Work has not progressed as quickly as I would have liked for this final stretch. I was delayed by the holidays and then by the fact that my sewing room had devolved into a very messy storage space over the past year. After a day and a half spent tidying it, I was ready to get back down to work.
The side seams were put in, and felled to make boning channels. James has been kindly helping me sand the reed for the boning, as well as unpicking the cording channels in the back to the point where they would now meet the vertical channels. If you have been following along, you will know that I did not finish the back edges when the instructions said to do so. I left it until I was able to fit the stays, in case they needed to be trimmed more or a smaller seam allowance taken. At first, I ended up only taking about a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Once I had traced out where all the vertical stitching would be, I sewed in the line of stitching furthest away from the center back. Then I unpicked the stitches of the diagonal cording to that point (see photo above), tied them off, and trimmed away the cording. I then did the rest of the vertical channel stitching on my machine, folded in the CB edges, and stitched them shut with a ladder stitch. Finally, I stitching the eyelets, using the Burnley and Trowbridge tutorial as a quick refresher. This is another divergence from the pattern, which simply calls for metal grommets.
They’re the nicest eyelets I’ve ever done. I used Coats’ Button Craft thread. James did notice when he was lacing me up, however, that the eyelets on one side came out smaller and were quite difficult to get the bodkin and lace through.
I was very excited to put in the lacing and do my final fitting. Alas! It felt like a catastrophe of disasters. I pulled out the lacing cord I had ordered and the aglets, only to realize I had no idea how to put the aglets on the cord. B&T (from whom I purchased both of these things) doesn’t have any sort of instructions either. It wouldn’t have made any difference, as I then realized the aglets don’t even fit through my eyelets anyways.
Setting the aglets aside, I pulled out a large, blunt craft needle to use for lacing instead. I decided to consult the instructions for any advice on lacing, only to find that the illustrations all showed a spiral lacing/eyelet configuration like the far left example in the diagram below (this eyelet configuration is also used for cross-lacing). The spiral lacing/eyelet configuration you usually see in corsets looks like the example on the far right.
Problem is, when I actually put this on my body, the two sides of the stays shifted and sat unevenly. Not only that, but the amount of lacing I ordered was not enough for me to be able to lace myself up in them. I did attempt it, but only succeeded in snapping one of my reed bones. By now I was pretty much in tears-this is one of the most complex things I’d ever made and I had been feeling pretty confident up to now. Where did I go wrong? I looked at the yardage and notions requirements again which said “44” or longer” for the lacing. I had bought 2 yards (72″) of lacing, how was that not enough?
Well, I eventually figured it out. “View A” refers to both the short and long versions of the historical, corded stays, while “View B” refers to the non-corded, theatrical versions. The “or longer” is obviously there because you might be making the longer version (also people are different heights, will have a wider or smaller gap, etc.) Using the magic of Google, I found that if I wanted to cross-lace, I would need about 4 yards, not 2. I found some decorative cord for gift wrapping and tested it out. 4 yards was a squeeze to pre-lace and get into by myself, so 4 1/2 is what I’ll need.
I was feeling a bit better now. It still has some fit issues, but nothing wildly off. The wrinkles at the back waist, which you can see in the photo above and which were present in the mock-up, did not go away with using the thicker fabric and having the cording and boning. It fits fine around the stomach and hips, so I think this is an issue of my waist being quite large in comparison to my hips. I’m nowhere near being an hourglass, which is more what this is drafted for. Since this would involve some serious messing with the hip gussets, and regency gowns aren’t fitted in that area anyways, I’m going to leave them be for now.
At least the front looks pretty nice…
What I am going to change…First is putting in a dart at the outside of the bust area, where it meets the side seam/boning channel. Even with the boning, it is allowing too much pooling out to the sides, which results in the cups not being filled out. This means I don’t need to alter the bust gussets, hooray! Second, I need to make the straps longer, which I knew from the mock-up, but managed to cut wrong in the twill fabric. Third, there is very little gap in the back (and I’m pretty much at my top weight), and the eyelets are too far away from the edge since I did a 1/4″ seam allowance here instead of 5/8″. So I’ll re-do the CB edge with a bigger seam allowance.