Tuesday, April 16, 2019

1740s-1760s Stays: Boned Mockup


Nutmeg is ready to chase some lacing.
I had to rescue the stays before we had a rat's nest.
Was making a boned mockup important? Could I have cut a toile and tried that on? Yes, but...a soft toile just didn't seem sufficient.

There was a lot to test out: besides a good fit, I want truly long stays and needed to see if I could sit in really long ones. Being able to sit down in a garment is pretty key. I wanted to test, too, how the bowing of the stomacher would look and how many rails to add. I wanted to have a long look at the overall silhouette: did it achieve the general lines of all those paintings we looked at in the last post?

Making a full mockup wasn't my idea: I got it from Morgan Donner and her video about her 17th century stays mockup.

So, I went ahead and took the time to make a bone mockup, spending perhaps 4 hours with getting the pattern on paper, maybe 5 or 6 sewing the channels, another five or six finishing the rest of it. Each of these steps in smaller chunks of time to fit it into Life (TM). That's significant time to spend on a mockup, but as I've seen by the results, it was really worth the effort.

Pulling a pattern from the drawing

Here's the pattern again, the well-known 1740's stays from Norah Waugh. I don't have a printer handy, and didn't have the patience to transfer the design to full scale on gridded paper.

So how did I do it? It's simple, if slightly scary, in that the measurements aren't exact. Copy the design right on your computer screen. Here's how I did it.
  • Enlarge the picture on your computer screen until the ruler printed on the corner of the pattern matches a real ruler held up to it. 
  • Place a sheet of bond paper over the screen. 
  • Gently trace through the paper. 
  • When you run out of paper, remember roughly where you were, put up another sheet of paper, or shift the image on the screen, and keep going. 
  • Tape everything together when you're done, overlapping the paper pieces where you traced anything twice, until everything lines up.
Once I had the pattern traced, I cut the pieces out, taped them together, and tried them on to see how they fit. The resulting stays were just a bit too small.

So I did the same thing again, but enlarged the screen until the pattern ruler was just a wee larger than the real one. Are there potential problems with enlarging the entire pattern until it's larger than life size? Yes, but in this case the change was very slight, and I hoped to have less enlarging to do during the fitting. You see, I had very -- very -- roughly measured the distance around the original pieces onscreen and estimated them to sort of fit a medium-sized person.

Making the mockup

I used an old cotton sheet for the fabric pieces because it's non-stretchy, fairly strong, and reuses a sheet too worn to be slept on. I cut the pattern with huge seam allowances so I could expand the stays as needed.

Then using Sanna of Rococo Atelier's tutorial for speedy stays for instructions on sewing the mockup, I put everything together. Because there are so many tutorials available, we'll go through this part quickly.

Nutmeg assisted with the process.  Oop, here she is again, hopping up onto the chair arm as I type, and meowing. She doesn't think I need to be typing...

After drawing the stays pieces on the fabric, I sewed the the outlines of the stays and made boning channels enough to stiffen the stays.

By the way, part of the time I used a 1911 Willcox and Gibbs chainstitch treadle sewing machine to do the stitching. For fun, here's a shot of it at work.


For ease in working, I placed multiple pieces of the stays per square of fabric -- it was simply easier to keep track of the fabric that way.


Somewhere along the line I changed out the sewing machine to the portable Singer 27 handcrank sewing machine. A chainstitch machine makes gorgeous, precise stitches, but chain stitches are built of a single thread, and when I was snipping around, I'd cut a thread accidentally, and oop, the seam would start coming undone. Lockstitches are better for this kind of work. Again, for fun, here is a view of the Singer.


Oh dear, can't help it. Nutmeg was just too cute sunning herself by stretching up on and nibbling one of our windmill palms, which we keep indoors in the winter. Alas, if you're going to read this blog, you're going to get too many kitty pictures.


I used split cane for the mockup boning. Because it was so weak, each channel needed two pieces of cane.


Here below are all the pieces were boned, including the stomacher. For some unknown reason I sewed the stomacher channels in a strong vee shape. Whatever.

Note the three horizontal rails down from the top of the stomacher. Just as Sanna did, I fitted the boning in intersecting channels rather than adding extra fabric to the stomacher back for more channels. I'll need to do differently for the final pair because those rails need to be strong.


Here below is how the rails curve the stomacher. Imagine the curve that can be made right the way down the stomacher if more rails are added.


Adding the eyelets to sheeting was harder than I thought it would be. Sheeting is made of closely woven thin threads, and the bone stiletto would not go through -- not without risking the stiletto tip. Had to start the eyelets with a giant needle.


Eyelet making took a while, even though each eyelet was pretty casually constructed. I made a significant error, in that I offset the eyelets for spiral lacing the same on both sides of the back, when actually an eyelet should be offset at the top on one side, and at the bottom on the other. Have to correct that when making the final pair.

For some reason the front opening's eyelets are not marked on the Waugh pattern as offset, but it didn't seem to affect the fitting. For the final pair, feel I should make offset outlets after all. It wouldn't do to have the fronts leaning crookedly.


The boned mockup ready to lace, below.


Nutmeg helped to control the lacing. She thought it was a useful job, and one she's suited for. 


The fitting

I did not lace the stays mockup nearly as firmly as I will the final pair. First, I wasn't sure the cane and sheeting would hold up. Second, I wanted to see how the fit would be when the stays were laced semi-loosely.

Unexpectedly, the mockup mostly fit.

The top of the stomacher is too high not because it was cut that way, but because I left the caning pieces too long. Easy fix.

The stomacher lacing starts too high up on the side front pieces: I will move the top eyelets almost an inch down.

The straps are pinned for convenience, but when worn, the front of the strap will just kiss the top of 
the side front, because the straps will be laced shut with ribbons.

If you look at the front peak, or bottom point, you will see that it sits very low on the torso. I sat down on a low, cushioned chair, and found sitting fine. Sitting did not push the stays up, something I worried would occur. The rise from the front point to the high hip is acute enough that the stays do not dig in anywhere.


I need just barely a little bit of extra fabric between the side front and the side back, just towards the bottom, so I can sew them further down towards the bottom and increase the shaping.

There is plenty of room under the arms, but the side front comes back far enough that none of the bust squooshes out.

Look at the top of the stomacher and see the outward bowing there. I want to retain that. Am working out what material to make the rails of. The current plan is to bend some pieces from hangers into shape and bind them to German plastic boning that has been already shaped using heat. Or I might use German boning only and reshape the curve when body heat distorts it.

Look at the lower part of the stays' front and see how there is a tiny bit of curving outwards. When I build in small reinforcing layers of buckram, and add the small, trowel-shaped point in wood, and add the busk, that line -- I really hope -- is going to flatten out.



The backs were laced loosely, with about a 2" gap.

You can see, again, where there needs to be a little more boned fabric at the lower side so that the side seam can be sewn further down. I will not add much space, just a half inch, maybe, to preserve the nipped waistline. I will also sew that area with doubled linen thread because the stays will take a lot of strain there. You can feel the pull on the mockup. It's rather obvious that this is an area where there'd be strain, but I'd not have thought of it if I hadn't made a mockup. 

Oog, not a good picture, in so many ways. However, it does show the stays' fit. 


Thus ended the fitting and that's where we stand for now.

I have a good deal of Lana and Nina's fleece to sort and get to the fiber mill, the boat needs to go from storage at the farm to our garage here at the house, and Easter is coming, with visiting family. It'll be a bit before we say hello again.

Meantime, a very happy spring -- or fall, if you're in that dreamy spot, New Zealand!

1 comment:

ZipZip said...

Dear Val,

You're getting ready to move? Eep, I sure hope it goes easily -- or as easily as a move ever can :}

Totally agree, would love to be able to skip the underpinnings and go right to the fluff of the dress. Sigh.

Very best to you,

Natalie