Almost Famous..!

So, there I was, casually browsing through my Etsy stats and looking at how people end up at my e-tique, when I noticed a little text box saying that I had had nine visits directed from lucycorsetry.com. Now if you like corsetry, you’ll know who Lucy is (Bishonenrancher), she has uploaded LOADS of videos about corsetry on Youtube, keeps a blog, etc etc. She is a Wonderwoman. Anyway, back to the story – I click on Lucy’s blogsite and searched my name.. Up  came this!

 

http://lucycorsetry.com/?s=institut

 

How cool is this? There I had sat for years, watching her videos, looking at her pretty pictures, reading her blogs and posts in a group I belong to online, then BOOM! She has noticed my stuff, liked my stuff and written about my stuff. That really set off fireworks into the gloom of my night, after dreaming about sewing all day at my horrible day job, which I keep because I need to fund my business.

 

Happy Little Me >^.^<

Here are the new items that I’ve made by hand, along with the link to my e-tique so that you can buy them and have them and love them!

 

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/InstitutCorsetologie

 

17th Century Stays

So, it was finally time, after putting up with my clothes literally popping off me, to make myself some new 17th century clothes for working on a stall. I currently have a shift, bodice and skirt, the shift and bodice being too small by about three sizes, only the skirt fitting, but it had popped it’s poppers once too often. This post is just about the construction of the stays, but I will include pictures of the bodice that I have nearly finished, the skirt that I mended and the shift that I need to make a new version of.

I started with a very basic two-piece pattern that had come from a well-known costumiers. Luckily, it was already very similar in size to my own measurements, so there were only a couple of inches to adjust while I was pattern drafting. The original pattern was short-bodied, no tabs, and shoulder straps like that on a vest, so I redrafted it, along with three fittings, to suit my own size and modified the shape of the neckline and armholes to turn the straps into ones that tied onto the front.

Next, I cut that final drafting in scrap cloth for another fitting.

This is the final basic pattern draft in scrap cloth.

This is the final basic pattern draft in scrap cloth.

This is the basic pattern draft front in scrap cloth.

This is the basic pattern draft front in scrap cloth.

Next, I knew that I wanted tabs on these stays. Tabs remove the sharp line that cuts in on the waist with the 17th and 18th century shape, makes the wearing much more comfortable and more importantly, helps to distribute the weight of the skirts and bum roll (17th) and panniers (18th). I drafted some different shapes and sizes, pinning along the waist line to work out the right draft.

These are some shapes that I was playing with, I also used these to form other tabs for the over-bodice.

These are some shapes that I was playing with, I also used these to form other tabs for the over-bodice.

I wanted to cut the stays and tabs traditionally as one, rather than attach them after, as you would do with a bodice. This not only makes proper boning very easy, but increases the strength of the garment as a whole. I also have only half-boned these stays, they are designed completely for my comfortable all-day working wear.

Here, I have added a single, carefully calculated shape. I will cut it into it's individual tabs as I sew the stays, this makes construction much more simple.

Here, I have added a single, carefully calculated shape. I will cut it into it’s individual tabs as I sew the stays, this makes construction much more simple.

Stays with tabs back draft.

Next, after a final fitting, I cut the stays in their finish fabric. I recycled some yellow, tough cotton brocade and cut an inner and outer layer, then a lining layer of yellow linen to go next to my skin/shift.

After sewing the fronts to the back (I cut the back in one piece for stability when lacing), I then marked out boning channel placement on the wrong side of the inner layer and cut some self-fabric strips to make channels with. I machine sewed the channel strips over the channel marks. I did this for two reasons – firstly, I was going to temporarily bone these with Rigilene and wanted to later replace with steel and secondly, my construction methods on this are not 100% historically accurate because I chose to machine-sew most of this.

I cut straight along the grain for some, bias for others, depending on the curve of the channel lines.

I cut straight along the grain for some, bias for others, depending on the curve of the channel lines.

Channels

Channels

I originally sewed each channel strip with one line of running stitch in just-visible yellow, then went over this with red top stitching on the right side of the fabric.

Next, came the real challenge… Bias binding by hand around curves, hairpin bends and corners! I handsewed all of the bias, using techniques I have been taught by other corsetieres.

If you look closely, you can see the thread marks where I have already ripped this all off and sworn at it before I was happy!

If you look closely, you can see the thread marks where I have already ripped this all off and sworn at it before I was happy!

All sewn down, ready to turn under and stitch on the inside now.

All sewn down, ready to turn under and stitch on the inside now.

This is almost satisfactory for me, but good enough for what I need.

This is almost satisfactory for me, but good enough for what I need.

This is the inside all sewn down carefully, distributing excess binding around corners to keep it even on the right side.

This is the inside all sewn down carefully, distributing excess binding around corners to keep it even on the right side.

At last, all sewn down after two days of swearing, needle stabs and tired eyes!

At last, all sewn down after two days of swearing, needle stabs and tired eyes!

Next, came something I find particularly relaxing, hand sewing eyelets. I marked the placements, used a hand tool to cut perfect circles, then sewed away for two days with top stitch thread in red, to match the boning channels.

Eyelets

Eyelets

Eyelets

Eyelets

Eyelets finished.

At last, finished after a whole week!

Here they are, in all their glory! Obviously, when I am wearing them, they conform to my body and pull me into the traditional 17th century shape, whereas on Hilary, they look a little odd....

Here they are, in all their glory! Obviously, when I am wearing them, they conform to my body and pull me into the traditional 17th century shape, whereas on Hilary, they look a little odd….

Here they are with a little bum roll that I made from the same yellow linen as the lining.

Here they are with a little bum roll that I made from the same yellow linen as the lining.

This is the skirt that I mended, worn over the bum roll and stays.

This is the skirt that I mended, worn over the bum roll and stays.

This is the tabbed, sleeveless bodice that I have nearly finished.  Black wool, white cotton lining, a single bone in front of the eyelet placement for stability. It is contrastingly soft in construction, because the stays provide the shape for it and it is fitted tightly over them.

This is the tabbed, sleeveless bodice that I have nearly finished. Black wool, white cotton lining, a single bone in front of the eyelet placement for stability. It is contrastingly soft in construction, because the stays provide the shape for it and it is fitted tightly over them.

Next, I am making a sleeved bodice in the same fabric as the skirt, so more to come.

Where It All Began…

My sewing life started very young, thanks to having both a Grandmother and Mother interested enough in sewing to make bits of clothing and toys. At 5 years old, I was given two pieces of felt cut in the shape of a goat from one of my wooden stencils, a needle, thread and scissors. Mummy had drawn a Biro line to show where I should stitch around the outline but leave a small hole for stuffing, she showed me how to backstitch and placed me under strict instruction not to stab or cut myself, then left me to my own devices while she frantically did housework. This instruction not to stab or cut myself seemed to magically do the trick and I completed the felt goat very neatly. Many other goats, cows and sheep followed over the months to come, until I got bored with simple shapes and wanted to move on to fabrically (sic) assaulting the fashion sense of my rather large, creepy and varied collection of dolls. Mum showed me what she could with making dolls clothes but because I seemed to have a natural aptitude, she mostly left me to it, checking on my progress as she brought me more of her fabric scrap collection or let me pick treasured buttons from a biscuit tin.

Sometimes, on the way back from town, we would call in at the big haberdashery, run by a shy, unmarried man is his 40’s, who reminded me somewhat of a clergyman, or nervous accountant. I would always embarrass Mum by asking for only a couple of inches of things (for working in miniature), but he always obliged. About a year later, the shop shut and the only shops left were the horrible, musty fabric and foam shops, run by uptight, over-hairsprayed women in garish pink lipstick, white turtlenecks and 80’s glasses.

Over the next ten years, I practiced sewing and became a Wardrobe Mistress for an entertainer, mending and looking after costume, then just as I turned 16, Mum gave me Grandma’s yellowed, electric two-speed sewing machine and a box of fabric to coincide with me joining a re-enactment group. I was off! Skirts came first, gathered rectangles with decorative hems, but after three of these and becoming totally obsessed with corsetry, I needed a new challenge.

I bought my first corset from Twilight Fashions, a Tentacle spot broche underbust in black. On the second wear, a seam came apart and having no money and no resources, I decided to learn to make them. I used a custom pattern generator for an Elizabethan style corset from the internet and produced my first steel boned corset, with bones salvaged from an abused Ann Summers piece. It had hook and eye tape and little holes for cord to go through, as I had no idea about eyelets, but it was strong and did the job and wasn’t even too messy. Once I realized that the hardest-seeming thing was in fact, easy accomplished, I knew there was no help or holding me back. I moved to dresses, bodices, shirts and more corsetry.

At 19, although the fabric was horrendously inauthentic and I had no real clue about real authenticity, I was managing big garments with very good fit and finishing and I carried on asking questions and reading to improve my knowledge and technique. I once, for example, produced a lovely Burgundian gown from peach, rose embossed velour that had black fun fur and maribou trim, with gold curtain rings to lace it, whereas leaping forward to now, I have produced costume for the BBC and been approached by various museums and historical societies for my pieces.

I thank the people, in person if I can, who inspire and teach me whenever I get the opportunity – Cathy Hay, Sarah Thursfield, Ninya Mikhaila, Jane Malcom-Davies, Ralph Pink, Alexis Black, Sally Green, Jennifer Garside, Jackie Phillips, Immodesty Blaize, my Mum, Angels of London, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld, La Belle Fairy, a special man, the list could go on forever! And last, but not least, my Muse, Muriel Lavender. All of these people have kept me going through the darkest hours of my life and pushed me to follow my passion, so thank you. ❤ xxxxxxx