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Tea Party Winners: Carla Gade's winner is Becky Dempsey, Andrea Boeshaar's winner Caryl Kane, Gina Welborn's winner Jasmine A., Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners book copy -- Lynda Edwards, teacup and saucer -- Wendy Shoults

Friday, November 15, 2013

Adventures in Historically Accurate Costuming, Part 3



Reed for boning, unbleached linen, twill tape ... ready!
So, as things turned out, I wound up in our hometown-to-be the first weekend of November and missed attending the RevWar event in Camden. Finishing out my 18th century ensemble has been put on hold for now, but I’ll talk about my experience with doing a fully boned pair of stays ...

I explained how the cardboard mockup gave me severe cramping across my lower back and hips. I’ve wondered, with my history of back issues (an injury at age 15 made chiropractic care a near necessity over the years), how much of wearing stays was the 18c way of dealing with chronic pain, since at that point they were as much about support as shape, especially among working classes. Infants and children wore specially made stays as well, because society during that era believed that developing bodies needed the support.

Inside of the stays...center is front
Determined to get a rudimentary pair of stays made, I ordered ash boning reed (essentially the same thing used for splining on caned chair seats) and a few other supplies. The wood boning is preferable to other materials because of its flexibility and breathability—using all plastic or metal poses the danger of overheating during summertime wear. For the fabric, I needed three layers: outside, interfacing, and lining. I cut the outer layer from a rough, unbleached linen, the interfacing from white linen left over from my shift, and the lining from the unbleached linen. (I should have switched the interfacing and lining.) I’d made a mockup of cheap muslin and tried it on, and found that it fit well enough I could pretty much just cut out the pieces according to the original pattern. So much for the cardboard mockup being accurate. :-)

Outside of stays
It was also recommended that I not assemble the stays as directed by the pattern (each layer as one), but by pattern piece, sewing the layers together on the boning channels before assembling them as a whole. Also, I made the stays front-lacing as well as back lacing, so I edged the front and back openings alike, following the directions for the back.

Lacing holes--I've hand stitched the edges of one, but not the others!
After sewing in channels and and assembling the two halves of the stays, I inserted one length of boning into each, and made holes down the front and back openings for the lacing (not cutting the fabric, but poking a fine knitting needle through, then a thicker one, and using a heavy embroidery needle to pull the twill tape through the holes for lacings). At that point, there wasn't time to finish out the stays before trying them out for my book launch party.

Pattern for pockets, and other goodies
The fit was amazing! Just enough support and shaping that I shouldn’t have to alter the dress much, if at all. And they are comfortable enough for several hours’ wear, without pain. (No photos of this part, sadly!) I did discover that I'll need to beef up the boning--two lengths per channel--for strength and rigidity. I'll also need to attach the lining before trimming the edges and attaching the binding, which I hear can be a job all its own, depending upon whether I use linen or soft leather. I'm told the soft chamois pieces sold at auto parts stores work great for this.

Pattern for cap
After the book launch party, I’d planned to continue construction on the ensemble—finishing the stays, adding a colonial ladies’ cap and possibly pockets—but all that came to a grinding halt in favor of preparations for my husband to travel to his new job and then my last-minute househunting trip out there. But I have plans to complete the ensemble, after our move.

Any questions on the process? Details you want to ask about? I’m happy to share or clarify!

12 comments:

  1. Wow. Make me one, pretty please? *batting eyes* That was awesome.

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  2. Oh my goodness, that is awesome!! I wanna just hang at your house for a few days. :)

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    1. LOL, Susan, probably not right now! We're neck-deep in preparing for a move at the end of December. But thank you!! I'm glad y'all have enjoyed seeing the process. :-)

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  3. I am so impressed, Shannon, with your attention to detail. No wonder you looked so well put together at the ACFW Conference.

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    1. Ah, thanks so much, Janet! (Now I'm blushing!) I do tend to get TOO wrapped up in details, both with sewing and story research--it's hard finding a balance. :-)

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  4. I'm glad I live in this time period. I sure wouldn't want to wear that contraption!

    Your sewing skill is impressive, Shannon. Give this girl a crochet hook, and I'm happy. Sewing...alas, I have no aptitude for that.

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    1. Me too, Susan! :-) And thanks for your kind words. I felt a little crazy for tackling it, but ... I really did enjoy it!

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  5. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this process with us, Shannon! I used to love sewing and have put stays and interfacing into some garments and that is a difficult process. I don't think my eyes nor fingers could do the work anymore. Love the pics! Hmm, I know someone who has a hat that might work for you.

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    1. And thank YOU for letting me be a voice here! It has been a blessing. <3 Glad you've enjoyed my sharing!

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  6. I used to do a lot of sewing clothing, but never anything like this. And, don't think I would want to. The hardest thing I ever made was a pair of blue jeans and Bluejean jacket. I was so proud of it, but didn't care to make more. Maxie
    mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Skill-wise, I think this was probably on the level of that, Maxie. I wouldn't want to tackle jeans. :-) Never enjoyed trying to get pants to fit properly, and definitely not now, with my mama-pudge!

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