31 December 2014

Late 1700's Panniers

Don't you hate it when you spend hours making something you're not even going to use?

Well, I don't hate these panniers, but they're going to be sitting in my closet for a long time. Before I really knew what style dress I was going to make, I decided that I needed panniers. One major reason was that they seemed to be a staple undergarment for most of the 1700's, and they seemed really fun to make.

late 1700's paniers

After doing more research, I decided a bumroll was going to work best with the robe à l'Anglaise retroussée that I wanted to make. I fretted over this for quite a while, as my skirt supports would influence the way all my petticoats would be made. 

panier back veiw

I followed The Dreamstress's amazing Pannier-Along (link at the bottom of the post) and handsewed everything. This was the first thing i'd sewn entirely by hand, which was a small achievement for me.

panier stitching hand sewn

I picked up some lovely oatmeal coloured cotton that looked very pannier-esque. When I got around to adding the reed, however, I realized that the weave was far too loose and was prone to warping. Lesson learnt. Luckily everything held in place, and I added some extra reinforcement in places where the reeds could poke through. 

panier side veiw

The reed was ordered off Fishpond.co.nz of all places. They were the only New Zealand supplier that I could find who had basket weaving supplies, and the price worked out about the same as shipping it from American based stores. If anybody knows of a New Zealand store that sells coils of reed, i'd love to know!

I'm pleased with how they've turned out, and they give a very nice shape that requires me to walk sideways through doors. Now I just need to make a dress to fit them!

Click the image to be taken to the Pannier-Along homepage:


24 December 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays

After i'd covered my last eyelet, I put on my stays and grabbed my boyfriend to do a little photoshoot!

The stays fit almost perfectly, just as the mockup did. I had a little trouble with the straps slipping, but that was most likely due to the oversized ribbon ties and me not knowing how tight to tie them.

The neckline of my chemise is rounded, but threaded with a ribbon to gather it. This meant I could adjust the neckline to match the stays. I was pretty please with how the neckline and  my decolletage looked.

There was some wrinkling around the sides of the stays, but the front and back both sit nicely. The lacing on the back isn't parallel all the way down, unfortunately. I wore them again later on and still couldn't get the lacing quite parallel over my hips. It's not ideal, but it's not major.

When I tried the stays on to fit the arm straps I accidentally broke a reed, and noticed it just in time to replace it before I completed the binding. I'm terrified of breaking another reed, but I could probably get a more conical shape with the tabs flared out more if I tried. Maybe after the stays have adjusted to my body i'll lace tighter.

Facts and figures:

Outer fabric - 1m Cotton broadcloth
Middle fabric -  1m Cotton duck
Lining - 1m Cotton quilting fabric

Thread - A mix of cotton and polyester
Boning - #6 (4.5mm) Round Reed
Binding - Polyester
Ribbons - Polyester grosgrain and double satin

How historically accurate are they?

The reed boning is authentic, although whalebone would have been a better choice for a higher class pair of stays. The pattern from Corsets and Crinolines is based on an extant garment.

The fabric and thread would have been linen however, and there would have been no polyester. Also, the majority of the stitching was done by machine. I haven't yet found any existing stays with embroidery on them. The outer fabric is sometimes richly patterned silk, but no outright embroidery.
The metal eyelets are definitely not period, even if they are hidden! 

Maybe 50% accurate if i'm being generous?

I learnt so much making these, if I was to make another pair they would turn out radically different. Some parts were fun, particularly the embroidery and working with the reed, but i'm so glad they're finished.

17 December 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Six

The stays are done!

This post contains the last few steps I went through to finish them off, although there wasn't much to show.

The binding for the tabs was tedious, and not the neatest thing in the world. As I went on I got a little neater, but i'm still not happy with most of the binding.

Bias binding the tab 1
I decided the polyester satin I used was too shiny and cheap looking, but I didn't want to unpick everything i'd done so far. The width of the binding was just less than two inches, which was far too wide. It would have been easier to bind and looked neater with thinner bias binding.

Bias binding the tab 2

After the bottom binding was done, I added in the lacing holes. Before I could bind the top of the stays, I needed to know how long the arm straps were going to be, so I had to try it on. I decided to use metal eyelets for speed and strength, then covered them in thread to achieve a slightly more period look.

metal eyelets covered embroidery thread

I actually really like the look of covered eyelets compared to hand done eyelets, even if it is twice the work.

With great difficulty I laced myself into the stays (my usual helper was at work) and was relived to see that they still fit me. It had been five months since I tried on my mockup, and I didn't trust my body to have stayed exactly the same shape.

1780's stays fitting shoulder strap

Originally I had cut long, as I left lots of room 'just in case'. When I quickly tried the unfinished stays against my body a few months ago, I thought i'd made them way too long. When I actually laced them up properly and had a chance to fit them on a nearly completed garment, I was glad I left in all the length.

If i'd cut them down to the length on the original pattern they would have been far too short. With the straps measured I cut them, rounded the ends and trimmed down the width. The binding on the top was done, and the last few eyelets on the straps put in and covered.

1780's stays finished front

The big pink bows on the shoulder straps are just for show, i'll trim them down for when I actually wear these under a dress.

1780's stays finished back

1780's stays finished detail embroidery

Next week i'll be posting some pictures of me actually wearing them, but for now i'm just happy that I can move on to the rest of the outfit!

1 October 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Five

Well, it's been a little while since i've posted. Between university starting again and generally organizing my life, sewing has been forgotten about a little.

Progress on the stays has been slow...but I have finished a quarter of the binding! Considering this is the fiddly, tabbed quarter it feels like much more of an achievement.

 They're also starting to feel like they can maybe, possibly be finished. Maybe.

I have a horrible habit of making mountains out of molehills in sewing, especially when progress slows down to a glacial pace on a fiddly detail.

 One major roadblock i've encountered is the centre front tab. On the extant example, the front side and front piece join together with a relatively 90 degree angle for the tabs at the seam.

Silk damask, lined with linen, reinforced with whalebone, hand-sewn. English 1770-1790.
On my version the front has turned out a little more frankenstein. The front and front side pieces join at a 270 degree angle with a lot of the front tab stuck behind the side tabs.

It was impossible to bind this, so i've decided to end the binding at the seam reinforcement and bind the front tab separately.

I even made a little animation to illustrate the problem better.

Probably a result of my sewing skills as opposed to the pattern, i've learnt a lesson for next time I make stays. At least the inside turned out looking quite nice. The lining is pinching on the 270 degree bend, but i'll just hide that under binding.

For now i'll keep on trying to bind in my spare time, but with end-of-year deadlines and a new job, it'll be a miracle if I finish these before Christmas.

8 September 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Four

I've had a crazy busy weekend, so i've barely had time to sew let alone post.

I've started binding the edges of the stays, so I do have a few pictures. First I had to put all the boning in. I already had eighty percent of the reed cut to the right length for the mockup, so I just needed to tidy it up.

Although I don't have any pictures, here are the steps I went through with the reed:

  1. Measure the boning channel and cut a piece of reed to the right length.
  2. To straighten the reed, iron it using lots of steam. I didn't think this would work, but it does, and it's an essential step. 
  3. Rub a candle or piece of wax over the reed. This will help it go into the channel better.
  4. Sand the ends of the reed so they're smooth.
  5. Insert the reed into the boning channel, hoping it fits.
1780's stays reed boning completed

As I pinned the lining on and started the binding, I had to pull some reeds out and trim them because they were too long. Then I just re-sanded the ends.

For the curved channels on the front of the corset, I didn't iron them. It really starts to feel like a set of stays with them in, the curved front magically appears.

After all the boning was done I pinned the lining to the inside.

1780's stays lining pinned

This required a lot of pulling and pinning, but I eventually got it lined up. There's still some ugly wrinkling that will hopefully get fixed as I bind the edges, but it's not going to be visible anyway.

Then comes the binding. This free article on Your Wardrobe Unlock'd is essential if you want decent binding. It's clear, concise and simply wonderful. I think i've made a good start, but it definitely needs pressing.

1780's stays binding started

Although it's too late for me, I also found this post about binding stays before you sew the panels together. It seems like a much near way of doing it...and just look at that beautiful set of stays.

For the next few weeks i'll be binding the edges, but I did buy some matching embroidery floss in anticipation for covering eyelets.

1780's stays eyelet embroidery floss

31 August 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Three

I'm a day late with this post since i've been sewing today, so these images are hot off the press!

The past week i've been continuing to hand sew the seam ribbons. It's quite relaxing sitting in the sun and sewing for hours, but the lack of thimbles means my fingers are quite cut up. Next time i'll just stop being lazy and change my sewing machine thread methinks.

handsewing seam ribbon reinforcement stays

Eventually I sewed them all on. I then did a quick measurement to determine how long the straps needed to be. The straps that came with the pattern were far too short. I'm not sure how I can fit the default size for the rest of the pattern but not the straps? Maybe I have massive Godzilla shoulders, but I highly doubt that.

stays construction straps

stays construction straps seam

After that I cut out the lining. I only manged to use half a meter, so I have another half meter to do something else with. It's really pretty fabric, but i'm not sure what I can make that requires such a small amount.

stays lining pattern pieces

stays lining constructed

There isn't much I can do with the lining until I get to binding the edges, and all I have left to do before that is add the boning. First I added the small front boning pieces, then hand stitched the first curved channel since my machine doesn't have a foot to get that close without messing it up. The rest of the curved channels were machine sewn.

stays construction boning channels

I don't have pictures, but the rest of the boning is now 90% done. Just the binding and eyelets to go! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

23 August 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Two

I had no idea I was capable of sewing this much in such a short amount of time, but here we are. A week from my last post i've finished the embroidery and put together the main body of the stays. I'll start with how they look at the moment, then go through my process.

1780 Embroidered stays main finished
1780's embroidered stays embroidery close up

I'm pretty proud of how they're turning out, but I still have a long way to go. I'm not looking forward to binding the tabs, for example.

The first job was the finish the embroidery. I originally planned to have 2 other pieces of embroidery in the other large boning gaps, but that would have taken far too long.

1780's stays finished embroidery pattern

This is only the third piece of embroidery i've done (my garters were second), and although it's rough and sloppy in some places, I love it. Embroidery is just so addictive, the floss is so cheap and all you need is a scrap of fabric to put a design on.

After that was done, I cut out the side panels of the stays in cotton duck and the blue cotton outside fabric. Then I traced the boning channels onto the duck, which I hate doing. I must invest in a tracing wheel.

1780's stays boning channel trace

I then played around with different fabrics and interlining. On my mock-up the reed showed through the fabric, and I felt that it could have been sturdier overall. I boned two rectangles of fabric - one with the cotton duck and blue cotton, and one with that plus some non-fusible interfacing (interlining?) that I had in my stash.

1780's stays fabric boning test

The results were clear, the one with the interfacing provided much more support and gave the stiffness I wanted. Modern interfacing is in no way period accurate, but I didn't have the time to go buy more cotton duck for another strength layer. A lesson learned for next time.

Despite this setback, I sewed the boning channels on the side panels with no issues, and felt pretty good about myself.

1780's stays side panels boning channels

All that was left to do was the front panel, which meant lining the embroidery up with the channels. Now, i'm sure there was an easier way I could have done the embroidery for this. Maybe sewing the channels then doing the embroidery?

1780's stays embroidery boning channels

Either way I managed. The right piece of embroidery is slightly wonky, but it's not noticeable.

After I sewed all of the completed pieces together, I made a start on the seam reinforcements. I deliberately left 5mm gaps plus my seam allowances, so I could fit in the 10mm wide ribbon on the seams.

1780's stays seam reinforcement ribbon
I'm sewing these by hand since i'm afraid i'll mess it up with a machine. I need to improve on my hand stitching anyway, since the top curved channels will be hand stitched. Unfortunately there's about six layers of fabric to stitch through. Why did I get rid of my thimble collection?

The inside turned out quite neat too. You can see where I had to adjust my boning channels after I mis-measured and almost stitched through the embroidery.

1780's stays inside seams

After i've sewn all the seam reinforcements, I need to cut and sew the lining together and make the straps up. Then comes the joys of tab binding and eyelet making.

9 August 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part One

As much as I was dreading it, I eventually need to make a pair of stays.

I'd previously made a couple of Victorian style corsets, with varying levels of success, but stays are unknown territory to me. This coupled with the fiddly nature of them, and the fact that the rest of the outfit depends on their fit and shape, meant I wasn't looking forward to making them.

I chose the 1780's stays pattern from Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines, and used Ralph Pink's version to save me scaling it up.  However much I was dreading making them, thinking about what colours and patterns I wanted was fun.

1780 stays concept image one

From these initial three I loved the one on the left, but I preferred the lighter blue of the middle. So onward I went...

1780 stays concept image two
...and fell in love with #5 in the top right. The colour palette for these were influenced by a certain film we all know and love.

marie antoinette movie shoes

 (I wanted to call it the Cupcake Corset but correct terminology thwarted my alliteration.)

I knew from the start that I wanted to use reed. It's period accurate and worked out to be about as expensive as cables ties. I had never ordered reed before, so I hedged my bets on a bundle of Round Reed #6. I could have gone with a smaller size, but I had no way of knowing until i'd seen and handled the reed for myself. Personally I quite like the chunkier look anyway.

I made a mockup without any alterations to the pattern, and to my great surprise, it fit pretty much perfectly! It was also comfortable! A mistake on my part meant I ended up with four boning channels on the centre front, and as a result it was slightly too wide, and the untrimmed reed dug into my armpits. I still wore it for six hours comfortably, and with the correct centre front it will be perfect. I hope.

1780 stays mockup fitting front

1780 stays mockup fitting side

The stays aren't laced at all properly in these photos, and there are no straps, but you can get the general idea.

And so, with a goal in mind I bought a stack of new materials, trying to find the closest matches I could to those in my concept images. In the interests of time I was limited to my local handicraft/sewing supply chain and one other fabric shop, but I was lucky enough to find some lovely pink floral cotton for the lining at half price.

sewing fabric and materials

fashion fabric lining stays materials

Now all I need to do is embroider...and embroider some more...then keep embroidering.

1780 stays embroidery