progress.

They are fully boned and contain 74 German spring steel bones, 48 hand turned button holes, 1.5meters of cotton ticking, 4.4 meters of linen twill tape, .5 meters of light blue linen. This set of stays are front and back lacing with no straps. The customer this is made for works in the UK at a small museum as an interpreter. If it seems like a lot to any of you its for a lady with a larger bust. Her measurements are
bust - 51"
waist - 40"
Center back torso length - 17"
Front Neckline Depth - 14"
bust to waist - 6.5"
Total torso - 40"
Side torso length - 10"

the stays measure
Bust - 38"
Waist - 26"
Center Front length to waist - 12"
Center side length to waist - 9"

The tabs at the bottom are approx. 2" long and rest over the waist to help support up the petticoats and skirts of the gown.

I use 1/4" German steel boning ordered from Farthingales, a really great company in Ontario, Canada. This boning doesn't rust, bend or break - it's very heavy, however.

Cotton thread is all that I use. 100% cotton quilters thread. It's stronger than regular thread and sews almost like its pre-waxed. My button hole thread is 40% polyester/60% cotton - I know, I know its got poly in it... I hit myself all the time for it but its the only thing I can find that sews remotely well.

I received this order quite a few weeks ago but due to circumstances the customer had back surgery and life of course takes over. We've both finally come back to this and have got the measurements and started this project.

I started with drafting the pattern - this took about 3 hours. I use a material with little red dots spaced 1" apart for my draft paper. this can be bought at any local sewing store and works great for drafting patterns.
I made this corset from 3 pcs for each side, L&R. being for a larger busted woman drafting these was a little harder than I had done before. It was a great challenge but it looks like it cam out great - you tell me.

I cut out the pattern and cut out 4 of each piece, 12 pcs of fabric in total. I then sewed 2pcs so I had a base for the boning channels. I now has 6 pcs, 3 L, 3R to put boning in. I drafted the boning channels and penciled them on.

I then machine sewed the channels for the corset. haha I think that waiting for my hubby to get home from work (he was on duty -Army- today... Saturday... I guess I can't complain. Really puts things in perspective when today is June 6th of all days) so he can use the bolt cutters to cut the boning for me.... I can't do it at all! I still have some to cut for the other side...

I've been working on one side more than the other, as you can see by the photo's I've got one side almost done. I then sewed the 3 pcs together Front, center, and back. The blue linen outer shell was then basted on the top along with the linen twill tape.

Then the dubious task of stitching on the cotton twill..... ugh. Anyone that has every sewn on any amount of lacing or twill tape - you share my pain.

Well its all done on one side and I started the button holes. As you can see by the photo's the back is done... 1/4 of the button holes done... I now I might go overboard in the holes, but I have found in my own wearing that stays feel more secure and lace better with a few more holes. I'd rather put one too many that you can skip, than not enough that you're feeling loose in your stays.

My fingers hurt now from all the feverish sewing. I'll have more in a few days when the stays are done and the other side is done.

ooouuuuccchhhhhh. off to try a few more button holes - it will probably turn into 5 then 6.... now I'm just procrastinating :P


  1. Hi -- I wandered over here from your etsy shop. I just ordered a set of stays for later this fall, and it's exciting to be able to see some behind-the-scenes construction photos!

    Although I purchased the stays for circus performance, I also am a professor of history (medieval europe). It's likely for this reason that my onstage characters all have historic elements in their costumes.

  2. Hi,

    I just ordered a set of stays from you in red, and then I noticed your link to this blog. It's exciting to learn more about the process of construction!

    Although I ordered the stays for performance with my arts circus, by day I am a professor of history (medieval europe). For this reason, I suppose, many of my performance characters have historic elements to their costumes.

    Looking forward to this!

  3. Hello. I greatly enjoy your blog and learn a lot from your posts. I am a living historian and sew all of my own clothes. I am interested in how you determine the size of the corset you describe her. That is: the ladies waist is 40in. and the waist of the stays is 16in. I would like to learn how to determine the size of the corset to the person. I would appreciate your input.
    Deborah, Virginia, USA

  4. Deborah,

    I noticed my mistake, the waist measurment should be 26" - sorry!!

    I draft all of my stays patterns as you can see in the photo's. Since these stays were front and back lacing there needed to be about 4" in the back and 2-4 in the front.

    Since the unstayd waist was 40" and stays take off approximatly 8" without tight lacing. This makes a measurment of 26" :) If she does decide to tight lace for an event there is the open spaces at the front and back lacing that can be utilized.

    I can draft a pattern for your measurments if you would like, just send me a message to ''

  5. Thank you MissFlora. I will forward my measurements. I am so pleased that I found your blog. Have a wonderful day.