For reasons beknownst only to those who understand the reasoning of the fairer sex, I decided to take on a project which I had not undertaken in many years, the making of a new pair of stays. Actually, the old ones were looking rather shabby and were only presentable when worn under garments, but are still serviceable. Judging by the burning, tingling numbness of the fingers of my right hand, it will be a cold day in hell before I embark on such a project again. Here are some pictures taken during the process that I call the continuing saga of the stays.

This is the fabric I chose as the outer shell. It's a mixture of a heavy, course linen and cotton. The design is typical of a design found in 18th century fabrics. I originally used this fabric for a gown for my daughter, Melissa, when she was a young girl, and I had a couple of yards left over, which I saved. There is still enough left to make 2 more pair of stays - one for Melissa and one for Ashley; however, they will make their own.

The inner lining is 2 layers of heavy canvas. There are 10 pattern pieces, and each piece consists of 3 layers: the 2 inner lining layers and the outer shell. They are joined together at the sides and treated as one piece.

This is how the stays look after being joined together and boned.

I used plastic for most of it as it will not break as will bamboo or reed. Whale bone, which is unavailable, is what the originals were most likely made from, but wood was also used frequently. Both break. Metal stays are very heavy and very hot. The disadvantage to plastic is that after a while the bones tend to mold themselves to the wearer's body. If and when that happens to mine, I will remove the tape from the bottom edges of the stays and replace the boning instead of making new ones. And then I will use all my powers of persuasion to talk someone else into sewing the tape back on for me.

This is a close up view of the inside of the stays. Notice the lines drawn on the inner lining. Those mark the channels for the boning. There are 30 yards of boning making 94 strips of plastic boning and a dozen strips of metal boning. The metal was used where extra support is needed and at stress points - seams. Before the lining is attached, all seams will be treated with "Fray Check" to help prevent unravelling.
The next step in the saga of the stays is the back closure. These stays tie in a zig zag fashion and are tied with a woven cotton tape. There are 10 holes on each side, somewhat unevenly spaced. The holes, or eyelets, are difficult to make. First, holes must be cut into all layers of the stays and then the eyelets are inserted. These are made of metal as you can see in the bottom 2 eyelets in the photo on the left. A piece is inserted thru the hole from underneath and a top piece snaps onto it. Then a tool is used to hammer the pieces together. After that, the hard part begins, and this is what is torturing my fingers - hand sewing around the eyelets so that the metal cannot be seen. At this point, the fabric layers are doubled in the back and it's close to boning, making it very difficult and painful to sew. I'm wondering if I'll ever have normal feeling in my fingers again. I hope so, I will miss it if not.

Now that the eyelets have been completed, the next step is trying on the stays. I'm very glad that Ashley was here to help me as this is something that can't really be done by yourself. Unfortunately, they didn't fit, but it was ok as they were too big. I don't know what I would have done if they were too small. Anyhow, several strips of boning were removed and replaced by seams, allowing me to remove between 3 1/2 and 4 inches of the circumference. There should be a gap in the back of approximately 2 inches as the stays will stretch early on in use and the gap will close. I now have a suitable gap.

This photo shows the outside with a decorative tape on the seams. This tape is made from 1 inch wide canvas strips that are sewn through the top layer, over the seams. I think I will leave it at 3 strips of tape instead of covering all the tapes. There is no structural reason behind it; the tapes are purely decorative.

At this stage, the stays are almost done. The 3 decorative tapes are partially sewn to the fabric. The top and bottom tapes, which will contain the boning to the body of the stays and not to mine, have not, as yet, been attached. They sure don't look like much but they look very nice on, and they feel very good. They add a lot of back support and are great for good posture.
This is how my new stays look with my ecru quilted petticoat. The ecru matches the color in the outer shell fabric as well as the tapes. When I have it all finished I shall model and post a new photo. Hopefully my fingers won't be too bloodied and I may retain some feeling in them after this project is done.
In this photo, the tape binding has been applied and sewn to both the front and back of the top of the stays (shown upside down, top of stays is at bottom of photo). The bottom binding is shown partially sewn, and still pinned as you get to the right of the photo. 'Tis very bulky and difficult to sew.
In this photo, the binding has been sewn to the outer layer of fabric, and is being pinned to the lining on the inside.
Finished at last! This is the front.

And this is the back.

Notice that the ties zig zag thru the eyelets.

Close up view of the lacing. I'll use ecru lacing when I wear them, but for this purpose I laced it with white so it can be seen easier.

They are done. I never want to make another pair of these in my life. Never!

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