Making a 1620s Busk (CoBloWriMo Day 15)

With several small projects happening at the moment, I am getting a head start on tomorrow’s “Small Project” prompt. The first project I am presenting you today is the wooden busk I made for my 1620s stays. I made it using these instructions from Drea Leed’s Elizabethan Costume page.

The finished busk.

For it, I used a 35 mm wide, 10 mm thick pine board. The finished length is 12″ (30 cm). Since the busk’s conical shape was a little trickier to work than the simple Regency-era busk I made using a paint stir stick, my dad kindly gave me a hand with the woodworking.

When it was all sanded and oiled with a tiny dash of canola oil, I felt like adding some design to the finished piece. So I scratched away with a small etching knife and created this little fleur-de-lis. Seeing how I had never etched anything before, it turned out pretty well.

My attempt at an etched fleur-de-lis.

This whole project was so small, it came together in one afternoon. And I am quite happy with it. Although it’s not a real hardwood busk as they were used in the period, it is very stable but also light to wear. The only choice of hardwood at the local store would have been beechwood. But it would have been very, very heavy. So sticking with the trusty old pine was a good idea. :)


An Extant Book Recommendation (CoBloWriMo Day 6)

Having thought long and hard on this one, I have decided not to recommend a “classic” historical sewing or costume book for this prompt. Generally I love working with “Patterns of Fashion”. Having drafted the 1630s stays and two other garments from it, I am in love with Janet Arnold’s works and detailed writing. But we all know the series is great already, right? ;)

So today I have picked a little gem that seems to go overlooked a lot. It is an extant book I stumbled across in an online library. Archives like these, especially Gallica and the Library of Congress, are my guilty pleasure. Sometimes I spend whole evenings there, just going on treasure hunts. This is how I found the “Manuel des dames” by Mademoiselle Clenart.
As the title suggests, it is written in French and no, there are no drawings in it. For a not-so-advanced French speaker like myself this can make reading the book a bit tricky and even some native speakers get puzzled with some of the expressions used by the author.


But still, this book is great. The second edition found online dates to 1833, but it is a re-print of an edition published at least 10 to 15 years earlier. So it is sort of a “style guide” for the savvy late-Empire lady. It has everything from potion, powder and soap recipes to washing directions for period fabrics as well as advice on etiquette and fashionable dress. I especially love the corsetry chapter, which offers advice on different corsets, stays and belts for every occasion. This includes a section on maternity stays and directions to add fan-lacing to a pair of stays. I used the advice when making my morning belt last year.


Advice on maternity stays. The “ruban à cheval” expression led to an interesting discussion in a costume group. What is a ribbon riding a horse?! ;)

Despite the “language barrier”, I recommend this book to everyone interested in early 19th-century costume or just curious about reading extant sources. You can download a PDF of this book here on Gallica. Enjoy!


1630s Stays In The Making (CoBloWriMo Day 2)

Since it is August already (wow!) CoBloWriMo has officially started. So here I am accepting the challenge to blog more this month. Since last fall, life has been pretty crazy here with finishing uni, moving house and traveling up and down country in search of the right job. So there is quite a queue of posts now, waiting to be written.

Today I got back from a long birthday weekend and am using the moment to answer the prompt of the day. It is to blog about my current project. And that is *drumroll* a pair of c. 1630s stays. After the smock I finished this spring, they have been the next item on the list. 

It took some time for me to get started, but two weeks ago, I finally felt brave enough to draft the pattern. Being new to 17th-century costume, it was quite intimidating at first, but eventually, after two mock-ups and lots of fittings, things relaxed for me. Now all the layers are cut out and we are almost ready for boning.  Here are some facts about the project so far:

Pattern: Based on the Dorothea von Neuburg stays in “Patterns of Fashion 3″ and ” & Crinolines”. To draft the waistline, I referred to Drea Leed’s Elizabethan corset pattern and instructions for boned tabs. For reference, I also looked at Caroline’s post on making 17th-century stays and Sarah Bendall’s reconstruction of the Dame Filmer bodies, on display at the Gallery of Costume in Manchester. Both have been immensely helpful.

The Dame Filmer bodies (c. 1630-50) at Gallery of Costume, City Galleries Manchester.

Another thing that has helped me out was a 1620s painting of a French lady at her toilette. It shows some interesting details of the tabs and also the straps which you can see underneath the lacey cape.

A French lady at her toilette (c.1620s).


  • Boning: German plastic whalebone, 5mm wide
  • Busk: Hardwood, 30 cm long, 3 cm wide and 9 mm thick.
  • Outer fabric: Orange handkerchief linen
  • Interlining: Heavy linen-viscose blend. It is not entirely HA but super sturdy. Since it is a pretty shade of violet, I might use it for binding, too.

Lining: White upholstery silk. This is a shot silk and absolutely not period. But it was readily available from a local shop and does its job nicely.

The make-up so far: After cutting out the three layers, I sewed together the front and back pattern pieces of each one. At this point I should have stay stitched them to prevent fraying. But I only did that in the next step, after pressing the seams and stacking the layers on top of each other. I do not recommend forgetting this step at all… ;)

Cutting out the top layer.

The lining sewn together.

Next I marked the busk pocket and boning channels with chalk. After some trial and error, I settled on 6mm wide channels. Right now, I am in the middle of sewing them, by hand, using white silk thread. This is how they are looking so far. I think this may take a while to complete. ;)

Boning channel WIP.

This has been the state of the stays so far. I will do my best to keep you posted. Right now, I am just very excited about being a part of CoBloWriMo for the first time. Let us see what surprises this month will bring.

See you soon, Nessa

An Everyday Regency Morning Belt

Over the past few months, a discussion about wearing historical costume for everyday occasions has made the rounds in some online costuming groups. This reminded me of how much I love wearing Regency underpinnings with modern outfits. Half a year ago, I finally got around to making the Regency-era morning belt I have wanted to make for so long now. Since then, I have worn it under historical costume, but it has also had more than a few cameos as a bra replacement. Worn over a fitted camisole or t-shirt, it is super comfortable, much more than most modern bras. And, since a morning belt involves next to no lacing, it comes on and off more quickly than a pair of stays. :)

In today’s post, I will share the research and drafting / making process with you, so you can go on and make your own morning belt. The research has proven a little tricky, since extant examples of Regency-era morning belts are scarce, or at least somewhat hard to identify. But more on that in a moment!

Some Morning Belt Research

The one thing that has kept me from making the morning belt for so long (years, actually!) is that fact that this style is one of the least documented known Regency undergarments. The closest surviving examples to be found today are various sets of boned half stays. Examples of this are the Utrecht half stays Sabine has taken a pattern from and this corselet held at the Musée Galliera:

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Corselet (Palais Galliera, c. 1820)

Since only very little information on the wearers and the occasion of wear exists, we can only assume that they have been used for morning / undress or maternity wear. And it seems very likely.  Still, I have always missed a clear link between these examples and the ominous “morning belt” from period texts. So I did a little digging.

On a whim, I started searching in French. This way I stumbled into a period book I had not know before the “Manuel des dames” by Madame Clenart, whose real name was Élisabeth-Félicie Bayle-Mouillart. You can access the full text here at Gallica. This is a second edition from 1833, but the content seems to date back to at least the early 1820, so it is a great resource for the mid to late Regency era. And it really is pure gold, it does no only hold advice on corsetry, fashion and manners but recipes for cosmetics, perfumes and some laundry directions for dress fabrics, among other things.

The corsetry chapter lists many types of stays, featuring suggestions on stays for maternity wear and instructions on turning a regular pair of stays into a corset à la prasseuse (the period equivalent of fan-lacing). This chapter also describes mornings belts and gives some instructions of how to make them up:

Extract from “Manuel des Dames” (2nd edition, c.1833).

In short, this extract gives the following hints for the construction of a morning belt (from what I could gather with my very basic French):

Half-stays for the morning are about 8 to 10 inches high (I understood this to be the back length), corded or lightly boned. The top part is shaped like it would be in a regular pair of stays, but the back ends in two long tabs that tie at the front with thread ribbon. They are very convenient for dressing in the morning, plan on going on a bath later or when you are in a hurry to get dressed. I do not know about you, but this sounds perfect to me on an average morning!
Fabric suggestion include white cotton or coutil for summer and nankeen or grey cotton canvas for winter wear. A lining in a matching colour is also suggested to make the morning belt more durable.

From this I gathered that morning belts also featured the crossover back tabs seen in the half stays above. Although they do not quite resemble those in the Galliera example, but come very close to those of the Utrecht stays.

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

Half-boned stays (Centraal Museum, c.1820).

On a side note, you can also find this kind of crossover wrapping for shape in a more unusual Regency-era garment. This bust (under-) bodice at the Victoria & Albert Museum:

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

Bust bodice ( V&A, c. 1820-29).

After gathering this information, I finally felt confident to delve right into drafting my morning belt.

The Pattern

Since this has been my first venture into drafting a piece of corsetry, I decided to use these  drafting instructions for short stays by Mistress of Disguise. They also work wonderfully for actually making short stays. ;)

I started by following the instructions given for the front and back / side back pieces. The only thing I did differently was to use a slightly longer back length (9″ instead of the given 8″). For the bust gussets I cheated and used my size gusset from the Laughing Moon #115 pattern. I left out the straps and included them in the back piece later on.

To create the crossover back tabs, I turned to the pattern for the Utrecht stays by Sabine as a rough guide. First, I created the overlapping section at the center back. For this I drew two lines. The first was a straight extension of they stays’ bottom (underbust) line. Its length was equal to about 1/8 of my underbust measurement. I redrew this line later. Then I connected the end point to the top end of the CB line with a diagonal.

From here I rotated the back pattern piece outwards until the diagonal line was perfectly vertical. I will show you what I mean by this on the finished pattern piece in the picture below. When cutting out, the straight grain will run along this line, too. (Sorry about the slightly rumpled look. For some reason I could not find my original pattern draft…)

The rotated back pattern piece.

The rotated back pattern piece.

Now I elongated the vertical line by the length of my side back piece (again 1/8 underbust) plus two or so extra inches that would got over to the front at the sides. At the bottom edge of the line, I drew a perpendicular that was 2 1/2″ long. This marks the later front width of the tabs. Now I went back to the original bottom edge of the CB line from the initial draft. and connected it to the end point of the short perpendicular line with a long curve.

For the strap, I did a similar thing. I extended the top of the long vertical line by the desired strap length (14″ in my case). Again, there is a perpendicular line at the top edge, 2 1/2″ long. From its end point, I drew another line, parallel to the vertical. To get the length of the line I calculated my strap length – shoulder to underbust length at CB. This way I made sure that only a narrow strap shows at the front.

To shape the top curve, I extended the curve on top of the side back piece, across the back piece, until it reached the end point of the parallel.  The finished back pattern looks like this: Originally the strap was a part of the back piece. But when doing the final mock-up, I decided to make it into a separate piece to reduce some of the strain on the fabric. The seam runs in a spot where the mock-up had a little pucker. There is now no pucker in the end result. ;)

The finished back and strap pieces.

The finished back and strap pieces.

Making Up The Morning Belt

When making morning belt, I used up the leftovers from my long stays. Thus I made them out of two layers, an outer layer of white cotton twill and a sateen lining. After putting in the gussets and sewing together the individual layers, I joined them together by stitching through the side and side back seams. This minimized the amount of basting at this stage and made for nice, extra durable seams on the finished corset.

Joining the layers by stitching through the side seams.

Joining the layers together by stitching through the side seams.

For the light boning, I used four rows of cording with 1/4″ kitchen twine over the side back seams and two rows of cording plus a small piece of heavy-duty cable tie at the side seams. For the busk, I made a teeny 4″ wooden busk from a paint stirrer, using my own busk tutorial. With some hindsight from the last time though, I did not oil it as profusely as the last one. ;)

A tiny 4

A tiny 4″ busk.

After adding four hand-bound eyelets to tie the straps to the front, I started binding the morning belt with cotton bias tape. I bound the short edges of the bottom tabs individually then sandwiched the twill ribbon that ties at the front in between. Then I went about the remaining binding as usual. The top binding at the front holds a small 1/2″ drawstring that keeps the ladies in check.

On the dress form, the finished morning belt looks like this. It fits much better on my ( somewhat more squishy) self and I really love how it came out.

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, front view. :)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

The finished morning belt, crossover back view. ;)

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Close-up of the strap lacing and side boning.

Cording at the side back seam.

Cording at the side back seam.

Now I am so happy that I finally got to make this piece of Regency corsetry for modern ladies in a rush to get dressed! :D I hope you enjoyed this rather long post and it has shed some light on the making of a morning belt. If you have questions, please feel free to ask them here at any time. Wishing you all a lovely rest of the week!

Cheers, Nessa


Another Way Of Spiral Lacing – Or Not?

After posting about the finished stays yesterday, a little confusion arose about how to lace them in a period way. Of course, we all know that spiral lacing with offset eyelets was the most period-correct method of doing it before cross-lacing came around. But, when I looked at the stays, I had to frown: The eyelets on the sewing pattern were not offset, and so they were not offset on the finished garment, either. And still, the instructions suggested to use spiral lacing with the parallel eyelet set-up. How can that be?

The pattern cannot be at fault, since it is very closely based on an extant pair of long stays. And JoAnn Peterson, the pattern author, really knows her Regency garments and provides great research for all the sewing patterns she publishes. If she does not use offset the eyelets, she does it for a reason.

So here is what I found: Offset spiral lacing does not seem to be the only extant method of doing up garments. Up to the 18th century, the majority of documented bodices and stays were constructed with this lacing method in mind, since it provides the proper structure for tightening a corset. This is also what Jen Thompson’s research on spiral lacing suggests. Please do check out her blog for her finds and a very in-depth spiral lacing tutorial.

But this is not the end of the story. Offset spiral lacing has a sloppy little cousin: The parallel spiral. While researching period lacing methods, I lucked into a very old article with an engraving of 17th to 18th-century lacing patterns:

Diagram of extant lacing patterns from the 17th/18th century. (Please click image for article.)

Now look at pattern A and compare it to pattern E. Drawn up tightly, they would create a somewhat similar picture. The article’s author also admits that pattern E was the most common lacing style he has found in historical sources. But A definitely also existed in documentations. If it was used in corsetry, though, remains hard to say.

With this picture in mind, I went back to the pattern envelope of my stays, and looked at the pictures there. It turns out that pattern A was exactly what JoAnn referred to as “spiral lacing” in her instructions. So this is what I did. Now my stays look like this:

Parallel spiral lacing on the stays.

What does this mean for you as a costumer? If you want to imitate spiral lacing on stays or bodices with parallel eyelets, you do not have to resort to ladder lacing (pattern B above) right away, if you do not want to. You can try and use parallel spiral lacing instead. Even though the historical evidence remains somewhat patchy, it will get you a little closer to the desired effect. Maybe “closer” is not 100% accurate, but at the moment, it will do for me. ;) Using it has made self-lacing a bit easier than with the previous crossed pattern, too…

Wishing you a calm and happy week!

Warmly, Nessa

The Finished Regency Stays

The day is here: My Regency stays are all done! After completing them, I took some time to give them a spot cleaning and wash out all the pattern marker, but now they are on the dress form at last and I get to post a few photos for you.

The only thing that is still left to do is to bind the countless metal eyelets in thread, but I will postpone that step until it is time for my first even next year. Out of all the eyelets, I only managed to work the two on the straps by hand, because I was concerned that metal might be a bit too poky in that particular place. And, besides, using the vario pliers is so fast, and a lot of fun. ;)

Anyways, enough of the rambling, here are the pictures:

The front, with the ribbon tightened inside the top casing.

Here is the front, with the self-made wooden busk. Since I have made the busk pocket a nit narrow to hold it better, it stands out a little. Inside the top binding, there is a ribbon which can be drawn up to avoid gapping at the bust. For my smallish cup size, this feature works miracles. Since it is not so visible in this shot, here is another pic of the cording and embroidery. Instead of the wavy line suggested in the original pattern, I made a garland in stem-stitch and added some small satin-stitched dots. :)

Close-up on the cording and embroidery.

Next, here is a view of the laced back. Since the dress form is less “squishy” than I am, the lacing gap down the middle is a little larger than it is on me. At the moment I am also considering to change the crossover lacing into either ladder or fan lacing. The second option is a bit tricky to figure out. But Sidney Eileen made a nice tutorial for it.

A look at the back.

Last but not least, here is a shot of the stays’ side. It shows the slanted spiral bone along the side back seam, the two hip gussets and a length of straight cording:

The side view of the stays.

The pattern suggested to floss the hip and bust gussets with embroidery thread. The was a period way to prevent the narrow seams at gusset tops from fraying. A satin stitch was recommended, but I went with the flossing technique used to secure bones in corsets from the later 19th-century onward. For this step, I consulted another great tutorial, also by Sidney Eileen. Here is a close-up of the outcome:

Detail of the flossing at the hip gussets.

And those were the pictures already. Looking at them, I must say that I am fairly chuffed with my very first proper pair of Regency stays. I have spent a lot of nights on them over the past six weeks. But I think they were well worth the extra time and effort. The stays are rather late for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Out Of Your Comfort Zone” challenge, which ended in June *cough*. Although, now that they are done, I might managed to sew my first Regency dress with a proper period fit for the upcoming “Brown” challenge. Wish me luck!

Cheers, Nessa

P.S.: As an afterthought, I would like to thank you all for your support throughout this project. It has been one of my biggest sewing challenges so far. Without the advice and encouragement from other historical seamstresses and costume enthusiasts, it would have been a lot harder to do.

On the other hand, making the stays has also been a steep learning curve. Now I am much more confident about tackling the next sewing endeavors to come. And, perhaps, I will make yet another corset. But shh, I did not just say that… ;)

Corsetry Tutorial : Making An Easy Wooden Busk

The stays are making steady progress this week. Since I got a decent wire cutter on Monday, the spiral steel bones are now cut, tipped and put into place. Right now, the binding is already in the workings. This only leaves one question: What to do about the busk? Oh the busk…

Initially, when I got the pattern, I also bought a matching flat metal busk of 30 cm (12″) length, as required on the envelope. Since I am a bit short, I also got the next smaller size the shop carried, which was 25 cm (10″) long.

My two solid metal busks.

After shortening the stays, it now turns out that the 12″ busk is a bit too long to fit into the bound busk pocket; and the shorter one is somewhat too short. The actual busk length that fits me is somewhere between the two, namely at 27 cm (10 3/4″). So I needed to find a quick solution. Since I wanted to save the metal busks for future projects, I came up with something else: When I bought the wire cutter, I also picked up two paint stir sticks and some sandpaper. And, eventually, they solved my busk problem, in a rather pretty way.

Since some of you might find this helpful, I have written it up as a brief tutorial.
It should work to make a wooden busk of 30 cm (12″), or shorter, for Regency stays or corsets/bodies of earlier periods that ask for a straight busk.

[Safety advice: When working with wood, please wear suitable eye and mouth protection against the dust sawing and sanding create. Airing and vacuuming afterwards are also a good idea. ;) ]

You will need:

  • A wooden paint stir stick
    (or other untreated hardwood board of approx. 4 mm thickness and 2 cm [3/4″] width)
  • A pencil or fine marker
  • A saw
  • Sandpaper suitable for wood (not too coarse or fine; about 40-grain worked well for me)
  • A fine file (I used a disposable pedicure file)
  • Optional: Olive oil and lemon juice

The tools. In the center you can also see the finished busk. :)

The steps:

First, shorten the wood to the desired length. Mark the cut line and saw off the excess.

Next, you will clip the four corners, to shape a rounded tip.
For this you mark two dots on each corner. One 0.5 cm (1/8″) from the right/left edge and the other the same distance from the top/bottom edge. Connect the two dots to create a slanted line with an angle of about 45°. Carefully saw off the corners at the lines. The graphic below illustrates this step:

Mark and saw off the corners at an angle.

Now it is already time to smooth your busk. Start by putting the file to the jagged edges at the corners and file them to the desired roundness. Then rub the top and bottom ends over the sandpaper to round them off.

The long edges are next. Depending on the planned width of your busk pocket, they might need an extra thorough sanding, for the busk to lose a few millimeters on either side.
The best way to sand them is to put the whole piece of sandpaper in front of you and scrub the edges over it until they are smooth.
Stop scrubbing every once in a while to prevent creating too much friction. Otherwise the wood might start smoldering (I am not kidding).

To finish the busk’s top and underside, cut or tear off a handier piece of sandpaper. Wrap it around the busk and run it up and down its length with gentle pressure until the wood is smooth to the touch. You can also run the paper around the tips and sides for a neater finish.

You are done! Here is a before and after photo of the end result, busk at the top and paint stirrer at the bottom: ;)

Adding a finish:

As you can see in the last picture, the finished busk is a bit darker than the original piece of wood. I achieved this look by adding a simple, homemade oil polish. It consists of 1 1/2 cups of olive oil and one cup of lemon juice. You mix the two ingredients and apply them to the busk with a soft cloth. After letting it dry for a few minutes, shine the wood with another dry cloth. You can find the whole recipe, and some other nifty ones, here on Everyday Roots.

Another thing you can do to decorate the busk is to carve, or draw, an intimate piece of writing onto it. In the Regency era, a busk like that was a popular gift young men gave to their beloved. Perhaps you know some dashing gentleman who would like to try and make one for you… ;)

So much for today. With the busk, my stays are now almost complete and I am hoping to come back with the first pics of the finished garment in my next post. Please stay tuned. :)

Love, Nessa

Gussets, Grommets & Cords: Some Novice Corsetry Advice

Please excuse the long quiet on the blog. As you can guess, I have thrown myself into making the corded Regency stays. While this project is really keeping me busy, it has actually made some good progress so far: The sixteen (!) gussets, as well as all the cording and grommets are done now. So far, no major disasters have occurred, either. Well, aside from bleeding on them twice while hand-sewing, ahem…

Here are two photos of the current state of affairs. I will add some more, less messy ones, once the stays have come together. :) :

One of the back pieces, with finished hip gussets, eyelets and cording.

The corded, gusseted and embroidered front (on a less pretty sheet).

And the stays have proven to be a great learning experience, also in terms of general sewing skills. Even though I am still a novice seamstress, I would like to share some of the helpful things I have learned.

I know of quite a few other costumers in the historical community who are attempting similar projects at the moment *waves at Molly of Avant Garbe*. So I am hoping that these hints might make life easier for some of you. I will also link to the tutorials that have helped me the most, so that everyone can profit from them. Here we go:

Three things about gussets.

Firstly, since it is about time someone says it out loud: Gussets are no fun! They are finicky, they need tiny, annoyingly slanted seams and they almost always seem to fray like mad. But, with that knowledge in mind, sewing them actually feels a bit easier. There is no such thing as the perfect gusset, or gore, unless you have a great lot of practice sewing them. So do not stress over them too much.

Secondly, there are several ways of sewing gussets. The one that has worked best for me is to cut a single slit, stay-stitch around it, fold and press over a tapering seam allowance and then slide the gusset in place while looking at the right side of the corset piece. There is also the method of snipping two tiny extra cuts around the bottom end of the slit. But it is a lot more fiddly and frays even worse when you need several tries to place the gusset.
And, even though it took a lot longer than using the machine, I went the long way and hand-sewed all the gussets. It cost a lot of time, but also saved me a great amount of swearing.

If you want to make your gusset sewing even more hassle-free, here is a very good tutorial on a similar gusseting method by Sarah of Romantic History. Molly has pointed it out to me last week and it really is immensely helpful. :)

Lastly, you should double-check the length of your gusset slit with the actual gusset by matching the dots before cutting. Sometimes the slit markings on the pattern happen to be longer than they should be, which in turn leaves you with less neat gussets. And it also helps not to poke the scissor point into the dot mark on the slit. This happened to me on the test stays and I was anxious not to repeat it on the actual stays. The gusset’s pointy end still needs to sit on a section of uncut fabric. Everything else may result in mild to severe cursing. ;)

Some advice on grommets.

Metal grommets really are a great invention. Even though they are not quite historically accurate for Regency stays, they are used more widely than you think. Right now, they are still “naked” on my stays, but I will cover them with embroidery floss in a later step, to hide them and give things a slightly more appropriate look.

With the right equipment, gussets are actually easy-going. Since I was a bit skeptical about the hammer setting method, I invested into a pair of convertible grommet pliers for my birthday. If you are interested to see how these work, here it a quick demonstration video by Lucy’s Corsetry:

However, there are still a few tricks with these. For once, try using a tapered awl instead of a thread cutter or scissors to make the eyelet hole. It is much easier on the fabric and keeps the threads intact. Further, turning the pliers over and giving the grommet another quick squeeze, as shown in the video, really provides a firmer hold. It also leaves a rift-like pattern in the metal, as you can see in my picture above. But I actually kind of like that special look. ;)

A few cording tips.

The most tedious part about cording is tracing and sewing the cording channels. But you need not be afraid of it at all. Technically, it is quite easy, if not the most exciting of sewing tasks. And it works fastest by machine. Yet there is one thing that makes finishing the channels a lot neater: Knot the thread instead of back-tacking. For this you bring the top thread to the back of the fabric by using a needle or the tip of a seam ripper and knot it off.

Here is a general sewing tutorial on knotting machine seams. It details the same knotting and back-tacking advice I have been given in my only sewing machine class ever…
If you use this method and work carefully, you can also undo a few stitches in case you have been too eager with the machine and have overshot the end point of a cording line.

In terms of the cording itself, not much can go wrong, if you follow the cording advice on your pattern: Add the right amounts of cording ease to your pieces to preempt shrinkange. Depending on the fabric, the stays can shrink from almost nothing to up to 1 inch which would be a problem, especially in the horizontal direction. Since my twill and sateen had  a lot of bias stretch, no shrinkage happened at all. But I still added the recommended ease before hand and then simply trimmed it off again after. Better safe than sorry. ;)

Two little, but still useful, points are to really use a blunt tapestry needle to insert the cord. It is still pointy enough to poke through your lining fabric, but will do no lasting damage to the fibers. A size 18-20 needle works best. :) Also, always leave a bit of a tail on the ends of your cords, so they don’t slip out again. I think I have somewhat over-done this bit on my stays:

The lining side of the front piece, with all the cord tails.

For a really awesome cording tutorial, detailing everything you will need to know, I recommend a visit to The Laced Angel’s blog. If you can cord as artistically as she can, you have really made your way in the sewing world. ;)

And this concludes my novice-to-novice corsetry advice. I hope I have not rambled too much and that you will find some of the tips useful for your own historical corsetry projects. Please stay tuned for the next round of stays updates.
Much Love, Nessa

Corset Update: Opening Up Shop

And, one day before the next exam, I am back with the long overdue corset update: Tonight I finally got around to ironing my fabric (yay!) and the altered and finished master pattern is waiting to go onto it for cutting.

I will be using a yard of sateen for the lining, and another yard of light trouser-weight cotton twill for the outer layer. For a corset, this may feel a tad too light at first; but then many extant Regency stays and corsets are somewhat on the light side as well. A very prominent example of this aspect are Juliette Récamier’s infamous wrap stays:

Empire-era wrap stays, worn by Juliette Récamier (Musée Galliera, c. 1800).

That being said, I could have also gone with two layers of sateen, according to the pattern’s fabric suggestions. But my sateen is a bit flimsy. On the bright side though, this quality will come in handy when tracing the cording pattern to the fabric. ;)

In the meantime, the rest of the corsetry tools and ingredients has arrived as well. They complete the small collection of items I have shown you in June. Now, we are all set to go…

The rest of the corsetry tools: two pre-cut flat steel bones, 2 meters of spiral boning, a pair of needle-nose pliers, fine steel wire cutters and a tapered awl.

And, for the first time ever, I have involved my dad in a historical costuming project. He was a great help when it came to selecting the right tools to work with hardened steel. He suggested I get a decent bolt cutter for the spiral boning and has promised me to be on the lookout for one at the hardware stores. Until then, I will be using a pair of fine steel snips from the jewelry-making department. :) Another thing we agreed upon was getting some of this amazing stuff: heat-shrink tubing.

Heat-shrink tubing, 6-8 mm wide.

I will use it for tipping the spiral steel bones, after finding this amazing tutorial by Kim of “Steam Ingenious”. This unusual method also got dad’s seal of approval when I showed it to him over coffee. He pointed out that it would stop the cut tips from rusting which is not something one would want in a corset. Sometimes  I really think he would make an awesome historical costumer. :)

I am also excited about finding out what he will say, once the corset is boned and ready to go. I am hoping to get to this point by the end of August. And, of course, I will keep you posted about the progress. Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Love, Nessa

I Will Start My Corset … Tomorrow

The time has come: I am finally out of good excuses for not starting the Laughing Moon Regency corset. My motivator to get this project rolling at last is June’s HSM challenge, which is aptly named “Out Of My Comfort Zone”. Its goal is to make a fashion item from a period that is new to you, or employing a technique you have not used before.

Since the Regency period is not quite new to me anymore, I will make the corset for this challenge because it employs two new-to-me, and rather discomforting, techniques: Cording and the use of metal boning.

It is my luck that this particular corset pattern has very well-written instructions. Furthermore, it has been made and reviewed favorably by many other Regency costumers. This fact, and the existence of a support group on Facebook, really eases my nerves. And, to further rule out the unnerving effects of time pressure, I have extended my personal challenge deadline to late August.

The LMM Corded Regency Corset pattern.

Thus far, I have already gathered a few of the supplies: 48″ of corset laces, a skein of cord and two metal busks. Once I have made a first mock-up and determined how much boning the back section will require, I will go ahead and place an order for it as well. The fabric is already here, too: White cotton twill for the inner layer and the same yardage of cotton sateen for the outer part. In case I should end up making a bad slip-up, I bought a little more than twice the amount given on the pattern. ;)

The first batch of corsetry supplies: Corset lace, busks and cord.

When ordering the supplies, I also got twice the amount of busks required, namely two. One is of the recommended length (12″), while the other is 2 inches shorter. I took this little precaution, since I am slightly shorter than the average lady. As a result, most garments need a bit of shortening to fit me properly. And, in this special case, a shorter corset might also require a shorter busk.

The cord I am using comes from a rather amusing source as well. It is actually kitchen twine, also know as butcher’s string. The pattern instructions list it as a suitable substitute for regular cotton cord. Just like the cording from the craft store, it can tolerate both soaking and higher temperatures, such as those it might encounter in the wash. And, in fact, it is not very pricey either: I have bought this 100-yard skein for under €3 at a local drug store. Yay. :)

That is how matters stand on the corset front so far. And I will do my best to get started tomorrow… honestly this time. If not, you are free to pick up one of the busks and nudge me. ;)

I wish you a pleasant rest of the week and hope to see you all again soon.

Love, Nessa