Green Linen Stays Progress

I’ve stumbled upon a bit of time the past few days so I picked up a project I’ve had ongoing for at least four years now. I’ve been pretty good about keeping all the pieces together and while I have all the pattern pieces, I’m missing the shoulder strap fabric. I’m not sure if I cut them out and have since lost them or if I just never bothered to cut them out at all!

So far I have both back pieces completed and I just started the front. They’re sort of based on the Diderot diagram for stays, but altering them to fit required significantly altering the boning pattern. I’m using reed I ordered for my first pair of stays from the Silly Sisters but this time I’m doubling up the reed in each channel. I’ve never gotten any real wear out of my first pair but even with just the few times I’ve tried them on, I’ve had a bone break in the front, just off to the side a bit. Annoying! I definitely think that to use reed boning I need to fully bone my stays. Once I get the stays to the point where I can try them on I might even consider strategically replacing one or two with something stronger, maybe even baleen?

My method is just one I sort of came up with. I initially sew a seam that acts as a guide for the angle of the bones and then I slip the doubled-up boning in between the layers and push it up alongside this seam. I then stitch along the other side of the bone, continuing to push it firmly against that first initial seam. I usually works well although I did find that the pattern on the two backs are slightly different as a result of the boning pattern growing more or less organically. I’ve since seen evidence for stays boned with baleen where the channels were stitched first and then the bones were pushed into te channels but I haven’t heard anything either way for reed boning (see note).

I’m using some green linen thread I got from my aunt for my birthday many years ago. I was just eyeing my spool and I don’t think I’ll have enough to get through this project. If I was thinking straight I would have started on the front so that I at least had one uniform colour there since the new stuff I ordered is unlikely to match correctly but oh well! I’ve decided not to think too hard about my colour choices since I doubt that linen of the period would dye this dark green of a colour but oh well!

I was thinking I’d try to line it in leftover red spotted cotton I used in my shortgown. Wouldn’t that be cute? I have some white leather to bind the edges as well. I can’t remember how much of the cotton I have left although I don’t have a problem piecing the lining. Piecing is period and I think it makes projects like these so much more interesting! Many of the stays I saw at the Galliera had heavily pieced linings of various cheery cotton or linen prints. Both these things are back home way away across the ocean so that will definitely have to wait.

It feels so good to be sewing again! I haven’t sewn anything historical since last fall!!

Note: There’s a dissertation that was completed a few years ago on a stomacher that was concealed in a wall of a building. They x-rayed it and you could clearly see where fibres of the bone had been bent backwards as the bone was  pushed into the channel. I can get the specific citation if anyone is interested.

As well see: Sorge-English, Lynn. 2005. “‘29 Doz and 11 Best Cutt Bone’: The Trade in Whalebone and Stays in Eighteenth-Century London.” Textile History 36 (1) (May 1): 20-45. doi:10.1179/174329505×37112.×37112.

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