18th Century Stays — Getting Closer

I’m currently sewing the binding on the tabs of my stays.  I’ve read people complaining about what a chore sewing the binding on the tabs is.  They’re not kidding!  I’d actually read a tip or two that mentioned you might want to start on the tabbed edge first, so the top edge would be a nice break after dealing with the tabs.  I considered it at first, but decided that I wanted to warm up by binding the top side first.  I’m glad I did.  I got a feel for how everything is working together, but I’m still slowing down in sections!

Store-bought bias tape

I decided to use store-bought tape because I need to get better tools for evenly cutting long strips of fabric.  I also would have needed to buy fabric, since I wanted to use a different color than the rest of the stays.  I’m glad I bought bias tape this time.  Honestly, it doesn’t look too bad to me (no one else is going to see it anyway), and it’s been nice to use.  I was a little nervous because I went with the thinner width, but I’ve been getting used to it.

Smooth sewing on the top edge

The top side of the stays really doesn’t have lots of sharp curves and corners, and I had plenty of room to work.  Stitching the bias tape on the front side was the part that took the longest.  I decided to use hand-sewing for attaching the binding.  I just feel like I have more control by hand, than with a machine.  When I flipped the tape over to attach it to the underside of the stays, it went much quicker.  The ends of the straps were the sharpest turns I had to deal with, and they gave me more confidence for the tabs.

The trouble with sewing around the tabs

The tabs on the other hand are close together, overlap each other in places, and the top parts of the slits where you flip the bias tape through to stitch to the back side are very crowded.  Not only am I having issues trying to keep the stitching smooth in the very tightest of turns, I feel like I’m fumbling with holding the stays to work with.  The tabs are either in the way, or waggling around.  Just when you get a comfortable position to hold everything and sew, you have to adjust it when you turn your work to sew around another corner.

The front seems to be harder to sew than the back

Fortunately, the back still goes much quicker than the front.  As long as I am able to pull and hold the bias tape evenly enough to stitch it down, it’s been going much faster.  I actually got a little paranoid thinking my work was horrific, so I stopped stitching on the front and flipped it over to stitch the back down.  I had only sewn one edge and two tabs, and I didn’t sew all the way to the end of what I’d sewn on the front (I wanted to leave a little working space). It turns out that my work wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Although I might still make a few adjustments on the top of the tab slits when I turn the tape, I think I should be able to get through this without any major errors (let’s hope, anyway).

I actually decided to continue to do both sides in sections.  I’ll sew a few tabs, and when I feel like I’m about to get sick of dealing with sewing the front part down, I’ll get to the end of my current thread, flip the stays over, and seal the back side down.  I think it might give me a bit of a break, as well as keeping things running smoothly and checking my work.

I hope it works — we’ll see soon, hopefully!

I’m still a little nervous about how the binding will work when the stays are worn.  The tabs really spread out, so I’m hoping the bias tape bunched up in the corners won’t hold everything back.  That’s part of the fit of the whole thing — the tabs have to spread for it to work.  I’m sure it will, but I tend to get a little nervous.  It would sure stink to put all this work into something, finally finish it, and then oops!  Bad fit.

Once I finish binding the bottom edge of the stays, I still have four hand-sewn eyelets to do for the straps, and I also need to finish the neckline of my shift.  Speaking of the shift, I keep kicking myself about how I set the sleeves in.  One side of me wants to take the sleeves off and do it again, and the other side is just wanting to forget about it.  I guess I’ll see how it fits when the stays are on.  I know what I should do next time.

One thing I realized with this project is every time I felt like I was potentially getting things wrong or off, I would do searches for images and either read about people’s experiences and troubles, or reassure myself that I’m doing the best I can.  The Internet is not only excellent for learning how to do things — it also helps reassure you about how you’re doing them.  At the very least, you know you’re not alone when a hard part frustrates you and it turns out many people hate sewing that part as well!

Hand-sewing the bias tape binding to the edges of the stays.

Sewing the binding around each of those tight curves is difficult. This will take a while.

About Cynthia Griffith

I have way too many interests and hobbies, and continually cycle through them -- paying attention to some, while others wait for when I can get around to them again. My main interests are sewing and costuming (I enjoy historical clothing, such as 18th and 19th century, as well as fantasy costumes like elves and hopefully someday even dwarves), as well as getting back to art by drawing fan art of Thorin Oakenshield and Company. My husband Christopher and I spend a lot of time together, enjoying the outdoors and shared hobbies such as juggling. This blog and website is my way to share what I'm up to with friends and family.
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9 Responses to 18th Century Stays — Getting Closer

  1. Kaycee says:

    They look fabulous!!!!!

  2. Thanks Kaycee! I can’t wait for them to be finished! I could have pushed to finish them a little faster, but still… for something so small (compared to big gowns covered in trims, I mean), there sure is a lot of work that goes into them. Sheesh! Maybe next time I’ll try half-boned stays. Hahah!

    Best wishes and thanks for the reply 🙂

  3. Amy McKinney says:

    Wow, they’re looking fantastic! I can’t wait to see a photo of it laced on (if you’re so willing), because it’s just awesome to see the finished product as it fits on a body. They look very nice.

  4. Thanks so much for the reply, Amy! I’ll definitely take photos with me wearing it when it’s finished, which is why I want to finish the neckline of the shift first. The look of the stays is quite different with the tabs spread out, so you’re right… it’s neat to see it both ways!

  5. Christopher Gronlund says:

    I know how nervous you were about getting the binding right. I was nervous for you, since it’s such a tight space between the tabs.

    I’m glad it’s all coming together; it really is an impressive piece!

  6. Christopher: The sides of the hips where the tabs overlap each other — those are definitely a chore. I attempted the first one yesterday and was not thrilled about it. Thankfully there are only two of them. Blech!

    Regardless, since the binding is so thin, any lumping or wrinkling will probably not be seen. Not to mention, I won’t be walking around wearing my stays. No one will see them except for a few photos like the above photos. I just hope the binding doesn’t cause any pinching due to not being smooth. I don’t really think it’ll affect how the tabs spread.

    I shouldn’t be worrying about perfection though. There are plenty of mistakes on these. Heheh! 😉

  7. Diane says:

    They really do look incredible, Cynthia! I’m just amazed at your artistry.

  8. Thanks so much, Diane! Best wishes! 🙂

  9. Pingback: CFGriffith.com » Blog Archive » My first 18th century stays are finished!

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